Blogs

The Other Side of the Coin

We have discussed falling oil prices in our ITR Trends Report and in a previous blog.  A stronger dollar is one of the factors that have made cheaper oil possible.  This has been a boon to consumers and businesses as both transportation and heating costs have eased.  However, there is another side to the coin, and that is a stronger dollar can have a negative impact on exports.  

We’re number 2? Not so Fast!!

The International Monetary Fund announced that China’s economy is now bigger than the US economy.  This illusion is created using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).  It is used by some folks to measure economic activity like income or how much a Big Mac costs from one country to the next.  It is being talked about like it is universally accepted and the best rule to use in comparing the US and China.  We would submit that it is not the best tool in this case.  PPP has value when looking at insulated, mostly self-contained economies.

What do today's lower energy prices mean for the US Economy?

NYMEX WTI Crude Oil is cruising at $66.73 as this is written.  ITR Economics had not expected the continued fall in oil prices and we shall be revising our forecast before long.  However, for the moment we are going to take a wait-and-see approach as global producers weigh their next moves. 

Income Inequality in America

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen commented on what she said was widening economic inequality in the US. She noted that since 1989 average income in the top 5% of households rose 38% while the remaining 95% saw income grow by less than 10%. She stated that there is also a net worth gap. Her remarks made it plain that she feels there is an inequality in opportunity and that four areas that would help would be: 1) early childhood education, 2) affordable higher education, 3) business ownership, and 4) inheritances.

Our View on the S&P500 Trend

The S&P500 is down 7.5% from the September 18, 2014 high. The price trend online, in the newspapers, etc., looks awesome in a macabre way. What to think about the decline and how much further it might last are worthwhile questions. The former being a lot easier in our opinion than the latter.

Good News for Retail Sales

Retail Sales for September made headlines for coming in below August and disappointing some economists.  We aren’t among those disappointed soothsayers.

Retail Sales for September were down from August by 6.8%.  The month-to-month decline is milder than each of the last two years and milder than the 7.3% average decline posted over the last 10 years.  The overall seasonal rise in Retail Sales since the first-quarter seasonal low is the strongest since 2005.  Nothing to quibble about with that stat either!

A Look at the June Numbers

Our forecast calls for slower growth in the US economy in the second half of 2014, particularly in the fourth quarter.  Given that outlook, there should be empiric evidence of the shift in economic activity from acceleration to deceleration.  Those changes never occur in a vacuum and are always signaled in advance.  I thought a quick look at some June numbers might help you stay the course in terms of planning for a softer second-half 2014.

Corporate Profit Blues

Corporate profits in the US took a nose dive in the first quarter of 2014 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (www.bea.gov).  Profits in the first quarter of 2014 came in 3.0% below the first-quarter of 2013 and a steep 9.8% below the fourth-quarter-2013 figure.  The 9.8% drop is the second steepest in the last 65 years (only 1982 provided for a worse first quarter result).  Other than that you have to go to 1959 to see a similar onset of profit decline.  Those dates do not bode well for the 2014 economy, but they are consistent with our forecast of slower growt

ECB and Negative Interest Rates

The European Central Bank (ECB) introduced negative interest rates for the first time in its history.  This historic action caught the attention of the press, so I thought you might like a quick look at what it means without having to listen to a long lecture that will make the details on the back of your library card look interesting.

Trouble Between EU and Russia Fails to Create Market for US Natural Gas

There have been hopes that troubles between the EU and Russia over Ukraine would produce a market for US natural gas, most likely in the form of LNG.  We have been skeptical of that from the beginning of the crisis, stating that the Russian oil and gas will flow through the Ukraine pipelines because Russia needs the hard currency generated from energy exports.  That is indeed what is happening.  In fact, shipments are up year-over-year.  Investors in hopes of a quick return based on massive exports to Europe have been severely disappointed. 

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