Opinion | In a House subcommittee’s report, a strong step toward an antitrust revival

The subcommittee revived a key function of Congress: the power to investigate, report and set the stage for legislation. The report itself may become a keystone in a long-overdue dawning of progressive tech reforms.

Since the mid-1970s, Congress has celebrated the rise of new technology and tech businesses. Both political parties, for different reasons, dismissed antitrust concerns as a relic of a bygone age. For Democrats, globalization and technology seemed to guarantee competition. When antitrust was excised from the party platform in 1992, it had been there since the Gilded Age. For Republicans, markets cured themselves; antitrust was simply another form of regulatory abuse.

Into the vacuum between these positions came the rapacious Big Four. The subcommittee report details how they came to operate at unprecedented scale and reach. The companies’ combined valuation is more than $5 trillion. Add in Microsoft ($1.5 trillion) and Tesla ($275 billion), and the collective value is nearly equal to that of the NASDAQ 100.

The Big Four have enormous influence given their hold on communications infrastructure (Facebook, Google), e-commerce (Amazon), and start-ups and entrepreneurs (Apple). They directly compete with businesses that use their markets. The report tracked how they have gouged suppliers and imitated, acquired or eliminated competitors. It showed how their profits allow them to enter into new lines of business, where they repeat their predatory strategies.

As the subcommittee detailed, the Big Four have acquired hundreds of companies, often to eliminate potential competitors, in what are known as “killer acquisitions.” Meanwhile, antitrust regulators are underfunded — or possibly compromised by lobbying — and seldom are their powers exercised under antitrust laws to block mergers. Of nearly 100 Facebook acquisitions, the Federal Trade Commission extensively investigated only its 2012 purchase of Instagram (over which the FTC took no action).

When monopolies have unlimited power to buy up or kill off competitors, they turn perverse. History shows how, in a variety of sectors, monopolies led to prices going up, quality and innovation declining, and wages and working conditions worsening. Inevitably, concentrated economic power becomes a political issue. The Big Tech monopolies illustrate the cycle. They control more and more parts of society. They employ legions of lobbyists to consolidate their control. Big-money politics expands their influence. They have grown further during the pandemic, as more economic and social activity has moved online.

The subcommittee report includes recommendations for action, including divestment of different lines of business — such as forcing Facebook to split off Instagram and WhatsApp — and preventing platforms such as Amazon from giving preference to its own services or products. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Post.) It calls for increasing the budgets and authority of the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department Antitrust Division.

Although the subcommittee investigation proceeded with bipartisan support, that fell apart when it came to remedies. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the right-wing disrupter, assumed minority leadership of the subcommittee midway through the investigation and focused his attention on the canard that the

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Colts’ Interior O-Line Makes Strong Impression on PFF ‘Team of the Week’

INDIANAPOLIS — Let’s just say that Sunday didn’t go as planned for the Indianapolis Colts.

They arrived in Northern Ohio to play the Cleveland Browns and rarely had control of the game outside of the first quarter. Ultimately, the Colts lost 32-23, yielding a season-high 385 yards defensively and giving up two interceptions and a safety on offense.

However, this piece isn’t to dwell on the outcome of Sunday’s matchup. We’ve done that already.

This is to point out some of the Colts’ bright spots in the game, such as left guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly, who made the Pro Football Focus “NFL Week 5 Team of the Week.”

There were some splash plays in all three phases of the game, so there was some recognition given by PFF in spots throughout the roster. Here are the Colts players who ranked in the top 10 of their position in Week 5.

Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson, Mark Glowinski

Center No. 1 (91.1), 56 snaps (100%) | Guard No. 4 (80.5), 56 snaps (100%) |

Guard No. 6 (78.4), 56 snaps (100%)

The Colts offensive tackles had a long day at the office while squaring off with Browns edge defenders Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon, but the interior of the line held firm for the most part.

While Nelson and Kelly made the “Team of the Week,” right guard Mark Glowinski had a big day himself, raking in the No. 6 guard grade.

When the Colts ran between left guard to right guard, they totaled nine carries for 43 yards (4.8 avg.), two first downs, and one run of 10-plus yards. Kelly was especially productive with a run-blocking grade of 95.2, which was the best of any player in Week 5.

