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    The Fed’s Preferred Inflation Measure Eased in October

    The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index continued to cool and consumer spending was moderate, good news for the Federal Reserve.A closely watched measure of inflation showed continued signs of fading in October, encouraging news for the Federal Reserve as officials try to gauge whether they need to take further action in order to fully stamp out rapid price increases.The Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation measure, which the Fed cites when it says it aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, climbed by 3 percent in the year through October. That was down from 3.4 percent the previous month, and was in line with economist forecasts. Compared with the previous month, prices were flat.After volatile food and fuel prices were stripped out for a clearer look at underlying price pressures, inflation climbed 3.5 percent over the year. That was down from 3.7 percent previously.The latest evidence that price increases are slowing came alongside other positive news for Fed officials: Consumers are spending less robustly. A measure of personal consumption climbed 0.2 percent from September, a slight slowdown from the previous month.The report could offer important insights to Fed officials as they prepare for their final meeting of 2023, which takes place Dec. 12-13. While investors widely expect policymakers to leave borrowing costs unchanged at the meeting, central bankers will release a fresh set of economic projections that could hint at their plans for future policy. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, will also deliver a news conference.“They’re going to want to still stay cautious about declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ too soon,” said Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights. Still, “we’ve had a string of really good readings.”Policymakers have been closely watching how both inflation and consumer spending shape up as they assess how to proceed. They have already raised interest rates to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent, the highest level in more than two decades. Given that, many officials have signaled that it may be time to stop and watch how policy plays out.John C. Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, hinted in a speech on Thursday that he expected inflation to moderate enough for the Fed to be done raising interest rates now, though officials could raise interest rates more if the data surprised them.“If price pressures and imbalances persist more than I expect, additional policy firming may be needed,” Mr. Williams said. He reiterated his assessment that the Fed is “at, or near, the peak level of the target range of the federal funds rate.”The economy has been more resilient to those higher borrowing costs than many expected, which is one reason that the Fed has maintained a wary stance. If strong demand gives companies the ability to keep raising prices without losing customers, it could be harder to fully vanquish inflation.That said, recent signs that consumers and companies are finally turning more cautious have been welcome at the Fed.“I am encouraged by the early signs of moderating economic activity in the fourth quarter based on the data in hand,” Christopher Waller, one Fed governor, said this week. He added that “inflation is still too high, and it is too early to say whether the slowing we are seeing will be sustained.”Mr. Sharif noted that the talk on Wall Street had coalesced around when the first interest rate decrease might come, and the Fed’s coming economic projections should offer insight. Some of Mr. Waller’s remarks this week fueled speculation that cuts could come on the early side next year.But “you don’t want to get too far ahead of your skis, for now,” Mr. Sharif said, noting that the data has gotten better in the past before worsening again. He doesn’t think that the Fed will want to start to talk about rate cuts too forcefully until it has data for late 2023 and early 2024 in hand.“I just think they’re going to want to stay a little bit cautious right now,” he said. More

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    Fed Officials Hint That Rate Increases Are Over, and Investors Celebrate

    Stocks and bonds were buoyed after even inflation-focused Federal Reserve officials suggested that rates may stay steady.Federal Reserve officials appear to be dialing back the chances of future interest rate increases, after months in which they have carefully kept the possibility of further policy changes alive for fear that inflation would prove stubborn.Several Fed officials — including two who often push for higher interest rates — hinted on Tuesday that the central bank is making progress on inflation and may be done or close to done raising borrowing costs. Economic growth is cooling, reducing the urgency for additional moves.Christopher Waller, a Fed governor and one of the central bank’s more inflation-focused members, gave a speech on Tuesday titled “Something Appears to Be Giving,” an update on a previous speech that he had titled “Something’s Got to Give.”“I am encouraged by what we have learned in the past few weeks — something appears to be giving, and it’s the pace of the economy,” Mr. Waller said. “I am increasingly confident that policy is currently well positioned to slow the economy and get inflation back to 2 percent.”Michelle Bowman, another Fed governor who also tends to be inflation-focused, said that she saw risks that factors like higher services spending or climbing energy costs could keep inflation elevated. She said that it was still her basic expectation that the Fed would need to raise rates further. Even so, she did not sound dead-set on such a move, noting that policy was not on a “preset course.”“I remain willing to support raising the federal funds rate at a future meeting should the incoming data indicate that progress on inflation has stalled or is insufficient to bring inflation down to 2 percent in a timely way,” Ms. Bowman said.Taken together with other recent remarks from Fed officials, the latest comments offer an increasingly clear signal that central bank policymakers may be finished with their campaign to increase interest rates in a bid to slow demand and cool inflation. Interest rates are already set to a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent. The Fed’s next meeting will take place on Dec. 12-13, and investors are overwhelmingly betting that the central bank will hold rates steady, as policymakers did at their last two meetings.Investors appeared buoyed by the Fed officials’ comments. Higher interest rates raise costs for consumers and companies, typically weighing on markets. The two-year Treasury yield, which is sensitive to changes in investors’ interest rate expectations, fell noticeably on Tuesday morning, extending its drop through the afternoon. Yields fall as prices rise. The move initially provided a tailwind to the stock market, helping lift the S&P 500 from its earlier fall to a gain of 0.4 percent, before the rally eased and the index drifted lower to an eventual rise of 0.1 percent.Fed officials have been nervously watching continued strength in the economy: Gross domestic product expanded at a breakneck 4.9 percent annual rate in the third quarter. The concern has been that continued solid demand will give companies the wherewithal to continue raising prices quickly.But recently, job growth has eased and consumer price inflation has shown meaningful signs of a broad-based slowdown. That is giving policymakers more confidence that their current policy setting is aggressive enough to wrestle price increases fully under control.Still, as both Mr. Waller and Ms. Bowman made clear, Fed officials are not yet ready to definitively declare victory — data could still surprise them. And while a recent run-up in longer-term interest rates had been helping to cool the economy, the move has already begun to reverse as investors predict a gentler Fed policy path.The 10-year Treasury yield, one of the most important interest rates in the world, has fallen drastically in recent weeks after shooting up in previous months, curtailing a sell-off in the stock market and lifting investor optimism. But higher stock prices and cheaper borrowing costs could prevent growth and inflation from slowing as quickly.“The recent loosening of financial conditions is a reminder that many factors can affect these conditions and that policymakers must be careful about relying on such tightening to do our job,” Mr. Waller said on Tuesday. More

