Homeowners and renters that you should know

download-31Peak hurricane season runs from mid-August to late October, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a homeowner or renter, you may wonder, “Do I have enough insurance protection to withstand a potential hurricane?”

Unfortunately, you might not want to hear the answer.

Like any responsible homeowner, you’ve got a standard homeowners insurance policy. And even though most policies offer a wide range of protections, hurricanes may only be partially covered.

When purchasing a home insurance policy, you want enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home if it is destroyed by a covered peril. Remember, this is the cost to rebuild your home, which isn’t the same as what you originally paid to purchase it.

Not sure if you have enough dwelling coverage? Use a home insurance calculator to help estimate your home’s replacement value and then compare it to the amount of coverage on your policy.

If you live in an apartment, your building is likely covered by your landlord’s policy. It’s up to you, however, to purchase protection for the items in your apartment.

The perils covered by your policy depend on your specific policy and provider. Generally, wind, lightning and hail damage — all common during hurricanes — are included as covered perils. Water damage, however, can be a different story.

Flood insurance is extra

When it comes to water damage, matters can get a little complicated in regards to home and renters insurance. Standard home insurance policies often include some coverage for water damage — if a pipe breaks, for example. But if your home is damaged by flooding, you’ll be in trouble without a flood insurance policy.

With hurricanes bringing powerful storm surges and excessive rain, flooding is common — thinkSuperstorm Sandy from late October 2012. If a flood damages your house, you could be out a lot of money.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, just a few inches of flood water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. The program’s website, FloodSmart.gov, lists hurricanes as a common but often overlooked cause of flooding. If you weren’t already required by your mortgage lender to purchase a flood policy, you can do so through the NFIP.

RELATED:Hurricane season could bring 10 to 16 named storms this year

Suppose a hurricane hits your house, causing wind damage. Now you’ve got to file a claim, but you might find out your policy treats hurricanes differently than other perils. In fact, it might even have aspecial deductible for them.

A deductible is the amount you agree to pay out-of-pocket toward a claim. Common deductibles are $500 or $1,000. The deductible has an inverse relationship with your premium — all other things being equal, higher deductibles generally result in lower premiums. However, be sure you can afford your deductible if you need to pay it.

Many home insurance policies on the East Coast have hurricane or wind deductibles. Unlike traditional deductibles, hurricane and wind deductibles are set at a percentage of the home’s value. For example, if your home’s insured value is $300,000 and the hurricane deductible on your policy is set at 3 percent, you would pay $9,000 out-of-pocket before your insurer would step in.

Hurricane and wind deductible details and percentages vary depending on your provider and the state you live in. If you aren’t sure whether you have a hurricane deductible, call your insurer to check the details of your policy.

RELATED: Prepare your pet for disaster with a stylish emergency pack

Besides flooding, there may be other coverage gaps lurking in your home insurance policy. For example, you may not have enough protection for your personal items. Contents coverage is what protects the items in your home, but it has limits — usually 50 to 70 percent of the insured value of the house.

The best way to make sure the value of your possessions doesn’t exceed your coverage limits is to compile a home inventory — a listing, complete with photos and any receipts you might have, of your possessions. In addition to helping you determine the value of your possessions and whether you need more contents coverage, a home inventory can help speed the claims process.

However, there’s another potential problem. Some policies limit payouts for certain high-value items such as jewelry or artwork. Talk to your provider about scheduling endorsements to fully cover such items.

Don’t wait until a storm is in the forecast to think about insurance. Call your insurance provider now and get to know the details and limits of your policy.

Throughout hurricane season and beyond, you want to have peace of mind that your investment is fully protected.

How you can crack the best online

download-32Oil prices fell on Thursday on profit-taking, after markets rallied the previous day on another unseasonal draw in U.S. crude oil stocks helping bullish sentiment from an expectation of an OPEC-led cut in production.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures were at $51.03 per barrel at midday European trading, down 57 cents from their last close. Brent crude futures were at $52.12 per barrel, down 55 cents.

