"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
April Jobs Report
The April jobs report showed that the economy lost over 20 million jobs and an unemployment rate of 14.7%. The highest post war unemployment rate was 10.8% during the double dip recession of the early 80's and the highest unemployment rate ever was 23% in 1933, the height of the great depression. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is a result of a mandatory shuttering of the economy by the Federal and State governments. As the country slowly starts to re-open this month, May figures should be better. the real unemployment rate also skyrocketed to 22.8%, an all time high (it wasn't computed in the 1930's). From the BLS, In April, unemployment rates rose sharply among all major worker groups. The rate was 13.0 percent for adult men, 15.5 percent for adult women, 31.9 percent for teenagers, 14.2 percent for Whites, 16.7 percent for Blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians, and 18.9 percent for Hispanics. The rates for all of these groups, with the exception of Blacks, represent record highs for their respective series.
After two days of modest declines where the Dow finished the week at 24,465, the Dow is up 540 points about 1 hour before the market opens. The driver is covid 19 or the lack thereof. The past two days have seen reported deaths attributed to the virus (notice I said attributed and not caused) being under 1000. On Sunday, 617 deaths were reported and Monday, 505. This has not been reported by the major networks that thrive on hysteria. In addition, businesses are being re-opened in all 50 states and weekend reports were optimistic. More and more companies are also reporting favorable outcomes on vaccines. From CNBC, American biotech company Novavax said Monday it started the first human study of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The company said it expects initial results on safety and immune responses in July. Last week, another biotech Moderna reported positive development on its vaccine trial where all 45 participants had developed coronavirus antibodies. There are 10 vaccines in clinical evaluation and 114 in pre-clinical evaluation, according to a running tally by Fundstrat. This comes in the light of bad economic news (that was expected) that mortgage delinquencies more than doubled in April to 6.45% up from 3.05% in March. From a technical standpoint, the S&P and Dow are set to break their 200 day moving average to the upside. It could be time to jump back into energy as oil is up to $34.42/barrel and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.962; however this is still 70 cents lower than last year at this time. I would go with any of the majors, Exxon-Mobile, Conoco Phillips, Chevron or Royal Dutch Shell. The dollar is at $1.10/Euro, and gold is still strong at $1726/oz.
Earlier this week, Dr Fauci sank the Dow, then it was Jerome Powell of the FED, and today, it's president Trump and the volatility continues. After being down 458 points yesterday, the Dow not only recovered, but was up 377 points to finish at 23,625. Yesterday's gain was led by the financial sector, as most investors felt it was oversold and the banks are financially solid and energy as oil inventories surprisingly dropped in the United States as OPEC cut production and demand is slowly improving. Oil is up again today and currently trading at $28.83/barrel. Today, about an hour before the open, the market is down 200 points as a result of April retail sales being worse than expected, down 16% when 12.2% was expected and the main driver being the President ordered companies to suspend chip shipments to Huawei (pronounced Yea Way). In a quid pro quo, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Chinese state-run publication Global Times, tweeted on Friday that China would “restrict or investigate” U.S. companies including Qualcomm, Cisco Systems and Apple if the U.S. takes further action to block Huawei’s supply chain. Can someone please advise the President that now is not the time to rekindle the trade war with China. All semiconductor stocks along with most tech stocks are currently in the red for the day. The yield on the 10 year is down to .6% and gold is up to $1753/oz as companies seek safe havens, the dollar is up to $1.08/Euro and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.869.
The Dow was up 4 out of 5 days this week, and in spite of a job report that yielded a 14.7% unemployment rate and a loss of 20 million jobs, the Dow gained 455 points to close the day and week at 24,331. The uptick was a result of a jobs report that was expected to be worse, Moderna entering its potential vaccine into a phase 2 study and favorable earnings. Also helping was the price of oil that advanced to $26.74/barrel. The economy was expected to lose 21.5 million jobs and have an unemployment rate of 16%. All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 were up. Shares of Lyft, Peloton, and Bristol-Myers Squibb all surged after quarterly performances trounced analysts' estimates. Moderna stock leaped as much as 14% to a record high. Speaking of record highs, the NASDAQ is above where it started at the beginning of the year and all indexes have rallied since March lows on the expectation of the economy opening sooner rather than later. The Dow is up 33% from it's March low of 18,200. Stocks that would benefit from reopening the economy rose again Friday. Airline stocks such as Delta, American and United all gained at least 4.8%. Disney climbed 3.4% while MGM Resorts advanced 4.4%. From CNBC, "Sentiment on Wall Street was also aided after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke to Chinese Vice Premier Liu He late on Thursday about the phase one trade deal signed in January. In a statement, they said both sides “agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.” The yield on the 10 year was up to .68% and the average loan on a 30 year fixed mortgage is 3.26%. The real estate market has suffered since home sales in April are down over 10%. The dollar is up at $1.08/Euro, gold was down but remains strong at $1706/oz and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.826
After advancing over 500 points on Friday on optimism that the economy is opening, it dropped over 200 points on Monday from fears that the opening of the economy would spread the virus. Yesterday was a mixed batch. After being up over 200 points on optimism, Dr Fauci single handedly sank the market by stating that the opening of the economy could create an outbreak that can't be controlled. He also stated that a vaccine will be essential in stopping the coronavirus spread, but warned it will be a while before a usable one is available. Moderna is currently entering phase 2 testing of its vaccine. As a result, the market sank 457 points to end at 23,764. The volatility continues but the market is still trading sideways overall which signifies consolidation, generally a bullish sign from a technical standpoint (chart below). About an hour before the market open today, the Dow is up over 60 points recovering slightly. Leading the way is technology with Microsoft, Facebook, Alphabet and Apple all up. Estimates of a vaccine being ready are anywhere from the end of summer to early next year. In other news, democrats in Congress are proposing a $3 trillion aid package to states which will be added on to the existing debt of close to $25 trillion. This, fortunately, appears to be DOA since GOP's are saying that this is nothing more than a democratic wish list. The yield on the 10 year is .68%, down slightly, the dollar is $1.09/Euro, gold is stable at $1716/oz, and oil is going up as a result more OPEC production cuts and greater demand as the economy opens. Oil is at $26.3/barrel and is being followed by gas. The price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.861.
