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    Zero-day commodity options have now entered the ETF space

    Investors can now trade commodities and a Treasury with a popular short-term options strategy.
    The Nasdaq recently launched five zero-day options-based exchange-traded funds: United States Oil Fund (USO), United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG), SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), iShares Silver Trust (SLV) and iShares 20+ year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT).

    “Zero-day to expiration” or “0DTE” refers to a trade which expires in less than a day. It has taken the options market by storm. The volume of S&P 500 zero-day contracts has increased at least 40%, versus 5% in 2016, according to data from the CBOE.
    Not everyone is excited about the new ETF offerings, due to the complexity of the trade.
    “I’m cautious about these products because I agree they’re problematic for undereducated retail investors that don’t know how to trade the options market,” Dave Nadig, VettaFi’s financial futurist, told CNBC’s “ETF Edge” on Monday.
    The surge in activity surrounding zero-day options has some analysts worried about a negative impact on the market.
    “I don’t think the tools themselves are inherently breaking the market,” Nadig said. “Like most market structure things, it’s not a problem until it is.”

    Nadig also said he believes that most of the contracts are coming from hedge funds, not retail investors.
    “This is largely institutions, hedge funds and day traders, using these as short-term leverage speculative vehicles with the extra added bonus that they never have to settle,” Nadig said. “I think most individual investors probably don’t have any business in here at all. They’re naturally very speculative because of the inherent leverage.” More

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    Fed Chair Powell calls talk of cutting rates ‘premature’ and says more hikes could happen

    Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday pushed back on market expectations for aggressive interest rate cuts ahead.
    “It would be premature to conclude with confidence that we have achieved a sufficiently restrictive stance, or to speculate on when policy might ease,” Powell said in a speech.
    However, the remarks gave some credence to the idea that the Fed at least is done hiking as the string of rate hikes since March 2022 have cut into economic activity. Powell noted that inflation “is moving in the right direction.”
    Markets largely took Powell’s comments as dovish, with stock up and Treasury yields down sharply.

    Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting on September 20, 2023 at the Federal Reserve in Washington, DC.
    Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

    Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday pushed back on market expectations for aggressive interest rate cuts ahead, calling it too early to declare victory over inflation.
    Despite a string of positive indicators recently regarding prices, the central bank leader said the Federal Open Market Committee plans on “keeping policy restrictive” until policymakers are convinced that inflation is heading solidly back to 2%.

    “It would be premature to conclude with confidence that we have achieved a sufficiently restrictive stance, or to speculate on when policy might ease,” Powell said in prepared remarks for an audience at Spelman College in Atlanta. “We are prepared to tighten policy further if it becomes appropriate to do so.”
    However, he also noted that policy is “well into restrictive territory” and noted that balance of risks between doing too much or too little on inflation are close to balanced now.

    Markets moved higher following Powell’s remarks, with major averages positive on Wall Street and Treasury yields sharply lower.
    “Markets view today’s comments as inching toward the dovish camp,” said Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at LPL Financial.
    Expectations that the Fed is done raising rates and will move to an easing posture in 2024 have helped underpin a strong Wall Street rally that has sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 8% over the past month to a new 2023 high.

