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Coronavirus dashboard for August 19: a regional look at infections; the Deep South remains almost totally out of control

Coronavirus dashboard for August 19: a regional look at infections; the Deep South remains almost totally out of control

Total US cases: 5,457,824
Average last 7 days: 48,764

Total US deaths: 163,595
Average last 7 days: 1,048
Source: COVID Tracking Project

My overall thesis is that under the present leadership the US as a whole is politically and socially incapable of bringing the coronavirus under control, as almost every other industrialized country has been able to do. That is very likely to change beginning next January 20.  Before then, I expect there to be a yin and yang in the course of the pandemic, as areas in the US veer between “the pain threshold” at one extreme and complacency on the other. Together with a vaccine hopefully being available by next spring, at that time I am hopeful that the US will finally have beaten the virus.

Today let’s focus on infections, which lead hospitalizations by a couple of weeks, and deaths by a couple of weeks more.

Here is the overall regional picture:

As has been the case for several months, the South and to a lesser extent the West are the epicenters of the pandemic, while the Northeast has come close to containing the virus.

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Initial and continuing claims: the most “less awful” so far

Initial and continuing claims: the most “less awful” so far

This Thursday morning’s initial and continued jobless claims continue the trend of “less awful” numbers that resumed last week.

New jobless claims, which fell to under 1,000,000 for the first time on an unadjusted basis last week, declined about 150,000 further to 831,856 (red in the graph below), and on an adjusted basis (blue) declined to 963,000, the first time since the pandemic that number was also under 1 million:

Continuing claims, on both an un-adjusted (red), and seasonally adjusted (blue) basis, also made new pandemic lows under 16 million, at roughly 15.2 million and 15.5 million respectively:

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The End Of Special Fiscal Stimulus

The End Of Special Fiscal Stimulus

 A week ago a two week long negotiation between Dem Congress people, Nancy Pelosi from the House and Chuck Schumer from the Senate and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who cut deals with Pelosi and Schumer three times earlier this year, but now Trump’s Chief of Staff, former Freedom Caucus leader in the House, Mark Meadows, notorious for only destroying deals and never making any. And in this case, all the reporting is that a week ago he “blew up” the negotiations, taking a hard line on orders from Trump. So, where are we at now?

For starters yesterday the Senate adjourned until after Labor Day. So, the market expectations that a deal will be cut soon are a joke. There will be no deal anytime soon, and maybe never. Many things have run out, whose impact has not fully arrived: end of extra unemployment, end of PPP assistance for small businesses, end of no evictions, and several other things.

Yes, there have been vague noises in the past week about restarting the negotiations, but they went nowhere.  Dems indicated that they were willing to compromise on many issues.  To pick a big symbolic one has to do with the total spending level.  Going into this the Dems were pushing $3+ trillion and the GOP was pushing $1 trillion. Gosh, looks like $ 2 trillion would be an obvious compromise, and the Dems have publicly indicated they would be willing to go to that, but, no, Meadows held the hard-line, and, along with some other issues, such as a roughly $800 billion difference over state and local aid, which is clearly the largest chunk of this stalemate. As it is, Meadows left town and the Senate has gone on leave until after Labor Day.  No deal.

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July inflation consistent with early recovery; no compelling evidence of wage deflation

July inflation consistent with early recovery; no compelling evidence of wage deflation

 

Yesterday morning July consumer prices were reported to have increased 0.6% for the second month in a row (as did core inflation, ex-food and energy):

As a result, YoY inflation has increased to 1.0%:

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“Executive Order” Versus “Executive Action” Such As A Memorandum

“Executive Order” Versus “Executive Action” Such As A Memorandum

 Most of the news media has reported that President Donald J. Trump has signed four “executive orders” involving extending unemployment benefits at a $400 rate, deferring (or ending?) payroll taxes for Social Security (opposed by both parties in Congress), extending a ban on evicting renters, and extending student loan deferments.  An important detail not mentioned in most reports that of these three of them are not actual orders but rather memoranda, which can count as “actions,” that essentially implore others to do something that requires Congressional action in order to be done, basically the first two of these, or is already happening (deferment of student loans, although this is complicated).  Only one of them is an actual order that must be followed, the one regarding evicting renters, although all this order does is to make HUD “consider” extending the ban on evicting renters.  The order itself does not actually do it.  In short, these orders amount to a campaign list of wannabe actions, no actual real actions.

