Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 2 Oct 14

Challenger’s count of layoff announcement totals 30,477 in September, the lowest since June 2000. 

Gallup’s U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate fell a slight -0.1% to 44.8% in September.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 8,000 to 287,000. The 4-week average fell 3,750 to 294,750. Continuing claims fell 45,000 to 2.441 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -0.7 points to 34.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-8.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4,493 trillion. Reserve bank credit fell $-9.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-10.0 billion in the latest week.


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Economic Statistics for 1 Oct 14

September motor vehicle sales fell a sharp -6.3% to a worse-than-expected 16.4 million annual rate. The domestic sales rate was 13.2 million annualized. September faced a tough comparison to a very strong August, but sales were expected to be stronger.

ADP’s estimate for private payroll growth for September is 213,000.

Markit’s PMI Manufacturing Index for September fell just -0.4 points to a still-strong 57.5.

The ISM Manufacturing Index fell -2.4 points to 56.6.

Construction spending fell -0.8% in August after a 1.2% increase in July. Market expectations were for a 0.5% increase. On a year-over-year basis, spending rose 5.0%.

The J.P. Morgan Global Manufacturing PMI edged down -0.4 points to a still-positive 52.2.

Gallup’s US Job Creation Index reached a six-year high of 30 in September.

The MBA reports that mortgage applications fell -0.2% last week, with purchases unchanged, but refis down -0.3%.


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Economic Statistics for 30 Sep 14

ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales fell -0.2%, and rose 3.6% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports retail sales rose 4.3% on a year-ago basis.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index fell a sharp 0.5% in July, the steepest drop since November 2011. This is the third straight monthly decline. Once again, the numbers from the housing sector show a lot of weakness.  On a year-over-year basis, the index is up 6.7%.

The Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index fell 3.8 points in September to 60.5.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index in fell sharply from 92.4 to 86.0 in September.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index rose 1.1 points to 123.9 in September, on rising confidence among European institutional investors.


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Economic growth and national security? Or taxes?

The Financial Times [subscription] is reporting that the US is poised to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum (oil and natural gas liquids):

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.

With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991. [...]

Rising oil and gas production has caused the US trade deficit in energy to shrink, and prompted a wave of investment in petrochemicals and other related industries. [...] It is also having an impact on global security. Imports are expected to provide just 21 per cent of US liquid fuel consumption next year, down from 60 per cent in 2005.

The reason?  Fracking.  As Walter Russell Mead points out:

With productivity continuing to rise, the United States has a chance to become the single biggest producer of crude oil sometime in the near future. If you had said that a decade ago, you would’ve been laughed at and called a fool. What a difference fracking makes.

Indeed.  The “peak oil” pundits were sure we were on the precipice of running out of oil.  Now, it seems, the sky is indeed the limit.  Which is why it makes little sense, given the state of climate science, that our President is busily engaged via the UN and other domestic agencies, in throttling back one of the most economically viable growth engines the American economy has at the moment (and for the foreseeable future).

Instead of working on a policy to limit future use of hydrocarbons, this White House should be pushing a policy that helps us safely and sustainably exploit these assets for all.  Additionally, while petroleum is indeed a global commodity, this level of production would go a long way toward the promise of energy independence in time of crisis.  It helps remove oil as a weapon of choice by various less than friendly states and allies of convenience.

Two winners for the US: economic growth and national security.

Instead we get an attempt to establish an new tax based on specious science.

Sort of par for the course, no pun intended.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 29 Sep 14

Personal income rose 0.3% in August, while personal spending rose 0.5%. The PCE Price index was unchanged overall, but up 0.1% at the core level. On a year over year basis, personal income rose 4.3%, spending rose 4.1%, and the PCE Price index rose 1.5% at both the headline and core rate.

The pending home sales index for August fell 1.0% to 104.7, as the housing sector remains stubbornly flat.

The Dallas Fed general business activity index for September rose 3.7 points to 10.8, while the production index rocketed from 6.8 to 17.6.


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Wake up dummies – you ARE better off than you were 6 years ago – Obama decrees it!

Apparently we “underestimated” ebola and ISIS, but when it comes to the economy and our well being, our man in the White House did us proud, but we’re just not apt enough to realize that.   From Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview:

Steve Kroft: You’ve got midterm elections coming up. Are you going to get shellacked?

President Obama: Well…

Steve Kroft: Or do you think that, I mean, are you optimistic? What are the issues and what are you going to tell the American people?

President Obama: Here’s what I’m going to tell the American people. When I came into office, our economy was in crisis. We had unemployment up at 10 percent. It’s now down to 6.1. We’ve had the longest run of uninterrupted private sector job growth in our history. We have seen deficits cut by more than half. Corporate balance sheets are probably the best they’ve been in the last several decades. We are producing more energy than we had before. We are producing more clean energy than we ever had before. I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…

Steve Kroft: Do you think people will feel that?

