US economy: The best it’s ever been
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - January 5, 2020 - 12:00am

A financial analyst told me that the US stock market has just turned many Americans into multimillionaires in the past year alone with the boom in the stock market. The S&P 500 delivered more than 28 percent in gains, with many blue-chip companies registering record-high performances and biggest gains ever since 2013.

One of the best performers is Netflix whose shares surged to over 4,000 percent since 2009 or a decade ago, which is a clear indication that the trend is definitely toward streaming. The 4,000-plus percent increase in Netflix shares should give one a good idea on how much money several of his clients made, an investment banker said. In the last quarter of 2019, Netflix sales went up above 30 percent with close to seven million new subscribers added to its current global subscriber base of 158 million. 

Nasdaq and Dow Jones also continued their rally in 2019 with strong performances last Thursday – the first day of trading in 2020 – with global stocks also climbing higher. 

Despite fears of a recession in 2019, the US economy proved to be resilient and performed strongly.  The current economic expansion (which has gone on for a record 126 straight months last December and described as the longest ever in US history) is expected to continue in 2020. According to reports, the US finished a decade without entering into recession for the first time ever.  

There is no question about the US economy’s continuing global dominance, as it’s still the biggest in the world with a GDP exceeding $21 trillion and representing 20 percent of the total global output. Analysts credit the steadfast growth rates in the last two years to the Trump administration’s policies such as the lowering of taxes and modest interest rate cuts, as well as increased government spending.  

Economists are also predicting that there will be no recession in 2020.  In fact, many Americans are upbeat and see a more positive outlook this year. For one thing, unemployment, which was recorded at 9.7 percent in 2010, went down to 3.5 percent – the lowest in 50 years – with average pay rates increasing by 3.1 percent and 226,000 jobs created in November alone according to data from the US Department of Labor. The higher pay rates boosted consumer spending, which accounted for two-thirds of US economic activity, thereby fueling growth and expansion. 

One other development that is driving positivity is the easing of the US-China trade war tensions with a “phase one” trade deal expected to be signed on Jan. 15. Among the agreements being ironed out include the rollback of tariffs, intellectual property as well as technology issues, and increased agricultural purchases which will benefit American farmers.

The financial analyst I spoke with is not at all a Trump fun, but he admits the ultimate beneficiary of all these positive developments would be President Donald Trump, whose job approval rating in the latest Gallup poll went up six percentage points to 45 percent, the same number as his 2017 inaugural. The analyst also concludes that more Americans believe in free enterprise rather than having a socialist state like what some Democratic candidates are advocating.

The impeachment does not seem to have too much impact as support for it has gone down, with many seats allocated for the public left empty during the impeachment at the House chamber. A number of political analysts are of the strong belief that Donald Trump will be reelected as his base continues to rally and remain solidly behind him.  

The number of Democratic candidates vying for nomination has gone down to 14, but this is still a wide field to choose from, driving a lot of indecision among Democrats. Nonetheless, the latest surveys so far indicate that Donald Trump could win the presidential election over the Democratic frontrunners such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg if elections were held today.

No visa requirement for US citizens

We received a number of inquiries at our consulates from Filipino-Americans who want to know if they will be affected by the plan of the government to impose a visa requirement on US citizens who want to visit the Philippines.

We would like to assure members of the Filipino-American community and our American friends that there is no visa requirement as of today, and hopefully, no such requirement will be forthcoming in the future. So that means US citizens, even the naturalized ones, can come for 21 days without a visa. If you are Filipino with dual citizenship, you are more than welcome to visit the Philippines anytime. Things may change but I am confident our relationship with the United States will continue to be strong and vibrant.

For the record, the DFA has issued a statement saying that it will “continue to coordinate with its counterparts in the State Department and the US embassy in Manila to discuss the issues publicly raised with respect to the implementation of the US Appropriations Act 2020. We hope to have a better understanding of the elements of Section 7031(c) of the US Appropriations Act 2020 with respect to Senate Report 116-126 in the coming days. While President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has ordered a ban on entry to the Philippines of some US Senators, the DFA assures the public that there is no directive that has been issued imposing general visa requirements on US citizens traveling to the Philippines.”

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