This is all obviously the brainchild of the incompetent and brainless Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who is apparently incapable of making any deals and totally focused on the reelection campaign.  So he “blew up” the two-week negotiations with Congressional leaders by most accounts by making rigid demands.  I am not going into details, but there were obvious compromises available, just to pick one on the total size of the relief package.  The Dems were proposing $3 trillion based on what the House passed months ago while the White House and some GOPs held to $1 trillion. Reportedly the Dems offered the obvious compromise of $2 trillion, but that was blocked by Meadows who simply made demands and warned if they were not accepted, Trump would issue “executive orders” to do what he wants.  But, as careful analysis shows, only one of these is ab actual order and even the one that is an order that only orders a department to consider doing something.

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How To Measure Quarterly Changes In GDP Can Make A Big Difference

How To Measure Quarterly Changes In GDP Can Make A Big Difference

We have had dramatic headlines and commentary in recent days since the BEA issued its initial estimate of quarterly changes in GDP, which they do not officially measure on an shorter time period. This is a measure of the average GDP in one quarter compared to the average GDP in the next quarter.  Looking at Q1 of this year and Q2 of this year, they reported the largest quarterly decline ever recorded, -32.9% on an annualized rate, about -9.5% on a quarterly rate. This is a sharper decline than seen either for any pair of quarters in the Great Depression or the immediate post-WW II demobilization, much less such later events as the Great Recession of 2007-09.  Of course this generated big headlines and much breathless commentary, including quite a few commentators who did not get it that the -32.9% number was the annualized rate rather than the quarterly rate, so we had quite a few of them foolishly talking about how the economy had “fallen by a third.”  Yikes.

As I have noted in previous posts here, the economy has been doing a lot better than a lot of reporting and forecasts have let on, even as it is certainly slowing down now.  But if rather than looking at quarterly averages, which are heavily influenced by the fact that the economy did not “fall off a cliff” until mid-March, about 5/6 of the way through Q1 so that most of Q1 was at the high pre-fall level, one looks at where the economy was at the end of Q1 and compare it to where it was at the end of Q2, one gets a dramatically different story.  Over on Econbrowser Menzie Chinn has produced a figure from IHS Markit that estimates these shorter period changes. According to them the US GDP at the end of March (end of Q1) was at about $17.6 trillion annual amount while at the end of June it was at about $18.0 trillion, about 2.2% higher on a quarterly rate, which is about 9% higher on an annualized rate.  Needless to say, there is a dramatic contrast between -32.9% and +9.0%, but I have seen zero media commentary on this.

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“Preserve Our Post Office, Before It’s Too Late”

The Postal Service is under assault and it is time to do everything we can to protect the integrity of one of our greatest national assets. Retired U.S. Postmaster Mark Jamison writes at Save The Post Office Blog . Mark serves as an advisor, resident guru, and regular contributor to “Save the Post Office.” His previous posts on Angry Bear and Save The Post Office can be found here. Mark can be contacted at markijamison01@gmail.com or you can ask him questions on his post here at AB.

The United States Postal Service is an essential national infrastructure. That simple and indisputable fact has never been more evident than during the current pandemic. A network that has the capability to serve every address in the United States, almost all of them daily, is a lifeline and a necessity.

