Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 2 Aug 16

Personal income for June rose 0.2%, but consumer spending rose 0.4%. The PCE Price Index rose 0.1% at both the headline and core rates. On a year-over-year basis, the PCE Price index is up 0.9% overall, and 1.6% less food and energy.

Motor vehicle sales were very strong in July, jumping to a 17.9 million annual rate from June’s 16.7 million.

Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index fell -1 point in July to -15.

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth weakened further falling to 0.3% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 0.6%.


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The wages of Socialism

“Wages” being a euphemistic term in this case:

Home to the world’s worst economy, Venezuela is beset by severe food shortages, riots in the streets and hyperinflation that’s closing in on 700 percent. World oil prices have plummeted — and Venezuela relies on oil for 95 percent of its income.

Agriculture was neglected as Chavez and Maduro placed all their economic chips on crude and elected to import goods from abroad while spending on social programs that rallied the poor behind the government.

But now Venezuela has no cash to import food or other essentials. And because Chavez nationalized so much industry, it has no private sector to compensate.

So Maduro has now issued an executive decree that subjects all workers to being forced to work for 60 days (or more, “if circumstances merit”) in the fields, growing badly needed food.

Economically, the move makes no sense. Morally, it’s barely one step up from government-sanctioned slavery.

And there’s a Senator from Vermont that would love to see the system that is sliding into slavery at work here.  More intriguing is the fact that there are studies out that say that Sanders should have won the primary election that was apparently fraught with fraud and rigged from the beginning.  Think about that for a minute.

What does that say – other than total ignorance – about those who felt it was a good idea to “feel the Bern”?  Not that Bernie would have had much success in passing and implementing his programs.  I’m simply making the point that a significant portion of our population thought this potential tyrant was the best choice because – historic blinders, ignorance or both.  Not that anyone is getting a particularly better deal with the two nominees of record (one a crook and the other a clown).

What continues to puzzle me is how Venezuela, which is in the news every single day and pretty much implemented every one of Bernie Sanders policies and programs, is ignored so resolutely by these people.  How do you do that and call  yourself intellectually honest?

But considering their second choice, honesty – intellectual or otherwise – doesn’t seem to be much of a priority.

So there’s that …

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Jul 16

The preliminary estimate for 2nd Quarter GDP is an anemic 1.2% annualized rate. The GDP Price index rose to a 2.2% rate. In addition, 1st Quarter GDP was revised downwards to 0.8% annualized.

The Employment Cost index rose 0.6% in the 2nd Quarter, and is up 2.3% from a year ago.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose 0.5 points to 90.0 in July.

The Chicago Purchasing manager’s Index fell a full point to 55.8 in July.


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Economic Statistics for 28 Jul 16

The deficit in America’s international trade in goods expanded to $-63.3 billion as exports rose 0.9% but imports rose 1.8% in June.

Wholesale inventories are unchanged in the preliminary July report.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index for July dropped from 2 to -6.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 14,000 to 266,000. The 4-week average fell 1,000 to 256,500. Continuing claims rose 7,000 to 2.139 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was unchanged at 42.9 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-16.5 billion last week, with total assets of $4.465 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-4.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $34.7 billion in the latest week.


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Hillary’s challenge from the even farther left

How unattractive a candidate is Hillary Clinton?  Well, first she’s not the first female to nominated for president by a US political party (you have to put “major” in front of “political party” for that to be true and only if you think that difference matters).  The Green Party has been doing it for years.

Speaking of the Green Party, this is how unattractive a candidate Clinton is … among her own kind:

Now that Hillary Clinton has officially won the Democratic presidential nomination, chances are we’re going to hear a lot more about Jill Stein. The Green Party candidate, currently polling in the low single digits nationally, has been gunning for the support of disaffected Bernie Sanders fans, urging them to “keep the revolution going” by getting behind her own long-shot White House bid. Tuesday, she was on hand at the Democratic convention to meet aggrieved Sanders delegates, some of whom formed a small crowd around her to chant, “Bernie or Jill.” Thanks to progressive grassroots rage, she may well peel off a few percentage points of the vote come the fall, when she’s expected to be on the ballot in about 47 states.

