U.S. and World News
- Ukrainians are due to vote in presidential and mayoral elections on Sunday, with billionaire “chocolate king” Petro Poroshenko well ahead in the presidential polls. This election will come after 13 Ukrainian soldiers were killed during a skirmish with pro-Russian separatists earlier this week. The pro-Russian rebels are attempting to make sure the elections don’t take place in regions where they have influence, while another major issue is whether Russia will accept the outcome of the election after previously saying they may not.
- The military chief of Thailand, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, had imposed martial law in the country earlier this week before announcing on Thursday that the military has taken control of the country in a coup. Nightly curfews have been imposed and the country’s constitution has been suspended in the process. The Thai military claims the actions seek to restore order following six months of violent and sometimes deadly protests, which have brought the country’s economy to the brink of recession. It also comes amid a period of limbo for Thailand after a court dismissed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine other ministers earlier this month for abuse of power.
- Voters in Switzerland have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to institute a minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs (~$25) an hour, which would have been the highest in the world. Over 76% of voters cast a No ballot. Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said, “Accepting the initiative would have led to job cuts in economically weak, rural areas.”
- Markets rose across the board this week with the S&P 500 rising 1.25% to a new All-Time high of 1900.The Dow Jones was also up this week, rising by 0.76% and closing at 16,606. Year to date, the S&P is now up 3.67% and the Dow Jones is up 1.17%.
- Treasury yields remained steady this week following a gradual decline in interest rates this year. The 5 year and 10 year U.S. Treasury Notes are now yielding 1.53% and 2.54%, respectively.
- The spot price of WTI Crude Oil rose in the days leading up to the holiday weekend, ending the week up 2.77%, closing at a 52-week high of $104.39 per barrel. Year to date, Oil prices have climbed 8.23%.
- The spot price of Gold decreased minimally this week, closing at $1292.59 per ounce. Year to date, Gold prices are up 7.57%.
- Initial jobless claims rose by 29,000 from last week, coming in at 326,000 vs. consensus estimates of 310,000. The Labor Department noted no special factors in the data. The four week moving average for claims now stands at 323,000.
- Existing home sales rose 1.3% in April which was lower than consensus estimates of 2.2%. Meanwhile, new home sales rose 6.4% in April vs. consensus estimates of a 10.7% gain. The rebound in housing following an extremely harsh winter hasn’t been as robust as expected.
Fact of the Week
- According to data released by the IRS, federal employees owe a total of $3.3 billion in back taxes. While the delinquency rate of federal employees of 3.2% is expectedly lower than national average of 8.7%, there are 318,462 federal employees who owe back taxes, putting the average outstanding tax bill at $10,391. There is a wide dispersion of non-payment rates within the different divisions of the federal government. The highest rates of tax delinquencies are found in small agencies dealing with civil rights and the disabled such as The National Council on Disability (11.5% delinquent) and the Civil Rights Commission (9.5%). Employees of the House of Representatives (not necessarily Congressmen) have a delinquency rate of 4.9%, while the Senate is a bit better at 3.2%. The Treasury Department, of which the IRS is a part of, has the lowest non-payment rate of 1.2%, with active duty military personnel not far behind at #2 with a tax delinquency rate of 1.7%.
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