It’s no secret that the Postal Service, like much of the infrastructure in this country, has been under assault by those who are ideologically predisposed to dismiss the necessity of a functioning, well-managed government. They would like to privatize the postal system, the national parks, the schools, the railroad, even roads and bridges. For them, these public infrastructures are merely targets of opportunity, another way for the few to profit at the expense of the many. By disregarding and undermining the value of public infrastructure at the expense of domestic tranquility and the promotion of the general welfare, they do a great disservice to the country

The postal system has been a target for generations. The privatizers and those who could not discern the fallacy inherent in trying to run government as a business when their ends and purposes were very different have repeatedly sought to turn the postal system into something much less useful than a nationwide infrastructure. Over the last fifteen years, since the passage of PAEA, the capacity and institutional strength of the USPS have been compromised by a succession of Postmasters General who substituted empty rhetoric and misguided plans for the very real value of a broad and robust network dedicated to universal service.

The current president came into office with lots of grudges and fury but no knowledge or understanding of the Postal Service. For the last three and a half years he has overseen the corruption of our institutions, the debasement of our bureaucracies, and the hollowing out of our ability to serve our citizens. The administration has acted with malice and ignorance, failing at its most basic task of governing. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the mismanagement of the Postal Service.

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A Republican Idea for Onshoring Pharmaceutical Intangible Assets

A Republican Idea for Onshoring Pharmaceutical Intangible Assets

Alex Parker reports on a proposal from Representative Darin LaHood:

As part of the next round of pandemic relief, House Republicans are pushing new incentives for companies to bring home offshore intellectual property — something that they contend could boost job growth but that critics see as another corporate giveaway … While the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act overhauled the federal tax code and eliminated many of the incentives for offshore income-shifting, it left the structures themselves intact, and companies have been reluctant to undo them as the law remains young.

I think we admitted these 2017 tax cuts for the rich were complex so permit me to slightly disagree with Mr. Parker’s excellent reporting. If the intellectual property (IP) were left offshore, the GILTI income would face a tax rate of only 10.5% whereas onshore IP would face that FDII rate of 13.125%. Why bring the IP back home and face a higher rate? But I interrupted Mr. Parker who basically notes all these nuances:

Current law gives companies plenty of reasons to onshore the intellectual property they spent decades pushing offshore in licensing and cost-sharing agreements. Income from intangible assets held domestically may qualify for a reduced 13.125% tax rate as foreign-derived intangible income. The same income, held offshore, may fall under the global intangible low-taxed income regime, which is meant to penalize companies for holding intangibles abroad. Those carrot-and-stick provisions ultimately ensure neutrality in decisions about where to locate IP, the TCJA’s authors said when it was passed. The TCJA also included a deemed repatriation that allowed companies to bring home offshore income after it had paid a one-time transition tax. But the intangible assets that generated that income were not brought home with it, and they must be repatriated under the normal tax rules. And companies still face a potential tax charge when bringing a valuable asset home. Upon repatriation, if the property has gained value offshore, the company’s taxable income will increase based on that gain for that year, depending on how it classifies the transaction. Even though it’s a one-time payment, it could be enough to discourage the transaction.

 

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Weekly indicators

by New Deal democrat

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

There was no significant change this week in any of the indicator time frames.  I expect that to change in a hurry once the pain of the ending of the supplemental $600/week unemployment benefits is felt. That was all going to spending, and that spending is going to very abruptly stop.

As usual, clicking over and reading brings you up to the virtual moment on the economy, and rewards me a little bit for the work I do.

 

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Initial claims: a jolt of bad news, as Mitch McConnell and the GOP dawdle on an emergency benefit extension

Initial claims: a jolt of bad news, as Mitch McConnell and the GOP dawdle on an emergency benefit extension

This morning’s report on initial and continuing claims, which give the most up-to-date snapshot of the continuing economic impacts of the coronavirus on employment, was a jolt of bad news, as claims increased by over 100,000 to the worst level in 4 weeks. The trend of slight improvement to “less awful” since the end of March was broken, and there was also a slight negative revision to last week’s number.

Here is the week over week % change since the end of March:


There were 1.416 million new claims, 109,000 more than one week ago.

Continuing claims (red in the graph below, right scale), which lag by one week, did continue to decline by just over 1.1 million, from 17.304 million to 16.197 million, as opposed to the increase in initial claims (blue, left scale):

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