Category: Penny Stocks

Where Should I Retire?: We want to retire somewhere in the Carolinas on $3,400 a month in Social Security — what’s a nice area?

Downtown Hendersonville, N.C., has a small-town atmosphere.

iStock

Dear MarketWatch,

My wife and I are both 57 and looking to retire at 62.  We will get approximately $1,700 a month each from Social Security.  We currently have approximately $750,000 in 401(k) and cash.  

We are looking to get out of New Jersey for obvious reasons. We are looking in both North Carolina and South Carolina to retire. We are not looking at areas near the shore. We do not need a lot to survive and live well within our means.  

Can you suggest some nice areas, with affordable housing, low crime and low taxes?  

Thank you,

Jim

Dear Jim,

Congratulations for being on track for a comfortable retirement and starting to think about your dream retirement spot. 

Many areas in the Carolinas qualify as nice and affordable with low taxes and low crime, so you may want to spend more time thinking about what else you’re looking for. Bigger city? Smaller town? And that’s just the start. 

On taxes: Note that Social Security is not taxed in North Carolina. South Carolina exempts the portion of Social Security benefits included in federal taxable income, so you should expect to pay some taxes. If this is a big concern, talk to a tax professional.

South Carolina also relies more on property taxes to fund state and local government than North Carolina does, according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation. Of course, those taxes will vary by community and property.

Read: There is more to picking a place to retire than low taxes — avoid these 5 expensive mistakes

You may want to ask about other costs as well. What will your air conditioning bill look like vs. what you pay in New Jersey? What’s the cost of a pool, if the house you buy comes with one?

Now read: This eye-opening experience has me rethinking how Social Security figures into my retirement planning

Given that crime can vary by neighborhood or across a county, take the time to have a chat with the police department of communities that are on your short list.

And as always, take the time to really explore an area, including when the weather isn’t as ideal. A bad move is a costly mistake.

With that being said, here are three suggestions for you:

Hendersonville, North Carolina

You can have easy access to Asheville but be away from the crowds by living in nearby Henderson County. About 115,000 people live in the county, including 14,000 in the county seat of Hendersonville, which offers a cute downtown and plenty of chains on the outskirts. An unexpected historical site just outside of Hendersonville is poet Carl Sandburg’s house, now a national historic site.

You’ll have plenty of natural beauty given that Hendersonville is at the edge of the Pisgah National Forest and between the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. With an elevation of 2,200 feet, snow should be light while summer temperatures peak at an average of 85 degrees in July.

Median housing costs are slightly below the U.S. median. Using current listings on Realtor.com, which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp., take a look at homes that are on the market right now.

Now read: Curious about Winston-Salem?

Greenville’s Falls Park on the Reedy is a popular spot.

iStock

Greenville, South Carolina

Go an hour south of Hendersonville and you’ll reach Greenville, S.C. It’s popping up on many “best places” lists, and if you don’t want snow and can handle some humidity, it may be a fit.

What makes this city of 70,000 so hot? US News & World Report cites a “reinvigorated downtown,” and Money magazine notes that it is “one of the most diverse cities in South Carolina”. Livability.com says the local obsession is food, so foodies will appreciate that two restaurants were semi-finalists for James Beard awards this year. Furman University is in the top quartile of national liberal arts colleges, according to US News, and ranks fifth among “most innovative schools.”

There’s natural beauty — Falls Park on the Reedy gets lots of raves, and you’re in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals also praise the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a  22-mile greenway for cyclists, joggers, walkers and more along the Reedy River.

Sports fans can enjoy minor-league baseball and hockey.

Curious what your money can buy? Here are the current listings on Realtor.com.

Stepping back a bit, Greenville County has more than 500,00 residents. Next door, to the northeast, is Spartanburg County with more than 300,000 people. Clemson University is 40 minutes away in the opposite direction.

You can read about Columbia, S.C., 90 minutes on the highway toward Charleston, here.

Golfing at Pinehurst No. 9.

Getty Images

Pinehurst, North Carolina

But maybe the foothills aren’t your thing, and you’re happy with even warmer temperatures. So I looked at this list of low-crime spots in North Carolina. 

