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Trump wants bump stocks banned for guns

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Trump’s announcement came six days after a gunman killed 17 people, 14 of them students, at a high school in Parkland, Florida, while armed with an AR-15 assault rifle.

“We cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference,” Trump said at a White House event honoring first responders.

“After the deadly shooting in Las Vegas, I directed [Sessions] to clarify whether certain bump stock devices like the one used in Las Vegas are illegal under current law,” Trump said.

“That process began in December, and just a few moments ago I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” Trump said.

“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized, Jeff, very soon.”

The proposed regulators would first have to be published in the Federal Register and be subject to public comment before they could be adopted.

Semi-automatic weapons require a shooter to pull the trigger each time to fire a single round.

But when those weapons are outfitted with a bump stock, the gun’s recoil energy is used to “bump” the trigger into the shooter’s finger, making it fire much faster.

That makes the weapon more akin to machine guns, which are largely banned in the United States.

Read Trump’s memo:

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 20, 2018

February 20, 2018

MEMORANDUM FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

SUBJECT: Application of the Definition of Machinegun to “Bump Fire” Stocks and Other Similar Devices

After the deadly mass murder in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1, 2017, I asked my Administration to fully review how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates bump fire stocks and similar devices.

Although the Obama Administration repeatedly concluded that particular bump stock type devices were lawful to purchase and possess, I sought further clarification of the law restricting fully automatic machineguns.

Accordingly, following established legal protocols, the Department of Justice started the process of promulgating a Federal regulation interpreting the definition of “machinegun” under Federal law to clarify whether certain bump stock type devices should be illegal. The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the “Federal Register” on December 26, 2017. Public comment concluded on January 25, 2018, with the Department of Justice receiving over 100,000 comments.

Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to dedicate all available resources to complete the review of the comments received, and, as expeditiously as possible, to propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.

Although I desire swift and decisive action, I remain committed to the rule of law and to the procedures the law prescribes. Doing this the right way will ensure that the resulting regulation is workable and effective and leaves no loopholes for criminals to exploit. I would ask that you keep me regularly apprised of your progress.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the “Federal Register”.

DONALD J. TRUMP

###

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China’s aging population is bigger problem than ‘one-child’ policy: Economists

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A medical worker takes care of a newborn baby lying inside an incubator at Jingzhou Maternity & Child Healthcare Hospital on the eve of Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox, on Feb. 11, 2021 in Jingzhou, Hubei Province of China.

Huang Zhigang | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — China’s decades-old one-child policy gained renewed attention in the last few weeks, after authorities gave mixed signals on whether they were closer to abolishing limits on how many children people can have.

Authorities have rolled back the controversial one-child policy in recent years to allow people to have two children. But economists say other changes are needed for boosting growth as births fall and China’s population rapidly ages.

“There are two ways to address this. One way is to relax the birth control, something (that) will help on the margin, but even if they fully relax the control (it’s) probably difficult to reverse the trend,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

“The other way to deal with it, from an economic policy perspective, is to make industry more dependent on other sectors,” he said.

China’s economy has relied heavily on industries such as manufacturing that require large amounts of cheap labor. But rising wages are making Chinese factories less attractive, while workers will need higher skills to help the country become more innovative.

The bigger problem for China is that an aging population feeds into an existing issue: slower growth in labor productivity, said Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Natixis’ chief economist for Asia-Pacific. She’s watching to see whether China will see more growth in capital-intensive sectors, which is driven more by investment in automation.

Births fall 15% in 2020

China introduced its one-child policy in the late 1970s in an effort to slow a surge in its population. The country had doubled in size from more than 500 million people in the 1940s to over 1 billion by the 1980s, according to official figures.

Over the next 40 years, the population grew by only 40% — to 1.4 billion, more than four times that of the U.S. today.

I don’t think the relaxing of the birth policy could have much of an economic impact because the slow growth in population hasn’t been because of policy restriction, not for the last 20 years.

Dan Wang

chief economist, Hang Seng China.

Similar to other major economies, high housing and educational costs in China have deterred people from having children in recent years.

Despite a change in 2016 allowing families to have two children, births dropped for a fourth-straight year in 2020, and fell by 15% to 10 million, according to analysis of a public security report.

“In general, I don’t think the relaxing of the birth policy could have much of an economic impact because the slow growth in population hasn’t been because of policy restriction, not for the last 20 years,” said Dan Wang, Shanghai-based chief economist at Hang Seng China.

She said based on the experience of other countries, the most effective policy for a country of China’s size would be to welcome more migrants, but that would be an unlikely change in the near term.

