People Voting With Their One-Way U-Haul Rentals
Read my full post here at The Enterprise Blog.
Professor Mark J. Perry's Blog for Economics and Finance
PHOENIX -- A total of 8,639 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the combined Maricopa-Pinal counties metropolitan area in August, down 15.5% from July but up 20.2% from a year ago. Total home sales have increased on a year-over-year basis for eight consecutive months. Last month’s sales were at the highest level for an August since 2006.
Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors -- Home prices continue to show signs of strengthening in August. From March 2009 through August 2009 the median sales price has grown from $154,125 to $175,000. During the same period last year prices were flat. Prices are stablizing due to strong buyer demand—especially in the lower price ranges—buoyed by low mortgage rates and the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers. For the 14th consecutive month, there were more pending sales than there were the prior year. August saw 4,897 signed purchase agreements, up 11% percent from August 2008. With the tax credit expiring in November, closed sales should stay robust for at least the next two months. Time will tell what the market looks like after that, but there will be less inventory.
Over the last several years, what has been the single most important and revolutionary factor for the economic empowerment of the world’s poorest people?
Hint: It’s not foreign aid, the World Bank, or the International Monetary Fund.
Hint: It has compensated for inadequate infrastructure such as bad roads and slow postal services, it has facilitated the flow of information, it has allowed emerging market economies to operate more efficiently, and it has helped unleash entrepreneurship in some of the poorest countries in the world. And having it is “almost like having a card to get out of poverty in a couple of years.”
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. single-family home prices in July rose from the previous month, surpassing forecasts and bolstering the case for housing market stability after a three-year plunge, Standard & Poor's said on Tuesday. The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 1.6% in July from June, more than triple the estimate of a 0.5% rise found in a Reuters poll. This index rose 1.4% the month before. The 10-city index gained 1.7% in July after a 1.4% rise the previous month (see top chart above, data here).
"These figures continue to support an indication of stabilization in national real estate values, but we do need to be cautious in coming months to assess whether the housing market will weather the expiration of the Federal First-Time Buyer's Tax Credit in November, anticipated higher unemployment rates and a possible increase in foreclosures," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P, said in a statement.
MP: The 1.61% July increase in the Composite-20 Index was the largest monthly gain since a 1.62% increase in April of 2005, and the period of three consecutive monthly increases in May, June and July of this year is the first time in more than three years that the index has increased three months in a row (see bottom chart above).
Three new kiosks with touch screens let travelers passing through SFO airport punch in an itinerary and purchase the appropriate carbon offset—calculated on the spot. These Climate Passport kiosks, the first in a U.S. airport, debuted yesterday and are located after security checkpoints near the entrances to Terminal 3 and international terminals A and G.
See related article "Carbon Offsets: Eco-Extortion, Green Guilt, and the Selling of Indulgences."
The offsets will fund two local projects: Garcia River Forest's planting of redwood and Douglas fir trees in heavily-logged Mendocino County and Dogpatch Biofuels, a bio-diesel fueling station based in San Francisco.
DALLAS/September 28, 2009 – Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index improved five points in August to 78, the highest reading since December 2008. Compared to its recent May low, the Index is now up eight points, or 11%. Year-to-date, the Index averages 73, down 14 points from the 2008 average.
GOOD NEWS: Faced with the smothering inefficiencies of a state-run economy and unable to feed his people without massive imports of food, Cuban leader Raúl Castro has put his faith in compatriots like Esther Fuentes and his little farm out in the sticks.
If Cuba is searching for its New New Man, then Fuentes might be him. The Cuban government, in its most dramatic reform since Castro took over for his ailing older brother Fidel three years ago, is offering private farmers such as Fuentes the use of fallow state lands to grow crops -- for a profit. Capitalism comes to the communist isle? Not quite, but close. Raúl Castro prefers to call it "a new socialist model." But Fuentes gets to pocket some extra cash.
"The harder you work, the better you do," said Fuentes, who immediately understood the concept. Castro's government says it has lent 1.7 million acres of unused state land in the past year to 82,000 Cubans in an effort to cut imports, which currently make up 60% of the country's food supply.
BAD NEWS: One of the challenges facing private farmers is the lack of credit and investment. They can work their new farms, but they often don't have enough fertilizer, seed or fuel. There's not enough electricity to run water pumps, Fuentes said, and no one has pesticides.
