Room at the top?
Ever get the feeling that it’s about time you changed some of your fixtures and fittings? Well it’s a message that corporate governance advisor ISS is trying to get across to the shareholders of some of the United States’ top companies – including Alphabet and Berkshire Hathaway – as it begins to apply pressure for a little light boardroom ‘refreshment’.
As part of its latest annual survey, ISS is canvassing opinions on boards where long-serving directors hold sway or where new members are about as rare as hens’ teeth. The outcome could help to shape changes in its investor voting guidelines in the future.
Credit tightening – a sign of the times?
For a society that runs largely on credit, when loans start drying up, the wheels of commerce grind to a shuddering halt.
In a survey recently conducted by the Federal Reserve, signs are emerging that lines of credit are being increasingly squeezed, with loans to businesses on commercial and industrial (C&I) and commercial real estate (CRE) being subject to tougher standards over the second quarter of 2016 than in the past three quarters.
Businesses looking for C&I loans to buy new equipment or relocate are finding it harder to access the credit they need as banks continue to tighten their criteria for lending, especially for medium- and large-sized companies.
The black stuff
Crude oil prices have fallen to their lowest levels since the global financial crisis, with further losses likely in the coming weeks. On 4 December, the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) voted to continue its policy of acquiring market share rather than supporting prices, which resulted in US crude oil values dipping to under $40 a barrel. Values are now at their lowest levels since December 2008, when crude-oil futures price fell to around $34.
Opec’s decision to maintain its market share strategy is only part of the story, with the cartel’s organisational disarray stimulating renewed selling and causing widespread anxiety in the sector.
Coming in to land
If you were one of the millions of Americans who travelled by plane over the Thanksgiving break – perhaps heading home for a family gathering – you may also be among the most disgruntled air travellers in the world. Fact is, US airports are lagging way behind other countries in the world rankings, losing out to their Asian counterparts, as well as some European hubs.
All systems go
With businesses poised for news of an interest rate rise this month, the world’s economy seems to be pulling in two directions. A gentle nudge from 0.25% to 0.5% may not seem like a major move for the Federal Reserve but it’s a move that would have sparked anxiety a year or so ago and will mark the transition towards a more optimistic outlook in the US.
Why $100 isn’t the same everywhere
How much bang are you getting for your buck this year? Well, it pretty much depends on where you live, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organisation which regularly collates data from The Bureau of Economic Analysis to demonstrate how much $100 buys you on a state-by-state basis. It may come as little surprise to discover that the same goods are often much cheaper in states like Missouri than they are in New York, but there are some interesting discrepancies outside the obvious.