Labor markets improved last week according to government reports showing the number filing for unemployment benefits decreased more than expected. Initial claims came in at 283,000, which was 21,000 people lower than the previous period and lower than anticipated. The general consensus was initial claims would come in closer to 295,000. Some economist have become very optimistic about labor markets while others point to real employment and the low participation rates among other negative signs.
Last Friday around 6pm, TurboTax resumed state filing after a day of pausing the process as a number of fraud filings were sent through the service. Identify thief's are using the popular tax software to file fake state returns for individuals who’s information has been stolen. The refunds are cashed by the thieves without the affected government agency or the individual knowing there was an issue. CEO of Intuit, Brad Smith, reported that his company attacked the issue and felt comfortable moving forward within the 24 hour period.
Declines in IBM offset some of the gains made by investors looking forward to the European Central Bank announcement Thursday, where the group is expected to purchase more bonds to stimulate the economy. The Euro Zone has had some economic troubles as of late and investors see the new stimulus as overdue. Asian stocks also moved higher later in the day after the US markets rose.
It is that time of year again "Tax Season" and everyone needs to start thinking about filing his or her tax returns.
TurboTax has made some "Tax Software" changes for this year and that leads to a software war between TurboTax and H&R Block.
MousePrint which is a sister site to ConsumerWorld.org sent out a warning for TurboTax users earlier this week. According to MousePrint regular customers of the TurboTax Deluxe software program used to help with the preparation of tax forms are in for a big surprise this year. The surprise involves the Intuit INTU-1.01%'s version of TurboTax Deluxe. This top selling desktop version of TurboTax will require an upgrade for the Premier and higher edition versions. This will affect the Q&A sections for Schedules C (self-employment income and all expenses), D (investments), and E (rental and partnership income) on the TurboTax Deluxe software. The full interview sections will no longer be on the TurboTax Deluxe software. This will require an upgrade for the already purchased TurboTax software. Therefore this will require more money spent by TurboTax customers.
The minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting showed that members are not likely to consider raising rates until April and might not inclined to do so if inflation remains at a low level. The minutes from December 16th and 17th voice concern about raising rates and many believe that will keep them at zero for a couple more meetings. Chairman Janet Yellen gave a speech after the meeting about the timing of an interest rate increase and the minutes support her belief that we are still months away from such an action.
A report from Cushing Oklahoma showed slow growth in oil demand while the glut of oil supply remained high. The EIA (Energy Information Assoc.) reported that crude supply decreased but that Cushing showed a large build up at the same time. This created a bearish tone in trading and oil stocks declined along with the price of oil in open trading. Also noted was a small increase in the demand for gasoline which spooked traders.
The Russian Central Bank raised interest rates to 17% overnight hoping to stem the fall of the Russian Ruble as the country’s main source of revenue, oil, dropped in price at historic rates. A glut in oil production has created a supply abundance worldwide. Since a debt default in 1998, the Russian economy has not been hit so hard. Interest rates were already high at 10.5% before the move that did not have the affect on the currency the central bank had hoped for. The currency remained soft in trading today. Interest rates were raised to encourage holders to keep their cash for additional future increases.
Crude oil dropped 4 percent on the day as investors got reports that oil stocks will remain high into the first quarter of next year. On the NYME January futures for oil fell to $63.05 a barrel or –4.2%. This is the lowest point in 5 years. Oil futures in London also fell at a similar pace. Analysts remain very bearish on crude oil as US drilling reports show large supply and the Japan economy continues to struggle.
Traders were hoping that the price declines would lead to less drilling rigs being established in the US but reports showed a continual increase in rigs. Meanwhile, Japan revised its GDP growth estimates lower and other countries were viewed to follow in the near future.
Many consumers have decided that deals presented on CyberMonday will be around longer or start earlier than one day and therefore have delayed making an immediate purchase, according to released reports. As shoppers returned to work, stores saw a 8.5% increase in CyberMonday sales compared to the same day in 2013. This is down compared to the 20.6% jump that consumers saw in 2013 over the prior year. Some see this as a maturing of the shopping habits of consumers during the Christmas season.
iPhone 6 will drive Apple Christmas sales to a healthy gain. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that he predicts 71.5 million iPhone 6 sales in the fourth quarter of 2014. That is a large percentage gain (40%) over the same quarter last year and almost a doubling (82%) of the sales in the previous quarter.