"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
Update/Advisory Week Ending 4-11-2021
Historical 10 year rate
The Dow was up 297 points on Friday and 648 points for the week to close at 33,801, another record high. All sectors did well with financials and health care leading the way. The market remains over valued with an average S&P 500 P/E of 34 vs a historical P/E of 17.5. Whereas I don't see a bear market, a correction wouldn't surprise me. A good part of this sugar high is a function of all the stimulus money that is being pumped into the economy at the expense of the US debt which will eclipse $30 trillion this year. This will eventually be manifested in a higher inflation rate which we are seeing now for the first time in over 12 years as the FED is predicting over 3% inflation for the year. According to CNBC, as more people receive the Covid-19 vaccine, corporate leaders and investors are asking themselves a new question: What will consumer spending look like next? About a third of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Airport and store traffic is picking up. And some economists are predicting a major boom that could last for years. I am not one of those. The FED will step in and raise interest rates. Rates are already up on the 10 year bond to 1.73% which has driven mortgage rates on the 30 year fixed to 2.9%. During the week, Stocks linked to the recovering economy led the gains again amid the accelerating vaccine rollout. Carnival Corp rose 2.6% after getting two upgrades on Wall street amid pent-up demand and potential summer restart. General Electric climbed more than 1%. JPMorgan added 0.8%. Oil is holding its own at $61.84/barrel, and the dollar and gold are relatively stable at $1.19/Euro and $1732/oz.
Update/Advisory Week Ending 4-4-2021
Hi All, this week will be brief since I'm off to St Thomas. During his inaugural address, Biden says he wanted to be president for all people. The next day on a post in facebook I stated I was willing to give him a chance. The first bill he passed into law was signed on party lines and here's what he said about his infrastructure bill: WASHINGTON Biden will push through infrastructure plan even with no Republican support Reuters President Joe Biden would be willing to push through his $2 trillion infrastructure plan without the support of Republican lawmakers if he cannot reach a bipartisan deal, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Sunday.
This doesn't make him a president for all people, it makes him a lying dog faced pony soldier!
Update/Advisory Week Ending 3-28-21
Not only have democrats never met a tax they didn't like, they're thinking of new ones too. Current tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents/gallon federal and depending on your state another 20-60 cents (attached image). This is being proposed by newly installed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. According to CNBC, he spoke "fondly" (CNBC's words not mine) of a mileage levy, which would tax travelers based on the distance of the journey instead of on how much gasoline they consume. Buttigieg said that while gas taxes have traditionally been part of the way the U.S. pays for the Highway Trust Fund, "we know that it can't be the answer forever because we're going to be using less and less gas." This is also a none to subtle way of pushing consumers towards electric cars. I'm just curious on how this will be reported and verified. In financial news, both the Dow and the S&P 500 finished at new records. On Friday, the Dow staged a late day rally and finished the day up 453 points. For the week, it was up 211 points. Part of the impetus was President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new goal of having 200 million Covid vaccination shots being distributed within his first 100 days in office. As of Friday, 100 million coronavirus vaccinations had been given since Biden was inaugurated. This in turn caused consumer sentiment to rise. A University of Michigan survey released Friday showed the final reading of the index of consumer sentiment was 84.9 in March, up from 76.8 in February. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected a reading of 83.7 (CNBC). I personally think the market is overbought, particularly given an average S&P 500 P/E of 40.47. I have invested in defensive stocks. The only exception to this is the financial sector which does well in a period of rising interest rates. The yield on the 10 year bond was up over 1.7%. Oil was up over $2/barrel to finish at $61.84/barrel as a result of the Suez canal being blocked by a disabled ship and supply concerns. Some estimates put the clearing of the canal at two weeks. The dollar was stable at $1.19/Euro and gold was down slightly at $1732/oz.
Update/Advisory Week Ending 3-14-2021
On Friday, the Dow surged 293 points to finish at another record close of 32778, and this in spite of the yield on the 10 year treasury jumping to 1.64%. This is significant sine mortgage rates on the 30 year fixed are a function of the 10 year yield and are generally 1.25% to 2.75% higher. Currently, the 30 year fixed mortgage rate is in the 3% range. The increasing yield is a function of higher inflation expectations which the FED has estimated will be 3.1% - 3.2% for the year. There are a number of contributing factors to the higher inflation rate such as: higher fuel and food prices, the increasing government debt which is closing in on $30 trillion (it was $10 trillion in 2008 and the current amount that the US government is paying on interest is $358 billion), the passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid Care act and an expectation of bigger government and more spending. Speaking about the Covid Relief Act, The Wall Street Journal editorial board estimated that only $825 billion was directly related to Covid-19 relief and $1 trillion was “expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes; for example, $1.5 million earmarked for the Seaway International Bridge, which connects New York to Canada. Senate Leader Chuck Schumer hails from New York, and $50 million for “family planning” – going to non-profits, i.e. Planned Parenthood, or public entities, including for “services for adolescents.” The market isn't the only thing that is surging. The average price of a gallon of gas nationwide is over $2.85 per gallon. California is $3.84. Gas prices are climbing for a number of reasons: first, expectations of higher prices because of Biden's and democrats war on fossil fuels and if you read social media, all conservatives are blaming the dems but this is not entirely the case. What else is contributing to the higher prices is increasing demand as covid worries fade, a cold snap across Texas and other states that caused a number of refineries to close, the increasing cost of oil which is $65.66/barrel and the refineries are in the process of switching over to the more expensive summer blend of gas. The dollar is relatively stable at $1.20/euro and gold is down slightly to $1725/oz
Update/Advisory Week Ending 3-7-2021
As a result, in part, of an excellent February jobs report, the Dow finished up 564 points for the week to finish at 31,496. For the past month, the Dow has been in a trading range between 31,000-32,000 as investors vacillate between the threat of inflation and an expanding economy as covid related cases and deaths diminish. Inflation expectations are above 2% with some estimates as high as 3.3% for the year and this is reflected in the 10 year bond yield currently at 1.55%. What else added fuel to inflation expectations was comment by Fed chair Jerome Powell who stated that inflation is likely to increase, but "probably" only temporary. Inflation is deadly for bond investors. Inflation erodes the capital of bonds as rising yields struggle, and generally fail, to keep up with price pressures. Rising yields mean falling bond prices. In February, the economy added 355,000 jobs when only 210,000 were expected. In addition, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.2% from 6.3%. Most of the jobs added were in the hospitality industry while education saw negative growth along with the construction industry, mainly as a result of bitterly cold temperatures across the US; so much global warming. Despite the gain, the industry is still 3.5 million short of its employment level from a year ago, just before the worst of the pandemic. The pickup in hiring drove the unemployment rate for the sector down to 13.5% from 15.9% a month ago. Stocks that would benefit from a rapid economic comeback jumped in the wake of the jobs report. The S&P 500 energy sector popped 3.9%, posting its best day since November. Occidental Petroleum jumped 4.5%. Oil is currently trading at over $66/barrel. Financials and energy have been the best performers so far in 2021 while pandemic winners Peloton and Zoom Video slid 12% and 9%, respectively, this week (CNBC). Banks tend to do better in a period of rising interest rates because of the inelastic demand for money. The dollar strengthened against the Euro at $1.19/Euro and gold sank to $1698/oz.
Minimum Wage Commentary
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.
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.