New Pandemic Relief Bill Provides Funds for Minority and Female-Owned SMBs

The new Pandemic Relief Bill passed by Congress provides an additional $284 billion for PPP loans that include SMBs owned by women and minority entrepreneurs. Moreover, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have a second chance of taking out a loan from the Payroll Protection Package originally created in the CARES Act enacted in March. To qualify, second-chance PPP loan applicants must be able to show proof of having incurred losses of 25% or higher in 2020, and if higher than their 2019 revenue,

Negotiations over the new pandemic relief provisions took months of partisan wrangling before the bill finally mustered approval in December 20, 2020. The enactment of the bill though has been stalled as outgoing president Trump surprised everyone, particularly GOP senators, by refusing to sign the bill unless the amount of stimulus paycheck sent as direct payment to Americans be raised from $600 to $2,000.

Trump’s Change of Heart Nixes Enactment of Pandemic Relief Bill

So near and yet so far, this must be the general sentiment of the millions of Americans who for a moment heaved a sigh of relief that financial help was finally coming their way. At the moment everything is at a standstill as the wrangling over the amount of stimulus check to dole out as financial aid continues.

The Republican senators had strongly blocked Democratic lawmakers’ push for a $1,200 stimulus paycheck during the months-long negotiations, as they were of the belief that Trump will approve only up to $300. After all, Trump even attempted to override Congress by issuing an Executive Order to issue stimulus checks of $300 while Senate Leader Mitch McConnel kept stalling with formal negotiation proceedings by letting senators spend their customary session breaks.

Naturally, the Dems are taking advantage of Trump’s sudden change of heart, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately calling on members of Congress to immediately take action in granting Trump’s magnanimous request of raising the stimulus check amount to $2,000. However, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Grassley voiced apprehensions that in light of the government’s nearly depleted 2020 budget, granting individual stimulus checks as huge as $2,000 to millions of Americans will forced the government to shutdown.

Now the Republican Senators have been placed in an awkward position, of being the only stumbling block in bringing the much needed financial aid to American citizens this Christmas. While a pro-forma session was held at the Lower House on December 24, 2020 to have the matter threshed out immediately, Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blocked the proposal to increase the stimulus check amount to $2,000 as requested by Trump.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement challenging Trump to instruct House Republicans not to block the Democrat’s proposal that would see to his request as condition to the signing of the new pandemic relief bill. That is if Trump is really sincere in his desire to give the American people economic relief check in an amount that is much higher than what Democrats have been pushing for all along.

While political leaders continue with their partisan politics, refusing to set aside their personal agenda, majority of the American people are struggling to provide the basic needs of their family: food, shelter and utilities. Even middle class Americans have run out of savings and not a few of the millions who lost their jobs have resorted to taking out personal loans short term only, just to have their past due obligations restructured.

Even if small business owners are able to obtain funds in order to keep their businesses afloat, they will still find it difficult to operate profitably if consumers don’t even have enough money to spend for their daily living expenses.

President-Elect Biden’s Plans Will See to the Revitalization of the American Middle Class

Businesses thrive if there are healthy and financially capable consumers, which is why part of President-elect Biden’s plans is to save America’s middle class. Moreover, the incoming U.S. president’s plan is not only to revitalize the middle class, but also to make the sector more racially inclusive. Above all else, addressing the COVID-19 crisis remains the top priority of the incoming Biden Administration.

While Trump tried to make it appear that Joe Biden’s plans are left-leaning, the latter has explained time and again that he intends to launch programs that are achievable rather than revolutionary in addressing economic disparity. As the former Vice President who had plans of becoming the Democratic candidate to replace Donald Trump, Joe Biden had said in his 2018 speech at the Brookings Institute

“I do not think America’s 500 billionaires are the reasons why we are in trouble.”.

Yet the former vice president said he believes in the thriving middle class as the backbone of America’s society and of their importance in achieving political and social stability in the country. What he sees as the problems that beset the country is the lack of opportunities and the false sense of optimism being fed by phony populist politicians like Donald Trump.

Rather than encourage the younger generation’s inclination to question the essence of the country’s capitalist system, Biden preferred to maintain a centrist stance in solving America’s economic problems.

Who are the American Middle Class?

In a 2018 survey conducted by the Pew Research, about 52% American adults make up the middle-income households representing the middles class in the country. Pew Research described them as adults whose annual household income is in the range of between $48,500 and $145,500. The middle class income is equivalent to about two-thirds of twice the national median, after said incomes have been adjusted according to the size of the household.

