The Big Crunch


  Thursday, 5 Oct 2017 | 12:07 PM ET

Most Americans are in the dark about their tax bill, but think Trump's plan won't help

Anne Rippy | Getty Images

Most Americans don't know much about President Donald Trump's new tax proposal but don't think it will be in their favor. That's the conclusion of polls run by CNBC since the GOP unveiled the framework for a tax reform bill in late September.

Responses to this week's CNBC All-America Economic Survey suggested that voters lean slightly toward the belief that their taxes will go up under the new plan. CNBC ran two additional surveys that confirmed that belief but found more details and nuance in Americans' understanding of taxes and the framework's effects.

Most people don't even know what they're paying in taxes in the first place. And if you ask them to guess their tax bracket, their answer doesn't match up with reality. Even more strange, our polls found that a lot of people say they haven't heard of the new tax plan or its details but assume it will hurt them anyway.

CNBC commissioned two different firms to run this analysis: Reconnect Research, which conducted a phone survey, and marketing company Fluent, which conducted an online poll. Each company asked slightly different questions, but the overall results matched up.

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  Wednesday, 4 Oct 2017 | 12:25 PM ET

How the Yahoo hack stacks up to previous data breaches

Posted ByNick Wells

With the announcement Tuesday that all three billion accounts were affected by a 2013 hack, Verizon-owned Yahoo became the victim of the biggest overall data breach by a long shot, according to a CNBC analysis of a database of reported breaches.

In recent years, high-profile hacks have been bigger and more frequent. Part of that trend is due to greater use of online storage and social media, as well as the massive amounts of personal data now stored in the cloud. Some is linked to more sophisticated tools being deployed to illicitly access personal information. Theft of portable devices like laptops and unintended disclosures used to account for much more of the data breaches that happened, according to data maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

So far this year, hacks have made up more than half of the reported data breaches, more than any year in the past decade.

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  Friday, 29 Sep 2017 | 3:38 PM ET

Ratings data suggests some people are lying about watching less football because of the protests

Millions of Americans say they've given up on football, but they're probably lying about it.

That's according to a CNBC analysis of polling and ratings data that was released this week.

A new poll out Thursday from Seton Hall University suggested that 29 percent of Americans said they were watching less football this year. Of that group, 47 percent said it was because of players protesting the national anthem. Doing the math, that works out to 14 percent of Americans cutting down on football because of the protests.

On first glance, that might make sense. President Trump made headlines last weekend by shaming the NFL on Twitter and saying ratings are way down.

But that might not be the whole truth. Actual data from Nielsen suggests the total reach of the NFL last week was only down 5 percent versus last year. And this year, there have been a host of other factors that are affecting normal football fans' viewing routines — broad-based cord-cutting and the effects of Hurricane Irma among them.

So that big gap between polls and reality could suggest that people are simply lying to pollsters.

It's a phenomenon that goes back many years, where people say what they think a pollster wants to hear but do something different when they're actually confronted with the choice.

It's been cited as one of the reasons that Donald Trump did better in the election than polls suggested he would.

But something else is going on: While the number of people is relatively steady, the average person spends less time watching. That's really no different from what's happening with other TV shows. We know cord-cutting isn't stopping, and more online services are airing games.

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  Wednesday, 20 Sep 2017 | 11:42 AM ET

Fund managers really love the big-name tech stocks, but hate the rest of the sector apparently

Institutional investors are "underweight" technology stocks overall, yet they still really love big names in the sector like Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft, according to a new report out Tuesday from eVestment, which tracks money manager ownership trends.

The quarterly report showed that as a whole, large-cap growth equity funds significantly went underweight the broader tech sector at the end of the second quarter 2017, the latest period in which data is available. The researchers looked at nearly 7,000 equity strategies from investors like mutual funds and pension funds.

The five most heavily weighted stocks were Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. No surprises there. But the average weight of tech stocks was 28.4 percent, significantly lower than the nearly 31 percent weighting tech has in the Russell 1000 Growth Index as a whole.

The strange disparity serves as a reminder that these five giant stocks don't make up an entire sector, and much attention paid to those big names often takes away from what's happening elsewhere in the sector.

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  Friday, 15 Sep 2017 | 11:44 AM ET

Expect Harvey and Irma to return ... in companies' earnings

Posted ByNick Wells
A destroyed trailer in Key Largo, Fla., after Hurricane Irma swept through the area.
Contessa Brewer | CNBC
A destroyed trailer in Key Largo, Fla., after Hurricane Irma swept through the area.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have faded from the sky, but you can count on them coming up again, this time in company conference calls.

All the big hurricanes live again in the quarters following their landfall in the U.S., according to a CNBC analysis of earnings calls transcripts over the past 12 years. Corporate executives blame the storms for lower-than-expected results, express support for those on the ground and cautiously report the pick-up in spending thanks to relief efforts. For the analysis, we focused on companies valued at $5 billion and more.

Generally, the costlier the hurricane, the more it's mentioned in subsequent calls. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Louisiana in 2005, caused an estimated $133 billion in damages and was mentioned nearly 500 times in the ensuing quarters. Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York City in 2012 and caused major infrastructure damage across the Northeast, caused about $75 billion in damage and was mentioned over 400 times.

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  Thursday, 14 Sep 2017 | 11:56 AM ET

There are hundreds of companies besides Equifax tracking what you do

Consumers finding that their personal data may have been exposed in the massive Equifax cyberattack might be surprised to learn how many companies have access to different bits of their personal information.

The credit-reporting company announced last week that the personal information of over 140 million Americans could have been accessed by hackers between May and July. Why is that number so big? Equifax is one of the "Big Three" credit reporting companies operating in the U.S. TransUnion and Experian are the other big ones.

Their businesses are based on getting customer data from banks, which allows them to track things like whether you've been paying your mortgage, your credit card or auto loan.

They track checking and savings accounts, too, in case you've been bouncing checks. These companies have all the data anybody would need to steal your identity: name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc. And it's all given to them by third parties, not the customers themselves. There's no opting out, though you can take some steps to secure your information.

But it goes way beyond those "Big Three" companies.

There are literally hundreds of smaller consumer-reporting companies operating in the U.S. and the smaller ones are collecting information you might not expect. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a self-reported list of the companies.

Consider Milliman IntelliScript, for example. The company collects information on the prescription drugs you buy. If you've ever authorized the release of your medical records to an insurance company, they might have shared them with Milliman.

Or look at Retail Equation, a company that monitors consumers' return and exchange behavior at retail companies. Company critics say the information collected can prevent legitimate returns from being accepted. Still, fraudulent returns are a big concern for retail companies, costing them billions of dollars a year, company reports say.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment. Consumer-reporting companies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, according to the CFPB. That means consumers can request copies of their reports, though some will charge you for it.

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