“When you’re skating on thin ice, you wonder about what it would take to push you through, and we’re on thin ice right now,” said Diane Swonk, the chief economist for KPMG.

Matthew Martin, 32, is paying more for the butter and eggs that go into the intricately decorated sugar cookies he sells as part of a home business. At the same time, his sales are falling.

“I guess people don’t have as much money to toss at cookies right now,” he said.

Mr. Martin, a single father of two, is trying to cut back on spending, but it isn’t easy. He has replaced trips to the movies with day hikes, but that means spending more on gas. He is hoping to sell his house and move into a less expensive place, but finding a house he can afford to buy has proved difficult, especially as mortgage rates have risen. He has thought about finding a conventional 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, but he would then need to pay for child care for his 4-year-old twins.

“Honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure what I’m going to do,” he said.

defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months,” and it bases its decisions on a variety of indicators — usually only months after the fact.

Some forecasters believe a recession can be avoided, if inflation cools enough that the Fed can slow interest rate increases before they take too much of a toll on hiring and spending.

The economy still has important areas of strength. Job growth has remained robust, and, despite a recent uptick in filings for unemployment insurance, there is little sign of a broad increase in job losses.

Households, in the aggregate, are sitting on trillions of dollars in savings built up earlier in the pandemic, which could allow them to weather higher prices and interest rates.

“What drives the U.S. consumer is the healthy labor market, and we should really focus on job growth to capture the turning point in this business cycle,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at T. Rowe Price. The Labor Department will release data on July’s hiring and unemployment next week.

The lingering effects of the pandemic are making the economy’s signals harder to interpret. Americans bought fewer cars, couches and other goods in the second quarter, but forecasters had long expected spending on goods to fall as consumers shifted back toward prepandemic spending patterns. Indeed, economists argue that a pullback in spending on goods is needed to relieve pressure on overstretched supply chains.

At the same time, spending on services accelerated. That could be a sign of consumers’ resilience in the face of soaring airfares and rental car rates. Or it could merely reflect a temporary willingness to put up with high prices, which will fade along with the summer sun.

“There is going to be this element of, ‘We haven’t had a summer vacation in three years, so we’re just going to take one, no matter how much it costs,’” said Aditya Bhave, a senior economist for Bank of America. “The question is what happens after the summer.”

Avital Ungar is trying to interpret the conflicting signals in real time. Ms. Ungar operates a small business running food tours for tourists and corporate groups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

When restaurants closed and travel stopped early in the pandemic, Ms. Ungar had no revenue. She made it through by offering virtual happy hours and online cooking classes. When in-person tours came back, business was uneven, shifting with each new coronavirus variant. Ms. Ungar said demand remained hard to predict as prices rise and the economy slows.

“We’re in two different types of uncertainty,” she said. “There was the pandemic uncertainty, and then there’s the economic uncertainty right now.”

In response, Ms. Ungar has shifted her focus to higher-end tours, which she believes will hold up better than those aimed at more price-sensitive customers. And she is trying to avoid long-term commitments that could be difficult to get out of if demand cools.

“Every annual plan I’ve done in the past three years has not happened that way,” she said. “It’s really important to recognize that what worked yesterday isn’t going to work tomorrow.”

Lydia DePillis contributed reporting.

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Introducing Homz: Innovative Platform Seeks to Build Attainable Housing Communities Across the U.S.

DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Homz today announced its launch as the first national housing company dedicated to building a portfolio of sustainable, wellness-focused communities centered around branded attainable housing across the U.S. Through its mixed-use master planned communities, Homz seeks to bring greater housing options to residents at more attainable prices that help to preserve or increase socioeconomic diversity while providing public access to vibrant, highly-amenitized urban environments.

Homz is led by veteran real estate and hospitality investors with decades of experience developing, owning and managing over $5 billion worth of assets. Leveraging this expertise, the team has established a vertically integrated platform that emulates the hospitality model, capable of efficiently delivering standardized housing and desirable public amenities at scale. Over the next five years, Homz seeks to break ground on 50 communities in secondary and tertiary markets across the U.S. that are seeing strong population and job growth, but struggle to develop enough new purpose-built housing supply to meet demand.

“We aim to fundamentally shift how rental housing is developed and branded, creating greater efficiencies that result in attainably-priced homes and a viable solution for the housing crises plaguing markets across the world,” said Dipika Patel, Managing Director of Homz. “Our triple bottom line approach focuses on sustainable development, placemaking and public amenities, allowing us to responsibly deliver the highly-amenitized lifestyle residents seek at attractive price points while creating public value that draws incentives from local governments.”

