Transcript: Nightly Business Report – September 12, 2019

ANNOUNCER:  This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Bill Griffeth and Sue Herera.  

SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  Getting closer.  Wall Street nears new records on renewed hope of a thaw in trade tensions.  

BILL GRIFFETH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  Retirement lifeline. Lawmakers are rolling out different proposals to shore up Social Security. And they want to raise certain taxes to do it.  

HERERA:  Flood risk.  Private insurance start-ups are entering that market
using big data to lower the cost of insurance.  

Those stories and much more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for
Thursday, September 12th.  

GRIFFETH:  And we do bid you a good evening, everybody, and welcome.  

Lucky 7, the Dow extended the win strategic to seven straight, inching ever
closer to an all-time time high in the process.  Investor sentiment got a
lift on the potential easing of trade tensions between the U.S. and China,
and after the European Central Bank this morning unveiled a sweeping
stimulus program.  Those two things sent stock prices higher today.  The
Dow rose another 45 points for 27,182.  Nasdaq added 24.  The S&P was up 8.  

Now, as with most things these days, the reports on trade were not exactly
straightforward.  First, there was word that an interim deal to delay
tariffs was being considered.  But other reports said, that`s not the case.  
It created some volatility in the trading session.  

So, we asked Kayla Tausche to find out what might really be happening
behind the scenes.  


KAYLA TAUSCHE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  There is a month until the top decision makers from the U.S. and China meet to address the ongoing trade war.  And although the White House says there`s absolutely no interim deal being discussed, two people close to the talks say there is a clear desire for de-escalation on both sides.  Ambassador Robert
Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and NEC Director Larry
Kudlow, these people say, want to find a way to get back to tariffs on $250
billion in goods, rolling back recent tariffs on consumer items from
September and avoiding the escalation later this year right before

Washington wants to avoid any self-inflicted economic wounds as some cracks appear in U.S. data.  Farmers who have been hard hit in the trade war could get some relief.  

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  We expect and we want them to buy agriculture.  We view that as a personal attack on our farmers.  They need our agriculture and they`ve always bought our agriculture.  So, this isn`t about just selling soybeans, but we do want to sell them soybeans.  I want to be clear that our farmers and our fishermen are important to us.  

TAUSCHE:  The terms of this detente haven`t been agreed on or even
presented to President Trump these people say, but China cannot keep
boycotting buying U.S. pork as its hogs are hit by African swine fever.  
Any short-term handshake wouldn`t sidestep the hard stuff, talks over
China`s forced technology transfers are expected to continue with White
House officials preparing for protracted negotiation there.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Kayla Tausche in Houston, Texas.  


HERERA:  Last night, the U.S. and China both appeared to have dialed down
their trade fight by offering some small concessions.  

Eunice Yoon tells us how that`s playing out in Beijing.  


EUNICE YOON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The Chinese Commerce Ministry said that China welcome`s President Trump`s gesture.  President Trump had tweeted that the decision was made at the request of the vice premier and due to the fact that the People`s Republic of China will be celebrating their 70th anniversary on October 1st.  The tariff delay from October 1st to the 15th is unlikely to be meaningful for affected companies but would be appreciated by Beijing which wouldn`t want to see distractions on the anniversary of its founding.  

To add to the positive atmosphere ahead of the talks in October in D.C.,
the Commerce Ministry said that Chinese companies have started making
inquiries into prices for U.S. agricultural products like pork and soybeans
after purchases have previously been suspended.  

Despite the good vibes, long time China watchers still believe that the gap
between the two sides on fundamental issues is vast.  So, they are cautious
that there will be more than a truce.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Eunice Yoon in Beijing.  


GRIFFETH:  As we mentioned, investor sentiment also got a lift from that
European Central Bank action this morning, announcing a major stimulus
program cutting a key interest rate and outlining a plan to buy back bonds.  
The whole strategy is aimed at protecting the already fragile eurozone
economy by getting hit further from a global slowdown.  