Between the three, PFF docked them for just three pressures allowed on quarterback Philip Rivers. Nelson had none. Nelson was flagged for a questionable holding call.

Isaiah Rodgers

Kick returner No. 1 (86.5), 13 ST snaps (46%)

5 kickoff returns, 42.4 avg., 1 TD

What a way for Rodgers to introduce himself to the NFL. In just the rookie’s fifth game, the reigning 2019 NCAA kickoff return leader returned his first kickoff for a touchdown.

With the Colts trailing by 17 points early in the third quarter, Rodgers took the kick 101 yards to the house on his way to 212 total yards, third-most in a single game in franchise history. Rodgers is also just the second player in the NFL to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season.

Grover Stewart

Defensive lineman No. 6 (85.6), 48 snaps (66%)

6 tackles

The Colts did a solid job of slowing the Browns’ No. 1-ranked rushing offense as Kareem Hunt totaled just 72 yards on 20 carries (3.6 avg.).

One of the biggest performances they got up front was from their nose tackle, Stewart. Along with six tackles, he was also credited with one pressure on the quarterback and four “stops,” which PFF considers to be a forced failure

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IKEA Sees Strong Demand for Work Desks and Kitchen Gear

IKEA reported a drop in annual sales blaming store closures early in the coronavirus pandemic but said consumers have flocked to its stores since lockdowns lifted to buy desks, chairs and kitchens.

About 75% of the furniture retailer’s stores were closed for between seven to 10 weeks because of coronavirus lockdowns. That resulted in visits to IKEA stores falling nearly 16% for its fiscal year, and lower revenue from its restaurants, which typically make up about 5% of sales.

Overall, Ingka Group—the largest IKEA franchisee and operator—on Tuesday reported sales of €35.2 billion, equivalent to $41.5 billion, for the 12 months to Aug. 31, down from €36.7 billion a year earlier. It didn’t disclose profit figures.

Chief Executive Jesper Brodin said in an interview that consumption trends around the world had been similar through the pandemic. Early on, shoppers bought desks, office chairs and cooking equipment. Interest then moved toward home organization items such as shelving and baskets. Demand for kitchens was also high, with people taking advantage of time at home to install them.

IKEA said online sales make up 18% of the company’s overall revenue. A company’s store in Shanghai in July.



Photo:

alex plavevski/Shutterstock

“Lately, we see a lot of interest in beautification,” said Mr. Brodin. “A lot of people are taking the opportunity to update their homes.”

The comments echo those from rival

Home Depot Inc.,

which in August posted its strongest quarterly sales growth in nearly 20 years, saying the home had never been more important to consumers than during the pandemic.

IKEA said online sales grew 60% and now make up 18% of the company’s overall revenue, up from 11% a year ago.

To meet surging online demand, IKEA repurposed its stores to act as fulfillment centers, rolled out click-and-collect at new locations and offered drive-through collection.

It also acquired Geomagical Labs, a startup whose imaging technology allows consumers to decorate and furnish 3-D representations of their homes. In China, IKEA began making its products available on

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

’s Tmall online marketplace—the first time they were sold on a third-party online platform.

IKEA said it had benefited from efforts under way before the pandemic to make its products more accessible to people living far away from its stores or who may not have the means to travel to them. Those include opening smaller, city-center stores and investing in improving its online delivery and click-and-collect services. Mr. Brodin said such efforts “suddenly became a survival line” once Covid-19 hit.

However, IKEA ran into trouble in the U.S., where online customers complained of struggling to place, track and receive orders. The company also said it had been caught off guard by level of demand, resulting in some products being temporarily unavailable.

In response, IKEA said it was working to make more products and speed up the time it takes to get these to stores.

Mr. Brodin said he expects people’s focus on their homes to continue, with the company forecasting sales for both

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Kemper House continues the fight against COVID: Strong Points

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – Since the start of the pandemic, most of us have been waiting for a time when “this is all over” and “we can return to normal”. Yet at this time, there seems to be no end in sight. Kemper House has worked very hard to keep COVID-19 out of our homes. We are committed to continuing the fight but we also need to get back to putting the needs of our residents and staff first whenever possible in this uphill battle.

