Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 5 Dec 14

The Labor Department reports that 321,000 net new jobs were created in November, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8%. Average weekly hours rose 0.1 hours to 34.6, while average hourly earnings rose 9 cents to $24.66. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 62.8%. The real rate of unemployment, using the pre-crisis historical average participation rate of 66.2%, rose 0.06% to 10.59%.

In October, the US trade gap narrowed very slightly to $-43.4 billion from a revised $-43.6 billion in September.

Factory orders fell a further -0.7% in October, following September’s -0.5% decline. 

Consumer credit rose $13.2 billion in October, mainly on a $12.3 billion rise in non-revolving credit, which disappoints retailers.


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Economic Statistics for 4 Dec 14

Chain stores are reporting monthly sales today, showing mostly stronger rates of year-on-year sales growth in November than October.

Challenger’s Job Cut Report shows that the layoff count fell to 35,940 in November from 51,183 in October and 45,314 in November last year. 

Gallup’s November Payroll to Population employment rate was 44.2%, down two ticks from October’s rate of 44.4%.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 17,000 to 297,000. The 4-week average rose 5,000 to 299,000. Continuing claims rose 39,000 to 2.362 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.9 points to 39.8 in the latest week, still close to a seven-year high.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $0.3 billion last week, with total assets of 4.486 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-7.6 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose by $3.5 billion in the latest week.


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They don’t call them the “Stupid Party” for nothing

Senator Jeff Sessions points out:

“Polling shows voters believe that Americans should get preference for available jobs by almost a 10–1 margin,” Sessions said.  “Republicans should not be timid or apologetic, but mount a bold defense of struggling Americans.”

Remember what I said about framing the illegal alien amnesty as being about jobs?  Remember I said they could own this politically.  Remember I also said “of course we’re talking about the Republicans here”?

Yeah, well like I said:

Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) suggested that House Republicans are on the verge of breaking their campaign promise to fight President Obama’s administrative amnesty, judging by the legislative text currently being circulated.

Sessions said that the proposed language “fails to meet [the] test” established by Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who promised earlier this year that the GOP would do everything possible to thwart Obama’s executive orders.

“The executive amnesty language is substantially weaker than the language the House adopted this summer, and does not reject the central tenets of the President’s plan: work permits, Social Security and Medicare to 5 million illegal immigrants — reducing wages, jobs and benefits for Americans,” Sessions said in the statement expressing his dissatisfaction with the results of a House Republican conference meeting today.

Yes, yes, the usual nonsense from the stupid party.

Look they’re getting ready to vote on a continuing resolution to fund government for next year – so this can’t wait till then.  It’s time to do this now.

Sessions wants Congress to attach a rider to the government-funding bill that prohibits Obama from implementing the orders; his office released a list yesterday, compiled with the assistance the Congressional Research Service, of instances in which Congress did just that on a variety of issues last year.

“Congress must respond to the president’s unlawful action by funding the government but not funding illegal amnesty,” Sessions said. “This is a perfectly sound and routine application of Congressional authority. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports that last year’s omnibus spending bill included 16 such funding restrictions on fee-based programs.”

To those inclined to worry that using the spending power would backfire on Republicans, Sessions suggested that economic populism would lead to a GOP victory.

Yes it would.  But that’s if they had a collective spine and actually meant all the fire and brimstone rhetoric they spouted while they were trying to get elected/reelected.

But we’re talking the GOP here – always snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 3 Dec 14

The Fed’s Beige book reports that national economic activity—including employment—continues to expand, with wages and prices restrained.

Nonfarm productivity growth for the 3rd Qtr was revised up to an annualized 2.3%, while Unit labor costs were revised down sharply to -1.0%.

ADP estimates that private payroll growth for November was a worse-than-expected 208,000.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -7.3% last week, with purchases up 3.0% but refis down -13.0%.

Gallup’s U.S. Job Creation Index ticked up a point in November to 28.

The ISM non-manufacturing index rose 2.2 points to 59.3 in November.

Markit’s PMI Services Index fell -0.9 points in November to 56.2.

The J.P. Morgan Global Composite PMI fell -0.4 points to 53.2 in November, while the Global Services PMI fell -0.2 points to 53.5.


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In many cases, the media’s narrative has little to do with truth or facts

Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve been getting bombarded with pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli emails.  We’ve all realized over the years that the pro-Palestinian side has successfully built a narrative that has little bearing on the truth, but has a number of abettors.  Among them the media.  And it is a real problem when “news” ends up being slanted to one side or another because, well, because it fits a narrative the media prefers, because we remain poorly and incompletely informed.   Funny how when that’s the case, flaky “facts” go unexamined, while real facts are downplayed, ignored or dismissed if they don’t fit that narrative.

