Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

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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Economic Statistics for 26 Nov 14

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -4.3% last week, with purchases down -10.0% and refis down -4.0%.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 21,000 to 313,000. The 4-week average rose 6,250 to 294,000X. Continuing claims fell 17,000 to 2.316 million.

October durable goods orders rose 0.4%, almost entirely on a 45.3% increase in defense aircraft orders, without which, orders actually fell by a sharp -0.9%. On a year-over-year basis, orders are up 5.5%, and ex-transportation orders are up 6.4%.

Both personal income and spending rose 0.2% in October, while the PCE Price index rose 0.1% at the headline level and 0.2% at the core.

The Chicago PMI fell -5.4 points in November to a still-strong 60.8.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 2.2 points last week to 40.7, the highest level since December 2007.

The Reuter’s/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell -0.6 points to 88.8 in November.

New home sales in October came in at a weaker-than-expected 458,000 annual rate.

The pending home sales index fell -1.1% to 104.1 in October.


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Economic Statistics for 25 Nov 14

GDP growth in the 3rd Quarter was revised upwards unexpectedly, coming in at 3.9% annualized. The GDP Price index was also revised upwards slightly to 1.4%.

Corporate profits in the 3rd Quarter came in at $1.873 trillion, following $1.842 trillion for the 2nd Quarter. 

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell -5.8 points to 88.7 in November.

FHFA House Price Index was unchanged in September. On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 4.3%.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rose 0.3% in September, and is up 4.9% from a year ago.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index declined sharply from 20 to 4 in November.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index fell -1.1 points to 114.0 in November. 

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales rose 2.2%, but on only rose 1.7% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.2% on a year-ago basis.


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A few thoughts on Ferguson

As I watch this nonsense in Ferguson, I’m simply reminded of the daily fare of poor television that reality shows bring us.  That’s all Ferguson is.  Give a promise of fame, indulge self-importance, ignore facts and film. That’s the formula.  It’s “good TV” and the media has been as complicit as anyone in the result.  In fact, they’ve egged it on.  Remove the spotlight and the interest wanes.

Instead we’ve seen a steady drumbeat of coverage, almost a countdown to the Grand Jury findings and, as usual, a trial by media.

The facts don’t matter.  The findings of the Grand Jury have to be racist because the court of public opinion, sans few if any concrete facts, has already found the officer guilty.  Does anyone even pretend to believe that if that crowd last night had been able to find officer Wilson that he wouldn’t have later been found hanging from a lamp post?

This, as with the Trayvon Martin case, is a media event.   You only have to look at all the disparate groups who’ve camped out in Ferguson since the Brown killing to gather that.  The usual groups have gone through some incredible contortions to make Brown’s death relevant to their cause.   And, of course, with the media lights on, the usual suspects among the race baiters are there as well, preening and goading.

Are there grievances?  I’m sure there are.  But burning out your neighborhood isn’t the way to settle them.  I’m still trying to figure out what Panera Bread did to deserve to be torched other than be in the wrong location.  This is beyond “civil disobedience”.  This is criminal destruction.  And yet, when this is all said and done, the denizens of the neighborhood are going to demand these businesses build again.  I know what my answer would be – “you made a desert, now live in it”.

Anyway, the bottom line here is I don’t take reality shows seriously.  Nor should you.

~McQ

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