A roadblock for Black homeowners

And more of the week's best financial insight

A homeowner.
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Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

A roadblock for Black homeowners

"Black homeowners face discrimination in appraisals" that can make it dramatically harder for them to buy, sell, or refinance a home, said Debra Kamin at The New York Times. The bias is so pervasive that some have turned to hiding their race from appraisers. Abena and Alex Horton in Jacksonville, Florida, were looking to refinance their four-bedroom, four-bathroom house in a mostly white neighborhood and expected it to appraise at about $450,000. It came in at just $330,000. When they asked to have it reappraised, Abena took down all the photos of her family; instead, the Hortons "hung up a series of oil paintings of Alex, who is white, and his grandparents that had been in storage." The couple edited holiday postcards so "only those showing white families were left on display." Then Abena left the house on the day of the appraisal. The new appraisal, for exactly the same house, was $465,000.

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Auto shortage sends prices rocketing

New-car prices are up an average of $1,200 and used cars about $900 in a "perfect seller's market," said Joann Muller at Axios. In other recessions, prices fell as incomes dropped. "This time, the pandemic shut down production for two months, but buyers came back to the market sooner than expected." Pandemic concerns about public transportation have boosted demand, and dealers have become more adept at selling online. Most of the increases in new-car prices — now an average of $38,414 — have gone right to dealers' profits, which have risen from $300 to $1,100 per vehicle. In the used-car market, dealers are fighting over scarce inventory, which means "you'll get more for your trade-in right now if you decide to upgrade."

Fed will focus on jobs, not inflation

The Federal Reserve is ending "four decades of orthodoxy" on inflation and unemployment, said John Authers at Bloomberg. Economists have long believed that there is a trade-off between inflation and unemployment: In 1981, in a period of runaway inflation, "Paul Volcker took over the Fed and showed he was prepared to raise rates even if it crushed employment." Ever since, the central bank has been careful not to let the economy run "too hot" for fear of triggering wage and price hikes. But a proliferation of low-paid service jobs has weakened links between inflation and employment. The Fed now says it will let inflation — stuck below 2 percent anyway — to rise more freely, focusing on increasing jobs.

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