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Why crude released from U.S. oil reserves may have ended up being exported overseas

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U.S. drivers had high hopes that the historic release of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve would help ease triple-digit prices of crude oil and reduce gasoline prices at the pump, but the costs for both have seen little relief.

More than three months after the Biden administration announced in late March the biggest-ever release from the SPR — one million barrels of oil per day for the next six months — prices for oil still stand above $100, and retail gasoline’s down by just around 6% from its record high in June.

Adding to the frustration, the U.S. exported more than 5 million barrels of oil to Europe and Asia last month — oil that was part of the historic release from the SPR, Reuters reported this week, citing data and sources.

The exports were made during the same month that that nation’s average prices for regular gasoline hit a record high — at $5.034 a gallon on June 16, according to data on GasBuddy.

“Exports are profitable and they allow some refiners to send products that don’t meet U.S. specifications overseas where the formulae are less stringent,” Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service, told MarketWatch. OPIS is a unit of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of MarketWatch.

“The refiners also export ‘other oils’…that have no home in the U.S.,” he said. “Their argument is that this allows them to run at 95% of capacity or more. If the exports were restricted, they would have to run lower.”

U.S. refineries operated at 94.5% of their operable capacity for the week ended July 1, compared with just 92.2% a year ago, according to the Energy Information Administration report released Thursday.

The nation’s refineries “simply don’t have the ability to absorb those new barrels [of oil] suddenly hitting the market and therefore, physical refined product markets remain tight and prices are still elevated,” said Tyler Richey, co-editor at Sevens Report Research.

News that SPR oil was exported out of the country came as a surprise to some, as consumers continue to face high inflation.

However, Brian Milne, product manager, editor and analyst at DTN, told MarketWatch that his team “knew immediately upon hearing the government’s announcement for big draws from emergency reserves that they would largely go to exports” because U.S. refiners, except for the West Coast, are producing near capacity.”

Brian Deese, President Biden’s National Economic Council director on Thursday told Bloomberg News that oil analysts would say the Biden administration’s release from the SPR was “single-handedly responsible” for keeping oil prices from going higher.

Gasoline prices at the pump averaged $4.739 a gallon early Thursday afternoon, down around 20 cents from $4.957 a month earlier, according to GasBuddy. On a weekly basis, prices had posted a decline in the period ended June 20 for the first time in nine weeks.

Milne said that while he “disagree(s) with the Biden administration’s logic in pulling so much oil from the emergency reserves, higher U.S. crude exports have helped lower the international price of crude oil.”

It’s a global market and “if we don’t export crude oil, world prices and U.S. prices would be higher,” he said.

U.S. benchmark crude-oil prices


fell 7.8% in June, while global benchmark Brent crude


declined by 6.5% last month.

Read: U.S. oil tumbled below $100 a barrel — What that says about recession fears and tight crude supplies

Gas pump prices’ slow decline

Still, the fall in retail gasoline prices is nowhere near the roughly 13% drop the market has seen in the last month for reformulated gasoline futures


traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Read: Enjoy the dip in gasoline prices because it may not last

Part of the drop for gasoline futures may come from active month futures contracts rolling forward recently, and speculative traders and funds liquidating longs because the physical market is tight, explained Sevens Report Research’s Richey.

But it “typically takes time for moves in the futures market to trickle down to the pump due to hedging actions by downstream supplies,” he said.

That doesn’t offer much reassurance for drivers, particularly in California where they pay an average $6.171 a gallon.

“You might have heard the adage, ‘up like a rocket, down like a feather,’ when referring to the price change in retail gasoline,” said DTN’s Milne.

“Retail gasoline prices do respond quickly to increases in the wholesale/futures markets,” he said. “Higher prices are passed through to retail outlets who must quickly lift their street price or encounter a loss.”

Retailer’s margins on a gallon of gasoline are very thin, said Milne. “So, when wholesale/futures gasoline prices decline, retailers will hold their street price higher to gradually capture margin.”


American Weed Stocks Are Cheap. They’re About to Get a Sales Bump.

letizo News



However bad the year has been for most stocks, it has been especially harsh for state-licensed cannabis sellers.

