Capitalism and Economy en U.S. stocks slide for second day as recession fears mount <p>San José, CA - The U.S. stock market started October with back-to-back declines fueled by growing fears of a recession. On Tuesday, October 1, stocks fell by 1% or more following the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reporting on their Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for September. The index fell to 47.8, showing a contraction in the manufacturing sector - any report below 50 shows manufacturing shrinking, above 50 shows growth. The August PMI report at 49.1 also showed a drop in manufacturing, the first time in three years. The September reading showed that the decline was accelerating and was the lowest level for the PMI since the end of the last recession, more than 10 years ago.</p> <p>Recession fears were also fed by a gloomy report from the World Trade Organization, which predicted that world trade growth would fall to only 1.2% in the coming year, one of the lowest rates since the last recession. The WTO estimate is made every six months and is the third drop in a row. While still expanding, world trade has been weighed down by economic weakness in Japan and Germany, the second and third largest capitalist economies after the United States.</p> <p>Trade and manufacturing have also been hit by Trump’s trade war with China. His tariffs on imported parts and materials have made it more expensive to make goods in the United States, and China has also retaliated by placing tariffs on U.S. exports of goods.</p> <p>On October 2, the stock market slide deepened, with losses of almost 2% as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 500 points. Recession fears mounted as another sign of economic weakness came with the ADP report on private employment in September. The ADP report saw only 145,000 new private sector jobs, much lower than the 215,000 monthly increase a year ago.</p> <p>U.S. stocks followed even steeper declines in Europe, where stock indices in Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. fell about 3%. European economies have been even weaker than the U.S. economy, and there are concerns about what happens as the BREXIT deadline of October 31 approaches. The United States has also been a major export market, and a recession in the United States would hurt Europe.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Donald Trump economy recession stock market U.S. Thu, 03 Oct 2019 16:11:02 +0000 Fight Back 7621 at Wall Street shaken by Trump tweets <p>San José, CA – On Friday, August 23, the U.S. stock market opened lower, on the news that China was retaliating to Trump's latest round of tariffs. It then recovered after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole economic conference. Then Trump tweeted that he was “ordering” U.S. companies to leave China, and stocks dived, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending with a loss of more than 600 points or almost 2.5% lower. The broader S&amp;P 500 average fell a bit more than 2.5% percent and the NASDAQ composite, which is heavily weighted towards technology companies, fell 3%. </p> <p>Earlier in the day China announced that it was increasing tariffs on U.S. exports from 10% to 15% starting September 1 and was resuming the 25% tariff on imported cars on December 15, in response to new U.S. tariffs set to go for those two dates. Stocks fell as investors began to give up hope that China would back down and give in to some of U.S. demands.</p> <p>Then Federal Reserve (the U.S. central bank) Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that the Fed would do another cut in interest rates at their next meeting in September. But he also cautioned that monetary policy - raising and lowering interest rates - could not counter the escalating trade war between the United States and China. U.S. stocks then made up their losses until President Trump unleashed his tweets.</p> <p>Trump tweets included statements like “We don't need China” and that “[we] would be better off without them.” He then ordered U.S. companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.” Even though the president has no authority to order businesses to leave China, the fear grew that Trump was going to escalate the trade war even more. Sure enough, later in the day, the administration announced that current 25% tariffs on about half of imports from China would be raised to 30% on September 1. Further, the tariffs on the other half of imports from China that are set to be imposed on September 1 and December 15 would rise from 10% to 15%.</p> <p>The fact of the matter is that many U.S. and other foreign companies that had offshored production to China had been moving their factories to other countries because of the rapidly rising wages in China. But no other country has the combination of infrastructure such as transportation and ports, large skilled workforces, and a dense supply network of companies providing parts as China.