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Archive for March 2nd, 2009

Obama budget to force more savings

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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Just what we need- one more subtraction from aggregate demand and yet more tax advantaged funds for managers to play with.

Clearly he believes that “we need savings to have funds for investment” and has at best forgotten the implications of the paradox of thrift:

Obama seeks ‘Automatic Pensions’, Labor Enforcement

by Holly Rosenkrantz

Feb 26 (Bloomberg) — The budget “lays the groundwork for future establishment of a system of automatic workplace pensions, to operate alongside Social Security, that is expected to dramatically increase” retirement and personal savings, Obama’s Office of Management and Budget said in its outline, without giving details on the costs.

The plan would force employers that don’t offer retirement plans to enroll employees in a “direct-deposit IRA account,” with the option for workers themselves to opt out. Currently, 75 million working Americans, or about half the workforce, lacks employer-based retirement plans, according to the administration.


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Posted in Articles, Obama | 6 Comments »

Mosler Health Care Proposal

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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Mosler Health Care Proposal

  1. Government funding for a full time, $8 per hour job that includes full federal health care coverage for the worker and dependents.

    This immediately triggers market forces that will result in all businesses providing health care benefits as a matter of competition.
  2. As a matter of economics and public purpose it is counter productive for health care to be a marginal cost of production.

    No economist will disagree with this. Unless going to work makes one more prone to needing health care, making the cost
    a marginal cost of production distorts the price structure and results in sub optimal outcomes.

    Therefore government should fund at least 90% of health care costs paid for by businesses.
  3. Long term vision subject to revised details:
    • Everyone gets a ‘medical debit card’ with perhaps $5000 in it to be used for qualifying medical expenses (including dental) for the year.
    • Expenses beyond that are covered by catastrophic insurance.
    • At the end of the year, the debit card holder gets a check for the unused balance on the card, up to $4,000, with the $1,000 to be spent on preventative measures not refundable.
    • The next year, the cards are renewed for an additional $5,000.
    • Advantages:
      1. Doctor/patient time doubled as doctor/insurance company time is eliminated.
      2. The doctor must discuss the diagnosis and options regarding drugs, treatments, and costs with the patient rather than an insurance company.
      3. Individuals have a strong incentive to keep costs down.
      4. Doubling the time doctors have available for patients increases capacity and service without increasing real costs.
      5. Total nominal cost of approx. $1.5 trillion ($5,000×300 million people) is about 10% of GDP which is less than being spent today, so even when catastrophic costs are added the numbers are not financially disruptive and can easily be modified.
      6. Eliminates medical costs from businesses, removing price distortions and medical legacy costs.
      7. May obviate the need for Medicare and other current programs.
      8. Eliminates issues regarding receivables and bad debt for hospitals and doctors.
      9. Eliminates the majority of administrative costs for the nation as a whole for the current system.
        Patients can ‘shop’ for medical services and prices as desired.
    • Disadvantages: Those more in need of the rebate at the end of the year may elect to forgo treatment beyond the $1,500 not subject to the rebate.
    • Doctors may be able to more easily convince patients of unneeded treatments and expensive drugs vs insurance companies.


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Posted in Uncategorized | 48 Comments »

China to bolster oil reserves

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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It’s not a lot but seems private inventories are low and were probably liquidated in the last 6 months.

China to bolster oil reserves

by Sun Xiaohua

Mar 2 (China Daily) — China is accelerating the build-up of its oil reserves to avoid the economic dislocations the country suffered in 2008 from fluctuations in the world oil price.

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) recently released a plan to build nine large refining bases in coastal areas over the next three years, sources with the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Association said last week.

The plan involves building three 30-million-ton refinery bases in three cities (Shanghai, Ningbo and Nanjing) in China’s economically dynamic Yangtze Delta and six 20-million-ton bases in other coastal areas from Tianjin in the north to Guangzhou in the south. It will also facilitate major joint-venture refinery projects between Chinese companies and partners from oil-producing countries such as Venezuela,Qatar and Russia.

The refinery scheme is part of China’s plan to bolster its oil inventories. The NEA announced at a national energy conference in early February that China will, in addition to the current four strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) bases, build eight new ones by 2011. The program will increase China’s strategic crude reserve capacity to 44.6 million cu m, or 281 million barrels.

The country will also increase its refined oil reserve to 10 million tons by 2011, a source familiar with the stockpile plan told China Daily in February.

“China’s attentiveness to its oil reserve capacity has grown in tandem with its rising dependence on imported oil,” said Pan Jiahua, an expert with the Chinese petroleum society.

