NFIB Weekly News
Leading the News
This Year’s Black Friday The Largest Ever For Sales (12/03/2019)
Bloomberg (11/29, Roeder) reported that Black Friday was “the moment retailers have been preparing for all year,” and “it could be one for the record books – at least, if you’re selling online.” Bloomberg added, “The biggest players are going into the holiday period with momentum, early data indicate. Walmart and Amazon.com Inc. saw the biggest jumps in online consumer spending in the run-up to Thanksgiving compared with a year earlier, according to a report from Edison Trends.” Amazon’s online sales rose 37 percent, while “Walmart saw a 53% in increase in web spending...and Nordstrom Inc. climbed 35%, according to the study.” While Best Buy, Target, and Macy’s also saw increased sales, “Kohl’s, EBay Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. all registered negative numbers from a year earlier.” Meanwhile, “Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy were the most mentioned retailers, according to Salesforce data.”
NFIB State Directors Encourage Participation In Small Business Saturday
In a post for the LaPlace (LA) L’Observateur (11/23), NFIB Louisiana state director Dawn Starns wrote, “Small business is the beating heart of Louisiana’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, it accounts for most of Louisiana’s employers and employees, nearly 53 percent of the state’s workforce.” She adds that Small Business Saturday is “a chance for people to support the locally owned stores and restaurants that support our communities throughout the year.” She added, “An estimated 104 million Americans spent at small, independent shops and restaurants on last year’s Small Business Saturday. And according to American Express and NFIB, 41 percent of people who took part in last year’s Small Business Saturday shopped small online, too.”
Stock Market Highs Suggest Growing Economic Optimism
The Wall Street Journal (11/17, Otani, Subscription Publication) reported much of the stock market’s rise in recent months has been driven by shares of companies in cyclical sectors like banking and manufacturing. Meanwhile, the performance of defensive sectors like utilities and consumer staples lagged, suggesting increasing investor optimism.
Small Business Optimism Sees Gains In October
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index saw a 0.6 point gain in October, with a 102.4 reading “buoyed by eight of the 10 Index components advancing, as talk of a recession waned.” The Uncertainty Index “declined 4 points but remains historically high heading into an election year.” NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan was quoted saying, “A continued focus on a recession by policymakers, talking heads, and the media clearly caused some consternation among small businesses in previous months, but after shifting their focus to other topics, it’s become clear that owners are not experiencing the predicted turmoil. ... Small business owners are continuing to create jobs, raise wages, and grow their businesses, thanks to tax cuts and deregulation, and nothing is stopping them except for finding qualified workers.”
Small Businesses Face Additional Compliance Requirements Under Corporate Transparency Act, Illicit Cash Act
The Wall Street Journal (11/3, Broughton, Subscription Publication) reported that small businesses are assessing the possible costs of complying with the Corporate Transparency Act and Illicit Cash Act, congressional proposals targeting the use of limited-liability companies. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the House bill estimated that the requirement could result in up to 30 million beneficial-ownership filings per year. The NFIB has argued the bills raise privacy concerns and take time away from small businesses that could be used towards overseeing their operations.
US House Passes Corporate Transparency Act
The Wall Street Journal (10/22, Parker, Subscription Publication) reported the US House of Representatives passed the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, which requires companies to disclose the identities of their owners in order to combat money laundering, bribery, and other crimes. The White House commended the bill in a statement released before the vote.
Media Analyses: Amid Trade Tensions, Economy Picked Up Steam In Third Quarter (12/03/2019)
Under the headline, “US Economy Picks Up In Third-Quarter; Data Surprise On The Upside,” Reuters (11/27, Mutikani) reported that “US economic growth picked up slightly in the third quarter, rather than slowing as initially reported, and there are signs the downturn in business investment may be drawing to a close.” Reuters added, “the modest firming in growth reported on Wednesday by the government came alongside data showing the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week after standing at a five-month high for two straight weeks.” Reuters added, “Collectively those reports and others are painting a more upbeat picture of an American economy...that has had to overcome speed bumps from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and the ebbing tailwinds from last year’s Republican tax cuts.”