Pinehurst tops the list. You may know it as the home of big-name golf tournaments, but 16,000 people live there and another 14,000 in neighboring Southern Pines (No. 10 on the list).

Golf is certainly big here — there are 40 courses within 20 miles. But be sure to check out Reservoir Park and its 95-acre lake as well as the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens.

You’ll find plenty of fellow retirees here; in Pinehurst, more than 40% are 65 and older, and it’s still an above-average 26% in Southern Pines.

Weather-wise, the average high in July is 90 degrees. Median housing costs are above the national average, although they are low compared to New Jersey.

Here’s what’s on the market now, again using listings on Realtor.com.

This is a slightly more rural choice than Hendersonville; Moore County has about 100,000 residents. When you want to spend time somewhere busier, Fayetteville is an hour away to the east, Chapel Hill and Greensboro are about 90 minutes away, generally north, and Charlotte is two hours to the west.

You can read about Chapel Hill and the Raleigh-Durham area here.

Readers, what’s your best suggestion for Jim and his wife? Leave it in the comments section.

Now read: We get $2,470 a month from Social Security and want a warm, friendly city near the ocean. Where should we retire?

: Americans are starting to feel more comfortable eating at restaurants, but experts say to proceed with caution

Some 39% of U.S. adults say they feel comfortable dining out, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on Sept.18 – 20 (Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

Getty Images

A growing share of Americans feel comfortable dining out now despite the health risks it poses. 

Some 39% of U.S. adults say they’re comfortable eating out, according to a Sept. 18-20 survey of more than 2,200 Americans conducted by Morning Consult. That’s the highest share reported since the second week of June, when some 41% of Americans said they were comfortable.

After the second week of June, the share of Americans comfortable eating out declined amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in many parts of the country, including Texas, Arizona and California. Only recently did that share return to June’s high. 

That’s good news for the restaurant industry, which has taken a huge hit during the pandemic due to forced closures and restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. 

As a result, many eateries have permanently closed, according to Yelp YELP, +0.46% data.

Related: Airlines, restaurants on Pelosi’s radar for additional aid in another COVID-19 bill

Though they may be feeling more comfortable about eating in restaurants, Americans may want to proceed with caution, health experts say.

People who tested positive for coronavirus were approximately twice as likely to have reported eating recently at a restaurant compared to people who tested negative. That’s according to a Sept. 11 report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who test positive for coronavirus are approximately twice as likely to have reported eating recently at a restaurant compared to people who tested negative, the CDC reported

The report’s findings were based on an investigation of symptomatic patients at 11 U.S. health care facilities. It found that having close contact with people known to have COVID-19 or visiting establishments that offered “on-site eating or drinking options were associated with COVID-19 positivity.”

The investigation compared two groups, one made up of people who had tested positive, and another of symptomatic patients who had tested negative. The people who had tested positive were more likely to report dining at a restaurant, including indoor, patio and outdoor seating in the two weeks before the onset of their illness, the CDC said.

“Exposures and activities where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19,” the authors wrote.

However, the authors noted several limitations to the findings in the report. One was that researchers didn’t ask patients to distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining when they asked them about eating at restaurants.

Similarly, the Morning Consult survey did not ask participants to make a distinction between the two regarding their comfort levels. 

From a health standpoint, the distinction between outdoor and indoor dining could be quite significant. 

Meanwhile, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades, said in a July interview with MarketWatch that he would not dine out at any restaurant, be it inside or outside. 

He acknowledged, however, that indoor dining is “much worse” than outdoors. “If you’re going to go to a restaurant, try as best as you can to have outdoor seating that is properly spaced between the tables,” Fauci said.

One of the advantages of eating outdoors is that air circulation is generally better outdoors than indoors because particles have more room to be dispersed, Ryan Malosh, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, told MarketWatch in late July.

“Outdoors, a light breeze can disperse particles with no constraint on the distance they can then travel,” Malosh said. That’s important because diners don’t tend to wear masks outdoors.