China, the world’s second largest oil consumer, relies on imports for about half of its oil needs. It imported 178.9 million tons of crude oil in 2008, up 9.6 percent from the previous year, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.

But China cannot simply take advantage of attractive prices and store as much oil as it wants because its current reserve capacity is not commensurate with its energy appetite.

Customs statistics shows China’s crude imports in January even fell 7.99 percent year-on-year. A slowing economy bears most of the blame but analysts said the country’s limited capacity also played a role.

Zhao Youshan, head of the petroleum distribution committee of the China General Chamber of Commerce, an industry group, recently submitted a proposal to oil-related government agencies, calling for using tanks controlled by private companies to store more cheap oil.

Zhou said in his proposal that China’s more than 600 private oil companies have 230 million tons worth of storage tanks, almost ten times the capacity of the eight new SPR tanks combined.


China has massive private oil storage facilities, built up by oil companies since China opened its oil markets to private operators in the mid-1990s. But State companies, mainly China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and China PetroChemical Corp (Sinopec), basically control oil-importing licenses and hundreds of private oil distributors and refiners are currently sitting on empty tanks.

Zhou said in his report that the industry slump last year has left many private oil companies broke and that some of the survivors are struggling with the high maintenance cost of empty tanks.


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Posted in Articles, China, Oil | 1 Comment »

Innocent Frauds (draft in progress) (full)

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy


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Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Re: February Economic Summary in Graphs

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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(email exchange)

Excellent summary of current conditions, thanks!

And gasoline consumption and inventories up year over year with a massive general output gap- so much for the presumed ‘demand destruction?’

q1 looking down 10%- and that’s with the government sector flat or maybe up some, so the rest is down that much more.

q3 forecasts now flat to up some as the fiscal adjustments unfold, including the ‘automatic stabilizers’ of falling revenues and rising transfer payments.

% gains from these levels will be dramatic without making all that much of dent in reducing the output gap.

Unless of course the mainstream reduces the output gap by declaring the natural rate of unemployment has gone up.

Like they always have in the past.

It’s all a staggering loss of real output and a larger loss in quality of life, with Congress fully responsible.

The current fiscal adjustment could have come right after it all went bad in July.

Clearly the 170 billion package last year ‘worked’ as q2 came in at over 2% real growth.

All they needed to do was do it each quarter.

That would have added up to about $700 billion per year and would probably have sustained at least modest levels of output and employment.

>   
>   On Sat, Feb 28, 2009 at 7:41 PM, Russell wrote:
>   

February Economic Summary in Graphs

Feb 28 (Calculated Risk) — Here is a collection of 20 real estate and economic graphs from February …



The first graph shows monthly new home sales (NSA – Not Seasonally Adjusted).

Note the Red column for January 2009. This is the lowest sales for January since the Census Bureau started tracking sales in 1963. (NSA, 23 thousand new homes were sold in January 2009).

From: Record Low New Home Sales in January



Total housing starts were at 464 thousand (SAAR) in January, by far the lowest level since the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959.

Single-family starts were at 347 thousand in January; also the lowest level ever recorded (since 1959).

From: Housing Starts at Another Record Low



This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending since 1993.

Residential construction spending is still declining, and now nonresidential spending has peaked and will probably decline sharply over the next 18 months.

From: Construction Spending: Private Nonresidential has Peaked



This graph shows the unemployment rate and the year over year change in employment vs. recessions.

Nonfarm payrolls decreased by 598,00 in January, and the annual revision reduced employment by another 311,000 in 2008. The economy has lost almost 2.5 million jobs over the last 5 months!

The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent; the highest level since June 1992.

Year over year employment is now strongly negative (there were 3.5 million fewer Americans employed in Jan 2008 than in Jan 2007).

From: January Employment Report: 598,000 Jobs Lost, Unemployment Rate 7.6%



This graph shows the year-over-year change in nominal and real retail sales since 1993.

Although the Census Bureau reported that nominal retail sales decreased 10.6% year-over-year (retail and food services decreased 9.7%), real retail sales declined by 10.9% (on a YoY basis). The YoY change decreased slightly from last month.

From: Retail Sales Increase Slightly in January



This graph shows the combined loaded inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).

Inbound traffic was 14% below last January. This slowdown in imports (inbound traffic to the U.S.) is hitting Asian countries hard. There was a slight increase from December to January, but that appears to be mostly seasonal (the data is NSA).

For the LA area ports, outbound traffic continued to decline in January, and was 28% below the level of January 2008. Export traffic is now at about the same level as in 2005.