Traders said the moves were a result of profit taking after WTI futures settled at a 15-month high the previous day, fueled by a fall in U.S. crude stocks by 5.2 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 14 to 468.7 million barrels.

“Today we are drifting lower with WTI crude oil finding resistance at $52. The dollar gained some strength during the Asian session which also helped trigger some profit taking ahead of today’s ECB meeting,” said Ole Hansen, Saxo Bank’s head of commodity research.

Analysts at JCB noted that U.S. crude oil stocks have been depleted by 26.5 million barrels in the past seven weeks which was unusual even when taking into account hurricanes that can disrupt oil production and supplies by tankers.

“The counterseasonal nature of the draw is also notable as we ought to be seeing builds on the back of fall refinery maintenance.”

This reduction in stocks in the world’s largest oil consumer has added to bullish sentiment that arose after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proposed to cut or at least curb oil production.

While many remain skeptical about OPEC’s ability to strike and effectively implement a deal at a Nov. 30 meeting, the notion of coordination among the 14 member states has at least put a floor under Brent and WTI prices at around $50 a barrel.

“Speculative pressure is probably what is driving up prices,” said Jonathan Chan of Singapore-based Phillip Futures.

Reuters technical commodity analyst Wang Tao said U.S. oil is expected to break a resistance zone of $51.67 to $52.11 per barrel, and then rise towards $52.78. Meanwhile, Brent oil may stabilize around a support at $52.49 per barrel and then retest a resistance at $53.45.

BMI Research even said it saw “significant potential for an upwards break in Brent towards $60 per barrel… driven by bullish technical drivers and supportive conditions in the broader financial markets,” although it added fundamentals did not warrant much higher prices.

OPEC’s November meeting may agree on a half a million to 1 million barrels per day oil production cut. The producer cartel hopes non-OPEC exporters, especially Russia, will cooperate.

Business Bureau has disowned

download-33For more than 100 years, Wells Fargo has been ubiquitous in San Francisco. The City by the Bay is the bank’s hometown and Wells Fargo is one of its largest employers. There is even a museum in the city dedicated to the stagecoach Wells Fargo once used to cross the Western Plains.

Next week, San Francisco officials are scheduled to vote on whether to cut off business with Wells Fargo, in perhaps one of the most personal rebukes the bank has faced since acknowledging that it fired 5,300 employees for setting up unauthorized accounts customers didn’t want to meet aggressive sales goals.

“It’s disheartening to see our hometown bank was engaged in this sort of reckless behavior,” said John Avalos, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors.

And San Francisco is not alone. California, Illinois and Massachusetts have all taken steps to suspend ties with the bank, one of the largest in the world. Ohio Gov. John Kasich said “Wells Fargo’s culture was compromised by greed” when he announced the state would stop doing business with the bank for a year. “This company has lost the right to do business with the State of Ohio because its actions have cost it the public’s confidence,” Kasich said.

The bank also lost its Better Business Bureau accreditation. The 100-year old organization cited the sales scandal among the reasons for pulling its seal of approval from Wells Fargo after more than 35 years. But the bureau has also has received more than 4,000 complaints about the bank over the last three years and of 107 customer reviews it has received, all but four were negative.

“It means they no longer meet the standards of trust,” said Jarrod Wise, a spokesman for the Better Business Bureau in the San Francisco Bay area. “They no longer qualify for accreditation.”

It is just the last embarrassing episode for Wells Fargo. More than a month after it agreed to an $185 million fine and acknowledged that for at least five years thousands of employees set up sham accounts customers didn’t want, sometimes by moving money from an authorized account, Wells Fargo is still struggling to contain the damage.

Is a Fed Rate Hike Hit Your Wallet

Wall Street may find the need to freak out over whether the Fed is going to raise rates, but for Main Street, the concern is more remote.

That’s because most consumers will feel little impact should the U.S. central bank decide to enact a quarter-point hike. In fact, for 9 out of 10 people holding variable-rate loan or credit card debt, the typical impact will be a few dollars a month, according to a study that credit information service TransUnion released Monday.

