Thursday,
March 18, 2021

Market recap

Dow Jones

33,015.37

+189.42 (+0.58%)

S&P 500

3,974.12

+11.41 (+0.29%)

Nasdaq

13,525.20

+53.64 (+0.40%)

Morgan Stanley

$83.86

+$1.32 (+1.60%)

Disney

$195.24

+$1.00 (+0.51%)

Starbucks

$110.46

-$0.88 (-0.79%)

Amid evolving news + uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, your financial needs are our top priority. For more information on COVID-19 and your finances click here.

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Top Story

Building Material Prices Surge

Material Supply Chains Struggle to Meet Demand

Construction material prices are spiking. Demand for new homes and home renovation remains strong, so builders are passing these material costs on to buyers. For much of the pandemic, mortgage rates have hovered at record lows. Americans have been buying new homes or have been refinancing and then remodeling. Though interest rates are beginning to rise and analysts expect that the housing market may cool down soon, building material supply chains are still playing catch-up after a year of surging demand and shut downs of sawmills and oil wells last year.

Lumber, Crude Oil, and Copper Prices Climb

The cost of lumber is currently more than double what is typical for this time of year. Lumber is one of the primary costs when building a home aside from labor and land. Crude oil, which is used to make paint, drain pipes, shingles, and other materials, is 80% more expensive than it was in October. Copper, which is used for pipes and electrical wiring, is about 33% more costly than it was in the fall. Prices for other home-building necessities from insulation to bricks to drywall are also surging.

Sherwin-Williams and Other Suppliers Raise Prices

In order to stay profitable as the cost of building materials rises, suppliers are raising their prices. This has translated to higher price tags on homes and renovations. Paint company Sherwin-Williams (SHW) and flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries (MHK) have been raising prices. Builders like D.R. Horton (DHI) and Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) have been doing the same. It’s been an unpredictable year for the housing industry and more changes could be coming, but for the moment many consumers are still eager to buy and remodel homes and are willing to pay these higher costs.

Explaining the Home Buying Process

New to the home buying process? Watch this video to understand some key steps to take to purchase your dream home. From timing to paperwork, we aim to make things simpler.

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UK Uber Drivers Will Now Be Classified as Workers

UK Labor Laws

This week, Uber (UBER) announced that it will classify over 70,000 drivers in the UK as workers, not contractors. As a result, the ride-share company will pay its UK drivers the minimum wage, which is 8.72 pounds (or $12.12). Drivers will also receive vacation pay, access to a pension plan, and other benefits.

UK labor laws are somewhat unique in that there is a middle ground between freelancers and full time employees. Uber drivers will be designated as “workers” and will receive the benefits which accompany this distinction. But they will not legally be “employees” therefore they will not receive maternity and paternity leave or severance pay.

Legal Battles at Home and Abroad

These changes come after Uber lost an appeal with the British Supreme Court last month. The court ruled that Uber drivers are not independent contractors and are entitled to protections. Uber has faced a number of similar legal battles around the world. Until now, the company has fought off regulations. For example, Uber won a case last November surrounding the question of whether drivers should be treated as employees in its home state of California.

Down the Road for Uber

Uber has argued that it is a tech platform used for connecting passengers and drivers, not an employer. Now it must alter its business model in the UK, and it could also have to make changes in other countries soon. Lawmakers in the US and the European Union are considering implementing more protections for gig-economy workers like Uber drivers, which would affect Uber’s balance sheets. In 2020, Uber reported net losses of $6.8 billion. But demand for travel and transportation is beginning to climb again, so Uber may be able to regain strength and share some of its success with its drivers.

Updates on the Return to In-Person Work

Wall Street Plans Gradual Return to In-Person Work This Summer

For over a year, millions of Americans have been working from home. Zoom fatigue and the difficulties of juggling childcare and other responsibilities while working have taken a toll on many. Now, as more people receive COVID-19 vaccines, some companies are making plans for how to bring people back to offices safely. In the financial industry, Citigroup (C) said it will invite some workers back to the office starting in July. The bank plans to bring 30% of its North American workforce back to working in-person over the course of the summer. Goldman Sachs (GS) and JPMorgan (JPM) are also making plans for gradually returning to the office over the summer.

Ford Takes a Unique Approach

While some companies have a goal of returning to pre-pandemic work structures eventually, others are making permanent changes to their policies about where employees can work. Ford (F), for example, is giving employees a number of choices about how they return to work. The carmaker is planning to use a hybrid model for its corporate employees, where people will report to the office for meetings and other collaborative work, but will be allowed to work from home if it makes sense for the kind of work they are doing. In addition to offering flexibility about where work takes place, Ford is also giving employees options about when they work. For example, the company is allowing employees to work 10-hour days for four days per week instead of the typical five-day work week.

Uber and Fox Extend WFH Policies Through September

Several large tech companies including Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) have said that their remote work policies will last until at least July and possibly longer. Earlier this week, Uber (UBER) told its employees that work from home policies would be extended until at least September 13. Similarly, Fox Corp. (FOX) told employees they would not be back in the office until after Labor Day. Workers and teams have shown impressive resilience during the pandemic, finding creative ways to collaborate virtually. But the past year has also demonstrated some ways that in-person communication and teamwork cannot be replicated on a screen.

Not-So-Breaking News

  • The IRS announced that the deadline for filing tax returns will be pushed back from April 15 to May 17. This will give Americans more time to sort out their 2020 tax returns, which might be more complicated than in past years because of unique circumstances during the pandemic. Reminder: use your new SoFi Money routing number when you’re filing your 2020 taxes. Find it in the Money tab of the app under “More.”
  • Morgan Stanley (MS) is giving its wealth management clients access to bitcoin funds. It is the first major US bank to offer this type of service. Individual clients must have at least $2 million in assets at the bank and investment firms need to have at least $5 million to qualify for the new initiative.
  • Disney’s (DIS) two California theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure will reopen on April 30. They will operate at 15% capacity with social distancing measures, mask requirements, and other protocols to keep guests and employees safe.
  • Starbucks (SBUX) announced yesterday that its green coffee will be carbon neutral by 2030. Green coffee beans are the seeds of coffee fruit which have not been roasted. Starbucks uses green coffee extract for its Refreshers beverages.
  • Sun Country Airlines (SNCY), a budget air carrier, had a successful IPO yesterday. This is a sign that many investors expect a rebound for the air travel industry as more people receive COVID-19 vaccines and feel comfortable flying.
  • The home buying process can be confusing. Here’s a helpful guide to all the steps you need to take to become a homeowner.

Financial Planner Tip of the Day

First-time home buyers can be bamboozled by the true cost of buying a home because there’s a lot more to consider than just principal and interest. Before buying a home, you should crunch and become familiar with the numbers for the total cost of your mortgage, including insurance, taxes, fees, bills, furniture, and so on. Only with a good grasp of what each line item will run can you make an estimate about the size of the mortgage, and therefore the home you can afford to buy.

Brian Walsh, CFP® at SoFi

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