Other options policymakers are already pursuing include raising the retirement age, increasing the skills of the existing labor force with more education and using more machines and artificial intelligence to replace human workers, Wang said.

Policy change just a matter of time

The one-child policy gained renewed attention last month when the National Health Commission made public a statement authorizing research into the economic benefits of removing birth restrictions in a northeastern region. The three-province area, known as Dongbei, has struggled economically and has the lowest birth rates in the country.

Two days later, the commission issued another statement saying the news was not a test for full repeal of the family planning policy, despite much online speculation that it was.

But a removal of limits is likely only a matter of time, according to economists interviewed by CNBC.

Yi Fuxian, a critic of the one-child policy and author of the book “Big Country With an Empty Nest,” said he expects a decision at the end of the year, after China releases once-in-a-decade census results in April.

Challenges from China’s aging population

The Chinese government has also said that implementing a strategy for responding to an aging population will be a priority for its next five-year plan, to be officially approved at a parliamentary session that kicks off this week.

Meanwhile, the generations born before the one-child policy was implemented in the 1980s are becoming a significant segment. In the next 10 years, 123.9 million more people will enter the age category of 55 and above, the largest demographic increase among all age ranges, according to Morgan Stanley.

This demographic shift will create its own economic demands, said Liu Xiangdong, deputy director of the economic research department at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges based in Beijing.

Liu said more workers will be needed to care for the elderly, while retirement communities and other infrastructure tailored to an older population will see greater demand.

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Pandemic window-shopping: Abandoning e-commerce shopping carts

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A woman is seen shopping on ASOS the online fashion store on a laptop.

Dinendra Haria | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

In normal times, Amanda Ryczek window-shopped — wandering around with no intention to buy, but taking time to see new merchandise or thinking of what could be worn and where.

As the Covid-19 pandemic shut down brick-and-mortar stores, the 27-year-old moved her habits online.

“I’m definitely not going into stores in the present moment, and so, as far as going online, you go to the store’s website and in some weird way it’s almost like going to the store,” Ryczek said.

But instead of testing a lotion or feeling the fabric on a shirt, she’ll hit “add to cart” — and then exit the window before checking out.

The internet equivalent of window-shopping isn’t new. People have been picking out items and abandoning carts for years. But the pastime appears to have increased due to the coronavirus pandemic, as consumers are in need of something to do and less willing to shell out money. 

It’s “definitely a pandemic thing,” she added.

Ryczek isn’t alone. While describing their habit in interviews this month, people compared it to therapy, a replacement for browsing around a store, or just another way to pass time while stuck at home. 

Brenna Shepherd told CNBC that she’s increased her time spent digital window shopping during the coronavirus pandemic, using it as a way to spend her days or procrastinate on school work.

“My roommate, she gets money and spends it. I’m a very big saver so I think that’s why I do this, because I don’t like to spend my money,” the 19-year-old college student said. “But I do like clothes and looking at clothes and even on Amazon, looking at random things, but never actually purchase it.”

Not devastating for retailers

The number of abandoned carts appears to have increased while consumers were home during the pandemic.

Last June, Jordan Elkind, who, at the time, served as the VP of retail insights for customer data and identity platform Amperity, told Today that data from the onset of the pandemic showed a 94.4% cart abandonment rate, compared to 85.1% in the comparable period last year. That would equate to billions of dollars in forgone e-commerce revenue, he said.

The trend of mindlessly scrolling online, adding items to a cart and then abandoning them isn’t necessarily the worst thing for retailers, since they’re getting eyeballs on products and those could lead to potential sales, explained Dennis Hegstad. His company, LiveRecover, helps e-commerce companies re-capture shoppers who’ve abandoned their carts by sending text message reminders to customers who get far enough into the checkout process to include a phone number.

He suggested that people may just need to fill their time, so they go online window shopping, though “it’s a confusing symbol if somebody adds things to cart without that intent.”

But some companies could also be paying for the advertisements that bring these online window shoppers in, and are not making that money back, Hegstad said.

“Customers add items to carts on websites for lots of reasons aside from an intent to immediately buy. They use carts as wish lists, a place to hold items while they comparison shop, or a reminder to themselves for later,” Forrester Senior Analyst Emily Pfeiffer told CNBC in an email. “Retailers usually do not reserve those units or remove those items from inventory until orders are placed. So, although cart abandonment is something retailers address with re-marketing efforts in hopes of closing the sale, it is not a disastrous inventory management event that creates a frantic ‘chase down’ of customers.”

As the pandemic wears on, more shoppers are actually finishing their purchases, suggesting that window-shopping is transitioning to the real thing.

