Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:
Workers resist office return
"Companies and workers are living in two different realities when it comes to returning to the office," said Erica Pandey in Axios. Return-to-work dates are popping up again as America moves past Omicron, but there's a growing "disconnect between leadership and the rank-and-file." A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that "61 percent of teleworkers are working from home because they're choosing to." That's a big difference from earlier in the pandemic, when most offices were closed. Just 42 percent of respondents said fear of infection was their reason for remaining home, compared with 57 percent in October 2020. "Executives are three times as likely as employees to want to return" to the office.
Homebuilders prepare to pull back
A slowdown in home construction in January "could reflect a number of headwinds for home builders," said Jacob Passy in MarketWatch. Part of the 4 percent decline might be attributable to shortages in supplies; notably "the number of homes completed fell in January, while the number of homes under construction rose" — a sign that in some places construction is at a standstill. But homebuilders are also trying to gauge "whether a rise in mortgage rates will correspond with a softening in demand." Buyers have been pushed toward new construction by a shortage of older homes; "however, newly built homes are more expensive, and with interest rates soaring, that may give buyers pause." Those seeing rising rates are rushing to lock in their terms, but that will soon ebb.
Will index funds rule the boardroom?
Charlie Munger is wary about the shift toward passive investing, said Orla McCaffrey in The Wall Street Journal. The 98-year-old vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and longtime business partner to Warren Buffett warned last week that index funds now hold the power to "sway corporate decision making." Passive investment funds, which track indexes rather than specific stocks, have "delivered better returns than many active funds during the market's decade-long rally," increasing their popularity among investors. With that growth in assets, they have also become "the biggest investors in most large stocks," with corresponding voting power belonging to the managers of those funds. "I think the world of Larry Fink," Munger said, referring to the leader of index-fund giant BlackRock, "but I'm not sure I want him to be my emperor."