"This a big problem," said Alvarez, a University of Florida professor. "The government gives the farmers some land, which is good, but they don't give them any inputs. So they tell them, 'Take your old machete and go and fight the sun and weather and save us.' "
~Washington Post article today "Cuba Pins Hopes On New Farms Run for Profit"
LEESBURG, Va. - Doctors and health departments are trying to meet the demand for the seasonal flu vaccination. Nurses in Leesburg Sunday offered a unique way to get the seasonal shot and Virginians turned out in droves. On Sunday, Leesburg residents had the opportunity to get a drive thru flu shot. Mattie Sherwood is a fan, saying you can't beat feeling the pinch in the comfort of your own car.
MANILA (9/23/2009) - The much-awaited documentary "Age of Stupid" premiered globally in over 50 countries (including Antarctica) this week, sparking renewed calls for climate change action. The film, directed by British filmmaker and climate change activist Franny Armstrong ("If you're not fighting climate change or improving the world, you're wasting your life"), is set in the bleak scenery of 2055 where an archivist (played by Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite) is looking at 2008 archive footage that illustrate the signs and impacts of climate change.
The film's main premise is that climate change is happening now, often with alarming and disastrous effects, but humans are not doing more to stop it. The film has served as another rallying point for the climate change campaigns of many international environmental groups like Greenpeace, which is actively promoting the film worldwide.
MP: In the video above, journalist/filmaker Phelim McAleer asks celebrity attendees and film director Franny Armstrong an inconvenient question while covering the premiere of "The Age of Stupid": Did you fly to New York? Ms. Armstrong apparently can't or won't answer the question, and the journalist is ejected.
HT: Art Little
ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2009) – Florida’s existing home sales rose in August – marking a full calendar year (12 months) that sales activity increased in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors. Existing home sales rose 28% last month with a total of 13,850 homes sold statewide compared to 10,813 homes sold in August 2008 (see chart above). The state association also reported a 45% increase in last month’s statewide sales of existing condos compared to the previous year’s sales figure. Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $147,400; a year ago, it was $188,500 for a 22 percent decrease.
Back in early March, as the U.S. and global stock markets were bottoming out and the general economic outlook for the U.S. was pretty uncertain, the odds of third quarter U.S. real GDP growth being positive was only about 25%, according to futures trading on Intrade. As the economic picture has gradually and significantly improved over the last six months, the odds of positive economic growth in Q3 (which ends next Wednesday) have increased to 95% (see graph above, click to enlarge).
HT: Jonathan TurleyMP: What happened to all of that talk about how "It Takes A Village" to raise a child?
There is almost nothing on earth that cannot be had for a price. The question is, what is that price? And the answer is twenty dollars.
From the Marketplace story "Can't Find Work? Try Looking for Cash."
Which economy is larger: the NYC metro area or India? San Francisco metro area or Argentina? Detroit or Israel? St. Louis or New Zealand? Baton Rouge or Guatemala? Davenport (IA) or Bolivia? Flint (MI) or Brunei? Palm Coast (FL) or Belize?
In all cases, the economies of those American cities are approximately the same size as the economies of the entire countries listed above, both measured by GDP in 2008 (GDP data here for U.S metro areas, GDP data here for countries). More than 100 U.S. cities are matched in the table above to countries that produced approximately the same amount of annual output in 2008.
We often lose sight of: a) how big the U.S. economy is, b) how productive American workers are, and c) how much we produce vs. other countries. After all, who can get their mind around $14 trillion, the size of the U.S. economy measured by GDP ($14,000,000,000,000)? Maybe this comparison of the GDP of U.S. metro areas to entire countries will help put the enormous size of the U.S. economy in some perspective.
LONDON (Reuters) - A British store is launching a range of underpants for left-handed men, an innovation it says will save them both time and embarrassment in front of the porcelain. The new range, by UK-based Hom, will have a horizontal opening instead of a vertical slit accessed from the right-hand side, breaking a tradition that has lasted for 75 years.
Read my full post here at the Enterprise Blog, based on the chart above.
