Free Markets, Free People


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Economic Statistics for 19 May 16

The Philadelphia Fed survey went into slightly more negative territory in May, down -0.2 to -1.8.

Conversely, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index turned positive, rising 0.55 points to 0.10 for May.

The Conference Board’s  index of leading economic indicators shot up 0.6% in April. 

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 16,000 to 278,000. The 4-week average rose 7,500 to 275,750. Continuing claims fell 13,000 to 2.152 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to 42.6 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-4.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.474 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $8.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-9.7 billion in the latest week.

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Economic Statistics for 17 May 16

A jump in gas prices sent the Consumer Price Index up 0.4% in April, but up only 0.2% less food and energy prices. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 1.1% overall, and up 2.1% less food and energy.

Housing starts rose 6.6% in April, to a moderate 1.172 million annual rate, but the year-over-year rate dipped negative, to -1.7%. Building permits, an indicator of future housing activity, rose 3.6% in April to a 1.116 million rate, but the year-on-year rate is even more negative, at -7.2%.

Industrial production rose 0.7% in April, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.6% to 75.4%.

E-Commerce retail sales for the 1st Quarter of 2016 came in with an unexpectedly strong 3.7% increase, and a 15.2% year-on-year increase.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth slowed into the doldrums again, up 0.5% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.1%.

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The left wants so badly for socialism to work

And that’s why they were so enamored of Venezuela.  All the leftist illuminati waxed on and on about how Hugo Chavez was a champion of the people and how he was working an “economic miracle” there, as illustrated by the 2013 Salon article by David Sirota.  In it Sirota gloats about how wrong the right is concerning Venezuela.  Headlined “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle”, the sub-headline on the piece is classic:”The Venezuelan leader was often marginalized as a radical. But his brand of socialism achieved real economic gains.”

In light of Venezuela’s imminent collapse, I’m sure Sirota is cringing today.  As usual, the “economic miracle” Chavez had wrought under his brand of socialism worked swimmingly until they ran out of other people’s money.  Then, well, same crap, different regime.

I had to laugh, in particular, at this paragraph from “gloaty-boy”:

When a country goes socialist and it craters, it is laughed off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics. When, by contrast, a country goes socialist and its economy does what Venezuela’s did, it is not perceived to be a laughing matter – and it is not so easy to write off or to ignore. It suddenly looks like a threat to the corporate capitalism, especially when said country has valuable oil resources that global powerhouses like the United States rely on.

Well, laughed at his silliness or is it perhaps willful ignorance in not understanding, even when he was calling Chavez’s Venezuela an “economic miracle” what was really going on there.  No one is laughing at the purely predictable and lamentable problems the citizens of Venezuela are going through now because of Chavez.  He sold them a bill of goods and now they’re suffering the consequences.

What’s frustrating though is the useful idiots like Sirota and gang who won’t take the time to learn why socialism doesn’t work and certainly won’t look too deeply into any regime, such as Chavez’s, that shows the possibility of their long held dream of collectivism and central planning working.

If, in fact, they’d do that, there wouldn’t be guys like me, 3 years after the fact, pointing a finger at them and laughing at something they wrote about an economy that was doomed from the beginning.  As most of us noted at the time of the Chavez takeover, it wasn’t a matter of “if” his plan would fail, but “when”.  “When” is now.

Look at the video and the pictures, Mr. Sirota.  They’re not pretty.  They’re not pretty at all.

How does it feel to have been a cheerleader for the kind of desperation and chaos Chavez’s “miracle” has brought?  How does it feel to have wished a stable and thriving nation (it had its problems, but nothing even close to those now) into the state it now endures?  And tell me again why Chavez’s daughter is worth 4 billion?

You must be so proud.


Economic Statistics for 13 May 16

Retail sales snapped back in April, with an increase of 1.3%. Sales less autos rose 0.8% and sales less auto and gas rose 0.6%.

Producer prices for final demand rose 0.2% in April. Prices less food and energy rose 0.1%, and prices less food, energy, and trade services, rose 0.3%. On a year-over-year basis:
PPI-FD: 0.0%
Less food & energy: 0.9%
Less food, energy, and trade services: 0.9%

Business inventories rose 0.4% in March, but a 0.3% rise in sales kept the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.41.