“There’s a lot of anticipation about what the impact will be (and) who is really exposed” if the Fed hikes rates, Nidhi Verma, senior director of financial services research and industry insights, said in an interview. “The good news is that the impact will be one that most consumers can absorb.”

To be more precise, a rate hike would hit 92 million people holding various debt instruments with interest rates that depend on what the Fed does. The average impact: $6.45.

How does it work?

Adjustable-rate debt gets affected because it is tied to the prime rate, which immediately moves when the Fed acts. The current prime rate is 3.5 percent — 3 percent plus the top of the range the Fed targets for its overnight funds rate, which currently is 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.

Potentially, the total number of affected consumers is closer to 137 million. But borrowers or cardholders who pay extremely high rates don’t feel the impact, because issuers usually are barred by law from increasing those rates further. However, others will see a quick impact.

Take action now

Verma advises people in debt to take an inventory of where they stand, even if chances of a Fed hike anytime soon seem at the moment to be remote.

“We’re just being proactive,” she said. “It’s important to be prepared and know who these consumers are that may be a risk. … Consumers need to identify and recognize what products in their credit wallet have adjustable rates.”

People who feel they can’t handle the hike should contact their lenders or creditors to try to make arrangements, Verma said.

“Start thinking about budget changes (like), ‘Do I have to spend $5 for my Starbucks coffee,'” she said. “Pick up the phone and talk to your lender. It’s much more profitable for a bank to do that than to let the card go into default.”

In all, TransUnion estimates that about 9.3 million borrowers won’t be able to handle a quarter-point increase. Should the Fed unexpectedly get aggressive in hiking, that number of at-risk consumers would swell to 11.8 million under a full percentage-point increase.

How likely is a rate hike?

The market is betting against an aggressive central bank. Traders at the CME are assigning just a 12 percent chance for a hike at this week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which concludes Wednesday. There is a 55 percent chance of a quarter-point move before the end of the year, with only a minor chance of any more moves through July 2017.

Get a Handle on Your Rising Debt

Take a second and think about how much debt you have — total. Do you know the exact dollar amount? Maybe a ballpark figure? Or do you have no idea?

If the last question hits close to home, you’re not alone. Many Millennial and Gen Z women with debt don’t know how much they owe — on both their credit cards and student loans, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com and the 1,000 Dreams Fund, a national scholarship fund for young women.

That the vast majority of the women carrying this debt are worried about paying it back doesn’t surprise money expert Stefanie O’Connell. She says that coming out of college is so overwhelming that it “induces a kind of paralysis [when it comes to making] any proactive financial choices.” This is especially true for women who are already a little less financially confident — particularly those who are perfectionists. “[That can] lead to the worst decision of all, which is doing nothing.”

If you’re nodding your head because you recognize yourself in that description, here are three steps to take.

Strategize to face your financial fears

“You can’t fix a problem until you know what kind of problem you’re faced with.” says Sienna Kossman, an analyst with with CreditCards.com. To start overcoming your fears, sit down and make a list of your financial hurdles. Once you’ve gotten them pinned down, imagine them coming true and then — this is key — coming up with three to five courses of action for each scenario you’re worried about.

“What you’ll find is the worst case scenario probably isn’t as bad as you think it is,” she says. For example, if you fear not being able to afford the minimum payment on a credit card, three possible solutions could be calling the company to negotiate, researching balance transfer cards and trying to open up another income stream.

“Worry is paralyzing, but when you change worry to action, you take your financial fear and you flip it on its head,” she says.

Start the journey — now — to being financially independent

It’s easy to put off getting your financial life in order until some undetermined future point or a milestone that hasn’t happened yet — turning a certain age, for example, or getting a raise.

O’Connell says she thinks women sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they’ll plan their financial futures once they get married or have children, but she says to plan under the assumption that you’ll have to do it yourself.

“The best way to be prepared is to be your own champion and completely financially independent going in.”

