Monday, July 19, 2010

Rainy day reading....

Wow - tons of new info out over the past 4 days.

* The political tug of war over the extension of unemployment benefits appears to be over.

* Consumer Confidence data last week was scary bad. I'm not sure what to make of it - maybe it's a combination of factors (BP, weak job market, a stock market that is now flat for 10 months) but this number was historically bad. For some context:

"You have to go back to the aftermath of the Lehman collapse in October 2008 and before that in September 2005 after Katrina. The decline we saw, believe it or not, was nearly as big as the plunge we saw right after 9/11.

Let’s talk about what is normal and what is not. What is normal is that at this stage of the cycle, a year into a supposed recovery, the UofM sentiment index is sitting at 89.3. In recessions, the index averages out to be 73.8, and in expansions, it is usually already sitting at 90.9, on average. Today we sit at 66.5." Or maybe it's just that the cast of Jersey Shore has been making the rounds on the talk show circuit and everyone is really terrified by the next generation.

* Builder confidence hit its lowest level since April of 2009. Any reading below 50 indicates a poor market for home builders. July's number was 14! If this wasn't an election year, I'd expect a series of tax credits to start working their way through Congress again.

* Chocolate market goes crazy - this is really an interesting read for the heavy finance freaks out there but someone in Europe either has a massive sweet tooth or the urge to bankrupt someone.

According to zerohedge "The WSJ reports ten brokers (mainly BNP Paribas) took possession of more than 240,000 tons of cocoa, valued at as much as $1 billion, leaving just 6,710 tons available for purchase. The Telegraph adds some further color: "The cocoa beans, which are sitting in warehouses either in The Netherlands, Hamburg, or closer to home in London, Liverpool or Humberside is equivalent to the entire supply of the commodity in Europe, and would fill more than five Titanics. They are worth £658 million."

Anyone short European Cocoa is looking for a new job today.
More data on China's empty cities. For a place with 1.3 billion there seems to be tons of available space.

"an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences noted estimates from electricity meter readings that there are about 64.5 million empty apartments and houses in urban areas of the country!"

Booming business of the day: Sign makers telling us about all of the cool new projects funded via the stimulus.

"On the road leading to Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC there's a 10' x 11' road sign touting a runway improvement project funded by the federal stimulus. The project cost nearly $15 million and has created 17 jobs, according to

However, there's another number that caught the eye of ABC News: $10,000. That's how much money the Washington Airports Authority tells ABC News it spent to make and install the sign – a single sign – announcing that the project is "Funded by The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act" and is "Putting America Back to Work." The money for the sign was taken out of the budget for the runway improvement project.

ABC News has reached out to a number of states about spending on stimulus signs and learned the state of Illinois has spent $650,000 on about 950 signs."

On a related subject, does anyone have any info on the bridge replacement project going on in Cape Vincent on Rt. 4? It seems like an obscure back country road with more cows than houses, but there were 2 large cranes and probably a crew of 10 working there last week when I was detoured while biking to the Cape.

Fact of the day: A decade ago China consumed 1/2 as much energy as the US. This year, they consumed 4% more than us. Stunning.

Bonus Fact of the day: Almost a quarter of students in two- and four-year colleges in New York now take remedial classes.


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