Pew compared the U.S. middle class income with that of other advanced economies, which revealed that proportionally, the U.S. has a smaller middle class sector. Experts at the Brooking Institute corroborated the Pew study as their analysis showed that there is also a growing disparity of income in the middle class — as only the top 20% of the sector was able to recover from the Great Recession in 2007 to 2009.

It was Joe Biden’s centrist policies that made him the Democratic candidate who can mount the most formidable challenge against Donald Trump, who has relentlessly sowed the seeds of divisiveness in America. The results of the election and the large participation of voters from both the Democratic, Republican and independent voters showed that the majority of the American populace seeks unity rather than polarization.

Dem Leaders and White House Officials Work on Expired Economic Reliefs

Dem leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer along with WH officials Steven Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, continue negotiations on expired economic reliefs. While the start of August sessions at Congress has been delayed for next week, the four negotiators have agreed to come up with a deal by Friday this week.

What Has so Far Been Put on the Negotiation Table

According to Politico’s Playbook, Treasury Dept. Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows agreed to the extension of the expired economic relief paycheck but are negotiating to bring down the amount to $400 per month (flat $100 per week) from the previous $600 per month financial assistance. Actually, the WH officials’ original proposal was to cut the amount down to $200.

However, despite the increase, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear before in her PBS Newshour appearance that there is no-in between amounts. The Democratic position remains firm with the original $600.

On the expired eviction moratorium, the proposal laid out by the 2 WH officials was for the extension of the eviction moratorium up to mid-December on a federal level. Much to their frustration, the Democrats are gunning for more as their extension proposal includes the granting of financial aid to help out the more than 12 million renters througout the country.

Since the moratorium expired last July 25, immediate extension of the eviction moratorium is quite critical, as landlords could proceed with the initiation of eviction actions 30 days after the moratorium expired; technically by August 24, 2020. Yet the financial aid for renters put forward by the Democrats is likely to result in tense negotiations at the Congressional floors.

Trump Now Calls White Supremacists “Terrorists”

The Trump administration recently declared the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) a terrorist organization, after receiving global reports from other countries.

 

According to reports coming from Sweden there are indications that RIM was widely involved in incidences of Neo-Nazi bombing in Sweden in 2016 and 2017. The same group seemed to have inspired white supremacists to carry out the Christchurch shooting incident in New Zealand in 2019, as well as other attacks that took place in Scandinavia during the year.

The designation that Trump announced last Monday, is regarded as an unprecedented move as far as the White House is concerned; particularly in matters related to “white supremacists” and to Russia. After all, the Russian Imperialist Movement is widely speculated as the organization responsible for the 2016 election interference. Moreover, the group is also suspected of conducting military training to U.S-based neo-Nazi factions. .

 

In fact, the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, were discovered to have been staged by members of an extremist militia group based in Michigan.

What the Declaration Intends to Impose on White Supremacist Groups in the U.S.

Apparently, officials at the State Department were able to make Donald Trump understand the threats posed by the RIM and their connection to the spate of violence that transpired in the last five years. According to reports, Trump’s response to the briefing was that

I thought incidents of white nationalist violence were the actions of small group of people and not part of a rising global threat.”

https://youtu.be/dZSxlOGF7H4

As concerns heightened over the growing number of violent activities instigated by white supremacists with transnational links, White House officials had in 2018, included the threat . of said white supremacist groups to the U.S. governments National Strategy for Counterterrorism agenda.

The designation declaring white supremacist groups as terrorist organizations gives U.S. law enfocement officers the authority to prevent American citizens from giving any kind of support to, or enter into any agreements with such groups.

Moreover, the Treasury Department now has the authority to bar the named terrorist group from having access to any American asset, as well as block their members from entering the U.S. soil.

What Does it Mean When the Fed Cuts Interest Rate?

When financial analysts and forecasters talk about stock market predictions, there are always mentions of whether or not the Fed will cut interest rates.

Apparently, ordinary folks are not too familiar with how everything else can be affected if the Feds decide to cut or not to cut interest rates. Perhaps, answers to the following questions could give some clarity:

Who is the Fed and What is Its Authority to Cut Interest Rates?

The Fed refers to the 12-member Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) consisting of (1) The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; (2) The seven members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and (3) The 4 other presidents of Federal Reserve Banks representing each block of 4 Federal Reserve Bank Groups, with each member serving annual terms determined by way of a rotation system. .