    Powell’s remarks gave some credence to the idea that the Fed at least is done hiking as the string of rate hikes since March 2022 have cut into economic activity.
    “Having come so far so quickly, the FOMC is moving forward carefully, as the risks of under- and over-tightening are becoming more balanced,” he said.
    “As the demand- and supply-related effects of the pandemic continue to unwind, uncertainty about the outlook for the economy is unusually elevated,” he added. “Like most forecasters, my colleagues and I anticipate that growth in spending and output will slow over the next year, as the effects of the pandemic and the reopening fade and as restrictive monetary policy weighs on aggregate demand.”
    A Commerce Department report Thursday showed that personal consumption expenditures prices, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, were up 3% from a year ago, but 3.5% at a core basis that excludes volatile food and energy prices. Recent sharp declines in energy have been responsible for much of the easing in inflation.
    Powell said the current levels are still “well above” the central bank’s goal. Noting that core inflation has run at a 2.5% annual rate over the past six months, Powell said, “while the lower inflation readings of the past few months are welcome, that progress must continue if we are to reach our 2 percent objective.”
    “Inflation is still running well above target, but it’s moving in the right direction,” he said. “So we think the right thing to be doing now is to be moving carefully, thinking carefully about about how things are going on letting letting the data tell us what the story is. The data will tell us whether we’ve done enough or whether we need to do more.”
    After inflation hit its highest level since the early 1980s, the Fed enacted a series of 11 interest rate hikes, taking its policy rate to the highest in 22 years at a target range between 5.25%-5.5%. The FOMC at its past two meetings kept rates level, and multiple officials have indicated they think the federal funds rate is probably at or near where it needs to be.
    The Fed’s next meeting is Dec. 12-13.
    “The strong actions we have taken have moved our policy rate well into restrictive territory, meaning that tight monetary policy is putting downward pressure on economic activity and inflation,” Powell said. “Monetary policy is thought to affect economic conditions with a lag, and the full effects of our tightening have likely not yet been felt.”

    Traders expect cuts

    Market pricing Friday morning indicated that the Fed indeed is done hiking and could start cutting as soon as March 2024, according to the CME Group. Moreover, futures are pointing to cuts totaling 1.25 percentage points by the end of the year, the equivalent of five quarter percentage point reductions.
    However, neither Powell nor any of his fellow officials have provided any indication that they’re thinking about cuts, with the chair adhering to data dependence for future decisions rather than any preset course.
    “We are making decisions meeting by meeting, based on the totality of the incoming data and their implications for the outlook for economic activity and inflation, as well as the balance of risks,” Powell said.
    Addressing the economic data, Powell characterized the labor market as “very strong,” through he said a reduced pace of job creation is helping bring supply and demand back in line.
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    Not saving in your 401(k)? Your employer may re-enroll you

    More companies are doing 401(k) plan reenrollments every year.
    While automatic enrollment generally pertains to new hires, a reenrollment is like automatic enrollment for everyone else who doesn’t currently save in the company’s 401(k).
    Some employers may even reenroll workers who don’t contribute a baseline share of their paychecks.

    A modern office space with a variety of plants on display and some employees working together at computer desks.
    Tom Werner | Digitalvision | Getty Images

    If you elected not to participate in your company’s 401(k) plan, your employer may have other ideas.
    The concept of 401(k) plan “reenrollment” has been gaining traction. That means companies are more regularly choosing to automatically sweep workers into their workplace plan if they don’t currently participate.

    While automatic enrollment, which has also gained popularity, generally applies to new hires, reenrollments typically apply to all workers who don’t currently save in the 401(k).
    As of 2022, about 10% of companies that offer a retirement plan reenroll workers into the 401(k) every year, according to a recent survey by the Plan Sponsor Council of America, a trade group. That share is up from 4% a decade earlier.

    More from Your Money:

    Here’s a look at more stories on how to manage, grow and protect your money for the years ahead.

    The calculus is often one of retirement security and trying to help boost workers’ savings, said Sean Deviney, a certified financial planner based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
    “A lot of times employees make their [401(k)] election when they’re hired and never look at it again,” said Deviney, director at Provenance Wealth Advisors.
    Most companies, about 85%, direct workers’ savings into target-date funds if they’re automatically enrolled, according to PSCA data.

    Workers receive a notification from their employer ahead of reenrollments and have the chance to opt out or reduce their contribution. Employers’ hope is that inertia will cause workers to stay in the plan rather than opt out.