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    U.S. Gas Prices Drop Ahead of Thanksgiving Travel

    With OPEC Plus members in disarray over production levels, oil prices have fallen nearly 20 percent in three months.U.S. gasoline prices are plunging just in time for Thanksgiving, and with the OPEC Plus oil cartel in apparent disarray, they could be heading lower for Christmas.Lower prices at the pump have helped ease the inflation rate most of this year. But this week, they fell to levels not seen at this time of year since 2021, according to the AAA motor club, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent energy prices higher.“For consumers it’s a terrific tailwind,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service. “They are not going to have to spend an awful lot on travel in the next few months, and that should persist into the middle of the winter.”The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline on Wednesday was $3.28, about 6 cents less than a week earlier and 27 cents less than a month ago. The price for a gallon of gas was $3.64 at the same time last year. Prices have dropped below $3 a gallon in more than a dozen states and are falling with particular speed in Montana, Florida and Colorado.The primary reason for lower gasoline prices is the recent weakness of oil prices, which have fallen by more than $15 a barrel, or nearly 20 percent, since early September. Demand for fuel has been weak in China and parts of Europe, while production has been strong in Brazil, Canada and the United States. Gasoline production at American refineries is running above demand in some parts of the country.Diesel prices have also eased, by about 23 cents a gallon over the last month and more than $1 a gallon in the last year. That should help reduce food prices because diesel is the primary fuel for agriculture and heavy transport.The drop in oil prices accelerated on Wednesday as reports emerged that the planned meeting of OPEC Plus, a group of 23 oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia, had been postponed from the weekend until next Thursday. Saudi Arabia had been expected to extend its cuts in production, while cajoling other countries to show restraint as well to bolster prices. But Nigeria and Angola are resisting, and lobbying for higher production quotas.“Reaching a new agreement to cut production will prove to be challenging,” said Jorge León, a senior vice president at Rystad Energy, a consulting firm.He said that although Russia and eight other members of the cartel agreed to cuts in June, “it would be difficult for these countries to accept even lower production quotas.”Energy experts say there could still be an agreement, especially if the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq agree to voluntary cuts. Saudi Arabia might also be willing to go it alone with cuts because its government budget and ambitious economic plans depend on high prices.The uncertainty has served as a signal to traders to bail out of crude. “Savvy drivers will find savings on their way to a turkey dinner this year,” said Andrew Gross, a spokesman for AAA.AAA has predicted that more than 49 million Americans will drive to holiday destinations in the coming days, an increase of 1.7 percent from last year. Another 4.7 million will fly, a 6.6 percent increase from the last year and the highest number since 2005, according to the motor club.Airfares will be slightly more expensive than last year, the motor club said, but otherwise holiday travel should be cheaper. It said the average price for a domestic hotel stay is down 12 percent from last year, while rental car costs are 20 percent lower. More

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    Fed Officials Thought Rates Could Rise More if Inflation Stayed Stubborn

    Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s early November meeting suggested another rate increase remained possible, but officials were in no hurry.Federal Reserve officials are contemplating whether they will need to raise interest rates again to cool the economy and ensure that rapid inflation will fully fade, and minutes from their meeting earlier this month laid out the contours of that debate.“Participants noted that further tightening of monetary policy would be appropriate if incoming information indicated that progress toward the committee’s inflation objective was insufficient,” according to minutes from the central bank’s Oct. 31-Nov. 1 meeting, which were released Tuesday.Fed officials thought that the “data arriving in coming months would help clarify the extent to which the disinflation process was continuing.”Central bankers voted to leave interest rates unchanged in a range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent at their gathering early this month, allowing themselves more time to assess whether their substantial rate moves so far are weighing on demand.Wall Street is keenly focused on what officials will do next. Fed policymakers had predicted one more 2023 rate move as of their September economic projections, but investors think that there is little chance they will raise rates at their final meeting of the year on Dec. 12-13. Tuesday’s minutes may serve to bolster that expectation of an extended pause, because they suggested that officials planned to watch how the economy shaped up over the course of “months.”Fed watchers are now trying to figure out whether officials are conclusively done raising interest rates and, if so, when they are likely to begin cutting them. Policymakers will publish a fresh set of quarterly economic forecasts at the conclusion of their December meeting. Those, together with remarks from Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, could provide important clues about the future.As of September, policymakers expected to lower rates before the end of 2024. If that forecast stands and Mr. Powell hints that policymakers are not eager to raise rates again, investors may turn their full attention to just how soon rate cuts are coming. As of now, market pricing suggests that Wall Street expects policymakers to begin lowering interest rates at some point in the first half of 2024.But if Fed officials use the December economic projections to predict that rates could remain higher for longer — or if Mr. Powell suggests that a rate increase next year remains firmly on the table — it could keep the possibility of more action at least dimly alive. Several central bankers have been clear in recent weeks that they aren’t sure they are done raising interest rates.“I wouldn’t take additional firming off the table,” Susan Collins, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in an interview on CNBC last week.The minutes from the Fed’s November gathering fleshed out how policymakers are thinking about the outlook. While officials wanted to make sure that they were cooling the economy enough to ensure that inflation would come back to their 2 percent goal in a timely way, they also wanted to avoid overdoing it by raising rates too much and risking a painful recession.Fed officials thought that “with the stance of monetary policy in restrictive territory, risks to the achievement of the committee’s goals had become more two-sided,” the minutes said, though “most participants continued to see upside risks to inflation.”Consumer Price Index inflation fell to 3.2 percent in October, down from a peak above 9 percent in summer 2022. Even so, officials are worried that it could prove difficult to wrestle inflation the rest of the way back to normal.Fed officials define their inflation target using a separate but related measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, which comes out at more of a delay. The October P.C.E. figures are set for release on Nov. 30.Fed officials have been carefully watching strength in the job market and the economy as they try to figure out whether inflation is likely to come fully under control. If the economy retains too much vim — with consumers spending freely and businesses snapping up workers — companies may continue to raise prices at a faster clip than usual.Since their last meeting, the Fed has gotten some positive news on that front. While employers continued to hire in October, they did so at a much slower pace: They hired just 150,000 workers, and earlier hiring figures were revised lower.The minutes suggested that policymakers are watching for signs that “labor markets were reaching a better balance between demand and supply.” More

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    A 30-Year Trap: The Problem With America’s Weird Mortgages

