Oct
19

Pricey Pets

The Friday File: In 2017, Americans spent $72 billion on pets. That is equal to the GDP of the 70th largest nation in the world, edging out Myanmar and Luxembourg. $30 billion went for food, $18 billion for veterinary care, $16 billion for supplies, $2 billion buying the pets, and $6 billion on … [Read more...]

Oct
18

Halfhearted Housing

Seasonally-adjusted September housing starts totaled a soft 1.201 million. But Y-o-Y, starts rose 3.7% and YTD starts are up 6.4%, which is OK. Beating CY2017 numbers will be very hard as 17Q4 starts ended strong. That said, while multifamily is flatlining, attention should be focused primarily on … [Read more...]

Oct
17

Dogged Deficit

The FY2018 deficit totaled $779 billion or 3.9% of GDP, up 17% from the FY2017 deficit of $666; 3.5% of GDP. While that doesn’t look bad, the details are troubling. Outlays as a percentage of GDP declined from 20.7% to 20.3%, which is good as unemployment is super low. But receipts, which should be … [Read more...]

Oct
16

Recession Rates

While predicting the cause of the next recession is impossible, here are probabilities based on all recessions in the seven largest democracies since 1960.  26% of the time it was monetary policy, next came bursting of a credit bubble at 17%. Third was an oil price shock or the bursting of a housing … [Read more...]

Oct
15

Dispensable Degree

A key reason wages for low-skilled jobs are now rising faster than for the rest of the labor force is scarcity. Since 1/1/10, there’s been a 25% rise in the number of persons with a bachelor’s degree or higher in the labor force. However, there’s been a 5% decrease in the number with a high school … [Read more...]

Oct
12

Big Birth-day

The Friday File: Between 1994 and 2014, the average number of births on 9/9 was 12,301, more than on any other day. The month of September had nine of the top 10 birthdates, all of which were between 9/9 and 9/20. Activities leading to conception in mid- to late-December are clearly popular. The … [Read more...]

Oct
11

Corrosive Complacency

While many things might cause the next recession, including geopolitical problems, struggling emerging markets due to the rising dollar, and growing non-financial corporate debt levels (to name a few), one that is more insidious is complacency. Good times lead to overly optimistic forecasts and … [Read more...]

Oct
10

Costly Care

Among nations with average life expectancies of at least 70 years, per capita GDP of at least $5,000, and populations above 5 million, the USA is tied for 54th place with Azerbaijan and ahead of only Bulgaria in healthcare efficiency. Top spot goes to Hong Kong, followed by Singapore, Spain and … [Read more...]

Oct
09

Good Grind

While September employment growth of 134,000 new jobs was slightly disappointing and probably due to Hurricane Florence, the report was otherwise excellent. Upward revisions to July and August totaling 87,000 were spectacular, and the unemployment rate hit 3.7%, lowest level since 1969! Y-o-Y wage … [Read more...]

Oct
08

Negligible Nobel

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Americans William Nordhaus and Paul Roemer. In January, Roemer was pushed out as World Bank Chief Economist after clashes with staff and top brass. Relatedly, Peter Diamond, who won the Nobel Prize in 2010, was denied a position on the Federal Reserve … [Read more...]