MARIO DRAGHI, ECB PRESIDENT:  The governing council reiterated the need for a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy for a prolonged period of time and continues to stand ready to adjust all of its instruments as appropriate, to ensure that inflation moves towards its aim in a sustained manner.


GRIFFETH:  The ECB joins central banks around the world, including our
Federal Reserve that had been lowering interest rates.  

HERERA:  The budget deficit topped a trillion dollars in the first 11
months of the fiscal year, and that hasn`t happened since 2012.  According
to the Treasury Department, higher military spending, rising interest on
government debt and weaker revenue pushed the deficit up nearly 20 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.  

GRIFFETH:  Consumer prices rose slightly in August even after a decline in
the cost of gasoline.  The consumer price index which measures what
Americans pay for just about everything was up 0.1 percent when compared to July.  That was pretty much in line with forecasts.  

But the core prices which exclude food and energy, they have climbed 2.4
percent in the past year.  That`s the fastest annual pace we`ve seen since
July of last year.  

HERERA:  And the economy promises to be a big topic during tonight`s
presidential debate tonight.  Ahead of that debate, Senator Elizabeth
Warren proposed an across the board increase in Social Security benefits,
financed by new taxes on high-income Americans.  

John Harwood is in Houston for us tonight.  So, John, what exactly is
Senator Warren proposing?  

JOHN HARWOOD, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  It`s pretty striking, Sue, she is proposing an increase of $2000 per month for 64 million Social Security benefits, all current beneficiaries and all future beneficiaries.  And she would in addition to that change some of the rules that have penalized the lower income Americans, people who were out of the workforce for a period of time, so at — after a number of years in which people debated how much to try to cut Social Security benefits to make the program solvent over the long term she`s proposing to take those benefits
significantly up.  

GRIFFETH:  And how would she pay for that, John?  

HARWOOD:  She`s got two different tax increases on people with incomes
above $250,000 a year.  

First, a payroll tax.  As you know, the current payroll tax is capped at
around $130,000.  So, you don`t pay on any income above that.  She would
say if you have income above $250,000, there is going to be a 14.8 percent
payroll tax split evenly between the employer and employee.  In addition to
that, she would impose a 14.8 percent tax on the investment income of
people who make more than $250,000 a year.  

And you can tell how much money that would raise because the non-partisan or independent analysis of her proposal showed that even with those big benefit increases, this would extend the life of the solvency of the Social Security program for another two decades.  So, it raises an awful lot of money, about $4 trillion with those revenue increases.  

HERERA:  And what early reaction, if any, has there been to the proposal,

HARWOOD:  Well, various Democrats have been debating over the last couple of years, including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the last
campaign.  Some increases in benefits for the lowest income beneficiaries,
trying to take care of people who are really struggling to get by on small
Social Security checks.  

What`s notable about this is how comprehensive it is.  She is betting that
that is going to be popular at a time when income inequality has
increasingly entered the nation`s consciousness.  

She`s also trying to compete with Joe Biden whose constituency tends to be
older, blue collar and African-American.  Those are the kinds of voters who
might find this an appealing proposal.  

Joe Biden hasn`t gone nearly that far yet.  Neither has Bernie Sanders for
that matter.  We`ll see if they change their tune on this when they get on
the debate stage tonight and beyond.  

HERERA:  All right.  John Harwood, thanks so much, John.  

HARWOOD:  You bet.  

GRIFFETH:  Meanwhile in Washington, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon announced his own plan to fund Social Security.  His proposal also focuses on the capital gains tax.  

Ylan Mui has details.  


YLAN MUI, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Democrats say there is a two-tier tax code in America: one for people who earn money through work and another for those who make money by investing.  That`s because right now, the top tax rate on income from wages is 37 percent.  The rate on investment income, just 20 percent.  