From: LA Area Ports: Exports Decline in January



The first graph shows the monthly U.S. exports and imports in dollars through December 2008. The recent rapid decline in foreign trade continued in December. Note that a large portion of the decline in imports is related to the fall in oil prices – but not all.

From: U.S. Trade: Exports and Imports Decline Sharply



The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production fell 1.8 percent in January, and output in January was 10.0% below January 2008. The capacity utilization rate for total industry fell to 72.0%, the lowest level since 1983.

The significant decline in capacity utilization suggests less investment in non-residential structures for some time.

From: Capacity Utilization and Industrial Production Cliff Diving



This graph shows the builder confidence index from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The housing market index (HMI) increased slightly to 9 in February from the record low of 8 set in January.

From: NAHB Housing Market Index Near Record Low



The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported the January ABI rating was 33.3, down from the 34.1 mark in December (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).

From: Architecture Billings Index Hits Another Record Low



This graph shows the annual change in the rolling 12 month average of U.S. vehicles miles driven. Note: the rolling 12 month average is used to remove noise and seasonality.

By this measure, vehicle miles driven are off 3.6% Year-over-year (YoY); the decline in miles driven is worse than during the early ’70s and 1979-1980 oil crisis. As the DOT noted, miles driven in December 2008 were 1.6% less than December 2007, so the YoY change in the rolling average may start to increase.

From: U.S. Vehicle Miles Driven Off 3.6% in 2008



This graph shows existing home sales, on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) basis since 1993.

Sales in January 2009 (4.49 million SAAR) were 5.4% lower than last month, and were 8.6% lower than January 2008 (4.91 million SAAR).

From: More on Existing Home Sales (and Graphs)



This graph shows inventory by month starting in 2004. Inventory levels were flat for years (during the bubble), but started increasing at the end of 2005.

Inventory levels increased sharply in 2006 and 2007, but have been close to 2007 levels for most of 2008. In fact inventory for the last five months was below the levels of last year. This might indicate that inventory levels are close to the peak for this cycle.

From: More on Existing Home Sales (and Graphs)



This graph shows the nominal Composite 10 and Composite 20 indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).

The Composite 10 index is off 28.3% from the peak.

The Composite 20 index is off 27.0% from the peak.

From: Case-Shiller: House Prices Decline Sharply in December



This graph shows the price to rent ratio (Q1 1997 = 1.0) for the Case-Shiller national Home Price Index. For rents, the national Owners’ Equivalent Rent from the BLS is used.

Looking at the price-to-rent ratio based on the Case-Shiller index, the adjustment in the price-to-rent ratio is probably 75% to 85% complete as of Q4 2008 on a national basis. This ratio will probably continue to decline.

However it now appears rents are falling too (although this is not showing up in the OER measure yet) and this will impact the price-to-rent ratio.

From: House Prices: Real Prices, Price-to-Rent, and Price-to-Income



This graph shows weekly claims and continued claims since 1971.

The four week moving average is at 639,000 the highest since 1982.

Continued claims are now at 5.11 million – another new record (not adjusted for population) – above the previous all time peak of 4.71 million in 1982.

From: Weekly Claims: Continued Claims Over 5 Million



“The Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 97.4 in January, up 1.0 percent from December’s record low level of 96.4.”

From: Restaurant Performance Index Rebounds Slightly



This graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions for the last 45 years. New Home sales have fallen off a cliff.

From: Record Low New Home Sales in January



The homeownership rate decreased slightly to 67.5% and is now back to the levels of late 2000.

Note: graph starts at 60% to better show the change.

From: Q4: Homeownership Rate Declines to 2000 Level



The months of supply is at an all time record 13.3 months in January.

From: Record Low New Home Sales in January


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Posted in Articles | 2 Comments »

Gasoline consumption up year over year

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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All the way to the bottom of the recession and gasoline demand up year over year.

The sell off in price still looks to me like it was all due to the Great Mike Masters Inventory Liquidation triggered by his efforts last summer.

Prices are now heading up with inventories in short supply, a trillion dollar fiscal adjustment in the pipeline, and no policy to directly reduce fuel consumption.

Crude prices jump as US gasoline demand rises

Feb 25 (Xinhua) — Crude prices jumped Wednesday after a U.S. government report showing demand for gasoline is on the rise.

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration report said crude inventories rose by 700,000 barrels to 351.3 million barrels. Analysts expected crude stocks would grow by 2.25 million barrels.

Gasoline inventories slipped by 3.4 million barrels, or 1.6 percent, to 215.3 million barrels, which is 7.6 percent below year-ago levels.

Meanwhile, gasoline demand was up 1.7 percent, compared with the same period last year to an average of 9 million barrels per day.