In just the past month, the

AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis

exchange-traded fund (ticker: MSOS), which tracks America’s multistate operators—or MSOs—fell 25%, while the

S&P 500

dropped 7%.

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How Do Mega Backdoor Roths Work?

letizo News



A mega backdoor Roth is a unique 401(k) rollover strategy that’s designed for people whose incomes would ordinarily keep them from saving in a Roth Individual Retirement Account. The advantage of using a Roth IRA to save for retirement is being able to make tax-free qualified withdrawals. But not everyone can contribute to these accounts; higher-income earners are excluded. That’s where the mega backdoor Roth comes into play. If you have a 401(k) you’d like to roll over, you could use this strategy to enjoy the tax benefits of a Roth IRA without having income be an obstacle.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to maximize your retirement assets by working with a financial advisor.

Roth Account Basics

Before diving into the specifics of a mega backdoor Roth, there are a few things to know about Roth accounts, including Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s.

First, these accounts are both funded with after-tax dollars. That means when you make qualified withdrawals later, you won’t pay income tax on the money since you already paid it upfront. This is the key characteristic of Roth accounts and what makes them so appealing to investors who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket at retirement.

Next, your ability to contribute to a Roth 401(k) is not restricted by your income. But it is for a Roth IRA. For the 2021 tax year, you must be within these modified adjusted gross income limits to make a full Roth IRA contribution:

  • Single filers: MAGI of $125,000 or less

  • Married filing jointly: MAGI of $198,000 or less

  • Head of household: MAGI of $125,000 or less

You can make partial contributions above those income limits. But your ability to contribute phases out completely once your MAGI hits $140,000 (if you file single or head of household) or $208,000 if you’re married and file a joint return. For 2021, the full contribution allowed is $6,000 with a $1,000 catch-up contribution for savers aged 50 and older.

Finally, Roth 401(k) accounts are subject to required minimum distribution rules just like traditional 401(k) accounts. This rule requires you to begin taking money from your 401(k) starting at age 72. A Roth IRA, on the other hand, is not subject to RMD rules.

What Is a Backdoor Roth?

A backdoor Roth offers a work-around for people whose incomes are above the limits set by the IRS. When you execute a backdoor Roth, you roll money over from a traditional IRA to a Roth account. This way, you won’t have to pay taxes on your retirement savings in the Roth IRA when it’s time to make withdrawals. And you’re not subject to required minimum distribution rules either.

But there is a catch. You have to pay income tax on the money you roll over to a Roth account. So while you could save money on taxes in retirement, you’re not escaping the tax liability of a traditional IRA altogether.

How a Mega Backdoor Roth Works

A mega backdoor Roth is a backdoor Roth that’s designed specifically for people who have a 401(k) plan at work. This type of backdoor Roth allows you to contribute up to $38,500 to a Roth IRA or a Roth 401(k) in 2021. This is in addition to the regular annual contribution limits the IRS allows for these types of accounts. To execute a mega backdoor Roth, two conditions have to be met. Your 401(k) plan needs to allow the following:

You can ask your plan administrator whether your 401(k) meets these criteria. And if your plan doesn’t allow for in-service withdrawals or distributions, you could still attempt a mega backdoor Roth if you plan to leave your job in the near future.

If your plan meets the criteria, then you can take the next steps to execute a mega backdoor Roth. This is typically a two-step process that involves maxing out after-tax 401(k) contributions, then withdrawing the after-tax portion of your account to a Roth IRA.

Again, whether you can follow through on the second step depends on whether your plan allows in-service withdrawals. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to wait until you separate from your employer to roll over any after-tax money in your 401(k) into a Roth IRA.

You also need to watch out for the pro rata rule. This IRS rule says you can’t only withdraw pre- or post-tax contributions from a traditional 401(k). So if you’re completing a mega backdoor Roth, you couldn’t just withdraw post-tax contributions if your account holds both pre- and post-tax funds. In that case, you may have to roll over the entire balance to a Roth IRA.

