Free Markets, Free People

Economy

Economic Statistics

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

Initial claims for unemployment fell by 5,000, to a lower than expected level of 348,000 for the week. The four-week average fell 1,250 to 355,000.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell slightly to -34.9. But, more people said the economy was improving than at any time in eight years.

Some previous data indicated home prices were improving. That would be good news, if it were true. But, it isn’t. The FHFA reports house prices in January were unchanged.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.7%, led by improvement in the labor market.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 21 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

A 13 basis-point rise in interest rates in the past week drove mortgage applications down -7.4%, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. The purchase index fell -1.0%, the refinance index dropped -9.3%.

Existing home sales for February fell -0.9% to a 4.59 million annual rate. Sales are up 8.8% from a year ago.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 20 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

In retail sales, Redbook reports a strong 3.6% year-on-year same store sales increase for the latest week. ICSC-Goldman Store Sales show a strong 0.9% weekly sales increase, with the year-on-year rate rising to 3.3%.

Housing starts were weaker than expected in February, coming in at a 698,000 annual rate. Permits were higher than expected at 717,000 annualized.

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Dale Franks
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Poll: Voters not particularly high on Obama’s performance in 3 key areas

As I’ve noted any number of times, there are polls which mean nothing (such as polls this far out comparing an incumbent president and GOP nominees) and there are those what present indicators or trends that give one insight into the prevailing mood of voters or the like.

The Hill produced one of the latter this past week.  Obviously a snapshot of the prevailing mood right now, it is not a poll with which the Obama campaign should be happy.

On Obamacare:

The poll indicated that 49 percent of likely voters said they expect a court ruling that is unfavorable to the Affordable Care Act, while just 29 percent think it will be upheld and 22 percent aren’t sure.

Economy:

On economic issues, 62 percent of voters say Obama’s policies will increase the debt, while 25 percent think they will cut it, and by a 48-percent-to-38-percent margin, voters believe those policies will increase joblessness rather than put people back to work.

Energy:

On energy, 58 percent say Obama’s policies will result in gasoline prices increasing, while just 20 percent expect them to cut prices — and by a 46-percent-to-36-percent margin, voters believe they will cause the United States to become even more dependent on foreign oil.

Now as far as I’m concerned, those are the three issues that are likely to (or should) dominate the election once a GOP nominee is decided on.  If they’re not, and the GOP allows the Democrats to frame the campaign on issues other than those, they stand a good chance of losing. 

Regardless of the outcome in the Supreme Court, ObamaCare remains very unpopular with a majority of the population.  The economy is one of those issues that is personal.  Despite media hype, voters judge the state of the economy on a personal level.  The “official unemployment number” can be made to look rosy, but in fact real people who are still unemployed or underemployed know who they are.  They are the real number and they’re not going to be happy with the state of the economy.

Finally, the energy tap-dance that the administration is doing is obviously failing.   Obama is failing miserably passing off the blame about gas prices if 58% are saying his “policies” are the problem.  True or not, perception is the rule.  Oh, and, frankly, it’s true.  See for yourself.

When you have consistent polls that say a vast majority of voters are unhappy with a president’s signature piece of legislation, that’s a place you focus your campaign.  When you have two important issues – the economy and energy – where significant majorities are down on the incumbent for his policies, you hammer that unmercifully.

This poll is an indicator of the issues the GOP should build its campaign around.  These points should be pushed relentlessly. 

Porn, contraception and other wedge issues should be avoided.   Sorry, but they’re net losers and true distractions.  They let the left frame the discussion and trust me, that’s where they’re going to take it every time.

Oh, as an aside, if you’re interested in what a useless poll looks like, check this one out.  Justices appointed to lifetime positions are hardly worried about “popularity”.  In fact, that’s the primary reason for such appointments.   While the poll may indicate public dissatisfaction with some rulings, it may also simply indicate a partisan divide.  But for the most part, it is irrelevant.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic Statistics for 19 Mar 12

The housing market index is the only statistic for the day. While the headline index is unchanged from last month’s 28, But the 6-month component is up to 36, more than double the reading of 17 back in September. On the other hand, any reading below 50 indicates recessionary conditions for the housing sector.  The trend is positive though, so there’s that.

