Your Financial News Roundup
December 13, 2023
1. Economy: The November jobs report shows 199K jobs were created, and inflation continued to cool, clocking in at 3.2% — beating expectations.
2. Tech: The EU has released the world’s first rulebook governing AI usage; while Fortnite maker Epic Games won a monopoly lawsuit against Google.
3. World: Scientists produced plasma via nuclear fusion, marking a significant breakthrough; and Argentina’s new leader, Javier Millei, takes office, seeking to tackle the nation’s economic woes.
Personal Finance Concept [Part 11/12]: Rent Out Unused Space
The Finance Futurist team will be off for Christmas and the New Year. We wish you the best of holidays!
🌱 A Rising Sense of Normalcy: Last month, the economy added 199,000 jobs while unemployment fell to 3.7%, benefitting from the end of the SAG-AFTRA and UAW auto strikes. Meanwhile, the overall labor force participation rate edged up by 0.1% to 62.8% — returning to its pre-pandemic high. Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s Senior Economist, notes that the return of the striking workers is a one-time boost. Excluding them, approximately 160K jobs were created. This figure aligns closely with 2019’s monthly average of 183K. The biggest job gains came from education and healthcare services, whereas retail trade and temporary help services sectors faced major declines. (CNN)
Our Take: Given the labor market’s resilience, it’s unlikely that policymakers will entertain interest rate cuts until well into 2024. However, with cooling inflation, interest rate pauses may continue.
✂️ Making the Cut: Consumer Price Index (CPI) data from November shows a slowdown in inflation, with year-over-year inflation clocking in at 3.2% and prices inching up by 0.1% from October. Diving deeper:
- These results align with the Federal Reserve’s goals, leading investors to anticipate a ~100% chance of stable rates during this week’s interest rate policy meeting.
- Cooling inflation was driven by lower energy costs, dropping 5.4% and 2.3% from last year and last month, respectively. Gas prices fell 6% from last month!
- But Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, is up 4% from last year, driven by a 6.5% rise in shelter prices.
Our Take: Core CPI is a more stable, robust inflation metric as it excludes volatile categories, making it the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge for judging progress and making policy decisions. Because it’s ticked up in the last few months, getting the remainder of inflation down to the 2% target will take more time than previously thought, hence, wishes for early rate cuts are unlikely to be fulfilled.
⚖️ AI’s First Rulebook: The EU has recently released the world’s first set of rules governing the usage of AI tools. The law encompasses various aspects of AI, including:
- tougher guidelines and assessments for “high-risk AI systems,”
- disclosure of AI-created content,
- regulation of AI use by law enforcement, and
- prohibited uses of certain AI applications.
The legislation prohibits dystopian-like AI use cases, such as the creation of social score systems or the exploitation of individuals. Additionally, sensitive uses of AI must comply with civil liberty and security evaluations to ensure they do not threaten people’s well-being, the environment, or societal institutions. Rule-breakers may face fines of 1.5% of global revenue, with a cap of 7%. (Reuters)
Our Take: The EU is working quickly to create a legal framework for other major economies reliant on AI, signifying the region’s dominance in tech regulation. Proactively creating laws around emerging tech can positively impact its development and benefit society as a whole.
💥 An Epic Win!: Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite, sued Google, alleging that the firm holds a monopoly via its Play Store app on Android devices. A jury determined that Google turned its app store and billing service into an illegal monopoly by controlling Android app distribution and in-app billing. Consequently, Epic Games suffered damages, potentially leading to restitution ranging from hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. The case exposed secret revenue-sharing deals between Google, smartphone manufacturers, and game developers aimed at suppressing rival app stores. The judge will determine how much money Epic will get and whether Google must acknowledge developers’ abilities to create their own app stores and billing systems on Android. (TheVerge)
Our Take: Epic lost a similar lawsuit with Apple. However, the key differentiators here are that this was a jury trial, and Google used monopolist language and actions to maintain control. This ruling is a huge win in opening up the Android ecosystem to more competition and could eventually carry over to Apple’s “walled garden.”
⚛ Harness The Power of the Sun: Last week, Japan’s largest nuclear fusion reactor produced its first plasma, signaling a breakthrough for the “Holy Grail” of renewable energy. Touted as the solution to global energy needs, nuclear fusion replicates the Sun’s energy process but without harmful radiation or emissions. Fusion merges nuclei to create energy, contrasting nuclear fission, where an atom gets split to produce energy. EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson hails fusion as a crucial piece of the global energy landscape from 2050 onward. Stakeholders in this field have worked hard to make fusion tech viable by pushing it to create more energy than it consumes. The J1T-60SA reactor is designed to help build ITER, which is expected to be operational in France in 2025. (GNN)
Our Take: Nuclear fusion has been the most elusive piece of renewable energy development. Years of work are still needed to make it energy-efficient and commercially viable. However, its outsized potential draws interest, as research indicates fusion can produce 4x more energy than fission.
🇦🇷 Swift & Strong Action: Argentina’s newly appointed right-wing president, Javier Millei, delivered a sober inaugural address, preparing his people for drastic government spending cuts aimed at reigning in economic troubles. He emphasized the need for action, stating that the ruling political class had adversely impacted the country by subjecting Argentina to a 5,000% hyperinflation, a 15% decline in per-capita GDP, and stagnant growth that has left 40% of the population in poverty. Argentina also faces impending government debt, with $45B due to creditors like the IMF. Millei’s proposed measures include reducing corruption, shrinking the government bureaucracy, and adopting the U.S. dollar as currency. But, as a political newcomer, he will run into resistance from established politicians. (APNews)
Our Take: Millei seeks to reduce the government’s size and spending but does not want to impact the private sector’s performance. Coupled with his desire to switch to the U.S. dollar, it seems that Millei is focusing on empowering the private sector to succeed, indicating he is more of a pragmatic leader rather than a right-wing ideologue. This stance could allow him to make beneficial alliances with “the establishment” to see his agenda fulfilled.
