Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Flood insurance

Via Truthout , (https://truthout.org/articles/flood-risks-are-rising-amid-climate-change-but-congress-is-delaying-action) comes a reminder of a perennial problem:

Floods are the most common disaster in the United States. And the 2020 hurricane season was the busiest to date in the Atlantic — 73 percent more “active” than normal, The Washington Post reported, with a record number of storms breaking ground on U.S. soil, totaling $37 billion in damage. The frequency of what is known as “sunny day” or “high tide” flooding (flooding linked to sea level rise and visible as water bubbling up from storm drains into city streets) is also on the rise. In 2019, the median flood frequency doubled from 2000 levels, up to four days per year. That median is expected to rise to six days this year. By 2050, high tide flooding could reach 75 days annually.

Given the heightened risk that the federal government’s own data reveals, delaying the implementation of a system that takes those numbers into account is like “putting your head in the sand and trying to ignore it,” Carolyn Kousky, executive director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told USA Today.

This may be the most important housing chart of springtime 2021

This may be the most important housing chart of springtime 2021

My longform housing market analysis is almost complete, and will probably get posted later today or tomorrow at Seeking Alpha. I’ll post a link here once that is done.

In the meantime, consider the following. The Case Shiller national house price index had another sharp increase in February, and is now up 11.2% YoY, the highest rate since the days of the housing bubble in 2002 (green in the graph below):

Meanwhile, look at inventory (gold). In absolute terms, the seasonally adjusted inventory of new homes for sale bottomed last August and October. Last August inventory was down -12.3% YoY. As of last month, it was only down -4.6% YoY. At this rate of change, it will be *up* YoY by about May.

Oklahoma charter schools granted local tax revenue in ‘seismic’ settlement

Via the Oklahoman comes this news on Republican state legislation. I believe Florida and other states are enacting radical ideology in more than the voting rights arena: Oklahoma charter schools granted local tax revenue in ‘seismic’ settlement

A groundbreaking settlement will fundamentally change the way charter schools are funded in Oklahoma, despite vehement opposition from the state’s top education official.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 on Thursday in favor of an agreement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.

The charter school association called the agreement a “tremendous step” for equality in school funding.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the settlement could violate state law and have “seismic” implications by redistributing school funding.

“Personal income decreased $1,516.6 billion in February”

Commenter R.J.S., MARKETWATCH 666

Personal Income down 7.1% in February, Personal Spending down 1.0%, PCE Price Index up 0.2%

The February report on Personal Income and Outlays from the Bureau of Economic Analysis gives us nearly half the data that will go into 1st quarter GDP, since it gives us 2 months of data on our personal consumption expenditures (PCE), which accounts for nearly 70% of GDP, and the PCE price index, the inflation gauge the Fed targets, and which is used to adjust that personal spending data for inflation to give us the relative change in the output of goods and services that our spending indicated….this report also provides us with the nation’s personal income data, disposable personal income, which is income after taxes, and our monthly savings rate…however, because this report feeds into GDP and other national accounts data, the change reported for each of those metrics are not the current monthly change; rather, they’re seasonally adjusted amounts at an annual rate, ie, they tell us how much income and spending would increase in a year if February’s adjusted income and spending were extrapolated over an entire year….however, the percentage changes are computed monthly, from one month’s annualized figure to the next, and in this case of this month’s report they give us the percentage change in each annualized metric from January to February…

Hence, when the opening line of the press release for this report tell us “Personal income decreased $1,516.6 billion (7.1 percent) in February“, that means that the annualized figure for US personal income in February, $19,945.6 billion, was $1,516.6 billion, or roughly 7.1% less than the annualized personal income figure of $21,462.2 billion for January; the actual change in personal income from January to February is not provided…similarly, annualized disposable personal income, which is income after taxes, fell by nearly 8.0%, from an annual rate of an annual rate of $19,210.5 billion in January to an annual rate of $17,678.2 billion in February…the components of the monthly decrease in personal income, which can be seen in the Full Release & Tables (PDF) for this release, are also annualized figures…in February, the reason for the $1,516.6 billion annualized decrease in personal income was a $1,584.1 billion annualized decrease in government social benefits to individuals, which was only slightly offset by a $37.7 billion annualized increase in business & farm proprietors’ income and a $15.6 billion annualized increase in interest and dividend income…wages and salaries, which fell by an annualized $0.2 billion, were barely a factor in February’s personal income change . . .

Weekly Indicators for March 22 – 26 at Seeking Alpha

 – by New Deal democrat

My Weekly Indicators post is up at Seeking Alpha.

For the first time since I started tracking this data, literally every single one of the coincident indicators is positive. We are starting to experience a boom in economic growth that I expect to continue throughout most if not all of this year.

As usual, clicking over and reading will bring you up to the virtual moment as to what is happening in the economy, and reward me with a penny or two for the time and effort I put in to creating this weekly portrait.

