Trump announces new DOL pick, stocks trade flat on Thursday

Alexander Acosta gets the nod as Labor Secretary after former nominee Andy Puzder withdraws. Acosta has previously been confirmed 3x by the Senate.

FinViz stock heat map for Thursday, February 16, 2017.

WASHINGTON, February 16, 2017 – What a difference a day makes. After the twin blows of Mike Flynn’s suspicious resignation from the NSC and Andy Puzder’s withdrawal as Dept. of Labor (DOL) Secretary nominee, the Trump team formally announced the nomination of private and government sector veteran Alexander Acosta as the administration’s new Labor pick.

CNBC provides more details on Acosta’s bona-fides.

“Acosta is the dean of Florida International University College of Law and was a member of the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB]. He also served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, meaning the Senate previously confirmed him for jobs three times. Acosta, who attended Harvard Law School, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was an appeals judge.

“Trump met with Acosta on Wednesday night, according to Bloomberg and Fox News….

“…If confirmed, Acosta would come into Trump’s Cabinet with more government experience than many of Trump’s nominees, some of whom had long private sector careers. Still, he has some ties to the business world — he serves as the chairman of U.S. Century Bank, a community bank in Florida.”

Looks like Trump’s allegedly incompetent staff has been on the ball here, vetting backup candidates with the right stuff to assume cabinet posts should a previous nominee need to fall on his or her sword. Acosta has already served on the NLRB—a disastrously partisan entity during the Obama Administration, whose misdirection he’ll now be in a position to repair. He’s also been an Appeals Court Judge and, as noted above, has clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

But wait! There’s more! This from a Wikipedia entry on Acosta, who is also referred to as R. Alexander Acosta in some sources:

“Acosta has twice been named one of the nation’s 50 most influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine. He was named to the list of 100 most influential individuals in business ethics in 2008. He serves on the Florida Innocence Commission, on the Florida Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism, and on the Commission for Hispanic Rights and Responsibilities.

“In 2013, the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presented Dean Acosta with the Chairman’s Higher Education Award in recognition of his ‘outstanding achievements, leadership and determination throughout a lifetime of caring and giving back to the community.’”

Bingo! All the right stuff including his politically-favored ethnic heritage. Plus, direct governmental labor dealings when he served on the currently controversial NLRB, used for 8 years by Barack Obama to reward unions for keeping those contributions flowing even as his policies eviscerated union jobs across the nation.

An added plus, as CNBC duly noted: Acosta has been vetted and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for three separate Federal positions over his career. It will be hard for leftist-dominated Senate Democrats to trash this nominee the way they did the hapless Puzder.

Read also: Trading Diary: Yawn. No buying today as stocks flatline

Meanwhile, on Wall Street—Yawn. Stock averages closed in the red by just a hair, clearly digesting MSM reports of a failing Administration (fake news), the Acosta nomination (which broke this morning prior to the official announcement), and the recent and somewhat confusing testimony of Fed chief Janet Yellen. In her appearances before Congress this week, she seemed to indicate the likelihood of a March interest rate hike, then, maybe not so much.

Now, analysts are divided as to whether the increase will happen in March or in June. Not if, but when. Ah, Fedspeak. You gotta love it. Our vote is for an interest rate hike to occur some time in the first and second quarters of 2017. There. That should cover the bases.

We think that today’s nothingburger day on Wall Street is another example of markets going sideways again to digest yet another mouthful of what seems to be a never-ending Trump Rally. You can see today’s uncertainty in the FinViz heatmap illustrated above. Very few bright green (big gains) or bright red (big losses) light up today’s board, while everything else seems mostly a muddle of indecision.

Realistically, all rallies eventually come to an end. We think this one may have a bit further to go before we hit a nasty downdraft. But, as always, Mr. Market will have the final say, and he isn’t telling. Much, anyway. We’re keeping our powder dry.

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