Monthly Archives: June 2016

Obama Admin Calling for Business to Help Refugees in Crisis

On Thursday the White House will urge the business community to do more to help refugees as President Obama gears up for his upcoming participation in the world summit in September. The

Samantha Power. United States Mission Geneva Photo: Eric Bridiers

Samantha Power. United States Mission Geneva Photo: Eric Bridiers

summit is the forum to discuss with world leaders the ways the global community can help refugees.

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said this week that Obama will announce at the summit that the United Nations should set as a goal getting one million refugee children into school and one million additional refugees legal employment in the countries to which they have fled.

“The summit is by no means a panacea; even if we hit every target, our response will still not match the scale of the crisis,” Power told the United States Institute of Peace.

“We need businesses, big and small, to do more too; which is why tomorrow, the White House is launching a private sector call to action, which will rally companies to do their part, from providing jobs to donating services to refugees,” Power said.

Powers announced that the US is planning on meeting its own goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees this year out of a total of 85,000. She criticized those who are demanding a stop to bringing in refugees, especially in the wake of recent terrorist attacks committed by adherents to Islam.

“Ignorance and prejudice make for bad advisors,” Power said.



Mortgage Rates Lowest Since May 2013

The mix of global-market uncertainty and the decision by the Federal Reserve to restrain interest rates has contributed to mortgage rates’ record low levels since May 2013.

Today, according to a survey done by Freddie Mac, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have sunk to 3.54 percent. The rate for 15-year mortgages is now 2.81 percent. In November 2012 the all-time low for 30-year mortgages was 3.31 percent. In May 2013 the rate was 3.51 percent.

This mortgage rate translates to monthly payments of about $1,130 on a $250,000 home for someone with an excellent credit rating. At a 4 percent rate monthly payments would be about $1,190. Economist do not foresee rates surpassing 4 percent this year.

“We are in a long-term low-rate environment,” said Joel Kan, economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Kan is not expecting any sharp decline in present rates since they have already fallen to reflect “a sense of slowing job growth” as well as the Fed’s hesitation to raise rates.

This is not only a good time for potential homeowners to join the club, but it is also a worth considering refinancing for people who are already locked into a mortgage. The rule of thumb for considering a refinancing option is when a new mortgage rate is about 1 percentage point less than the existing rate, and the homeowner plans on staying in a home for several more years.

Amazon Going Envelope to Envelope with Alibaba

Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon by Steve Jurvetson

Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon by Steve Jurvetson

Beginning on July 1, Inc will drastically reduce the fees it charges merchants to sell items such as screen protectors, USB cables, and other small flat products that can easily fit into an envelope. This move is a direct competitive threat to giant companies it competes with like eBay, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, and that bring Chinese sellers together with US buyers.
Prices to ship three, flat, 1-ounce packages will be cut by 67 percent, costing only $1.61. Shipping fees for wider items more than half an inch thick will cost more.

Amazon is worried about losing marketplace volume to Alibaba and others since merchants can just sell on there and ship to customers through ePacket,” said Jarrett Streebin, chief executive officer of EasyPost, a San Francisco-based company which assists retailers with shipping labels and tracking for delivery companies.

The ePacket program is an agreement between the US Postal Service and The Chinese post which allows Chinese merchants to ship their products cheaply across the US for small packages weighing under 4.4 pounds. Chinese sellers on Amazon can also ship their own orders using the ePacket program, which translates to less money for Amazon on each sale, since it is no longer handling the packing and delivery.

“China-based merchants sell the most small and light packages,” said Neil Ackerman, a former Amazon executive who started the small and light program and now heads e-commerce initiatives at Mondelez International. “Amazon will continue to invest in this space to increase inventory and lower costs for its customers. There will be no reason for shoppers to go to other marketplaces.”

US Businesses Pledge $45 Billion in Indian Investments

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is in the United States talking to some of the US’s most successful companies in order to persuade them to do more business in one of the world’s most populated countries. It looks like Modi has had some success, getting to company’s such as Walmart and Apple to invest at least $45 billion over the next two to three years in India.

The agreement was reached at a round-table discussion held in Washington DC between Modi and about 20 CEOs.

This is not Modi’s first success with American companies. Last year the Prime Minister was able to get top Silicon Valley players to try India. On Tuesday Modi sat with the CEOs of companies from a wide variety of sectors for 90 minutes. He told the CEOs that investor confidence in India is on the rise as the country is entering a growth mode.

“We will continue to make our tax policies more predictable. We have made major strides towards predictability by signing a number of Advance Pricing Agreements with the United States. At the same time, like the US, we are cracking down on tax evasion and unfair tax avoidance,’’ Modi said.