Obama's retirement plan protection; Oscars and equal pay

Stocks traded marginally lower through the first half of the session today. It seems investors will have to wait at least another day for that big round 5000 on the Nasdaq (^IXIC).

It would seem oil, down below the $ 50 a barrel mark is putting pressure on energy stocks which is driving the broader market lower.

Related: Nasdaq 5000 and other market movers to watch this week

As the trading week gets underway, Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke is keeping an eye on a slate of retail names.

“We do have earnings this week from Target (TGT), Macy’s (M), JC Penney (JCP), Gap (GPS), Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (L). That’s over a quarter of a trillion in annual revenues. Pair those off with Walmart (WMT) last week and there’s no excuse for not knowing exactly what kind of shape the U.S. consumer is in by the end of this week.”

Equal pay at the Oscars
Those who caught the Oscars last night, and many who didn’t, are talking about Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech today. In it she demanded equal pay for women saying, “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

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Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman notes that while most Americans are in favor of equal pay (the statistics say broadly that women make 22% less than men) it is more complicated than the numbers suggest. “This is not so much that big bad companies just don’t like women,” he says. “This is getting now down to cultural factors and things that you just can’t easily control such as: Women tend to go into lower paying fields whereas men tend to go into higher paying fields like tech and finance. Women take more time off for family than men do which slows their career progression.”

Newman also cites research that shows women are not as aggressive as men in asking for raises and promotions. Men ask, and men get.

New retirement plan protections
The Obama administration today is outlining new rules that would help protect the retirement savings of millions of Americans. The thought is that by holding financial advisors to higher standards when dealing with 401ks and IRAs the stability of those funds increases. Right now, an advisor classified as a fiduciary plays by rules that demand he treat your money as if it were his own.

By contrast, advisors at larger brokerages don’t have to adhere to such rules which allows them to offer more choices, something they argue will be lost if these new rules are implemented.

“It is more complicated than it was 20 years ago,” says Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer. “Maybe there were fewer choices, but with more choice things get more diffuse and it’s very easy to obfuscate, and I think there’s obfuscation going on by Wall Street when you walk in and try to get this stuff settled out.”

Millennial savings?
A new survey from Bankrate.com shows that Millennials may be handling their money better than most think. Only 21% have more credit card debt than emergency savings. Only senior citizens are doing better by that measure.

Serwer argues this age group was made wary by the great recession. “There’s all kinds of ways to circumvent banking [and] credit cards,” he says, “and Millennials know about that in a way the rest of us don’t.”

Chief among those ‘ways’ are smartphone-based services like Venmo and even Apple Pay (AAPL) which allow consumers to link their phone to a debit account and pay for goods and services without the use of traditional plastic.

Millennials “also haven’t had as wide an access to credit as others,” notes Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli. “The industry is not as generous, and regulation has also restricted the availability of people below 21 getting cards.”

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