Small businesses are the lifeblood of any economy, creating wealth and employment opportunities – and supporting economic growth at grass-roots level. This type of entrepreneurship has always been valued in the United States, where the founders of startups can aspire to become leaders of Fortune 500 companies if they hit on a successful niche.
But are small business owners being unfairly hampered by the raft of regulations introduced following the financial crisis of 2008? It’s an issue that’s hitting the headlines at the moment as President Trump reaffirms his pre-election promises to de-regulate the financial services industry.
An upturn for the economy?
After a period of sluggish performance, the US economy may be set for an unexpected upturn. The incoming Republican administration seems determined to throw all its resources into boosting the economy which, together with the much-touted trade restrictions shoring up the price of imports, is almost certain to fuel inflation above the average 2.2% of Obama’s second term.
While under Barack Obama, labour regulation and environmental legislation expanded greatly – witness the scope of Obamacare, for instance – its subsequent contraction under Trump may well encourage businesses to start investing again.
Emerging from the doldrums
The pace of US growth recovered sharply in the third quarter, peaking at its highest rate in two years and lending credence to forecasts that the country is on track for greater economic stability as 2016 draws to a close.
The economy expanded at a 2.9 percent annualised rate in the third quarter, up from 1.4 percent in the second quarter, which topped predictions of a more modest rate of 2.6 percent and reflected a spike in exports as well as an increase in federal spending, according to the US Commerce Department.
That said, consumption growth – another key indicator of the health of the economy – dropped back over the same period to just 2.1 percent, down from more than double that figure in the previous quarter, and falling a long way short of the expected 2.6 percent benchmark.
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.
Rates on hold
The announcement by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to hold US interest rates steady in July came as no surprise to market analysts who had felt that the threat of economic uncertainty and the imminent presidential election would prevent the Federal Reserve from making any hasty decisions to hike the rate in the short term.