Daily News 8/18/2015

August 18, 2015

Tuesday – August 18

The Commerce Department reported on Tuesday that July Housing Starts are approaching eight-year highs, signaling that the economy has moved to greener pastures. Housing Starts were up 0.2% from June to an annual rate of 1.206 million, above the 1.200 million expected. June was revised higher to 1.204 million from 1.174 million. Housing Starts are up 10% from July 2014. Low mortgage rates continue to lure in buyers as the 30-year fixed conventional rate ($417,000 or less) continues to hover near 4%, a historically low level.

WalMart, the world’s largest retailer, reported quarterly earnings that were lower than expected and also cut its full-year guidance due to high currency fluctuations coupled with pay raises for its U.S. employees. Earnings per share for WalMart came in at $1.08, below the $1.12 expected. The retailer expects a profit of $4.40 to $4.70 per share this fiscal year, below the $5.05 per share originally projected. WalMart’s numbers were also hurt as consumers are spending the incremental dollar away from traditional retailers, paying down debt or putting the cash into savings accounts.

The IRS hacking problems just grew larger this week as the agency reported that the breach is three times larger than originally stated. There have been over 600,000 accounts affected, which are being accessed by hackers through an application called Get Transcript. This program allows users to view their tax account transactions that is reported to the IRS. Get Transript, however, was shut down in May. USA Today reports that “taxpayers whose information was potentially breached will get letters in the mail from the IRS in the coming days. They will also get access to free credit protection and identity protection PINs,” according to the IRS.