US Economy

Stock Market Today: Dow Jones Industrial Average Ends January in the Red

Stocks down

Stock market today, Jan. 31: U.S. stocks closed down Friday, wrapping up a rough January and the worst month in trading in over a year as several corporate earnings weighed on the market.

All three major indices closed in the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.94%, or 150 points, at 15,699 points. The S&P 500 closed down 0.65%, or 11.6 points, at 1,783 points, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.47%, or 19 points, to close at 4,104 points.

Energy futures closed down today. Light sweet crude oil for March delivery closed $0.74 to settle at $97.49 per barrel. Heating oil for March delivery closed down 1.0% at $3.00 per gallon, and natural gas lost 1.36%, or $0.07, to close at $4.94 per million BTUs.

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Today's Stock Market News: The Biggest Stories and Earnings to Watch

Today's Biggest Stock Market News, Jan. 29:

Five Stories for This Morning

  • The State of Our Union is Expensive: U.S. President Barack Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address last night. During the speech, he demanded a guaranteed retirement plan for American workers, immigration reform, tax reform, gun control, and economic opportunity for all. The White House even announced it will back a congressional Democratic plan to increase the federal wage to $10.10 over three years, and then index it to inflation.

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2014 State of the Union Address: Nine Ideas You'll Hear Tonight and Why They Matter

SOTU 2014: U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address tonight, which means tomorrow most media outlets will graph and "wordcloud" his most used buzzwords like "jobs," "invest," and "innovate."

Instead of waiting until after the SOTU, we put together the nine phrases you're likely to hear tonight - as well as why President Obama needs to address them.

Here's your outline of State of the Union 2014:

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DON’T BE SO ARROGANT, MR. PRESIDENT

Empires have come and gone. Some lasted a blink of an eye and some millennia.
The question is, after 9/11, the rise of China and a great financial crisis, where does the U.S. empire stack up to its predecessors?
Well, it seems the one commonality they all have is the point when their might was undermined by sloth and greed. And entitlements: free bread and circuses. For some it took years, others centuries.
Here, in a compelling and unique address, is what Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, might say to President Obama now about how to keep America great.
Read on and share with family and friends...

The Latest Obama Outrage: the Family's $100 Million Vacation

Flip flops Q

How much do you spend on your summer vacation? American households usually spend about $1,200 per person on summer vacations, according to a recent American Express survey.

Presidents spend more on their vacations than you or I. They have to. Air Force One and security does cost more than loading the Honda and heading to the beach.

Here's how much some recent presidents spent our tax dollars on vacation.

Ronald Reagan spent most of his free time at his California ranch. Taxpayers covered the cost of approximately $8 million for presidential travel during Reagan's first six years in office, according to the Los Angeles Times. That amounts to $1.3 million a year.

For George Bush the cost of flying Air Force One to his Texas ranch was approximately $56,800 per trip, for each of the 180 trips according to Media Matters. President Bush spent Christmas during his two terms at the White House so his staff and secret service could spend the holiday with their family, according to Conservative Byte.

Now Obama plans to blow away all previous presidents' leisure travel costs on our dime with a better than Disney World extravaganza trip to Africa.

However Obama had to cancel the safari because of the need to fill the surrounding jungle with snipers to guard the president from wild animals!

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How Big Corporations Are Destroying the "Free Market"

Business problems As an economist, I wince whenever I hear someone say that we live in a true free market.

The reality is we live in a semi-free market where regulation stifles business and corporate money influences and distorts what would normally be a highly competitive marketplace.

And over the last two decades, the situation has only gotten worse for consumers, producers, and defenders of the so-called "free market."

From 2008 to 2010, 30 major corporations paid more money in lobbying fees than they did in taxes, according to the Public Campaign.

But while traditional lobbying once centered on altering tax rates and encouraging legislation to liberalize and deregulate the economy, it has now evolved into a competitive weapon for companies trying to box out competitors and raise barriers to entry in their markets.

It's a business phenomenon that I like to call the "Rise of the Fifth Rail."

You see, in traditional markets, companies compete on four specific principles: Price, product quality promotion, and place (market access). These principles are known as the "four P's."

The first three are self-explanatory in that customers want the highest quality product at the cheapest price. Companies use promotional techniques to instill a need for its products and do so by marketing against the offerings of a competitor.

The fourth principle centers on a company's ability to reach new markets and still provide low prices for high-quality products. A strong coordinated distribution network tends to make this possible.

Naturally, when all four work together, you end up with a company like Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which has the ability to provide low, everyday prices due to its best-in-class distribution network.

But over the last few decades, this new phenomenon of using lobbying as a competitive tool has altered the course of market economics, and driven fair competition into the ground.

And that phenomenon is rotting the American free market from the inside.

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Paul Krugman May Be the World's Last Flat Earth Economist

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Dr. Paul Krugman is at it again. He claimed earlier this week that fixing the deficit is important, but added that "doing it now would be disastrous." He also observed that the 10-year U.S. debt situation isn't really all that bad.
I don’t know how he can make that argument with a straight face.
For five years now, Dr. Krugman has argued that increasing U.S. government spending is vital to our nation's recovery. And for five years he's been dead wrong.
Dr. Krugman claims that "we" just haven't spent enough money... yet.
Here's why that makes him very dangerous...

Why There's No Real Inflation (Yet)

According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon."
Well, apparently not...
There's certainly plenty of cause for inflation today. Every central bank in the Western world is holding interest rates down, and almost all of them are printing money like it's going out of style. And the big deficits governments were running should be making inflationary matters even worse. Taken together, monetary and fiscal policies are far more extreme than they have ever been.
But today inflation is only running at around 2% - well below where it should be, according to Milton's monetarist theories.
What does it all mean?

Why The Fiscal Cliff "Deal" is Spelled P-O-R-K

Savings piggy bank

Behind the scenes of the Fiscal Cliff debate, there was plenty of f-bombing, poison pilling, and grandstanding leading up to the deal - and that was before the members of Congress and the Senate actually got serious with their usual ultimatums, followed by earnest- looking sound bites and posturing. But what gets me really riled up is the amount of "pork" contained in the bill...

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