Christopher Matthews

Consumer confidence hits highest level since 2001

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Consumer confidence hit a 16-year high, the Conference Board announced Tuesday, well above economist's expectations. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones turned positive following the news, after trading slightly down in early trading Tuesday.

Data: The Conference Board; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: 70% U.S. GDP is consumer spending, so survey data showing that consumers feel this good is bullish for the U.S. economy. The release dovetails with recent employment data showing very strong job growth, and these two forces should combine to power the U.S. economy to faster growth in 2017.


Ford to announce major investment in 3 Michigan plants

Ford will announce a "significant" investment in 3 Michigan plants on Tuesday, according to The Detroit News. President Trump tweeted the news as well:

Ford signed a contract in 2015 with the Michigan Strategic Fund pledging to invest $9 billion in U.S. facilities through 2019, resulting in 8,500 new or retained jobs. The firm announced in January that it was cancelling a planned $1.6 billion investment in Mexico, and replacing it with a $700 million investment in a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.


Study: Robots set to displace millions of U.S. workers by 2025

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin may not be concerned about losing American jobs to robots within the next fifty to one hundred years, but the phenomenon is already decades old. That's according to research published Monday by economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo who estimate that the U.S. has already lost between 360,000 and 670,000 jobs jobs to robots since 1990.

Data: National Bureau of Economic Research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

A growing problem: The pace of displacement is set to accelerate from here. Acemoglu and Restrepo say that if automation proceeds at predicted rates, millions of jobs could be lost while wage growth is reduced by up to 2.6% between 2015 and 2025.

Compounding inequality: The rise of automation has occurred at a time when more income is going towards ownership relative to labor than at any time since economists began widely collecting such data. If automation is partially to blame for this shift, the increasing use of robots will only worsen the problem.


Markets tank after Trumpcare failure

Peter Morgan/AP

The Dow fell as much 140 points in the early hours of trading Monday, as investors digested the Trump Administration's failure to advance healthcare reform. Traders are worried that the lack of unity among Republicans on healthcare means that it will be unable to come to agreement on corporate tax cuts or infrastructure spending.

Data:; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The dollar also fell on Monday, with the U.S. currency's value droping to its lowest level since November 11th, when measured against a basket of competing currencies.

Word on the street: Investors have reined in their expectations of comprehensive tax reform, but still see a path to a deal that allows U.S. multinationals to "repatriate" foreign earnings at lower tax rates, which would both raise government revenue and allow companies to distribute more income to shareholders.

Update: Markets won back some of these losses, with the Dow closing down 46 points, or 0.22%, and the S&P 500 ending the day down 2.4 points, or 0.10%.


Markets face their biggest test of 2017

Richard Drew/AP

The 2016 election was obviously a factor in the subsequent 10% rise in stocks, but investors continue to debate how much stock prices are reliant on the belief that the Trump Administration will deliver business-friendly reforms. Trading on Monday will provide a test for those who argue that the so-called Trump Rally has been mostly the result of faster global growth, rather than the promise of lower corporate taxes.

Stimulus, regardless? The latest theory making the rounds is that investors will be able to check their wish lists regardless the unity of the Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Trump Administration will turn to moderate Democrats to pass tax and tax reform and infrastructure bills, and analysts are still baking pro-growth legislation into their forecasts. According to High Frequency Economics Jim O'Sullivan, "We still expect the eventual enactment of tax reform legislation that results in lower marginal rates and at least modest short-run fiscal stimulus."


Stocks whipsaw after Trumpcare fail

Traders work on the Mizuho Americas trading floor in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Markets took a turn for the worse Friday afternoon after it became increasingly clear that the House would not pass healthcare legislation. Late in trading, however, markets recovered most of those losses. The Dow closed down 0.28%, while the S&P 500 ended the day falling 0.08%.

Data:; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: Some investors are concerned that the lack of Republican unity on display will imperil policy— like tax cuts and infrastructure spending—that is especially important to corporate profits.


Trump claims credit for 2016 Charter jobs pledge

Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and leave the White House. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump hosted Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge at the White House Friday to tout the company's plan to invest $25 billion in the United States and hire 20,000 call workers over four years. The only hitch: Charter announced its intention to insource those workers back in October.

Why it matters: This isn't the first time the president has taken credit for jobs pledges that had already been announced, and there's no reason to believe that the strategy won't continue to pay off. Corporate America has been happy to engage in PR for a president as committed to reducing regulations and taxes as he.


Steve Mnuchin: Debt ceiling is a "ridiculous concept"

Uwe Anspach/DPA

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin argued that the debt ceiling is a "somewhat ridiculous concept" during a discussion with Mike Allen at the debut of Axios' News Shapers event series Friday morning. "This isn't limit of what we can spend," he said, '"it's a payment limitation." He again called on Congress to raise the debt limit before summer recess.

Technically, he's right: The debt limit was invented nearly 100 years ago to free Congress from having to approve each new debt issuance. Instead, it gives Treasury the freedom to issue debt up to a certain level to make the financing of already approved spending more efficient.

But out of step with Republicans: Budget hawks see the debt ceiling as the only tool left in their belt for fighting the automatic growth of entitlement spending approved by previous Congresses. If the debate over healthcare is any indication, far right members of Congress will demand significant budgetary sacrifices to vote to allow the issuance of more debt.


Ford stock falls on poor earnings forecast

Cyril Zingaro/Keystone

Ford stock fell as much as 2.3% in trading Thursday morning, when the automaker announced that its profit this quarter could be as low as 36% below its previous estimate.

Data:; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

What analysts say: U.S. car sales likely have likely reached their cycle peak, given rising automaker inventories and recent data showing that used car prices are falling. Expect car stocks this year to trail the pack.


The bank lending slowdown is bad news for U.S. economy

In a research note to clients, UBS Strategist Stephen Caprio argues that investor confidence — evidenced by high stock market valuations — may may be misplaced, given a recent slowdown in bank lending.

Data: U.S. Federal Reserve Board; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

U.S. bank loan growth by domestic banks is falling in nearly almost category, most especially "commercial and industrial" loans. Caprio points out that this decline is not being made up by higher growth in corporate bond issuance, and is being driven mostly by a lack of demand for borrowing.

Why it matters: Companies are issuing less debt due to a mix of uncertainty regarding tax and spending policy, already high debt levels in the U.S. corporate sector, and the threat of higher interest rates. Investors are counting on stronger global growth to help U.S. companies overcome these headwinds, but they may be discounting the chances that some sort of shock — like the 2014 oil price collapse — constrains growth and triggers a stock market pullback or correction.