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR):  The megafortunes get bigger and bigger.  And they are propelled — they have this kind of jet propulsion behind them by the favorable capital gains tax rules that go overwhelming to the top 1

MUI:  The Democratic Senator Ron Wyden wide within a new proposal to change that.  His plan would tax capital gains at the same rates as ordinary
income.  Most importantly, investors would have to pay taxes on any
unrealized gains every single year.  

It`s a major shift that`s estimated to raise between $1.5 trillion and $2
trillion over the next decade.  Money that Wyden promises would go toward shoring up Social Security.  

WYDEN:  My proposal provides a specific path for ensuring that millionaires and billionaires pay what they now owe, and that revenue is used to save Social Security.  

MUI:  Now this new system would only apply to taxpayers with $10 million in assets or who make a million dollars a year for three consecutive years.  
There is also carve-outs for family farms, homes and retirement accounts.  

Wyden vowed his plan wouldn`t hit middle class families.  But it`s clear
that Democrats are determined to take on the tax code if they prevail in

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Ylan Mui in Washington.  


GRIFFETH:  And a little bit later in the program, we`re going to take a
closer look at the issue of taxes and what exactly a fair rate of taxation

HERERA:  It is time to look at some of today`s “Upgrades and Downgrades”.  

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Deere were both downgraded to market perform from outperform at Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).  The analyst cites weaker demand for new equipment.  The price target for Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) is $143 and $170 for Deere.  Both stocks fell about 1 percent.

PayPal was upgraded to buy from hold at Canaccord.  The analyst calls
PayPal a payments juggernaut and says volume growth is impressive.  The
price farther is $118.  The stock rose 3 percent to $107.10.  

GRIFFETH:  AbbVie was upgraded to buy from neutral at UBS, with the analyst citing optimism surrounding its acquisition of Allergan (NYSE:AGN).  Price target now $79.  Shares were up about 2 percent today to $70.83.  

And Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) was upgraded to buy from neutral at Nomura Instinet.  The analyst cited the company`s new gaming titles “World of Warcraft Classic” and “Modern Warfare”.  Price target, $64.  Shares rose nearly 1 percent to $55.45.  

HERERA:  Still ahead, DHL goes high tech for a speedy delivery.  


FRANK HOLLAND, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  DHL opens the U.S. innovation center as the global ship returns to robotics and other innovation to compete for e-commerce customers.  I`m Frank Holland.  I`ll have that story coming up on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.



GRIFFETH:  Income taxes are always a subject for heated discussion during
presidential campaigns.  And as we mentioned earlier, they are expected to
be fair game during tonight`s Democratic candidate debate.  But one income tax strategy that has not been mentioned so far during in campaign is the flat income tax where every income level pays the same rates.  Steve Forbes who ran for president twice referred to it as the fairest income tax.  Is it?  

We have two opposing views on that tonight.  Joining us Leon LaBrecque,
who`s the chief growth officer at Sequoia Financial Group.  He says it is
fair.  Peter Mallouk is CIO at Creative Planning.  He says it is not.  

Thank you both for joining us tonight.  



GRIFFETH:  Leon, make the case for the flat tax.  

LABRECQUE:  Flat tax is fair.  Everybody pays the same.  If I make a
thousand times more, I pay a thousand times more tax.  It`s simple.  

I don`t need the IRS.  I don`t need a lot of bureaucracy.  Ninety-three
percent of us could file our tax returns or not have to do the tax return,
and it cuts out all the bureaucracy and it cuts out the loopholes.  Guys
who are making a lot of money can get out of paying the tax.  We make it a
lot simpler for everybody.  

We did it on the corporate side.  We do it with Social Security as a flat
rate tax.  It works.  

HERERA:  All right.  Peter, you do not think that the math adds up in a
flat tax.  And you also have some other issues in terms of income
inequality.  Tell us about it.  

MALLOUK:  Well, I think that the argument about simplification is a Trojan
horse.  If you think about the flat tax, right now, the top rate right now
is 37 percent federal income tax.  In the bottom rate, people are paying
around 10 percent.  

