Monday, August 31, 2015

What the recent S&P 500 drop and sell-off means


Melissa Gerhardt, CFP®, Financial Advisor
Legacy Planning Partners
3440 Hamilton Blvd
Allentown, PA 18103
Phone: 484-765-9100 x 308

Over the last week U.S. stocks, as represented by the S&P 500, have approached correction territory defined as a ten percent drop from its peak plus a large sell-off in Chinese equities.
The Shanghai Index was up 135 percent over the last year and, after the sell-off, is still up 45 percent, leading some to believe there may be a bubble.  The devaluation of the Yuan signaled to the market that the Chinese economy might not be as strong as most believed.  Many believe that China is still growing, though, and they have implemented monetary easing to add support.  Unfortunately, this has caused some spill over through-out the global markets.
The activity in the Shanghai index has had a negative impact on the U.S. equity markets, as represented by the S&P 500.  The S&P 500, though, has roughly tripled since 2009.1 This included the last correction in 2011.  Prior to this pullback, the S&P 500 had seen over 1400 days without a 10 percent decline.2
This type of pullback is normal and not unexpected.  Keep in mind that since 1900, there have been 35 corrections.  The U.S. appears to be on firm footing as GDP was most recently estimated at 2.3 precent, unemployment still falling to 5.3 percent and U.S. stock valuations are now at even more reasonable levels.

Generally, short-term market moves and volatility should not impact investors’ long-term strategies. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lehigh Valley Fast Facts









Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director
Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board Inc.

The Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board Inc. is your expert in labor market information.  This week we are providing the Lehigh Valley Fast Facts.  Fast Facts are a quick snapshot of the regions different labor market and economic datasets.

Businesses can benefit from reviewing:
  •             Labor Force Statistics
  •             Unemployment Compensation Statistics
  •             Industry Highlights- growth and decline for industries
  •             New Hire statistics
  •             Industry gains and losses
  •             And more……

(click above) 

For more information please contact the PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley Business Engagement Services Team (BEST) at 610-841-1006.

Monday, August 17, 2015

What Business Owners need to know about EMV Technology

By Jason Grim, Lyoness Representative

Does your business regularly accept payments from magnetic stripe debit or credit cards?
If yes, then you know the fraud risks you are taking with every purchase. Credit card fraud has been perfected and nowadays far too common, putting consumers and businesses at risk. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 37 percent of fraudulent transactions in 2014 were from counterfeit credit cards, and 23 percent from cards that were either lost or stolen. With debit and credit cards making up the vast majority of consumer transactions, new technology needs to be implemented in order to safeguard our swipes.

What is EMV? 
EMV is a worldwide standard for credit and debit card payments based around the use of chip card technology.  The acronym stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, who collaborated to create the technology. At its simplest, it is a technological advancement in credit cards that implements a microchip instead of a magnetic stripe, providing stronger security for a reduction in fraudulent transactions. These fraud-preventing microchips reside inside a payment card that are read by the payment terminal. The chip technology adds one of the most important payment transaction benefits – enhanced fraud protection. The data on the chip ensures the card is authentic and requires the user to enter a PIN number as an added layer of protection ensuring that the person presenting the card is the rightful cardholder. Each chip contained in the card generates an original and unique code for each transaction. The unique identifier makes it easier to track transactions and identify fraud. EMV microchips are virtually impossible to counterfeit. Even a lost card is unusable without the PIN number.
Why should business owners care?  
EMV deployment in the U.S. is estimated to eliminate 95 percent of lost/stolen credit card fraud. By October 2015, there will be a liability shift.  While most card fraud is today absorbed by the bank or issuer, the party that has not adopted chip technology by that time will be responsible for the cost of the fraud. Merchants’ equipment will need to be updated in order to accept payments from EMV cards. If the equipment isn’t updated, the company could lose out on business and/or be held liable for any potential fraudulent activity. Meaning, business owners can be responsible for any fraud that occurs from processing magnetic stripe cards and any fines.

EMV at the Point-of-Sale
EMV fraud reduction technology protects merchants against losses from accepting counterfeit and lost or stolen payment cards at the point-of-sale.  You gain powerful advantages when you accept chip enabled cards.  By updating your POS system to accept contact and contactless
chip payments, you are taking steps to build a future-proof infrastructure that will support emerging payment innovations and reduce risk.

Business owners should make sure their equipment is updated. When you shop at large scale retailers and box stores you will notice the changes are being made to their terminals to be ready for this shift in payment processing.

Migration to the EMV technology in the U.S. will help:
·         Ensure that only the rightful owner can use the chip card, protecting against lost or stolen card fraud
·         Protect data on the chip against unauthorized changes, minimizing the chance of counterfeit fraud
·         Enable U.S. cardholders to use their secure chip cards anywhere in the world

Smart businesses are always looking for cost-effective ways to adopt new technology.  With EMV capable terminals and peripherals, you can reach beyond PIN debit, and future-proof your point-of-sale investment with all-inclusive consumer-facing devices—it’s fast, flexible, and more secure.
There are many solutions for EMV capable equipment. If you are interested for answers to your questions in working toward a solution for your business, please contact Jason Grim via email at jasongrim10@gmail.com





Saturday, August 15, 2015

Impact of the re-entry of ex-offenders into our community!



Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board, Inc.

The Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board  and The Chamber hosted Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel on Friday, July 10 at Northampton Community College, Fowler Family Southside Center.

Secretary Wetzel reported that in PA there are 26 institutions with 50,756 inmates at a cost of $102.10 per day/$37,267 per year for every inmate with a recidivism rate of 60%! This is one out of every 212 people in PA!

He reviewed programs  in effect to address the root causes of the high recidivism rate, noting that 50% lack a  high school diploma; 70% have substance abuse issues, and over 20% have mental health diagnoses.  Addressing these problems through education, treating addiction, and mental health issues is a top priority for his Administration.   “We are being strategic about the vocational education we are providing, focusing on training programs in areas where there are workforce gaps throughout Pennsylvania”.

The Lehigh Valley Workforce Development  Board,  Northampton County, the Chamber and the Society For Human Resource Management partnered on a $500,000 proposal to the U.S. Department of Labor called Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) to decrease the recidivism rate by providing  job readiness services through PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley for inmates while incarcerated at Northampton County jail.

I greatly appreciate your support as we continue the discuss the impact of the re-entry of ex-offenders  into our community.

For more information on benefits for employers who hire ex-offenders, please call
610-841-1006.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Chamber's Board of Governors votes to accept State Pension Reform Statement


By Jeffrey Berdahl, of Regan, Levin, Bloss, Brown and the Chamber's Tax and Regulatory Committee


On June 22, The Chamber’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to accept the State Pension Reform Statement written by a subcommittee of the Tax & Regulatory Committee.  With an unfunded pension liability of $50 billion, Pennsylvania has the second most underfunded pension system in the country.  Covering this shortfall could involve raising taxes, cutting government services, or putting the burden on current employees.

The Chamber supports solutions that would have the following features:
• Protect taxpayers from tax increases to meet the state’s obligations to public employees
• Do no harm to current retirees
• Respect current employees
• Incorporate best practices from other states

Specifically, The Chamber supports proposals that would:
• Put new employees, including newly elected and re-elected legislators into a defined contribution plan
• Seek voluntary concessions from unions
• Consider all the benefits retirees receive (e.g., health insurance)
• Raise the retirement age and offer reduced pensions  for employees who voluntarily retire early
• Require school districts and related entities to set aside reserves to prepare for known rate spikes
• Consider all options to mitigate and reduce future liabilities, including, but not limited to, reducing the rate multiplier for all new hires
• Provide flexibility for changing market conditions and actuarial assumptions
• Coordinate benefits of multiple pensions
• Place restrictions on lump sum pension distributions when the plan is underfunded.
• Create a Commission to provide oversight,  make recommendations and evaluate ROI, management fees and performance

The statement is intended as a living document to be amended as needed. We implore the legislature to act quickly on this issue and to consider these features as it works to resolve the crisis.

Many thanks to the subcommittee members for crafting such a thoughtful statement. Full text is available at LehighValleyChamber.org.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Could Healthcare Age Rating Methods Cause Age Discrimination?


By 
Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, esquire, King, Spry, Herman, Freund, & Faul, LLC and chair of the Chamber's Public Policy Committee

 ON YOUR RADAR! Could Healthcare Age Rating Methods Cause Age Discrimination?

At a recent Healthcare Committee meeting of Public Policy, there was much discussion about how New Age Banded Rating Methods are raising concerns that they may create discrimination against employees, young and old, as a result of Age Rating Methods in Health Insurance for employers.

According to Rocky Gencarelli of Meiers Insurance, the “Small Group” definition is expanding in 2016 to include employer groups with 51-99 employees, which pulls them into the age banded rating equation. Today, this applies only to groups with 1-50 employees, which means employer groups that haven’t had to deal with these issues before will need to address potential discrimination and price increases.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Small Group is defined by State Legislation and the definition is based on the average total number of employees wherein all W-2 eligible employees are counted per pay period and divided by the total number of pay periods for the average number of employees calculated using the prior calendar year. With this type of definition, a carrier may not discriminate on gender, but the carrier may discriminate on age, as this is aged-based and assessed by member level rates in individual and insured small group markets. This may give employers a reason to discriminate based on age of a particular employee, however, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers will need to be mindful so as to abide by the law in their hiring and firing strategies as a result of this issue.

Rocky recommends the following article from Life and Health Magazine, which defines the implications of the expanded definition. www.lifehealth.com/aca-redefines-small-groups/


Since this may impact our members, and since it does not seem to be currently on our Legislature’s radar, it is important to highlight this potential issue to ensure that Small Group rating changes do not, in fact, have a reverse effect, giving employers a reason to discriminate against older employees to offset health insurance costs.