APPLE VALLEY, MN. (WCCO) ― Eric Glennie, of Apple Valley, MN, came up with what he calls a "congruent tie," where the stripes of the knot go in the same direction as the rest of the tie (see picture above). For all the years that men have been wearing neckties, it seems no one has figured out how to get the stripes in the knot going the same direction as the rest of the tie...until now.
The best news in today's housing report from the National Association of Realtors on existing-home sales (data here) was that at the current sales rate (425,000 homes sold in August), it would take 8.5 months to sell off the current inventory of 3,622,000 homes, and this inventory measure is at the lowest level since April of 2007 (see chart above). A year ago August, the months supply of homes was 10.6, and had averaged more than 11 months in the four previous months, so there has been a significant improvement over the last year in the balance of homes available for sale relative to the demand.
The Tucson School board is calling for a two-tiered form of student discipline. One for Black and Hispanic students; one for everyone else.
These days, being homeless is more competitive than ever. Only the most clever and creative signs are going to get people to let go of their precious spare change. This makes for some pretty awesome homeless dude signage.
The map above is a visualization of the contiguous United States, colored by distance to the nearest McDonald’s, courtesy of Stephen Von Worley (via Felix Salmon):
The chart above shows the percent change in U.S. traffic volume through July (from the same month in the previous year), in a report released today by the Federal Highway Adminstration (data and report here). After falling for 17 consecutive months starting in November 2007, traffic volume has increased in three of the last four months. The 2.3% July increase was the largest monthly gain since January 2006, and matches the 2.3% increase in October 2006.
The “Peak Oil’ers” tell us that there are no new “whale” oil finds to be found; that the drilling to find crude oil is too expensive and that further exploration is a waste of time. The problem is that they are wrong. As we like to say, the world did not stop using Whale Oil to light its lamps in the late 19th century; the world stopped using Whale Oil because its cost had gotten too high creating the “technology” needed to find a new source of energy, fossil fuels. Now, the technology involving seismic geology, and the technologies involving multiple drilling points from one initial hole in the ground, et al has succeeded in finding new, massive oil pools… most of which is now offshore where the finding is good and getting better.
The MSCI Emerging Markets Index closed today at 922.31, reaching the highest level since September 2, 2008. Many of the emerging markets like Argentina, Brazil, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan are trading at the highest levels in more than a year.
Watch the full video below (may take some time to load).
The CBOE Volatility Index (^VIX) closed at 23.08 today, the lowest level in more than a year, since September 5, 2009 (see chart above).
Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region expanded for the fifth straight month in September, according to the Richmond Fed’s latest survey. All broad indicators—shipments, new orders and employment—landed in positive territory, with manufacturers noting their first increase in worker numbers since December 2007. Other indicators were mixed, however. Capacity utilization grew more slowly, while backlogs and vendor delivery times shrank. In addition, manufacturers reported slower growth in inventories.
Here's a long-term view of the monthly Index of Leading Economic Indicators back to 1972, covering the last six recessions. As the chart shows, each of the last five recessions has ended when the Leading Indicators have increased five months in a row, and history now suggests that the Great Recession is either ending, or is already over.
One of the problems with trying to help underdogs, especially with government programs, is that they and everyone else start to think of them as underdogs, focusing on their problems rather than their opportunities. Thinking of themselves as underdogs can also dissipate their energies in resentments of others, rather than spending that energy making the most of their own possibilities.
According to container statistics just released by the Port of Los Angeles, August shipping volume reached a 9-month high of 612,581 TEUs (20 foot equivalent units), the highest level since November of 2008 (see graph above). Additionally, the shipping volume from Los Angeles has increased in 5 out of the last six months, for the first time since the six-month period from April to September in 2007 (see shaded areas above).
Calgary Herald - When a leading proponent for one point of view suddenly starts batting for the other side, it's usually newsworthy. So why was a speech last week by Professor Mojib Latif of Germany's Leibniz Institute not given more prominence?
Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The index of U.S. leading economic indicators in August rose for the fifth straight time, capping the longest stretch of gains since 2004 and signaling a recovery is under way (see chart above). The Conference Board’s gauge of the economic outlook for the next three to six months rose 0.6 percent, in line with forecasts, after a revised 0.9% rise in July, according to data that the New York-based group released today.
From the summary of a new study from the Chamber of Commerce, "Trade Action or Inaction: The Cost for American Workers and Companies:"