Sunday, December 25, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
The U.S. economy grew more slowly than previously estimated in the third quarter... Gross domestic product grew at a 2.0 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, the Commerce Department said in its second estimate on Tuesday, down from the previously reported 2.5 percent...The government revised third-quarter output to account for an $8.5 billion drop in business inventories, the first decline since the fourth quarter of 2009.
There are three elements that U-6 tracks that the official U-3 does not – “discouraged” workers (which is not nearly the same as the “want a job but haven’t looked lately” number mentioned above), those who hadn’t searched for work in the last 4 weeks because of reasons other than the job market (both not seasonally adjusted, and together being the number of those marginally attached to the workforce), and those employed part-time because of economic reasons.
The number of “discouraged” workers rose from October’s 967,000 to 1,096,000 in November, though the BLS does note that November 2011′s number is less than November 2010′s 1,282,000.
The civilian participation rate in the workforce dropped 0.2% to 64.0% last month, barely above the 30-year low of 63.9% achieved in July of this year. The reason that both the topline and U-6 numbers declined is that both are based on the base number of workers, actual and potential, in the labor force that have plummeted in the last two years. The dramatic reduction in this number is what allowed a gain of only 120,000 jobs — which only covers the population growth in a month — drop unemployment by 0.4%.
In other words, the drop isn’t an indication of hope — it’s an indication of despair.
Retail sales grew at their slowest pace in five months in November, tempering expectations for a strong holiday shopping season.
Retail sales increased a weaker-than-expected 0.2 percent after gaining 0.6 percent in October, a Commerce Department reportshowed on Tuesday...Some of the weakness in the November retail sales might be because stores discounted heavily to attract customers, said Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.
"It's fairly disappointing given that all the evidence was pointing to fairly strong gains during the month," said Mulraine.
Oh, yeah... and that 2.0% growth for the 3rd quarter I posted just a few inches above in this post? Ahem... it's actually been revised downward to 1.8%.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Sorry, Mitt. I've had enough of slick, polished, squishy, flip-floppers.
Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws.
Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.
He would be a “good voice in the party” for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be “widely written about,” he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
“You need someone like me in Washington,” several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.
Romney made similar assurances to activists for gay rights and the environment, according to people familiar with the discussions, both as a candidate for governor and then in the early days of his term.
"Elections as a solution, today and at this moment, would mean a much greater danger of bankruptcy and of course exit from the euro."There you have it! Elections are a BAD thing!
Officials now expect the [U.S.] economy to grow by a tepid 2.5 percent to 2.9 percent next year, down from the rosier 3.3 percent to 3.7 percent they were expecting in June, with inflation muted over the forecast horizon.
They see the unemployment rate going no lower than 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent by the end of 2012, up from the more sanguine 7.8 percent to 8.2 percent range envisioned in June.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
JPMorgan Chase has decided it will not charge customers who use their debit cards for purchases, joining a growing list of banks that will not follow the lead of financial giant Bank of America, which announced a $5 monthly fee last month.
JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, PNC Financial, and Key Bank have confirmed they are not planning to charge customers debit card fees when they make purchases.
JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the country by total assets, began testing a $3 fee in parts of Wisconsin and Georgia in February. However, the bank decided it won't roll out the fee to the rest of the country, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
A person familiar with Chase confirmed with ABC News that it is not planning to charge debit card fees due to customer preferences.
Bank of America Corp, after receiving heavy public criticism for a planned $5-per-month debit card fee, is likely to give customers more ways to avoid the fee, a person familiar with the bank's plans said Friday.
The second-biggest U.S. bank is reworking its plans as rivals Wells Fargo & Co and JP Morgan Chase & Co have decided not to charge monthly fees, ending test programs in certain states.
Bank of America is likely to allow many customers to sidestep the fee by taking measures such as maintaining minimum balances, having paychecks direct deposited, or using Bank of America credit cards, the person said.
