• Heading Home

    In 1965, the US home ownership rate was 63% and rose to 65.6% in 1980. Home ownership then fell and held steady at about 64% from 1984 through 1994, when it began a meteoric rise and peaked at 69.4% in 2004. It’s since collapsed and is now 63.5%, where it was last in 1967. Demographics aside, home … [Read More...]

  • Meaty Measurement

    The Friday File: Assuming exchange rates and prices eventually adjust to make the same item equally priced everywhere, the Big Mac Index was developed. In Switzerland, a Big Mac is a whopping $6.82, its currency is hopelessly overvalued. In Russia, $1.88. Putin, clearly a meaty monetary master. … [Read More...]

  • Expensive Entitlements

    In FY 2014, Medicare, Medicaid and other healthcare programs accounted for 25% of federal government spending, Social Security was 24%, welfare and other entitlements claimed 11%, and interest on the debt was 7%. That leaves 33% for discretionary spending. But defense was 17%, leaving just 16% of … [Read More...]

  • Spending Splurge

    Household spending should remain healthy for four reasons. First, household net worth hit a record $84.9 trillion in Q1/15, up $1.6 trillion from Q4/14 and the ratio of household net worth/personal disposable income (PDI) is at its highest level since Q3/07. Second, household debt service as a … [Read More...]

  • Inefficient Income

    The US corporate tax rate of 35% is the highest in the world. In Germany it’s 16%, Canada 15% and Ireland 12.5%. Worse, it raises little money. In 2014, US pre-tax corporate profits were $2 trillion. 35% of that would be $700 billion. But due to loopholes and fancy accounting, the corporate income … [Read More...]

Nov
17

Dear Da Vinci

 The Friday File: Earlier this week, the “Salvator Mundi” by Da Vinci sold at auction for $400 million, $450 million including fees. This shatters the prior auction price high of $179 million set in 2015 for Picaso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger”, and the all-time high of $300 million for works by Cezanne at … [Read more...]

Nov
16

Mortgage Matters

 With the median house value in the US at $205,000, capping the mortgage interest deduction on loan principal eligible for the deduction to $500,000 from the current $1,000,000 would impact just 5% of home owners. Moreover, just 6.7% of the benefits of the MID go to the middle 20% of households, … [Read more...]

Nov
15

British Bluster

 Talk of the UK ending up with “no-deal” on trade from the EU is rising, but it’s rubbish! Absent a deal, the UK would instantly enter a recession, and by 2030 British GDP would be 10% or $8,300/person lower than with a deal. But, the hit to the EU would also be substantial; 2.25% or $2,000/person. … [Read more...]

Nov
14

Fiscal Follies

 The Congressional budget resolution allowing for tax reform proposes increasing the debt over the next decade by $1.5 trillion on top of the already projected $10.1 trillion debt increase. The argument is that faster growth will pay for itself. I am skeptical. Tax cuts can pay for themselves if the … [Read more...]

Nov
13

Limited Labor

 While our economy is humming with 3.1% GDP growth in 17Q2 and 3% growth in 17Q3, these rates are unsustainable. That’s because these rates have required such large increases in employment that the unemployment rate declined from a low 4.5% at the end of March to a staggeringly low 4.2% by the end … [Read more...]

Nov
10

Religious Rates

 The Friday File: 75% of Mississippians pray daily, tops in the US; just 31% of Vermonters do, the smallest percentage. As for believing in Hell, top spot at 77% is held by residents of Mississippi and Tennessee; just 36% of those in Massachusetts do, the lowest rate. As for Heaven, Mississippi is … [Read more...]

Nov
09

Tax Tithing

 While the final Republican tax plan is still a work in progress that may never become law, one thing’s very clear; its philosophy is to tax people, who are relatively immobile, and lower taxes on corporations, which can much more easily move their money. Yes, while workers will generally get … [Read more...]

Nov
08

Elegant ECB

 Last week the ECB decided to purchase €30 billion/month in bonds, down from the current €60 billion/month, through at least next September rather than a higher amount/month for a shorter period. While seemingly academic, here’s why. Markets must now consider the possibility of yet more QE when this … [Read more...]

Nov
07

Consumer Confidence

 As Measured by the Conference Board, October consumer confidence came in at 125.9, the highest reading since 12/00. This elevated level is a result of rising equity and home prices and an unemployment rate of just 4.2%, its best level since 2/01. A similar measure put out by the University of … [Read more...]

Nov
06

Solid Sweat

 October’s 261,000 net new jobs was good, as were upward revisions to August and September totaling 90,000. Unemployment fell to 4.1%, its lowest level since 12/00, the broadest measure of unemployment fell to 7.9%, tops since 12/06, and job growth over the past three months has averaged a solid … [Read more...]