Opening Bell 6.21.19

Wilbur denies; Home prices hit a high; Eels get high and more!
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: I don't have any investments in Russia and never have [CNBC]

"What they are doing is innuendo," Ross said Thursday in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box." "The company that I was invested in happened to have a Russian shareholder. Another company happened to do business with some companies in Russia."

"They take little, tiny things and turn them into something they are not," he added. "To make an allegation that there is something inappropriate about a practice, that's a very commonplace practice and has been done in prior administrations as well, is simply silly."

Bank investors await U.S. stress test results for capital returns [Reuters]

Even so, gains in financial shares may be muted. Many of the 38 financial firms undergoing the test are expected to boost dividends and share buybacks due to higher profits on the back of tax cuts and rising net interest income.

Banks will be able to unveil capital return plans for the coming year next week after the Fed issues its second set of results that determine how much of a capital buffer the banks need.

The Fed examines the health of the balance sheets of the biggest financial firms every year to ensure that they have enough capital to withstand a shock to the system in the wake of the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Insurers to Expand Presence in Affordable Care Act Marketplaces Despite Uncertainty [WSJ]

The expansions reflect that many insurers’ ACA business has moved into the black, after years of rate increases that have helped premiums catch up to costs, said Cynthia Cox, a director at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Kaiser foundation found in an earlier analysis that insurers’ financial performance on plans sold to consumers improved sharply last year, achieving the best results since the ACA’s major market changes went into effect in 2014. “They’re feeling more confident in their ability to be profitable in this market,” said Ms. Cox.

U.S. Homes Prices Least Affordable in Almost a Decade [Bloomberg]

A separate report from ATTOM Data Solutions shows average wage earners would need to spend 31.2 percent of income to buy a median-priced home this quarter -- above the historic average of 29.6 percent.

Home price appreciation, coupled with rising mortgage rates, have pushed three-quarters of average wage earners out of the market with property costs rising faster than wages in 64 percent of regions surveyed, ATTOM reported.

“Home price appreciation continued to outpace wage growth, speeding up the affordability treadmill for prospective homebuyers even without the rise in mortgage rates,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM.

Some Rivers Are So Drug-Polluted, Their Eels Get High on Cocaine [National Geographic]

And while societies have long grappled with ways to cope with the use of illicit drugs, less understood are the downstream effects these drugs might have on other species after they enter the aquatic environment through wastewater.

So, in the name of research, scientists pushed cocaine on European eels in labs for 50 days in a row, in an effort to monitor the effects of the experience on the fish.

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Opening Bell 7.16.18

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