Americans with more education are optimistic about the economy. The rest aren’t.

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Entertainment and events have come to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, highly impacting Las Vegas’ work force.

  • A Morning Consult analysis looked at consumer confidence throughout the pandemic.
  • It has a K shape like the wider recovery, with more educated Americans more confident about work.
  • The new stimulus could change this K shape, but may not solve things like delayed rent payments.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupted life throughout 2020, economists debated the shape of the recovery from it. Would it be a V shape, a U shape, or even an L shape?

The answer that emerged was something different: A K shape, in which the well off recover like they’re in a V, and lower-income Americans never recover at all. President Joe Biden validated the diagnosis back in 2020, on stage during a presidential debate.

It stands to reason, therefore, that consumer confidence would follow the same K shape, but the results are nevertheless striking. A new analysis from Morning Consult, looking at consumer confidence throughout the pandemic, found lower-income Americans’ confidence in the economy dropped and stayed low during a slow rebound. Meanwhile, higher-educated Americans confidence rebounded like a V and continued to grow. In every state, people with bachelor’s degrees earn more than people without bachelor’s degrees.

John Leer, an economist at Morning Consult and the author of the analysis, told Insider that over the summer, people with bachelor’s degrees felt more confident that in their ability to hold onto their jobs and not lose pay.

The story was the opposite for others. At that point, Leer said, there’s a “real realization among lower-income workers that while they may have been able to hold onto their job to date, they’re much more likely to suffer a loss of pay or income sometime in the future.”

That divide only grew more K-shaped as the pandemic continued. A few months later, Leer said, those higher-educated workers’ confidence in their ability to hold onto their jobs translated into a willingness to engage in wage bargaining; they pushed for increases in their pay and benefits.

“The exact opposite” was true for lower-income Americans.

“If they had managed to hold onto a job, they certainly were not in a position to ask for an increase in salary or benefits,” Leer said.

He added: “What you see over the course of the past year is a really strong divergence in the degree to which Americans exhibit confidence in the economy, in their own personal finances, based on their level of education.”

K shape persists throughout rounds of stimulus

While the size of the first stimulus was “appropriate,” some snags with the rollout impacted confidence. Leer said lower-income Americans were less likely to have bank accounts or to have filed taxes in 2019 – meaning it took longer for the IRS to distribute money to them.

There was a similar phenomenon with states’ unemployment programs and getting money to unemployed workers, Leer said; Insider’s Allana Akhtar and Nick Lichtenberg reported that 35 different states ran into difficulties getting unemployment insurance to their jobless residents.

“As a result, we actually see confidence among those people with higher incomes rebounding a lot faster, because they were both more likely to receive the money they were due sooner, and, in addition, they were more likely to be employed in sectors that rebounded faster,” Leer said.

Notably, checks went out faster with the second stimulus, and confidence and spending grew – although higher-income Americans already had elevated levels of confidence.

“I view the recovery plan essentially as a lifeline for folks who are really struggling right now to make ends meet,” Leer said.

Prior research from Morning Consult found that the $1,400 stimulus checks in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package could help 22.6 million Americans pay their bills through July.

But when it comes to the K-shaped recovery, we’ll probably get a sense of how that’s playing out in September or October, according to Leer; it’ll mostly depend on what job recovery looks like.

“The gap in the so-called K-shaped recovery will depend on getting lower income and less well-educated workers back to work,” Leer said.

There’s also broader issues around what Leer calls “deferred liabilities” – the rent and mortgage payments that millions of Americans haven’t been able to pay over the past year. While the American Rescue Plan does offer billions in housing assistance, some progressives are saying it’s not enough to close the gap. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota just introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act; she said that, currently, 12 million Americans owe $6,000 in back-rent on average.

To address this, Leer says “we have to be very honest with ourselves.” He said he would take an approach similar to a financial institution with someone who can’t pay back their debt.

“You’ve got to make some sort of calculated decision as to whether or not it’s reasonable to ask somebody to pay back what they owe,” Leer said. There could be families, he said, who haven’t been able to pay their rent for 12 months – and may not be able to for the whole pandemic.

