Highlights

Wall Street Breakfast

Author: bmotrader   |   Latest post: Fri, 10 Sep 2021, 7:54 AM

 

Wall Street Breakfast: Delta Force

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The business community in the U.S. is still sizing up the new vaccine mandate unveiled by the Biden administration on Thursday night. The expansive rules will demand that private employers with more than 100 workers require their staff to be vaccinated or test weekly for COVID-19 (affecting about 80M Americans). Government and health care workers (another 17M people) will also be required to get vaccinated - with no option to opt for regular testing - as a rise in Delta cases triggers fresh concerns about the pandemic. The legal basis for the order hangs on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has the authority to enforce regulations affecting workers' well-being (expect many legal challenges).

Quote: "President Biden's announcement prompts critical questions that require immediate clarification," said the Consumer Brands Association, which represents makers of packaged goods. "As with other mandates, the devil is in the details. Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply."

While OSHA is still developing the emergency regulation, some officials say employers could face fines of nearly $14,000 per violation. The mandate also follows more than a year of upheaval, which started as months of lockdowns and new costs for hand sanitizer, face masks and plexiglass barriers. Many businesses are still struggling under safety protocols, and additional compliance costs and verification for the new mandate could hand them a new set of potentially complex requirements.

Go deeper: Following the announcement, companies like General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) issued statements describing the efforts they've made to get their employees vaccinated, but didn't announce whether they endorsed Biden's plan. Others, such as Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:WBA) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), said they were studying it. While many in Corporate America have already required vaccines, including Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Disney (NYSE:DIS), McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), the new mandate also affects small or mid-sized companies that are already dealing with labor shortages. "It wouldn't surprise me if others look for an employer who doesn't have 100 employees - and that's a huge issue for me, especially in this competitive job market," said Jay Baker, president of Jamestown Plastics in Brocton, New York.

Trending - Crypto caution

The Bitcoin (BTC-USD) warnings are coming from far and wide following a big week that saw El Salvador legalize the crypto as legal tender. Bitcoin -0.5% to $46,087.

Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves: "Private money usually collapses sooner or later. And sure, you can get rich by trading in Bitcoin, but it's comparable to trading in stamps," he warned at a banking conference in Stockholm. Earlier this year, Ingves said that cryptos as a whole are unlikely to escape regulatory oversight as their popularity grows. "When something becomes large enough, factors such as consumer interests and money laundering enter the picture."

Banxico Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon: "Whoever receives Bitcoin in exchange for a good or service, we believe that [transaction] is more akin to bartering because that person is exchanging a good for a good, but not really money for a good. In our times, money has evolved to be fiat money issued by central banks. People will not want their purchasing power, their salary to go up or down 10% from one day to another. You don't want that volatility for purchasing power. In that sense, it is not a good safeguard of value."

Regulation coming? Don't forget the warnings from SEC Chair Gary Gensler earlier this month, who called crypto the "Wild West." It's "rife with fraud, scams, and abuse in certain applications. If we don't address these issues, I worry a lot of people will be hurt." What exactly the SEC ends up doing is yet to be determined, but the agency did go after Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN) this week over a product called Lend, which would let users earn interest by lending digital assets. The SEC said the program securitizes crypto via interest passed on to the customer, though the Wells notice caused an uproar in the DeFi community and prompted some charged tweets from Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong.

Tech - Smart shades

Facebook (FB) and Ray-Ban (OTCPK:ESLOF) have finally unveiled Wayfarer Stories - their stab at using an iconic sunglasses line to make smart spectacles more cool and palatable than past attempts. The new eyewear can snap photos and record videos, answer phone calls, and play music and podcasts. It also represents the latest effort by Facebook to erase boundaries between people's virtual and real lives as the company dips further into the Metaverse.

Some nostalgia: The move is the latest attempt to bring smart eyewear to the masses after notable attempts from Google Glass (GOOGL) and Snap Spectacles (SNAP).

Facebook teased the big event with Ray-Ban yesterday with links to action-sports videos from Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs. The Wayfarer Stories start at $299, come in 20 styles, and sport a tiny front-facing light that lets others know when the camera is recording (privacy concerns?).

Bosworth tells the NYT: "We asked ourselves, how do we build a product that helps people actually be in the moment they're in? Isn't that better than having to take out your phone and hold it in front of your face every time you want to capture a moment?" He also scoffs somewhat at comparisons with Google and Snap's products, noting they're focused more on the frames' fashion than the tech inside: "This product has not been tried before because we've never had a design like this before."

Outlook - Tax evasion

The top 1% of Americans ranked by income fail to pay as much as $163B in owed taxes per year, according to Natasha Sarin, deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury. The study drives a point home that has surfaced several times this year. Just last week, executives at hedge fund Renaissance Technologies agreed to pay approximately $7B in back taxes and penalties in one of the largest settlements with the IRS, while ProPublica leaked some of the ways the wealthiest Americans avoid taxes back in June.

'We are the 99%': "Today's tax code contains two sets of rules: one for regular wage and salary workers who report virtually all the income they earn; and another for wealthy taxpayers, who are often able to avoid a large share of the taxes they owe," continues Sarin. "Today, the 'tax gap' - the difference between taxes that are owed and collected - totals around $600B annually and will mean approximately $7T of lost tax revenue over the next decade. The sheer magnitude of lost revenue is striking: it is equal to 3% of GDP, or all the income taxes paid by the lowest earning 90% of taxpayers."

Tax numbers are in the spotlight as the White House proposes investing $80B into the IRS over the next 10 years. The funds would be earmarked for more enforcement staff and would overhaul technology systems. The Biden administration is also calling for "using information that financial institutions already possess, so the IRS can deploy these additional resources to audit more sophisticated tax evaders."

Outlook: Democrats hope that collecting more unpaid taxes will help fund a $3.5T spending package they are in the process of drafting by bringing in $700B over 10 years. Others say not so fast. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates new revenue from the proposal would total around $200B over the decade, while many Republicans are hesitant about granting more power or privacy rights to the IRS.



 

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