"Where economics isn't just a job, but an adventure"
Danger Zone by John Tommasi on Amazon
Hi all, one good thing about the quarantine is I have finished the great American novel. It is an action- adventure, detective mystery that is loosely based on my tenure working for the state of NH as an undercover operative. The action goes from NH to Florida and Jamaica to the Bolivian jungles; Enjoy! It is also available on paperback. ps you can download it to a pc or phone with the kindle app from Amazon, it is free for Prime members.
January An Impeachment Primer February The Coronavirus and the Market. March/April Balanced Budget and Term limits May The Cost of the Quarantine and Recovery
Blog Topics 2019
March The Burgeoning US Debt May China, Trade and Tariffs June Income taxes: Obama v Trump July/Aug The China Threat Sept/Oct The High Cost of College: Part 1
Blog Topics 2018
January What Kills Bull Markets May Are Cheap Oil Prices here to Stay July California and Mandatory Solar Panels August Tariffs and Trade September Is a Recession coming? November Increasing Healthcare Costs December The Oracle of Omaha
Blog Topics 2017
January Trumponomics Part 2 February The Keystone Pipeline Revisited March Border Adjustment Tax April Are Liberal Prof's..... May Moral Hazard Through a Libertarian's Lens (guest blog from a student) July What's causing the Opioid Crisis September The minimum Wage re-visited November Everything You Want to Know about 401K December How The New Tax Bill Affects you (spoiler alert: the middle class makes out great)
blog topics for 2013 - 2016 are at page bottom
Week-Ending Update/Advisory 2-20-2021
In the new Covid Relief Bill there is a provision for a required $15 minimum wage nation wide. Minimum wage should be left to the individual states. A Federally mandated minimum wage for all states is stupidity personified given the following: The attached map shows cost of living by state for a market basket of goods that on the average, nationwide, cost $100. The interpretation is a follows: That market basket of goods would cost $139.10 in New York, and $151.70 in Calif. As you can see, the cost of living is 51,7% higher in Calif, the most expensive state, than the national average; however In Mississippi, it would only cost $86.10. If you do the math, the cost of living is 76.2% high in California than Mississippi Even if you compare Calif and NH, the cost of living in Calif is 38.2% higher than NH As a result, I feel that a one-size-fits-all federally mandated minimum wage is ludicrous and it should be left up to the individual states. Oil continued it's upward trend by finishing the week at $59.04/barrel. Temperatures in the Permian Basin, the fracking capital of the United States, plunged below zero. Snow, wind and ice knocked power out for much of Texas. Oil refiner Motiva shut down its Port Arthur Manufacturing Complex, the largest American oil refinery, because of freezing temperatures. In addition, there has been increasing demand because of the diminishing threat of covid 19. The last time oil was this high was in January of 2020. Shortly afterwards oil plunged to negative numbers as a result of the covid 19 shutdown. The Dow was up 60 points for the week to finish at 31,494. Mortgage rates on a 30 year fixed climbed to nearly 3% as the yield on the 10 year went to 1.34%, as a result mortgage applications were down 5% for the week. Mortgage rates are tied to the yield on the 10 year and are generally 1.75% to 3% higher. There are expectations of higher growth and inflation expectations are 3.3% for the year. The dollar was stable at $1.21/Euro and the price of an oz of gold finished the week down to $1,783.
Week-Ending Update/Advisory 2-27-2021
The Dow was down 1% for the week finishing at 30,932. It was a roller coast week decreasing 469 points on Friday alone. The reason was the yield on the 10 year bond that at one point during the week spiked to 1.61%, greater than the average yield on the S&P 500 of 1.43%. This increased inflation expectations and higher interest rates. These fears were somewhat assuaged by Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Tuesday as he stated the FED policy will remain accommodative for at least the next year. Specifically, he stated "the FED has adopted an approach in which it will allow inflation to average above 2% for a period of time before moving to tighten policy". The ten year yield is important since the 30 year mortgage rate is directly affected by it, By Friday at the close of the markets, the yield was down to 1.46%. The current fixed mortgage rate is 2.98%, an increase from the previous weeks 2.96%. The weakness in the broader market came even after the personal consumption expenditures price index indicated subdued inflation in January. The PCE index, which the Federal Reserve watches closely, rose 0.3% for the month, slightly ahead of the 0.2% expectation but was up just 1.5% year over year, matching Dow Jones estimates. Energy gained 4.3% this week, bringing its February gains to more than 21%. Energy is the biggest winner by far amid expectations that consumers around the world will soon be driving and flying as they were prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Oil is currently trading at $61.66/barrel and the average price of a gallon of gas nationwide is up to $2.712. Financials also jumped 11% this month, benefitting from rising interest rates. (CNBC). Despite the bad week, the DOW was up 2.6% for the month. Gold is down to $1733/oz and the dollar is stable at $1.21/Euro.