    Some companies may elect to do this as a one-time exercise instead of annually, Deviney said. Others may also choose to reenroll workers who are currently participating in the company 401(k) but bump them up to a higher savings rate, he said.
    Companies may also derive a long-term financial benefit from such policies. For example, better worker finances can boost employee productivity and happiness on the job and allow them to retire at a younger age, perhaps saving companies money on future payroll and health costs.
    Companies may also decide against adopting reenrollment policies out of fear of being too paternalistic, Deviney said. It may also raise employer costs too much, especially if the company offers a 401(k) match, he said. More

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    Charlie Munger said Berkshire would be worth double if he and Buffett used leverage

    Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Los Angeles California. May 1, 2021.
    Gerard Miller

    The late investment icon Charlie Munger said Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate he and Warren Buffett built over the last five decades, could have doubled its value if they applied leverage, or borrowed money, when buying businesses and common stocks.
    Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman who died Tuesday just a month shy of his 100th birthday, stressed that he and Buffett almost never used this common Wall Street practice, because they always put their shareholders first.

    “Berkshire could easily be worth twice what it is now. And the extra risk you would’ve taken would’ve been practically nothing. All we had to do is just use a little more leverage that was easily available,” Munger said in CNBC’s special “Charlie Munger: A Life of Wit and Wisdom,” which aired Thursday.
    “The reason we didn’t is the idea of disappointing a lot of people who had trusted us when we were young … If we lost three quarters of our money, we were still very rich. That wasn’t true of every shareholder,” he told CNBC’s Becky Quick in the previously unaired interview. “Losing three quarters of the money would’ve been a big letdown.”
    The use of leverage is prevalent on Wall Street as it provides a way to boost buying power and enhance the potential return in any given investment. But it also significantly increases the risk as losses can multiply quickly if the investment doesn’t pan out as expected.
    Beware an ‘unsettled mind’
    Buffett, often called the “Oracle of Omaha,” previously explained the perils of using debt and leverage to buy stocks, saying it can make an investor short-sighted and panicky when times turn volatile.
    “There is simply no telling how far stocks can fall in a short period,” he wrote in his 2017 annual letter to shareholders. “Even if your borrowings are small and your positions aren’t immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary. And an unsettled mind will not make good decisions.”

    Munger said he and Buffett had been “very cautious” in handling their shareholders’ money over the years. Berkshire shareholders tend to be long-term investors like all the conglomerate’s top executives, often treating their stock like a savings account.
    “If Warren and I had owned Berkshire without any shareholders that we knew, we would’ve made more. We would’ve used more leverage,” Munger said in the CNBC special.
    Still, Munger acknowledged that Berkshire did use leverage in the form of its insurance float. Insurers receive premiums upfront and pay claims later, so they can invest the large sums collected — cost free — for their own benefit.
    “Insurance float gave us some leverage. That’s why we went into it,” he said. More

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    Robinhood CEO defends payment for order flow, says practice is ‘here to stay’

    Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev defended payment for order flow (PFOF), saying it’s “inherently here to stay.”
    PFOF describes the practice of routing trades through market-makers like Citadel Securities in return for a slice of the profits.
    It is viewed as controversial because of the perceived conflict of interest it creates between the broker and clients.

    Vlad Tenev, co-founder and CEO of Robinhood, rings the opening bell at the Nasdaq on July 29, 2021.
    Source: The Nasdaq

    Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev says he doesn’t believe that the payment for order flow (PFOF) model of market-maker routing that the company incorporates in the U.S. is under threat.
    That’s despite calls from notable consumer trading advocates and regulators for a ban on the practice.

    Speaking with CNBC, Tenev defended the practice of PFOF, saying that it’s “inherently here to stay.” PFOF is the practice of routing trades through market-makers like Citadel Securities in return for a slice of the profits.
    “If I’m a business that’s selling things, and I’m generating transaction revenue, the more you use it, the more money you get. Inherently, there’s a conflict there because I make more money by getting you to transact more,” Tenev told CNBC in an interview.
    “I think it’s important not to take the baby out with the bathwater. What does that mean, you shouldn’t make revenue on a transaction-based business? That’s unreasonable. And I think the point has been politicised to some degree.”
    PFOF is viewed as controversial because of the perceived conflict of interest it creates between the broker and clients.
    Critics say that brokers have an incentive to direct order flow to market makers offering PFOF arrangements over the interests of their clients.