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Dale Franks
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Krugman: Half-truths and logical fallacies litter his denouncement of drilling for oil

But that shouldn’t come as a particular surprise for anyone who has watched this economist turn into a political hack over the years.

He starts with this:

To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.

You’ll not see such a broad field of strawmen erected in such a short paragraph for quite some time.

Anyone know any Republicans who are calling for “more tax cuts for the rich” (as I recall, Republicans are saying no tax increases for anyone)?  That’s the first strawman.

Second? Not a single “Republican” I know is claiming that we should “stop protecting the environment” and “let energy companies do whatever they want”.  I defy Krugman to produce them.  Instead what I see are those that want more drilling point out that the technology exists to do it safely and in an environmentally friendly way and thus there’s no real reason to stop it other than ideology.  Nor do I know of any who oppose the pursuit of alternative fuels.  They just are realistic about the fact that none of those being pursued are anywhere yet ready for prime time, unlike our President.  So they naturally look to what we have as the main staple of our economy’s energy demand now and in the near future. 

It’s called “common sense” for the Krugman’s of the world who seem to have not been blessed with much of it.

As for jobs and cheaper gas, you should be able to ask an economist if increased supply of a commodity would have the effect of downward pressure on cost and expect to get an honest answer – unless it’s this guy.

Oh, and you’d also expect an economist to understand that if you expand production of any such commodity which is labor intensive, you’re going to create a lot of jobs.  You may expect that, but you too can read this so-called economist’s words.  When the choice is between political hackery and economic integrity, guess which he chooses?

Charles Krauthammer lays out a little ground truth about why “drill, baby, drill” hasn’t been able to have the effect it might have had if allowed.  Yes, “allowed”:

President Obama incessantly claims energy open-mindedness, insisting that his policy is “all of the above.” Except, of course, for drilling:

●off the Mid-Atlantic coast (as Virginia, for example, wants);

●off the Florida Gulf Coast (instead, the Castro brothers will drill near there);

●in the broader Gulf of Mexico (where drilling in 2012 is expected to drop 30 percent below pre-moratorium forecasts);

●in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (more than half the size of England, the drilling footprint being the size of Dulles International Airport);

●on federal lands in the Rockies (where leases are down 70 percent since Obama took office).

But the event that drove home the extent of Obama’s antipathy to nearby, abundant, available oil was his veto of the Keystone pipeline, after the most extensive environmental vetting of any pipeline in U.S. history. It gave the game away because the case for Keystone is so obvious and overwhelming. Vetoing it gratuitously prolongs our dependence on outside powers, kills thousands of shovel-ready jobs, forfeits a major strategic resource to China, damages relations with our closest ally, and sends billions of oil dollars to Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and already obscenely wealthy sheiks.

The opportunity to see gas at a lower price, plentiful jobs created and supply increased have been squandered by this administration and Krugman, as if channeling our President, is trying to pass this failure off on the GOP. He’s essentially trying too claim the laws of supply and demand have been suspended.

The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.

Again, a half-truth.  The boom is a boomlet compared to what it might have been had Obama and his merry permit slow-walkers gotten out of the way.  The only thing that has saved Obama is the boom on state and private land.  What Krugman won’t say is it is most likely true that had that boom not materialized on non-Federal land, gas prices would be even higher.  And so would unemployment.  Don’t forget the tens of thousands of jobs lost due to the Obama administration’s Gulf “permatorium”.

Krauthammer points out what should have been obvious to an economist but are inconvenient truths to a political hack:

“The American people aren’t stupid,” Obama said (Feb. 23), mocking “Drill, baby, drill.” The “only solution,” he averred in yet another major energy speech last week, is that “we start using less — that lowers the demand, prices come down.” Yet five paragraphs later he claimed that regardless of “how much oil we produce at home . . .that’s not going to set the price of gas worldwide.”

So: Decreasing U.S. demand will lower oil prices, but increasing U.S. supply will not? This is ridiculous. Either both do or neither does. Does Obama read his own speeches?