Week-Ending Update/Advisory 2-13-2021
The Dow was up 27 points on Friday to finish a positive week and a new high of 31,458. The market ground higher to notch records this month as investors remained hopeful for a smooth economic reopening as well as additional Covid stimulus. The Dow has gained 4.9% in February, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have rallied 5.9% and 7.8%, respectively. The S&P 500 has raked in ten record closes in 2021 (CNBC). Energy, a laggard last year was up over 10% for the month as oil is at a 1 year high of just under $60/barrel. The average price of a gallon of gasoline Friday was $2.5, up from last week. With the prospect of heard immunity and the economy fully reopening, expectations are high. Close to 35 million people have had a least one short of the vaccine with about 15 million two. As you can see from the attached chart, the 20 day moving average of daily positive cases in NH is steadily declining. Day 1 is March 1, 2020. American households making less than $75,000 are feeling especially pessimistic about their financial futures, despite promises of more federal stimulus measures in the coming months, according to the latest University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey. The consumer survey's early February results were far worse than economists' had expected, falling to 76.2 points — a major slide from the same period last year, just before the pandemic hit, when the index stood at 101 points (CNN). The yield on the 10 year is up to 1.2%, The dollar is $1.21/Euro, and gold is at $1825/oz.
Week-Ending Update/Advisory 2-6-2021
The Dow was up 1162 points for the week and notched it's best week since November. The impetus was higher than expected earnings and the imminent approval of a close to $2 trillion stimulus bill despite a government debt approaching $28 trillion. Of the 184 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings to date, 84.2% topped analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv. Also helping the Dow this week was the January jobs report that showed 49,000 jobs were added in January, slightly below the 50,000 expected. This comes after a loss of 140,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.3%. The following, from CNN, is a pretty good explanation as to why the market drop of the previous week was so precipitous. Melvin Capital, a hedge fund that bet heavily against GameStop, lost a stunning 53% of its value in January. The hedge fund eventually had to get bailed out by Citadel and Point72, two hedge funds that provided a $2.75 billion lifeline. Hedge funds that bet against GameStop and other Reddit-favored stocks were forced to take steps to counter their losses. Some faced margin calls, requests to put up more capital when positions weaken. To raise cash, they had to sell completely unrelated but highly liquid stocks such as Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN). And that in turn caused other investors to take chips off the table, continuing the negative feedback loop. The price of oil is up to $57.07/barrel, the price of a gallon of gas nationwide is up to $2.462/gallon (California id $3.44), gold is down to $1815/oz and the dollar is trading at $1.20/Euro.
Week-Ending Update/Advisory 1-30-2021
An investor can "borrow" shares of stock from his/her broker and then sell them. At some point, he/she has to buy those back and return them to the broker. Here's an example. I think IBM stock is going to go down and let's say it is currently trading for $100/share. I borrow those shares from my broker and sell them immediately at $100. I also have to pay a fee/premium for this. Let's assume the stock goes down to $90, I then buy back those shares at $90 and return them to my broker, I have made $10/share less fees. HOWEVER, if the stock goes up to $110, I buy back those shares at $110, I lose $10/share. In the case of Gamestop, a number of hedge funds shorted the stock. This was broadcast wildly on the Social Platform Reddit, and a number of individual investors got together and started buying the stock. This sent the stock price up and we now had a "short Squeeze". A short squeeze occurs when a number of people have shorted the stock and it goes up dramatically. As a result, the price goes up dramatically with all these extra buyers. Gamestop will eventually come back down in Price. This happened once before in 1902 (I Think) with Great northern RR. The Dow was down 620 points Friday and down for the week and month. Mainly because many short sellers had to sell good stocks (Apple Facebook etc) in order to cover their short positions. The Dow finished under 30,000 for the 1st time since Dec 14. A few people have asked what my investment strategy is for the Biden Administration. I'm minimizing or staying away from the following sectors: Energy, Financials and Health Care. I like Alternative energy, my best has been the ETF, ICLN, and I like Consumer staples and entertainment like DIS. Utilities are a defensive play and generally pay a good dividend, I like UTL. I'm cautious of tech.
Economy and the Dow
Click to Enlarge
As you can see from the attached charts, the stock market mirrors the American Economy, and granted, there are bumps in the road but both ALWAYS recover. Stop checking your retirement accounts and do nothing. You, and believe or not, even me (yes I am making fun of myself), cannot time the market, but it will recover. Today the Dow dropped 10%, 2352 points, which is the worst point drop ever and the largest point drop since Black Monday in 1987 where it dropped over 23%; and this drop occurred in spite of the FED announcing that it would inject up to $1 trillion into the economy. Once again, there are no rational expectations in the market, just hysteria and the hysteria will eventually diminish.
