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07.30.2020 by David M. Smith

Masks, Tech Companies and Stimulus Take Center Stage

The last two months virus cases have been spiking in much of the south and west, causing business closures. This may have have led to an increase in initial jobless claims for the first time since late March. AP News As bad as that news seems, it appears to have jolted much of the nation into accepting wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus and keep the economy open. Evidence is mounting on the positive effects of wearing masks and research is also starting to show that it may also protect the wearer. NPR USA Today It may even reduce the severity of symptoms if one comes into contact and catches the virus. NYT Emphasizing the link of masks = fewer virus cases = a better economy, Goldman Sachs research indicates that a national mask mandate would save the U.S. economy from a GDP loss of 5%. Market Watch

In D.C. lawmakers are turning their attention to the large tech companies and the next stimulus package. The large tech companies have been booming the last decade but even more so during the pandemic. They are political targets due to their size, privacy issues, potential anti-competitive practices, and the fact many of them pay few, or even zero, taxes. They will be in front of Congress defending their actions. Don't be surprised if the large profitable companies are eventually subjected to a minimum tax, much like the alternative minimum tax for individuals. Greg Valliere WSJ Fast Company

Meanwhile, budget talks continued in Congress to bridge the Senate's recently released $1T stimulus bill with the House's May $3T bill. The biggest sticking points are additional unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments. Most economists and investors believe a stimulus package is necessary to support the economy and expect a deal. With expanded unemployment benefits ending this week, there will be pressure to make a deal soon. Congress knows what's at stake economically and politically, with the election looming, so that should be enough motivation to get a deal done around the August 7th Congressional summer recess. Forbes

  • Mortgage Rates Keep Dropping: This week the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.87%. That is an average rate, so some financed at even lower rates – incredible! Who knows how low rates will go but take advantage of it while you can. CNBC Nerd Wallet Refinancing Calculator
  • Europe's Take a Big Step: Europe has historically struggled with coordinating and agreeing to economic policies. In a crisis, the U.S. has been able to act more quickly and forcefully both monetarily and fiscally. But last week the EU passed an $860B economic stimulus package backed by bonds for the EU and not individual countries. Twenty-one years after the implementation of the Euro, the EU may finally be creating institutions to rival the U.S. WSJ  
  • Eastman Kodak Pivots to Drug Manufacturing: One of the icons of the film photography industry, Kodak, is now in the drug manufacturing business. The firm filed for bankruptcy in 2012 when digital replaced film and it has been limping along ever since. But with onshoring of the drug supply chain a national priority, Kodak changed industries and may have gotten in front of a big trend this time. The U.S. government just awarded the firm a big contract to manufacture essential pharmaceutical components of generic drugs. Eastman Kodak's business just might be back in the national picture. CNBC

Quick Hit Articles for the Week:

  • Which face masks work and how to choose one for you: WSJ
  • Americans are supporting local small businesses during the pandemic: Good News Network
  • Trained dogs can smell those affected with the virus and may help with containment: CNBC
  • Many rural NH schools see big enrollment increases – likely from out of staters: WMUR
  • Homebuyers in the largest cities are searching inland at homes with more space: Redfin
  • The sandwich generation in their 30s - 50s carry a heavy strain during these times: Axios
  • Populism is alive in Russia and could cause trouble for Putin: Eurasia Group
  • Good News for National Parks:   According to Ken Burns, the national parks are America's Best Idea. Recently, the Senate passed a bill for $9.5B that some supporters say is the most significant conservation legislation in decades. It will go toward repairing trails, forest systems, maintenance, improvements, and water conservation. The overwhelming bipartisan bill shows the popularity of the parks with Americans. Ken Burns NYT AP News
  • Excellent 2016 Barolos: Wendi and I like Italian wines. One of my favorites is Barolo, but I rarely drink it due to its price. Experts are describing the 2016 vintage as one of the best and it is now arriving in stores. Here is a list of great Barolos, including some that sneak into the more "affordable" range. Bloomberg
  • Simply Ming: I am a fan of Ming Tsai's cooking show on public television. I find them fun and entertaining. It's amazing seeing how flavors are combined. I don't try to replicate too many recipes though I did make plant-based ravioli - delicious! Simply Ming Beyond Meat Raviolis With Thai Coconut Sauce
  • Quote: "Each person deserves a day away, in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” Maya Angelou

Thank you for reading The Friday Buzz. Feedback is welcomed and please forward it to anyone who may enjoy the articles. Be well, take care, wear a mask in public places, and stay safe!

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