    PFOF is banned in the U.K., where Robinhood announced plans to launch Thursday.
    The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had looked at banning PFOF in light of concerns surrounding the practice, but opted not to, while the European Union has imposed a blanket ban on PFOF.
    PFOF accounts for a small chunk of Robinhood’s revenues today, Tenev said, while much of its income today comes from net interest income which is generated from cash in user balances.
    Transaction-based revenues, which includes PFOF, decreased 7% in Robinhood’s second fiscal quarter to $193 million.
    “If you look at equities, PFOF in particular, it’s about 5%. of our revenue, so a much smaller component of the overall pie. And we’ve diversified the business quite a bit,” including other areas like securities lending, margin, and subscriptions.

    Robinhood’s race to the bottom on commission fees has forced many major players in the wealth management world to slash their own fees to zero, in turn causing some companies to wind up or sell up to competitors.
    TD Ameritrade was sold to Charles Schwab for $26 billion, while Morgan Stanley bought E-Trade for $13 billion.
    “In the U.S., Robinhood came along and really changed the industry,” Tenev said. “The discount brokers that are charging commissions essentially ceased to exist.”
    “They had to drop commissions to zero. A lot of them couldn’t survive that transition as standalone companies and ended up consolidating. And we’re still living through the the end result of that.” More

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    Munger and Buffett were unable to pull off one last deal together using Berkshire’s $157 billion in cash

    JOHANNES EISELE | AFP | Getty Images

    Charlie Munger didn’t manage to help pull off one final deal with his lifelong partner Warren Buffett, but he remained hopeful that Berkshire Hathaway, with nearly $160 billion cash, will find its elephant one day.
    “We have $160 billion in cash, plus a great credit rating we deserve. And who in the hell has that? Not very many,” Munger said in CNBC’s special “Charlie Munger: A Life of Wit and Wisdom,” which aired Thursday.

    “It can’t be anything too small because it doesn’t matter how good it is, we’re of a size now where too small just doesn’t move the needle very much. So we need something big to come along and use up all our cash, and some borrowing,” he told CNBC’s Becky Quick in an interview conducted shortly before his death this week at age 99.
    The Omaha-based conglomerate held a record level of cash — $157.2 billion — at the end of September. Buffett has been touting a possible “elephant-sized acquisition” for years, but his recent deals didn’t quite meet such lofty expectations.
    Berkshire bought insurer Alleghany Corp. for $11.6 billion last year, while expanding its energy empire by purchasing Dominion Energy’s natural gas pipeline and storage assets for almost $10 billion. But Berkshire’s total market value now approaches $800 billion.
    Squeeze new lemons
    Munger, Berkshire’s late vice chairman, said such a mammoth deal may have to be done by the next generation of leaders at the conglomerate.
    “I don’t think it’s hopeless. It may have to be done by some different people,” Munger said. “You know that next time, we may not be able just to squeeze a little more lemon juice out of the old lemons. They may have to squeeze some new lemons, meaning new people have to make the decisions.”

    It could be Greg Abel, vice chairman of Berkshire’s non-insurance operations and Buffett’s designated successor, or Ajit Jain, Berkshire’s vice chairman of insurance operations, or Buffett’s two investing lieutenants, Ted Weschler and Todd Combs, Munger said, adding it could also be “somebody not yet identified.”
    Berkshire’s huge war chest had been a cause for concern when interest rates were near zero, but with short-term rates topping 5% the cash pile is now earning a substantial return.
    Over the years, Munger often defended Berkshire’s inaction, always seeing the virtue of sitting on the sidelines, biding its time, letting cash grow and patiently waiting for a good opportunity.
    “There are worse situations than drowning in cash, and sitting, sitting, sitting. I remember when I wasn’t awash in cash — and I don’t want to go back,” Munger once said. More

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    China consumption shows ‘no sign’ of a strong V-shaped recovery, McKinsey says

    China’s retail sales have generally remained lackluster since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
    “I’m hopeful we will see an incremental improvement over the next year,” said Daniel Zipser, leader of McKinsey’s Asia consumer and retail practice. “But there are no signs it should be a strong, v-shaped recovery.”
    Zipser said there’s a clear shift in China for consumers to spend on services rather than goods.

