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Killer listing: Offers for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” house due on Halloween


Hey horror fans — the house of your dreams (or nightmares) is back on the market.

That’s right, the memorable two-story Dutch Colonial from the 1984 classic slasher flick “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has been listed just in time for Halloween for $3.25 million.

“Hustlers” director Lorene Scafaria bought the property at 1428 N. Genesee Ave. in Southern California’s Spaulding Square for $2.1 million in 2013. So much for slashing the price!

The memorable exterior of protagonist Nancy Thompson’s house looks almost exactly the same as it did in Wes Craven’s first “Nightmare on Elm Street” film, which has spawned a slew of sequels. The slasher franchise follows the spirit of serial killer Freddy Krueger, who wears an iconic glove with knives for fingers to stalk teens in their dreams. The stately white columns and green shingles still grace the portico entry of the home where the plucky final girl famously faced off against Freddy, but the red front door that really stood out in the film has since been painted black. 

Freddy Krueger gives a tour of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” house, which hit the market in Los Angeles for $3.25 million.


Elliman PR (Douglas Elliman PR)

Realtors Heather T. Troy and Learka Bosnak from Douglas Elliman say in their listing that the home has been “lovingly lived in by the current owner.”

“It’s so much fun bringing this house to market during a historic real estate inventory shortage,” Bosnak told MarketWatch over email. “Buyers are worn out. They’ve been looking for a great house, one with enough bedrooms and en suite bathrooms and space to work from home. And here it is, and it’s beautiful, and it’s ready to buy, and it has this incredibly fun movie history.” 

Some highlights of the 3-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom home set on .16 acres include a swimming pool, fragrant citrus trees and a detached guest house, as well as walnut floors, archways, picture windows, and the aforementioned “multiple work-from-home options” in the main house. 

Freddy Krueger gives a tour of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” house, which hit the market in Los Angeles for $3.25 million.


Elliman PR (Douglas Elliman PR)

“We love this property. You walk through the iconic front door and you aren’t on a movie set or in a time capsule, you step into the Southern California dream,” said Roy via email.

The agents even put together a comical video tour of the property, which features someone in a Freddy Krueger costume popping out of the bathtub in the master suite bathroom, or bringing drinks to the ladies by the pool.

“After all of the restrictions of the pandemic, to have something to work on together with our staging designer and photographer and videographer and our whole team, that was so much fun,” said Bosnak. “We haven’t laughed this much since before the shutdown. And knowing it’s going to make a buyer really happy and be a fun moment for everyone who hears about it or gets to see it, that’s really special.” 

Oh, and it should come as no surprise that offers on this piece of horror movie history are due by midnight on Halloween.

Freddy Krueger gives a tour of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” house, which hit the market in Los Angeles for $3.25 million.


Elliman PR (Douglas Elliman PR)

The housing market has been on a wild ride this year as sky-high demand, limited supply and low mortgage rates stirred potential buyers into a frenzy, with some even skipping inspections and appraisals, purchasing homes with cash, or snapping them up sight-unseen. 

The market got so crazy for a time that listings for houses that would normally be undesirable suddenly became hot commodities, such as a “horror” house that was covered with graffiti, which reeled in multiple cash offers above its $600,000 asking price. And a burnt-out Bay Area home sold for $1 million in August. 

Freddy Krueger gives a tour of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” house, which hit the market in Los Angeles for $3.25 million.


Elliman PR (Douglas Elliman PR)

But the real-estate market is returning to a more usual sales pace for this time of year as mortgage rates have climbed, Realtor.com manager of economic research George Ratiu told MarketWatch. “There are still more hopeful buyers than available homes for sale, even as properties are spending slightly longer on the market,” he said.

Read more: As mortgage rates rise, the real-estate market grapples with high prices, supply-chain issues and labor shortages

What’s more, Zillow
Z,
+4.71%
announced this week that it’s pausing its home-buying activities after facing a backlog of renovations and dealing with operational-capacity issues, which raised some red flags about the real-estate market.



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CDC gathers to discuss which patient groups should get Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccine boosters, and Pfizer reports positive results from booster trial


There was a flurry of positive news on vaccine boosters Thursday, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gathered to discuss which patient groups should be eligible for boosters developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

The meeting follows a decision Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration to allow those boosters, marking a big step toward expanding the booster campaign, which started with extra doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer
PFE,
-0.58%
and German partner BioNTech
BNTX,
+5.13%
last month. The CDC will now consult an expert panel Thursday before finalizing official recommendations as to who should get boosters and when, as the Associated Press reported.