Wearing masks indoors can significantly lower the chances of dispersing virus-containing particles, said Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo.

“Whenever there’s a scenario where everyone can wear masks at all times the risk is lower,” Russo said. “When eating you physically can’t wear a mask but you can minimize that risk by popping it back on between bites.”

The world’s poorest countries may get another freeze on their debt payments. What they really need is debt forgiveness

The finance ministers of the G-7 group of major industrial countries are due to agree today in a videoconference on extending by six months, to June 2021, the suspension of the world’s 73 poorest countries’ debt payments.

– The G-7 backing may help trigger a similar agreement by the G-20 larger group of the world’s wealthiest nations, whose finance ministers will meet on October 14.

– Answering calls from the IMF and the World Bank, the G-20 agreed in April on a “Debt Service Suspension Initiative,” granting debt-service suspension to the neediest countries until December. The IMF recently called for the deadline to be pushed by one year, to the end of 2021.

– The World Bank has estimated that the countries benefiting from the initiative would together save up to $11.5 billion in debt service payments this year on debt held by official creditors (governments or international organizations).

– The Institute of International Finance in April urged private creditors to extend debt relief to their poorest debtors along the same lines.

The outlook: A final decision on extension will be taken by the G-20 summit of heads of states and governments in November. But the biggest question remains unsolved: Beyond a simple and temporary freeze on their debt payments, the 73 countries really need a major debt restructuring plan that would include some debt forgiveness. Most of them were often classified as stressed debtors before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and so it is adding to an already unsustainable financial burden.

Read: EU won’t recognize Lukashenko as Belarus president, opening a new front in its worsening relationship with Putin’s Russia

Economic Report: Durable-goods orders rise modest 0.4% in August

The numbers: Orders for durable goods rose 0.4% in August, the fourth straight gain but a more modest increase after three straight strong gains, the government said Friday.

Economists had forecast a 1.5% increase in orders for durable goods in August. Orders were up a revised 11.7% in July and 7.7% in June.

What happened: Machinery orders led the gain in August, rising 1.5%/

Stripping out planes and cars, orders also rose 0.4% in August. Transportation often exaggerates the ups and downs in orders because of lumpy demand from one month to the next.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts fell 4% in August after a 21.7% gain in the priot month.

Orders excluding defense goods rose 0.7% after a 10.4% gain in July.

Core capital goods rose 1.8% in August after a 2.5% rise in the prior month. Shipments of this critical sector rose 1.5%.

Big picture: Manufacturing has rebounded well from the shutdown due to the pandemic. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said manufacturing firms have some advantages because they have an engineering environment and know how to keep people safe.

Market reaction: Stock futures were lower on Friday with major benchmarks, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.19%   in danger of logging a fourth consecutive weekly loss.

Futures Movers: Oil prices on track for weekly fall on worries over COVID-19 impact on crude demand

Oil futures lost ground Friday, leaving both major benchmarks on track for their third weekly decline in four weeks as worries about the demand outlook grow in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery CL.1, -0.74%   CLX20, -0.74%  fell 37 cents, or 0.9%, to $39.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. December Brent BRNZ20, -0.44%, the most actively traded contract, was down 29 cents, or 0.7%, at $42.15 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, while front-month November Brent BRNN21, -0.28%  fell 23 cents, or 0.5%, to $41.71 a barrel. Based on the most actively traded contracts, WTI, the U.S. benchmark, was on track for a 2.9% weekly fall, while Brent was down 2.2%.

A rising number of COVID-19 cases have prompted the resumption of some lockdown restrictions in European countries, while stoking concerns about the U.S. economic outlook.

A lack of additional stimulus from Washington has added to worries the U.S. economic rebound will lose steam heading into year-end. House Democrats on Thursday were preparing a $2.4 trillion aid package that includes a number of items seen having bipartisan support, including direct payments to households, the Paycheck Protection Program, a revival of a federal add-on to state unemployment benefits, as well as a renewal of aid to airlines and money to help restaurants stay open. But analysts warned that the path to an agreement remained unclear.

Meanwhile, concerns about demand have been underlined by pressure on refining margins.

