The MBA reports that rising mortgage rates sent mortgage applications down -9.2% in the latest week. Purchases fell -5.0%, while re-fis dropped -13.0%.
The nation’s current account deficit the 1st Quarter of 2014 rose to $-111.2 billion from a revised $-87.3 billion in 4Q 2013.
The Federal Open Markets Committee left interest rates unchanged today, with a Fed Funds target rate of 0% – 0.25%.
The FOMC’s June projection for economic growth: 2014: 2.1-2.3%; 2015: 3.0-3.2%; 2016: 2.5-3.0%; longer run: 2.1-2.2%. Again, the prediction is for continuing subpar GDP growth.
The polls continue to show an erosion of public support for President Obama. Here are 4 interesting paragraphs describing the latest:
Foreign crises and domestic economic unease have eroded President Barack Obama‘s public standing, sapping his ability to respond to overseas conflicts and weighing on fellow Democrats heading into the midterm elections.
As clouds gather abroad, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Mr. Obama’s job approval rating at 41%, matching a previous low. Approval of his handling of foreign policy hit a new low of 37%. Both numbers are driven in part by conflicts largely outside the president’s control, including a new wave of sectarian violence in Iraq.
This latest dip in Mr. Obama’s approval runs contrary to signs Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment. (Interactive: Poll Results)
The latest Journal poll of 1,000 adults, conducted between Wednesday and Sunday, highlights what appears to be a lasting slide in the president’s public image. Respondents split in half on whether the Obama administration is competent, lower marks than Americans gave former PresidentGeorge W. Bush‘s administration in 2006, after the war in Iraq and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina derailed his presidency.
Now you remember that time don’t you? The time of Katrina and Iraq? The time when Democrats lined up to get in front of the cameras and declare George Bush “incompetent”? Yeah, me too. And now the guy who was all too happy to participate in that labeling, has managed to do worse.
What does that make him?
Note too the attempt to put lipstick on this pig – “…Americans agree with his policies on climate change and education, and as a divided Republican Party remains far less popular than the president and his party. Despite misgivings toward Mr. Obama, the survey showed the public sides with him and his fellow Democrats on a range of issues, including immigration, education and the environment.”
There’s only one problem with this list of issues of “agreement” – they are all low priority issues for the public. Jobs. Economy. War. Spending. Those are what top the list. And then there’s the matter of bungled health care, scandals and of course, the collapse of any semblance of a foreign policy that this administration might have had. Frankly, I’m being kind with the last one. If there’s been a real foreign policy at work for these past 6 years, it’s been as well hidden as Lois Lerner’s emails.
I’d love to say, “I told you so”, I’d love to talk about irony and shadenfreude. But this is too pitiful a performance to be flip about. And the consequences are real. I see articles about how this guy is now “tired” of being president. He’s “bored” with the job. How could he be either bored or tired – he hasn’t done the job at all.
Got to say, in all my years – and I lived through the Carter era – I’ve never seen this country in such pitiful shape. Never. Mr. Obama has done enough damage, in the foreign relations arena, that it will take decades to undo. The only silver lining, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that one of his goals was to prove big government could be competent and beneficial. He has proven precisely the opposite to be true.
Perhaps the Democrats aren’t calling him “incompetent” for a reason.
Incompetent doesn’t begin to cover how bad this President and his administration are.
The Empire State manufacturing index remained strong for June, rising a slight 0.27 points to a strong 19.28.
The Treasury reports that net foreign demand for long-term US securities fell $-24.2 billion in June.
Industrial production rose 0.6% in May, while capacity utilization in the nation’s factories rose 0.5% to 79.1%.
The NAHB housing market index for June rose 4 points to 49, just one point under the break-even reading of 50.
(This screen cap done at 9:00 AM CST 15 June, 2014)
We’ve known that the New York Times has been part of the palace guard for Democrats for quite a while.* But this is a new low.