The FDA also gave the go-ahead for Americans to get a booster shot of a vaccine that is not the one they received initially. That will formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.

Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions — six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna’s 
MRNA,
+1.95%
booster will be half the dose that’s used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity.

Don’t miss: People who got J&J’s COVID-19 shot will soon be able to get a booster. Which one should they get?

For J&J’s
JNJ,
-0.52%
 single-shot vaccine, the FDA said all U.S. recipients, no matter their age, could get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination.

Pfizer and BioNTech, meanwhile, said early Thursday that a late-stage trial of a 30-milligram booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine showed efficacy of 95.6% compared with those who received a placebo.

The Phase 3 trial involved more than 10,000 people aged 16 and older who had already received the primary two-dose series and found the booster restored vaccine protection against COVID to the high levels achieved after the second dose. The booster was found to be safe.

Also: Some 65,000 more men than women died of COVID-19 in the U.S. through August, and Black men are at higher risk than others, study finds

“These important data add to the body of evidence suggesting that a booster dose of our vaccine can help protect a broad population of people from this virus and its variants,” said Uğur Şahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, in a joint statement with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The companies are planning to submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and other regulators around the world.

The news comes as the U.S. continues to see more than 1,500 deaths a day from COVID, according to a New York Times tracker, although cases and hospitalization are declining. New cases have roughly halved since the start of September to an average of about 76,496 a day.

But as most cases, hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people, experts continue to urge that group to get their shots and avoid dying a preventable death.

The CDC’s vaccine tracker is still showing 189.7 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to about 57% of the overall population and below the 70% needed to stop the spread.

Elsewhere, India has cause to celebrate after administering 1 billion COVID vaccine doses as its program gets back on track after a rocky start, the New York Times reported. But the nation of about 1.4 billion people still has work to do, with only about 30% of the 900 million eligible for vaccination receiving two doses.

Read: U.K. faces calls for ‘Plan B’ with coronavirus cases high and rising

Lithuania news portals have switched off public comments on their articles about COVID vaccines in an effort aimed at curbing conspiracy theories, AFP reported. Some 71% of adults in the eurozone country of 2.8 million people are fully vaccinated against the illness, which is a far higher rate than many of its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe. But infection rates have surged in recent days.

Bulgaria, which has the lowest vaccination rate in Europe at just 25%, is facing protests after the government started to require residents to show proof of vaccination to eat at a restaurant, go to a movie theater or enter shopping malls, the Times reported.

Read: Debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccines shifts to religious exemptions — and what constitutes ‘sincerely held beliefs’

China is seeing a fresh outbreak of locally transmitted COVID cases in a handful of cities, and local governments are doubling down on efforts to track carriers amid the country’s zero-tolerance policy, Reuters reported. Most of the new cases are in northern and northwestern China.

Singapore suffered a record of 18 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, CNN reported, and has extended restrictions for another month. In a news release Thursday, Singapore’s health ministry said current measures would be extended to Nov. 21, to help contain case numbers, which rose by more than 3,800 on Wednesday.

Strict Covid-19 vaccine requirements for workers have sparked protests in Italy, despite support from most people. WSJ’s Eric Sylvers reports from Milan, where the new rules offer a glimpse into the hurdles the U.S. could face when implementing a similar mandate. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP/Getty Images
Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 242 million on Wednesday, while the death toll edged above 4.92 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. continues to lead the world with a total of 45.2 million cases and 731,275 deaths.

India is second by cases after the U.S. at 34.1 million and has suffered 452,811 deaths. Brazil has the second highest death toll at 604,228 and 21.7 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has reported the most fatalities at 223,331 deaths, followed by the U.K. at 139,444.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 109,010 confirmed cases and 4,809 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.



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Five-year U.S. inflation gauge hits highest level since 2005


A gauge of U.S. inflation expectations for the next five years has soared to its highest level in more than 16 years, as investors factor in an increasing likelihood that price pressures will linger into next year.

The 5-year breakeven inflation rate was at 2.77% as of Wednesday, based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That’s the highest level since April 2005, and up from a pandemic low of 0.16% in March 2020.

Traders and investors are focusing on inflation pressures in the runup to the Federal Reserve’s Nov. 2-3 meeting in Washington because of the likelihood that incoming inflation readings will drift higher for the next few months. The consumer price index has risen by 5% or more on a year-over-year basis for five straight months, but seasonal adjustments to the September data may have made the 5.4% yearly pace appear lower than would otherwise be the case.