“We have repeatedly cited that crude prices will have difficulty rallying, on a structural basis, unless refining margins lead the path higher. And while U.S. gasoline stocks have reverted, in remarkable fashion, to seasonal norms, distillate inventories remain the acute issue overhanging the oil complex,” said Michael Tran, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, in a Thursday note.

He noted that the spot Nymex distillate crack spread—a crack spread is the difference in price between a barrel of oil and the products refined from it—is down by nearly half since mid-July, despite refiners cutting runs by an estimated 3.7 million barrels a day through the summer and domestic refiners shifting yields away from jet fuel at the fastest pace since the Energy Information Administration began tracking the data.

“In short, refiners are pulling all the possible levers to minimize jet production, yet distillate stocks remain stubbornly high. Based on our global mobility tracker, we estimate that 43% of U.S. flights remain sidelined, which models to 820,000 barrels a day of U.S. jet fuel demand destroyed daily,” Tran said.

Supply-related worries have also hung over the market this week, with Libyan output set to pick up after a military commander moved to lift a blockade of ports that has virtually strangled production for the past eight months.

Investors will also be watching data from oil-field-services company Baker Hughes, which will report its weekly tally of U.S. drilling rigs on Friday afternoon.

Metals Stocks: Gold slips Friday and heads for worst weekly slump since March

Gold futures were headed lower again on Friday, with bullion on track to book its fourth decline in five sessions that could cement the asset’s worst weekly slide in about six months.

Some commodity experts have attributed the bout of weakness in precious commodities, and in particular gold, to the recent resurgence of the buck, which has made dollar-backed gold relatively more expensive to overseas buyers using other monetary units.

The dollar on Friday was climbing 0.2%, bringing its weekly rise to about 1.7% and on track for the sharpest such gain since the week ended April 20, as measured by the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.21%, FactSet data show.

Read:Trump says Supreme Court will need 9th justice to decide election outcome

December gold GCZ20, -1.00% GC00, -1.00% was headed $12.60, or 0.7%, lower at $1,864.30 an ounce, at last check, more than erasing its 0.5% gain from the previous session and pushing the metal toward a two-month low and a 5% weekly drop. A weekly slide of that magnitude would be its steepest since the period ended March 13.

“Gold dropped to a two-month low, coinciding with USD strength, and US real yields reaching a two-month high, weighing on investor flows,” wrote analysts at UBS in a research note.

The analysts said that communications from the Federal Reserve over the past week haven’t signaled sufficient dovishness to support gold values.

That said, the analysts view the backdrop of coronavirus that has engendered uncertainty about the global economic outlook and rising concerns about the 2020 presidential election in the U.S., between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, as a potential floor to gold falling substantially lower.

“Further gold price weakness is possible, but US election uncertainties will likely intensify and the Fed will ultimately need to expand policy. Hence, we maintain our positive view on gold,” the UBS analysts wrote.

Meanwhile, December silver SIZ20, -1.90% SI00, -1.90% was trading 37 cents, or 1.6%, lower at $22.785 an ounce, after rising 0.4% on Thursday, pushing it to around its lowest levels since late July. Gold’s sister metal was headed for a weekly decline of a 16%, which would also mark its sharpest weekly drop since the week ended March 13.

: Amazon-backed food delivery startup Deliveroo could be heading toward a 2021 IPO, Bloomberg reports

The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a boom for food delivery, with millions of housebound consumers ratcheting up demand for the convenience service.

Gerard Julien/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Food delivery service Deliveroo is exploring an initial public offering for next year, according to reports.

U.K.-based Deliveroo is in talks with potential advisers about going public in 2021, according to confidential sources who spoke to Bloomberg, which reported that no final decisions have been made. Deliveroo representatives told MarketWatch that they “do not comment on this kind of speculation.”

The company is backed by Amazon AMZN, +0.66%, which has owned 16% of Deliveroo since its investment was approved by the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in August.

