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Wednesday 12.07.2016

American Apparel Confirms It Might Lay Off 3,500 Workers Next Month

After earlier reports that hundreds of American Apparel workers were told they would be out of a job next month, the struggling retailer confirmed on Monday that it had sent notices to almost 3,500 employees warning them of potential layoffs.

American Apparel, which filed for bankruptcy last month, has notified workers at three of the company’s production facilities in Southern California that their last day of work could be Jan. 6, reports the Los Angeles Times, citing the California Employment Development Department.

So far this year, American Apparel has already laid off at least 500 workers as it trimmed down its production process. There’s still a glimmer of hope, however, as the company noted on Monday that the WARN notices — required by California — were “purely a legal precaution” and that “layoffs are not certain.”

It all depends on whether or not Canadian company Gildan Activewear’s $66 million bid to buy American Apparel’s intellectual property rights and some other assets is successful. Gildan also might be interested in buying some of American Apparel’s manufacturing plants, which would save jobs in the U.S.

Over 6 Million Americans Work Part Time but Would Like Full-Time Jobs

Americans puzzled by why unemployment of less than 5% has not caused a surge in either gross domestic product or inflation do not need to look beyond the workforce for the number of people who believe they are underemployed. It is 6.4 million, based on one traditional measure.

According to The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), these Americans are labeled involuntary part-time workers. They are at the center of a part of the workforce that some employers leverage to save benefits by monitoring work hours.

A new paper by Penn State economics professor and University of Illinois’ Project for Middle Class Renewal analyst’s Lonnie Golden explains that, since the end of the Great Recession, there has been a structural shift, concentrated in a few key industries, that has led to millions more workers to be involuntarily working part-time hours when they would like to work full-time jobs.

As is the case with many of the worst employment problems, minorities and workers in the lowest paid jobs take the brunt of the beating: While virtually all industries employ part-time labor, the retail and the leisure and hospitality industries alone accounted for 54.3 percent of the growth of involuntary part-time employment between 2007 and 2015.

Transamerica insurance company plans 800 layoffs

Thaltimore-based Transamerica insurance company plans to close offices and lay off about 800 people, including 35 in Baltimore. Transamerica announced that it will close offices in Los Angeles and Folsom, Calif., and in West Chester, Ohio, over the course of 2017, also eliminating positions in some other locations.

Transamerica, a unit of the Dutch company Aegon, employs about 10,000 people in the United States, and a little less than 400 in Baltimore, spokesman Greg Tucker said. The layoffs, designed to eliminate overlapping functions, are part of a broader reorganization that started several years ago, as the firm moved to bring different divisions under one name and integrate operations.

About a third of workers affected by the office closures are likely to be offered the option of relocating or working from home,Tucker said. The layoffs are expected to start in February.

"These are not easy decisions, and we are keenly aware of the impact these actions will have on our employees and their families," he said in a statement. "For this reason, we will be offering separation benefits for eligible employees, including outplacement services."

Obama Delivers Sturdy Economy to Incoming Trump Team

SeaWorld Entertainment to layoff hundreds

SeaWorld Entertainment is cutting more than 300 jobs, the company announced Tuesday. The layoffs will be part of a “restructuring” across the 12-parks and the largest job elimination since 2014.

“These changes are being made to best position our company for long-term success, and so that we can continue to do great things for animals across the globe,” SeaWorld spokesperson Susan Storey said in a statement.

Approximately 320 positions will be eliminated, including both hourly and salaried positions, Storey said. The employees will receive an “enhanced severance benefits” package and outplacement assistance, SeaWorld said.

“It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost,” Storey said. SeaWorld's attendance and revenue have suffered in the face of a campaign by animal rights activists. Earlier this year, the company announced it was ending its orca breeding program and stopping its traditional killer whale shows.

Jamie Dimon: 'I want to do my share to help America get better'

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon wants to help President-elect Donald Trump improve the lives of lower-wage workers.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services conference, the Wall Street executive, who was reportedly under consideration for Treasury secretary before the selection of Steve Mnuchin, said he wouldn't be very suited for a role in the administration.

"I've always been fairly consistent that I love my job," Dimon said. But he said he did "immediately" join a special economic advisory team alongside other Wall Street titans like Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.

