Hamilton Place Strategies, a public affairs consulting firm, analyzed transcripts of earnings calls by publicly traded U.S. companies over the last three quarters. They found that tax reform was the policy issue companies discussed most on those calls with Wall Street analysts — but that mentions of the subject dropped by 38 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. Overall, the percentage of earnings calls mentioning government or policy issues fell from 41 percent to 16 percent. Health-care reform saw the largest increase.
Does this mean that businesses have given up on tax reform this year? Perhaps. More likely, it's simply the result of a lack of action on the tax overhaul. Hamilton Place notes that mentions of tax policy peaked in February just after the Senate Finance Committee advanced Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's nomination and have spiked after other tax-related announcements. So mentions of tax reform on earnings calls could surge again the fall.
One other note about what businesses have been discussing: Calls mentioning President Trump fell by 84 percent from January to late August.
Federal, state and local governments spent about $441 billion on infrastructure in 2017, with the money going toward highways, mass transit and rail, aviation, water transportation, water resources and water utilities. Measured as a percentage of GDP, total spending is a bit lower than it was 50 years ago. For more details, see this new report from the Congressional Budget Office.
The GOP tax cuts have provided a significant earnings boost for the big U.S. banks so far this year. Changes in the tax code “saved the nation’s six biggest banks $3.3 billion in the third quarter alone,” according to a Bloomberg report Thursday. The data is drawn from earnings reports from Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.
We told you Thursday about the Trump administration’s announcement that average premiums for benchmark Obamacare plans will fall 1.5 percent next year, but analyst Charles Gaba says the story is a bit more complicated. According to Gaba’s calculations, average premiums for all individual health plans will rise next year by 3.1 percent.
The difference between the two figures is produced by two very different datasets. The Trump administration included only the second-lowest-cost Silver plans in 39 states in its analysis, while Gaba examined all individual plans sold in all 50 states.
The cap on Social Security payroll taxes will rise to $132,900 next year, an increase of 3.5 percent. (Earnings up to that level are subject to the Social Security tax.) The increase will affect about 11.6 million workers, Politico reports. Beneficiaries are also getting a boost, with a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase coming in 2019.