</p> <p>While the first rounds of Trump's tariffs largely avoided consumer goods, the tariffs set for September and December would include a wide range of consumer goods including cell phones, computers, other consumer electronics, shoes and clothing. These tariffs, which are taxes on imports, will lead to higher consumer prices, causing hardship for working-class families who are already trying to get by on their stagnant wages through working longer hours, taking on more debt and buying cheaper imported goods.</p> <p>Trump's trade war is also damaging the international economic order set up by the United States after World War II. This modern era of freer trade was meant both to reinforce U.S. economic dominance over the capitalist world as well as the anti-Soviet and anti-socialist alliance headed by the United States. But this free trade regime is unraveling with the rise of other capitalist economies such as Germany and Japan, as well as the integration of socialist China into the world trading system. </p> <p>In addition to the growing signs of a coming recession, there are increasing concerns on Wall Street that tensions in the capitalist world will increase the chances of a more serious economic crisis.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Asia Asian Nationalities China China Donald Trump International stock market trade war Oppressed Nationalities U.S. Sun, 25 Aug 2019 16:56:59 +0000 Fight Back 7571 at Stock market tanks <p>San José, CA - On Wednesday, August 14, the U.S. stock market tanked, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 800 points, or 3%. The technology-heavy NASDAQ index also fell 3% and the S&amp;P 500 fell just shy of 3%. This is the third day in a row of major market moves: Down more than 450 points on Monday, up 375 points on Tuesday, and now down again.</p> <p>The Monday move came on because of growing recession fears, but the stock market bounced back on Tuesday, when Trump announced that he was postponing the 10% tariff on imports from China on more than half of the goods originally scheduled to be tariffed September 1. The postponement came on cell phone, computers, toys and other goods that make up more than 75% of U.S. imports that come from China, as well as baby supplies deemed necessary. However more than $100 billion in imports from China are still on track to face tariffs next month. These are mainly consumer goods, with women and girls clothing among the hardest hit.</p> <p>While Trump tries to come off as a tough guy and hard negotiator, the fact of the matter is that he blinked in the face of Chinese resistance. Trump also admitted for the first time that U.S. consumers would be hit, whereas before he maintained that China was paying the tariffs. The postponement allows stores to stock up for their holiday sales without paying the tariffs.</p> <p>But despite the relief rally on Tuesday, on Wednesday things went from bad to worse. First came disappointing economic reports from China. Over the last ten years China has made a lot of progress in bringing down its overall trade surplus (selling more exports than it imports). By ramping up its imports, the Chinese economy has become ever more important to other countries’ economies, including for example, U.S. farm exports. While its economic growth is still awesome by any other large economy’s standards (still about 6% as compared to 2 to 3% in the United States and even less in Europe and Japan), any slowdown in Chinese economic growth will affect other countries.</p> <p>Then, as the world turned, there came a report out of Germany that their Gross Domestic Product (GDP, or the total production of final goods and services) actually contracted by a small amount in the second quarter of this year. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and is the fifth largest in the world. Germany is also the world’s third largest importer of goods and services, so like China, any slowdown will impact other countries.</p> <p>Then when financial markets opened in the United States, interest rates on the ten-year U.S. Treasury Bonds briefly fell below the interest rate on the two-year bond. This was another ‘inversion’ of the bond interest rate yield curve, where typically higher long term interest rates fall below shorter term ones, indicating the economy will be much worse in the future. It is seen as one of the strongest financial market warnings of a coming recession.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Asia China Donald Trump International stock crash stock market trade war U.S. Thu, 15 Aug 2019 01:17:11 +0000 Fight Back 7559 at U.S. stock market keeps dropping <p>San José, CA - U.S. stocks fell again on Monday, August 12 as growing recession worries were added to ongoing concern about the direction of Trump’s trade war with China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 400 points, or 1.5%, while the broader markets fell by smaller percentages of about 1.2%. </p> <p>Bank of America raised the risk of recession in the next year to one in three, while U.S. bond interest rates continued to fall. The ten-year U.S. Treasury Bond interest rate fell again to about 1.5%. Lower bond interest rates show that investors expect economic growth to slow at best, and the economy to fall into recession at worst. The so-called ‘inverted yield curve,’ where long-term interest rates on bonds fall below shorter-term interest rates continue to flash a warning of a coming recession.