Set it and forget it

One of the best ways to take control of your financial life is to automate it — especially when it comes to paying bills and saving. A number of apps can help with this, like Digit, which gauges how much you can afford to auto-save by tracking your spending habits. It then automatically moves a sum it can see you don’t need — usually between $5 and $50 every two to three days — and offers a no-overdraft guarantee.

Mint Bills, a spinoff of the app Mint, helps users keep track of payments on utilities, credit cards, rent and other bills. And, arguably most importantly, when it comes to retirement? Take full advantage of your workplace retirement plan if you have one, or open an IRA or Roth account of your own if you don’t. Automate your contributions so they come right out of either your paycheck (in the case of a workplace 401(k)) or checking (in the case of an IRA or Roth). Why? Because if you don’t see the money, you won’t spend it.

Travel From Lost Angels

By 2017, Tesla cars could be driving all the way across the country without any hands on the wheel, according to CEO Elon Musk and his vision for driverless technology. The enigmatic entrepreneur also had a few choice words for the media during the surprise announcement Wednesday, accusing journalists of “killing people” by over-reporting Tesla Autopilot crashes, which he described as “basically almost none.”

Having teased a big announcement via Twitter for the past week, what Musk finally revealed late Wednesday was an enhanced version of the electric vehicle’s autopilot software. By the end of next year, said Musk, Tesla would demonstrate a fully autonomous drive from, say, “a home in L.A., to Times Square … without the need for a single touch, including the charging.”

Effective immediately, Tesla will equip all models with a network of cameras and other sensors capable of watching everything happening around the vehicle and making instant decisions on how to respond to potential problems. The new technology is a significant step up from the semi-autonomous Autopilot system now used on Tesla’s Model S sedan and Model X battery-SUV.

But Tesla cautioned that not all the new features will be activated immediately upon the launch of the Model 3, which is expected to occur sometime in late 2017. It first needs to clock “millions of miles of real-world driving” to ensure everything works properly. The maker is clearly hoping to avoid a repeat of the problems of the Autopilot system that has blamed for at least one fatal crash.

Related: U.S. Opens Investigation Into Tesla After Fatal Crash on ‘Autopilot’

Getting vehicles to drive on their own has proven frustratingly difficult — Google, long seen as one of the leaders in the development of the technology, has acknowledged having more than a dozen mostly minor collisions with its prototypes. And Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot has received much of the blame for a May 9 crash in Florida that killed a former Navy SEAL. Several other crashes, including a fatal one in China, are also under investigation, though not clearly linked to the technology.

The Feds approve

But that hasn’t dimmed the broad support for autonomous driving — and even more advanced driverless vehicles — shared by automakers and automotive regulators alike. Just one month ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued the first federal guidelines covering self-driving vehicles.

“This is a change of culture for us,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who has become a vocal proponent of the technology, arguing that it will eventually result in a sharp decline in highway crashes, injuries and deaths.

But journalists could be the ones holding back progress, suggested Musk, saying, “If, in writing some article that’s negative, you effectively dissuade people from using an autonomous vehicle, you’re killing people.”

Musk and Tesla have also come under fire for what skeptics say was an over-ambitious roll-out of the preliminary Autopilot system. California-based Consumer Watchdog has noted that Tesla itself called the system a “beta,” and argued that the carmaker was using its owners to improve the system. That might be acceptable with smartphone software, but not with a motor vehicle, the non-profit organization has declared.

Taking it to the next level

Tesla also plans to have future buyers help it develop the new fully-autonomous system — something known in the automotive and tech communities as Level 5 autonomy. But the Silicon Valley company is taking a more cautious approach this time.

Each new vehicle will be equipped with eight separate cameras, according to Tesla, as well as radar and a dozen ultrasonic sensors that can gather a 360-degree view of the world at distances up to 820 feet. In turn, that data will be processed by what Tesla is calling a “neural net.”