May consumer sentiment is soaring, up 6.8 points to 95.8 for the mid-month flash reading.

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Economic Statistics for 12 May 16

April import prices rose 0.3%, and export prices rose 0.5%. On a year-over-year basis prices are down -5.7% for imports and -5.0% for exports.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 20,000 to 294,000. The 4-week average rose 10,250 to 268,250. Continuing claims rose 31,000 to 2.161 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.3 points to 41.7 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $1.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.478 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $1.1 billion. The Fed’s balance sheet has been stable for months, but I continue to monitor it for signs that the Fed is unwinding the $4 trillion in debt it has absorbed since 2008.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $28.5 billion in the latest week.

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Is Europe moving away from “Social Democracy”?

The “Feel the Bern” gang want to be just like the European social democracies, but as I’ve pointed out before, if any of the European countries were a state in the US, they’d be among the bottom two or so.  And while the benefits are wonderful when you’re living off of other people’s productivity, that can only go on for so long.

France … yes, that’s right, France … seems to be at least figuring it out a little bit.

The French cabinet has given the go-ahead for Prime Minister Manuel Valls to force through highly controversial labour reforms.

An extraordinary cabinet meeting invoked the French constitution’s rarely used Article 49.3, allowing the government to bypass parliament.It came after rebel MPs from the governing Socialist party had vowed to vote down the bill.The reforms will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.


The government says relaxing workers’ protection will encourage businesses to hire more people and help to combat chronic unemployment.

As one is prone to say, “baby steps” are necessary when learning to walk.  And apparently those old nasty laws of economics are finally bitch slapping France enough that they’re at least willing to do something positive to help stimulate business and hopefully then grow their economy.

The American Interest notes:

Valls’ decision is part of a long-running trend: For decades, the decline of the blue social model has been pushing many European countries, including ones we think of as social democracies, to abandon some of the more statist features of their economic agendas. Policies that worked relatively well in closed, stable, national economies of the mid-20th century fail to deliver in the open, dynamic economies of the 21st—and even center-left governments are forced to adapt to this reality once they take power.

Indeed, the “blue social model”, the Bernie Sanders (and to a slightly lesser extent, the Hillary Clinton) model, is, in fact, been running off the rails and not at all delivering what it has promised.  But that seems to be the case with all blue social models and their components (ObamaCare anyone?).

Of course the trending away from that model is being roundly ignored by the left in the US.  Just as the economic wrecks that are Cuba and Venezuela are blamed on “extenuating circumstances.”

The left will never face the reality of their utopian central control’s failure everywhere and in whatever flavor it is tried.  There’s a reason for that.  It goes against everything that actually works.  Without “perfect knowledge” and then the means to implement it in a direct and timely fashion – two things which will never be achieved – it will always fail.  Most importantly, central control simply runs against human nature and therefore authoritarian governance to impose true socialism on the citizens.  And yes, the light form of that is indeed “social democracy” but to become anymore “socialist” requires government to move in a more authoritarian way to enable those sorts of “reforms”.  Instead, what you see in Europe is resistance coupled with a realization that this just isn’t working as advertised.

Thus the “trend” as discussed.  As more of the blue model is scrapped and countries begin to realize gains, other European countries will likely follow suit.

Meanwhile, in the US, we’re apparently considering adopting the model they’re moving away from.  And it certainly will be a rousing success.  They can’t make it work in countries with about one-eighth our population, but with the “competent” politicians and bureaucrats we have here, we’re sure to make it work.

Uh, huh.  Really.


Economic Statistics for 10 May 16

The Fed’s Labor Market Conditions index rose 1.2 points, but remained negative at -0.9 in April.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 1.0 points to 93.6 in April.

The Labor Department’s JOLTS report showed a jump to 5.575 million job openings in March, versus 5.445 million in February.

Wholesale inventories rose 0.1% in March, but a 0.7% sales increase kept the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.36.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth rose to a still-weak 1.1% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.6%.

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