“Accelerating inflation is likely to force the Fed to raise rates aggressively” next year, said Jay Hatfield, founder and portfolio manager at Infrastructure Capital Advisors in New York. Hatfield said his firm sees a 50% chance of a recession in 2022, and he expects to see high single-digit percentage increases in CPI readings through next year.

Rob Daly, director of fixed-income at Glenmede Investment Management in Philadelphia, says he’s considering the possibility that inflation turns out to be “durable,” but not necessarily “punitive.”

On Thursday, major U.S. stock indexes were consolidating after rallying earlier this week. The S&P 500
SPX,
-0.04%
briefly traded above its record closing level, while Dow industrials
DJIA,
-0.38%
fell by 0.4% or more than 100 points. The Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
+0.29%
traded higher by 0.3%.



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Inside Elon Musk’s Last Silicon Valley Home—and the Weird Reason It Hasn’t Sold Yet


Elon Musk is a man on the move, and not just to the outer reaches of the moon.

The rocket man has listed his last-known San Francisco Bay Area mansion for $31,990,000. But this isn’t this property’s first time on the market. This is actually the third time the palatial home has been listed in the past 17 months—and this time, it comes with a $5 million price cut from before. 

This…



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Nvidia’s top gaming cards are hard to buy, but now you can rent them


Nvidia Corp. has come up with a way of supplying customers with high-performance gaming cards amid a global chip shortage and supply-chain issues: Sell it as a service.

On Thursday, Nvidia
NVDA,
+1.68%
announced that its GeForce Now cloud-gaming platform now delivered similar performance to its RTX 3080-series of gaming cards due to its new SuperPod supercomputer.

The 3080-performance memberships cost $99.99 for six months, while 2080-performance memberships are available for $49.99 for six months. Preorders for the 3080-platform start on Oct. 21 and will be available sometime in November, Nvidia said.

The upgrade comes in advance of the holiday buying season where chip shortages and supply-chain issues have made 3080-cards either hard to come by or available at exorbitant prices well above the starting suggested retail price of $699.99.

Read: Amazon videogame exec on the success of ‘New World’ and why everyone is chasing Roblox

For example, RTX 3080 Ti gaming cards that have a list price starting at $1,199.00 on Best Buy and online retailers like Newegg are listed as being sold out, and were priced up to double the list price when they had been available.

The 3080-service is directed at “core or mainstream gamers,” not so much for professional gamers who rely on the fastest possible performance to make a living.

Latency for the cloud-platform service is about 56 milliseconds, while the latency for a physical 3080-card installed directly on a gamer’s rig is about half of that, Nvidia said.

Read: People are still playing a lot of videogames, but how much?

Nvidia first released its 3080-series of gaming chips more than a year ago, and announced a budget version of the 30-series card as well as a new line of gaming laptops with 3080 chips back in January. Even that budget card, the RTX 3060 that Nvidia lists for $329, has limited availability on Amazon but at no price lower than $750.



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Jobless claims fall to pandemic low of 290,000 as businesses try to avoid layoffs due to labor shortage


The numbers: The number of people who recently lost jobs and applied for unemployment benefits fell again in mid-October to a new pandemic low, as companies shied away from layoffs amid the biggest labor shortage in decades.

New jobless claims dropped by 6,000 to 290,000 in the seven days ended Oct. 16, the government said Thursday.

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had estimated new claims would total a seasonally adjusted 300,000.

Last week new claims dropped below the key 300,000 level for the first time since the start of the viral outbreak in March 2020. New claims were in the low 200,000s before the pandemic.

Companies are trying to avoid layoffs in light of a major labor shortage that’s hurting production and cramping the U.S. economy. Another government employment measure show layoffs are at the lowest level on record.

Read: Fed finds labor and supply shortages are hurting the U.S. economy

Millions of open jobs have gone unfilled even with unemployment still relatively high compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Read: ‘My business faces a dire shortage of workers,’ owner tells Congress

Big picture: The U.S. economy faces a surprising labor shortage even though as many as 14 million people who say they want to work are still unemployed.

Read: When will the labor force’s ‘missing millions’ return? And where are they?

With millions of jobs going unfilled, businesses can’t expand fast enough or produce enough goods and services to meet rising customer demand.

The labor shortage threatens to slow the economy, economists and business leaders say, and prolong bottlenecks in the supply chain that are triggering the biggest burst of inflation in 30 years.

Read: Inflation rises at 5.4% yearly pace in September and stays at 30-year high

Key details:New jobless claims fell the most last week in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

The only state to post a big increase was California. The state has struggled to process a backlog of claims and weed out fraud. It has consistently shown a much higher level of new jobless claims relative to the size of its workforce compared to other states.