Light, sweet crude for April delivery was up 2.54 U.S. dollars to settle at 42.50 dollars on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent prices rose 1.79 dollars to settle at 44.29 dollars a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.


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California housing data

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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Quote from Data Quick:

Record January sales totals in Perris, Temecula, Victorville and Fontana in the Inland Empire. Palmdale in Los Angeles County posted a record total in January, and record January sales totals also were achieved in Chula Vista and Lemon Grove in San Diego County and Oxnard in Ventura County.

I just checked the numbers from the 2005-2006 highs per the C.A.R. and compared to today’s release.

California housing Data

City 12/05-06 1/09 % decline
Palmdale 377K 135K 64%
Perris 384K 151K 60%
Temecula 510K 250K 51%
Victorville 330K 132K 60%
Fontana 460K 209K 54%
Lemon Grove 419K 209K 54%
Chula Vista 545K 324K 40%
Oxnard 617K 259K 58%
Entire State of California 568K 254K 54%

State’s existing home sales increased 100.8 percent

For release: Thursday, Feb 26 2009

Quick facts

  • Existing, single-family home sales increased 100.8 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted rate of 624,940 on an annualized basis.
  • The statewide median price of an existing single-family home decreased 40.5 percent in January to $254,350.
  • C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index was 6.7 months in January, compared with 16.6 months in January 2008.
  • The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 49.9 days in January 2009, compared with 70.8 days in January 2008

C.A.R. reports sales increased 100.8 percent; median home price declined 40.5 percent in January

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 26) – Home sales increased 100.8 percent in January in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 40.5 percent, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) reported today.

“Statewide sales in January edged past the 600,000 threshold for the first time since October 2005,” said C.A.R. President James Liptak. “The strength in California home sales in recent months signifies that the market is gradually working its way through the large numbers of distressed sales that have followed in the wake of the troubled mortgage problem. With favorable home prices and historically low mortgage rates, affordability in the California housing market is now at its highest since the start of the decade.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 624,940 in January at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations statewide. Statewide home resale activity increased 100.8 percent from the revised 311,160 sales pace recorded in January 2008. Sales in January 2009 increased 14 percent compared with the previous month.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2009 would be if sales maintained the January pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during January 2009 was $254,350, a 40.5 percent decrease from the revised $427,200 median for January 2008, C.A.R. reported. The January 2009 median price fell 9.5 percent compared with December’s revised $281,180 median price.

“A lot of attention has rightfully been directed toward the high number of distressed properties,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “California’s housing market also is feeling the effects of a drought in the availability of jumbo mortgage loans.

“Since the start of the credit crisis in 2007, jumbo lending has been severely constrained to the point where markets that rely on jumbo loans experienced a 24 percent year-to-year decline in sales in the month of January. This stands in contrast to the 100 percent sales gain the overall market experienced,” she said.
Highlights of C.A.R.’s resale housing figures for January 2009:

. C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in January 2009 was 6.7 months, compared with 16.6 months (revised) for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

. Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.05 percent during January 2009, compared with 5.76 percent in January 2008, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 4.92 percent in January 2009, compared with 5.23 percent in January 2008.

. The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 49.9 days in January 2009, compared with 70.8 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

Regional MLS sales and price information are contained in the tables that accompany this press release. Regional sales data are not adjusted to account for seasonal factors that can influence home sales. The MLS median price and sales data for detached homes are generated from a survey of more than 90 associations of REALTORS® throughout the state. MLS median price and sales data for condominiums are based on a survey of more than 60 associations. The median price for both detached homes and condominiums represents closed escrow sales.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and DataQuick Information Systems, none of the 331 cities and communities reporting showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago. DataQuick statistics are based on county records data rather than MLS information. DataQuick Information Systems is a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. (The top 10 list is generated for incorporated cities with a minimum of 30 recorded sales in the month.)

Note: Large changes in local median home prices typically indicate both local home price appreciation, and often, large shifts in the composition of housing market activity. Some of the variations in median home prices for January may be exaggerated due to compositional changes in housing demand. The DataQuick tables listing median home prices in California cities and counties are accessible through C.A.R. Online at http://www.car.org/economics/historicalprices/2009medianprices/jan2009medianprices.

.. Statewide, the 10 cities with the highest median home prices in California during January 2009 were: Santa Barbara, $939,250; Redondo Beach, $672,500; Pleasanton, $655,000; San Clemente, $602,500; San Ramon, $582,000; Yorba Linda, $566,750; San Francisco, $561,000; Huntington Beach, $555,000; Encinitas, $550,000; and Sunnyvale, $530,000.