Analyses: Improving Economic Picture Could Aid Trump
Small Business Marketing
The Hill (11/28, Elis) reported in an analysis that “consumer spending has roared back to life heading into the holiday shopping season, giving the stock market a boost and fending off recession fears with less than a year until the 2020 elections.” A daily tracking poll by Morning Consult, found “consumer sentiment on the rise for four consecutive weeks, with Americans feeling better about how the economy is doing right now and where it is headed.” The Hill said the “improving economic picture could be a boon for President Trump, who has made the economy a central argument for his reelection.”
WPost A1: Corporate Debt Surge Could Cause Economic Turmoil
In a front-page story, The Washington Post (11/29, A1, Lynch) reported that slightly more than ten years “after consumers binged on inexpensive mortgages that helped bring on a global financial crisis, a new debt surge – this time by major corporations – threatens to unleash fresh turmoil.” According to the Post, “A decade of historically low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S. corporate debt to nearly $10 trillion,” and the Post added that “some regulators and investors say the borrowing has gone on too long and could send financial markets plunging when the next recession hits, dealing the real economy a blow at a time when it already would be wobbling.”
IHS Markit: US Business Activity Posts Four-Month High
The Wall Street Journal (11/22, Hannon, Chaney, Subscription Publication) reported IHS Markit on Friday announced that its composite US Purchasing Managers Index rose from 50.9 in October to a four-month high of 51.9 in November. However, sources told the Wall Street Journal (11/22, Chung, Banerji, Subscription Publication) that Bridgewater Associates LP has bet that global stock markets will fall by March.
Fed Unlikely To Cut Rates Again Unless Signs Emerge Economy Is Weakening
The New York Times (11/20, Smialek) reported, “Federal Reserve officials do not plan to cut interest rates again unless economic data begins to show cracks, a message reinforced by the minutes from their October meeting.” The meeting notes, which were released Wednesday, “underline that the central bank plans to leave its policy unchanged for some time, even as President Trump urges it to slash borrowing costs to zero or below.”
Companies Slow Down On Capital Investment
The Wall Street Journal (11/24, Francis, Gryta, Subscription Publication) reported US companies are slowing down their expenditures on capital investment, as trade worries lead some to reconsider projects. The pullback started last fall amid escalating trade tensions, and has continued as signs of slowing global growth have emerged.
Small Business Saturday, Museum Store Sunday Continue Efforts To Encourage Shopping Small (12/03/2019)
USA Today (11/29, Tyko) reported, “Nov. 30 [was] the 10th annual Small Business Saturday, which falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves as the kickoff to the holiday season for independent retailers and restaurateurs.” Additionally, in its third year, “Sunday [was] Museum Store Sunday when museums and other cultural institutions offer shoppers unique options.”
Amazon Announces 2019 Small Business Awards Winners
Wages and Benefits
eCommerce Bytes (11/26, Steiner) reported Amazon has announced its winners of the Annual US Small Business Spotlight Awards. The winner of the Small Business of the Year Award is the “Bellevue, WA-based small business nutpods, founded by Madeline Haydon,” which “began selling plant-based creamer on Amazon in 2015.” The winner of the Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year is the “Mooresville, AL-based small business 1818 Farms,” which “began as a family project for Natasha McCrary in 2012 and evolved quickly into a booming business.” The winner of the Small Business Owner Under 30 award is the “Los Angeles, CA-based small business Habit Nest,” which “was launched by Michael Ahdoot and his cofounders in 2017.”
Small Business: 6 Signals For A Killer Business Pitch
Business Insider (11/21, Ortakales) reported Ginger Siegel “was one of the judges at Mastercard and Bank of America’s Grow Your Biz pitch competition. She’s the North America small business lead at Mastercard and a frequent panelist at business competitions and events.” Siegel “has a few go-to questions for entrepreneurs, and their answers signify to her whether they are truly ready to grow their businesses.” She told Business Insider “that an entrepreneur needs to show they’ve thought through everything from beginning to end.”
American Express Holding Consumer Experience Event In Honor Of Small Business Saturday
Adweek (11/22, Zelaya) reported, “American Express will open a consumer experience in New York City that uses technology to show what the future of retail could look like over the next 10 years.” The company “conducted a survey of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults and found that 77% of Americans observe” Small Business Saturday “as a national tradition.” American Express’ Shop Small Consumer Impact survey was conducted by Morning Consult in October and found “73% of people feel that empty storefronts are a national issue.” Additionally, “84% say that the increase in empty storefronts and closing of independently owned businesses negatively affects their local community.”
