Monday, February 01, 2010

Tolls for Interstate 81?

I know I'm going to kick myself for ever giving anyone in Albany this idea, but when I see NJ looking to possibly implement tolls on all of their major highways, I imagine NY won't be far behind....

"Interstates 78, 80, 195, 287 and 295 are likely targets to become toll roads, transportation experts predict in response to a report submitted to Gov. Chris Christie that suggests that the state explore placing tolls on certain highways."

A relatively benign tax case has suddenly drawn the attention of many around the world as Swiss banking giant UBS appears ready to draw a line in the sand on the subject of turning over account holder names to the IRS.

"A Swiss court has barred the government in Bern from complying with an agreement to provide the United States I.R.S. with the names and records of 4,450 Americans suspected of evading taxes by hiding their millions at the Swiss bank UBS

The court ruled that the disclosure contravened Swiss bank secrecy law. The government has now concluded that it can hand over only about 250 files."

The case is worth watching to see who will blink first - the US or UBS. Given UBS's global reach it's hard to imagine the US truly pushing UBS over the edge on this issue. The US has shown that banks that are Too Big To Fail get special treatment. UBS knows this little secret. I believe that UBS is so deeply entwined in the global commercial real estate market that their failure is not an option.

The personal income and spending data were mixed - income was slightly better due to a social security payment and spending a little lower as consumers continue to save - but the market has viewed the data as positive.

Separately, the Jan ISM manufacturing was almost 3 pts above estimates at 58.4 and should be viewed positively. Two things with this data though - it measures US manufacturing output (which is sort of like measuring our production of typewriters -- it's not the driver of our economy) and it only measures the direction of change not the actual change in business.

This seems to fit with the thesis that inventory build has spurred growth over the past quarter. Can it continue? TBD....


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