GOP Revisits “Repeal and Replace”
March 29, 2017
House Republicans and the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that they have restarted negotiations on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen called for better educational opportunities for low-income communities to benefit the labor market; Pending home sales rebounded sharply in February; U.S. crude oil inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels last week as total crude reserves stood at 534.0 million barrels.
- House Republicans and the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that they have restarted negotiations on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, though the lawmakers conceded that the process could take weeks and lacks enthusiasm from their Senate colleagues. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) vowed to renew efforts to repeal the law despite last week’s de facto defeat of the ACA’s proposed replacement, the American Healthcare Act, as Vice President Mike Pence returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for lunchtime talks on healthcare. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said that his chamber is closer than before in repealing the ACA, though Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) commented that he does not see a path forward for healthcare given the GOP’s internal dividing lines that became apparent in last week’s debate. Speaker Ryan declined to say what might be included in the next iteration of a Republican healthcare bill, though he did say new legislation needed to be enacted soon so that insurers can adequately formulate 2018 plans and premiums. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has asked members of her caucus to suggest improvement measures to the existing structures of the ACA. [NY Times]
- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen called for better educational opportunities for low-income communities and programs in a speech on Tuesday, citing that the initiatives could benefit the overall labor market and improve the employment-to-population ratio. Yellen did not discuss monetary policy in her prepared remarks, instead she suggested that workforce development and other programs to help disadvantaged groups are a core part of the Fed’s mandate to foster maximum employment and price stability. The chair cited the importance of initiatives to better employment opportunities given significant job market changes in recent years brought about by global competition and technological advances, as more comprehensive schooling could reverse the long-running trend of slower productivity growth in the U.S. Finally, Yellen called for expanding career and technical education programs to train students who do not enroll in traditional college, mentioning that such programs could expand entrepreneurship among low-income and minority demographics. [WSJ]
Economic Indicators & News
- Pending home sales rebounded sharply in February, gaining 5.5% over the prior month’s sequential contraction of 2.8% to reach an indexed-level of 112.3, their highest level in nearly a year, as all regions saw a hike in contract activity. Last month’s index level was 2.6% above the year-ago period and is the highest since April 2016 and the second highest reading since May 2006. Buyers returned to the market amid buoyant employment conditions and rising equity prices, in addition to expectations for higher future interest rates. Existing-home sales are forecast to be around 5.57 million units this year, an increase of 2.3% over 2016 activity levels, while the median existing-home price is anticipated to rise by 4%. 2016 sales and prices were each up 3.8% and 5.1%. Regionally, pending home sales gained 3.4%, 11.4%, 4.3%, and 3.1% in the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West, respectively. The market consensus was for a 2.4% increase in pending home sales last month. [Realtor]
- U.S. crude oil inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels last week as total crude reserves stood at 534.0 million barrels, at the upper limit of the average range for this time of year, as American petroleum imports were down by 83,000 million barrels to 8.0 million barrels per day. Petroleum refinery inputs rose by 425,000 barrels per day to 16.2 million as refineries operated at 89.3% of their available capacity. Gasoline production increased by 200,000 barrels last week to average 10.0 million barrels per day while distillate fuel production rose to 4.9 million barrels per day. Total product supplied to end users moved higher by 0.7% over the year ago period to 19.6 million barrels per day. Motor gasoline supplied dropped 1.0% over the same period last year. [EIA]