There are two words that sum up Wall street's mood for first quarter earnings: Cautiously optimistic.
"I think that's the right way to put it," says Alec Young, a global equity strategist with S & P Capital IQ. He forecasts 4 percent growth in profits overall in sectors like housing, telecom, and consumer staples.
But after a few years of strong profit growth, S&P 500 companies are making more sober predictions.
"84 companies have actually lowered their expectations for first quarter earnings," says Tim Ghriskey, who works with the investment management firm Solaris Group. He says we've seen a pattern appear over the last two years. A strong first quarter and a weak second.
"In terms of first quarter earnings, optimistic. In terms of second quarter earnings, more cautious."
Cautiously optimistic -- at least until companies feel the effects of the sequester budget cuts.
Immigration is expected to be front and center when Congress returns from its spring break this week. A bill could be introduced in the Senate any day now. One of the hallmarks of the plan is a deal to bring in more low-skilled guest workers, but thre are sticking points.
The biggest one centers around how many visas we need for low-skilled guest workers -- immigrants who work in restaurants or construction. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor leaders hammered out an agreement on that question, capping visas for construction workers at 15,000.
Jeff Shoaf of the Associated General Contractors of America says that’s not nearly enough.
“15,000 equates to about 0.25 percent of total construction employment today," he explains. "That seems like an extremely small number to be your cap.”
Shoaf wants more construction worker visas, a higher cap. He’s going to lobby hard for it.
Tom Snyder will be on the other side of the debate. Synder, the point person for the AFL-CIO on immigration, wants to limit construction worker visas to be sure Americans get the first crack at new jobs that open up.
“We want to be sure there’s true labor market shortages before you admit new workers in," he says.
Especially, Snyder says, when the unemployment rate for construction workers right now is double the national average.
Gun-rights advocates are increasingly arguing that they need weapons to protect themselves from the government. They say that's what the Second Amendment is really about. Now some elected officials seem to be playing off those fears.
Former al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was captured by U.S. officials in February. His arrest is significant, analysts say, because the Obama administration has decided to try him in a federal court instead of using a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Right now, children are central to campaigns on gun control, immigration and same-sex marriage — demonstrating their effectiveness as political messengers. Politicians know that on almost any issue, kids can make an argument more compelling.
Technological advances now allow Vermont's maple syrup producers to get twice as much sap per tree, meaning more syrup and more money. Statewide, the crop brought in $40 million last year, double its value from just six years ago.
As car sharing continues to gain traction among American drivers, Car2Go is one company benefiting from the changing way we use cars. Economics and environmental concerns are spurring the market, as is the idea that cars are tools, not symbols of power or status.
Today's devices are smaller and much more powerful than they were 20 years ago. New advances in technology can't solve all hearing problems, but they've improved many aspects of life for people with hearing loss.