Real estate: A sharp drop in home sales
A startling 6.4 percent decline in home sales last month has baffled real estate agents and economists, said Diana Olick in CNBC.com. The drop has happened without any sudden increase in interest rates, which are “still historically low.” “It also can’t be blamed on stock volatility,” because contracts for December sales would have been signed before the market’s recent disturbance. One possibility is that buyers seeing home prices slipping are holding off on a purchase until the market stabilizes. “No one wants to catch a falling knife.”
Privacy: Google burned by new European rules
French regulators hit Google with a 50 million euro ($57 million) fine this week for running afoul of Europe’s stringent new data privacy laws, said Mathieu Rosemain in Reuters.com. France’s data-privacy watchdog agency “said the world’s biggest search engine lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data, and failed to properly obtain their consent for personalized ads.” It was the first major fine levied against a U.S. firm under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in May.
Shutdown: Consumers start to lose confidence
“The government shutdown and a late-year slump in the stock market have eroded Americans’ optimism,” said Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman in The New York Times. A poll conducted for the Times found that while Americans remain relatively upbeat about their personal finances, both Democrats and Republicans gave grim forecasts for the economy overall, a notable change in perception from just two months ago. While “past shutdowns haven’t done lasting damage to either confidence or spending,” the length of this one makes it uncharted territory and poses a challenge to forecasts.
Minimum wage: White House fights hike to $15
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta warned last week that a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would lead to job losses, said Eric Morath in The Wall Street Journal. Acosta’s comments came after Democrats introduced bills in the House and Senate that would raise the wage, currently $7.25 an hour, to $15 by 2024. Such a hike would “undermine this economy and job creation,” said Acosta. He pointed to studies including a 2017 paper that found low-wage workers in Seattle lost hours after the minimum wage there was lifted to $13. Acosta didn’t rule out supporting a smaller increase in the wage, which has not risen since 2009.