The wealth effect is an increase in consumption (and accompanying decrease in savings) as a result of an individuals assets (usually a portfolio or land/home) increasing in value. A negative wealth effect is just the opposite, and since most indexes declined more than 10% and tested bear market territory, this appears to be the case. Conversely, the market recovered in January and all losses and more were covered.
FICO SCORES Fair Isaac Company reports that it's FICO scores (FICO being an acronym for Fair Isaac Co) reports that the average FICO score in the US has reached an all time high of 700 nationwide amongst adults. The share of consumers who are viewed as the riskiest from a credit perspective (these are sub-prime and have a score lower than 640) reached a new low of about 40 million — or 20 percent of adults in the U.S. that have FICO scores. according to the Wall St Journal. A lot of you may be asking what is a FICO score, how is it calculated and how it affects me. Fair Isaac uses use information provided by one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or Trans-Union. From this, they have a formula to get a credit score which can be as high as 850. The biggest part is your payment history, followed by how much you owe, credit history, credit mix and new credit (see chart). Next, how do you interpret your FICO Score: anything > 800 is excellent (and gets you low interest rates on loans and credit cards), 740-799 is very good, 670-739 is good, and anything less than 670 is considered not good and sub-prime (chart). Lastly, as no surprise, the older you are, the better your score (chart)
Strangulation by Regulation: The tax code is 77,000 pages, under Obama there were 4000 new EPA regulations (info from CBS) Dodd-Frank imposed somewhere between 310-500 new requirements on banks(various analysts CNBC) and Obamacare has over 20,000 pages of regulations (Washington Post); and people are complaining because Trump is trying to streamline government. He has signed the "2 for 1" executive order that mandates all agencies to do away with 2 regulations for every one they pass. I can run my life and spend my money, much better than the government and I applaud Trump's efforts in doing away with economically ruinous legislation.
UNH Study Results 5-31-2016
In other News: First, a little history. In 1800, 90% of the adult population were farmers (lots of factory child labor), by 1900, 25% of the population and currently, about 2% as a result of technology garnering greater yield/acre. As a result much farmland from the 19th century is no longer. In a recent study out of UNH, it was found that 75% of the farmland from the mid 19th century is now covered by trees and this is contributing to warmer winters. Trees causing higher temperatures you say; how is this possible? It is very simple physics. In the winter in NH (and most other states), farm pastures are covered with snow, and this reflects sunlight, and heat, into space. Now that 75% of these pastures are covered with trees, the dark trees absorb the heat and it permeates into the atmosphere causing a general warming and milder winters. If you've ever wondered what a stone wall was doing in the middle of the woods, those woods were once pastures and delineated borders that contained live stock.
Just as a reminder from my blog of October 2013, Carbon dioxide composes only .0387% of our atmosphere (in decimal form that’s .000387), and of all the CO2 currently being produced on the earth, man only accounts for 3.4% (.034 in decimals). Therefore, if you want to calculate the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by man, you would multiply .034 x .000387 to get .0000131 or .00131%.
The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consulafft, at Bergen, Norway.
Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.
Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.
I apologize, I neglected to mention that this report was from November 2, 1922. As reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post — 96 years ago! The text in the above example is a genuine transcription of a 1922 newspaper article, an Associated Press account which appeared on page 2 of the Washington Post on 2 November of that year
Commentary on Minimum Wage
The main argument concerning minimum wage 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 $10-15/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.
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 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
Blog Topics 2015
January Does Implementation of the Death Penalty lead to higher costs February Less Competition and Higher Hospital Costs March Millionaires Who Get Subsidies from the Affordable Care Act April The Unintended Obama Legacy May The NY Times and $15 Minimum Wage June Are Disability Payments Bankrupting Social Security August Seattle's $15 minimum wage and it's Surprising Consequence October The Great Stagnation: The Obama Legacy November Poverty in the United States December Should Insider Trading be Legalized: Part one by Olivia Marchioni
Blog Topics 2016
January Should Insider Trading be Legalized: Part 2 February The Presidential Election & the Economy March Does Narcan Increase Heroin Use April Is NOAA destroying the American Fisherman June Will California Style Power Outages Happen in New England July Textbooks, Inflation & the FTC Sept Economic strangulation by Regulation Oct Is this the Best we have? Nov The High Cost of Prescription Drugs Dec Trump, the Economy & Animal Spirits
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.