So, if we`re going to have a flat tax, let`s assume it`s not the highest
rate, it`s not 37 percent.  We`re not raise going on the huge majority of
Americans.  So, let say it`s 20 percent.  Well, that means that the
wealthiest people saw the tax rate come down a lot.  Where are we going to
make that up?  

The only way to make it up is by taxing poor people and the middle class
more and that does not sound like the most wonderful idea in the world that we live in today.  

So, this is totally different than the debate about should income tax rates
be a couple percent higher or lower or capital gains rates be a little
higher or lower.  This is talking about a very radical shift of more wealth
to the very, very, very top Americans.  

GRIFFETH:  What do you say, Leon?  

LABRECQUE:  Well, I say that Warren Buffett pays less income taxes than his receptionist, and that`s a good example of the very, very wealthy.  And I
think Peter might agree.  The very, very wealthy can reduce their taxes
through a lot of different strategies.  The middle class is who`s getting
hit the most.  

I would also suggest to Peter that we gave a deduction like we said,
anything under $54,000, there`s zero tax, and then have a 17 or 22 percent
tax above that might accommodate the thing.  The numbers could work, and I just think the simplification and fairness of it makes a lot of sense.  

GRIFFETH:  I`m curious, Leon, on what you think a fair rate would be.  If
you`re looking for a single flat rate, what would it be do you think?  

LABRECQUE:  It`s probably around 20 percent.  Peter is probably right.  
Seventeen has been bantered around and that won`t get rid of our deficits,
and it won`t solve our problems. And people have to recognize that we need to run our government, run our society with taxes.  

HERERA:  Peter, what about the issue that a number of people have raised
that a flat tax would simplify things?  Putting aside your point about
income inequality, but it would simplify the whole system?  

MALLOUK:  So, the idea of flat tax, the simplification argument to me
doesn`t tie with reality.  So, what is true is it`s simple in the fact that
there is no more deductions, there are no more exclusions and exemptions.  
There`s no more home owners deduction.  There`s no more 401k deductions. There`s no more charitable deduction.  

So, does that simplify the tax return?  Of course it does.  So, you could
get rid of your 100-page tax return and make it one page with a flat tax.  

But you can do the exact same thing with a progressive tax that no longer
has deductions and exclusions.  These are one issue being used to cloud
another one.  So the idea that a flat tax is simple isn`t correct.  Getting
rid of all the deductions and exemptions is what makes it simple.  

Can the first page of the return say if you make a in million dollars, you
pay 35 percent, and if you make $10,000, you pay 10 percent?  Yes, that`s
not a lot — that`s not a lot of complexity.  

Separate, the issue we were talking about earlier, it`s true Warren Buffett
doesn`t pay a lot of income taxes.  And I saw earlier on your segment, you
have somebody I can`t remember who it was, proposing a higher capital gains rate.  

GRIFFETH:  Right.  

MALLOUK:  Separate from the income tax issue, wealthy people are the ones that own things that are taxed in a capital gains rate.  They own stocks
and they own real estate.  

GRIFFETH:  Right.  

MALLOUK:  So, if you — that`s the reason Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos are
not paying a lot of income taxes.


MALLOUK:  Yes, it doesn`t solve the problem for them, but it has to do with
why or why not we should have a flat tax.  That`s an argument of, should
the capitals gain rate and income tax rate be closer together, which is
what Warren Buffett is proposing.


Very good.  We wish we had more time.  We could go on, I know.  But we must stop at this point.

Leon LaBrecque from Sequoia Financial Group, Peter Mallouk from Creative Planning, thank you both for joining us tonight.  

MALLOUK:  Thank you.

LABRECQUE:  Thanks, guys.  

HERERA:  Kroger`s online push pays off.  That`s where we begin tonight`s
“Market Focus”.  

The nation`s largest supermarket chain reported higher sales, thanks to
investments in digital operations drawing in new customers.  But the CEO
would not reconfirm the company`s financial targets, and that tempered the gains.  Shares were up just a fraction to $25.59.  