The number of people already collecting state jobless benefits, meanwhile, declined by 122,000 to 2.48 million. These so-called continuing claims are at a pandemic low.

Altogether, 3.28 million people were reportedly receiving jobless benefits through eight separate state or federal programs as of Oct 2. The figures are released with a two-week delay.

Some 11.3 million people had been getting benefits before the expiration in September of an emergency federal program set up during the pandemic to make extra payments to the unemployed.

What they are saying? “Given how difficult it is for firms to hire across practically the entire economy, it stands to reason that layoffs should be extremely low,” said chief economist Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities. 

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.43%
and S&P 500
SPX,
+0.37%
were set to open lower in Thursday trades.



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Opinion: The easy way to rein in Facebook and Google: stop them from gobbling up potential competitors


Few of us who have survived the last year aren’t grateful for technology.

Zoom, email, connected workplaces and solid internet connections at home have made it possible to work, shop, study and carry on our lives in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had the pandemic hit, say, 20 years earlier.

But parts of big tech—the parts that track us and drive us to think dangerous and antisocial things just so we keep clicking—are doing us enormous damage.

Although it might seem like we can’t have the best of both worlds—the connectivity without the damage—I reckon we can. But we are going to have to change the way we think about big tech.

The first thing is to recognize that big tech is intrinsically weak. Yes, weak. The second is that it has only become strong each time we have let it.

By “big tech” I mean Facebook
FB,
+0.23%
and Google
GOOG,
-0.98%
and related companies such as Instagram and YouTube (owned by Facebook and Google respectively).

The firms that came before them were indeed weak in the sense that they didn’t have a guaranteed future. Think back to NetscapeMyspaceMSN and all those other monoliths we were told at the time would become natural monopolies.

Terrified of losing its edge

Much of the behavior revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen this past month is that of a market leader terrified it is losing its edge.

It switched what it showed away from news toward posts that inflamed and enraged people in 2018, with “unhealthy side effects on important slices of public content” in part because users had begun to interact less with it.

Facebook knew that “we make body image issues worse,” in the words of one of its memos, but did little to change the way Instagram worked. In part this was because teens spent 50% more time on Instagram than Facebook. Instagram looked like the future.

When engagement on Instagram started flagging, Facebook developed plans for Instagram Kids, seeing preteens as “a valuable but untapped audience.”

Now read this: Under pressure, Facebook unveils new controls for teens using its platforms

These don’t sound like the actions of a company confident of staying on top.

Nor does its initial purchase of Instagram in 2012 when it could have started its own photo-sharing service on mobiles, leveraging all that it had.

Facebook also bought WhatsApp in 2014 because its own messaging platform, Messenger, was losing ground.

It couldn’t grow anything like as big by itself, because when firms grow beyond a certain size they turn sluggish, bureaucratic.

Google got bigger by buying DoubleClick (the platform it uses to sell the advertisements that drive its income) and all manner of emerging platforms including Android, YouTube, Waze and Quickoffice.

They are the actions of a hungry company, but not one supremely confident of staying at the top.

Australian academic Stephen King, a former member of Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission and a current commissioner with its Productivity Commission, says we need to apply special tougher rules to takeovers by companies such as Google and Facebook.

Big tech grows bigger by takeovers

Usually we only block takeovers where the target is big. Instagram and WhatsApp were small. Instagram reportedly had 13 full-time employees at the time of its takeover, WhatsApp reportedly had 55. Yet Facebook paid billions for them.

In the U.S. and the U.K. both takeovers were waived through.

Big tech companies can do things with tiny takeover targets that others can’t. Takeovers can give them access to vast networks of existing users and their data.

As King puts it, Instagram is big because it was acquired by Facebook, not because Instagram was necessarily the best target.

Read more: We allowed Facebook to grow big by worrying about the wrong thing

In Europe the authorities were on to this possibility and approved the takeover of WhatsApp only after Facebook informed them it would be “unable to establish reliable automated matching between Facebook users’ accounts and WhatsApp users’ accounts.”

This statement was incorrect, Facebook has done it, and paid the European Commission €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information.

Had Australia been tougher, had the U.S., the U.K. and the European Commission been tougher, Facebook and Google would be nothing like the behemoths they have become today. They might have peaked and be losing market share.

We are able to say no

Their future is largely in our hands. For big tech companies able to use the weight of their networks (and only for those companies) we could “just say no” to takeovers. It’s hard to think of a reason for one to proceed.