As you may be aware, the Ohio Department of Aging and Governor DeWine have mandated that residential care facilities must test all employees every two weeks for COVID-19. Their initial testing program was suspended a couple of weeks ago due to a high number of false positives at the earliest testing facilities. The State has now contracted with a new vendor, Mako Labs out of North Carolina, to process the tests. Testing started on Sept. 30 at Kemper House Strongsville and will take place every other Wednesday after that until the end of the emergency or the State says otherwise. The State does not provide support for the actual testing, however, which must be performed at Kemper House by our nurses. With over 5 million Americans now living with the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Kemper House is striving to keep residents safe.

Kemper House is a family owned and operated residential care facility that specializes in caring for individuals with all stages and all types of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias up to and including end of life and hospice care. They provide long-term care, adult day care, and short-term respite stays. They have two locations in the greater Cleveland area: Strongsville and Highland Heights. For more information, go to www.kemperhousestrongsville.com.

Gold Plus Award: Strongsville Fire and Emergency Services has received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline 1/4 u00ae EMS Gold Plus Award for 2019. The department has received this award for the past several years. The distinguished award is presented for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks. Every year, more than 250,000 people experience an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication. Mission: Lifeline initiative provides tools, training and other resources to support heart attack care following protocols from the most recent evidence-based treatment guidelines. Mission: Lifeline’s EMS recognition program recognizes emergency medical services for their efforts in improving systems of care to rapidly identify suspected heart attack patients, promptly notify the medical center and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.   “Strongsville Fire and Emergency Services is dedicated to providing optimal care for heart attack patients,” said Fire Chief Jack Draves. “We are pleased to be recognized for our

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Affordability Improving Nationally Despite Strong Nominal Price Appreciation, According to First American Real House Price Index

—Recent history has shown that in times of economic distress, lower mortgage rates have offset the affordability drag from faster house price appreciation and lower household income, says Chief Economist Mark Fleming—

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions, today released the July 2020 First American Real House Price Index (RHPI). The RHPI measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the U.S. adjusted for the impact of income and interest rate changes on consumer house-buying power over time at national, state and metropolitan area levels. Because the RHPI adjusts for house-buying power, it also serves as a measure of housing affordability.

Chief Economist Analysis: Falling Rates, Rising Income Offset Nominal House Price Appreciation in July

“Affordability improved in July as two of the three key drivers of the Real House Price Index (RHPI), household income and mortgage rates, swung in favor of increased affordability, outpacing the rise in nominal house price appreciation. The average 30-year, fixed mortgage rate fell by 0.75 percentage points and household income increased 5.5 percent compared with July 2019,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “Declining mortgage rates and rising household income levels both increase consumer house-buying power. So, even though nominal house price appreciation jumped 8.2 percent annually in July, it was not enough to offset the affordability boost from declining rates and rising household income.

“While there remains debate regarding the actual end date of the 2020 recession, there is no argument that the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus continues to linger. Yet, housing affordability nationally has improved, and the housing market remains resilient,” said Fleming. “But, how have nominal house prices and affordability fared in previous economic declines and what can that tell us about today’s housing market?”

How Nominal House Prices Fare During Recessions

“We examined how nominal house prices and the RHPI reacted to the four most recent recessions, including the current pandemic-driven economic downturn,” said Fleming. “It is important to note that a declining RHPI trend line indicates improving affordability, and a rising RHPI trend line signals worsening affordability.

“With the exception of the Great Recession in 2008-2009 and a modest decline in the 1990 recession, nominal house prices have remained flat or risen slowly, but have not declined,” said Fleming. “This demonstrates the ‘downside stickiness’ of house prices during economic decline. In the pandemic-driven recession of 2020, we’ve seen house price appreciation grow faster than in any of the economic declines in our recent past.

“This phenomenon of continued house price appreciation amid economic decline is unique to the housing market because sellers tend to withdraw supply to wait out the economic storm, rather than sell at lower prices,” said Fleming. “During the Great Recession, house prices declined because of a flood of foreclosures and distressed selling, which were a product of rapid house price appreciation not entirely supported by economic fundamentals. In today’s market, nominal house price

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Sir Roy Strong is leaving his Herefordshire home after 47 years – and the glorious four-acre garden

Earlier this year, the art historian, writer and landscape designer Sir Roy Strong made a life-changing decision.