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is expanding its subscription grocery delivery service.  The cost, $98 a year, which is a little more than half of what Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) services cost.  Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) will start the deliveries in 200 metro areas and the stock rose a fraction on that to $116.92.  

Investors frowned on Smile Direct`s debut.  The company selling direct to
consumer braces priced its IPO at $23 a share which was above expectations, but the stock opened for trading at $20.55, and it closed down more than 27 percent to $16.67.  

General Electric`s chief says he expects asset sales to bring in about $38
billion and the company will use that cash to pay down debt.  CEO Larry
Culp (NYSE:CFI) said 2019 is progressing as planned, and that its
struggling power division is gaining some strength.  GE shares fell about 1
percent to $9.26.  

GRIFFETH:  Honeywell CFO warned today that he is seeing softness in Europe and in Germany in particular.  He back the company`s financial projections, citing strength in its aerospace business.  But overall, he did say he remains cautious.  Shares fell more than 1.5 percent today to $168.63.  

Activist investor Carl Icahn has now increased his stake in Hertz to 30
percent, making Icahn and his various affiliates Hertz`s largest
shareholder.  That stock is up about 20 percent so far this year and it
rose another 3.5 percent today in trade to $14.91.  

And after the bell, Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) topped Wall Street`s estimates but missed on revenue.  The company is facing a slowdown in chip demand due to the trade war with China.  Shares fell in after-hours trading tonight, but did close the regular session up a fraction to $300.58.  

HERERA:  So, how many packages arrived at your door steps to this week?  
One, two, maybe five?  

As more people shopped online, there is a greater need for workers to
package and ship those boxes.  And that`s where companies like DHL come in, and it`s making high tech changes to keep up with demand.  

Frank Holland is in Chicago.  


HOLLAND:  DHL wants this robotic arm to give it a leg up in e-commerce.  

KEN ALLEN, DHL E-COMMERCE SOLUTIONS CEO:  This will be fully programmed. It will have stock inside.  It will take it to another robot.  

HOLLAND:  DHL e-commerce CEO Ken Allen says robes collaborating with
workers will help them compete in fulfillment where online orders are taken from a warehouse, packed and shipped.  

This robot that helps to find and even carry products inside of a warehouse
is a big part of DHL`s innovation push, along with this virtual reality
program that reduces training time and increases productivity for human

ALLEN:  The growth of e-commerce internationally is now outstripping the
growth of e-commerce domestically.  So, over the last five years, it`s
grown at a compound 25 percent.  

There is a massive shortage of people working in the fulfillment space and
the demand for labor is going to grow exponentially.  

HOLLAND:  There will be demand for more than 228,000 new logistics workers in 2020, according to one estimate; 180,000 new workers have been added on average over the past five years.  

ALLEN:  If you want, you know, the latest Nike (NYSE:NKE) sneaker or you
want a suit or whatever, you know, that stock is going to be able to picked
and packed in that location overnight.  And, you know, to put people in
there to do that is going to be hellishly expensive if you can find them.  
And therefore that sort of whole robotics idea in my mind is in the
fulfillment arena.  

HOLLAND:  As demand grows for fulfillment operations, so does the
competition.  Fulfillment for small and medium size merchants is a $37
billion business for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).  FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and UPS also offer the service.  


HOLLAND:  DHL worker James Woodson says these robotics have made his job easier.  

JAMES WOODSON, DHL FORKLIFT OPERATOR:  You`re a lot more efficient, you`re more productive.  And with that, you`re able to get more work done.  

HOLLAND:  DHL plans to install these kinds of robotics in 80 percent of
U.S. warehouses by 2021, a high-tech transition to capitalize on a high
growth industry.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Frank Holland in Chicago.  


GRIFFETH:  And coming up, fixing flood insurance.  


