Despite the recent downbeat economic news, the State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 8.6 points to 123.0 in February.
In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 2.9% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales drop of -0.6%, and a weak 1.4% increase on a year-over-year basis.
The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.8% in December, a 7.7% increase from the previous year.
The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 0.8% in December, which was 13.4 higher than the previous year.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for February fell from 80.7 to 78.1.
The Richmond Fed manufacturing index for February plunged from 12 to -6, the first negative reading since July.
The Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey’s business activity index fell 3 points to 0.3 in February. Conversely, the production index rose 3 points to 10.8.
The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) US Services Flash fell nearly 4 points to 52.7 in February.
The Chicago Fed National Activity Index fell from 0.16 to -0.39 in January.
But first a fond farewell to Piers Morgan – don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass as you head back to the UK, you jackwagon. Oh, and would you mind taking Alex Baldwin and that Beiber thing with you?
Now to the point. One of the things that the Obama administration told us in the beginning is that it planned on putting “science” back in its proper place as something serious and non-political (an obvious political shot at the opposition who, candidate Obama claimed, used it for political purposes).
How’s that gone? Well we’ve watched the global warming bunkem. And the Keystone Pipeline nonsense. But here’s a story that will demonstrate best how much of a lie (and I don’t know how you describe what’s happened any other way) that original promise was:
A case in point is the story of DOI science adviser and scientific integrity officer, Dr. Paul Houser, who found out that by simply doing his job can be hazardous to one’s career. Dr. Houser is an expert in hydrology who was hired by DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate scientific data used in the department’s decision making process. He was assigned several Western State projects including a scheme to remove four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Northern California—the largest dam removal project in U.S. history. When a summary of science posted on the web to support DOI’s claim for removal of the dams omitted several crucial factors from expert panel reports, Dr. Houser brought his concerns to his superiors. He was repeatedly told to refrain from sharing his concerns through electronic communication, which could be subject to Freedom of Information Act discovery.
Dr. Houser learned firsthand that policy was driving the science, rather than the other way around, when he was told by his superiors at DOI, “Secretary Salazar wants to remove those dams. So your actions here aren’t helpful.”
According to the DOI the premise for Klamath River dams removal is to restore Coho salmon spawning habitat above the dams. However, official DOI documents reveal scientific concerns that dam removal may, in fact, result in species decline based on millions of tons of toxic sediment build up behind the dams that will make its way to the ocean. Water temperature increases without the dams could also negatively impact the salmon. These studies were ignored. Concerns about the human toll and impact to local Klamath Basin communities were also brushed aside. Those most interested in the well-being of the environment they live and work in, were given a backseat to special interests thousands of miles away.
The Klamath hydroelectric dams provide clean inexpensive energy to thousands of local residents who will be forced to pay much higher premiums if the dams are removed because California has strict new laws for use of renewable energy. The town of Happy Camp sits on the banks of the Klamath River and could be wiped out with seasonal flooding without the dams. Once Coho salmon are introduced into the upper Klamath, farmers and ranchers will be faced with water use restrictions and invasive government regulation of private land. The economic impact will be devastating, property values will depreciate and the agriculture community, often operating on slim profit margins, will be subjected to the fate of the once vibrant logging industry which fell victim to the spotted owl crusades.
Last year, Dr. Houser raised these concerns and was subsequently fired by the DOI. “I put my concerns forward and immediately thereafter I was pushed out of the organization,” he stated. The agency sent a clear message to the rest of their employees and scientists – Salazar’s dam busting agenda cannot be subject to any internal scientific scrutiny. Goebbels would be proud. Truth must be repressed when it contradicts the objective.
Dr. Houser did the right thing. He did his job. His integrity as a scientist was more important than a paycheck. But he remains concerned about his colleagues in DOI, “There are a lot of good scientists that work for the government but they are scared, they are scared that what happened to me might happen to them. This is an issue (about) the honesty and transparency of government and an issue for other scientists in government who want to speak out.”
Those fish have an advocate. That advocate is named Salazar. Salazar has decided he wants a certain outcome. “Science’s” role is to justfy it. Never mind the human toll. Never mind the economic toll. Never mind any of the toll. Ken Salazar and his radical environmental cronies will feel just peachy about themselves if they accomplish this … even if the fish actually die as a result. Because, well because this is how nature did it to begin with, people are pests and it is more important that we let fish spawn where they once did than worry about how it will effect the pests. And by George he has the power of government and “science” behind him to do as he wishes. Houser didn’t toe the line, had actual scientific integrity and spoke out. And was fired.
Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me a bit.
The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in January. The "core" CPI, which excludes food and energy, also rose 0.1%. On a year-over-year basis, both the headline and core CPI rose 1.6%.
Initial jobless claims fell 3,000 to 336,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 338,500, while continuing claims rose 37,000 to 2.981 million.