    Buying a home was hard before the pandemic. Somehow, it keeps getting harder.Prices, already sky-high, have gotten even higher, up nearly 40 percent over the past three years. Available homes have gotten scarcer: Listings are down nearly 20 percent over the same period. And now interest rates have soared to a 20-year high, eroding buying power without — in defiance of normal economic logic — doing much to dent prices.None of which, of course, is a problem for people who already own homes. They have been insulated from rising interest rates and, to a degree, from rising consumer prices. Their homes are worth more than ever. Their monthly housing costs are, for the most part, locked in place.The reason for that divide — a big part of it, anyway — is a unique, ubiquitous feature of the U.S. housing market: the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.That mortgage has been so common for so long that it can be easy to forget how strange it is. Because the interest rate is fixed, homeowners get to freeze their monthly loan payments for as much as three decades, even if inflation picks up or interest rates rise. But because most U.S. mortgages can be paid off early with no penalty, homeowners can simply refinance if rates go down. Buyers get all of the benefits of a fixed rate, with none of the risks.“It’s a one-sided bet,” said John Y. Campbell, a Harvard economist who has argued that the 30-year mortgage contributes to inequality. “If inflation goes way up, the lenders lose and the borrowers win. Whereas if inflation goes down, the borrower just refinances.”This isn’t how things work elsewhere in the world. In Britain and Canada, among other places, interest rates are generally fixed for only a few years. That means the pain of higher rates is spread more evenly between buyers and existing owners.In other countries, such as Germany, fixed-rate mortgages are common but borrowers can’t easily refinance. That means new buyers are dealing with higher borrowing costs, but so are longtime owners who bought when rates were higher. (Denmark has a system comparable to the United States’, but down payments are generally larger and lending standards stricter.)Only the United States has such an extreme system of winners and losers, in which new buyers face borrowing costs of 7.5 percent or more while two-thirds of existing mortgage holders pay less than 4 percent. On a $400,000 home, that’s a difference of $1,000 in monthly housing costs.“It’s a bifurcated market,” said Selma Hepp, chief economist at the real estate site CoreLogic. “It’s a market of haves and have-nots.”It isn’t just that new buyers face higher interest rates than existing owners. It’s that the U.S. mortgage system is discouraging existing owners from putting their homes on the market — because if they move to another house, they’ll have to give up their low interest rates and get a much costlier mortgage. Many are choosing to stay put, deciding they can live without the extra bedroom or put up with the long commute a little while longer.The result is a housing market that is frozen in place. With few homes on the market — and fewer still at prices that buyers can afford — sales of existing homes have fallen more than 15 percent in the past year, to their lowest level in over a decade. Many in the millennial generation, who were already struggling to break into the housing market, are finding they have to wait yet longer to buy their first homes.“Affordability, no matter how you define it, is basically at its worst point since mortgage rates were in the teens” in the 1980s, said Richard K. Green, director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at the University of Southern California. “We sort of implicitly give preference to incumbents over new people, and I don’t see any particular reason that should be the case.”A ‘Historical Accident’The story of the 30-year mortgage begins in the Great Depression. Many mortgages at the time had terms of 10 years or less and, unlike mortgages today, were not “self-amortizing” — meaning that rather than gradually paying down the loan’s principal along with the interest each month, borrowers owed the principal in full at the end of the term. In practice, that meant that borrowers would have to take out a new mortgage to pay off the old one.That system worked until it didn’t: When the financial system seized up and home values collapsed, borrowers couldn’t roll over their loans. At one point in the early 1930s, nearly 10 percent of U.S. homes were in foreclosure, according to research by Mr. Green and a co-author, Susan M. Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania.In response, the federal government created the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, which used government-backed bonds to buy up defaulted mortgages and reissue them as fixed-rate, long-term loans. (The corporation was also instrumental in creating the system of redlining that prevented many Black Americans from buying homes.) The government then sold off those mortgages to private investors, with the newly created Federal Housing Administration providing mortgage insurance so those investors knew the loans they were buying would be paid off.The mortgage system evolved over the decades: The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation gave way to Fannie Mae and, later, Freddie Mac — nominally private companies whose implicit backing by the federal government became explicit after the housing bubble burst in the mid-2000s. The G.I. Bill led to a huge expansion and liberalization of the mortgage insurance system. The savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s contributed to the rise of mortgage-backed securities as the primary funding source for home loans.By the 1960s, the 30-year mortgage had emerged as the dominant way to buy a house in the United States — and apart from a brief period in the 1980s, it has remained so ever since. Even during the height of the mid-2000s housing bubble, when millions of Americans were lured by adjustable-rate mortgages with low “teaser” rates, a large share of borrowers opted for mortgages with long terms and fixed rates.After the bubble burst, the adjustable-rate mortgage all but disappeared. Today, nearly 95 percent of existing U.S. mortgages have fixed interest rates; of those, more than three-quarters are for 30-year terms.No one set out to make the 30-year mortgage the standard. It is “a bit of a historical accident,” said Andra Ghent, an economist at the University of Utah who has studied the U.S. mortgage market. But intentionally or otherwise, the government played a central role: There is no way that most middle-class Americans could get a bank to lend them a multiple of their annual income at a fixed rate without some form of government guarantee.“In order to do 30-year lending, you need to have a government guarantee,” said Edward J. Pinto, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a longtime conservative critic of the 30-year mortgage. “The private sector couldn’t have done that on their own.”For home buyers, the 30-year mortgage is an incredible deal. They get to borrow at what amounts to a subsidized rate — often while putting down relatively little of their own money.But Mr. Pinto and other critics on both the right and the left argue that while the 30-year mortgage may have been good for home buyers individually, it has not been nearly so good for American homeownership overall. By making it easier to buy, the government-subsidized mortgage system has stimulated demand, but without nearly as much attention on ensuring more supply. The result is an affordability crisis that long predates the recent spike in interest rates, and a homeownership rate that is unremarkable by international standards.“Over time, the 30-year fixed rate probably just erodes affordability,” said Skylar Olsen, chief economist for the real estate site Zillow.Research suggests that the U.S. mortgage system has also heightened racial and economic inequality. Wealthier borrowers tend to be more financially sophisticated and, therefore, likelier to refinance when doing so saves them money — meaning that even if borrowers start out with the same interest rate, gaps emerge over time.“Black and Hispanic borrowers in particular are less likely to refinance their loans,” said Vanessa Perry, a George Washington University professor who studies consumers in housing markets. “There’s an equity loss over time. They’re overpaying.”‘Who Feels the Pain?’Hillary Valdetero and Dan Frese are on opposite sides of the great mortgage divide.Ms. Valdetero, 37, bought her home in Boise, Idaho, in April 2022, just in time to lock in a 4.25 percent interest rate on her mortgage. By June, rates approached 6 percent.“If I had waited three weeks, because of the interest rate I would’ve been priced out,” she said. “I couldn’t touch a house with what it’s at now.”Mr. Frese, 28, moved back to Chicago, his hometown, in July 2022, as rates were continuing their upward march. A year and a half later, Mr. Frese is living with his parents, saving as much as he can in the hopes of buying his first home — and watching rising rates push that dream further away.“My timeline, I need to stretch at least another year,” Mr. Frese said. “I do think about it: Could I have done anything differently?”The diverging fortunes of Ms. Valdetero and Mr. Frese have implications beyond the housing market. Interest rates are the Federal Reserve’s primary tool for corralling inflation: When borrowing becomes more expensive, households are supposed to pull back their spending. But fixed-rate mortgages dampen the effect of those policies — meaning the Fed has to get even more aggressive.“When the Fed raises rates to control inflation, who feels the pain?” asked Mr. Campbell, the Harvard economist. “In a fixed-rate mortgage system, there’s this whole group of existing homeowners who don’t feel the pain and don’t take the hit, so it falls on new home buyers,” as well as renters and construction firms.Mr. Campbell argues that there are ways the system could be reformed, starting with encouraging more buyers to choose adjustable-rate mortgages. Higher interest rates are doing that, but very slowly: The share of buyers taking the adjustable option has edged up to about 10 percent, from 2.5 percent in late 2021.Other critics have suggested more extensive changes. Mr. Pinto has proposed a new type of mortgage with shorter durations, variable interest rates and minimal down payments — a structure that he argues would improve both affordability and financial stability.But in practice, hardly anyone expects the 30-year mortgage to disappear soon. Americans hold $12.5 trillion in mortgage debt, mostly in fixed-rate loans. The existing system has an enormous — and enormously wealthy — built-in constituency whose members are certain to fight any change that threatens the value of their biggest asset.What is more likely is that the frozen housing market will gradually thaw. Homeowners will decide they can’t put off selling any longer, even if it means a lower price. Buyers, too, will adjust. Many forecasters predict that even a small drop in rates could bring a big increase in activity — a 6 percent mortgage suddenly might not sound that bad.But that process could take years.“I feel very fortunate that I slid in at the right time,” Ms. Valdetero said. “I feel really bad for people that didn’t get in and now they can’t.” More