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Asia China Donald Trump International stock crash stocks trade war U.S. Tue, 13 Aug 2019 21:12:11 +0000 Fight Back 7557 at China’s response to Trump’s new tariff threat panics stock market <p>San José, CA - On Monday, August 5, China replied to Trump’s new tariff threat by calling off the purchases of U.S. agricultural products and weakening government support for the RMB, China’s currency. In response the RMB fell to 14 U.S. cents, meaning it will take slightly more than 7 RMB to buy one U.S. dollar. Soybean prices also fell, as China is the largest foreign buyer of U.S. soybeans.</p> <p>The lower value, or depreciation, of the RMB will partially offset the impact of Trump’s new tariffs, or tax, of 10% on all remaining U.S. imports of goods from China. These tariffs, which include many consumer goods such as cell phones and other consumer electronics, baby items and toys that were not covered by Trump’s earlier tariffs. This tax is paid by U.S. importers and will be passed on to consumers.</p> <p>The price drop in soybeans and other agricultural products such as cotton, where China is a major importer, will hit U.S. farmers already suffering from historic flooding driven by climate change. While the Trump administration is paying out billions to make up some of these losses, it does not cover the total cost to farmers.</p> <p>Stock markets in the United States fell the most in one day this year, extending their losing streak to six business days. Hardest hit was the technology corporation-filled NASDAQ index, which fell more than 3%. Technology companies are deeply involved in trade with China, both importing and exporting. The headline Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 3%, or more than 750 points, while the broader S&amp;P 500 Index also fell almost 3%. Stock investors feared that the escalating trade war would hurt economic growth and thus corporate profits and stock prices.</p> <p>The growing fear of recession boosted the buying of bonds, which provide a fixed interest payment. Bond prices went up, driving the interest rate on the benchmark ten-year U.S. Treasury bond down to 1.75%. Just a year ago the interest rate on ten-year treasury bonds was over 3%. This means that longer-term bond rates are significantly lower than short term (six months or less) bond interest rates, which are near 2%. This so-called “inverted yield curve” is one of the best financial predictors of a coming recession.</p> <p>The fear of recession slammed stock markets around the world, with most markets falling more than one and a half percent from Japan to Germany. Fear of a slowing economy also hit oil prices, which fell about one and a half percent.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Socialism Asia Asian Nationalities China China Donald Trump International stock market trade war Oppressed Nationalities U.S. Mon, 05 Aug 2019 21:52:02 +0000 Fight Back 7543 at Trump escalates trade war with China <p>San José, CA - On Thursday, July 31, President Trump tweeted that he would be imposing new tariffs, or taxes, on the $300 billion of Chinese goods not covered by his 25% tariffs. U.S. stocks took an immediate dive, giving up all of their 300-point gain to drop 280 points for the day. They continued to fall on Friday, leading to the worst week for U.S. stocks all year.</p> <p>Despite what Trump says, tariffs are taxes that are paid by U.S. importers. Up to now, most of the Chinese goods placed under heavy tariffs have not been consumer goods. But the new tariffs mainly hit consumer goods such as cell phones, consumer electronics, toys, and baby supplies. U.S. workers could see higher prices going into the upcoming holiday season.</p> <p>Trump also claims that his goal is to bring down the U.S. trade deficit, where the U.S. imports more goods and services than it exports to other countries. But despite his tariffs, the U.S. trade deficit grew to a record dollar amount last year, as other countries fought back and retaliated against U.S. exports.</p> <p>The U.S. and China had just met to discuss the trade war and had agreed to meet again in mid-September. By placing tariffs on even more Chinese goods, Trump is trying to bully China into changing its socialist economy. While his bullying tactics can work with smaller economies like Mexico and Guatemala, China is the world’s second largest economy and has had an independent leadership since the Chinese revolution in 1949.</p> <p>The new Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said, “China’s position is very clear that if the U.S. wishes to talk, then we will talk, if they want to fight, then we will fight.” With the Chinese leadership beginning a two-week annual policy conference, their specific response may take a few weeks. But the trade war is likely to get worse in the coming weeks.