Unlike a human driver, those cameras and other sensors won’t blink, get distracted by text messages or crying children in the back seat. But Tesla will need to make sure they also won’t make mistakes like those that contributed to the May 9th fatal crash. It appears the Model S camera confused a white truck trailer for the bright Florida sky, while the car’s radar thought the truck was an overhead highway sign.

Initially, new Tesla vehicles will have some of their potential functions disabled – including the forward collision warning with emergency auto-braking feature. The goal will be to “further calibrate” the new system and, when Tesla is confident it will work, turn them back on, one at a time, using the maker’s over-the-air update technology.

Lead Over Trump

Hillary Clinton held her lead over Donald Trump in the final presidential debate ahead of the election, analysts said of the Wednesday night market reaction.

“This remains Clinton’s election to lose. Hillary solidified her lead in the polls by staying on message, emphasizing policy prescriptions, and launching several devastating personal attacks,” said Karl Schamotta, director of FX research and strategy at Cambridge Global Payments.

“Trump played his last hand, and lost,” said Schamotta.

U.S. stock index futures held slight gains throughout the debate and added a few points to trade near session highs after the end of the debate, with Dow futures up about 45 points as of 11:13 p.m., ET.

The Mexican peso reversed losses to trade about a third of a percent higher against the U.S. dollar after the end of the debate, with the dollar hitting its lowest against the peso since September 8. The dollar-peso is watched as a proxy on the market perception of the election result.

“I think the market thought Trump scored a few points early in the debate. I think he did very well with the conservative agenda. He said all the things the Republican party wanted him to say… I think the sentiment is, yeah, maybe he has captured a few points but Hillary is still in the lead,” said Ilya Feygin, managing director and senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital.

Pet business

TRILLIONS of dollars of consumer spending have, historically, depended on a few steps. A shopper learns about a product, considers whether to buy it, decides to do so, goes to a shop. If he likes it, he may buy it again. Marketers have long obsessed over each step, and consultants have written treatises on how to nudge people along. E-commerce is already changing the process, but now retailing gurus are imagining a future in which shopping becomes fully automatic.

The idea is that a combination of smart gadgets and predictive data analytics could decide exactly what goods are delivered when, to which household. The most advanced version might resemble Spotify, a music-streaming service, but for stuff. This future is inching closer, thanks to initiatives from Amazon, lots of startup firms and also from big consumer companies such as Procter & Gamble (P&G).

Buying experiments so far fall into two categories. The first is exploratory. A service helps a shopper try new things, choosing products on his or her behalf. Birchbox, founded in 2010, sends beauty samples to subscribers for $10 each month. Imitators have proliferated, offering everything from dog toys to trainers. MySubscriptionAddiction.com, which reviews these services in English-speaking countries, counts 998 new subscription boxes so far this year, up from 284 new ones in 2013. Retailers such as Walmart have followed suit with their own boxes. The scope for such services, however, may be limited. One third of those surveyed by MySubscriptionAddiction.com said they cancelled at least as many subscriptions as they added this year. Consumers, naturally, will delegate purchases to a third party only when they receive products they like. In future, firms that comb purchase histories and search data may be able to send more reliably pleasing product assortments. For now, a consumer who becomes an unwitting owner of toeless socks, which were included recently in a box called FabFitFun, may decline further offers.

The second category of automated consumption is more functional. A service automates the purchase of an item that is bought frequently. Nine years ago Amazon introduced a “Subscribe & Save” feature, offering consumers a discount for agreeing to buy certain goods regularly, such as Pampers nappies. Dollar Shave Club, a male-grooming-products firm, sells razors to subscribers directly, and P&G now has its own, similar service. It is also testing one for laundry detergent.

Amazon is going further. Last year it began selling so-called Dash buttons, designed to be placed around the house to order everyday products—one for Campbell’s soup, for instance, and another for Whiskas cat food (pictured). Investors see this as the first step in its bid fully to automate buying of daily necessities. Already, some manufacturers have integrated Amazon into their devices; General Electric, for example, offers washing machines that shop for their own detergent.

