Spain looks to adopt ‘Google tax’ that has angered the U.S.

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Spain’s government approved Tuesday the introduction of new taxes on digital business and stock market transactions, following similar steps by other European countries.

The Cabinet agreed at its weekly meeting to adopt the so-called GoogleGOOG, -0.01%  tax and Tobin tax. The measures still require parliament’s approval.

Finance Minister Mara Jesus Montero said the Google tax, which has angered U.S. authorities and brought a threat of tariffs by the Trump administration, will be levied only from the end of the year.

By then, the government hopes an international agreement on digital business taxes will be in place. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which advises the world’s rich countries on policies, is currently trying to draw up the agreement.

Montero said the government wants a “fairer” tax system, adapted to the new economic trends of globalization and digitalization.

Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government is following other European countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, in adopting a digital tax.

The measure is an attempt to get around tax avoidance measures frequently used by multinationals. Big tech firms such as GoogleGOOGL, +0.10%  and FacebookFB, +1.40%  pay most of their taxes in the European Union country where they are based and often pay very little in countries where they run large and profitable operations.

Spain wants to place a 3% tax on online ads, on deals brokered on digital platforms and on sales of user data by tech companies that have a turnover of more than 750 million euros a year internationally and more than 3 million in Spain. It hopes to raise close to 1 billion euros a year in extra tax revenue.

Other EU countries, such as France, Italy and Belgium, have already passed a Tobin tax. In Spain, the government aims to levy a 0.2% tax on share purchases involving companies worth more than 1 billion euros. That should raise more than 800 million euros annually, according to the government.

A Socialist government first said it wanted to adopt the new taxes in January of last year, but an April general election foiled its plans.

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Macy’s Cut to Junk by S&P Over Doubts That Turnaround Will Work

Macy’s Inc. was cut to junk by S&P Global Ratings, which said the department-store chain falls on the wrong side of changing consumer preferences.

The company’s credit rating was lowered one notch to BB+ from BBB-, S&P said in a statement, citing its “excess stores.” The outlook is stable. Macy’s shares extended losses after the announcement.

“Pressure is mounting on Macy’s to adapt to the rapidly changing retail environment,” S&P said. “Its Polaris strategy, which includes meaningful restructuring and renewed focus on loyalty programs, private labels, and e-commerce, will be a challenge to implement successfully amid increasing competition from retailers that are ahead in many of these areas.”

The credit-rating company was referring to a new three-year strategy that includes eliminating 2,000 jobs and closing 125 stores — or almost a quarter of its total locations. Macy’s said those stores account for about $1.4 billion in annual sales. The department store chain also said with its plan, it expects its annual gross cost savings to be $1.5 billion by the end of 2022.

While department stores have struggled in the era of online shopping, S&P said that Macy’s has “unique challenges” among its large national department store peers.

“A long history of acquisitions and expansion has saddled it with excess stores as shoppers’ shifting preferences move away from mall-based locations and toward more value oriented offerings,” S&P said. “Profitability under the plan is weaker than our prior expectation,” S&P said in a statement Tuesday. “This leads us to view Macy’s competitive position as less favorable.”

Macy’s shares fell as much as 4% to $15.95 at 12:43 p.m. in New York. They had declined about 2% this year through Friday’s close.

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Calculate your net worth with these 3 easy steps

How can people firm up their personal balance sheet?

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Kathy Kraniger discusses debt collection scams, the mission of her government agency, and actions being taken to promote truth in lending as well as educating borrowers and tips for financial wellbeing.

When trying to gauge what your financial situation looks like, there’s no better way than by calculating your net worth.

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To do so, first add up all of your family’s assets, which includes your house, stocks and bonds, savings, retirement accounts, all real estate holdings, vehicles, jewelry, household items, bonds, mutual funds, cash value of life insurance, cash, checkings and savings accounts and any other assets of value.

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Then combine the total amount of all your debts, like your home mortgage principal (the current balance remaining on your mortgage), auto loans, student loans, credit card debt and any other loan you may have taken out.

WHAT FACTORS DETERMINE YOUR CREDIT SCORE?

Finally, subtract your total debt from your total assets to see how much you’re worth.

Because there are so many outlandishly rich people in the U.S. — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is worth a staggering $130 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — the average net worth of a household in the U.S. is $692,100, according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

TOP 5 BEST STATE ECONOMIES

But the median net worth, which could be a better, less-skewed indicator, of an American household in 2016 was $97,300. That’s a 16 percent jump from 2013, according to the Fed’s triennial survey, a boost largely driven by the recovery in housing market and other asset prices after the 2008 financial crisis.