"I am a patriot — I want to help my country and help it grow," said Dimon, a lifelong Democrat. "I want to help lower-wage people more than I want to help you," he said to the conference audience.

Why State-Based 401k Plans Are A (Really) Bad Thing

“Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans lost the health insurance they liked. Now, the same could happen with their retirement savings.” Conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation doesn’t think much of the Department of Labor’s state-run 401k plan directive, and took to the pages of the conservative leaning Washington Times to vent.

Heritage’s Rachel Greszler and Melanie Beaulac argue the plan will be bad news for workers and taxpayers. “State-based 401k plans will lack important saver protections because they are not subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974,” they write. “According to the Department of Labor, ERISA regulations ensure plans are ‘established and maintained in a fair and financially sound manner’ and that ’employers have an obligation to provide promised benefits.'”

“Yet, the Department of Labor’s rule could shift a significant portion of Americans’ retirement savings into plans that are explicitly exempt from such requirements.” Surprisingly, the two lament the fact that employers aren’t forced (and are actually forbidden) from contributing to state-based 401k plans.

“Workers enrolled in these plans will lose out on the average $2,640 per year contribution employers make to each worker’s private retirement fund. Even if employers make up for lost retirement contributions through higher pay, that pay will be taxable whereas retirement contributions are tax-free.” Worse, they write, new rule prohibits workers from accessing or controlling their state-run accounts if the state opts to set up a defined benefit plan.

Are Regulations Causing Pain at the Pump?

Referendum Worsens Italy’s Banking Crisis

Italy’s fragile banking sector suffered another blow as voters rejected the government’s proposal for political reform on Dec 4. The political uncertainty following the referendum and the resignation of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi may derail the Italian banks’ quest to raise new capital.

Renzi decided to step down on Dec. 5 after nearly 60 percent of Italian voters dismissed his plans for constitutional reform. Renzi’s government had plans to reform key institutions including the banking sector. But he was able to implement only a few of them due to a complicated legislative process.

Renzi called the result of the referendum an “extraordinarily clear” defeat for him. Now his resignation means banks cannot count on state aid to sort out their morbid finances n the near future until a new government is formed. Italian banks’ problems started during the financial crisis of 2008. However, Italy’s chronic economic problems made it more difficult for them to recover, unlike the U.S. counterparts.

Regarding economic growth over the last ten years, Italy has been the worst performing country in the Eurozone only doing better than crisis-stricken Greece. Compared to other European banks, Italian banks have more corporate loans and the years of poor economic activity led to an increase in bad loans.

Argentines use currency exchange tactic to comply with tax amnesty

Argentines with funds at a Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N) unit cannot wire money straight to their government to pay fees for a tax amnesty program, prompting some to use an indirect foreign exchange trade to make payments, a lawyer and a broker said.

As part of his bid to jump-start Argentina's recession-stricken economy, center-right President Mauricio Macri started a program to allow Argentines to pay a fee and declare the estimated $400 billion in hidden wealth they have abroad without fear of prosecution for tax evasion.

Those who declare can keep their money abroad but must pay a fee of up to 15 percent of the value of their assets. But clients of BNY Mellon's Pershing LLC custodian and asset manager cannot pay the fee through a wire transfer to the AFIP tax agency, according to two lawyers, an accountant and a broker.

As a workaround, some Pershing clients have resorted to a currency exchange tactic called the "contado con liqui," or blue-chip swap, that gained prominence when currency controls implemented by populist former President Christina Fernandez were in place. A Pershing spokesman declined to comment on why Argentine clients could not transfer the fee payments directly to the government. One of the lawyers consulted and a Buenos Aires-based broker said it was common for custodian banks to prohibit wire transfers of funds to third parties.

The Obamacare Dilemma

The future of Obamacare is uncertain, to say the least. President-elect Donald Trump has consistently called to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act throughout his campaign, but many pundits see this as being a catch-22 for the incoming administration.

America’s healthcare system is already a global outlier (in a bad way), with disproportionate amounts of money being spent for very little return on life expectancy. For that reason, many people see the additional coverage of 20 million new people through Obamacare as a crucial step forward.

However, this new coverage hasn’t come without major challenges. Obamacare is plagued by soaring premiums, insurers leaving the program, and coverage monopolies in certain states. This puts America’s healthcare at an inflection point, and no one really seems to know how to solve it.