</p> <p>Trump’s trade war is just one of the factors weighing on the world capitalist economy. The European economy is already in the doldrums, and worries are growing about the impact of a no-deal Brexit in October. The Japanese economy is also slow, and Japan has copied Trump by restricting exports of chemicals used in making semiconductors under the guise of “national security”. Here in the United States, business investment and construction are slowing, one of the most sure-fire warnings that a recession is on the way. While the U.S. economy is relatively strong, with low unemployment, it is harder and harder to see how it can continue to grow with one problem after another cropping up.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Socialism Asia China Donald Trump International tariffs trade war Trump China Oppressed Nationalities U.S. Sat, 03 Aug 2019 22:08:19 +0000 Fight Back 7536 at More cracks showing in U.S. economic expansion <p>San José, CA - More cracks showed up in the U.S. economic expansion as the May employment report saw a gain of only 75,000 net new jobs, less than half what most economists expected. In addition, the Labor Department revised the job creation numbers down by 75,000 for March and April. Over the last four months the economy has added new jobs at a rate of 130,000 per month, much less than the 223,000 new jobs added each month on average in 2018.</p> <p>In addition to the weak jobs report, workers’ average hourly earnings gained only 3.1% over the last year, a slower rate that in April and March. Manufacturing worker jobs have gained only 5000 over the last three months as slowing car sales as well as Trump’s trade war weighed on factories. Gains in construction jobs also weakened, with a small gain of 4000 new jobs, despite lower mortgage interest rates that were expected to boost housing sales and construction.</p> <p>More indications of a weaker economy also boosted the bond market. Demand for bonds, which is how governments and big businesses borrow, usually grows when more signs of a recession appear. As bond prices rose, interest rates fell again, maintaining the so-called ‘inverted yield curve’, where interest rates on longer-term bonds (typically those due in ten years) are less than interest rates on shorter-term bonds (such as 30 to 90 days). Typically, the interest rates on longer-term bonds are higher than shorter-term bonds because of greater chances of inflation. The inverted yield curve is one of the surest financial market signs of an oncoming recession.</p> <p>There were also growing expectations that the Federal Reserve Bank will cut interest rates, perhaps as much as a half percentage point, this month or next month. This continued the party on Wall Street as stocks markets gained across the board on the hope that lower interest rates will boost profits for heavily indebted corporations. The fact that stock markets rose on signs of a weaker economy is just another example that stocks don’t represent the economy.</p> <p>The stock market rally may prove to be a short-sighted view on the part of wealthy investors, as the last two times that the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, a recession began within three months in both 2001 and 2007. In both cases stocks ended lower a year after the first cut, as the growing recessions took its toll on corporate profits.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy economy Mon, 10 Jun 2019 19:32:44 +0000 Fight Back 7475 at Witness to attempted U.S.-orchestrated Venezuela coup speaks in Minneapolis <p>Minneapolis, MN - “The area we were in was an opposition neighborhood, but nobody’s leaving their houses. The news in the U.S. is saying people are flocking to the streets because they’re ‘being liberated’, but no one’s leaving their houses. It was so untrue it was shocking,” said Tracy Molm, to about 40 community members gathered to hear her firsthand account of the events of April 30 in Caracas, Venezuela.</p> <p>That day saw unelected presidential pretender Juan Guaido appear outside an airbase in Caracas, claiming a military uprising to oust elected President Nicolás Maduro was about to take place. Despite heavy promotion by the U.S. State Department and much of the media, no uprising occurred. By the end of the day, its handful of participants had fled to the diplomatic compounds of Spain and Brazil.</p> <p>Molm explained, “We had been there for a day and a half. Tuesday morning, we wake up, and we’re a mile and a half from it, witnessing nothing. We hear people banging pots, but nobody leaves their houses.”</p> <p>Instead, Molm described seeing tens of thousands of Venezuelans flock to the seat of the presidency at the Miraflores Palace to defend President Maduro. “The vice president called for the people of Venezuela, the workers of Venezuela, to be in the streets and to defend their president. That’s what we saw,” she said. </p> <p>Molm, a member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, was in Venezuela with a delegation of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). Her report-back event in Minneapolis, which featured a slideshow of photos and an extensive Q&amp;A, took place on May 18.