Each Homz community will feature four multifamily brands – UP, 24, NJOY and LYF – that are designed to meet renters at each stage of their lives, along with a selection of build-to-rent single-family homes. The design of these properties will be standardized so as to be easily replicable and identifiable across markets. UP and 24 target value seekers, while NJOY and LYF offer larger floorplans to accommodate roommates and growing families. By offering greater housing optionality, Homz communities are positioned to attract the diverse, highly talented work forces that meaningfully contribute to the growth and development of their local economies.

Alongside Homz’s diverse housing options, the company intends to introduce 54 publicly available amenities, including clubhouses, pools, athletic fields, playgrounds, urban farms, Miyawaki forests and more, that are designed to foster deeper senses of wellness and satisfaction among residents and their neighbors in the community. These amenities create dynamic, vibrant neighborhoods and lifestyles that bring people together and draw visitors and business from within and outside the community. As part of the master plan, each community could also include hospitality, retail and office components.

Homz expects to invest between $140 million and $170 million in each community and will secure financing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The company will also work in partnership with municipalities on incentives that make it possible to develop these communities. Homz will hold each investment for approximately 25 years, creating a close alignment of interests with each city. It is designing these communities with ESG and sustainability in mind, and each property is being developed to meet the requirements of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing initiative.

“We’ve spent years studying the market opportunity and refining our business model, and we have made significant investments to build out the infrastructure needed to advance our objectives,” said Lakshmi Narayanan, Managing Director of Homz. “We have created a business model that is fundamentally different from anything that exists in the market, and we believe it has significant potential as a viable solution for the housing challenges many markets face in the U.S. and abroad. What we intend to create is not only an attractive living environment, but an experience that is consistent across each destination we develop.”

Patel is a seasoned real estate and hospitality executive with more than two decades of investment and operational expertise. She previously served as President and CEO of Hayden Holdings, a hospitality investment and management company with real estate assets valued at more than $250 million. Prior to her real estate and hospitality career, Patel spent nearly 15 years on Wall Street at investment banks including Citigroup and Bank of America. Narayanan is an impact investor and serial entrepreneur with experience building businesses and investing in real estate and startups in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He has built a strong global network and serves as a Certified Senior Executive Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

About Homz

Homz is the first national housing company dedicated to building a portfolio of sustainable, wellness-focused communities centered around branded attainable housing in key markets across the U.S. Homz looks to develop communities that bring greater housing options to residents at more attainable prices, helping to preserve or increase socioeconomic diversity while providing public access to vibrant, highly-amenitized urban environments. Homz’s mission is to create a better living world with integrated communities that support more meaningful connections between individuals and their surroundings. For more information, please visit www.homzglobal.com.

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How Republican-led states are targeting Wall Street with ‘anti-woke’ laws

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WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – Republican-led states have unleashed a policy push to punish Wall Street for taking stances on gun control, climate change, diversity and other social issues, in a warning for companies that have waded in to fractious social debates.

Abortion rights are poised to be the next frontier.

This year there are at least 44 bills or new laws in 17 conservative-led states penalizing such company policies, compared with roughly a dozen such measures in 2021, according to a Reuters analysis of state legislative agendas, public documents and statements.

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While some of the individual moves have been reported, the scale and speed at which such “anti-woke” state laws and policies are ballooning and the challenges they are creating for Wall Street companies is detailed here for the first time.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “woke” as being aware of and actively attentive to issues of racial and social justice, but it is often used by conservatives to disparage progressive policies. The term has gained traction as America has become more politically polarized over issues from racial justice and LGBTQ rights to the environment and COVID-19 vaccines.

Reuters counted bills considered and state laws passed in 2021 and 2022, although some state officials are also using executive powers to punish Wall Street.

The growing restrictions show how America’s culture wars are creating new risks for some of the most high-profile U.S. companies, forcing them to balance pressure from workers and investors to take stances on hot-button issues with potential backlash from conservative policymakers.

West Virginia and Arkansas this year, for example, stopped using BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) for certain services, due to its climate stance, according to West Virginia’s Republican treasurer Riley Moore and Arkansas media reports.

In Texas, JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Bank of America (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) have been sidelined from the municipal bond market due to laws passed last year barring firms that “boycott” energy companies or “discriminate” against the firearms industry from doing new business with the state.

In many cases, the measures target a range of companies, restricting their ability to conduct state business. But financial institutions have been primary targets due to the pivotal roles they play in the economy and the early stances many took on such issues as fossil fuel and firearms financing.

Republicans say the policies of such companies deprive legitimate businesses of capital.