If 18 minutes of lost taped conversations in Nixon’s White House is good for weeks of coverage, surely close to two years of lost emails from someone accused targeting the president’s political opponents is even more important.
The story has been on the networks’ web sites since Friday (NBC, CBS, Fox) plus outlets like Forbes, the Fiscal Times, and lots of others. Given that, no serious, objective media outlet would ever ignore the lost IRS email story for two days, and leave it out of their biggest edition of the week. Not the “paper of record”. Not the publication that brags it contains “all the news that’s fit to print”.
But that’s exactly what the Times has done.
The Washington Post is marginally better. No front page story, as the story manifestly deserves. No original reporting, even though the story is in their own backyard. But they do have a couple of Associated Press reports in two sections Politics and Business (yeah, Business – I don’t get it either).
If you still think the Times and Post have not chosen sides politically, then you are a willfully blind, naive fool.
*Occasionally a decent article slips through, or perhaps is done as camouflage to bolster the idea that they are serious objective journalists. They stopped fooling anyone connected to reality quite a while back.
This week, Michael, and Dale talk about Bowe Bergdahl and the economy.
The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.
Producer prices for final demand fell -0.2% in May, and are up 2.0% on a year-over-year basis. PPI-FD less food & energy: -0.1 %, PPI-FD less food, energy & trade services: 0.0 %, PPI-FD Goods: -0.1 %, PPI-FD Services: -0.2 %.
The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index fell -0.7 points to 81.2 in June.
With the relase of the 5 Taliban leaders for a deserter, we’ve been mostly assured, by the usual suspects, that they won’t go back to war with us and anyone who thinks they will, well that’s “baloney” per John Kerry. That there has been a “deal” made and we were “promised” that wouldn’t happen. That’s sort of like believing gun control laws will keep guns out of the hands of criminals … it strains credulity.
And, frankly, we’re apparently pretty good at reseeding terrorist ranks as it turns out. Take the terrorist organization ISIS which is now brutalizing Iraq:
The United States once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, but president Barack Obama let him go, it was revealed on Friday.
Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.’s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq.
But now five years later he is leading the army of ruthless extremists bearing down on Baghdad who want to turn the country into an Islamist state by blazing a bloody trail through towns and cities, executing Iraqi soldiers, beheading police officers and gunning down innocent civilians.
Even I remember al Baghdadi’s name and the massive hunt to bring him to ground. He was murderous scum then, and he’s murderous scum now. How in the world we ever let someone like that go is, well, something the Obama administration would have to explain.
Don’t bother asking … the answer is “it’s Bushes fault, you racist”.
Weekly initial jobless claims rose 4,000 to 317,000. The 4-week average rose 5,000 to 315,250. Continuing claims rose 11,000 to 2.614 million.
Retail sales for May rose 0.3% overall, but were only up 0.1% less autos, and were unchanged from April less autos & gas.
Both export and import prices rose 0.1% in May. On a year over year basis, export prices rose 0.5%, as import prices rose 0.4%.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose o.4 points to 35.5 in the latest week.
Business inventories rose a higher than expected 0.6% in April, but a 0.7% sales increase kept the stock-to-sales ratio at 1.29.
The Fed’s balance sheet rose $10.0 billion last week, with total assets of $4.341 trillion. Total reserve bank credit rose by $8.8 billion.
The Fed reports that M2 money supply rose $10.9 billion in the latest week.
The June NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose 1.4 points to 96.6 for the best reading since September 2007.
ICSC-Goldman reports weekly retail sales down -2.8%, but up 3.0% on a year-over-year basis. Redbook reports an 3.3% rise in retail sales over last year.
Wholesale inventories rose 1.1% in April, while 1.3% sales increase kept the stock-to-sales ratio unchanged at 1.18.
May’s US Treasury budget ended in a $-130.0 billion deficit, following April’s $1.03 billion surplus.
The MBA reports that mortgage applications rose 10.3% last week. Purchases rose 9.0% and re-fis rose 11.0%.