Despite only 25% of Americans supporting the outright repeal of Obamacare, it’s looking more and more likely that the healthcare system of tomorrow won’t look quite like it does today.

Gold appetite hit a 5-year high in November as prices tumbled

Gold demand in November soared to its highest level since the end of 2011 as investors took advantage of a steep drop in prices for the yellow metal following Donald Trump’s win in the U.S. election, according to data from BullionVault released Tuesday.

The Gold Investor Index, run by Internet-based metals exchange operator BullionVault, jumped to 59.3 in November—its highest level since December 2011. the index stood at 56.8 in October.

The gauge tracks the balance of private investors starting or growing their gold holdings on BullionVault, against those who cut or sold their holdings. A reading above 50 suggests that there are more buyers than sellers in the market for gold. September 2011 marked the peak for the index at a reading of 71.7.

BullionVault said it saw the number of people in November starting or adding to their personal gold holdings rise by 29.8% from October. Meanwhile, gold demand grew at the strongest pace since November 2011—tacking on 0.8 metric tons to BullionVault users’ holdings to a record total of 37.1 metric tons.

65 million Hillary voters urged to refuse paying taxes

An author and columnist for Time magazine is now urging millions Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton to refuse paying their federal taxes as a way to abolish the Electoral College and have presidential elections determined by popular vote.

Mark Weston, author of “The Runner-Up Presidency,” published his idea in Time, stating, “The approximately 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton should pledge that in the future if a Republican wins the presidency with fewer votes than a Democrat for the third time in our era, we won’t pay taxes to the federal government. No taxation without representation!”

He points out that Republican Donald Trump won this year’s electoral vote with about 46 percent of the popular vote, while Democrat Hillary Clinton received about 48 percent, and that Democrat Al Gore also lost the presidency to Republican George W. Bush in 2000, despite Gore having won the popular vote.

“Democrats must, therefore, pester Republicans where it hurts: the pocketbook,” says Weston. “Is signing a pledge to not pay taxes legal? Yes, if no overt act of conspiracy is involved, and the pledge itself is hypothetical. No one knows when or if it would be carried out.” He continues: “If the Republicans won’t help amend the Constitution so that America can resume being a democracy, then Democrats, lacking the representation that supporters of a future popular vote-winner ought to have in the executive branch, should not submit to paying taxes to the federal government.”

SoftBank CEO to Invest $50 Billion in U.S. After Trump Meeting

Just 10 states resettled more than half of recent refugees to U.S.

The U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees in fiscal year 2016, the most since 1999. But where they settled varied widely, with some states taking in large numbers and others very few, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. State Department data.

California, Texas and New York resettled the most refugees in fiscal 2016 (which began on Oct. 1, 2015, and ended Sept. 30, 2016), together taking in 20,738 refugees, or about a quarter (24%) of the U.S. total. Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois, which each received 3,000 or more refugees, rounded out the top 10 states by number of resettled refugees. Overall, 54% of refugees admitted to the U.S. in 2016 were resettled in one of these 10 states.

At the other end of the spectrum, some states and the District of Columbia took in few or no refugees in fiscal 2016. Arkansas, the District of Columbia and Wyoming resettled fewer than 10 refugees each, while two states – Delaware and Hawaii – took in none.

The states that took in the most refugees in fiscal 2016 are also some of the most populated states in the U.S. But on a per capita basis, some less populated states resettled more refugees than larger states. Over the past decade, Idaho has consistently ranked among the top states for refugees resettled per capita. And Minnesota had the highest single-year per capita rate of any state this decade, with 124 refugees resettled per 100,000 residents in fiscal 2005, the majority of which were from Laos (2,924).

Found: Two Gold Coins From 1947, Dropped in a Salvation Army Bucket

In Pompano Beach, Florida, the Salvation Army has discovered two very unusual coins in its one of its collection kettles, the Sun Sentinel reports. Among the quarters, dimes, and dollars, they found two 50-peso Mexico coins, made of gold and dated to 1947.

Each one of these gold coin is worth $1,400, according to the Sun Sentinel.

What’s most amazing about this find, though, is that this is the third year in a row that it’s happened. Since 2014, gold coins have been turning up in Salvation Army collection kettles stationed at Walmarts around Pompano Beach. Last year there were five gold coins found in total.