</p> <p>“It’s really important to start with the history of Venezuela, one of the things that’s really missing from the conversation that people get in the news,” she began. “In 1499, Venezuela was invaded by the Spanish, colonized, and they created a monocrop slave state. A lot of the issues that Venezuela is grappling with are basically rooted in being a colonized country, with very little infrastructure, and a single export that they were reliant on.”</p> <p>“Hugo Chávez and Simon Bolivar are really thought of as liberators of this country that was ravaged by colonization, and then by neo-colonial policies,” explained Molm. “When Chávez was elected, Venezuela was considered one of the most unequal countries in Latin America. Now it’s considered one of the most equal societies. That makes a big impression on people.”</p> <p>Molm showed the audience photos of banners that anti-imperialist student groups displayed around Caracas on April 30 in response to Guaido’s failed putsch. “The coup attempt happened really early in the morning. Before 9:30, they’ve got banners up,” she said. “People are ready to fight, ready to be in the streets to defend their government.” </p> <p>The following day, May 1, the delegation attended a mass rally commemorating International Workers Day, a national holiday in Venezuela. Over 400,000 people attended, many alongside their labor unions, to hear President Maduro speak. “Every time we saw something anti-Trump, people were like, ‘come take pictures with us!’ It was great,” Molm said.</p> <p>Molm also addressed the widespread reports of food shortages in Venezuela, saying, “There’s a lot of food production, and one of the things that they’re working really hard to do is understand where food is being produced, and where it’s going. Because they’ve had all these initiatives that include urban farming and taking back productive parts of the land around the country, so that people can be producing food - and not relying on big businesses that shutter their doors because they decide they’re not making enough profit.”</p> <p>Despite the challenges, Molm reported that food was still widely available. The delegation witnessed many boxes of free food assembled by the Local Committees for Supply and Production - known by their Spanish-language acronym, CLAP - being distributed around Caracas.</p> <p>The delegation and met with revolutionary leaders to learn about popular struggles to bring about social equality in Venezuela. </p> <p>“Venezuela is not currently a socialist country. Their leaders, including Maduro, believe that’s the direction they want to bring their society,” Molm explained. “They want to fundamentally change their government to be about people, to be about fulfilling people’s needs, and not about profit.”</p> <p>In particular, Molm recounted the delegation’s tour of new public housing built as part of the Gran Misión Vivienda, an initiative of Hugo Chávez that has led to 2.6 million high-quality homes being built over eight years. “People pay what they can. If you can pay, say, the equivalent of $100 dollars in rent, that’s what you pay. If you can’t, you pay less,” Molm explained. “It makes you realize how far away from that we are in the US, when people are getting evicted on a daily basis because they can’t afford rent.”</p> <p>“There are almost no people living on the streets in Venezuela,” she added. Privatization of the homes built under the Gran Misión Vivienda, along with the nationalized oil funding it, has long been a stated objective of the Venezuelan opposition now led by Guaido. Last week, it was revealed that Guaido, in the aftermath of the attempted coup’s failure to garner mass support, was formally requesting U.S. military backing for the overthrow of President Maduro.</p> <p>“People are very clear in Venezuela. They know who the enemy is,” Molm concluded. “They know who is instigating the attacks. They know who is trying to destabilize their country.”</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Socialism Antiwar Movement Americas Coup International Maduro Trump Venezuela Venezuela Wed, 22 May 2019 16:46:02 +0000 Fight Back 7453 at Stocks fall as Trump threatens to reignite trade war <p>San José, CA - On Tuesday, May 7, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) fell almost 500 points, or close to 2%. This came following President Trump’s tweets on Sunday threatening to escalate the trade war with China on Friday if he couldn’t get a trade agreement done. While the U.S. stock market largely shrugged off this news on Monday, statements by his economic advisors convinced investors that his threats are for real.</p> <p>Trump threatened to raise the 10% tariffs, or taxes, to 25%, on about half of goods imported from China. In addition, he threatened to place 25% tariffs on almost all other Chinese-made goods coming to this country. These new tariffs cover a wide variety of consumer goods such as cell phones that escaped his first round of tariffs.