Saturday, August 28, 2010

SAR #10240

Suddenly there a lot of chickens looking for work.

Pick One:  This week's job data is [more] or [less] than economists predicted. The four week moving average has moved upward again, has has the number of “unemployed” - both to the highest levels in a year.  And the number of Americans receiving 'long term emergency unemployment benefits” grew by 200,000 – in a single week.

Quoted:  “A stock market that rallies on the news that annualized growth in second-quarter GDP was revised from 2.4% to just 1.6%... is irrational, unstable and terribly dangerous.”

F. Scott Revisited:  The super-rich are indeed different from us – they are super pessimistic about the market's future.

Just Add Water:  Chinese officials say that acute shortages of farmland and water are exacerbating the problem of feeding the population.  The government plans to boost grain production by 50 million tons over the next decade, presumably by magic.  Capitalists see this as an opportunity, not a disaster, as they bid up agriculture-related companies.

Fielded Dreams:  In the Chaoyang district of Beijing, 55% of houses are vacant and have been for over three years. Sometimes if you build them, they don't show up.

Bread & Butter:  JCS Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen says that the national debt is the single biggest threat to our national security.  If the debt isn't brought under control, he says, the Pentagon may have to cut back on whiz bang weaponry, which would hurt the home districts of many Congressmen and dampen the rate at which the defense industry hires veterans, especially flag officers.

Shocked, I tell you, Shocked:  One of Karzai's more corrupt aides is closely tied to the CIA.  Just the one?

Cost Plus:  In order to increase their own profits, health insurers are encouraged to accept ever higher bills from hospitals and doctors.  The more they spend, the more profit they can earn, as their non-medical care cut is limited to 30% of premiums.  In California this has lead to 20% and higher increases in premiums - which will translate to a 20% increase in profits.  My uncle built cost-plus roads, retired rich.

Blame Game?   Can we blame climate change for the the extreme heat, the flash floods, the weird weather all over the planet?  No.  Is climate change responsible for these things?  Many, probably.

Is It Now or Never Yet?  For a couple of years it has been obvious that lenders have been very slow to foreclose on houses – to the point that a huge 'shadow inventory' has come to loom over the market . Banks and other investors have been slow to “recognize” losses, because they hoped prices would rise.  Instead house prices have spiraled down and the unbooked losses continue to rise .  A rush to dump their houses on the market now will only increase their losses. Sometimes it is best to just say 'oops', take the loss, and learn.

Cue the Theme Music: The Dem's new theme is “These People Could be in Charge' – replacing “The Party of No”, which was taken as a compliment.

(Miss)Perception:  While he's not reached Greenspan's level of obfuscation, Bernanke's latest comments were vague enough to let the stock market react with the sort of excitement you'd expect from a mullah seeing a bit of ankle underneath a burka.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is the value of the Fed's promise to ride to the rescue... maybe tomorrow.

Joe Friday:  There are 11 million houses in the US with negative equity – 23% of all mortgaged houses.  And that's an improvement because so many underwater houses have already been foreclosed on.

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