Leading the way…® in California real estate for more than 100 years, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (www.car.org) is one of the largest state trade organizations in the United States, with nearly 180,000 members dedicated to the advancement of professionalism in real estate. C.A.R. is headquartered in Los Angeles.

January 2009 Regional Sales and Price Activity*-Regional and Condo Sales Data Not Seasonally Adjusted

Median Price Jan 09 Percent Change in Price from Prior Month Dec 08 Percent Change in Price from Prior Year Jan 08 Percent Change in Sales from Prior Month Dec 08 Percent Change in Sales from Prior Year Jan 08
Statewide
California (sf) $254,350 -9.5% -40.5% 14.0% 100.8%
California (condo) $218,960 -7.2% -41.0% -18.3% 58.2%
C.A.R. region
High Desert $127,750 -7.1% -45.5% -10.5% 234.6%
Los Angeles $305,310 -9.4% -35.0% -7.1% 84.7%
Monterey Region $263,540 -9.1% -54.6% -23.0% 132.7%
Monterey County $230,000 -9.8% -54.5% -21.6% 213.5%
Santa Cruz County $450,000 -1.1% -25.7% -27.8% 20.3%
Northern California $259,920 -4.5% -17.3% -19.8% 10.0%
Northern Wine Country $331,150 -3.8% -32.4% -21.0% 85.8%
Orange County $423,100 -4.4% -32.7% -25.9% 79.1%
Palm Springs/Lower Desert $153,150 -9.8% -52.1% -11.8% 51.0%
Riverside/San Bernardino $175,200 -8.2% -41.2% -20.6% 149.4%


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Japan’s housing starts down yet higher than US

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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With maybe half the population, and with housing in a slump, Japan still has more actual housing starts than the US.

While the Obama plan is ‘not my first choice’ for a fiscal adjustment, it isn’t ‘nothing’ either, and should be more than sufficient stabilize aggregate demand, albeit at low levels.

This, coupled with low and falling physical inventories, could easily set off a somewhat jobless recovery that initially shows some very high percentage increases in many areas.

The Obamaboom is on the way, along with its consequences.

Japan’s housing starts decline 19% in January

Feb 27 (Kyodo) — Japan’s housing starts fell 18.7% year on year to 70,688 units in January, the second straight month of decline, according to data released Friday by the Land Ministry.

Starts for owner-occupied houses fell 10.8% to 20,057, making for the fourth consecutive month of decline, while those for rental houses dropped 18.4% to 31,628, the second straight month of decline. Starts for condominiums for sale also fell for the second straight month, plunging 26.4% to 18,434.


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Posted in Articles, Japan | 2 Comments »

Fed USD swaps to CB continue to ease lower

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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Central bank liquidity swaps (13) $374,590- $5,097


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Posted in Banking, Fed | No Comments »

2009-03-02 USER

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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Personal Income MoM (Jan)

Survey -0.2%
Actual 0.4%
Prior -0.2%
Revised n/a

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Personal Income YoY (Jan)

Survey n/a
Actual 1.9%
Prior 1.6%
Revised n/a

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Personal Income ALLX (Jan)

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Personal Spending (Jan)

Survey 0.4%
Actual 0.6%
Prior -1.0%
Revised n/a

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PCE Deflator YoY (Jan)

Survey 0.5%
Actual 0.7%
Prior 0.6%
Revised 0.8%

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PCE Core MoM (Jan)

Survey 0.1%
Actual 0.1%
Prior 0.0%
Revised n/a

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PCE Core YoY (Jan)

Survey 1.6%
Actual 1.6%
Prior 1.7%
Revised n/a

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ISM Manufacturing (Feb)

Survey 33.8
Actual 35.8
Prior 35.6
Revised n/a

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ISM Prices Paid (Feb)

Survey 33.5
Actual 35.8
Prior 35.6
Revised n/a

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Construction Spending MoM (Jan)

Survey -1.5%
Actual -3.3%
Prior -1.4%
Revised -2.4%

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Construction Spending YoY (Jan)

Survey n/a
Actual -9.1%
Prior -6.7%
Revised n/a


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Posted in Daily | No Comments »

2009-03-02 CREDIT

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2009


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While several spreads are heading back towards the wides, along with equities, trading volume is up as securities trade more at levels based somewhat more on analysis rather than simply forced liquidations.


IG On-the-run Spreads (Mar 02)

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IG6 Spreads (Mar 02)

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IG7 Spreads (Mar 02)

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IG8 Spreads (Mar 02)

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IG9 Spreads (Mar 02)


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Posted in Credit | No Comments »