Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People


Economic Statistics for 3 Apr 14

Challenger reports that layoff announcements in March were 34,399, down from 41,835 in February.

The Gallup US Payroll to Population rate fell -0.4 points to 42.7 in March.

The US trade deficit rose to $42.3 billion in February from $39.3 billion in January.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose 16,000 to 326,000. The 4-week average rose 1,750 to 319,500. Continuing claims rose 22,000 to 2.836 million.

The PMI Services Index rose 2 points to 55.3 in March.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.5 points to -30.0 in the latest week.

The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose 1.5 points to 53.1 in March.

The JP Morgan Global Composite PMI rose 0.5 points to 53.5 in March.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $9.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.236 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $4.7 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply grew $20 billion in the latest week.


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Another reason you should never believe a thing this administration says

Because, as we’ve learned over the years, it’s likely either spin, just not true or both.

For instance, we have the President claiming victory for ObamaCare because it has 7.1 million enrollments.  Note the word – “enrollments”:

‘The goal we’ve set for ourselves – that no American should go without the health care they need … is achievable,’ Obama declared.

The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.

‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’

And, as is usual with this man, he simply declared he’d won and simply threw out “facts” that haven’t at all proven true. Essentially lies in a bigger lie:

‘“The bottom line is this,’ said Obama: ‘The share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth in the cost of insurance is down. There’s no good reason to go back.’

Of course the “share of Americans” with insurance isn’t up (over 7 million lost their insurance when their plans didn’t qualify under ObamaCare) and costs are certainly not “down”.

Jay “Baghdad Bob” Carney took it from there (Carney is a perfect name for the position, he’s like a carnival barker):

‘At midnight last night we surpassed everyone’s expectations,’ he boasted, ‘at least everyone in this room.’

While he took great pains to emphasize that the total would grow – saying ‘we’re still waiting on data from state exchanges’ – he dodged tough questions about other statistics that reporters thought he should have had at the ready.

Those numbers included how many Americans have paid for their insurance policies, and are actually insured. Also, he had no answer to the thorny question of how few signups represented people who had no insurance before the Affordable Care Act took effect.

But as usual, when ever they drop something like this in a news cycle, the devil is in the details.  For instance, an unpublished RAND study that suggests that relatively speaking, very few of the enrollees were previously uninsured:

The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.

And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month’s premiums.

If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.

So effectively, assuming the numbers are correct, less than a million are newly insured.  And, as we’ve read in the past, most of them are Medicaid subscribers.

In other words, we’ve gone through all this hell, all this disruption, the higher costs, the lesser insurance plans, the IRS enforcement, etc. just to enroll 858,298 people – most of whom have ended up on a program that existed prior to this atrocity.

Perhaps the biggest laugh line of all, however, comes from David Axelrod, who declared that ObamaCare was totally going to change “the attitude that government can’t do anything“.  Of course he only felt comfortable saying that on MSNBC.  One can certainly understand why.

Meanwhile, for the most part, the RAND study goes unpublished and, for the most part, unexamined.  The King has declared victory – the big lie has been established – debate over.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 Apr 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -1.2% last week. Purchases were up 1.0%, but re-fis fell -3.0%.

The ADP national employment report estimates that 191,000 new private payroll jobs were created in March.

The Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index rose 2 points in March to 23.

February factory orders rose a better-than-expected 1.6% helped by a 13.4% increase in aircraft orders and a 3.0% rise in autos.


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Answering the IPCC

In the past couple of weeks we’ve all been “treated” to climate change alarmist screeds calling for the arrest of “deniers.”   Hey, just because you have a bi-line in a publication doesn’t mean you’re particularly smart.  In fact, I’ve always found that “true believers” who voice no skepticism about much of anything to be, well, not the brightest bulb in the room.

However, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there “denying” climate change.  The climate of the world is in constant flux and few if any deny that.  The denial is of the claims – the assertions – that trace gas CO2 is the major culprit and that man is the major reason for all the CO2.    That man’s activities are driving climate change, not natural forces.

Of course all this recent alarmist activity has been designed to coincide with the UN’s IPCC report on climate change.  As you might imagine, they’ve become a little gun shy at the IPCC after so many of their previous claims have been found to be either groundless or wrong.  So this report is couched in a mountain of qualifiers like “could”, “may”, “might” etc.  They still claim they’re right, but they aren’t quite as specific about it as previously.  Instead they use the qualifiers to help put fear in people without really having to take responsibility for their claim.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book for those who perceive themselves to be on very shaky ground but still have an agenda to fulfill.

Thankfully there are a few “denier” organizations (skeptical is the word most normal folks would use) who are monitoring the IPCC and the screechy alarmists and answering even their caveated claims.  For instance:

IPCC: “Risk of death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states, due to sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and storm surges.”

NIPCC: “Flood frequency and severity in many areas of the world were higher historically during the Little Ice Age and other cool eras than during the twentieth century. Climate change ranks well below other contributors, such as dikes and levee construction, to increased flooding.”