“They’re using the power of their capital to push their ideas and ideology down onto the rest of us,” said Moore. He spearheaded a law, passed in March, refusing business to banks that “boycott” fossil fuel companies and has rallied officials from 16 other states to promise to adopt similar policies. read more

With several major financial companies stepping in to cover travel costs for employees seeking abortions after the Supreme Court last month reversed federal abortion rights, the Republican push to sanction Wall Street for “woke” stances is likely to grow. read more

Republican Texas lawmaker Briscoe Cain said he plans legislation to outlaw such coverage and prohibit companies that provide it from receiving any Texas state business or contracts.

“No corporation doing business in Texas will be allowed to subsidize abortions or abortion travel in any manner,” Cain told Reuters in an email.

NO BOYCOTTS

The new curbs will make it harder for financial firms to do a range of state business, from bond underwriting to managing state funds, depository accounts and government credit cards, according to interviews with more than a dozen industry sources, bank lobbyists and lawyers.

Such contracts can be worth several million dollars each, public procurement data shows.

JPMorgan, for example, underwrote $3.2 billion worth of Texas muni bonds last year, compared with $210 million so far this year, Refinitiv data shows. Bank of America, which underwrote $3.7 billion in Texas muni bonds last year, has done none this year.

Some smaller firms, including Ramirez & Co Inc and Loop Capital Markets, meanwhile, have jumped more than 10 places so far this year in the Texas muni bond market bookrunner rankings, based on deal values.

To be sure, some Democratic-led states are also looking to tilt the scales. Washington state floated a “climate resiliency fee” for institutions that fund fossil fuel projects. California is considering a bill that would stop its pension plans, the country’s largest, from investing in fossil fuel companies.

But states led by Democrats are not pursuing as many punitive measures, according to the review and sources.

“We’re going to see a lot more of these statutes on one side of the coin or the other,” said John Crossley, a partner at K&L Gates who focuses on energy. “It’s going to make it more and more difficult for people to operate in these markets.”

Spokespeople for the above financial firms declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Financial firms say they aim to provide comprehensive healthcare benefits. They also argue government restrictions will drive up costs for Americans, and they dispute the characterization of their policies as boycotts.

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager and a frequent target of Republican attacks, for example, has told Texas officials that while it has joined various efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it supports fossil fuel companies. read more

“The economy and financial system are best served when banks of all sizes can make their own banking and lending decisions about how to meet the needs of their communities based on their business model and risk tolerance,” said Joseph Pigg, senior vice president at the American Bankers Association.

ANTI-WOKE PUSH

The review shows “anti-woke” measures are gaining ground not only in traditional conservative strongholds such as Texas and Kentucky but also in so-called purple states – whose voters swing Democratic or Republican – such as Arizona and Ohio.

The issues such measures target are also mushrooming.

Guns and energy were the focus of the roughly dozen state laws and bills last year andof at least 30 legislative measures this year.

But this year there were also more than a dozen bills relating to social and other issues, including “divisive concepts” like critical race theory – an academic theory that racial bias is baked in to U.S. laws and institutions – mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, or the use of “social credit scores,” the Reuters analysis shows.

The latter is a theory that companies may take into account an individual’s political leanings when providing and pricing services.

In April, for example, Florida made it illegal for companies to require training that might make staff feel “guilt” or “anguish” because of past actions by members of the same race. Unveiling the bill, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis flagged Bank of America as one company conducting such “woke” training.

A bank spokesman said the materials were offered to hundreds of companies by a nonprofit and were not part of the bank’s training materials.

While the measures reviewed do not target corporate abortion policies, Cain said he expected other Republican-led states to pursue business restrictions on companies with such policies.

WALL STREET DIVISIONS

The financial industry is struggling to repel the onslaught, the sources said. Its trade groups are mainly registered to lobby the federal government, while state-based groups are not always aligned with Wall Street companies’ priorities.

Moore, for example, said West Virginia’s community banks supported his measures. The West Virginia Bankers Association declined to comment. The Texas Bankers Association said the group had not opposed the Texas curbs because its members were not in “consensus.”

Wall Street’s adversaries, on the other hand, are united.

Galvanized by what they say are efforts by Democrats in the federal government to push “woke” policies, oil and gas, firearms and conservative groups, including the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), are successfully pushing such curbs, according to industry sources and advocates. read more

“Banks should stay out of making policy choices,” said Lawrence Keane, general counsel at the NSSF, which advocated for the Texas law targeting lenders’ firearms policies.

The American Petroleum Institute, a major energy group, said it opposes discriminatory policies toward the industry.

Jason Isaac, a former Texas lawmaker who leads energy advocacy for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and helped craft the Texas fossil-fuel law, said he was discussing similar laws with other states, adding: “This woke political ideology will continue unless we get it in check.”