If needed, we could change the law to make “no” the default.

This wouldn’t shrink the companies in a hurry. Most of the users of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like are locked in, because that’s where their friends are.

But where the friends are changes every generation.

Facebook and Google know this, which is why they are so keen to take over upstart competitors and emerging platforms in fields they haven’t thought of.

If we stopped them, we wouldn’t stop them growing straight away, but we would make it hard for them to fight the natural order in which the new and fashionable displace the old and predictable. It’s their deepest fear.

Peter Martin is a visiting fellow in the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. He is business and economy editor of The Conversation.

This commentary was originally published by The ConversationThe easy way to rein in Facebook and Google: stop them gobbling up competitors

More on antitrust and Big Tech

Amazon executives to be questioned about whether they misled Congress

New bills aim at Apple, Google and Facebook as U.S. attempts to catch up to Europe’s Big Tech push

Background: House Democrats introduced 5 antitrust bills aimed at reining in Big Tech



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People who got J&J’s COVID-19 shot can get a booster. Which one should they get?


The 15 million people in the U.S. who got Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine now have the option to get a second shot of their choosing. 

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized a second dose of J&J’s
JNJ,
-0.05%
adenovirus-based vaccine for all adults initially vaccinated with this shot.

The regulator is also allowing people to “mix and match” their boosters, meaning they can pick a mRNA vaccine or stick with the J&J shot for their booster dose. 

The FDA had already authorized BioNTech SE
BNTX,
+2.50%
and Pfizer Inc.’s
PFE,
+1.69%
booster for the elderly, people with underlying health conditions that put them at high risk of severe disease, and adults who live and work in high-risk settings. It issued a similar authorization on Wednesday for Moderna Inc.’s
MRNA,
-0.18%
booster. 

The months-long debate around boosters has almost entirely focused on the mRNA shots and has rarely mentioned J&J’s vaccine. It’s an omission that’s been criticized by some public-health experts — Dr. Leana Wen tweeted in August that J&J recipients, herself included, were being “left out.”

It’s also frustrating for the people who got the J&J shot and have been stuck waiting to see what happens. 

“There’s eagerness among many J&J recipients to be included on the booster train,” said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious-disease doctor and professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “What I tell them is: that train’s coming, and we just have to figure out what it exactly is going to look like.”

Research indicates that COVID-19 boosters are safe. About 10 million people in the U.S. have already received a booster shot, primarily of Pfizer’s vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest news is that an influential study conducted by the National Institutes of Health that came out last week found that mixing vaccines can dramatically boost antibody levels in J&J people who got a Moderna or Pfizer booster. 

But even physicians have different opinions about the best way to boost immunity in those who were initially vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

“I’m not sure that the totality of the science…is going to be super clear and conclusive in terms of saying it’s better to get this to boost than another vaccine,” said Dr. Angela Branche, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Rochester Medical Center who worked on the NIH study. 

Part of this tension has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons for different types of vaccines. Though the mRNA and adenovirus-based shots similarly protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death, the J&J shot has always been less effective against symptomatic infection than Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines. 

“As with anything, you have to see what happens to the immune system over time,” said Dr. Michael Nelson, an immunologist at UVA Health and a member of the FDA’s advisory committee on vaccines. “Although this particular vaccine seems to be lasting a little bit longer than the messenger RNA vaccine, it’s good to be ahead of the curve and not wait for a second signal for people to start getting sick who were previously vaccinated.”

What the data tells us about antibody response and J&J’s ‘durability’ of protection 

The study detailing antibody responses using all three COVID-19 vaccines as boosters found that a Moderna booster for J&J recipients produced the highest antibody levels 15 days after a second shot, followed by Pfizer and then J&J. 

This is important for many people, especially those who are worried about a breakthrough infection that could lead to severe disease. 

But there are also some limitations to the research, which is considered preliminary. There were only about 450 participants, immunity was assessed using antibody titers—T-cell and B-cell responses are also considered important metrics—and it wasn’t designed to compare the different vaccine combinations.

Plus, this round of findings only tracked antibody levels up to the two-week mark, a cutoff that favors the mRNA vaccines, which produce a more immediate immune response than J&J’s shot.

“The mRNA vaccines are very immunogenic. They allow you to push out large amounts of antibodies really early after you get the vaccine,” Branche said. “The J&J vaccine—it seems to be a little bit of a slower climb. But it’s also a little bit of a slower descent.”

The antibody response from the mRNA vaccines peaks at around 14 to 28 days, she noted, but the J&J peak is further out, in the range of 28 to 55 days.