    Consumers eating shabu shabu at a restaurant in Lianyungang City, East China’s Jiangsu Province, Nov 26, 2023.
    Future Publishing | Future Publishing | Getty Images

    BEIJING — China’s consumer isn’t going to be spending big anytime soon, which means companies need to be more strategic to tap what’s still a massive market, according to McKinsey.
    “I’m hopeful we will see an incremental improvement over the next year,” said Daniel Zipser, leader of McKinsey’s Asia consumer and retail practice.

    “But there are no signs it should be a strong, V-shaped recovery,” said Zipser, who is also a senior partner at McKinsey and author of a new report called “China Consumption: Start of a New Era.”
    China’s retail sales have generally remained lackluster since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020. Despite the end of Covid controls at the end of last year, falling global demand for Chinese goods and a slump in the real estate market have weighed on the country’s overall economy.
    Looking ahead, growth is expected to slow. The government is tackling long-standing issues in the real estate sector, while tensions with major trade partners such as the U.S. have risen.

    The overall economic recovery and the recovery of the property market has not been what people hoped for.

    Daniel Zipser
    senior partner, McKinsey

    All that has kept Chinese consumer sentiment at the same level it was about 12 months ago, when the country was still living under Covid restrictions, Zipser pointed out in a phone interview Thursday.
    “The overall economic recovery and the recovery of the property market has not been what people hoped for,” he said. “People are aware of the geopolitical tensions, very aware of … exports declining.”

    “They don’t yet have the confidence this will be different [in] 2024, 2025.”

    Clear winners and losers

    Despite the overall gloom, there’s a divergence in how Chinese consumer companies are affected.
    McKinsey’s analysis of 80 publicly listed consumer companies that generate most of their revenue from mainland China found a significant divergence — many saw double-digit growth while others saw double-digit declines.
    “I think in the old days, you could invest in whatever you want[ed], everything will grow, most companies have been doing well,” Zipser said. “Those days are over.”

    Today, the market is more competitive, he said, pointing out that the product is much more important and the “consumer is much more sophisticated.”
    Those tastes have changed swiftly with the country’s economic boom of past decades, creating a lucrative market for American corporations such as Apple and Starbucks.
    Between 2012 and 2022, China’s per capita GDP more than doubled to $12,720, according to the World Bank. U.S. GDP per capita rose by about 47% during those 10 years to $76,398 in 2022, the data showed.
    China’s massive size means that even if the economy slows from a high pace of growth to around 4% or 5% a year, the country’s incremental increase in retail sales will be the same as the combined total retail sales of South Korea, India and Indonesia, Zipser said.
    Slower growth is still growth. China’s retail sales rose by 7.6% in October from a year ago, beating analysts’ expectations.
    Major e-commerce companies reported third-quarter revenue growth. While growth for most companies was modest, bargain-focused Pinduoduo saw revenue nearly double from a lower base.

    What people are buying

    Consumers in China are spending more on services, rather than goods, Zipser said.
    “We see particularly the restaurant companies doing well,” he said, noting related categories such as alcohol are also getting a boost.
    He said he expects people in China will travel more internationally as it gets easier to apply to visas and the cost of flights comes down.
    The McKinsey report found that international travel is only about half of where it was prior to the pandemic.
    Zipser added that in contrast to the rise of value brands in more mature markets, premium brands are generally doing well in China.
    He said that’s because when consumers in China are “trading down,” instead of buying a cheaper brand, they are actually finding discounted ways to buy the same product, spending less overall or purchasing a smaller package size.
    Companies that adapt to new consumer trends also do well.
    During the latest Singles Day shopping festival that ended Nov. 11, traditional e-commerce channels saw gross merchandise volume — an industry metric of sales over time — fall by 1% from last year, McKinsey found.
    In contrast, livestreaming saw GMV climb by 19% during that time, the report said. More