No rise in poverty despite pandemic

Here are three of the week’s top pieces of financial insight, gathered from around the web:

Investing pros study amateur trades
“A site that tracks retail trading activity on Robinhood has attracted the attention of Wall Street,” said Sonali Basak and Sarah Ponczek at Bloomberg. Two-year-old Robintrack​.net “shows how many accounts own any given stock” on the online brokerage app, which has surged in popularity among day traders during the pandemic. Robintrack’s stats “provide real-time insights into where amateur stock pickers are sending their money.” That’s useful for “professionals who build fancy models to make their own bets.” Just how much influence day traders have on the market, though, is uncertain; Robintrack founder Casey Primozic cautions that the data from amateurs won’t “create a killer strategy on its own.”

No rise in poverty despite pandemic
The coronavirus recession has had a surprising effect on the poverty rate, said The Economist. Normally, a downturn equals rising unemployment and rising poverty: “The recession of 2007–09 prompted the share of Americans classified as poor to jump from 12 percent to 17 percent.” And those unemployment figures a decade ago “pale in comparison” with what we are seeing now. However, an analysis from Goldman Sachs shows household income is still rising at about 4 percent a year, and a new paper from economists at the Universities of Chicago and Notre Dame suggests poverty “may actually have fallen a bit in April and May.” How? The $1,200 stimulus checks provided by Congress in April kept household income in line with pre-pandemic levels. And the $600 per week extended unemployment benefits have actually boosted pay for many workers. But keeping incomes stable is “a fragile accomplishment” that could easily be undone in the second half of the year.

Record highs in gold may not last
The price of gold is surging to record highs, said Joe Wallace at The Wall Street Journal. Futures contracts for delivering gold in August hit more than $1,940 a troy ounce this week, topping a previous intraday record set in September 2011. Prices are up roughly 27 percent for the year. A “gloomy outlook for the economy, a decline in interest rates, rising tensions between the United States and China, and the dollar’s depreciation” have fueled investors’ interest in so-called haven assets. However, lockdowns have curtailed jewelry purchases, particularly in China and India, and if investors’ demand wanes, “prices could fall without physical consumption to act as a cushion.”

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.

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