That would be lovely.  In fact, I’ve read in more than one place that votes for the Johnson/Weld libertarian ticket might actually find votes on both sides of the political spectrum, those from the left coming from “dissatisfied Democrats” who can’t stomach Clinton. How bad is it when the chosen candidate (she was certainly not “elected”) can’t even dampen the fire of contention in her own party?

And, finally, a recent poll found Clinton’s unfavorable rating to be atmospheric in relation to other presidential candidates in recent presidential elections.  Like not even close!

Look, we all know Stein is Sanders in a skirt.  An unrealistic, economically illiterate Socialist platform based on wishes, hopes, unicorns and rainbows.  But frankly, if it’s enough to siphon off votes from Clinton, I say let the unicorns stampede.

This could end up being a very interesting election after all.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 27 Jul 16

The Federal Open Markets Committee Voted to keep short-term interest rates unchanged today, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0.25%-0.5%.

June factory orders plunged a steep -4.0%, with ex-transportation orders down -0.5%, but core capital goods orders rose 0.2%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are down -6.4% overall, with ex-transportation orders down -3.6% and core capital goods down -3.7%.

The Pending Home Sales Index rose 0.2% in June, to 111.0.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -11.2% last week, with purchases down -3.0% and refis down -15.0%.


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Economic Statistics for 26 Jul 16

The Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey rose from -7.0 to 0.4 in July.

New home sales in June were much higher than expected, at a 592,000 annual rate that is 25% higher than a year ago.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index fell -0.1% in May, but remains 5.2% higher than a year ago.

The PMI Services flash number for July fell -0.4% to 50.9.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell -0.7 points to 97.3 in July.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing index jumped from -7 to 10 in July.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -7.7 points to to 98 in July. 

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales growth slowed to 0.4% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s already weak 0.6%.


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Awaiting Act II of the charade called “democracy”

Act II, of course, being the Democratic National Convention where the fix was in from the beginning for the chosen son, or in this case witch.

Everyone expected the RNC to be a circus, but this particular convention promises to take the cake.  Thus the 4 mile fence they’ve built around the venue to keep the plebs at a distance.

So, Democratic voters, you really thought you had a role in all of this?  Bwaahaaahahaha.  You hadn’t a chance of deciding.  Your vote was simply part of the stage props necessary in the attempt to keep the facade of “democracy” alive.  The Superdelegates picked long before the first vote was cast had already decided the contest.  You were window dressing.

And I have to tell you, I am loving the Wikileaks DNC email dump.  Latinos are part of the “Taco Bowl” constituency.  Just shut up, grab a burrito and vote for Hillary.  They’ll ignore you later.

Meanwhile, it appears “Clinton, Inc.” is having a pre-move in sale:

The documents, which were circulated among top DNC officials in April, could raise legal questions for the party, says Ken Boehm, the chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group.

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party,” Boehm told The Daily Caller.

“That is unethical, if not illegal.”

The claim now circulating is the DNC server was hacked by Russia.  But Hillary’s server?  As safe as the gold in Ft. Knox, rest assured.

What a world we live in.  We have two of the worst candidates – that’s right, there is no “lesser of two evils” this time – running for a job in which they’ll each try to outdo the current worst president the US has ever suffered under.

As for the profession of “journalism”, you know what to expect:

At the beginning of the Republican National Convention last week, NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer confronted presidential nominee Donald Trump about dialing down the intensity of the passions percolating at the event. “Would you be willing to make a pledge to speak to everyone involved in this convention and say, ‘Please tone down the rhetoric’?” Lauer urged. “Can you say to the people who are going to take to that podium this week, ‘No personal attacks, no vitriol, keep it civil?”

The irony there is that political journalists themselves, Lauer included, have become as inflammatory as the politicians they lecture about incivility. In the aftermath of last month’s Orlando terrorist massacre at a gay nightclub, for example, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper badgered the increasingly offended Attorney General of Florida interminably about her stance on gay marriage. More recently, Fox News’ Shepherd Smith berated Gov. Bobby Jindal for using the “divisive” phrase “All lives matter.” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who wears her biases as openly as her keffiyeh, hammered away contentiously at British MP Daniel Hannan for nine minutes over the recent Brexit vote.

Screw it.

~McQ

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