Category Archives: News

Unemployment Numbers at their Lowest in 50 Years

According to the US Labor Department, the unemployment rate for the month of September 2019 fell to only 3.5% from 3.7% the previous month. An additional 136,000 jobs were added to the economy.

Official portrait of Jerome H. Powell. Courtesy Wikipedia.


There was also additional retroactive good news as August’s figures for job growth was updated to 168,000 instead of what had been reported to be 130,000. Some manufacturing jobs last month while wage growth held steady.


The increase in jobs in September was below what has been the monthly average of about 161,000 for the year, but it was still above the number the economy requires every month to stay in line with the growth of the working age population, which is 100,000. The manufacturing sector lost 2,000 jobs in September, after employing an additional 2,000 workers in August.


Manufacturing has been doing poorly across the globe, but it is less a factor in employment than it has been in the past, since modern economies have been transferring away from reliance on this sector.


Despite the positive news on jobs, however, will probably not relieve the pressure on Federal Reserve head Jerome Powell to cut interest rates. The US Federal Reserve Bank cut interest rates for the first time since 2008 in July, and then did it again in September. The bank would like to keep what is so far the longest economic expansion in US history–11 years—moving forward.

Best Destinations for Business Travelers in the US

Business travelers spend lots of money during their peregrinations for their companies. Global business travelers spent more than US$1.3 trillion in 2017, with China and US businesses the top two spenders. Expedia, the on-line travel agency looked its annual data and discovered that out of a total of 405 million trips made for business by Americans, about 60% extended their stays for fun.


The following three cities were found be the best US cities in which adding a few days to your business stay is the most fun according to small business solutions marketplace Fundera.


In first place was Los Angeles. Strategically situated in one of the sunniest US cities, a visitor can count on great weather, but there is a lot more to LA than sunshine. Gorgeous beaches, fantastic restaurants, non-stop entertainment opportunities and world-class museums are just the beginning of what makes LA such a great place to chill.


What must have been a close second is of course New York City. One of the great cities of the world, despite cold winters and hot/humid summers, the Big Apple is unquestionably the go-to place for an exciting vacation chock-full of an almost endless variety of activities suitable to every taste. From Broadway shows to lovely parks, the city that never sleeps is good choice for an after-work break.


In third place comes Dallas; but it ranks first in US cities not along any coast. This city is a wonderful compromise in its size, convenience and culture. Since it is not a mega metropolis like LA or NY, it might have less by way of choices for restaurants and hotels, but it makes up for that in the calm, cool atmosphere created by a smaller, friendlier and easier to get-around in environment. Not to mention the Dallas airport is a hub for just about anywhere else you might want to travel to in the US.


Fundera says that an average stay in a Dallas hotel is just under $190 per night, lower than in less-populated cities such as San Francisco or Miami. The Dallas Fort-Worth Airport is 20 miles from downtown, but even during rush hour it will only take 40 minutes to arrive.

Banking Guidance for Students

When students head off to college for the first time, it is vital to have the correct checking account for their needs. Credit card companies are fully aware of this and thus offer all sorts of incentives to sign up with them. But choosing the right bank – especially for those who have never done it before – can be a little overwhelming. Deciding whether or not to get a credit card is also very important.

According to Michelle Smith Source Financial Advisors Manhattan CEO, students should not “feel pressured to open a credit card because [they are] opening a bank account.”

Why is this advice being given though?  What are the issues with credit cards, in particular for students?  One answer is: reality.  There are many promises made to those signing up for a credit that are simply not true such as price deals (which turn out to be not such great deals) and cashback deals (also not all that attractive in reality).  When you factor in interest payments and fees the “deals” can actually be the opposite of “a good deal.”

Managing credit cards can be a challenge.  Why would a student – often away from home for the first time – want to be burdened with tracking debts and payments and managing deadlines every month?  Student life should be a fun experience and the only pressure involved should come from studying, not card management.

Also, if payment deadlines are missed, interest rates can spike to 20 percent or even more. Youngsters often get misled into believing that credit limit is their money, when in reality it is money that the bank is loaning you at a very high interest.

So as Michelle Smith suggests, students should not “feel pressured” to get a credit card.  A bank account is different, but a credit card – as noted in this article – is something quite different.

Private Equity Company KKR & Co to Buy Major Stake in China Lighting Company

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, a New York-based private equity firm, says it will purchase a majority of shares of China-based NVC China for US$794 from parent company NVC Lighting Holding Ltd.


The companies announced that they will be creating a strategic partnership in which, when done, KKR will hold 70% of shares and NVC Lighting will own the remainder of the stocks.


NVC Lighting is planning on paying shareholders a special dividend after the deal is sealed, of HK$0.9 (US$0.01) a share. The deal is expected to be finalized during the fourth quarter of 2019.


The investment came from KKR’s flagship Asian Fund III. Since 2007 the fund has invested over US$4.5 billion in Chinese companies.

California Rice Grower Signs Deal to Sell Rice to China

After trying for 15 years to break into the Chinese rice market, a 100-year old family business based in Sacramento has cut a deal to sell its rice in China. In July, Sun Valley Rice became the first US company to sell its rice in China.


“China has been tough to get into because for many years it was illegal to sell our rice there,” said Betsy Ward, president of USA Rice, a national trade association.


Until a 2018 agreement was forged between the US and China, it was illegal for the US to sell rice to China. When that law was lifted over 25 US companies were approved to sell their rice to China. Sun Valley became the first to make a deal.


“We would travel regularly to China to research [the market], attend trade shows and meet the industry players,” said Ken LaGrande, who founded Sun Valley Rice with his father Michael in 2000. “It was a commitment we made as a family to persist. So when the opportunity opened up, we were ready.”


The LeGrande Family has been producing rice in the Sacramento Valley since the 1920s LaGrande’s great-grandfather saw that the area’s climate, water supply, and soil was correctly proportioned to perfectly grow rice. Over the years the family incorporated other parts of rice production into their business, including drying and milling. This business became the LaGrande Family Foods Group. Now the Group is composed of many different operations, including farming, sprouting rice and milling sake.

Rice fields north of the City of Sacramento. Photo Courtesy of Mark Miller.


Almost 20 years ago, in 2000, LaGrand and his father Michael saw an increased market demand for high quality, specialized rice. That is when Sun Valley Rice was born.


“Sun Valley Rice now is a fully integrated arm of the family business, ‘from farm to fork’ if you will,” said LaGrande. “We source rice from 200 farms, or about 10% of the rice crop gown in California. And we handle drying, milling, packaging and marketing of the rice.”


It is likely other rice growers will also land deals to sell their rice in China.


“We have the first sale. But we really hope there will be strong continuing demand for American rice in China, and that allows, in turn, more opportunity for farmers back in California,” LeGrande said.