So Eric Cantor went down in flames in the Virginia Republican primary I see. I can’t say I’m the least bit chagrined. Cantor is the quintessential establishment Republican. And like most of that ilk, he was more worried about what the press thought of him than doing what was right by his principles. I notice the media spin doctors are immediately claiming that he really didn’t lose because of his stand on immigration (i.e. a hard lean toward “amnesty” for illegals although he tried to deny it). After all if they admit that immigration reform was a reason for his defeat, then they have to admit that its dead for this year (as, given this lesson, no Republican running for reelection in the House - that would be all of them – is going to touch it with a 10 foot pole). The spin doctors also know that if it is dead for this year, it may be dead, at least in its present form, for good, if Republicans win the Senate. One also assumes that Republicans are aware of the polls out there that place immigration reform as a low priority issue for voters right now (yeah, surprise, they’re much more interested in jobs and economic growth than illegal aliens).
I think another reason for Cantor’s loss is a deep dissatisfaction with Republican House leadership – such that it is. Add his lack of popularity within his own district and an acceptable alternative candidate and you have the prefect electoral storm. Finally, Tea Party candidate Dave Brat’s win signaled, much to the annoyance of the left, that the Tea Party is hardly “dead”. It’ll be interesting to see how the establishment Republicans react to this upset.
On another subject, yesterday we saw where the FDA had unilaterally decided that it might be necessary to ban the centuries old tradition of aging cheese on wooden shelves. Because, you know, there’s been such an epidemic of sickness from such practices here lately and over the ages. What? There hasn’t? There hasn’t been any real problem at all? However:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an executive decree banning the centuries old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. One bureaucrat within the FDA, without surveying all of the scientific literature, and without public commentary, has rattled hundreds of small businesses across the United States. Consumers who eat any kind of aged cheese should prepare for a potentially catastrophic disruption in the market for artisan, non-processed cheese.
Now that was yesterday. Today, yeah, its cave in time. There has been such an outcry from cheese makers, the public and just about anyone else that could find a forum that the FDA is hastily backing down. Overlawyered brings us up to date:
Following an enormous outcry from cheese makers, commentators, and the general public, the agency beats a hasty retreat. Commentator/ Pepperdine lawprof Greg McNeil has the details at Forbes (and his earlier commentary on the legalities of the agency’s action is also informative). Earlier here.
In a classic bureaucratic move, the agency denied it had actually issued a new policy (technically true, if you accept the premise that a policy letter from its chief person in charge of cheese regulation is not the same as a formally adopted new policy) and left itself the discretion to adopt such a policy in future if it wishes (merely declaring itself open to persuasion that wood shelving might prove compatible with the FSMA).
This is also a lesson for people in other regulated industries. When government officials make pronouncements that don’t seem grounded in law or policy, and threaten your livelihood with an enforcement action, you must organize and fight back. While specialized industries may think that nobody cares, the fight over aged cheese proves that people’s voices can be heard…
Yes, true. But … there’s always a ‘but’, Overlawyered points out something that is true and often overlooked. You have to be willing to fight for it all, not just the popular stuff. You have to be willing the challenge all the nonsense bureaucrats put out there:
There is a less optimistic version, however. It happens that a large number of editors, commentators, and others among the chattering classes are both personally interested in the availability of fine cheese and familiar enough with the process by which it is made to be un-cowed by claims of superior agency expertise. That might also be true of a few other issues here and there — cottage food sold at farmer’s markets, artisanal brewing practices — but it’s inevitably not going to be true of hundreds of other issues that arise under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. In a similar way, the outcry againstCPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rose to a politically effective level only on a selected few issues (publishers and libraries got a fix so that older children’s books would not have to be trashed; youthmotorsports eventually obtained an exemption, and so forth) but large numbers of smaller children’s products and specialties whose makers had less of a political voice simply disappeared.
