Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Economic Statistics for 22 Oct 15

Existing home sales rose a strong 4.7% in September to a 5.55 million annual rate. On a year-over-year basis, sales are up 8.8%.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.3% in August, and is up 5.5% on a year-ago basis.

The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Indicators fell back -0.2% in September, mainly due to the fall in building permits.

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index almost rose out of negative territory, rising from -8 to -1 in October.

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index rose from -0.41 to -0.37 for September, still indicating broad weakness in the economy.

Initial weekly jobless claims rose 4,000 to 259,000. The 4-week average fell 2,000 to 263,250. Continuing claims rose 6,000 to 2.170 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell -1.7 points to 43.5 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet fell $-3.3 billion last week, with total assets of $4.501 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $6.0 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-18.7 billion in the latest week.

Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Is the UN focus on “global warming” immoral?

Bjorn Lomborg thinks it is.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, he takes exception with the UN’s continued pushing for a “solution” for “climate change”, formerly known as “global warming”.  Lomborg thinks that it ignores the real problems out there and this focus on global warming takes money away from them for what is, at best, a marginal problem.

In a world in which malnourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children’s lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is immoral.

For instance, says Lomborg, according to a recent study, if the UN spent .57% ($570 million) of the $100 billion climate-finance goal on mosquito nets to help control malaria, it could reduce malaria deaths by 50% by 2025 and save approximately 300,000 lives.

Instead, the UN is more interested in the world’s largest wealth redistribution scheme.  Somehow the scam has rich nations happy to pledge their citizen’s money and poor nations lining up to receive it.  How much will actually go toward addressing the real problems Lomborg highlights is anyone’s guess, but if history is to be a guide, not much.  There’s a reason the poorer countries are poor and that has much to do with who is in charge.

Anyway, Lomborg points to the obvious, or at least what should be obvious, in terms of this rush to be “green” and what the world (and the UN) could be doing instead:

Providing the world’s most deprived countries with solar panels instead of better health care or education is inexcusable self-indulgence. Green energy sources may be good to keep on a single light or to charge a cellphone. But they are largely useless for tackling the main power challenges for the world’s poor.

According to the World Health Organization, three billion people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution because they burn wood, coal or dung to cook. These people need access to affordable, reliable electricity today. Yet too often clean alternatives, because they aren’t considered “renewable,” aren’t receiving the funding they deserve.

2014 study by the Center for Global Development found that “more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation”—the U.S. government’s development finance institution—“were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.”

Wow.  Electricity.  Its been with us for over a century.  We all know its benefits.  We all know how well its access could help lift those without it out of poverty.

Yet the UN is more interested in chasing the chimera of “global warming” and its unproven science.  The reason, of course is power.  Money and control equal power.  And this scheme with $100 billion changing hands under the auspices of the UN offers undreamed of opportunities for those in the UN to engage in an unprecedented level of graft.  There just isn’t the level of opportunity in helping the world’s poor gain electricity.

As you’ve heard many, many times … follow the money.


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 20 Oct 15

A light week of economic stats starts with the Housing Market index, which rose 2 points to 64 in October.

September housing starts rose a much stronger than expected 6.5% to a 1.206 annual rate, but permits were weak, falling -5.0% to 1.103 million, annualized. 

Redbook reports that last week’s retail sales improved to 1.3% on a year-ago basis, from the previous week’s 1.1%. Still weak, though.

Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Why is Bernie Sanders so popular?

Essentially three reasons – youth, “progressive” leftists and economic illiterates.  And, yes, they can be all three.  But not necessarily.

Back in May as Sanders was emerging as a presidential candidate, many were caught by surprise that an avowed socialist could pile up the numbers he was getting.

Bernie Sanders, a Senator for Vermont and currently the only declared challenger to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, is the only member of Congress to describe himself as a socialist. For much of the Cold War socialism evoked images of military parades in Moscow’s Red Square, but for Sanders, and many of America’s self-declared socialists, their aim isn’t to bring revolution to America but to make America more like Sweden and Norway.

