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FEARS GROWING FISCAL CLIFF WILL HURT HOLIDAY SALES AND RECOVERY
GARY KALTBAUM: It's the most important time of the year. This is where all the profits are made and the problem is simple - uncertainty. No one knows how much money they're going to have to spend and most importantly the outcome is going to be even worse. There will be higher taxes, less money in the economy, less money to buy and retail will be no good.
SUSAN OCHS: I'm still staying optimistic. There are two really important numbers that came out this week. The University of Michigan's consumer confidence survey showed that it's at its highest level since 2007. Additionally, the expectations for the next six months are also at the highest level in five years. Despite the uncertainty consumers are still feeling pretty good and I think the word we are getting out of Washington is a lot of trying to work together.
GARY B. SMITH: I'll go beyond the uncertainty that Gary K. said. I think it's just gloom and doom. Brenda, if you walked outside the studio and grabbed ten people off the street - if you ask all ten of them, "What does the fiscal cliff really mean," they would say, "I don't know, but it sounds bad." When you hear this day after day I think it starts to weigh on consumers out there. It sounds gloomy and terrible. When people feel terrible they don't spend as much.
TOBIN SMITH: We have an economy and we have viewers out there who look beyond all that we are hearing about this fiscal cliff. We know what's going to happen. We know that Congress and the Senate have their own little plan together. We're going to get to ten minutes before this whole thing turns bad and miraculously we're going to have a one year plan. If somebody is selling stocks because they think that fiscal cliff has gone crazy - don't do it. Secondly, if you're tired of the fiscal cliff, then watch some cartoons. It's not as bad and if people get wound up they're making a big mistake.
JONAS MAX FERRIS: Psyching people out about how bad it will be is what will do the damage. The actual damage which is the across the board tax hikes of capital gains, small income, high income and spending cuts is not an ideal way in a soft economy to fix the budget. It is still a budget fix. I wish it was called the budget fix and not the fiscal cliff because people would be more optimistic about it. We are definitely seeing investors in the recent weeks leading up to this wanting to get out of stocks thinking that there is going to be a second recession and that we're going to go into a European debt cycle. It is a tax range that we once had before and we didn't go broke.
OIL PRICES SPIKING IN U.S. AS MIDEAST TENSION ESCALATES
GARY B. SMITH: We've already seen oil prices rise. Here's the difference between this and other Middle East conflicts. This involves Israel at this point and of course we are a loyal and firm ally of Israel. It becomes then not just a fight against just Israel; it becomes a fight if you extrapolate against Israel and all its allies. The best way to fight if you're an Arab leader is to cut off or raise oil prices. That is the problem and that's why this is different and potentially devastating to our gas prices here.
TOBIN SMITH: They did do it, but let's bear in mind that both Iraq and Iran and anyone who is saying that we're going to use oil as a weapon are in need of every dollar that they can get into their economy. It may look good on television for Al-Jazeera to say that we're going to use oil as a weapon, but economically the only weapon that they have is cash. They get cash by selling their oil. We had oil up a dollar on Friday and gasoline up by one cent. These guys have to sell oil.
GARY KALTBAUM: Every dollar goes higher as billions of dollars in cost go to the consumer and business and really nothing good happens at this point in time. We're hearing all these rumblings that they may go on the ground and air, and now you have Iraq telling the Arab states, let's use oil. Then there are the speculators. If the speculators see something going on they're going to jump all over it and oil prices are going to sky rocket. That's going to do nothing but hurt the economy.
SUSCAN OCHS: We're starting to see the speculators. The financial markets are starting to move a little bit and we're seeing fluctuations. What's really going to impact us at the pump is if there is a supply disruption. We haven't seen that yet and hopefully we won't get to that point. Maybe they'll start to play GOP political diplomacy games with the oil supply, but right now we haven't reached that point. This is still a very serious situation and destabilizing this region has much broader impacts in even just the oil market.
JONAS MAX FERRIS: Fortunately, the global economy is weak and I mean that there is excess oil production from a lot of countries. If that wasn't the case we would already be seeing oil barrels well over a hundred dollars, and even prices of four or five dollars a gallon for gas in some areas. The positive in all of this is that we can sort of handle a little bit of interruption. I disagree that we actually have to have a full on seventies era cutting us off for the prices of the spike because just the fears of that if it gets worse could send prices up. If you somehow had countries like Saudi Arabia not selling oil, you could definitely get twenty percent increases in both the barrel of oil and the price at the pump just on fears of disruption if that's what people think it's leading to. We may see some of that if it gets worse.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF SANDY STARTING TO BE FELT ACROSS U.S.
TOBIN SMITH: With insurance rates, when you have this massive type of payout you're going to see that whether you're in California, Montana or New York that you're going to have your rates go up. With used cars, we saw in Katrina the same thing where you have a whole bunch of cars taken off the market because they aren't usable and all of a sudden used car prices go up. They were up twenty percent reported last week. We're even going to see oil go up all across the United States. It is not just a North East issue.
GARY KALTBAUM: Whenever you have shortages with an event like this, especially in a highly populated area -prices are going to go higher. That means costs are going to go higher to businesses and consumers and that will definitively affect an economy, especially an economy that's still trying to get up. It's very hard to watch.
GARY B. SMITH: People in Long Island and New Jersey are going to feel it the most in spikes in prices as people in California will feel it less. Toby makes a very good point about insurance rates, but I think back to Katrina and I can't recall seeing any spike in insurance rates. This is more localized then nationalized at this point.
SUSCAN OCHS: I think one of the most important issues that we need to remember is that there are tremendous costs. People lost businesses, we saw infrastructure destroyed and there were actual rail tracks that were washed away in New Jersey. There's a lot of rebuilding and there's a lot of costs assembled in various pieces and we need to remember when we start looking at flood prevention policies. As we move forward in economic impact and investments we're going to need to make plans to prevent these types of things in the future.
GARY B. SMITH: (MCD) McDonald's
TOBIN SMITH: (YHOO) Yahoo
GARY KALTBAUM: (V) Visa
JONAS MAX FERRIS: (NKE) Nike