Absolutely true. I think of those who want to drink raw milk for instance. Where does the government get off saying you can’t drink something you choose to drink if you’re willing to take the risk and suffer any consequences? Something that, until pasteurization, everyone drank? But since those who prefer raw milk don’t have a large lobby, they’re subjected to government bullying and laws prohibiting them from making that choice.
Choice is freedom. Limiting of choice is limiting freedom and government is in the freedom limiting business. The premise is you’re not able to make good choices yourself, so government must keep you from doing so. Question? If aging cheese on wood was dangerous to our health and it had been the reason from many deaths over the centuries, how do you suppose the market for such cheeses might have been effected by now? Right. It certainly wouldn’t have come down to some government bureaucrat making a unilateral decision in 2014, that’s for sure.
In Iraq, Mosul has fallen to terrorists. Nightwatch brings us up to date:
ISIL has been trying to take Mosul since earlier in June, but only lately assembled enough forces to rout the security forces and overrun the city.
ISIL now controls two major cities in the Sunni region of Iraq: Fallujah and Mosul. Its fighters tried to overrun several other cities, but failed. Its aim is to create an Islamic emirate that joins Iraq and Syria.
The group had been affiliated with al Qaida for many years, since the time of Abu Musab Zarqawi, according to the National Counter Terrorism Center. In February al Qaida disavowed all links with ISIL because its actions were more extreme than al Qaida and it would not follow orders to stop fighting the al Nusrah Front in Syria, which al-Qaida supports.
On Sunday in Syria, ISIL fighters clashed with the al-Qaida-affiliated al Nusrah Front in eastern Syria, while its Iraq wing fought to capture Mosul in Iraq. This is a formidable group. Only the Syrian Kurds stand in the way of ISIL consolidating large areas in Iraq and Syria under its control.
Mosul’s capture reinforces the judgment that Iraq has re-entered civil war. ISIL is more than an insurgency because it has an effective organization and is conquering territory. By force of arms, it has created a power-sharing arrangement with the government in Baghdad and fragmented the country. A statement by the Muslim scholars association today encouraged ISIL to hold Mosul and to set up an administration. It urged the youth of the city to defend it against the Baghdad government.
ISIL’s control in Syria seems tenuous and contested by other opposition groups. In Iraq, it is the dominant anti-government force and it has broken Iraq, for now.
My position? If Iraqi’s want a free Iraq, they’d better fight for it. They’ve been given the time, the equipment and the training. Now, it’s up to them.
Finally, yesterday I literally had to laugh out loud when I read something Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor, had written on his Facebook page. It simply demonstrates how effing silly – and dangerous to your freedoms – these people are:
President Obama announced steps yesterday he said will make student loans more affordable. It’s probably all he can manage with a grid-locked Congress, but it’s still tinkering with a system of college financing that’s spinning out of control. What’s really needed is to make college free of charge and require all graduates to pay 10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years of full-time work into a fund that pays the costs (additional years of graduate school means added years of payments). That way, nobody graduates with debts; young people from lower-income families can afford to attend; graduates who go into high-wage occupations in effect subsidize those who go into lower-wage work; and we move toward a system of genuinely equal opportunity. What do you think?
Right … free college for all. Graduate with no debt!
Question: How in the world does this dolt think that making all graduates pay “10 percent of their earnings for the first 10 years” to fund “free college” doesn’t equal being in debt? Oh, and who would keep track of all this? Why the IRS of course – another in a long line of ideas to further centralize control of all aspects of your life at the federal level and add to the federal bureaucracy’s reach and power.
Then add the scam value of this. Ride the gravy train for 3 or 4 years of free college and then walk away as a non-graduate. Nothing to pay, right? I mean the stipulation is that “graduates” pay, so why not hang out in a college dorm, eat in the chow hall, do your own thing while also doing barely enough to stay in school. That way you can let these other dopes subsidize those years for you. Then, move, apply to a new school and repeat. Trust me, there are enough “professional students” in this world that I can promise that would be done.
Oh … and read the comments to the Reich post. They’ll make you weep.