Such services have obvious appeal for Amazon and for big consumer brands. If a shopper automates the delivery of a particular item, the theory is that he is likely to be more loyal. For some brands, the buttons are working especially well: more than half of all the many Amazon orders for Maxwell House coffee in America, for example, are made through the Dash button. Amazon says that across America, an order from a Dash button is being placed more than twice each minute.

But neither Amazon nor the big product brands should celebrate a new era of shopping just yet. Amazon does not release comprehensive data on its automated services, but Slice Intelligence, a data firm in California, reported in March that fewer than half of those with Dash buttons had ever pressed them. One problem may be the e-commerce giant’s prices, which fluctuate often. Another report, by Salmon, a digital agency inside WPP, an advertising group, found that far more British consumers would prefer a smart device that ordered the cheapest item in a category to one that summoned up the same brand each time. That suggests that automated shopping, as it expands, might make life harder for big brands, not prop them up.

Who is scary

Political adviser to Bill Clinton, the former president, famously said that he wanted to be reincarnated as the bond market so he could “intimidate everybody”. He was frustrated by the administration’s inability to push through an economic stimulus for fear of spooking investors and pushing bond yields higher.

More than 20 years later, the world looks very different. Many developed countries have been running budget deficits ever since the global financial crisis of 2008; their government debt-to-GDP ratios are far higher than they were in the early 1990s. Yet the bond market looks about as intimidating as a chihuahua in a handbag; in general, yields are close to historic lows.

In the 1990s “bond-market vigilantes” sold their holdings when they feared that countries were pursuing irresponsible fiscal or monetary policies. In Britain even fear of a “hard Brexit” is only now being reflected in rising gilt yields—and they are still below the (very low) levels seen before the vote to leave the EU in June. Even developing countries with big budget deficits can borrow easily. This week, for example, Saudi Arabia tapped the markets for the first time, raising $17.5 billion—the largest-ever emerging-market bond issue.

Vigilantes have become vastly outnumbered by bondholders with no real interest in maximising the return on their portfolios. Central banks have been the biggest factor in the market’s transformation. After the crisis, they turned to quantitative easing (QE), ie, expanding their balance-sheets by creating new money in order to buy assets. The collective balance-sheets of the six most active (the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank, Swiss National Bank, Bank of England and People’s Bank of China) have grown from around $3 trillion in 2002 to more than $18 trillion today, according to Pimco, a fund-management group. These central banks want to lower bond yields—indeed, the Bank of Japan intends to keep the ten-year Japanese bond yield at around 0%. Instead of acting as vigilantes patrolling profligate politicians, central banks have become their accomplices.

Then there are pension funds and insurance companies, which buy government bonds to match their long-term liabilities. Neither group has an incentive to sell bonds if yields fall; indeed, they may need to buy more because, when interest rates are low, the present value of their discounted future liabilities rises. Banks, too, play an important role. They have been encouraged to buy government bonds as a “liquidity reserve” to avoid the kind of funding problems they had in the 2008 crisis. They also use them as the collateral for short-term borrowing.

Yielding to none

With so many forced buyers, trillions of dollars-worth of government bonds are trading on negative yields. “When you have so many price-insensitive buyers, the price-discovery role of the market doesn’t work any more,” says Kit Juckes, a strategist at Société Générale, a French bank.

For much of the 20th century, bonds were the assets of choice for investors wanting a decent income. No longer. Government bonds now seem to be a home for the rainy-day money of institutional investors. The rules say government bonds are safe, making it virtually compulsory to own them. “It’s about the return of capital, not the return on capital,” says Joachim Fels, Pimco’s chief economist.

If central banks are willing buyers of an asset, that asset is as good as cash for most investors. So like cash, government bonds generate a very low return. Always true of the shortest-dated bonds, to be repaid in a few weeks or months, this now applies to a much broader range; two-year debt yields are negative in Germany and Japan and below 1% in America. Open-market operations, in which central banks buy and sell securities, used to focus on debt maturing in less than three months; now they cover bond yields at much longer maturities.