Here’s a closer look at median net worth by age:

Under 35: $11,100

35–44: $59,800

45–54: $142,200

55–64: $187,300

65–74: $224,100

75 or older: $264,800

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Warren Buffett's 5 biggest stock holdings

What should Warren Buffett do with his billions?

Huntington Private Bank CIO John Augustine discusses what Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett should buy next.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway made a number of changes to its portfolio at the end of 2019, including adjustments to its five largest stakes.

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The value of the Omaha, Nebraska-based company’s stock holdings increased by 12.6 percent, or $26 billion, to $231.6 billion in the three months through December, outperforming the S&P 500’s 8.5 percent gain. While Buffett and his team added four new positions to their portfolio, they sold shares in some of their biggest investments.

Berkshire trimmed its most substantial stake, in Apple, by 1 percent to 245 million shares, which were valued at $71.99 billion at the time of publication.

The conglomerate also sold shares in Bank of America and Wells Fargo, its second- and fifth-largest holdings.

At the end of the fourth quarter, Berkshire owned 925 million shares of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, down 0.2 percent from the prior three months. Its stake in San Francisco-based Wells Fargo was slashed by 15 percent, or 55 million shares, to 323 million shares.

Berkshire’s remaining Bank of America and Wells Fargo holdings were worth $32.6 billion and $17.4 billion, respectively.

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Coca-Cola and American Express were Berkshire’s third- and fourth-largest holdings at the end of the fourth quarter, worth a respective $22.14 billion and $18.87 billion.

While Berkshire owns a number of businesses outright, including Burlington Northern railroad, Dairy Queen and aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts, the conglomerate more often finds value "in publicly-traded businesses, in which we normally acquire a 5% to 10% interest," Buffett wrote in an annual letter to investors in 2019. "In recent years, the sensible course for us to follow has been clear: Many stocks have offered far more for our money than we could obtain by purchasing businesses in their entirety."

It was because of that disparity that Berkshire purchased $43 billion of marketable stocks in 2018 alone.

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Trump Grants Wave Of Pardons, Commutations For Michael Milken, Rod Blagojevich, 9 Others

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced a wave of pardons and sentence commutations, including for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of federal corruption charges, including for an attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat previously held by then-President Barack Obama.

Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was one of the seven people granted presidential pardons on Tuesday. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to felony tax fraud and lying to the government, as well as former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who was convicted in a gambling fraud scandal in 1998.

Trump also pardoned Michael Milken, who was convicted in 1990 of racketeering and securities fraud.

“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Trump told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. “I don’t know him very well. I’ve met him a couple times. He was on for a short while on ‘The Apprentice’ years ago. He seemed like a very nice person. Don’t know him, but he served eight years in jail with a long time to go.”

Blagojevich served as the state’s Democratic governor from 2003 to 2009 before he was given a 14-year prison sentence in 2012. Blagojevich was convicted a year earlier on 18 felony corruption charges related to his illegal use of campaign finances and attempts to exchange bribes for political favors. 

The most brazen of his crimes, however, was his attempt to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by Obama when he was elected president. In a 2008 phone conversation wiretapped by the FBI, Blagojevich joked about selling the seat to Chicago Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

“How funny would it be sending Rev. Wright there?” Blagojevich said in the call. “I bet you he’d take it. Wouldn’t that be fucking funny?”

“Right there on the Senate floor, it wouldn’t be God Bless America it would be God Damn America!” Blagojevich added, laughing.

As the scale of his corruption became apparent, The Illinois House of Representatives voted in January 2009 to impeach Blagojevich. The bipartisan measure passed 117-1. Later that month, the Illinois Senate voted unanimously, 59-0, to remove the governor and bar him from ever holding political office in the state again.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court denied for a second time a request from the disgraced ex-governor to appeal the corruption charge convictions. 

Last August, the president told reporters he thought Blagojevich was treated “unbelievably unfairly.”

Blagojevich filed clemency paperwork in 2018 officially asking Trump to commute his sentence. Trump had said one month prior he was “seriously thinking about” commuting the sentence.

“Eighteen years is, I think, really unfair,” Trump said of Blagojevich’s sentence (Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years, not 18). Trump added that Blagojevich was convicted “for being stupid and saying things that every politician, you know that many other politicians say.” 

“I am seriously thinking about ― not pardoning ― but I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich,” Trump added.

Trump and Blagojevich previously worked together on “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2010, which the future president was hosting at the time. 

Trump has shown an affinity for his pardon powers in the past, commuting the sentence of Alice Johnson, who was serving a lifetime sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, after reality star Kim Kardashian West requested he do so in 2018.