Benefits of a Mega Backdoor Roth

There are three key benefits associated with executing a mega backdoor Roth. First, you can contribute significantly more to a Roth IRA upfront this way. For 2021, the contribution limit is $38,500 on top of the regular annual contribution limit and any catch-up contribution limits that may apply.

You’ll need to know the maximum amount you’re allowed to contribute to the after-tax portion of your 401(k). So for 2021, the IRS allows a maximum contribution of $58,000 or $64,500 if you’re 50 or older. You’d subtract your 401(k) contributions and anything your employer adds in matching contributions to figure out how much you could add to the after-tax portion.

Next, you can enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This is a benefit you may otherwise not being able to get if your income is too high to contribute to a Roth IRA. By reducing your tax liability in retirement, you can help your investment dollars go further. And you may have a larger legacy of wealth to pass on to future generations.

Finally, a mega backdoor Roth IRA would allow you to sidestep required minimum distribution rules. This means that you could retain control over when you choose to take distributions from a Roth IRA.

So who is a mega backdoor Roth right for? You may consider this move if you:

  • Have an eligible 401(k) plan at work

  • Have maxed out traditional 401(k) contributions

  • Are not eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA because of your income

  • Have additional money that you want to invest for retirement

  • Want to leverage the higher Roth IRA contribution limits allowed by a mega backdoor rollover

Talking to your financial advisor can help you decide if a mega backdoor Roth makes sense. And your 401(k) plan administrator should be able to tell you if it’s possible, based on your plan’s guidelines.

Mega Backdoor Roth Alternatives

If you can’t execute a mega backdoor Roth because your plan doesn’t allow it, there are other ways to increase your retirement savings. For example, you could try a regular backdoor Roth instead. This might be something to consider if you still want to enjoy the tax benefits of a Roth IRA but your plan doesn’t fit the criteria for a mega rollover. You could also elect to make Roth 401(k) contributions to your retirement plan at work. This way, you still get the benefit of contributing after-tax dollars and making tax-free withdrawals. You’d be subject to the regular contribution limits and you’d still have to take the required minimum distribution. But that may outweigh the value of tax savings in retirement.

Investing in a Health Savings Account (HSA) is another option. While these accounts are not specifically designed for retirement, they can yield multiple tax benefits. Contributions are tax-deductible and grow tax-deferred. Withdrawals are tax-free when used for eligible healthcare expenses. And at 65, you can take money out of an HSA for any reason without a tax penalty. You’ll just owe ordinary income tax on any withdrawals that are not used for healthcare expenses.

Finally, you could open a taxable brokerage account to invest. This doesn’t necessarily save you money on taxes since you’ll owe capital gains tax when you sell investments at a profit. But it could help you to diversify your investments and there are no limits on how much you can invest in a brokerage account annually.

Bottom Line

A mega backdoor Roth strategy could work well for higher-income earners who want to take advantage of Roth account benefits. There are certain rules that need to be followed to make it work, however, so you may want to talk to your plan administrator or a tax professional before going ahead. Keep in mind also that even if you can’t complete a mega backdoor Roth rollover, you still have other options for growing retirement savings.

Tips for Retirement Planning

  • If you’re saving for retirement in a 401(k) or IRA, pay attention to the fees you’re paying. For instance, check the expense ratios for each fund you’re invested in to understand how much you pay to own that fund on an annual basis. You can then compare that to the fund’s performance to determine whether the fees are justified. Also, consider any administrative fees you might be paying and how those affect your net returns.

  • Consider talking to your financial advisor about a mega backdoor Roth and whether it could be right for you. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool makes it easy to connect with professional advisors in your local area. You can get your personalized recommendations in minutes just by answering a few simple questions. If you’re ready, get started now.

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Alibaba Is Tumbling. Chinese Tech Stocks Have a New Headache.

letizo News



Chinese tech stocks were tumbling on Monday as two of the embattled sector’s leading players faced fresh fines from market regulators over disclosure rules.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced Sunday a wave of penalties for improperly reporting past deals, in breach of competition law.


(ticker: BABA) and


(0700.H.K.) were among the companies fined as a result.

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