The year before, there are three gold Mexican coins and two American ones. Whoever left the coins wrapped them in $1 bills to conceal the donation.

Middle East Oil Exports Lower Than 40 Years Ago

Yes, it’s true. Middle East net oil exports are less than they were 40 years ago. How could this be? Just yesterday, Zerohedge released a news story stating that OPEC oil production reached a new record high of 34.19 million barrels per day. To the typical working-class stiff driving a huge four-wheel drive truck pulling a RV and a trailer behind it with three ATV’s on it, this sounds like great news.

Unfortunately for the Middle East, this isn’t something to celebrate. Why? Well, let’s just say, there’s more to the story than record oil production.

While the Middle Eastern oil companies were busy working hard (spending money hand over fist) to produce this record oil production, their wonderful citizens were working even harder to consume as much oil as they could get their hands on. And they most certainly did.

In the past 40 years, Middle East domestic oil consumption surged more than six times from 1.5 million barrels per day (mbd) in 1976, to 9.6 mbd in 2015. This had a seriously negative impact on rising Middle East oil production. According to the 2016 BP Statistical Review, the Middle East produced 30.10 mbd of oil in 2015 compared to 22.35 mbd in 1976. This was a growth of 7.75 mbd. However, Middle East domestic oil consumption increased from 1.51 mbd in 1976 to 9.57 mbd in 2015. Thus, the Middle Eastern economies devoured an additional 8.06 mbd of oil during that 40 year time-period.

Ousted: Brazilian court removes Senate president

Texas Restaurant Closes, And The Owner Is Blaming Obamacare

A restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas is closing its doors after five years of business, and the owner says the Affordable Care Act is to blame. Bill and Johnnie Katz, owners of Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill, took to the restaurant’s Facebook on Monday to announce the closing of the restaurant in the heart of downtown Fort Worth.

“Several factors led to this decision, but the proverbial straw was brought on by the Affordable Care Act,” the statement says. “If we were to stay in business, there was no way for us to have borne the weight of the oppressive penalties for failing to comply with the mandates of that legislature.”

The employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act requires businesses with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health care for at least 95 percent of the employees and dependents up to age 26, or pay a fee.

Katz told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that that between his two restaurants in Fort Worth and Dallas, he has more than 50 employees. Because he doesn’t provide health care to his staff, starting Jan. 1, he will face a penalty between $200,000 and $300,000.

Nordstrom Is Selling an $85 Rock

There is such a thing as an $85 rock, and you can buy it at Nordstrom. This is not the stone of 1975 Pet Rock fame (which, for the record, you can get for less than $20 online). Back then the Pet Rock had a clear purpose: It was a joke. The Medium Leather Wrapped Stone, on the other hand, is somewhat of a mystery. Not even the writers at Nordstrom knew what to say about it, so they left it open to interpretation: “A paperweight? A conversation piece? A work of art? It’s up to you.”

To be fair, it seems like the focus of this thing is the leather pouch in which it sits, rather than the rock itself. Made Solid — the company behind the Medium Leather Wrapped Stone and its more affordable counterpart, Small Leather Wrapped Stone ($65) — sells handmade leather products.

But what is a leather-wrapped stone without the stone? An empty container that probably won’t hold much of anything. So, really, it’s about the rock. Considering its crucial role, you’d think they’d tell you a little more about the geological superstar, beyond the fact that it comes from the San Bernardino Mountains. But maybe that’s part of the mystery.

And a mystery it is, because if the existence of an $85 rock doesn’t bewilder you, consider this: It’s a hot commodity. Two of the four versions of the Leather Wrapped Stones for sale on Made Solid are sold out. Who knows how long Nordstrom will have them in stock. For all of you who’ve been wondering what hot holiday gift you should get for your loved ones, you have an answer: A one-of-a-kind, made-in-the-USA rock.

Mastercard to buy back shares worth $4 billion

Payment processor Mastercard Inc (MA.N) said on Tuesday it would buy back class A shares worth $4 billion and raised its quarterly dividend.

The new share repurchase program will be effective at the completion of the company's previously announced $4 billion share repurchase program, under which it has about $1.3 billion remaining.

The company also increased its quarterly cash dividend to 22 cents per share, a 16 percent increase over the previous dividend of 19 cents per share.

Mastercard had 1.09 billion class A shares and 21.3 million class B shares as of Dec. 31.

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