And, of course, that’s precisely what we’ve seen Sanders continue to do – tout the European model to hide the well-deserved reputation that socialism really has among the historically literate.  Apparently it has worked.  YouGov did a poll at that time and discovered the source of Sanders support.  While 52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism, only 26% have such a view for socialism.  Where is that favorable view to be found?

 Among younger Americans, however, attitudes are a lot more divided. 36% of under-30s have a positive view of socialism, while 39% have a positive view of capitalism.

Among older Americans, who actually lived through the era of socialism and watched its pernicious effects, only 15% view it favorably while 59% view it negatively.  So we have a whole generation growing up who have no experience seeing the reality of socialism played out in front of them.  Instead they’re pointed to a couple of socialist Potemkin villages and told that’s how it can be.  Don’t expect them to read the recent trashing of the Nordic model that is so obvious to those who have even an inkling of economic savvy.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised, as the Democratic party continues to move further left, that they support socialism more and more.

Democrats (43%) are also much more likely than either independents (22%) or Republicans (9%) to have a favorable view of socialism. Democrats, in fact, are as likely to have a favorable view of capitalism (43%) as socialism. While only 9% of Republicans see socialism in a positive light, 79% have a good view of capitalism.

History, apparently, has no relevance with the left.  Nor do facts or economic laws.  They’re sure that the only reason the magic of socialism hasn’t been successful and produced the utopia they’re sure it promises is it just hasn’t been done right … yet.

To a good portion of them, Bernie is the man to make that happen.

And, probably just as important is this is the same contingent that helped put our current occupant in the White House and keep him there for 2 terms.


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

The old “bait and switch” of solar energy

Solar energy has been touted by those who support its wide use as a completely “clean” way of producing electricity.

But reality gives lie to that claim.  Take the Ivanpah plant in the Mojave Desert for example. It sits on 5.6 square miles of mostly undisturbed public land that was home to desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction, among other wildlife.  It fries birds in flight regularly.  Environmentalists concerns were ignored.

Why?  Because it was an Obama administration priority, whether it is important to anyone else or not.

Said Obama when it opened:

“With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.”

Except it not only doesn’t lower our “reliance on … oil”, it is a large user of fossil fuel.  Yes, that’s right – it has a huge carbon footprint.

Data from the California Energy Commission show that the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 – its first year of operation – to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

The plant, the recipient of $1.6 billion in federal loan guarantees as well as $600 million in tax credits, uses natural gas to preheat water for steam.  It is only after the water is preheated that the solar energy is applied to finally produce the steam to turn the generators.  And on cloudy days?  Yes, all natural gas and nothing but natural gas.

And the enviros?  Well, David Lamfrom, desert project manager of the National Parks Conservation Association, is pretty sure this isn’t what they signed up for.  He points out that this isn’t a solar project but instead a hybrid project which uses both solar and fossil fuel to generate electricity.

“It feels like a bait and switch,” Lamfrom said. “This project was held up as a model of innovation. We didn’t sign up for greener energy. We signed up for green energy.”

The Obama administration lied about the project?  My goodness – the next thing you’ll tell us is “if we like our health insurance we won’t be able to keep it”.

Oh, wait.


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Economic Statistics for 16 Oct 15

US industrial production declined by -0.2% in September, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories fell -0.1% to 77.5%.

Job openings fell to 5.370 million in August, from 5.668 million in July. 

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose nearly 5 points to 92.1 for the preliminary October reading.

The Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations reading rose from 1.7% to 1.8% for October.

Foreign demand for long-term U.S. securities rose a moderate $20.4 billion in August, up from July’s $7.7 billion.

Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Russia’s military not as bad as reported

Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.

Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR.  And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.

Another factoid from the article:

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.

The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending.  And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it.  Russia is demonstrating that willingness.

Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.

Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause.  China has sent forces to Syria.  And the latest?

On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.

Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well?  It sure has been rewarding so far.


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!