🎓 Student loan forgiveness limbo

Monday, December 12, 2022 by Snacks
Supremely high tuition problems (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

Supremely high tuition problems (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

Supremely high tuition problems (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

Supremely high tuition problems (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

Last Week’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
33,476 (-2.77%)
S&P 500
3,934 (-3.37%)
11,005 (-3.99%)
$17,163 (+0.41%)

Hey Snackers,

South Korea is known for incredible skincare products, but now the country has found an antiaging solution that’s more effective than 20-step moisturizing routines: pass a new law that makes all citizens officially younger.

The Dow had its worst week since September after strong job data + higher-than-expected November wholesale prices raised fears of longer-lasting rate hikes. This week, investors have eyes on November consumer price #s and the Fed’s rate meeting.


1. Student loan forgiveness is in SCOTUS’s hands as Biden’s plan hits roadblocks

Candy or coal… Student loan borrowers are holding their breath to see if they’ll actually get loan forgiveness in the new year. Refresher: a few weeks before midterms, President Biden announced that the Education Department would forgive $10K in federal loan debt for people making under $125K/year and $20K for Pell Grant recipients.

  • The plan would cost the US $400B and cover most of the 45M borrowers who owe $1.6T in loan debt (with 15M getting fully absolved).
  • The hold-up: Six GOP-led states brought a case against the plan, and the US Supreme Court agreed to take it after the DOJ asked it to reverse an injunction that blocks the program from taking effect.
  • The status: On pause. 26M borrowers have already applied for relief and some have been approved, but servicers have been blocked from canceling loans. Borrowers who haven’t yet applied currently don’t have the option. Meanwhile, loan payments have been paused since March 2020.
  • Next steps: SCOTUS is set to hear arguments in February to help it decide whether the forgiveness policy is an overreach of executive power or if it causes harm to plaintiffs. Some experts think the conservative-majority court will rule it as unconstitutional.

Ball’s in your Court… As the final arbiter, SCOTUS’s charge is to uphold and interpret the Constitution. Historically, the court has typically ruled in line with public opinion. But in a recent Economist-YouGov poll, 51% of respondents said they support Biden’s relief plan while 40% were opposed. Critics worry it’ll exacerbate inflation and penalize those who’ve already paid off debt. Supporters say it’ll help money-strained Americans get by — while progressives want cancellation of all $1.6T in student debt.


Student loans are a Sisyphean struggle… Just as the mythical Sisyphus had to roll a boulder uphill only to have it roll down again for eternity, loans will keep piling up forever unless a key issue is resolved: college (in)affordability. One-time forgiveness would be a much-needed relief for millions, but it won’t fix the long-term problem: college tuition has jumped 5X more than inflation in the past half century.


2. Coming up this week...

Broken (rate) record… Investors grew antsy last week after strong labor-market data stoked fears that the Fed could continue hiking interest rates well into next year. Refresher: America’s central bank is expected to raise rates by a half percentage point on Wednesday, a slowdown from the past four “jumbo” hikes of 75 basis points. Inflation has started to ease, but a still hot jobs market coupled with resilient spending could prompt Fed Chair Powell to lengthen his rate-hiking campaign. That could boost the likelihood of financial pain next year.

Never-ending soup and salad… none of the clean-up. Dining out is having a moment as uneven food inflation makes eating at restos a relative bargain compared to cooking at home. That could benefit Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants, which also owns LongHorn Steakhouse. In its last reported quarter, the faux-Italian icon saw sales rise 6% from last year, but still disappointed expectations. We'll see whether there’s a festive light at the end of the breadstick when Darden reports Friday.

Zoom Out

3. Stories we’re watching...

A fresh breath… Zero Covid is becoming a little less zero. Last week, China started loosening strict Covid rules that had kept the country in alternating states of lockdown for nearly three years. The decision followed rare public protests and economic turmoil (think: shuttered businesses, slowing growth, and disruptions to Foxconn's key iPhone-assembling factories). Now China’s scrapped most testing and quarantine requirements. But its socially distant policies may’ve contributed to low immunity, and experts fear outbreaks could surge again.

Fillin’ up the tank… all the way to the top. Last week, crude-oil prices hit their lowest level of the year as global demand slipped. Despite OPEC production cuts in October and Europe’s Russian-oil ban, investors have been skeptical about buying the energy dip with recession fears looming. Meanwhile, natural-gas prices are down more than 35% since August, as warmer winter weather and inflated utility bills keep people from cranking the heat. Still, if OPEC keeps extending output cuts (or China demand rebounds), it could drive prices higher down the road.


4. Last week's highlights...

  • Shop: Walmart's CEO said a rise in shoplifting could lead to price hikes and store closures. Retailers like Target are bulking up security after losing hundreds of millions from organized retail theft.
  • CGPT: OpenAI’s impressive new chatbot is causing shock, awe, enthusiasm, and concern (think: that it’ll replace creative labor and kill homework). Meanwhile, the “generative AI” industry is booming.
  • Fly: Delta agreed to boost pilots’ pay in a $7B+ deal that could end years of contract negotiations — and pressure rivals to hike wages. It could have consequences for airlines if travel demand sinks.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Chic: As more gamers glam up their avatars in the metaverse, digital fashion retailers are gaining attention with everything from $5 rose-covered bucket hats to $1.5K intergalactic gowns.
  • AI-rt: Photo-editing app Lensa is taking off as people spend $7 for customized AI art (think: Van Gogh-style self-portraits). But critics say the bot-generated images exploit the work of millions of unpaid artists.
  • Play: It could be the beginning of streaming price hikes: to meet investors' growth expectations, streamers are laser focused on boosting revenue, both from subs and ads (think: Netflix’s new tier).

Snack Fact of the Day

The US is the world’s largest producer, consumer, and exporter of corn

This Week

  • Monday: Earnings expected from Oracle and Coupa Software
  • Tuesday: November consumer price index. Earnings expected from Braze
  • Wednesday: Fed rate hike meeting. Earnings expected from Lennar, Trip.com, and Planet Labs
  • Thursday: Jobless claims. Earnings expected from Adobe and Jabil
  • Friday: Earnings expected from Accenture, Darden, and Winnebago

Authors of this Snacks own: shares of Delta, Disney, and Walmart

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