“That sort of debt overhang is gonna slow down the recovery going forward. And I would hope that we as a country come up with some sort of solution to that.”

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US stocks close mixed as stimulus optimism clashes with new virus strain

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  • US stocks closed mixed on Tuesday after Congress passed a multitrillion-dollar spending bill that includes $900 billion in new stimulus.
  • The package, which also funds the government through September 30, includes $600 direct payments, $300 in additional federal unemployment benefits, and aid for small businesses. 
  • The fresh fiscal support locked horns with concerns around a new strain of COVID-19 in the UK. The variant’s emergence prompted several European nations to enact travel restrictions on UK visitors.
  • Oil futures fell as investors viewed the new virus strain as a risk to near-term energy demand. West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 2.4%, to $46.60 per barrel.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities closed mixed on Tuesday as investors weighed Monday’s stimulus vote against the emergence of a new coronavirus strain in the UK.

Congress approved the measure Monday night after months of negotiations over additional fiscal support. The bill, which includes $900 billion in new stimulus, funds the government through September 30. The package also includes $600 direct payments, $300 in additional federal unemployment benefits, and funds for the Paycheck Protection Program.

Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET market close on Tuesday:

Read more: BANK OF AMERICA: Buy these 16 medtech stocks with strong fundamentals that are set to soar post-pandemic

The White House has indicated President Donald Trump will sign the bill. Economists have largely backed additional fiscal support, though the slowed pace of economic recovery and rising COVID-19 cases still present sizeable risks.

“The $900 billion fiscal aid package is months late and will likely fall short of what is needed to prevent a rough winter, but it’s better than nothing,” Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, said, adding the measure will “partially buffer the current economic slowdown” while vaccines are distributed.

Enthusiasm toward the new fiscal support was somewhat offset by reports of a new COVID-19 variant in the UK. Several European countries implemented travel restrictions on UK visitors to slow its spread.

Fears were somewhat allayed later in the day after public health experts said Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines are likely effective against the new strain. Still, the new restrictions and virus fears threaten to tamper down on already weakened economic activity.

Read more: Brooke de Boutray has beaten 99% of her peers over the last 5 years and runs a fund that is up 148% in 2020. She shared with us 4 stocks she’s most bullish on heading into 2021.

Economic indicators also flashed some warning signs. US consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a four-month low this month as surging COVID-19 cases and stricter lockdown measures offset a slight improvement in Americans’ long-term outlooks, Conference Board said Tuesday. The organization’s sentiment gauge fell to 88.6 from 92.9, while economists expected a jump to 97.

The tech and real estate sectors outperformed, while communications-service and energy stocks lagged.

The Nasdaq composite index was lifted by Apple, which extended a late Monday climb following a Reuters report that the iPhone maker aims to produce electric cars by 2024. The news also boosted lidar-sensor producers, as Apple reportedly plans to partner with such firms for its vehicle systems.

Peloton soared after the company inked a deal to buy exercise-equipment company Precor for $420 million. Peloton plans to use Precor’s facilities to boost its manufacturing capacity and cut down on its order backlog.

Read more: A fund manager at JPMorgan’s $1.9 trillion asset management arm breaks down the 6 high-conviction bets he’s making to stand out from the crowd next year – and shares the 2 biggest risks on his radar

Bitcoin rose back above $23,000 after plunging the most in nearly a month on Monday. The cryptocurrency faced pressure after the US Treasury proposed rules that would require exchanges to collect information from users who transfer more than $10,000 to a crypto wallet.

Spot gold erased early gains and fell as much as 1%, to $1,858.97 per ounce, at intraday lows. The US dollar strengthened against all of its Group-of-10 peers and Treasury yields dipped.

Oil prices fell amid fears that the new COVID-19 strain will further cut into demand. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped as much as 2.4%, to $46.60 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, declined 2.7%, to $49.56 per barrel, at intraday lows.

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Read the original article on Business Insider