Markit Economics’ PMI Manufacturing Index Flash for February rose 3 points to 56.7.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.1 points to -30.6 in the latest week.
The Philadelphia Fed Survey’s general conditions index was very negative, dropping to -6.3 in February from January’s 9.4.
The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.3% in January.
The Fed’s balance sheet rose $29.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.149 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $35.5 billion.
The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $41.3 billion in the latest week.
Robert Samuelson offers his analysis:
On paper, unions can deliver three things: higher wages and fringe benefits; greater job security; and better working conditions, including protection against arbitrary or unlawful management practices. In the 1950s and ’60s, unions could win these gains. Now, greater competition has eroded their leverage. Workers weighing the reduced advantages of being unionized must also consider the possibility that high-priced, rigid union labor might one day cost them their jobs. In Chattanooga, this calculus went against the UAW.
Private-sector unions lost their power to protect jobs and raise incomes. Unions were caught in a vise. If they pressed for higher wages and fringe benefits, they risked destroying jobs. Companies might lose sales to lower-cost rivals; or they might move to anti-union states or low-wage countries. Even protecting existing compensation levels became hard because — in extremis — companies might fail. On the other hand, if unions abandoned traditional bargaining goals, they might infuriate rank-and-file members and be accused of “selling out.”
I think, on those two points, he’s right. But there’s a third point he doesn’t mention that I think is just as important. VW chose Chattanooga when it had plenty of opportunities in union states to set up its plant. When it chose Chattanooga, it chose an area whose citizens lived in a state that believed in a “right to work” without interference from unions. It put its plant in an area with that sort of a culture, a culture that is essentially anti-union and without the pervasive union culture you find in union states.
Additionally, as Samuelson points out, companies over the years have learned what sort of practices they must use to keep unions out, especially in the South. Consequently those sorts of business practices have gradually made unions much less necessary and has therefore badly eroded the leverage of unions. Take that eroded leverage to a “right to work” state and the results are likely not something a union would like, as the UAW discovered. When workers do a cost/benefit analysis, unions mostly come out on the negative side of things. And then, of course, there’s Detroit today:
A works council may be worth trying, but whatever its virtues, they were overshadowed by the UAW’s past. Hardly anyone doubts that high labor costs and obsolete work rules contributed mightily to the crackup of the Big Three. VW’s workers recoiled; they kept the status quo. For the UAW, success in one era sowed failure in the next.
Workers saw no advantage to an association with the UAW. It was a smart move on their part, even as they worked for a decidedly union-friendly employer.
The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.1% last week, with purchases down -6.0% and re-fis -3.0%.
In weekly retail sales, ICSC Goldman reports a 2.5% weekly sales increase, and a 2.1% year-on-year increase. Meanwhile, Redbook says sales rose 3.2% on a year-ago basis.
Thanks to the extreme cold, housing starts plunged -16% in January to a 0.88 million annual rate.
A completely revised method of reporting Producer prices was released today. The overall PPI for January rose 0.2%, which was 1.2% on a year-over-year basis. The core PPI, less food, energy & trade services, rose 0.1% for the month. There is no annual comparison for the latter method of calculating the core PPI rate. The PPI for goods rose 0.4% for the month, and 0.9% for the year. The PPI for trade services rose 0.1% for the month, and 1.3% for the year.
A poll came out the other day saying that the majority of American’s first priority is unemployment. And it should be given the incredible low we’re now suffering in labor force participation.
So what bright idea are Democrats pushing in spite of that? Hey, let’s raise the minimum wage?
Result? Well, even the CBO, the Dems favorite “go to” agency to support their ideas (when it actually agrees, of course), doesn’t see this as a particularly bright idea if they’re concerned about the people’s priority:
Once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects.
Notice it says reduce “total employment” by 500,000. It also says it is only a projection and that it could actually be higher than that.
But, but … it will help the poor!
The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
Or said another way, Democrats are willing to see a half million plus lose their jobs to serve 19% (and that assumes that all of the 19% keep their jobs).
But, but … it will give the poor more to spend!
Moreover, the increased earnings for some workers would be accompanied by reductions in real (inflation-adjusted) income for the people who became jobless because of the minimum-wage increase, for business owners, and for consumers facing higher prices.
Those are facts, folks. Democrats don’t deal in facts, they deal in emotions … and if they can pass a minimum wage bill, they’ll feel wonderful about themselves. And if they can’t, they’ll blame it all on the mean old Repubicans who want you to be able to keep your job or something radical like that.
Export prices rose 0.2% in January, while import prices rose 0.1%. On a year-over-basis, export prices are down -1.2% and import prices down -1.5%.
The Fed reports that industrial production fell -0.3% in January, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories declined -07% to 78.5%.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index remained steady at 81.2 in February.