The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a boom for food delivery, with millions of housebound consumers ratcheting up demand for the convenience service. The sector is expanding and Deliveroo’s European rivals Just Eat Takeaway.com JET, -0.55% and Delivery Hero DHER, -0.61% have both made substantial acquisitions this year.

Deliveroo, which operates in over 200 cities across 12 countries, initially suffered at the beginning of the pandemic as partner restaurants themselves were closed. The CMA said that Deliveroo met the criteria for a “failing firm” due to the initial impact of the coronavirus on its business.

However, the CMA said that Deliveroo’s finances rebounded from April onward as its mix of restaurants shifted away from large chains, several of which had closed, toward smaller, independent restaurants, and the food delivery market as a whole recovered. “Both factors contributed to a rapid and significant turnaround in Deliveroo’s financial position,” the CMA said, as it cleared Amazon’s 16% investment in August.

After the food delivery company raised funds in 2017, its value was at least $2 billion, but no updated valuation has been made by the company since the $575 million investment led by Amazon and subsequent lockdown boom.

The Amazon deal, initiated in May 2019, was subject to scrutiny from regulators concerned that Amazon’s stake in Deliveroo could harm competition by preventing Amazon from re-entering the online restaurant delivery market or expanding its presence in convenience grocery delivery.

The pandemic has also provided an opportunity for food delivery companies to branch into other home delivery sectors. As British supermarkets — already a cutthroat industry — battle for supremacy in the e-commerce space, they have turned to this existing and agile sector to quickly expand their home delivery services.

Deliveroo has partnered with grocer Waitrose JLH, , while rival UberEats UBER, -0.59% delivers groceries for Walmart’s WMT, +0.52% Asda, and Morrisons’ MRW, foodstuffs are available via Amazon with free delivery for Prime members on orders over £40 ($51).

The Margin: David Attenborough joins Instagram because ‘the world is in trouble’

Start an Instagram account. Save the world.

That’s the approach that British broadcaster and conservationist Sir David Attenborough is taking to amplify his call to address climate change and protect the planet.

The 94-year-old narrator of BBC’s “Planet Earth,” who has spent 60 years working in television and radio, revealed in his first-ever Instagram post on Thursday that he’s joined the Facebook-owned FB, +0.20%  social media platform because “the world is in trouble.”

“Continents are on fire. Glaciers are melting. Coral reefs are dying. Fish are disappearing from our oceans. The list goes on and on and on,” Attenborough says in his video post to his official @davidattenborough account. “But we know what to do about it. And that’s why I’m tackling this new way — for me — of communication.”

He certainly caught the internet’s attention. His account gained more than 200,000 followers in just an hour, the BBC reported. It had 1 million followers by the time this story was published on Thursday morning. In fact, Attenborough set the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to reach 1 million Instagram followers, bumping previous record holder Jennifer Aniston by hitting the milestone in just over four hours.

Opinion:These stocks could be smart buys as the fight against climate change intensifies

Attenborough won’t be creating and posting all of his content on his own, however. His frequent collaborators Jonnie Hughes and Colin Butfield, who worked with him on his upcoming Netflix NFLX, +0.52%  film and book “A Life On Our Planet,” will help manage the account. “Social media isn’t David’s usual habitat so while he’s recorded messages solely for Instagram, like the one in this post, we’re helping to run this account,” they wrote in a caption accompanying Attenborough’s inaugural post.

“Saving our planet is now a communications challenge,” they added. “We know what to do, we just need the will.”

Indeed, three in four Americans now believe that humans fuel climate change, according to a recent CBS News poll, and more than a quarter consider climate change to be a crisis. NASA has warned that 18 of the 19 warmest years in recorded history have occurred since 2001. And climate change has been linked to droughts, unprecedented floods, an increasing number of hurricanes and other extreme weather events, like the wildfires that have raged across Australia and California this year. A major bipartisan report recently warned that climate change poses “significant challenges to [the U.S.] financial system and our ability to sustain long-term economic growth.”

Related:Climate change is huge risk for the American financial system, a major new bipartisan report says

The venerated naturalist teased that future videos will follow him explaining what the problems facing the Earth are, along with how the world population can deal with them. His collaborators will also be posting some exclusive content and behind-the-scenes peeks from “A Life On Our Plant.”