February Durable Goods: Orders Down, Shipments Down, Inventory Up


Commenter RJS at MARKETWATCH 666

February Durable Goods: New Orders Down 1.1%, Shipments Down 3.5%, Inventories Up 0.7%

The Advance Report on Durable Goods Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders for February (pdf) from the Census Bureau reported that the value of the widely watched new orders for manufactured durable goods decreased by $2.9 billion or 1.1 percent to $254.0 billion in February, the first decrease in 10 months, after January’s new orders were revised from the $256.6 billion reported last month to $256.9 billion, now a 3.5% increase from December’s new orders . . . as a result, year to date new orders are still up by 3.4% from those of 2020 . . .

The volatile monthly new orders for transportation equipment led February’s new orders decrease, as the value of new transportation equipment orders fell $1.3 billion or 1.6 percent to $83.6 billion, despite a 103.3% increase to $9,504 million in new orders for defense aircraft, as the value of new orders for motor vehicles and parts fell 8.7% to $57,588 million…excluding orders for transportation equipment, other new orders fell 0.9%, while excluding just new orders for defense equipment, new orders fell  0.7%….meanwhile, new orders for nondefense capital goods less aircraft, a proxy for equipment investment, were also weak, falling by $563 million or 0.8% to $72,480 million . . .

Utopian Socialism Brings About Toilet Paper Shortages Maybe In The Near Future

Utopian Socialism Brings About Toilet Paper Shortages Maybe In The Near Future

 Yeah, to heck with “socialism” in any of its forms, even old varieties that Marx and Engels denounced, neologizing the label “utopian socialism” for its advocates, even as they made clear their respect for the intentions at least of their intentions, even as they did not provide an analysis of the historical dynamic of capitalism and the broader issues arising from that. And we know that while some communes inspired by the utopian socialists survived such as the Israeli Kibbutzim, most failed, making the mockery of Marx and Engels look historically significant.

So it turns out that there was a split within those old utopian socialists between the more idealistic and commune-oriented Fourier and Owen (more complicated for him), and Henri de Saint-Simon, actually the earliest of them, with his main work coming out in 1803. While the others favored small ideal communities, Saint-Simon supported rational social engineering, basically the idea of central planning. His importance in this is verified by the final book of Friedrich Hayek, _The Errors of Socialism: The Fatal Conceit_, 1988. 

February personal income and spending decline

February personal income and spending decline: the back end of January stimulus payments

Last month I wrote that the:

“report on January personal income and spending shows just how important the stimulus packages enacted by the federal government both last spring and last month have been to sustaining the economy.”

The truth of that was confirmed on the back end in this morning’s report for February, in which January’s 10% increase in income was followed by a -7.1% decrease (red). January’s increase of 3.4% in spending was also partially reversed by a -1.0% decrease in February (blue):


In its release, the Census Bureau confirmed this analysis, writing:

Virginia Ends The Death Penalty

Virginia Ends The Death Penalty

 Yesterday (or maybe the day before), Virginia Governor Ralph Northam overturned over 400 years of a death penalty. My state had the highest number of executions of any other, 1390, over those 400+ years. And now it is done. Good.

“Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House of Delegates and state Senate passed identical bills last month that would end death sentences and executions. There are two men on death row in the state. Their sentences will be converted to life without the possibility of parole.”

Governor Ralph Northam:

“The death penalty is fundamentally flawed. It is the moral thing to do to end (it).”

Income and spending decline: the back end of January stimulus payments

February personal income and spending decline: the back end of January stimulus payments

by New Deal democrat

Last month I wrote that the:

“report on January personal income and spending shows just how important the stimulus packages enacted by the federal government both last spring and last month have been to sustaining the economy.”

The truth of that was confirmed on the back end in this morning’s report for February, in which January’s 10% increase in income was followed by a -7.1% decrease (red). January’s increase of 3.4% in spending was also partially reversed by a -1.0% decrease in February (blue):


In its release, the Census Bureau confirmed this analysis, writing:

“The decrease in personal income in February was more than accounted for by a decrease in government social benefits to persons. Within government social benefits, ‘other’ social benefits, specifically the economic impact payments to households, decreased. The CRRSA Act authorized a round of direct economic impact payments that were mostly distributed in January.”

The importance of the stimulus is further shown dramatically when we subtract government transfer receipts from the equation, shown in red in the graph below:


Real personal income excluding government transfer receipts *rose* slightly in February.

Since this last metric is the last of the four coincident metrics to be reported for February, we can now plot the general outline of the economy through last month, including production (blue), jobs (red), real retail sales (green), and real income (purple):

 
Employment is down over 5% since last February, while production is down 4%. Meanwhile income is down only 2.5%, and real sales have actually increased by nearly 5%!  Most recently, in the combined two month period since December, two of the series – payrolls and real sales – have increased, while the other two – industrial production and income less government payments – have declined. Since the Big Texas Freeze impacted probably substantially impacted all of these, the underlying situation is presumably better.

Government aid has kept the pandemic from turning into a true economic disaster. Going forward, I expect improvement throughout spring into summer in all of this data.