Of course we’ve also been told, by the usual players, that there is no media bias and that the story is “true”.    Of course, that’s using the post-modern definition of true.  However, now an AP correspondent very familiar with the area, the coverage and the narrative, lays it all out in a couple of articles:

Most consumers of the Israel story don’t understand how the story is manufactured. But Hamas does. Since assuming power in Gaza in 2007, the Islamic Resistance Movement has come to understand that many reporters are committed to a narrative wherein Israelis are oppressors and Palestinians passive victims with reasonable goals, and are uninterested in contradictory information. Recognizing this, certain Hamas spokesmen have taken to confiding to Western journalists, including some I know personally, that the group is in fact a secretly pragmatic outfit with bellicose rhetoric, and journalists—eager to believe the confession, and sometimes unwilling to credit locals with the smarts necessary to deceive them—have taken it as a scoop instead of as spin.

During my time at the AP, we helped Hamas get this point across with a school of reporting that might be classified as “Surprising Signs of Moderation” (a direct precursor to the “Muslim Brotherhood Is Actually Liberal” school that enjoyed a brief vogue in Egypt). In one of my favorite stories, “More Tolerant Hamas” (December 11, 2011), reporters quoted a Hamas spokesman informing readers that the movement’s policy was that “we are not going to dictate anything to anyone,” and another Hamas leader saying the movement had “learned it needs to be more tolerant of others.” Around the same time, I was informed by the bureau’s senior editors that our Palestinian reporter in Gaza couldn’t possibly provide critical coverage of Hamas because doing so would put him in danger.

There are a couple of things to take away from this.  One the uber-sophisticated press is being spun by those they tend to look-down upon.  Apparently there’s such a thing as being “willingly spun” and we’ve been getting a whole heaping helping of it for years. The irony, if it wasn’t so damaging, is delicious.  Two, this is how you get Ferguson’s.  This is the same recipe on a domestic level.  Facts, be damned, the narrative is what is important and so it is the narrative you get.

How does that serve the consumers of news?

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 2 Dec 14

Motor vehicle sales for November were strong, up 4.2% to a 17.2 million annual rate, well over the high end of analyst’s forecasts. Domestic vehicle units also tapped expectations, coming in at a 14.0 million annual rate.

Construction spending rose a strong 1.1% in October, led by a 2.3% rise in public outlays, and a 1.3% increase in private residential spending.

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -1.8%, but rose 2.8% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.8% on a year-ago basis. Both reports are actually positive, and point to strength for December sales.

Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index climbed 4 points to -8 in November, the highest reading in 18 months.


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How the Democrats lost their way

Or something.  That’s what Charlie Cook covers in National Journal.  Cook is a Democratic political expert of some repute and as honest as one can find in that genre.  I’ve read him a lot over the years and have found him to certainly lean to the left but also display a level of honesty that is unusual for his ilk.

So, anyway he goes into a 3 or 4 paragraph analysis as to why the Dems are weak, but it is essentially summed up in the subheading of the article:

They have subordinated their traditional focus on helping working-class Americans move up the economic ladder in favor of other priorities.

That’s why I think Obama’s unilateral immigration amnesty is all set to bite them in the posterior. If the GOP frames it correctly it is tailor made to emphasize the very point made above.  Down economy.  Jobs at a premium.  Working class Americans hurting.  And what do the Democrats do?  Applaud introducing 5 million illegal workers into an already tough labor market.

How does that serve “working-class America” from which most of those jobs are likely to go?  Or should have, anyway?  How do you make the case you’re still the party of working-class America when you do everything in your power to put others in front of them?

Like I said, handled properly this is a winner.  But then, we’re talking the GOP, so don’t hold your breath.

~McQ

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Your Monday laugh

Desperate Mary Landrieu has an ad out saying:

“This is Congressman Cedric Richmond. Have you heard the crazy stuff Bill Cassidy, Bobby Jindal, and the Republicans are always saying about President Obama? They have shown our president so much disrespect. They said he wasn’t a U.S. citizen, they even sued him – and if Cassidy wins, they will impeach him.”

Uh, no.  He’s not going to be impeached.  With two years left, he really isn’t worth the effort even if he deserves it.  That would be “raaacist”.   And anyway, we all know who the VP is.  Why trade an incompetent narcissist for an incompetent clown?  Well the comic relief would be refreshing.

On second thought, maybe not a bad idea – Biden would then be able to run as the incumbent.

Hmmm ….

~McQ

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