The Four Fed Groups consist of eleven Reserve Bank presidents, grouped as follows:

  • Boston, Philadelphia, and Richmond
  • Cleveland and Chicago;
  • Atlanta, St. Louis, and Dallas; and
  • Minneapolis, Kansas City, and San Francisco.

Those 12 FOMC members meet regularly to discuss and decide on federal monetary policies, including decisions over changes brought on by events, which at times make it necessary to “cut the interest Rate.”

Although other U.S. states have Reserve Bank presidents as well, they represent the NonVoting Reserve Banks to which attendance at regular FOMC meetings includes participation in discussions, assessments and formulation of monetary policies affecting the economy of country.

What Kind of Interest Rate Do the FOMC Members Decide On?

The rates, which the Fed “cuts” is a target rate that serves as guidelines for banking institutions. This is in use whenever a reserve bank extends an overnight reserve loan to another reserve bank, to which the interest charge that will apply will be within the target rate established by the FOMC.

Why Do Reserve Banks Borrow from Each Other?

If at the end of a certain banking day, the total amount of bank transactions processed through a reserve bank resulted to a deficit, securing a loan from another federal reserve bank becomes necessary. That way, all federal reserve banks will reflect sufficient reserve balances at the end of each banking day, whilst the borrowing reserve bank will have to immediately settle the amount borrowed to cover the deficit.

https://youtu.be/bZ8g_1BmDf8

How Does the “Cut Rate” Affect the Regular Banking Institutions

Bear in mind that federal reserve transactions are exchanges of the monetary values related to the banking activities of bank customers, depositors and entities availing the products and services of regular banking institutions.

If the FOMC decides to reduce the target rate, which in the banking industry will be known as the “Nominal Rate,” it means the charges imposed by banks on its clients will likewise go down. The opposite happens, in case after deliberation and discussions, the FOMC votes to increase the target rate or the federal funds rate.

Any change creates a domino effect if the primary basis for the short-term or long-term interest loan rates, foreigh exchange rate, credit card fees and charges will go up or down, as it can also affect other economic variables connected to every monetary transaction.

The main significance of the Fed cutting the rate is that it will bring down costs to encourage more economic activities transpiring at low risk of inflation.

Cyber Attacks Continue as Malware Hits PoS of Four Food Outlets

Cyber attacks in business systems will continue to rise, reaching a point of becoming a norm, as forewarned by the Global Risks Report in 2018,. In the recent past 2 days, four food businesses, namely Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s and Hy-Vee Supermarket, came out with reports that their Point of Sale (PoS) machines were infected by a malware that was able to steal customer information.

Focus Brands, the owner of the three food chains, said the company’s network was infected with malware that copied information from cards that entered point-of-sale payment systems across different locations. All three Focus Brands food outlets are spread through 1,500 different locations across American states.

Hy-Vee supermarkets,on the other hand, operate in about 254 retail sites in convenience stores, drug stores, groceries and fuel pumps.

Synopsis of Focus Brand’s Report on PoS Malware Attacks

According to Focus Brands, cyber attacks that infiltrated their network via the three food subsidiaries had started on three different dates. Although cyber security experts were able to end the malware intrusion on July 22, 2019, the report did not give specific details about the customer cards that had been scraped for information.

The malware operation began last April 11 at a Schlotzsky’s outlet, while the attacks at McAlister’s and Moe’s began in April 29, 2019.

Synopsis of Hy-Vee’s Report on PoS Malware Attacks

Unlike the malware that attacked the three Focus Brands food chain for only about a month, the HY-Vee malware had been present in the PoS systems since November 2018. It was detected only in July 29, when unauthorized activities started registering on some of their PoS processing machines. It was only then that cyber security experts were called upon to conduct an investigation.

The malware operation in fuel pump PoS transpired since December 14, 2018, while the attacks in PoS drive-thrus and restaurants began in January 15, 2019. Yet in six still undetermined locations, experts suspects that the malware may have operated by as early as November 09, 2018.

Hy-Vee’s latest update about the cyber attacks included a lookup tool for identifying the Hy-Vee fuel pumps, restaurants and drive-thru coffee shops, and restaurants whose PoS were compromised. That way customers can determine if they had used their payment card payment during the periods indicated.

University Professors Analyze Customer Reactions to Data Breach Incidents

In the wake of revelations about data breach among major companies, professors in different business disciplines at the Birmingham University in New York, took time to analyze how consumers react to this type of untoward occurrences. The most recent being the Capital One Bank, which became aware of the data breach only after a concerned individual alerted the bank.

