Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 Mar 14

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about Russia, ICANN, and Bill Quick’s new novel, Lightning Fall.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Book Review: Lightning Fall

Bill Quick is a well-known blogger and writer, and many of you may be familiar with his DailyPundit blog. He has a new book out called Lightning Fall: A Novel of Disaster. It’s pretty…dark.

Basically, the story starts in the near future, with a nuclear terrorist attack. The attack is state-supported, not only by the usual suspects in the Middle East, but also by Mexico. New Orleans gets nuked, and a a major EMP blast essentially disables everything that uses electrical power in the states west of the Rockies. Then it gets worse.

America’s political leadership isn’t up to the job of responding. President Millicent Carter isn’t the best person to handle this sort of crisis, despite the keen political acumen and assistance of her husband, ex-president B.J. Carter–who was impeached, but not convicted, in the late 1990s. So, 60 million people are set to starve to death, or die in horrific rioting, or be killed by the invading army from Mexico, while the President does essentially nothing useful, and much that is counterproductive. This kicks off a Constitutional crisis.

Everything gets just about as bad as it possibly could, but, while it’s dark, it’s a pretty compelling read. I recommend it.


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Economic Statistics for 20 Mar 14

Initial jobless claims rose 5,000 to 320,000. The 4-week average fell 3,500 to 327,000. Continuing claims rose 41,000 to 2.889 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.4 points to -29.0 in the latest week.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey rose from -6.3 to 9.0 in March.

Existing home sales fell -0.4% in February to a 4.6 million annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, sales are down -7.1%.

The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose a solid 0.5% in February.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $40.7 billion last week, with total assets of $4.222 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $39.1 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $23.7 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 19 Mar 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.2% last week, with purchases and re-fis both down -1.0%.

Strong exports narrowed the nation’s current account deficit to $81.1 billion in the 4th quarter of 2013, down from a revised $96.4 billion in the 3rd quarter.

The Federal Open markets Committee announced that interest rate policy will remain unchanged, with the Federal Funds Rate target at 0% to 0.25%. The FOMC released their projections for US GDP Growth: 2014: 2.8 to 3.0 %; 2015: 3.0 to 3.2 %; 2016: 2.5 to 3.0 %; longer run: 2.2 to 2.2 %.


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Economic Statistics for 18 Mar 14

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a soft 2.8% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales increase of 0.7%, and a 1.5% increase on a year-over-year basis.

Consumer Prices rose 0.1% in February at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, consumer prices are up 1.1% overall and 1.6% less food and energy.

February housing starts dropped 0.2% to a 0.907 million annual rate, but building permits rose 7.7% to a 1.018 million annual rate.

The Treasury Department reports that net inflow of long-term securities totaled $7.3 billion in January vice a revised $-49.5 billion in December.


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Car Review

So, terms that don’t seem to go together. Like “military intelligence”. Or, in the case of this week’s car, “Korean Luxury”. Kia’s brand new K900 flagship sedan hit the shores of the United States this month. I drove it. I wrote about it.


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Economic Statistics for 17 Mar 14

The National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index rose 1 point to a lower-than-expected 47 in March.

The New York Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey rose to to 5.61 in March from 4.48 in February.

The Fed reports that Industrial Production rose an unexpectedly strong 0.6% in March. Capacity Utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.3% to 78.8%.


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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Mar 14

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about Tesla, Ukraine, and the missing Malaysian airliner.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.


Economic Statistics for 13 Mar 14

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.9 points to -27.6 in the latest week, the highest since last August.

Initial jobless claims fell 9,000 to 315,000. The 4-week average fell 6,000 to 330,500. Continuing claims fell 48,000 to 2.855 million.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $9.6 billion last week, with total assets of $4.181 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $11.2 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-13.9 billion in the latest week.

February retail sales rose 0.3% in February across the board, overall, less gas, and less gas and autos.

February export prices rose 0.6%, while import prices rose 0.9%. On a year-over-year basis, export prices fell 01.3%, while import prices fell -1.1%.

Business Inventories rose 0.4% in January, while a steep -0.6% drop in sales pushed the stock-to-sales ratio up to a troubling 1.32.


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