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    Biden Faces Economic Challenges as Cost-of-Living Despair Floods TikTok

    Economic despair dominates social media as young people fret about the cost of living. It offers a snapshot of the challenges facing Democrats ahead of the 2024 election.Look at economic data, and you’d think that young voters would be riding high right now. Unemployment remains low. Job opportunities are plentiful. Inequality is down, wage growth is finally beating inflation, and the economy has expanded rapidly this year.Look at TikTok, and you get a very different impression — one that seems more in line with both consumer confidence data and President Biden’s performance in political polls.Several of the economy-related trends getting traction on TikTok are downright dire. The term “Silent Depression” recently spawned a spate of viral videos. Clips critical of capitalism are common. On Instagram, jokes about poor housing affordability are a genre unto themselves.Social media reflects — and is potentially fueling — a deep-seated angst about the economy that is showing up in surveys of younger consumers and political polls alike. It suggests that even as the job market booms, people are focusing on long-running issues like housing affordability as they assess the economy.The economic conversation taking place virtually may offer insight into the stark disconnect between optimistic economic data and pessimistic feelings, one that has puzzled political strategists and economists.Never before was consumer sentiment this consistently depressed when joblessness was so consistently low. And voters rate Mr. Biden badly on economic matters despite rapid growth and a strong job market. Young people are especially glum: A recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College found that 59 percent of voters under 30 rated the economy as “poor.”President Biden’s campaign is working with content creators on TikTok to “amplify a positive, affirmative message” on the economy, a deputy campaign manager said.Desiree Rios for The New York TimesThat’s where social media could offer insight. Popular interest drives what content plays well — especially on TikTok, where going viral is often the goal. The platforms are also an important disseminator of information and sentiment.“A lot of people get their information from TikTok, but even if you don’t, your friends do, so you still get looped into the echo chamber,” said Kyla Scanlon, a content creator focused on economic issues who posts carefully researched explainers across TikTok, Instagram and X.Ms. Scanlon rose to prominence in the traditional news media in part for coining and popularizing the term “vibecession” for how bad consumers felt in 2022 — but she thinks 2023 has seen further souring.“I think people have gotten angrier,” she said. “I think we’re actually in a worse vibecession now.”Surveys suggest that people in Generation Z, born after 1996, heavily get their news from social media and messaging apps. And the share of U.S. adults who turn to TikTok in particular for information has been steadily climbing. Facebook is still a bigger news source because it has more users, but about 43 percent of adults who use TikTok get news from it regularly, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.It is difficult to say for certain whether negative news on social media is driving bad feelings about the economy, or about the Biden administration. Data and surveys struggle to capture exactly what effect specific news delivery channels — particularly newer ones — have on people’s perceptions, said Katerina Eva Matsa, director of news and information research at the Pew Research Center.“Is the news — the way it has evolved — making people view things negatively?” she asked. It’s hard to tell, she explained, but “how you’re being bombarded, entangled in all of this information might have contributed.”More Americans on TikTok Are Going There for NewsShare of each social media site’s users who regularly get news there, 2020 vs. 2023

    Source: Pew Research Center surveys of U.S. adultsBy The New York TimesMr. Biden’s re-election campaign team is cognizant that TikTok has supplanted X, formerly known as Twitter, for many young voters as a crucial information source this election cycle — and conscious of how negative it tends to be. White House officials say that some of those messages accurately reflect the messengers’ economic experiences, but that others border on misinformation that social media platforms should be policing.Rob Flaherty, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said the campaign was working with content creators on TikTok in an effort to “amplify a positive, affirmative message” about the economy.A few political campaign posts promoting Mr. Biden’s jobs record have managed to rack up thousands of likes. But the “Silent Depression” posts have garnered hundreds of thousands — a sign of how much negativity is winning out.In those videos, influencers compare how easy it was to get by economically in 1930 versus 2023. The videos are misleading, skimming over the crucial fact that roughly one in four adults was unemployed in 1933, compared with four in 100 today. And the data they cite are often pulled from unreliable sources.But the housing affordability trend that the videos spotlight is grounded in reality. It has gotten tougher for young people to afford a property over time. The cost of a typical house was 2.4 times the typical household income around 1940, when government data start. Today, it’s 5.8 times.Nor is it just housing that’s making young people feel they’re falling behind, if you ask Freddie Smith, a 35-year-old real estate agent in Orlando, Fla., who created one especially popular “Silent Depression” video. Recently, it is also the costs of gas, groceries, cars and rent.“I think it’s the perfect storm,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s this tug of war that millennials and Gen Z are facing right now.”Inflation has cooled notably since peaking in the summer of 2022, which the Biden administration has greeted as a victory. Still, that just means that prices are no longer climbing as rapidly. Key costs remain noticeably higher than they were just a few years ago. Groceries are far more expensive than in 2019. Gas was hovering around $2.60 a gallon at the start of 2020, for instance, but is around $3.40 now.Young Americans Are Spending More and Earning MoreIncome after taxes and expenditures for householders under 25

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey By The New York TimesThose higher prices do not necessarily mean people are worse off: Household incomes have also gone up, so people have more money to cover the higher costs. Consumer expenditure data suggests that people under 25 — and even 35 — have been spending a roughly equivalent or smaller share of their annual budgets on groceries and gas compared with before the pandemic, at least on average.“I think things just feel harder,” said Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, explaining that people have what economists call a “money illusion” and think of the value of a dollar in fixed terms.And housing has genuinely been taking up a bigger chunk of the young consumer’s budget than in the years before the pandemic, as rents, home prices and mortgage costs have all increased.Housing Is Eating Up Young People’s BudgetsShare of spending devoted to each category for people under 25

    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure SurveyBy The New York TimesIn addition to prices, content about student loans has taken off in TikTok conversations (#studentloans has 1.3 billion views), and many of the posts are unhappy.Mr. Biden’s student-loan initiatives have been a roller coaster for millions of young Americans. He proposed last year to cancel as much as $20,000 in debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 a year, a plan that was estimated to cost $400 billion over several decades, only to see the Supreme Court strike down the initiative this summer.Mr. Biden has continued to push more tailored efforts, including $127 billion in total loan forgiveness for 3.6 million borrowers. But last month, his administration also ended a pandemic freeze on loan payments that applied to all borrowers — some 40 million people.The administration has tried to inject more positive programming into the social media discussion. Mr. Biden met with about 60 TikTok creators to explain his initial student loan forgiveness plan shortly after announcing it. The campaign team also sent videos to key creators, for possible sharing, of young people crying when they learned their loans had been forgiven.The Biden campaign does not pay those creators or try to dictate what they are saying, though it does advertise on digital platforms aggressively, Mr. Flaherty said.“It needs to sound authentic,” he said. More

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    Caen las tarifas aéreas en EE. UU., para alivio de los pasajeros

    Las aerolíneas están comenzando a ofrecer precios de rebaja, una señal de que tienen problemas para llenar los aviones.En fechas recientes en Estados Unidos, las tarifas aéreas a muchos destinos populares han caído a su nivel más bajo en meses; incluso los viajes durante la temporada festiva son mucho más baratos que el año pasado. Esto les ha dado un respiro a los consumidores, tras meses de frustración por los elevados precios de todo tipo de bienes y servicios.La abundancia de buenas ofertas hace pensar que quizá la vigorosa recuperación de la industria aérea tras la pandemia por fin va bajando el ritmo, ya que la oferta de boletos se empareja con la demanda, que parece relativamente firme, e incluso la supera en algunas rutas.Tengamos en cuenta las tarifas que consiguió hace poco Denise Diorio, maestra jubilada de Tampa, Florida. Gastó menos de 40 dólares en un boleto de ida y vuelta a Chicago y solo pagó 230 dólares por un viaje redondo de Nueva York a París, el cual planea hacer este mes.“Les he venido diciendo a todos mis amigos que si quieren ir a alguna parte, deben comprar sus boletos ahora”, comentó.Las gangas que encontró quizá sean excepcionales, pero Diorio está en lo correcto cuando asegura que hay muchas ofertas.Este mismo mes, el precio promedio de un vuelo nacional cerca del Día de Acción de Gracias estaba casi un 9 por ciento por debajo del nivel del año pasado. En cuanto a los vuelos cerca de la Navidad, eran aproximadamente un 18 por ciento más baratos, según la aplicación de reservaciones y rastreo de precios Hopper. Kayak, el motor de búsqueda de viajes, analizó un rango más amplio de fechas cerca de las fiestas y descubrió que los precios de los vuelos nacionales eran alrededor de un 18 por ciento más bajos por la fecha del Día de Acción de Gracias y un 23 por ciento por Navidad.“En muchos casos, observamos algunas de las tarifas más bajas desde que se reanudaron los viajes tras los recortes de 2020, en realidad”, afirmó Kyle Potter, editor ejecutivo del blog de viajes y servicio de alerta de ofertas Thrifty Traveler.El precio de los boletos para vuelos dentro de Estados Unidos bajó durante el verano, aseveró Potter, y en épocas recientes es más común encontrar ofertas para viajes internacionales, en particular a Europa.Las aerolíneas bajan sus tarifas cuando quieren tentar a más personas a reservar boletos porque la demanda es baja o la competencia es más fuerte. Sin duda, la competencia se ha intensificado en algunas rutas, pero los expertos en viajes indican que no hay certeza de que la demanda vaya en declive.Se espera que el Día de Acción de Gracias de este año establezca una cifra récord para los viajes aéreos, con predicciones de casi 30 millones de pasajeros, según Airlines for America, un grupo de la industria. Esta cifra sería un 9 por ciento más alta que la del año pasado y estaría un 6 por ciento por encima de la de 2019, antes de la pandemia.Pero algunas aerolíneas afirman que la demanda va en descenso en los periodos que no son de festividades o temporada alta. Además, algunos aeropuertos han manejado tal número de vuelos que las compañías de transporte se han visto obligadas a reducir las tarifas para llenar los aviones.Ese no había sido un problema durante la mayor parte del periodo de recuperación tras la pandemia. El clima y otras perturbaciones limitaron la oferta de vuelos el año pasado y en 2021, al igual que la escasez de pilotos capacitados, repuestos y aviones, entre otros factores. Esas condiciones provocaron un alza en el precio de los boletos, mantuvieron llenos los aviones y ayudaron a las aerolíneas a obtener excelentes ganancias.“La industria de la aviación nunca había registrado el tipo de márgenes de ganancias y rendimiento sobre capital visto en los últimos 2 años y medio”, señaló John Grant, principal analista de la empresa consultora y de datos de aviación OAG. “Casi estamos de nuevo en una industria más normal”.Para las principales aerolíneas estadounidenses continúan los buenos tiempos, impulsados en particular por una gran demanda de vuelos internacionales. Pero las compañías más pequeñas y de bajo costo han comenzado a sufrir. Varias revelaron resultados financieros decepcionantes para el trimestre concluido en septiembre. Los ejecutivos de esas aerolíneas han dicho que la demanda va en descenso, las tarifas han caído y los costos se han mantenido elevados. También señalan que el mal clima y la escasez de controladores de tráfico aéreo les han complicado la operación aérea.Por ejemplo, JetBlue Airways perdió 153 millones de dólares en el tercer trimestre, en contraste con las ganancias de 57 millones de dólares registradas en el mismo periodo el año pasado. La empresa indicó hace poco que planea cambiar algunos vuelos de mercados abarrotados, como Nueva York, a otros en los que espera un mejor desempeño, como el Caribe. Las compañías de transporte económicas Spirit Airlines y Frontier Airlines les informaron hace poco a los inversionistas que buscaban recortar decenas de millones de dólares en costos.La competencia ha sido aguerrida en algunos mercados importantes, lo que ha impulsado a la baja las tarifas y las utilidades.En Denver, donde se encuentran las oficinas generales de Frontier, este verano hubo un 14 por ciento más asientos disponibles que en el verano de 2019, según la proveedora de datos de aviación Cirium. Miami y Orlando, Florida, dos destinos populares a los que vuelan muchas empresas, experimentaron aumentos en capacidad todavía mayores.No obstante, mientras que las aerolíneas añadieron vuelos en mercados populares en busca de captar pasajeros, en aeropuertos de otras ciudades, como Los Ángeles, un centro de actividades de muchas aerolíneas importantes, se observaron reducciones considerables en la capacidad con respecto al verano de 2019.“Es evidente que existe una enorme correlación entre las aerolíneas que funcionan bien y aquellas que tienen dificultades, en términos de sus márgenes, cuando comparamos dónde están sus concentraciones”, señaló el mes pasado Barry Biffle, director ejecutivo de Frontier, durante una teleconferencia para presentar los resultados de la aerolínea correspondientes al tercer trimestre.En cuanto a las rutas internacionales, los analistas no saben con tanta certeza por qué las tarifas van a la baja ni si se mantendrán así. Gangas como las que consiguió Diorio para su viaje a París podrían ser señal de que las aerolíneas más grandes pronto enfrentarán presiones financieras o sencillamente que la industria va regresando a una normalidad prepandémica.“Por lo regular, la demanda de viajes a Europa baja durante el invierno”, explicó Steve Hafner, director ejecutivo de Kayak. “Así que me parece que eso refleja las tendencias normales”.Pero la demanda de viajes internacionales podría enfrentar obstáculos, en parte debido a las guerras de Medio Oriente y Ucrania. Los analistas también advierten que muchos consumidores quizá estén menos dispuestos a derrochar dinero en viajes o tengan menos posibilidades de hacerlo ahora que en los dos años pasados, cuando contaban con el dinero que habían ahorrado durante la pandemia. Incluso si la demanda se mantiene firme, las aerolíneas corren el riesgo de ofrecer demasiados asientos en rutas populares al extranjero.Cualquiera que sea la causa de la reciente caída de las tarifas, las ofertas son un bienvenido alivio para los viajeros después de sufrir años de precios altos, dijo Potter.“En cualquier caso, la receta para vuelos baratos está ahí”, afirmó. “Si se trata solo de un pequeño exceso de capacidad, es una victoria para los consumidores. Si la demanda de viajes está cayendo, en cierto modo es una ganancia aún mayor para las personas que nunca van a renunciar a viajar”.Niraj Chokshi escribe sobre la aviación, los ferrocarriles y otras industrias del transporte. Más de Niraj Chokshi More