If “we’re only showing you the day 15 results, we might actually not be showing the full picture of what’s being boosted,” she said. 

Will mixing COVID-19 boosters streamline the rollout? 

The science we have right now shows that giving someone a second shot of the J&J vaccine increases their protective antibodies, even though it’s a smaller boost than what you can get with the mRNA shots. 

However, some people will prefer to get the same shot again for various reasons, including continuity or concern about the “newness” of mRNA technology. 

“Having the option to get any of those three vaccines is going to be pretty important, and some may have personal preferences,” Nelson said. “I wouldn’t advise specifically on the antibody response data to definitely get a messenger RNA vaccine for the second dose, although I expect many will because they’ll see that the antibody responses are a little bit higher.”

There is another subset of J&J people, who are frustrated by what they view as a “lesser” vaccine, and who will likely demand a mRNA shot for their booster. 

“People will walk into pharmacies and say, ‘I want an mRNA vaccine,’” Wohl said. “And they’ll say the right words to get one, even though they had J&J originally.”

But there are also questions about logistics that bolstered the argument for a mix-and-match policy. 

Supply patterns may have changed in certain regions, and only mRNA doses may be available. Allowing people to get whatever shot is available may also aid transient populations, like homeless people or migrant workers, who were initially vaccinated with the easy-to-transport single shot. 

“The mix-and-match strategy is really meant to provide options for people so that they aren’t necessarily limited to whatever their primary series may have been,” Branche said. “Get boosted with whatever is locally available in your community and you have access to. If it turns out that’s only J&J, then get boosted with J&J.”

Read more MarketWatch stories about COVID-19 boosters:

COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are more complicated than they appear. Here’s why.

Scientists continue to say there isn’t enough evidence to make COVID-19 boosters available to all Americans

Here’s why COVID-19 booster shots are good for business

Allowing people to mix COVID-19 vaccines could cut into Pfizer and Moderna’s revenue next year





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Opinion: You have been named a trustee. Here’s the good news — and bad news.


Please accept my congratulations; this is a great vote of confidence in your abilities and judgment.

Please accept my condolences, as well; you will have responsibilities, tasks and difficulties for which you are unlikely to be sufficiently compensated or duly appreciated.

A recent case that came into my office reflects some of the challenges of acting as trustee. A man had died relatively young leaving a business and a son in his early 20s. He had appointed two family members as trustees. They were having trouble winding down the business and dealing with the son who was on the wild side and quite demanding. They also had some ideas on how they might get involved in the business themselves.

I had to counsel them that no matter how difficult the son was, as fiduciaries they had to put his interests first. They had to be dispassionate and not take his criticisms, complaints or demands personally. In terms of the business, their involvement certainly had the appearance of a conflict of interest. It would be difficult for them to establish that they were the best people they could find to manage the business.

Not unsurprisingly, the trustees with the difficult beneficiary didn’t like my advice and discharged me as their counsel. But here’s what I would have told them about the duties of trustees if they had consulted with me before getting involved.

Read: What’s the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust?

Fiduciary duty

Trustees are fiduciaries, meaning that they must put the best interests of the beneficiaries first. If they don’t, they can be personally liable. They must avoid any conflict of interest. It also means that they must consider the interests of all beneficiaries and cannot favor some over others.

Accounting, communication and transparency

Trustees must be able to account for all their actions and provide regular, usually annual, accounts to beneficiaries. They must provide beneficiaries with copies of the trust document itself. We also find that meeting with beneficiaries at least once a year is useful in terms of building relationships, answering questions, and making sure distributions continue to be appropriate. Trustees should err on the side of too much disclosure rather than too little. Lack of transparency can quickly lead to distrust and suspicions which can undermine the relationship between the trustee and beneficiaries. This can in turn lead to extra costs for the trust, especially if litigation arises.

Read: Trusts are useful for almost everything related to estate planning

Taxes

Irrevocable trusts require the annual filing of a 1041 income tax return. However, they rarely pay taxes because any income that is distributed to beneficiaries gets taxed to them. Revocable trusts usually don’t have to file tax returns because they use the grantor’s social security number.

Investments

Your investment of trust assets must be prudent and reasonable. This means a conservative approach that balances risk and growth, usually a mix of stocks and bonds. It would be imprudent to invest totally in bonds because historically they have not grown nearly as fast as investments in stock, and these days they’re producing very little interest. And it would be imprudent to invest totally in stock since their value can fluctuate dramatically.