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Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington
Additional reporting by Chris Prentice in Washington and Ross Kerber in Boston
Editing by Michelle Price, Paritosh Bansal and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Payment Data Could Become Evidence of Abortion, Now Illegal in Some States

Digital payments are the default for millions of women of childbearing age. So what will their credit and debit card issuers and financial app providers do when prosecutors seek their transaction data during abortion investigations?

It’s a hypothetical question that’s almost certainly an inevitable one in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last week. Now that abortion is illegal in several states, criminal investigators will soon begin their hunt for evidence to prosecute those they say violated the law.

Medical records are likely to be the most definitive proof of what now is a crime, but officials who cannot get those may look for evidence elsewhere. The payment trail is likely to be a high priority.

HIPAA — which governs the privacy of a patient’s health records — permits medical and billing records to be released in response to a warrant or subpoena.

“There is a very broad exception to the HIPAA protections for law enforcement,” said Marcy Wilder, a partner and co-head of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm. But Ms. Wilder added that the information shared with law enforcement officials could not be overly broad or unrelated to the request. “That is why it matters how companies and health plans are interpreting this.”

Card issuers and networks like Visa and Mastercard generally do not have itemized lists of everything that people pay for when they shop for prescription drugs or other medications online, or when they purchase services at health care providers. But evidence of patronage of, say, a pharmacy that sells only abortion pills could give someone away.

a new state law authorizes residents to file lawsuits against anyone who helped facilitate an abortion.

“With the ruling only coming down late last week, it’s premature to understand the full impact at the state level,” Brad Russell, a USAA spokesman, said via email. “However, USAA will always comply with all applicable laws.”

American Airlines Credit Union, Bank of America, Capital One, Discover, Goldman Sachs, Prosperity Bank USA, Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, University of Wisconsin Credit Union, Wells Fargo and Western Union did not return at least two messages seeking comment.

American Express, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo have all announced their intentions to reimburse employees for expenses if they travel to other states for abortions. So far, none have commented about how they would respond to a subpoena seeking the transaction records of the very employees who would be eligible for employer reimbursement.

Amie Stepanovich, vice president of U.S. policy at the Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit focused on data privacy and protection, said warrants and subpoenas can be accompanied by gag orders, which can prevent companies from even alerting their customers that they’re being investigated.

“They can choose to battle the use of gag orders in court,” she said. “Sometimes they win, sometimes they don’t.”

In other instances, prosecutors may not say exactly what they’re investigating when they ask for transaction records. In that case, it’s up to the financial institution to request more information or try to figure it out on its own.

Paying for abortion services with cash is one possible way to avoid detection, even if it isn’t possible for people ordering pills online. Many abortion funds pay on behalf of people who need financial help.

But cash and electronic transfers of money are not entirely foolproof.

“Even if you are paying with cash, the amount of residual information that can be used to reveal health status and pregnancy status is fairly significant,” said Ms. Stepanovich, referring to potential bread crumbs such as the use of a retailer’s loyalty program or location tracking on a mobile phone when making a cash purchase.

In some cases, users may inadvertently give up sensitive information themselves through apps that track and share their financial behavior.

“The purchase of a pregnancy test on an app where financial history is public is probably the biggest red flag,” Ms. Stepanovich said.

Other advocates mentioned the possibility of using prepaid cards in fixed amounts, like the kinds that people can buy off a rack in a drugstore. Cryptocurrency, they added, usually does leave enough of a trail that achieving anonymity is challenging.

One thing that every expert emphasized is the lack of certainty. But there is an emerging gut feeling that corporations will be in the spotlight at least as much as judges.

“Now, these payment companies are going to be front and center in the fight,” Ms. Caraballo said.

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Companies Scramble to Work Out Policies Related to Employee Abortions

There is no clear blueprint for corporate engagement on abortion. After numerous companies came forward to announce that they would cover travel expenses for their employees to get abortions, executives have had to move swiftly to both sort out the mechanics of those policies and explain them to a work force concerned about confidentiality and safety.

Few companies have commented directly on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. Far more have responded by expanding their health care policies to cover travel and other expenses for employees who can’t get abortions close to home, now that the procedure is banned in at least eight states with other bans set to soon take effect. About half the country gets its health care coverage from employers, and the wave of new employer commitments has raised concerns from some workers about privacy.

“It’s a doomsday scenario if individuals have to bring their health care choices to their employers,” said Dina Fierro, a global vice president at the cosmetics company Nars, echoing a concern that many workers have expressed on social media in recent days.

Popular Information. Match Group declined to comment.

tweet: “I believe CEOs have a responsibility to take care of their employees — no matter what.”

Lora Kelley contributed reporting.

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