Day 1 is March 1
After dropping over 500 points on Friday on a combination of bad economic news and a possible re-escalation of the trade war with China, the Dow started the day over 350 points before a late day rally brought the Dow into the green to finish up 26 points at 23,749. The reason for the early trading day downturn was Warren Buffet announcing that Berkshire Hathaway had sold all its airline stocks and announcing that the industry will be forever changed, tho he remained optimistic over the long term prospects of the economy. Disney fell more than 2% as it was downgraded by MoffetNathanson, however, Disney will be coming out with guidance and earnings tomorrow which can reverse the stocks direction. Also hurting the market today was a Sunday statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who stated that the US has significant evidence that the coronavirus started in a lab in Wuhan China. Those comments came after National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday that China will be “held accountable” for the coronavirus earlier in the week. Leading the comeback was tech stocks after an analyst on CNBC stated that tech stochs will be a firce to reckoned with once the economy re-opens. and all sectors finished in the green. Oil continues it's upward trend and at $21.15/barrel, is up almost 50% in the past 4 days. On Friday, Tesla dropped over 70 points after Elon Musk tweeted that he felt the stock was over priced but today, it gained back 60 points. The 10 year yield is up to .64%, the dollar strengthened to $1.09/Euro, gold is up to $1710/oz and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.784. In other news, I did a polynomial regression on excel of the daily deaths from the coronavirus (chart above). As you can see, it is approximating a bell shaped curve (like most distributions in life) and is trending downwards.
Despite dropping 288 points yesterday to finish at 24,345, the Dow had its biggest one month gain since 1987 as it advanced over 10%. The markets gains in April were a function of the expectation that the economy would be opened sooner rather than later and possible treatments and vaccinations for the virus. Just before the markets open, the Dow is extending yesterdays losses as a result of no or unsure guidance from Apple and Amazon, the largest publically traded stocks by market capitalization (shares outstanding x stock price). Apple's earnings topped expectations but revenues remained flat and it gave no guidance. Amazon gave no guidance but stated that it would use all its 2nd quarter profits to fight covid 19. Both stocks are down over 3%. Also hurting the market was President's Trump statement that he may impose new tariffs on Chinese goods. The yield on the 10 year is up to .62%, the dollar weakened to $1.10/Euro, gold dropped to $1686/oz, oil continues its rebound to $19.86/barrel and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is up to $1.777.
Updates/Advisories 4-30 -2020
After advancing over 500 points yesterday as a result of higher oil prices and mainly because Gilead's drug reaching statistical significance on treating covid 19, the Dow is down 234 points at 24400 about 45 minutes into the trading day on what appears to be profit taking. In addition to profit taking, weekly 1st jobless claims came in at over 3 million people which brings the 6 week total to over 30 million. Given the fact that some of those have returned to work, we're looking at an April unemployment report between 15-20%. Oil is up for the 2nd day in a row as a result of inventories growing less than expected in the US. Despite today's downturn, the Dow is looking at its best monthly gain since 1987. Prior to today, it has risen more than 11% this month. Both Facebook and Microsoft reported better than expected revenues. FB stated that after an initial drop in advertising sales it has stabilized in the past 3 weeks. From CNBC, Microsoft rose about 0.6% after the company reported fiscal third-quarter sales growth of 15% thanks to growth in its cloud business. The software giant said in a statement that the disease “had minimal net impact on the total company revenue” in the three months ended March 31. The yield on the 10 year is down to .6%, the dollar is stronger at $1.08/Euro, gold is virtually unchanged at $1712/oz, oil is up for the 2nd day in a row at $1751/barrel and the price of a gallon of regular gas nationwide is, wait for it, up to $1.772.
In other news, The governor of Florida outlined steps to gradually open the state last night. In addition, he added the following statistics that the media reported: the media reported there would be 465,000 hospitalizations and there would be a shortage of beds, there have been less than 2200 hospitalizations; the media also reported a shortage of ventilators, over 75% of the ventilators in Florida remain unused. Welcome to the world of media generated hysteria.
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.