Sometimes trusts hold interests in real estate or in small businesses. From a strictly investment point of view, it may be advisable to sell these interests in order to better diversify the trust holdings. But there may be other overriding factors that argue for keeping these investments. A trust beneficiary may live in a house owned by the trust. Family members may work in a small business. Some trusts in fact explicitly direct the trustee to continue holding interests in particular investments. 

Distributions

Often trustees have discretion on whether or when to make distributions to beneficiaries. The trust may say that income must be distributed but that principal may be distributed as needed by the beneficiary. Often trusts include language referred to as the “HEMS” standard because it only permits distributions for the health, education, maintenance and support of the beneficiary. This would seem to be a very broad standard, but it’s sufficiently limited to provide certain tax benefits to the trust.

Where the trustee has discretion, it must take into account the needs of the beneficiary seeking a distribution as well as other beneficiaries, both those who have a current right to distributions and those who may in the future. It must also consider both current and future needs. A good rule of thumb is to limit distributions to 3% of trust assets per year. That way, the trust can continue to grow with inflation and have reserves for unanticipated needs. 

Yet, it often seems incongruous for beneficiaries that they cannot receive larger distributions from what seems to them like a very big trust. The beneficiary of a trust holding $1 million in investments might not understand why the trustee is limiting distributions to $2,500 a month even though larger distributions would erode the buying power of the trust over time.

One problem with trusts that give the trustees considerable discretion is that they often provide little guidance. The trustee ends up imposing his or her judgments and values on the beneficiaries. Often these are consistent with those of the trust grantor, which is why the grantor chose the particular trustee in the first place, but not always. Where the trust does not provide specific guidance, it can be helpful if grantors write a letter to the trustees saying why they created the trust and how they would like the funds used.

Compensation

I receive more questions on my website about trustee compensation than about any other estate planning issue. Professional trustees typically charge annual fees of between 1.0 and 1.5% of trust assets, a higher rate for smaller trusts and a lower rate for larger ones. This would mean the fee for managing a trust holding $1 million would normally be between $10,000 and $15,000 a year.

Many clients balk at paying a fee year after year and prefer to name family members. (They are also often uncomfortable with having nonfamily members involved in their business.) I try to explain to them that this is money well spent to make sure the trust is properly managed. It can often help avoid strain within families when one child is managing assets on behalf of others. 

For instance, for many years the brother of a family friend has been managing a trust left by their father. He was very upset when our friend and her sister asked for more information about the trust and questioned his handling of it, damaging their sibling relationship.

When nonprofessionals are named as trustees, their compensation is often unclear. All trustees are entitled to “reasonable” compensation. But just like beauty, “reasonable” can be in the eye of the beholder. Trustees often put in a lot of time managing trust assets and are entitled to be compensated, but usually not at the same rate that professionals providing the same services would charge. Otherwise, it’s a fair question to ask why the trustee in effect hired himself rather than someone who habitually provides the same service. For instance, if a trustee manages a rental property for a trust, can he prove that he did a better job than a professional property manager? (Of course, I’ve seen both good and bad property management companies, which further muddies the water.) It would be better to charge less in order to justify the decision to not hire an outside company to provide the service.

Special needs

Trusts for the benefit of individuals with special needs raise their own set of issues. There is an even greater necessity for the trustee to understand the beneficiary’s needs. In addition, the beneficiary may depend on public needs programs such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid and subsidized housing to provide necessary support, requiring the trustee to make sure that distributions do not affect eligibility. The work-arounds can be complicated. As a result of the extra work involved, some professional trustees refuse to take on special needs trusts.

Others do so, but we often advise clients that it makes sense for special needs trusts to have both a professional and a family-member trustee. That way, the professional trustee can take care of all the administrative functions described above and the family-member trustee can attend to the beneficiary’s living situation and needs. This can also help when the beneficiary fails to understand why the trust can’t distribute more money or pay for items or services that may be inadvisable. The family member can, in effect, blame the independent trustee.

Liability

Finally some good news: While trustees are held to a very high fiduciary standard in their role, if they take care to do their jobs, they have little risk of liability. Courts are unlikely to hold trustees liable for decisions that turn out to be wrong in retrospect as long as they took due care in making the decision. So, a trustee who kept making distributions to a beneficiary for years with no contact may be liable if it turns out the beneficiary’s roommate was stealing the money. But the same trustee who met with the beneficiary annually and allowed him to continue to live in the family home will not be held liable if the value of the home drops over time. The decision to keep the home and let the beneficiary stay there was a judgment call that the trustee made after taking appropriate steps to consider all the relevant factors

Acting as trustee can be very fulfilling. It allows you to serve the beneficiaries. But make sure that you have the time and fortitude to take on this role and understand that you are unlikely to be entirely compensated for the time you put in.