This new-style bond market has created a problem for those who run mutual funds or who manage private wealth—and who do care about the return. Large parts of the bond market no longer offer the rewards they used to. As each year begins, polls show that fund managers think bond yields are bound to rise (and prices to fall); each year they are surprised as yields stay low. “When your old-fashioned pricing model doesn’t work, how do you decide when the asset is cheap?” asks Mr Juckes.

In practice, such investors have been forced to take more risk in search of a higher return. They have bought corporate bonds and emerging-market debt. And in the government-bond markets they have bought higher-yielding longer-term debt.

A key measure of risk is duration; the number of years investors would take to earn back their money. In Europe the average duration of government debt has increased from six to seven years since 2008, according to Salman Ahmed of Lombard Odier, a fund-management group. That doesn’t sound much. But the longer the duration of a portfolio, the more exposed it is to a rise in bond yields. Mr Ahmed reckons that a half-a-percentage-point rise in yields “would create significant and damaging mark-to-market losses”.

Another change in the bond markets exacerbates the problem: liquidity has deteriorated. There have been some sudden jumps in yields in recent years—the “taper tantrum” in 2013, when the Fed started to reduce its QE programme; and a surge in German bond yields in 2015, for example.

Banks may hold bonds for liquidity purposes. But because they are required to put capital aside to reflect the risk of holding corporate debt, they have become less keen to own them for market-making, or trading. Before 2008, bond dealers had inventories worth more than 2% of the corporate-bond market; now their inventories are only a tenth of the size, in relative terms (see chart).

The most ostentatious Christmas catalogue

What do you get the man or woman who has everything?

Neiman Marcus has a few suggestions, starting with a $1.5 million Cobalt Valkyrie-X private plane in rose gold. There’s also a $93,000 ruby-and-diamond-encrusted Chanel watch or a $100,000 collection of classic children’s books. Or you could buy yourself a walk-on role in the Broadway show “Waitress” (price tag: $30,000).

The newly released Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, an annual exercise in all things excessive, includes more than 700 items, ranging in price from $10 (for a package of six snowflake-shaped marshmallows) to the $1.5 million private plane.

In the mood for a vacation? There’s a weeklong stay at three estates in the English countryside — which also comes with a helicopter trip to a castle — for $700,000. Or a slumber party for 12 at the company’s flagship store in Dallas for $120,000.

Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit distrustful. The luxury retailer says it has you covered, with a $25,000 mattress with a built-in fireproof lockbox.

Extravagances aside, the company says about 40 percent of the catalogue’s offerings are priced under $250. There’s a bracelet made of paper beads for $25 and a stainless steel beer growler for $60.

Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, says those lower-priced items are particularly important this year as high-end retailers struggle to stay afloat. Neiman Marcus has battled slipping sales for four quarters in a row. In September, the Dallas-based company posted a quarterly loss of $407.2 million.

“This is the most democratic Neiman Marcus catalogue I’ve ever seen,” Pedraza said, citing a $35 tube of Dior lipstick. “They know they need to appeal to millennials if they’re going to survive two decades from now.”

The uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election, combined with fears about the effect of Brexit on the European economy, are contributing to general unease, he said.

“Luxury is in a very challenging spot right now,” Pedraza said. “The world economy is flat and young customers are struggling. When millennials as a group have $1.3 trillion in student debt, it’s hard to splurge.”

But that doesn’t mean Neiman Marcus is completely holding back.

The company — which sifts through thousands of submissions in the spring — is offering 12 “fantasy gifts” in all, including “quarterback fundamentals” lessons with four-time Super Bowl winner Joe Montana ($65,000), his-and-hers island cars designed by Lilly Pulitzer ($130,000) and a trip to the Grammy Awards ($500,000).

The Christmas Book began in 1926, when the retailer released a 16-page Christmas booklet to its most loyal customers. Neiman Marcus offered its first “fantasy gift” in 1959: a black angus steer, either on the hoof ($1,925) or cut into steaks ($2,230). It was purchased by a customer in South Africa.