In November, Trump cleared Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher — who was accused of committing several war crimes, including posing with the body of a dead teenage Islamic State captive he had just killed with a hunting knife — of all wrongdoing and gave him a promotion. Navy SEALs who testified against Gallagher called him “evil,” with one soldier saying Gallagher was “perfectly OK with killing anybody.”

More recently, Trump alluded to pardoning his longtime political ally Roger Stone, who was convicted in November of lying to Congress and witness intimidation over his connection with Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In the midst of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which examined potential obstruction of justice committed by the president, Trump even claimed that he could pardon himself. 

“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” he tweeted in 2018.

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Elon Musk uses one unflattering word to describe Porsche-driver Bill Gates

That’s how TeslaTSLA, +6.33%boss Elon Musk described his conversations with fellow tech billionaire Bill Gates after learning the MicrosoftMSFT, +0.85%founder just bought an electric Porsche Taycan.

Gates discussed his new ride last week with YouTube influencer Marques Brownlee. At one point, the chat turned to Tesla and combating climate change.

“Certainly Tesla, if you had to name one company that’s helped drive that, it’s them,” Gates said, before telling Brownlee that he bought a “very, very cool” Taycan, which comes with a price tag deep in six-figure territory.

A Tesla fan tweeted his disappointment in Gates’s car-shopping decision, and Musk took to the defensive with this response:

This isn’t the first time Musk, an outspoken TwitterTWTR, +2.21%presence, has been critical of other tech moguls. He threw shade at Facebook’sFB, +1.49%Mark Zuckerberg over artificial intelligence in 2017 and tangled with Amazon’sAMZN, +1.31%Jeff Bezos in 2019.

As for the Taycan, PorschePAH3, -1.59%POAHY, -1.00%in September 2019 finally introduced the hotly anticipated production version of the concept that wowed the crowd at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Top Gear hailed it as ‘potentially a nail in the coffin of petrol-fuelled performance cars.’

Here’s the full Gates interview:

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3 Charts Suggest Bullishness on Transportation Stocks

The transportation sector is often used by many active traders as a gauge for underlying economic conditions. Often regarded as a defensive position, rails, long-haul trucking, package delivery, and other sorts of transport stocks often suffer from similar market trends yet over the long term seem to trend higher. Based on the charts discussed below, it appears as though transports, more specifically railroads, could be well positioned to make a move higher over the weeks or months ahead.

iShares Transportation Average ETF (IYT)

Active traders who look to gain an understanding of where broad markets are headed often turn to exchange-traded products for clues about future direction. As mentioned above, the transportation sector is often used as a barometer for economic strength and appears to be headed higher from here. Following the transport sector is also a favorite among active traders who use it as part of Dow Theory, which is a popular technique used for gauging long-term market trends.

In the case of the iShares Transportation Average ETF (IYT), the formation of an ascending triangle, breakout, and subsequent retest of the 200-day moving average will likely be of specific importance because they are pointing to a move higher from here. The recent move back below the trend could be presenting traders with an ideal entry point given the proximity to the 200-day moving average, which has propped up the price on sell-offs in the past. Traders will also likely look to the bullish crossover between the moving average convergence divergence (MACD) and its signal line as a leading indicator for another move above resistance and then higher. Based on the pattern, target prices will most likely be placed near $250, which is equal to the entry point plus the height of the pattern.

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC)

The railroad industry is one of the pillars of economic strength. As the top holding of the IYT ETF, with a weighting of 11.73%, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC) will likely be looked to by many traders for ideas as to where the broader market could be headed.

As you can see from the chart, the price has recently moved above the resistance of an influential horizontal trendline. Heightened levels of buying interest in late 2019 have triggered a bullish crossover between the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. The popular buy signal seems to have led to a continuation of buying pressure, and the recent retracement toward the dotted support level could be presenting traders with an ideal entry point.

Union Pacific Corporation (UNP)

Another railroad that is one of the top holdings of the IYT ETF that is of specific interest to active traders is Union Pacific Corporation (UNP). Taking a look at the chart, you can see that the price has recently moved above a key horizontal trendline. Bullish price action over the past several months has also triggered a bullish crossover between the long-term 50-day and 200-day moving averages (marked by the blue circle), which often marks the beginning of the long-term uptrend.

The Bottom Line

The transportation sector is often regarded as one of the barometers of the financial markets. Based on the charts discussed above, recent moves beyond key levels of resistance and retracements toward levels of support suggest that this could be the sector to watch over the weeks or months to come. 