Next time: 7 trust traps you need to know about

Harry S. Margolis is a Massachusetts estate and elder law planning attorney. He answers consumer questions about estate planning at AskHarry.info and most recently published The Baby Boomers Guide to Trusts: Your All-Purpose Estate Planning Tools.



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Knowing the truth about these credit score myths can help you improve your credit


This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, people were overwhelmed by the logistics of sudden and swift stay-at-home orders. Between school closures, supply shortages and new ways of working, there was little time for much else. As many adjusted their spending habits, they also took the time to think more critically about their finances — and some of the government-mandated credit concessions made monitoring credit an especially good idea.

A new NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll in September asked more than 2,000 Americans how they have managed their credit score during the pandemic, beginning in March 2020.

Respondents were also asked to identify common misconceptions about credit scores. The results reveal that plenty of misinformation about credit exists, but it’s possible to cut through the fog and build your score. The first step is some myth-busting.

Myth: Checking your credit score will hurt it

Although the survey shows nearly 2 in 5 Americans (39%) think checking their own credit score can cause it to drop, that’s not the case.

The confusion might come from the two types of credit checks, called inquiries. Your score is unaffected when you check it yourself or when a lender checks it to pre-qualify you for card offers and other marketing purposes. Those are called soft inquiries.

The other type, a hard inquiry, happens when a lender checks your credit because you’ve applied for a new line of credit. A hard inquiry can drop your score a few points, but the effect is only temporary.

Checking your own score regularly lets you track your credit and spot signs of trouble early.

Read: Big retailers are now using ‘buy now, pay later’ plans that don’t charge you fees—should you take advantage?

Myth: Your credit score is on your credit report

The survey findings reveal that about 8 in 10 Americans (82%) incorrectly believe that their credit report includes a credit score. Those are two different tools, although they are closely related.

Your credit report contains details about your past credit use and other personal and financial information. Your credit score, on the other hand, is based on the data in your credit report. That score, usually on a scale from 300 to 850, helps potential lenders assess the risk involved in granting you credit.

You have access to both your:

  • Credit report: You’re entitled to a free credit report weekly from each of the three major credit bureaus, and using AnnualCreditReport.com is the best way to request them. Reading your credit reports and disputing errors are good financial habits.

  • Credit score: Many personal finance and banking websites offer a free credit score that you can use to monitor your progress.

Myth: Carrying a small balance on credit cards helps your score

Nearly half of Americans (47%) think that carrying a small credit card balance is better for their credit than paying it off each month, according to the survey. But all that does is cost you in interest. Paying off your balance in full also can help keep your debt load from creeping up higher than you can afford.

If you’re interested in building your score, try this approach instead: Make a few smaller payments each month or time payments with a paycheck or another influx of cash. Continually lowering card balances instead of waiting for the monthly bill helps keep your credit utilization low, which has a big influence on scores.’

Also see: A simple, flat-rate cash-back credit card is a good way to get established and learn whether credit cards are right for you

So, what’s true about scores and how to build them?

A few time-tested strategies will help you build your credit. Here’s how to focus your actions on the scoring factors that matter most.

Pay on time every time

Paying bills on time is essential for building credit or maintaining strong credit because payment history is the single most important factor in credit scores. In fact, a payment 30 days or more past due can drop a good credit score 100 points.

If you’re finding it hard to manage multiple due dates, try automating your payments — or at least minimum payments — so you don’t miss one.

Use credit lightly

Using a maximum of 30% of your credit limits is another key for building a strong credit score, although remaining under 10% is ideal. Stay on top of your credit usage by keeping your credit limits in mind as you spend. Two strategies that can help you stay below 30% are tracking your spending and setting balance alerts. Requesting a credit limit increase is another option to consider.

Pay off card balances in full each month

Paying off your credit cards every month saves you in interest and may help keep you from overspending. If paying off your balance once a month proves difficult, try making smaller payments a few times a month.

Keep your oldest credit accounts open

The longer your credit history, the less risky you seem to potential lenders. Keeping your older credit accounts open is a great way to show you have a long and established credit history.

Read next: Companies have a new weapon in the hunt for talent: free college degrees. Why it’s important to read the fine print.

If you’re new to credit, you can ask to be added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. Choose someone who has an established account and an excellent credit score. That person’s account history and credit limits will be added to your credit reports.

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Amanda Barroso writes for NerdWallet. Email: abarroso@nerdwallet.com.



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