Under earlier plans, customers might have needed balances totaling $20,000 across all their Bank of America accounts to skip the fee.
Bank of America is nixing its plans to charge a $5 debit card fee.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Sales of new homes fell for the third straight month in July, a sign that housing remains a drag on the economy. If the current pace continues, 2011 would be the worst year for new-home sales on records dating back at least half a century.
Sales fell nearly 1 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 298,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's less than half the 700,000 that economists say represent a healthy market.
Last year, 323,000 homes were sold — the worst year on records that go back to 1963.
While new homes represent less than one-fifth of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
High unemployment, larger required down payments and tougher lending standards are preventing many people from buying homes.
Home mortgage applications for purchases fell to a nearly 15-year low last week as resurgent worries about the strength of the economy kept buyers at bay, an industry group said on Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 2.4 percent in the week ended August 19.
The seasonally adjusted gauge of loan requests for home purchases tumbled 5.7 percent to its lowest level since December 1996, the MBA said. Refinance demand also sagged as interest rates rose, with the refinance index slipping 1.7 percent.
Fixed mortgage rates edged up this week from their lowest levels in decades. But few have been able to capitalize on them.
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.22 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That's up from 4.15 percent last week, the lowest level on records dating to 1971.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, rose to 3.44 percent. Last week it fell to 3.36 percent.
When September rolled around, this news came in:
Builders broke ground on fewer homes in August, a reminder that the housing market remains depressed.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders began work on a seasonally adjusted 571,000 homes last month, a 5 percent decline from July. That's less than half the 1.2 million that economists say is consistent with healthy housing markets.
Single-family homes, which represent roughly two-thirds of home construction, fell 1.4 percent. Apartment building plunged 12.4 percent. Building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 3.2 percent.
Hurricane Irene also slowed construction in the Northeast.
Overall, homebuilding fell to its lowest levels in 50 years in 2009, when builders began work on just 554,000 homes. Last year was not much better.
...depressed consumer and business sentiment is holding back recovery. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes was little changed at 45.4 this month from 45.2 in August. Economists had expected a rise to 46.0.
"Consumers appear to have lost some hope in this recovery and may cause them to retrench spending, which could augur poorly for the recovery," said Millan Mulraine, a senior macro strategist at TD Securities in New York.
Details of the confidence report were mixed. More Americans plan to buy houses over the next six months, but fewer intend to purchase cars and other big-ticket items.
The steep stock market sell-off, political bickering in Washington over budget policy and the worsening debt crisis in Europe all have eroded confidence, viewed as a key gauge of consumer health.
Consumer spending data on Friday will shed more light whether the decline in equities -- with the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 13 percent since late July -- caused households to hunker down. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, slowed sharply in the second quarter.
Sales and prices of new single-family U.S. homes fell in August despite historically low mortgage rates, underscoring the difficulties policymakers face in efforts to boost the moribund housing sector.
A stagnant job market and a big overhang of unsold existing homes have combined to keep new home sales on the rocks even as mortgage rates returned to lows not seen since at least the early 1970s.
New home sales slipped 2.3 percent last month to a 295,000 annual rate, a six-month low, the Commerce Department said on Monday. That was in line with analysts' forecasts and did little to allay fears the United States could slip back into recession.
The median sales price also moved lower from the previous month and was 7.7 percent below year-ago levels.
Fixed mortgage rates have fallen to historic new lows for a fourth straight week and are likely to fall further.
The average on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.01 percent from 4.09 percent this week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That's the lowest rate since the mortgage buyer began keeping records in 1971. The last time long-term rates were lower was in 1951, when most long-term home loans lasted just 20 or 25 years.
The average on a 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, ticked down to 3.28 percent. Economists say that's the lowest rate ever for the loan.
Then they did this!!!:
It then fluctuated and went to this:
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was nearly unchanged for a second straight week after rising from a record low.
Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.10 percent from 4.11 percent last week. Three weeks ago, it dropped to 3.94 percent. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that's the lowest rate ever.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 3.38 percent. Three weeks ago, it hit a record low of 3.26 percent.
Low rates have done little to jolt the struggling housing market. Sales remain depressed, and home prices are still dropping in many markets.
High unemployment and declining wages have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.
The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September and is on pace to match last year's dismal figures — the worst in 13 years.
Today's record-low mortgage rates are out of reach for millions of U.S. homeowners who would benefit from them most.
One in four homeowners with a mortgage — 11 million people — owe more than their home is worth. These "underwater" borrowers have virtually no shot at refinancing.
Their plight is a drag on the housing market and the broader economy.
The Obama administration is hoping at least 1 million of these borrowers will take advantage of its refinancing program under more lenient rules unveiled Monday. Homeowners who are current on their payments will be eligible to refinance no matter how much their home's value has dropped.
Still, it's unclear how many borrowers will benefit. Lenders will remain under no obligation to refinance a mortgage they hold.
A growing number of these people are missing mortgage payments and falling into foreclosure. And the higher rates they're locked into limit how much they can contribute to a weak economy. If they were able to refinance at today's rates, it could boost consumer spending by tens of billions of dollars, economists say.
Underwater homeowners are paying an average 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 5.7 percent, according to an analysis of mortgage data by CoreLogic and The Associated Press. That compares with today's average rate of 4.11 percent on a 30-year fixed mortgage. For a homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage, the lower rate would save more than $200 a month.
This plan is for current borrowers who want to get a lower monthly payment through a lower mortgage rate. Yes, it’s the first plan that “rewards positive behavior,” says Florida attorney and mortgage expert Shari Olefson, but it doesn’t do anything for the now 6 million plus borrowers who are either behind on their mortgage payments or already in the foreclosure process. It also does nothing about all those foreclosed properties sitting on the books of Fannie, Freddie, the FHA and the big banks that still need to be sold and right now can only be sold at below-market prices. This plan does nothing to stop the bleeding in home prices.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
“Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. It’s hard to argue against an indicator with such a long history of accuracy.”
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it will shuffle $400 billion of its portfolio to try to drive down long-term interest rates and get the economy going. But economists doubted it would do much good, the stock market sold off, and the Fed itself was unusually divided over the strategy.
Lowering interest rates makes it cheaper for people and companies to borrow money and spend it throughout the economy, which has slowed sharply more than two years after the Great Recession. Consumer spending makes up most of the nation's economic activity.
But rates are already at historic lows. Americans, still feeling insecure about the future, might not be willing to take on more debt, even at lower rates. Others see no reason to jump into the housing market when prices are still falling. Others can't get credit.
"Frankly, I don't see it having any meaningful impact on the economy," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist with the Economic Outlook Group. "What the Fed did today was a distraction."
The U.S. economy is on a "knife edge" between growth and contraction, and if it were a dashboard, it would be flashing "watch out, danger ahead on all gauges," Dallas Federal Reserve Bank's top economist said on Tuesday.
"The economy is moving along at stall speed," Dallas Fed research director Harvey Rosenblum told a forum sponsored by the greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. "Unless we start moving a little bit faster, we are at a tipping point where things may not go the right way."
The U.S. jobs engine has lost momentum and could be set for further "backtracking," Meanwhile, he said, there is also a "credible" risk of rising inflation.
"We are in the midst of the Second Great Contraction," Rosenblum said, demonstrating the economy's predicament with a picture of a place on the Appalachian Trail known as "Knife's Edge."
"This patient is still not ready to get out of the hospital, there are still tubes connected to the patient, and the patient is still not responding well to all the medicine."
The grim assessment of the economic outlook came a week after a majority of the Fed's policy-setting panel backed further monetary policy easing to help support a faltering U.S. recovery.
Consumers' confidence in August dropped almost 15 points to the lowest level since April 2009 as worries about the economy fueled the wildest stock market swings since the financial meltdown in 2008.