“As the pandemic has continued, e-commerce interactions have changed quite dramatically,” Chris Chapo, vice president of advanced analysts at Amperity, said in an email. “What we hear from our customers and conversations with many retail brands is that conversion rates are starting to increase even with dramatically more website traffic. While this may be counterintuitive, it’s a positive indicator for the future of digital business. More than ever before, B2C (business-to-consumer) companies are going to need to focus on customer-centric engagement to super-charge this tailwind.”

All of this comes as online retail sales jumped in the past year. Americans spent $791.7 billion online last year, up 32.4% from 2019, according to quarterly figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce this month. E-commerce also accounted for 14% of all U.S. sales, up from 11% in 2019.

‘People are looking for ways to make their brain feel better’

Research suggests that shopping — even hypothetical shopping — has psychological value, hence the term “retail therapy.”

“Every now and again you’re going to cross something that really lights up that brain and excites you,” Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said in an interview.

For people who just add to cart, the anticipation of even just a potential reward (in this case, a package), releases dopamine. The dopamine then makes people want to continue to seek out things that make them feel good, so they’ll repeat.

“Just the hunting and shopping, without necessarily grabbing, it takes you away from the rest of the lives we’re leading, kind of consuming us so the worries of our days kind of takes a backseat,” Bea said. “Because we have such restrictions, people are looking for ways to make their brain feel better.”

For Nancy Duarte, a 22-year-old, online window shopping was a way to fill time after graduating college during a pandemic, a difficult climate to find work. Now that she has a job, she said she usually looks after work on weeknights as a “treat.”

Others said they view it as a way to get away from social media, while lingering on the internet just a little bit longer.

“Online shopping without actually following through on a purchase, I think, is honestly a way to pass the time — just somewhere different to be online besides Twitter or reading the news or something else depressing,” Jennifer Vance, 26, said in an email. “And I think maybe just thinking about something new coming in the mail kind of simulates that same serotonin boost.”

It’s a similar case for Oreoluwa Temi.

“I’d say it’s been a coping mechanism, after scrolling through all the social media apps, you think — ‘let me browse through clothing websites and see what I like,'” the 26-year-old said in an email, adding it’s a new development. “It’s a little bit relaxing. Just scrolling through what you could buy if you had the money.”

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‘This bond market is so radically oversold’: economist David Rosenberg

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Economist David Rosenberg says he made a career by not following the herd, and his bond forecast could be considered the latest example.

According to the Rosenberg Research president, this year’s rate yield shock surrounding the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note is temporary.

“This bond market is so radically oversold,” Rosenberg told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Friday. “We’re going to peel back to 1%.”

The 10-year yield ended the week at 1.41%. It’s now up 55% so far this year and is around 52-week highs. The yield moves inversely to debt prices.

The overwhelming fear on Wall Street is the jump is due to inflation rather than a temporary demand surge linked to the economic recovery.

“The problem I have with that view is that all this stimulus is temporary in nature and rolls off next year when we face the proverbial fiscal cliff,” Rosenberg wrote in a recent note.

Yet, Rosenberg won’t completely rule out a run to 2%.

“That would be on a huge technical overshoot,” he said. “A 2% move in the 10-year note I’ll tell you would be the same as 3%-plus in late 2018. It’s something that you want to buy.”

Even though he expects inflation jitters to subside, he still sees trouble for the stock market. Rosenberg, who served as Merrill Lynch’s top North American economist from 2002 to 2009, has been known for his bearish calls.

Right now, Rosenberg is negative on big tech and mega cap growth stocks. However, he doesn’t consider rising rates as the main reason why the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which declined 5% last week, has been under pressure.

“The reality is that most of them actually peaked out and started rolling over several months ago just under the weight of their own overvalued excess,” said Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s watch list

The market groups on his watch list are autos and housing because pent-up demand during the coronavirus pandemic has been dramatically pulled forward.

In housing’s case, Rosenberg is concerned it will ultimately get hit by excess supply in the labor market. He predicts it will suppress wage growth which will prevent inflation from accelerating.

Rosenberg warns the impact would spell affordability problems with home price to income ratios near 2006 bubble levels.

“We could end up with at least a 15% decline in stock prices and in housing prices which is even more important,” noted Rosenberg. “That would be a pretty significant negative shock on assets and create what we used to call the negative wealth effect on spending.”

It’s a scenario he calls quite possible, and one that would put inflation jitters on the back burner.

“We’re not going to be hearing the bond bears talking about inflation much longer,” Rosenberg said.

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