President Obama: They don’t feel it. And the reason they don’t feel it is because incomes and wages are not going up. There are solutions to that. If we raise the minimum wage, if we make sure women are getting paid the same as men for doing the same work, if we are rebuilding our infrastructure, if we’re doing more to invest in job training so people are able to get the jobs that are out there right now, because manufacturing is coming back to this country. Not just the auto industry that we’ve saved, but you’re starting to see reinvestment here in the United States. Businesses around the world are saying for the first time in a long time, “The place to invest isn’t in China. It’s the United States.”

So there you go.  When you ask the salient question (are you better off now than you were 6 years ago), you dumbasses always give the wrong answer.  You ARE better off because our King says so.  Screw the fact that “income and wages” are not going up, or the labor participation rates is at historic lows or real unemployment is considerably higher than the manipulated number!  You’re better off, dammit!   And government can fix the wage problem – you know, just raise the minimum wage for heaven sake.

*Sigh*

Given that level of cluelessness, are you at all surprised this administration underestimated ISIS and ebola?

~McQ

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The government’s right to paw through your stuff

Let me start out with the conclusion – the government does not have a right to have easy access to your possessions on the premise that at some point in the future you might turn out to be a criminal.

There’s a lot of hoopla going on about child molesting pedophiliac serial murdering terorists(non islamic of course) who are just waiting for the release of the newer Apple IPhones so they can encrypt and hide the evidence of their crimes. This reckless disregard for government’s need to easily poke through your posessions, i.e. read the stuff on your IPhone,  will allow these yet to be criminals to get off scott free because the government will be unable to easily decrypt the data.

Well, that at least seems to be the argument I keep hearing.   I probably could have thrown in some other things these criminals are going to encrypt, but pedophiles and terrorists seem to be the hot button crimes  the government thinks are the be all end all arguments for why they should be able to get at the data without a great deal of hassel on their part.

As a counter weight to that set of players, let’s imagine a journalist, with secret “Deep-Throat” level informers inside government who has data encrypted on his phone that pertains to government malfeasence with names, and dates, including the name or names of the informers (and copies of 8×10 color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a parapgraph on the back explaining what each one is to be used as evidence against them).  And for crazy but obvious reasons the reporter really doesn’t want to share that with the government and he encrypts it on his IPhone.

Let’s presume for a moment a corrupt Department of Justice or other government agency.  Crazy talk, right?  Gee, that could never happen  (cough cough…. DOJ FIFA foot dragging, contempt of Congress Fast and Furious, IRS investigations, lost emails, crashing hard drives, NSA reading everything written by everybody that traverses the internet)   Let’s presume that the encrypted data that would bring down the government perps in these corrupt agencies is on the reporter’s IPhone, and the corrupt agency creates reason to confiscate said phone, and would like to know what’s on it, again, for crazy but obvious reasons.  Suppose the criminals ARE the government.  Nah, that could never happen.

So, do you believe you’re obligated to make your possessions easy for the government to search?   Do you believe your house should be an open book to government warrant, because, hey, you might be a criminal in the future.  People don’t think of their data as a posession, but just because the old way of storing data was ‘papers’ doesn’t mean that ‘bits’ aren’t really the same thing.   All we did was change how it’s stored.   Should you be obligated to tell the government about any and every secret hiding place you have on your property when they show up looking for those Cuban cigars you knew were illegal to bring back from your Carribean cruise?   Should you be obligated to make it EASY for them?

It has been correctly pointed out that this action by Apple is in direct response to the NSA snooping, and we joke about it, but be honest, we all pretty much think they’re looking at EVERYTHING, don’t we?   And despite their protestations of innocence, we think they’re doing it here, and abroad, for practically everyone, on any electronic transmission they can get access to.    It all has to go through routers somewhere, sometime, it’s all being recorded and relayed at some point.   All of it.   This ain’t magic ya know.  And now they’re outraged!  outraged!  that people might be trying to make it hard on them to peek and poke and prod.

And I’m supposed to believe being able to crack the data on an IPhone is going to stop, oh, another Boston Marathon bombing?  When they lost track of a guy because they didn’t spell his name right?   How are they going to get his phone to decrypt his data?

Nah, sorry, there’s a whole lot of government house cleaning that needs to go on at the IRS, the DOJ,  and the many flavors of DHS before I get excercised about them not being able to easily decrypt data on an IPhone.    I’m more afraid of the listed agencies than I am of Achmed and Mohammed or the guy who dresses up as Barney and keeps encrypted pictures of nude kids on his phone.  I’m against all of those things okay?  And my way of dealing with such people would probably be much more at home on the frontier west of the 1800’s than 21st century America.

But we have people flowing across our southern border from who knows where, thinking who knows what, carrying who knows what diseases or posessions and agencies getting bent out of shape over not being able to decrypt future criminal eveidence are doing exactly jack-all to stop THAT even though they know it’s occurring RIGHT NOW.   Keep Achmed and Mohammed out of the country, and we won’t have to worry what they’ve encrypted on their IPhones.  And we caught pedo’s before they had IPhones to encrypt data on.

Federal law enforcment can spare me their attempts at  moral outrage because from what I see they’re not outraged much by the abuses they can do something about directly right now that have nothing to do with easily decrypting future data on a future criminal’s phone.   And I am flat not convinced that the 4th Amendment was written to make it easier for the government to poke through my stuff.

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