IPCC: “Risk of food insecurity linked to warming, drought, and precipitation variability, particularly for poorer populations.”

NIPCC: “There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity throughout the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical. Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits.

IPCC: “Risk of severe harm for large urban populations due to inland flooding.”

NIPCC: “No changes in precipitation patterns, snow, monsoons, or river flows that might be considered harmful to human well-being or plants or wildlife have been observed that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels. What changes have been observed tend to be beneficial.”

IPCC: “Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.”

NIPCC: “Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations benefit plant growth-promoting microorganisms that help land plants overcome drought conditions, a potentially negative aspect of future climate change. Continued atmospheric CO2enrichment should prove to be a huge benefit to plants by directly enhancing their growth rates and water use efficiencies.”

Etc, etc., etc.  What it seems you get from the IPCC is pseudo-scientific and blatantly political claims.  The UN has decided that “climate change” is a huge and threatening problem (and a grand method of redistributing national wealth from the 1st world to the 3rd world).  Consequently it has decided to make “science” bend to the political agenda they’ve put forward.  And compliant “scientists” are apparently willing to do their bidding.

Meanwhile, as Anthony Watts has pointed out, no one among that group of IPCC “scientists” can answer the most basic and troubling question.  Why hasn’t it warmed, as predicted, in 17 years and 6 months in the face of higher CO2 levels, and, in fact, is trending toward being cooler? One chart points the the alarmist problem in a nutshell:

So tell us again, oh ye Chicken Littles of the alarmist creed, why we should believe a single thing you claim about climate change when you and your predictions (and models) have been so awfully wrong for almost 2 decades?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 1 Apr 14

Domestic vehicle sales rose 6.9% in March to a 16.4 million annual rate, rebounding from the weather-impacted sales of the past two months.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 3.6%, but were only up 0.6% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports an increase of 2.3% in retail sales over last year.

Markit’s manufacturing PMI final for March is 55.5, down from February’s 57.1.

The ISM manufacturing index rose 0.5 points in March to 53.7.

Construction spending in February rose 0.1%, which is a 8.7% increase over the previous year.

J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI fell nearly a full point to 52.4 in March.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index averaged -17 in March, essentially the same as the -16 of the past two months.


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Roosting chickens and Obama

Michael Goodwin at the NY Post writes up a pretty damning summary of Barack Obama’s time in office as President of the United States.  One of the primary criticisms of candidate Obama was that he’d never really done anything of note.  He’d never run a company or tried to meet a payroll, deal with government regulations, etc.  He was, critics cautioned, a politically driven empty suit.  Even his experience in politics was minimal.  Every political office he held he used as a platform to run for the next highest office, accomplishing little or nothing at each stop.

Those are his “chickens” and they’re certainly coming home to roost:

Obama’s sixth year in the White House is shaping up as his worst, and that’s saying something. He’s been in the Oval Office so long that it is obscene to blame his problems on George W. Bush, the weather or racism. Obama owns the world he made, or more accurately, the world he tried to remake.

Nothing important has worked as promised, and there is every reason to believe the worst is yet to come. The president’s casual remark the other day that he worries about “a nuclear weapon ­going off in Manhattan” inadvertently reflected the fear millions of Americans have about his leadership. Not necessarily about a bomb, but about where he is taking the country.

Anyone who looks objectively at these past 6 years has difficulty in saying anything good about the time this administration has been in power.  The lack of real governing experience has left us adrift in a hostile world:

The view from his faculty lounge has no space for reality. Anything that doesn’t fit the grand plan is dismissed as illegitimate. So while global hot spots multiply and the world grows dangerously unstable, the president still plans to slash the military.

Government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and EITC lose hundreds of billions to waste, fraud and abuse, but this administration chooses to balance the budget on the backs of the only institution that is Constitutionally mandated for the defense of the country during a time of extreme danger.  Cognitive dissonance of the highest order.

And his “legacy” piece of legislation, forced through the Democratically controlled congress in the face of popular protest, has been a dismal failure to this point:

ObamaCare is the domestic expression of the president’s ineptitude. The law that was supposed to fix health care has become a problem for millions, and now enjoys mere 26 percent approval, a poll finds. It is proving so unworkable that the White House has given up defending it as written and instead simply changes key provisions when they prove impossible to implement or politically inconvenient.

Change No. 38 came when officials extended the March 31 deadline for signing up. Never mind that those same officials said recently there would be no extension, and that the law wouldn’t allow it.

Presto — the limits on his power are moot because the president says so. Meanwhile, aides claim they don’t know how many of the 6 million who enrolled actually paid for insurance..

Perhaps the most damning quote from Goodwin’s piece is this one which succinctly sums up the Obama experience thus far:

A Caesar at home and a Chamberlain abroad, Obama manages to simultaneously provoke fury and ridicule. He bullies critics here while shrinking from adversaries there.