</p> <p>Despite the Trump administration’s growing use of tariffs, starting with washing machines and solar panels, then going to aluminum and steel, and finally on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, the U.S. trade deficit actually grew last year. Perhaps frustrated by the failure of his policies to boost U.S. trade, Trump is threatening to escalate the trade war with China and is also laying the groundwork for tariffs on imported cars. The Trump administration is seeking to label imported cars a ‘national security’ threat, despite the fact that they are almost all from Canada, Mexico, Germany and Japan.</p> <p>U.S. companies have mainly reacted by raising prices, not by increasing production. After the 25% tariff on washing machines, prices on both washing machines and dryers (which were not subject to tariffs but which are often sold with a washing machine) both have gone up about 12%. In the case of steel, the 25% tariffs were almost matched by a 22% rise in the price of steel. While this has fattened corporate profits, it has not benefited workers.</p> <p>Other businesses are bracing for possible retaliation if Trump goes ahead with tariffs on more Chinese goods or on cars. After the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods, U.S. exports of soybeans to China, which was almost half of U.S. production, fell to almost zero last year. While almost no cars are imported from China (GM imports a small number of smaller SUVs that it makes in China), a good number of car parts are, which will increase the cost of making trucks and SUVs in the United States.</p> <p>Like white supremacists who promote the idea that whites are ‘victims’ of Black people, Mexican immigrants and Central American refugees, Trump promotes the idea that the United States is victimized by other countries. Given that the U.S. is still the world’s largest economy and has dominated the economies of many other countries for years, the idea is ridiculous, but it helps to whip up racist fears.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Donald Trump economy tariffs trade war Workers and Globalization Oppressed Nationalities U.S. Thu, 09 May 2019 01:19:17 +0000 Fight Back 7429 at Government report indicates signs of weakness in economy <p>San José, CA - On Friday, April 26, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) issued its first report on economic growth in 2019. The country’s Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, which measures the total production of goods and services, grew at a 3.2% annual rate during the first three months of the year (January to March). This was stronger than most economists expected.</p> <p>But much of the growth was made up of one-time events, and inside the report there were continuing signs of economic weakness. The biggest contributor to growth was a large drop in imports. During the second half of 2018 many companies pushed forward their imports out of a fear of an escalating trade war with China. But with Trump calling off his original pledge to raise tariffs on Chinese goods even more and ongoing trade talks continuing, these companies cut back on imports. This drop in imports boosted the GDP report as imports are subtracted from the final number and is unlikely to continue in the future.</p> <p>The second biggest factor was a large jump in spending by state and local governments on capital projects such as buildings, roads and bridges. This increase is unlikely to be sustained as these projects take a long time to complete and there would have to be an ever-increasing number of projects started to keep this rising. So this was probably another one-time factor.</p> <p>The third biggest factor was a large jump in inventories. As GDP counts production, if goods are made but sit unsold on store shelves, it counts as economic growth. This is a potential sign of economic weakness if consumers are not buying all of what businesses produce, and could lead to production and job cuts in the future.</p> <p>Not counting the impact of changes in trade, government spending, and inventories, total private sales grew at a 1.3% rate, only half that of the last three months of 2018. Based on this, most economists expect economic growth to slow for the rest of the year.</p> <p>Trump and the Republicans in Congress claimed that their 2017 corporate tax cut would lead businesses to increase spending on new plant and equipment, creating more jobs. Business investment did increase at a strong rate in the first six months of 2018, but since then it has slowed. This part of GDP grew at only half the rate of previous quarter (October to December of 2018), a sign of a slowdown.</p> <p>Another sign of economic weakness was the continuing fall in the construction of new homes, apartment buildings and other residences. This part of GDP has fallen for five quarters back-to-back, and together with business investment, dragged down ‘fixed investment’ to less than two-tenths of one percent, barely above zero. Weakness in business investment or housing construction is what can pull the economy into a recession if their fall is big enough and lasts long enough to pull the rest of the economy down with them.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Capitalism China economy Trump Sat, 27 Apr 2019 16:15:03 +0000 Fight Back 7391 at