Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts

My new book

As many of you are undoubtedly aware, I write regularly on automotive topics. Now, I’ve gathered all of that writing into a Kindle book at Amazon. Yes, The Joy of Automotion is now a Kindle ebook. Which you can buy. Online.


The Joy of Automotion:
Musings From a Vehicular Dilettante

Please buy it. If you like it, please review it.

While we’re on the subject, you can also get my previous book:


Slackernomics:
Basic Economics for People Who Think Economics is Boring

Thanks!


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Economic Statistics for 7 Nov 14

Consumer credit rose by $15.9 billion in September, $14.5 billion of which was non-revolving credit. Not that anybody cares. What people care about is…

The Employment Situation for October was mixed. A net new 214,000 jobs were created, and the unemployment rate fell -0.1% to 5.8%. Average hourly earnings rose 0.1%, while the average work week was unchanged at 34.6 hours. Overall, the number of people employed rose by 683,000, while the number of people in the labor force increased by 206,00, bringing the labor force participation rate up 0.1% to 62.8%. Using the historical average labor force participation rate, the real rate of unemployment fell by -0.3% to 10.53%.


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Economic Statistics for 6 Nov 14

Chain stores reporting sales for October are citing unseasonably warm weather for sizable slowing in sales growth. This points to a disappointing government retail sales report for last month.

Challenger’s layoff count, at 51,183 in October is up sharply this month, but from a 14-year low in September of 30,477. 

Gallup’s US Payroll to Population employment rate for October was 44.4%, down from 44.8% in September.

Nonfarm productivity growth for the 3rd Quarter rose an annualized 2.0%, while unit labor costs rose 0.3%.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 10,000 to 278,000. The 4-week average fell 2,000 to 279,000. Continuing claims fell 39,000 to 2.348 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to 38.1 in the latest week, the second-highest reading since 2007.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-0.2 billion last week, with total assets of $4.487 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-5.8 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $33.6 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 5 Nov 14

I’m taking a break from my post-election schadenfreude to bring you the same old, boring economic stats. Bruce has already covered the election aftermath well, and I can’t think of much to add, except to note that the President, in his presser this afternoon, assures us that there’s no reason to try and read the tea leaves of this election. It’s true meaning is essentially unknowable. Clearly, there was a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment, but there’s no way for us to really glean any larger implications for the president’s policies from all this. What’s really important now is to learn how the Republicans will reach across the aisle to get things done in a bipartisan fashion.

Anyway, today’s stats:

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -2.6% last week, with purchases down -3.0% and refis down -6.0%.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth for October is 230,000, which was generally in line with expectations.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index fell -3 points to 27 for October, down from the six-year high of 30 in September.

The ISM’s Non-Manufacturing index fell -1.5 points to 57.1 in October.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI slowed for the third straight month, down -1.3 points to a still-positive 53.6. The Global Services PMI fell -1.6 points to 53.7.

On a side note, I don’t think that both the ADP Employment report, which shows an increase of 17,000 private payroll jobs over last month, and the Gallup Job Creation Index can both be right. We’ll know which one was correct on Friday, with the release of the October Employment Situation.


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Economic Statistics for 4 Nov 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -1.6%, and rose only 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 3.9% on a year-ago basis, compared with 4.4% in the prior week.

Gallup’s October Economic Confidence Index jumped to a monthly reading of -12 in October–the most positive score since the -12 of July 2013.

The US trade deficit grew by $2.9 billion in September, growing to $43 billion.

September factory orders were better than the previous month’s but still fell by another -0.6%, following August’s -10.1% decline.


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2014 California Ballot Propositions

Thanks to the Progressive movement at the turn of the last century, California, like several other states, has ballot propositions that the voters can approve or disapprove to get around the corrupt pols in the state capital.  Here are the propositions on tap for tomorrow.

Proposition 1: Water Bond. Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects.

Authorizes $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects, including surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection.

Voting: NO

First, we don’t have a lot of space to borrow, especially with a $40 billion train line to build. Actually, we don’t have the money to pay for the $40 billion—some say $63 billion—train. So, let’s find the money in the annual budget for this. I’m sure there’s some spare change lying around with a $108 billion dollar budget in 2014, which is, by the way, $7 billion more than the 2013 budget.

Proposition 2: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Requires annual transfer of state general fund revenues to budget stabilization account.

Voting: YES

This seems like a minimal nod to fiscal responsibility. I’ll buy it.

Proposition 45: Healthcare Insurance. Rate Changes. Initiative Statute.

Requires Insurance Commissioner’s approval before health insurer can change its rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance.

Voting: NO

First of all, we already intentionally cut the insurance commissioner out of this loop by creating an independent commission to review rate changes. We did that because the insurance commissioner is an elected political hack who already has too much scope for hackery. If this passes, then health insurers will be prevented from raising rates by whatever San Francisco hippie gets elected insurance commissioner. Which sounds nice until you realize that insurers will lose money and simply leave the state.

Proposition 46: Drug and Alcohol Testing Of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute.

Requires drug testing of doctors. Requires review of statewide prescription database before prescribing controlled substances. Increases $250,000 pain/suffering cap in medical negligence lawsuits for inflation.

Voting: NO

Nobody wants to be treated by a crack-addled doctor, right? So, who could be against this? Well…me. Here’s the thing: This has very little to do with ensuring doctors aren’t drug addicts, and everything to do with trial lawyers looking for big malpractice paydays, by increasing payouts for malpractice lawsuits. That means malpractice insurance premiums will skyrocket, and doctors will leave the field…or the state. The doctor drug testing is eyewash to hide a trial lawyer money-grab. Screw those guys.

Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug and property offenses. Inapplicable to persons with prior conviction for serious or violent crime and registered sex offenders.

Voting: YES

Right now, we have mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders. So we have to make room for them in prison. We don’t have that room, so we let robbers, muggers, and rapist, et al., go free instead. If you commit a non-violent offense, you simply shouldn’t go to jail, period. We need to keep people who hurt people in jail. If your crime is having a gram of coke or 2 ounces of weed, I can’t even count the number of shits I don’t give about imprisoning you.

Proposition 48: Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum.

A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, tribal gaming compacts between the state and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe.

Voting: YES

Do you know what I care less about than imprisoning non-violent criminals? Whether or not Indians can have casinos, and whether they can have them outside their tribal lands. Besides, I really like the buffets.

So, there you have it: All of the propositions on the ballot. I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to vote, but I am telling you how I am going to vote. With that in mind…you know what to do.


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Economic Statistics for 3 Nov 14

Motor vehicle sales came in at a 13 million annual pace, while overall sales are expect to hit a 16.7 million rate. 

Gallip’s daily self-reported spending measure averaged $89 in October, versus $87 in September.

The Markit PMI manufacturing index in October fell -1.6 points to 55.9.

Construction spending unexpectedly declined -0.4% in September, and is up only 2.9% from a year ago.

The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI was unchanged at 52.2 in October.


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