He divides the country and unites the world against us, ­diminishing the nation in both ways. His reign of error can’t end soon enough, nor can it end well.

The country must weather a little over 2 more years of this awful presidency and hope it survives it somehow.  If it survives it, one has to hope that upon reflection, the voters will realize that electing a president isn’t a beauty contest nor is it a venue within which to make a social statement.  “The first” this or that are not as important as the ability of the candidate to govern competently.  And, it is is certainly not a position in which the incumbent should be engaged in “on the job training”.

Hopefully these lessons have been learned and, in 2016, we’ll see a resurgence of common sense among the voting public.

Yeah, and pigs will fly.

~McQ

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The ‘Catch and Release” mandate

Here we are.

Quick hits on the last day you have, had, might have had, to sign up for your ObamaCare insurance.  Curiously a rush of people appeared to sign up that I predict the Administration will report will carry them over the 7 million lost policies, log ons , applications, enrollments payed policy holder goal line.  If anyone can recall 7 million was the original goal when this benevolent plan to help the uninsured portion of the population of the United States started.  We should overlook the percentages of likely to use older and less healthy participants versus the younger will pay and never use participants and the predicted cost curves and such.  If you have a plan and don’t like what they’re offering they promise you can keep your plan.  Ha!  Fooled you!  It’s okay though, your old plan sucked whatever it was and whether you thought it did nor not.

There’s a rumble of war in the east, the Russians will, they won’t, they can’t because we stood up to them, occupy Ukraine, or eastern Ukraine, and will maybe go so far as to establish casino dominance in the Crimea.  Take that Winstar Casino!  But Putin is now in a box owing to the stringent actions of the EU and the US to contain his aggressive ADHD driven tendencies.  And owing to the President’s our ever watchful eye we have Putin’s army where we want it now.

At the pump gas prices are consistently higher over time under the current administration than the previous administration.  But not the highest single spike and that’s what’s important.  We can assume the personal finances of the President are secure as it was a well documented fact during the Bush administration that upticks in gas prices are the result of the President’s holdings in oil companies and his desire to make sure his retirement fund is well padded.  Harry Reid said that when they rose under Bush, or someone said they heard Harry Reid say someone said that.    Meanwhile in another energy independent decisive policy act the President is going to render a decision on the job creating, oil providing,  Keystone pipeline at any moment.  If you click on those links, you might want to jot down the dates on the articles for reference and hilarity.  Continued samples of the brilliant ultra decisive actions we’ve come to expect from this President.

Environmentally the administration is rolling out a new plan to deal with global warming.    It’s likely this plan will establish policies to deal with dangers such as earth quakes, meteor strikes, comets and other ill portents all suspected to be linked to man made catastrophic global warming by the consensus science community.  Officially known as the American Economy Wrecking plan Climate Action Plan, they should consider calling it Obamafarts as a sort of short catchy handle that will appeal to the millenials almost as much as Pajama Boy did.

Speaking of American youth, they continued this last weekend to demonstrate their anger over being spied on, lied to and future taxed into oblivion by focusing on what’s important the same way the President uses his laser like focus to solve the country’s problems.   Such a trend could, in as little as 300 years, lead to as broad a nationwide protest to the current government policies as was seen in the 60′s and 70′s during America’s involvement in Vietnam,  though the former Soviet Union would need to rise up again and send us more campus agitators.

Finally the President’s 4 point approach to deal with America’s immigration problem is showing very positive signs in at least 2 of the 4 parts.    Coupled with his crack down on companies that hire illegals, it was shown over the weekend by an independent study of ICE’s activities that the President can safely add the title “Deporter in Chief” to his list of accomplishments.    We’re calling this latest ‘by Presidential order’  approach the “Catch and Release” mandate.   It’s thought highly likely that once the mid-term elections are over the Administration (and the Republicans) will step up their efforts on part 3, “Streamlining Immigration” by declaring any individuals, living or deceased, in the continental US, it’s states, or territories on Jan 1st 2015 be recognized officially as American citizens. The President may extend the deadline to January 15th 2015 for those who thought about coming to the US, but couldn’t make it before the cutoff date.

Have a great day America.

UPDATE – April 1st

As my two Great Danes could have predicted – “With daily volumes continuing to surge, analysts believe the final tally could approach or even exceed an original goal of 7 million”

Now, don’t let the fact that the system was down for a good portion of the day deceive you.   This “surprising” come back was destined, written, fated, according to prophecy, etc.

I wish the numbers in my checking account were as flexible as the numbers used by the Obama Administration.

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 30 Mar 14

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about arresting climate change deniers, voter fraud, and Obamacare.

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.

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Economic Statistics for 28 Mar 14

Personal income and spending both rose 0.2% in February, while the PCE price index rose 0.1%, at both the headline and core level. On a year-over-year basis, personal income is up 3.1% while personal spending is up 3.1%. The PCE price index is up 0.9% at the headline level and 1.1% at the core.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment index rose 0.1 points to 80.0 in March.


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