Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Europe - Groundhog Day edition

Last week all of the talk was about the pending Greek default and what that would mean for European banks.  Stocks had their worst week in 3 years and there was talk of a Lehman-like event coming as early as Sunday in Europe.  However by about noon yesterday the rumor mills were cranked up to high speed that European Bailout #624 - This time it's personal! - was going to be the mother of all bailouts and stocks bounced sharply.

That rally has continued around the world even though the Germans continue to discount any talk of multi-trillion Euro bailouts.  The news flow out of Europe will continue to be volatile as every austerity vote is likely to be followed by strikes and protests. 

New home sales look to hit a new record low

This is some really stunning news concerning the pace of new home construction in the US. 

"The Census Bureau started tracking New Home sales in 1963, and the record low was 412,000 in 1982 - until that record was broken in 2009 - and then again in 2010 - and it looks another new record in 2011."

Think about that - in 1982 coming out of the '81 recession with mortgage rates at 13.5% !!!! we had new home sales of 412,000.  In 2011, despite the fact that our population that has grown 33% since 1982 and mortgage rates are at historic lows, we are project to build and sell just 303,000 new homes in the US this year.  I'm as guilty as anyone of being bogged down in the day in, day out moves of global markets and we occasionally forget to look at the big picture.  This is one long-term data point that should concern any policymaker in the US.  The lack of quality middle class jobs and the excessive debt burden of 20-somethings has drastically slowed new household creation and when coupled with a huge surplus of foreclosed properties has crushed the new home construction market.

I mentioned this yesterday on my twitter feed - @grindstone_fin - but here is reason #462 why I'm not on Facebook.

"According to Cubrilovic’s tests, Facebook merely alters its tracking cookies when you log out, rather than deleting them. Your account information and other unique identifiable tokens are still present in these cookies, which means that any time you visit a web page with a Facebook button or widget, your browser is still sending personally identifiable information back to Facebook."

Now Facebook has come out and denied they'd ever do anything with this information and of course you should trust them.

"Facebook does not track users across the web. Instead, we use cookies on social plugins to personalize content (e.g. Show you what your friends liked), to help maintain and improve what we do (e.g. Measure click-through rate), or for safety and security (e.g. Keeping underage kids from trying to signup with a different age)."
Facebook continues to work toward training our society to devalue privacy.  It's becoming increasingly difficult to stay out of the Facebook world as more and more websites REQUIRE a Facebook account to login, however, I'll hold out as long as possible.


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