 

The hacker who goes by the name of Paige A. Thompson bragged about her Capital One hacking activities at GitHub. GitHub is a web-based platform where web developers meet to exchange ideas and suggestions on how to make better codes for their project.

The thing is, the hacker was apparently advertising herself and her skills, by providing details on how she was able to extract more than 700 data folders stored in the cloud server of the Amazon Web Service for Capital One, from March 12-17, 2019. Thompson, even included the IP address of the specific server in which Capital One’s sensitive data were stored.

A Separate Birmingham University Study Analyzed Customer Reactions to Data Breach Incidents

Distinguished Marketing Professor at B.U. School of Management, Professor Subimal Chatterjee, reported that consumers are likely imagining worst-case scenario once they learn about large-scale data breaches.

They tend to look for answers to questions about the safety of their credit card information, causing them worries that their personal info may be used for entering into unauthorized transactions. According to Chatterjee, the degree of fear felt by consumers determines decisions they make, whether they intend to purchase or transact with the company again.

Professor Chatter collaborated with other Birmingham University professors; with Cihan Uzmanoglu, assistant professor of Finance, with Sumantra Sarkar, assistant professor of Management Information Systems, and with Xiang Gao, a Binghamton University PhD graduate currently working at Minnesota State University’s Paseka School of Business.

The professors categorized some as fearful customers, This being the group who were more interested in finding out if the data breaching incident affected 100 customers, or if as many as 10 million customer information were hacked. Naturally, the larger the scope and size, the greater the fear created.

In comparison, the academicians noted that some customers were merely angry, to which their anger was focused on the perpetrator rather than on factors that indicate the robustness or weakness of the system or infrastructure.

The significance of their analysis about customer reactions to data breach is that the stock market reacts to how consumers react to such incidents. According to the professors, fear of the scope of data breach makes the stock market sensitive to the conditions. On the other hand, angry consumer reactions make the stock market less, or not at all sensitive to the scope of the data breach.

Why Buying a Genuine Hermes Birkin Bag Poses as a Lucrative Investment

If you happen to own an authentic Hermes Birkin bag, be sure to keep it in the best condition because that particular article is considered a lucrative investment asset. A study conducted by Baghunter, a reputable online trader of luxury handbags revealed that during the past 35 years, Hermes Birkin bags commanded higher investment returns than Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) shares and even gold.

Baghunter sales analysts made a comparative study of the return on investment (ROI) yielded by each of the three (3) commodities. On the average, stock market shares had a nominal ROI of 11.66 percent and an actual ROI of 8.65%. Gold, on the other hand, showed an average ROI of 1.9 % per annum, while posting a lower actual average return of -1.5%.

In contrast, the performance of Hermes Birkin bags over the same period were far more exceptional than the two; because not a single Hermes Birkin creation had a value that fluctuated on a downward trend. Initially, Hermes Birkin bags appreciated in value by 14.2 percent and went on to peak in prices through the years. In 2001, the surge in prices reached a substantial 25 percent from the original selling prices.

It is nor surprising therefore, why in 2015, a record-breaking sale of a pink crocodile-skin Hermes creation commanded a remarkable selling price of $223,000. In 2016, a diamond edition Birkin bag fetched as much as $300,168 at an auction.

Why are Hermes Birkin Bags Ultra Expensive?

First off, only the creme de la creme of high society and the super-moneyed, can afford to be first hand owners of a Hermes Birkin handbag. Some can afford to buy more than one and keep them as priceless collections. Some others tend to be more practical, by first selling their Birkin original to reputable high-end traders of pre-owned luxury bags, before buying the latest edition. The most exclusive of course are those that were commissioned as custom made specifically for a single owner.

A single Hermes original can come with a price tag ranging from $12,000 at the least, or up to $200,000 at the most. It takes about six years before a new version of a Hermes handbag comes out. Since only a few will be released, the privileged few who get to buy them are those at the top of the waiting list.

Every bag is made from genuine premium leather and embellished with buckles, keys and locks plated with precious metals, either gold or palladium. Most important of all is that each Hermes bag was handmade by an expert craftsman, skilled at sewing bags using a special kind of stitch that is said to be 2 centuries old.

When buying pre-owned or pre-loved Hermes Birkin branded bags, be sure you know how to authenticate them or bring along someone who knows how to distinguish a genuine from a faux pas. Fake or knock-off versions have practically landed at online stores, so if you are looking to buy not just to own one but also to bank on it as a long term investment, make sure you will be buying from reputable dealers who also maintain a reputation for trading only with genuine luxury bags.