Finance Concept of the Week
Lucrative Size Hustles [Part 11/12]: Rent Out Unused Space
Earn extra income on the side and live on your own terms
With a bit of creativity, you can turn unused space into a short-term or long-term rental, storage, or event space. The rise of peer-to-peer rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo has opened opportunities to optimize extra space. Instead of having empty rooms collecting dust, you can make money instead.
How to Get Started
Consider the type of available space you have. For example, if you have an extra room, a detached studio, or an in-law suite, you can rent that out on a short-term rental platform like Airbnb or Vrbo or look for a long-term tenant. If you have a large outdoor patio, that can be a great place to host events such as baby showers or parties. If you have office space, you can rent the address out to businesses to use as a mailing address. A double-car garage can be converted to workshop space or storage. The possibilities are endless.
Other factors to consider include your property’s location, the market demand in your area, available amenities, and competitor prices. Once you’ve decided on the type of side hustle you want to take on, confirm the steps needed for space preparation, setting up a rental business (if applicable), and any legal/regulatory restrictions and costs. Some cities have specific rules regarding short-term rentals or home-based businesses. You may also need to pay one-time expenses for paperwork and ongoing expenses, such as taxes, liability insurance, maintenance, etc.
Next, determine your rental terms. Factor in pricing, duration, and any additional services or amenities you can offer. For instance, if you would like to rent out a spare room on Airbnb, look at comparative properties in your neighborhood to see how much your competitors are charging. The more flexible the rental terms, the more potential renters you can find.
Once you’ve set everything up, you need to market your space to capture people’s attention. Take high-quality photos, write compelling descriptions, and leverage online platforms to list your space. If you have a knack for marketing, set up an Instagram or website and join community groups to spread the word. As you gain more traction, don’t forget to screen potential renters to ensure they are a good fit and set clear expectations ahead of time.
Top Platforms to Use
- Airbnb: Airbnb is a popular online marketplace that connects people looking for short-term accommodations with hosts who have extra space to rent. Hosts can choose between offering their entire home, private rooms, or shared spaces. The platform charges different fees depending on the country. In certain countries, hosts pay a flat 3% fee, while others may pay a 14-16% host-only fee, plus a value-added tax (VAT) of 6.6% (U.S.). The average host can expect to make $924 a month.
- Vrbo: Vrbo is another online platform that facilitates the rental of vacation properties, including vacation homes, cabins, and condos. The platform has two primary models for pricing: pay-per-booking and an annual subscription. With the pay-per-booking model, Vrbo charges a 5% service fee based on each booking made, including the cleaning fee. Additionally, it charges a 3% payment processing fee and VAT in certain countries. If you choose the annual fee option, you will pay a flat rate of $499 to list your properties.
- PeerSpace: PeerSpace provides unique venues for events such as parties, photoshoots, art exhibits, etc. It’s free to list your space on PeerSpace, and you’ll have the flexibility to establish your own pricing and duration. After each event, you will receive a direct deposit, with the platform taking a 15% service fee. Most of the listings on the platform range from $50 to $200 per hour.
- Neighbor.com: Neighbor.com is a cost-effective way for people to self-store their belongings or cars. The platform offers storage and parking spaces, including lots, garages, bedrooms, shed space, and more. You can set the monthly price, and the renter will pay the platform directly. Neighbor.com charges a 4.9% processing fee and 30 cents per transaction. Top hosts can earn up to $10,000 a year.
- Utilizing Existing Resources: Instead of letting a space go to waste, you can make it available to those who need it while making some extra money.
- Flexibility: You can choose how and when you want to make your space available. Whether you rent it out on a short-term basis or have a long-term tenant, you have control over the rental duration.
- Tax Benefits: Depending on your location and the nature of the rental, you can potentially get tax benefits from renting out the space. You may qualify for deductions for certain expenses but check with a tax professional first.
- Networking Opportunities: Renting out space allows you to connect with new people. This can be particularly helpful for networking or building a sense of community, especially if you rent to people or businesses with similar interests.
- Time and Effort: From listing the space to managing books and talking to tenants, being a landlord can be taxing. If you lack experience, you may face a steep learning curve.
- Privacy Concerns: If you rent out part of your property, you may have to share common areas or even the entire property with strangers. If you enjoy having your own space, this could become an issue.
- Property Wear and Tear: Higher foot traffic and usage can lead to more frequent maintenance and repairs, especially if you are hosting short-term tenants or using the space for events.
- Regulatory Compliance and Liability: Renting out space may be subject to local regulations and zoning laws. You’ll also be exposed to liability risks, such as accidents or injuries that occur on your property.
What Else Is New?
- The FDA approved a new sickle cell treatment, giving hope to Black Americans who are more likely to suffer from sickle cell disease.
- The federal government gave CA and FL $6B+ to develop a high-speed rail.
- Taylor Swift became a billionaire from her Eras tour.
- China’s exports rose slightly but will not fix its slowing economy.
- Microsoft is partnering with labor union AFL-CIO to get the union’s point of view in advance of future AI tech development.
Personal Finance Resources
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