CONTESSA BREWER, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  I`m Contessa Brewer in Wilmington, North Carolina.  This neighborhood is considered a minimal flood risk by FEMA.  And yet this time last year, the street was underwater.  Coming up on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, why private flood insurers might do a better job assessing risk.  



HERERA:  One hundred and forty-five CEOs are urging the Senate to pass gun control laws.  The chief executives wrote a letter asking lawmakers to pass background checks and called gunman violence a public health crisis.  The letter signed by the CEOs of Uber, Levi Strauss, the Gap (NYSE:GPS), among others.  

GRIFFETH:  Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas.  It also hit
some coastal states hard, leaving home owners to draw out.  And once again, it put flood insurance in the spotlight with all of its high cost and
perceived deficiencies.  

But now, a group of startups say they can fix that, as you saw.  Contessa
Brewer is in Wilmington, North Carolina, for us tonight.  


BREWER:  Hurricane Dorian`s floodwater still laps at Sue McKenzie`s
Wilmington garage, a second hurricane in less than three years since she
moved to North Carolina from Pittsburgh.  

SUE MCKENZIE, WILMINGTON, NC HOMEOWNER:  And Florence came into the house and did significant damage.

BREWER:  But McKenzie weathered the storm better than her neighbors because she bought a flood insurance policy, though she doesn`t live in a FEMA designated flood zone.  

Neither does John Meyer, though, he`s got the pictures to prove how swamped he got in Hurricane Florence.

BREWER:  John, are you anywhere near a river?  


BREWER:  Are you anywhere near the ocean?  

MEYER:  It`s about six miles from here, and about 30 feet lower

BREWER:  Did you have flood insurance?

MEYER:  I did not.  I have the deed and the survey from a mortgage back in
the `80s that has very clearly stamped on it, this property is not in a
flood zone.  

BREWER:  For years, big insurers avoided offering private flood insurance.  
It was seen as too risky.  But now, insurers are moving beyond the FEMA`s
famously outdated flood maps and using new tech to analyze data and the

Chubb`s says it factors in property characteristic details, mapping and
modeling intelligence to measure exposure to surface water and storm surge, new tools and scientific data to assess individual risk.  

JIM ALBERT, NEPTUNE FLOOD INSURANCE CEO:  That how house has a completely unique profile from that house and that house.  The water floods differently.  The elevation is different.  The historical losses are

BREWER:  Jim Albert started Neptune Flood Insurance three years ago.

NEPTUNE FLOOD INSURANCE AD:  No one thinks they need flood insurance.

BREWER:  He and other insured tech start-ups are flooding the market with
new products, using algorithms, specific climate data, high tech water flow
modeling.  Albert says he can offer home owners a truer picture of their
vulnerability and do so faster than FEMA.  

ALBERT:  You can enter your address and in two minutes, you can have a

BREWER:  The trend toward digital insurance and individual risk assessment is fueling exponential growth.  Neptune is on track to grow 400 percent year over year and just announced a partnership with the world`s largest property and casualty insurer, AXA XL.  Nationwide, demand for flood insurance policies has grown from 12 percent in 2016 to 15 percent last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  

APRIL JONES, INDEPENDENT INSURANCE AGENT:  At one point, it was 10 percent of my book would ask for flood or needed flood.  But now, it`s definitely, probably a quarter of my book.  

BREWER:  Still, many homeowners don`t carry coverage.  Accord to Verisk, 61 million homes are at risk of flooding.  That`s five times FEMA`s
assessment, and only 5 million homes a national flood insurance policy.  

Armed with better science and advanced tech, insurers are rushing to meet
the need.  

In Wilmington, North Carolina, Contessa Brewer, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.


HERERA:  Here is another look at the day on Wall Street.  The Dow Jones
Industrial Average rose 45.  Nasdaq added 24.  S&P 500 was up 8.  

And that is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT tonight.  I`m Sue Herera, thanks for joining us.  

GRIFFETH:  I`m Bill Griffeth.  Have a great evening.  We`ll see you


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