“Join me, or as we used to say in those early days of radio: stay tuned,” Attenborough said.

: General Mills and Tractor Supply among the companies that stand to make long-term gains from COVID-related ‘pet boom’

Pet adoption had jumped during the pandemic.

AFP via Getty Images

Companies in the pet care category are poised to benefit from what Bank of America analysts call the current “pet boom”: As more people move out of cities and work from home due to COVID-19, they have the time and space to adopt an animal.

Consumer businesses that could reap the rewards now and into the future include food company General Mills Inc. GIS, +1.69%, rural lifestyle retailer Tractor Supply Co. TSCO, -1.19% and e-commerce pet supply company Chewy Inc. CHWY, -0.05%

“Americans spending more time at home have taken on projects from home improvement to crafting, and have also been adopting new pets,” analysts led by Elizabeth Suzuki wrote. “We expect the pet boom to provide a multi-year tailwind to these sectors.”

Read: Some pet owners are spending more than $2,000 a year on their dogs

People starved for companionship in a time of greater isolation, those taking advantage of the greater space in homes outside of major cities, and new pet owners who are using the extra time that the coronavirus affords to train a pet are driving an increase in pet adoption, according to Bank of America.

According to the latest poll of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers in its “Home Work” series, 69% have at least one animal and 37% adopted a pet in the six months leading up to September 2020.

There are about 95 million cats and 90 million dogs in the U.S.

COVID-19 has also accelerated the trend towards online retail.

And: Retailers are shutting stores amid COVID-19 but could be getting stronger in the process, says BMO

“For pet food and products specifically, online retailers are becoming increasingly important to pet parents,” Bank of America said.

Online pet spending reached its peak growth, up 57% year-over-year, in April. It has remained up, with the year-over-year increase as of Sept. 12 at 36%, based on a seven-day moving average.

“While pet specialty stores were still the preferred channel for pet products per our survey (36% of respondents preferred over other channels), 22% of respondents stated that they prefer to buy pet food and supplies online.”

General Mills said during its earnings announcement on Wednesday that it gained market share in the pet category during the fiscal first quarter.

The Blue line of pet food is part of the General Mills portfolio.

“In pet, we’re reaching out to first-time Blue e-commerce buyers to encourage them to transition to subscription-based purchases to help keep these new consumers in the Blue franchise,” said Chief Executive Jeffrey Harmening, according to a transcript of prepared statements provided by the company.

General Mills reported an earnings beat and raised its dividend.

And: Walmart+ will add 10 million members by the end of 2021: UBS

Tractor Supply can serve customers whose stable of animals goes beyond dogs and cats.

“Almost half of Tractor Supply’s annual sales are in pet and animal categories, and Tractor Supply serves rural lifestyle customers who are generally homeowners/property owners and often have a large animal in addition to companion animals,” Bank of America said.

Read: Tractor Supply benefitting from consumer trends like gardening and the move to rural communities, analysts say

And Chewy had been steadily building its company online before the pandemic.

“Chewy has been able to achieve scale despite going toe-to-toe with behemoth Amazon by differentiating itself with 1600+ pet specialist customer reps,” Bank of America said. 

Other companies like Clorox Co. CLX, +0.68% and Church & Dwight Co. CHD, +1.07% offer items like cat litter and cleaners that pet owners will seek out. Animal health companies like Idexx Laboratories Inc. IDXX, +0.44% stand to make gains as well.

The pet category is poised to only get more competitive. Sustainable brand Public Goods recently released a pet supply line. Natural pet food company Wellpet, said sales of its puppy and kitten products grew 15% during the pandemic. And Chewy has expanded with new offerings in areas like virtual pet care.

Seeing an opportunity, Walmart Inc. WMT, +0.52% also made pets part of its holiday announcement on Wednesday.

“And, to ensure it has great gifts for the newest member of many families since the pandemic began – pets – Walmart has increased its assortment and supply of pet products in its stores and online and is ready to sell over 3 million comfy pet beds,” the retail giant said.