At the time of writing, Casey Murphy did not own a position in any of the assets mentioned.

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Trump says he supports sale of U.S.-made jet engines to China

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he backed the export of U.S.-made jet engines to China, in an apparent reference to reports that the administration was considering blocking a General Electric venture from selling them.

“We want to sell product and goods to China and other countries,” he said on Twitter. “As an example, I want China to buy our jet engines, the best in the World.”

Shares of GE GE, -0.27%  dropped nearly 1% Tuesday, after the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the Trump administration is considering a proposal to block GE’s joint venture with France-based Safran S.A. from selling the engines to China.

MUELLER LAWSUITS THREATENED

Trump also threatened to file lawsuits related to the Mueller investigation, saying it was “badly tainted” and should be thrown out.

Trump made his threat over a series of tweets, saying “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place…BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!”

The president’s fresh criticism of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe comes as Roger Stone, a longtime Trump associate, is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday over charges including obstruction. Stone was the sixth ex-Trump aide to be convicted in cases that stemmed from Mueller’s investigation.

Now read: Roger Stone’s legal team calls for new trial.

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Trump Threatens to Sue 'Everyone All Over the Place'

President Trump threatened to sue Robert Mueller and the prosecutors who were involved with the Roger Stone case. Per usual, the president’s rant came via Twitter.

In a rambling burst of Tuesday morning tweets, Trump threatened to sue “everyone all over the place.”

The president’s latest outburst came after Judge Andrew Napolitano appeared on Fox News Tuesday morning and spoke about Stone deserving a new trial. In his tweets, Trump quoted Napolitano, saying that the need for a retrial was “pretty obvious.”

Trump also quoted Napolitano saying that Stone, Trump’s longtime associate, should receive a new trial due to the “bias of the foreperson of the jury” — an argument that Stone’s defense lawyers have been making as well. After the Justice Department intervened in the sentencing phase of Stone’s case, the forewoman took to Facebook and slammed the move and expressed support for the four prosecutors who resigned from the case.

Then Trump pivoted to former special counsel Robert Mueller, tweeting that Stone’s prosecutors were also involved in the Mueller investigation even though only two of the four Stone prosecutors were. Trump then continued raging against Mueller, tweeting, “Everything having to do with this fraudulent investigation is badly tainted and, in my opinion, should be thrown out.”

Then, in the next sentence, Trump said he should, but couldn’t, but maybe “STILL” would sue everyone!

“The whole deal was a total SCAM. If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place… BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL,” the president of the United States tweeted.

Threatening to sue is a typical Trump tactic and one he favored before he was president and used often during his 2016 campaign. But more times than not his threats are just bluster. He rarely follows through, preferring to use them as intimidation and to get attention.

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Walmart earnings disappoint after slow holiday season

Walmart reported disappointing earnings and issued a lackluster profit forecast Tuesday following a holiday sales slump.

Both online and in-store sales saw weaker-than-expected gains in the quarter ending Jan. 31, which included the shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season. The retail giant reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.38, falling short of Wall Street’s expectation of $1.44.

“The fourth quarter started and ended strong with solid sales growth through Cyber Monday and in January,” Walmart chief financial officer Brett Biggs said in a statement. “In the few weeks before Christmas, we experienced some softness in a few general merchandise categories in our US stores.”

Sales at Walmart’s US stores open at least a year rose just 1.9 percent in the last quarter, falling short of analysts’ estimate of 2.35 percent as well as the 4.1 percent growth seen in the same period a year prior.

US online sales jumped 35 percent in the quarter, marking the slowest growth in almost two years and a decrease from the 41 percent rise seen in the prior quarter. Amazon, by contrast, has claimed that it posted “record-breaking” sales during the holiday season, though the e-commerce colossus did not provide specific data.

“Overall, we think Walmart likely wasn’t immune from some of the [near-term] pressures like a shortened holiday season,” which also affected rivals such as Target, UBS analyst Michael Lasser said in a Tuesday note.

Walmart shares jumped 1.2 percent Tuesday despite the disappointing report to trade at $119.34 as of 12:48 p.m.

Walmart said it expects to post profits of $5.00 to $5.15 per share for the current fiscal year, below the expected earnings of $5.22. Online sales are expected to grow 30 percent, down from 37 percent in the prior year.

But those forecasts don’t include any effects of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, where Walmart runs more than 400 stores.

“Walmart’s weak guidance outlook for 2021 indicate that more storm clouds are on the horizon, even without accounting for the effects of coronavirus’ spread,” Jesse Cohen, a senior analyst at Investing.com, told Reuters.

With Post wires

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