At a time when Americans are increasingly worried about a weak job market, higher costs for food and clothing and recent stock market turmoil, the falling confidence numbers raise new concerns about their willingness to spend and jumpstart the economy. That's particularly important since consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
"Consumer confidence deteriorated sharply in August, as consumers grew significantly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center in a statement.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 44.5, down from a revised 59.2 in July. The number was the lowest level since April 2009 when the reading was 40.8. It also is far below the 53.3 that analysts had expected. A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.
Americans say they feel worse about the economy than they have since the depths of the Great Recession.
Consumer confidence fell in October to the lowest since March 2009, a research group said Tuesday — an ominous sign for the economy as families begin to prepare their budgets for holiday shopping season.
The declining mood reflects the big hit that the stock market took in late summer — down almost 20 percent in one month — as well as frustration with an economic recovery that doesn't really feel like one.
The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer sentiment came in at 39.8, down about six points from September and seven shy of what economists were expecting.
The reading is still well above where the index stood two and a half years ago, at 26.9. But it's not even within shouting distance of 90, what it takes to signal that the economy is on solid footing.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Monday, October 03, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The Holder Justice Department raided Gibson Guitar facilities in Nashville and Memphis this week because the company is using unfinished wood from India and this violates Indian law… Not American law.
Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. The Feds are keeping mum, but in a statement yesterday Gibson's chairman and CEO, Henry Juszkiewicz, defended his company's manufacturing policies, accusing the Justice Department of bullying the company. "The wood the government seized Wednesday is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier," he said, suggesting the Feds are using the aggressive enforcement of overly broad laws to make the company cry uncle.
It isn't the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar, the J-160E acoustic-electric John Lennon played, and essential jazz-boxes such as Charlie Christian's ES-150. In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms."
Last year, Dick Boak, director of artist relations for C.F. Martin & Co., complained to Mother Nature News about the difficulty of getting elite guitarists to switch to instruments made from sustainable materials. "Surprisingly, musicians, who represent some of the most savvy, ecologically minded people around, are resistant to anything about changing the tone of their guitars," he said.
You could mark that up to hypocrisy—artsy do-gooders only too eager to tell others what kind of light bulbs they have to buy won't make sacrifices when it comes to their own passions. Then again, maybe it isn't hypocrisy to recognize that art makes claims significant enough to compete with environmentalists' agendas.
Commenters yesterday wondered whether Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is a Republican donor. Yep, he is. It also turns out that Chris Martin IV, the CEO of Gibson competitor, C.F. Martin and Company, is a long-time donor to Democrats. C.F. Martin uses the same “questionable” Indian rosewood in its guitars, but has the federal government raided a C.F. Martin factory? Didn’t think so. Juszkiewicz said yesterday he feels like this is a personal attack. Could it be because it is?...It’s also worth noting that the U.S. is a “trivial” importer of rosewood from India and Madagascar. According to Hinderaker, 95 percent of it goes to China. So, the whole “it’s for the trees” argument doesn’t really hold up.
But if it turns out that the Indian rosewood in question is illegal contraband in the eyes of Obama’s DOJ, then Michelle Obama is just as guilty of trafficking in it as Gibson. In 2009, Michelle Obama gave [French First Lady] Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a Gibson guitar with a fretboard made of the material...According to a list of the gift’s specs at Gibson.com, the fretboard was made from a “choice piece of Indian rosewood.”
Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring, thus requiring the workplace to be an open shop.
Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman's veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments, an employee who ceased being a member of the union for whatever reason, from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer's rules.
The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed the closed shop. The union shop rule, which required all new employees to join the union after a minimum period after their hire, is also illegal. As such, it is illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union.
A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join such union.
Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further and authorizes individual states (but not local governments, such as cities or counties) to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule, an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not he is a member or financial contributor to such a union.
The Federal Government operates under open shop rules nationwide, though many of its employees are represented by unions.