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February 23, 2017

Senate prez punts on 2017 sales tax holiday

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg remains noncommittal on whether he’ll back a tax holiday this August after lawmakers opted to forego the popular sales tax hiatus last year, saying yesterday, “Stay tuned.”

Legislators said last year they were unwilling to add to an expected shortfall in fiscal 2017 tax revenues by instituting the temporary break from the 6.25 percent sales tax. In previous years, lawmakers embraced the holiday as a way to boost sales and tax revenues.

Retailers objected that the holiday helps brick-and-mortar shops compete against their online counterparts.

“I think there were voodoo dolls with my head on them,” Rosenberg admitted on Boston Herald Radio yesterday.

A Retailers Association of Massachusetts survey found the lack of a sales tax holiday led to “dramatic drops in local sales and hours worked,” with 86 percent of RAM members reporting lower sales in August 2016 than August 2015, and 75 percent reporting reductions in employee hours.

Asked on Boston Herald Radio what a Magic 8-Ball toy would say about the outlook of a sales tax holiday in 2017, Rosenberg said, “It would say, stay tuned.”

He said state officials should direct their focus toward “getting the federal government to fix the internet sales tax,” which is not collected on all online sales.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s $40.5 billion fiscal 2018 budget proposal includes a plan to begin collecting sales tax from online retailers who do not have a physical location in Massachusetts but do more than $500,000 in sales in the Bay State annually. Administration officials said the move, made through changes to Department of Revenue regulations, is expected to yield $30 million in sales tax revenue next fiscal year.

Stocks slip after record run

U.S. stocks slipped yesterday after their recent record-setting run. Energy companies stumbled, but basic materials makers rose as investors hoped two large deals will win approval from regulators.

While energy stocks fell with the price of oil, most other sectors didn’t make big moves. Technology companies eked out a small gain. They have risen every day this month to reach their highest mark since 2000. DuPont and Dow Chemical rose after Reuters reported that European officials could approve their merger soon. The Dow Jones industrial average made its ninth straight gain.

After an extended streak of gains, investors didn’t make many big moves. They spent most of the day waiting for the minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting three weeks ago, but those minutes contained few surprises. Bond prices rose and yields dipped.

The Dow average rose 32.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,775.60. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 2.56 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,362.82. The Nasdaq composite shed 5.32 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,860.63.

Tesla posts a 4th quarter 2016 loss

Unable to string together profitable quarters, electric car and solar cell maker Tesla Inc. is reporting a loss for the last three months of 2016.

Tesla reported a loss of $121.3 million, or 78 cents per share, for its fourth quarter. It was less than half the $320.4 million loss from a year earlier.

Without one-time items Tesla lost 69 cents per share. Analysts polled predicted a loss of 53 cents per share.

Revenue rose 88 percent to $2.28 billion, beating estimates of $2.22 billion.

Tesla posted its first profit in three years in last year’s third quarter and predicted net income in the fourth quarter.