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    Sharp Drop in Airfares Cheers Inflation-Weary Travelers

    Airfares to many popular destinations have recently fallen to their lowest levels in months, and even holiday travel is far cheaper than it was last year, providing some welcome relief to consumers who have been frustrated for months by high prices for all manner of goods and services.The glut of deals suggests that the airline industry’s supercharged pandemic recovery may finally be slowing as the supply of tickets catches up and, on some routes, overtakes demand, which appears relatively robust.Consider the fares that Denise Diorio, a retired teacher in Tampa, Fla., recently scored. She spent less than $40 on flights to and from Chicago and paid just $230 for a round-trip ticket from New York to Paris and back, a trip she plans to take this month.“I’ve been telling all my friends, ‘If you want to go somewhere, get your tickets now,’” she said.The bargains she found may be exceptional, but Ms. Diorio is right that deals abound.Early this month, the average price for a domestic flight around Thanksgiving was down about 9 percent from a year ago. And flights around Christmas were about 18 percent cheaper, according to Hopper, a booking and price-tracking app. Kayak, the travel search engine, looked at a wider range of dates around the holidays and found that domestic flight prices were down about 18 percent around Thanksgiving and 23 percent around Christmas.“In a lot of cases, we’re seeing some of the lowest fares that we’ve seen really since travel started coming back after the drop-off in 2020,” said Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, a travel blog and deal-watching service.Domestic ticket prices fell over the summer, Mr. Potter said, and deals on international travel, particularly to Europe, have become more common recently.Airlines lower their fares when they are trying to get more people to book tickets as demand is slowing or they are facing stiffer competition. There’s little question that competition has intensified on some routes, but travel experts say it’s not clear whether demand is waning.Thanksgiving this year is expected to set a record for air travel, with nearly 30 million passengers forecast, according to Airlines for America, an industry group. That would be about 9 percent more than last year and 6 percent more than in 2019, before the pandemic.But some airlines say demand is slowing outside of holiday and other peak travel periods. In addition, some airports have been so flooded with flights that carriers have been forced to cut fares to fill planes.That hadn’t been much of a problem for most of the recovery from the pandemic. Weather and other disruptions limited the supply of flights last year and in 2021, as did shortages of trained pilots, parts and planes, among other factors. That drove up ticket prices, kept planes full and helped airlines take in strong profits.Thanksgiving this year is expected to set a record for air travel, with nearly 30 million passengers anticipated.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times“The airline industry has never delivered the types of profit margins and return on capital that it has done over the last 2.5 years,” said John Grant, chief analyst with OAG, an aviation advisory and data firm. “We’re getting back to a more normal industry.”For the largest U.S. airlines, the good times have continued, fueled in particular by thriving demand for international travel. But smaller and low-fare carriers have started to suffer. Several reported disappointing financial results for the three months that ended in September. Executives at those airlines have said demand is weakening, fares are falling and costs remain high. They also say bad weather and a shortage of air traffic controllers have made flying more difficult.JetBlue Airways, for example, lost $153 million in the third quarter, compared with a $57 million profit in the same period last year. The company said recently that it was moving flights away from crowded markets, such as New York, to those where it expected stronger performance, such as the Caribbean. The budget carriers Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines recently told investors that they were looking to cut costs by tens of millions of dollars.Competition has been fierce in some important markets, driving down fares and profits.In Denver, where Frontier is based, about 14 percent more seats were available on flights this summer than in the summer of 2019, according to Cirium, an aviation data provider. Miami and Orlando, Fla., two popular destinations served by many budget carriers, saw even larger increases in capacity.But while airlines added flights in popular markets as they chased passengers, airports in other cities, including Los Angeles, a hub for several major airlines, had large declines in capacity from the summer of 2019.“You’ll find that there’s a large correlation between the airlines that are doing well and the ones that are struggling, margin-wise, when you compare where their concentrations are,” Barry Biffle, Frontier’s chief executive, said last month on a conference call to discuss the airline’s third-quarter results.When it comes to international routes, analysts are less certain of why fares are falling and whether they will remain low. The kinds of deals that Ms. Diorio got for her Paris trip could mean that larger airlines soon find themselves facing a financial squeeze or merely that the industry is returning to a prepandemic normal.“Historically, demand to Europe softens in the winter,” said Steve Hafner, Kayak’s chief executive. “So I think that reflects normal trends.”But demand for international travel could face challenges, partly because of the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Analysts also warn that many consumers may be less willing or able to splurge on travel than they were in the last couple of years, when they had pandemic savings to draw from. Even if demand remains strong, airlines risk offering too many seats on popular overseas routes.Whatever the cause of the recent drop in fares, the deals are a welcome break to travelers from years of high prices, Mr. Potter said.“Either way the recipe is there for cheap flights,” he said. “If it’s just a little bit of overcapacity, that’s a win for consumers. If travel demand is dropping, in some ways that’s an even bigger win for people who are never going to give up on travel.” More