He realised that there was nothing more for him to do at The Laskett, his home and glorious gardens in Much Birch, Herefordshire. At 85, it was time to start a new chapter in his life.

Sir Roy, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria And Albert Museum, fashioned the gardens with his late wife, the set designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, from a four-acre field at their home in Herefordshire after moving here in 1973.

Sir Roy Strong, 85, is leaving The Laskett, his home in Much Birch, Herefordshire, after 47 years

Sir Roy Strong, 85, is leaving The Laskett, his home in Much Birch, Herefordshire, after 47 years

Today, they are among the largest private formal gardens to be created in England since the war. They are also, Sir Roy says, ‘about two people who had a very good life together’.

Today we venture into the garden, and the extraordinary life Sir Roy lived with Julia, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2003, blossoms everywhere. ‘She was the only person I ever loved,’ he says.

‘Any coming together of two people always requires a giving up of some things like certain friends who don’t fit in. Marriage has to be a compromise, but the benefits of coming together far exceed anything else.’

Sir Roy and Julia were returning from Austria when she fell ill and she was dead within six weeks. ‘She was marvellous,’ he says. ‘She never shed a tear. We sat down and planned the whole funeral. I remember once she looked at me and said, ‘You have so much to give still.’ It’s a wonderful thing to have said to me, isn’t it?

The former gallery director fashioned the gardens with his late wife, the set designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, from a four-acre field

The former gallery director fashioned the gardens with his late wife, the set designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, from a four-acre field

Sir Roy Strong, pictured with his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman, has lived at The Laskett for half a century and transformed the garden in to a paradise

Sir Roy Strong, pictured with his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman, has lived at The Laskett for half a century and transformed the garden in to a paradise

‘Julia had an incredible sweetness of nature and huge strength of character. She was someone I just loved being with. When I proposed to her – she was 40 and I was 35 – she said, ‘You don’t want any children do you?’ I said, ‘Not particularly,’ and that was the last of it.

‘I married someone who was someone in their own right. She was far more important than me and I loved that. I needed someone who wasn’t just hanging on as Lady Strong. In fact, it was summed up when the letter came saying would I agree to be knighted. I said, ‘Darling, I’ve got bad news for you. I’m going to be made a knight of the realm. You won’t like that, will you?’

Sir Roy pulls a sort of chewing-on-a-lemon face as he imitates his wife, ‘No.’ He laughs fondly.

In Julia’s final weeks, Sir Roy says they went into ‘lockdown’ as ‘all the people she wanted to see for the last time came here.

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How Floor & Decor (FND) Stock Stands Out in a Strong Industry

One stock that might be an intriguing choice for investors right now is Floor & Decor Holdings, Inc. FND. This is because this security in the Building Products – Wood space is seeing solid earnings estimate revision activity, and is in great company from a Zacks Industry Rank perspective.

This is important because, often times, a rising tide will lift all boats in an industry, as there can be broad trends taking place in a segment that are boosting securities across the board. This is arguably taking place in the Building Products – Wood space as it currently has a Zacks Industry Rank of 9 out of more than 250 industries, suggesting it is well-positioned from this perspective, especially when compared to other segments out there.

Meanwhile, Floor & Decor is actually looking pretty good on its own too. The firm has seen solid earnings estimate revision activity over the past month, suggesting analysts are becoming a bit more bullish on the firm’s prospects in both the short and long term.

Floor Decor Holdings, Inc. Price and Consensus

Floor  Decor Holdings, Inc. Price and Consensus

Floor Decor Holdings, Inc. price-consensus-chart | Floor Decor Holdings, Inc. Quote

In fact, over the past month, current quarter estimates have risen from 38 cents per share to 39 cents per share, while current year estimates have risen from $1.15 per share to $1.19 per share. This has helped FND to earn a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), further underscoring the company’s solid position. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

So, if you are looking for a decent pick in a strong industry, consider Floor & Decor. Not only is its industry currently in the top third, but it is seeing solid estimate revisions as of late, suggesting it could be a very interesting choice for investors seeking a name in this great industry segment.

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