Small Business Owners Could Find Silver Lining In Apple Card Bias Claim
American Banker (11/21, Subscription Publication) reported that while concerns Apple may have created an algorithm for its Apple Card that discriminates against women have been a negative for Apple, its financial partner Goldman Sachs and the card industry overall, there could be a positive outcome for small businesses if it spurs government regulators to finally implement long-delayed plans to gather data on applicant’s protected class status. The Dodd-Frank Act “requires that financial institutions, including small-business lenders, collect protected-class data to provide a baseline to test for discriminatory lending practices. In response, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau promised to “expeditiously” develop specific rules on data lenders collect from women- and minority-owned business credit applications. That was almost nine years ago and as of this month, it’s finally showing signs of life.”
Small Business Saturday Highlighted
Food and Beverage Magazine (11/17) reported, “In honor of the 10th annual Small Business Saturday®, taking place on November 30, American Express is illuminating the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners today, as well as educating consumers on the positive impact of shopping small year-round.” American Express Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Rutledge said, “We recognize the hardships faced by small business owners today and want to inspire people to take notice and Shop Small to support their communities on Small Business Saturday and beyond. Retail is changing, but local shops are the fabric of our communities, helping them to thrive in the future is part of our brand ethos and backing promise.”
WSJournal: Middle Class Would Have To Pay More To Fund Democrats’ Plans (12/03/2019)
The Wall Street Journal (11/28, Subscription Publication), in an editorial, argued that in order to pay for the initiatives they are campaigning on, Democratic presidential candidates, if elected, would need to raise taxes on the middle class, not just the wealthiest Americans. As evidence, the Journal points to tax rates in Europe, including in Germany where a family earning $124,000 must pay 42% in income taxes, rather than the 22% that an American household with the same income pays. The Journal noted that in Sweden, incomes as low as $47,000 are taxed at a 55% rate.
Business Groups Call For Full Repeal Of ACA Taxes
Bloomberg Law (11/25, Subscription Publication) reported, “Critics of three Obamacare health levies—the medical device tax, health insurance tax, and Cadillac tax—are working hard ahead” of Thanksgiving, urging lawmakers to “permanently eliminate the rules.” The article adds, “A group of manufacturers, CEOs, and other business leaders also recently joined the repeal mission for taxes on health insurance plans in a recent letter to Congress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and National Association of Manufacturers are calling for full repeal of the taxes. But yet another delay would also be OK, which attorneys told me is more likely.”
NYTimes Analysis: Public Option More Popular Than “Medicare For All”
The New York Times (11/24, A1, Goodnough) reported on the growing popularity of the “public option” under which “people of all incomes who aren’t old enough for Medicare” could “choose health coverage through a new government-run plan that would compete with private insurance.” The Times said that “with two of the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, calling for a government-controlled single-payer ‘Medicare for all’ system,” the public option “is looking like a safe moderate position and even a realistic policy goal.” The Times cited “recent polls” as finding that “about two-thirds of voters like the idea of a public option or Medicare buy-in,” while being somewhat “alarmed by” the cost of a single-payer plan or its elimination of private insurance.
Trump Administration Issues Rules Mandating Transparency Regarding Healthcare Costs
The Washington Post (11/15, Goldstein) reported that on Friday, the Trump Administration “issued controversial rules compelling hospitals and insurers to give consumers more information upfront about what their care will cost.” For instance, “hospitals must for the first time reveal in a consumer-friendly format the discounted rates they negotiate privately with insurers for a list of 300 services patients can schedule in advance, including X-rays and cesarean deliveries.” This change will become effective in January 2021.
Minimum Wages To Rise In Almost Half Of States
Nation’s Restaurant News (11/12, Ruggless) reported that starting in 2020 “nearly half the states will be imposing higher minimum wage rates...with an increasing number of increases baked into earlier enacted graduated hikes or linked to economic indexes.” Meanwhile, “surveys indicate minimum wages have fallen as a chief restaurant operator concern,” with the National Restaurant Association’s “Trends Survey” putting it at fourth among labor challenges.
WSJournal: UK’s National Health Service A Preview Of “Medicare For All”
The Wall Street Journal (11/14, Subscription Publication) editorialized that for Americans, Britain’s National Health Service offers a preview of coming attractions under “Medicare For All.” Data released Thursday, it noted, showed the worst waiting times in 15 years in English emergency rooms.