Understanding the Basics of Fixed Maturity Plans as Investment Products

Fixed Maturity Plans (FMPs) are touted as safer debt instruments, with potential to earn higher than bank savings account and fixed-deposit. The popularity of FMPs appeal to investors who prefer to lock their investments at higher interest rates, when and where the trend for such rates are currently on the rise.

Higher earnings though are not assured as FMPs offer only indicative yields; denoting that actual gain that can be realized from investing on FMPs has chances of being lower or higher than the indicative yield stated at the time the FMP became available as New Fund Offer (NFO).

How Do Fixed Maturity Plans Work?

First off, FMP investment product becomes available by way of a New Fund Offer (NFO) coming from a mutual fund company. The latter intends to pool money that will be loaned out to a particular business at a fixed interest rate, over a fixed maturity period coinciding with the maturity date as the FMP investment. FMPs are heavily debt-oriented but protects the returns of investors from interest fluctuations.

Yet, in the event the business entity on which the debt scheme was awarded, fails to pay at maturity, this denotes that FMP investors will not receive the entire maturity value indicated during the launch of the NFO.

Who Invests in FMPs?

In light of its long term nature, FMPs however, are recommended as ideal investment products for investors who can park their money on long term investments of up to 3 years at the least, to 5 years at the most. The need to stay invested throughout the term is to harness the benefits of indexation of taxes pertaining to capital gains derived from long term investments.

FMP investors therefore who do not have liquidity requirements for the next 3 to 5 years, have better opportunities at raking in returns at a lower tax expense to earnings ratio.

Benefits of indexation of Taxes on FMPs relate to a specific tax rate on Long Term Capital Gains. As opposed to Savings or Time Deposit to which interests earned are immediately reduced by corresponding taxes withheld on interest earnings realized during short periods. The difference in taxation though, benefits those who have no liquidity requirements for at least three years.

Asset Manager Bitwise Submits Analysis to Show that 95% of Bitcoin Trading are Hoaxes

Bitwise, the company that pioneered crypto asset management and founded the world’s first cryptocurrency index fund, conducted a study that revealed 95% of bitcoin trading reported are mere hoaxes. The asset management company followed up a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal in light of concerns voiced by regulators about cryptocurrency market, and its vulnerability to trading manipulation.

While in the process of listing the first bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), Bitwise met with officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to submit its analysis. The firm reviewed the top data furnished by CoinMarketCap.com and analyzed the volume of top 81 crypto exchanges. The analysis revealed that of the aggregate $6 billion reported by CoinMarketCap as average daily bitcoin volume, only $273 million worth is legitimate.

Matthew Hougan, Bitwise Global Head of Research remarked,

“People looked at cryptocurrency and said this market is a mess; that’s because they were looking at data that was manipulated. The idea that there’s fake volume has been rumored for a long time; we were just the first people to systematically look at which exchanges were delivering real volume,”

Salient Points of the Bitwise Bitcoin Trade Analysis

In assessing the $27 million average trade volume (ATV) reported by San Francisco-based company, Coinbase Pro, the asset management company established a bitcoin “median spread” of one (1) cent. Median Spread is significant because it pertains to the difference between a bitcoin seller’s asking price and the price a bitcoin buyer would be willing to place as exchange. On Bitwise’s evaluation, Coinbase Pro’s trading scenario is legitimate.

Pitting the Coinbase Pro data against those that made a showing of having the biggest reported exchanges tracked by CoinMarketCap.com, Bitwise found bitcoin exchanges in most entities have extreme median spread.

Reported exchanges at CoinBene for one, resulted to a $15 median spread, which Bitwise found as dubious. CoinBene’s AVT was 18 times greater than that of Coinbase Pro. It therefore came as a surprise that such volume would come from a trading company that has a median spread that is 1500 greater than a cryptotrader like Coinbase Pro that has 1 cent median spread.

Not surprisingly, further analysis of reported bitcoin trading revealed median spreads as extreme as $300 and higher.

The fake exchanges are driven by fees awarded to those who can attract listings for fresh initial coin offers (ICO), targeting those seeking to have their cryptocurrency placed on where heavy trading transpires. Autonomous Next previously reported data showing fees ranging from $1M to $3M per listing; whilst suggesting the crypto cycle incentives promote fraudulent behavior from bad actors.