Obama says of drilling: “That’s not a plan.” Of course it’s a plan. We import nearly half of our oil, thereby exporting enormous amounts of U.S. wealth. Almost 60 percent of our trade deficit — $332 billion out of $560 billion — is shipped overseas to buy crude.

Drill here and you stanch the hemorrhage. You keep those dollars within the U.S. economy, repatriating not just wealth but jobs and denying them to foreign unfriendlies. Drilling is the single most important thing we can do to spur growth at home while strengthening our hand abroad.

It is truly wondrous to me how poorly Krugman comes off in these sorts of debates.  He concludes his hack job with:

And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.

The irony is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic Statistics for 16 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Overall consumer prices rose sharply last month, with the CPI up 0.4%. The "core" rate, ex-food and  -energy, was up 0.1%. Energy prices jumped by 3.2% in the month.

Due to weakness in mining and utilities, Industrial production is unchanged from last month. Capacity utilization rose 0.2% to 78.7%. Despite the disapointing production figure, manufacturing rose 0.3% for the month.

The Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell 1 point to 74.3, as consumers responded to rising energy prices.

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Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 15 Mar 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

Initial jobless claims continued their decline in the latest week, down 14,000 to 351,000. The four-week moving average is steady at 355,750 which is the recovery low.

The overall Producer Price Index rose 0.4% last month. The core rate, ex-food and –energy, rose 0.2%.

While the components of the Empire State Mfg Survey are mixed, the overall index rose 20.21 this month, from 19.53 last month.

The Philadeplphia Fed survey mirrors the same mixed indicators as the NY survey, with noticeable weakness in key components, but an overall rise in the headline index to 12.5. Both surveys are showing weakness in new orders.

The Treasury International Capital report indicates strong foreign buying of US securities, leading to a net long-term flow of $101.0 billion in January.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index climbed another three points, to -33.7 in the March 11 week.

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Dale Franks
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Obama is on the problem of high gas prices

Yes indeed, he’s focused like a laser beam. He has figured out how to proceed. You’ll be seeing relief soon. He’s … setting up a task force to look into speculation?!

Er, seems so.  Read this:

"I think the American people understand that we don’t have a silver bullet when it comes to gas prices. We’ve been talking about this for 30 years. The only way to stabilize gas prices is to reduce our dependency on fore oil and we just put out a report that over the last year or so, we’ve been able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by a million barrels. That’s’ significant. In the meantime, cuz I know people are hurting right now and it feels like a tax out of their paychecks, what we’re doing is looking at every single area that can affect gas prices, from bottlenecks that are out there, we’ve set up a task force to look into speculation to make sure people are taking advantage of the situation on the global oil markets," President Obama told WKRC-TV.

Line by line:

I think the American people understand that we don’t have a silver bullet when it comes to gas prices. We’ve been talking about this for 30 years.

I think the American people understand something Barack Obama and the Democrats don’t understand – if we’d have been drilling everywhere for those 30 years instead of flapping our jaws about “silver bullets”, we’d be much better off today, in terms of oil supply and price, than we are now.

Oh, by the way, we’ve been talking about alternative energy for 30 years too and look where we are.

The only way to stabilize gas prices is to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and we just put out a report that over the last year or so, we’ve been able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by a million barrels.

Well, two points.  One we’re in a deep recession, so oil consumption is down considerably because business and commerce are down significantly.  And two, another way to have an effect on oil prices is to what?  That’s right, increase supply.

That’s’ significant. In the meantime, cuz I know people are hurting right now and it feels like a tax out of their paychecks, what we’re doing is looking at every single area that can affect gas prices, from bottlenecks that are out there, we’ve set up a task force to look into speculation to make sure people are taking advantage of the situation on the global oil markets

Translation: I haven’t a clue so I’m setting up a task force which helps me kick the can down the road a bit.  And the task force will inevitably find that “speculators” are the problem (a hat tip to Nancy Pelosi for the idea), and I’ll be able to call for Congress to pass a law while I again try to pass the blame off to the 1%.

Now that’s leadership.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO