" Where economics isn't just a job, but an adventure"
New blog is out: the Death Penalty and Cost
Quote of the Week
“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress. -John Adams”
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BLOG Topics 2013
January Do Protected Seals lead to Depleted Fish Stocks February Prohibition: Profits to Cartels & Increased Violence for Americans March Increased Minimum Wage & Extended benefits lead to Higher Unemployment April Ethanol from corn & Agflation May Cash for Clunkers lead to Higher Used Car Prices & Wasted Tax Dollars June The Affordable Care Act; Anything but Affordable Part 1 July The Affordable Care Act; The poster Child for False Advertising August Detroit: Higher Taxes + Liberal Benefits = Bankruptcy September No Keystone Pipeline leads to more pollution October Global Warming! Or is it Global Cooling! November Poverty & Benefits December Does Affirmative Action lead to Reverse Discrimination?
Blog Topics 2014
January Will Lake Meade become another Aral Sea February Does Taxing the rich hurt the economy March The Cause of the Great Depression April Temporary Agricultural Subsidies lead to wealthy Farmers and Higher Prices May The Presidents Stance on Gun Control leads to Increased Gun Ownership June Is there really a Gender Pay Gap July Did the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade lower the crime rate August The Department of Education and wasted Money October The Financial Follies of the EPA November Social Security and Portfolio Diversification December The White House and Terrorism
DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE 1 day chart
After 2 days of triple digit losses (the Dow dropped 196 points Wednesday), the Dow is up in the pre-market by 78 points. The Dow was in positive territory, spurred on by Apple's huge earnings beat, until the FED released its statement at 2 PM on the results of its FOMC meeting (the Federal Open Market Committee meets every 6 weeks to determine monetary police); and it was all downhill after the release (chart to left). The cause of the decline was unclear as 5 different analysts on CNBC gave 5 different reasons as to why the market tanked and that, I feel, is why the market tanked; the FED statement was unclear. What appears to have bothered investors the most is the fact that the Fed has not taken a rate hike this year off the table, despite the fact that board members reiterated that they would remain "patient" in their deliberations. The Fed used more positive language to describe the outlook for the economy and job market, so in effect "upgraded" its outlook, says Don Luskin, chief investment officer at TrendMacro. He said that board members also added "international conditions" to their list of worries, yet "lift-off (for the first rate hike) is still on for June," Luskin told clients in a post-Fed statement research note (USA Today). The international considerations include the Russian & Eurozone recession, particularly the situation in Greece (see 1/27 advisory). The downturn was led by the energy sector when oil reached 6 years lows of under $45/barrel. Every Wednesday the EIA (Energy Information Agency) releases data on oil and gasoline reserves and oil inventories in the US jumped by over 8 million gallons which led to the downturn in oil and natural gas prices. Gold has lost some ground and is at $1272/oz.. and the nationwide price of gas increased slightly to $2.044/gallon
20 Year APPLE CHART
At 17,387, the Dow sunk 291 points on Tuesday but it wasn't as bad as the 400 point decline it experienced in the late morning. In addition to financial troubles in Greece that may carry over to the other Eurozone countries, there was a huge disappointment in earnings. While Microsoft didn't miss earnings like Caterpillar, 3M and Proctor and Gamble, they guided lower for the 1st quarter and lost 10% of their stock value. The icing on the cake was the disappointment in durable good orders that declined 3.4% in December. To put it in perspective, durable goods for the entire year, was up 6.4%. A bright note that may start the Dow off on the right foot Wednesday was Apple (reported earnings after the bell) blew away earnings and was up 6 points in the post market. In the pre-market (Wednesday), Apple is up 9 points. How much did they blow away earnings? They beat estimates by 25 cents/share, that doesn't seem like much, but when you have 5.8 billion shares outstanding, it is significant. They made $18 billion dollars for the quarter and have more than $164 billion on its balance sheet. It is simply an amazing company. Spurred by Apples earnings, the Dow is up 40 before the markets open. Oil is trading at $45.50/gallon and is showing signs of stabilization which is indicative of what's happening in the gasoline market. Today, The average price of gas is $2.04/gallon. It has stopped its downward movement and is showing signs of stabilizing too.
EUROZONE AS PART OF EUROPEAN UNION
For the past two months the Dow has been in a trading range between 17,300 and 18,000. Monday was much of a ho-hum day with the index advance 6 points to 17,678 which isn't bad considering what happened in Europe, specifically Greece that could have a wide ranging domino effect, but 1st, a little history. In 1958, the European Union was form that created a trade free zone between the fifteen participating countries. Since that time, it has expanded to 28 countries (the European Union was based on the article from the US constitution that stipulated one state can't tax the goods of another state). As a result of Masstricht Treaty of 1992, the Euro was introduced in 1999 and is currently being used by 19 of the 28 countries of the European Union. The countries that use the Euro are referred to collectively as the Eurozone; back to Greece. Greece has the worst economy in the Eurozone with an unemployment rate of 26% and GDP/capita of $21,910 and a debt to GDP ratio approaching 200% and are at risk of defaulting. By contrast, the US has an Unemployment rate of 5.6% and GDP/capita of over $53,000. (who says socialism doesn't work). Over the weekend, they had elections and the anti-austerity party won. This party is comprised many of socialist and communists (at least there are no fascists). Since 2010, Greece has received bailouts totaling 240 billion euros. In return, the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank demanded tax hikes, a freeze on state pensions, bans on early retirement and deep cuts in government salaries. Certain professions can receive full retirement at age 50. The new prime minister has pledged to et some of Greece's colossal debt written off and roll back unpopular austerity measures appealed to exasperated members of the electorate -- even if they potentially jeopardize Greece's place in the Eurozone. If this occurs, there is concern that other countries will follow (Spain has unemployment of 25.6%, Italy 14% and Portugal also 14%. The Dow is down significantly in the pre-market, -272 points, but it is mainly a result of disappoint earnings from Microsoft, Proctor and Gample and Catapillar. Oil ($46/barrel) and natural gas are up mainly as a result of the blizzard hammering the northeast (where's global warming when you need it, see my October 2013 blog), gold is just below $1300/oz. and gas is the same at $2.038/gallon.
The Dow surged 260 points today after the European Central Bank promised to expand the money supply in the Eurozone more than what was expected. In other words, this is the European version of quantitative easing that helped the American economy. Mario Draghi, the chairman of the ECB (European Central Bank, will purchase €60 billion worth of bonds a month as part of its so-called quantitative easing program, a good bit higher than chatter Wednesday predicting just €50 billion. As a result, everything rallied with the hopes that this would take the eurozone (the 18 of 28 countries in the European Union that have have adopted the Euro dollar), out of recession into positive economic growth. This will also probably strengthen the dollar in relation to the euro. The effect? A strong dollar makes US exports more expensive and generally isn't that good for business but it makes foreign goods cheaper which is good for Americans travelling abroad and it makes imports cheaper. If this makes American more expensive, why would this be good? Simple, by coming out of a recession, consumption increases (unemployment goes down) and the belief is that this would outweigh the increase in prices from the strong dollar. To put the above chart in perspective, When the Euro was 1st introduced in 1999, the exchange rate was $1.17 = €1, and at the height of the most recent recession, it was $1.57 = €1. In the pre-market, the Dow is up 40 points on positive earnings reports from GE and Honeywell (not to mention some inertia from yesterday's 260 point gain, oil is up slightly at $46.54/gallon, gold is holding its own at $1298/oz and the average price of a gallon of has is at $203.8/gallon, down once again compared to $3.28 this time last year. The AAA (American Automobile Association) estimates that on the aggregate, Americans saved over $14 billion in 2014 on gasoline compared to 2013.
After being up over 70 points at the open, the Dow finished the day 3 points higher after dropping 150 points midday. Investors shook off a mixed batch of earnings reports and concerns about global growth as oil prices tumbled again. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5% to $46.13 a barrel. The IMF downgraded projections it issued in October by 0.3 percentage point each, predicting global growth at 3.5% this year and 3.7% in 2016. Chinese stocks rebounded slightly from a dramatic dive the day before. The Shanghai composite gained 1.8% Tuesday following an 8% plunge the day before after the country's securities regulator imposed margin trading curbs on several major brokerages, a sign that authorities are trying to rein in the market's big gains. China's economy grew at a 7.3% year over year rate in the fourth quarter of 2014. That was short of the official target of China-7.5%-but slightly ahead of the 7.2% expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg and well ahead of market fears that growth would break below 7%. On the news, the Shanghai Composite Index, which had tumbled 7.7% on Monday night, breathed a sigh of relief and recovered some ground to close up 1.82% which helped stocks prior to the markets open. The International Monetary Fund released its updated forecasts for global economic growth. The world economy will grow by 3.5% in 2015, down from the October forecast of 3.8% growth. According to the IMF, China's economy will grow by 6.8% in 2015. That's down from a 7.1% forecast in October.
Just after the market's open the Dow is down 30 points, oil is relatively steady at just below $48/barrel, gold is over $1300/oz. and gas is down again at $2.048/gallon
The Dow was up 190 points on Friday. This was courtesy of the headline Consumer Price Index measure of inflation falling 0.4% in December after a 0.3% drop in November. The core CPI, which excludes changes in more volatile energy and food prices, came in unchanged for the month after a 0.1% increase in November. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had projected a 0.1% increase in core CPI in December. This is a very good indication that the FED will raise interest rates later rather than sooner. The drop in prices is a function of the price of oil dropping more than 50% since June and mostly all businesses benefiting by lower costs and little upward pressure on prices. The markets in the US were closed on Monday because of the Martin Luther King holiday, however international markets were open and active. Oil was up $2.27/barrel finishing at $48.48/barrel and gold shot up over $17 finishing the day at $1280/oz. Gold's rise was in part due to the volatility in the Chines stock market that was down at one point over 8%. That would be similar to a 1400 point drop in the Dow. The Chinese stocks plunged Monday after the country's securities regulator rapped three major brokerages for continuing to lend money for stock purchases in violation of rules. As punishment for extending so called "margin trading" contracts, the brokerages are forbidden to offer credit to new customers for three months. Investors and analysts see the penalties against the brokerages as foreshadowing more curbs on credit-financed trading by China's government, hence the large drop. In the pre-market, the Dow is up 70 points, oil is about the same and gold is up to $1289/oz. and gas is down once again with the national average being $2.05/gallon.
The Dow open up 90 points and finished the day at 17,320, down 106 points. Financial markets were given a jolt early Thursday after Switzerland's central bank unexpectedly scrapped its currency cap against the euro. U.S. stock futures and European markets took a dive after the announcement before recovering. In addition both Citi Group and Bank of America disappointed on earnings. Shares of both banks fell more than 3%. That followed an earnings miss from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) the day before. Wells Fargo (WFC) managed to match estimates. After rising more than 6 percent on the day, the crude oily promptly sold off, falling 9 percent in five hours settling just over $46/barrel. However, not everyone is benefiting from cheat oil. 9,000 workers have lost their jobs at Schlumberger, a company that provides tools and services for oil and gas companies. The company said Thursday that the falling price of oil is the cause. It also expects to slash spending on future exploration and production. The layoffs impact about 7% of the company's employees. It operates in more than 85 countries. Gold continued its upward swing and finished the day at$1263/oz. In the pre-market, the Dow is down 40 points, gold is down $6.50/oz and oil is up over $1/barrel at $47.46 and Goldman Sachs is set to announce earnings this AM. And last but not least, the average price of gas is $2.08/gallon.
Both gold and many gold stocks have broken long term resistance lines
December Jobs Report 1-9-2015
The economy was expected to create 240,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate was expected to decrease to 5.7%. The numbers didn't disappoint. Actual figures were an unemployment rate of 5.6%, and 252,000 jobs were created in December. The real unemployment rate, U-6, was 11.2%. The real unemployment rate includes marginally attached workers (people who haven't looked for a job in 4 weeks) and pert-time workers. The number of long term unemployed (those unemployed for 27 weeks or more) was virtually unchanged at 31.9% and the labor force participation rate dropped slightly to 62.7%. The teenage unemployment rate was 16.8% and amongst the various ethnic groups, blacks had the highest rate at 10.4% (they also have the lowest education levels) and Asians the lowest at 4.8% (highest educational levels). For all of 2015, 2.9 million jobs were created, the best year since 1999.
The market loved the numbers and the Dow went from being down 70 points to plus 10 with in 5 minutes in the premarket
January Barometer As goes January, so goes the year. Studies for the last 50 years of the 20th century showed that if the market is up in the month of January, there is a good possibility (90%) that it will be up for the year (chart left). This is usually more pronounced with small cap stocks (left below).The investment banker Sidney B. Wachtel first observed the effect in 1942, and noted that since 1925 small companies had outperformed large companies with the majority of the disparity occurring in the first half off the month, and noted the effect was even more pronounced during the third year of a president's term. Looking at a number of market indicators (according to Laif Meidell of CMT), "breadth is positive, volatility is low and the S&P 500 remains above both its intermediate- and longer-term trends. Unless there is an unforeseen event that rocks the boat, investors have more to gain by holding the tiller steady and staying on course than by making any bold corrections as we head into the last few trading days of the year."
In pre-market trading, The Dow is down about 7 points and remember what I said in my post of 12/26 about an oil supply side shock; well it's occurring in Libya as escalating civil war conflict with Islamist extremists, i.e., the usual suspects, has closed down Es Sider oil terminal which accounts for 1/2 of Libya's exports of about 600,000/barrels/day. As a result, oil is up almost 2% this morning at $55.5/barrel. Gas has once again declined and the average price of a gallon of gas is $2.28/gallon. According to AAA, over 20,000 gas stations nationwide have gas priced at under $2/gallon.
Obamacare Revised Costs
More on Obamacare In a recent survey by the New York FED on businesses, the median increase in healthcare premiums is expected to be 10%. More than a quarter of the manufacturing and service firms surveyed said they either have or will boost prices for goods and services "because of the effects that the ACA is having on your business." About 20 percent of respondents said they were reducing their number of workers and/or raising the share of part-time workers as a result of the ACA. His is in stark contrast to the presidents remarks earlier this year that healthcare costs are decreasing. Maybe CEO's were right when they said the president "Just doesn't get it".
Commentary on Minimum Wage
There is currently a debate in the state of NH on whether to increase the minimum wage to 8.25 from 7.25. The main argument is that it will help to alleviate poverty. That is clearly not the case. As you can see from the chart at the left, the poverty rate dropped dramatically in the 1960's. This was a function of great society legislation; specifically, increase in Social Security benefits in addition to the inception and implementation of Medicare and Medicaid. Since then, the poverty rate has fluctuated between 9-15% and is highly correlated with the unemployment rate. The vertical grey area's in the graph represent periods of recessions in the US. As can be expected, unemployment rises during recessions and peaks at the end (unemployment is said to be a lagging indicator). As you can also see from the chart, so too does the poverty rate. There is no indication whatsoever that the poverty rate is affected by increases in the minimum wage. Generally, this is quite the contrary. As can be evidenced from the below left chart, increases in minimum wage can contribute to unemployment and as we can infer from the above chart, as unemployment increases so to does poverty. If you look at NH, they have the lowest state poverty rate in the nation and it generally parallels the national unemployment rate. By raising the minimum wage, you increase business costs. As a result; businesses either pass these costs onto the consumer (in which case inflation nullifies any wage increase), substitute capital for labor, or simply go out of business. If you look at the chart below right, UAW (United Auto Workers) membership has decreased in the late 1970's from 1.5 million to 350,000 in 2009. The reason for this is simple. Detroit isn't making fewer cars, they are making more, but they have made their assembly lines more robotic and have substituted capital for labor, which became cheaper in the long run. This can also happen to those fast food workers who want a $15 minimum wage. There is currently a machine on the market that can make 300 burgers/hour. In other words, capital can be substituted for labor. Someone please e-mail me and explain how someone is better off unemployed at $8.25/hour as opposed to being gainfully employed at $7.25/hour
You cannot legislate equality. If you want to decrease poverty, implement policies to insure that higher levels of education is available to all.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted this week that more than 2 million people will leave the labor force because of Obamacare. Specifically, more people will leave the labor force or reduce their hours, to stay under the cap for federal subsidies. If you are a family of 4, and household income is under, WAIT FOR IT, $94,000, you are eligible for a federal subsidy. The number of part time/temporary workers has already increased by 35% since Obamacare was passed in 2010; and yes it will get worse, wait until 2015 when it becomes mandatory for businesses.
For a good laugh on Obamacare, go to this web site and watch this video; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpa-5JdCnmo. It shows the president on 36 different occasions stating that if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Obviously there are 1 of two explanations for this misunderstanding. He was ill advised on the 2700 page, 4500 provision Affordable Care Act, or he knew about it and lied. According to a study by Forbes magazine, the ACA will increase premiums to men under 27 by 77%, 40 year olds, 37% and 64 year olds by 37%.
When Obamacare was 1st released, The Congressional Budget Office predicted that it would cost $900 billion over 3 years. At the time, I made a prediction to my students that I estimate the final cost would be closer to $3 trillion. Three years later, the CBO has raised it's estimate to $1.6 trillion. At this rate, we are on pace to reach the $3 trillion mark. www.healthcare.gov, the official website to sign up for Obamacare had an original cost of $100 million. That cost is now up to $292 million dollars and rising. If the government can't manage the costs on a web site, and these costs have trippled since it opened on October 1, how can it possible manage a 2700 page, 4500 provision bill. The words of Nancy Pelosi (see above) are acting as a harbinger of doom: "We have to pass the bill, so we can find out what's in it."
The United States has amongst the lowest savings rate for all technological nations. The iOMe challenge is a nationwide competition between Colleges where teams submit a 10,000 page essay on how Americans can improve their savings rates. In addition, teams must produce an approximate 60 second video which complements the essay. If you click on the iOMe logo above, it will take you to Bentley University's 2012 video submission. The faculty adviser for the challenge is John Tommasi and is offered during his Fall EC 351 course, Contemporary Issues in Economics. I'm pleased to announce that on February 15, Bentley was declared the winner of the iOMe video portion of the contest. Congrats to the team members and great job!
EC 3900 Energy Economics
EC 3900, Energy Economics and International Markets, is a 3 credit, Short Term Program, that is offered during Spring semester. After 7 weeks of lecture, the class takes a 10 day educational/cultural tour to France where 80% of their electricity is produced by nuclear power. During the 10 day trip, students travel to, and tour various nuclear facilities Last year's class visited; Marsailles, Aix en Provance, Lyons, Brest and 4 days in Paris.
If there were ever words that can strike fear into the hearts of any man women or child, it's: "I'm from the Government and I'm here to help". On a monthly basis my blog, from an economic standpoint, will explore government laws, decisions and actions, which while well intentioned, had inadvertent results that were either disastrous, or made a bad situation worse. It wouldn't surprise me if you reached the conclusion that congress does two things well, nothing and overreact; and you may ask yourself, do Congressional members vote for what is best for the economy, or what will get them re-elected.