Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Housing, Consumer confidence, Dollar rally...

Greetings good citizen,

As was is considered ‘newsworthy’ morphs over the course of the day, I find capturing little ‘snapshots’ such as these somewhat entertaining.

What makes them more entertaining is the sole survivor of today’s news cycle is the first offering of tonight’s '3-fer' (we haven’t done that in a while, have we?)

Nearly as interesting is how the story hasn’t been updated at all (at least according to the time stamp) so, what you find here should be the same thing you’ll read at the link.

US Home Prices Continue to Stabilize

Published: October 27, 2009

Home prices continued to increase in August, according to data released Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index, a widely watched measure of 20 metropolitan areas, rose a seasonally adjusted 1 percent in August from the previous month.

“So far, so good,” said Maureen Maitland, vice president for index services at Standard & Poor’s. “There’s nothing negative in these numbers.”

S.&P. said it was approximately the seventh month in a row in which the year-over-year decline in home prices had eased. The composite index is down 11.3 percent from last August. [Well, cock-a-doodle-doo, little rooster? Why all this crowing about numbers that are down more than ten percent from last year? What we’re seeing here is borderline illegal. If our Justice department didn’t have its head up its ass, they’d be prosecuting this sort of shit!]

“There is little doubt the housing market is improving,” Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak, wrote in a research note. “Prices are improving, the inventory picture continues to get better, and government support for the sector remains in place, for now.” [There are so many distortions here one doesn’t know where to begin. Yes, prices are improving but that’s due to the government hand-outs which only benefits Wall Street and the rest of the ‘usual suspects’, bankers and their middle-men. Saying that inventory is improving is an outright lie, (unless they mean ‘more is better’, while implying the opposite…) just as claiming the overall housing market is getting better is little more than ‘wishful thinking’.]

The recovery, however, is both modest and tentative when measured against the preceding plunge. Prices have fallen nearly a third from their peak. They are where they were in the fall of 2003. In most places, it is as if the housing boom had never happened. Some cities have been pushed even further back to the past: Cleveland prices are at 2001 levels, Detroit at 1995. [There was a recent news item which noted how poorly property auctions in the greater Detroit area have performed…something to do with that ‘economic desert’ I keep squawking about. You can buy a home for a buck, but you’d better bring your own job because nobody is hiring out there in ‘no man’s land’.]

Sixteen of the 20 cities in the index rose in August, including San Francisco, up 2.6 percent, and Minneapolis, which rose 2.3 percent. The four cities that fell were Charlotte, Cleveland, Seattle and, as has become routine, Las Vegas. New York was up 0.3 percent. [What’s this 20 cities shit! Talk about ‘massaging’ your data; that’s fucking ‘cherry picking!’ I mean WTF! How the hell do you declare that housing is in ‘recovery’ by only measuring 20 (cherry picked) cities?]

Last winter, all of the Case-Shiller cities dropped for months in a row. Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist for MFR Inc., said the current numbers represented a correction from that bleak period rather than a true shift in long-term trends. He expects “mild” declines to reassert themselves as the winter begins.

“A rapidly rising unemployment rate is creating problems for many formerly creditworthy homeowners,” Mr. Shapiro wrote in a note to clients. “While much of the impact of the subprime disaster on prices at the bottom end of the market may well be behind us, there is likely plenty of pain yet to come further up the price spectrum.”

The Case-Shiller numbers lag behind the National Association of Realtors’ report on existing home sales, which have been issued for September. While that number also showed improvement, much of the strength was probably because of the $8,000 first-time buyers’ tax credit, which is pulling forward sales from next year. [Many people are screaming for this program to end, the public can’t afford it…even though some clueless legislators have proposed doubling the amount! There’s serious fraud now but these chuckle-heads want to double it! WTF?]

Discussion over whether to extend the controversial credit, which expires Nov. 30, is continuing in Washington. One probable plan: it will be phased out.

Another factor likely to impede the market in the coming months is a rise in interest rates, as the Federal Reserve ceases its buying mortgage-backed securities.

“Everything is up for grabs this winter,” Ms. Maitland said.

So, I suspect nobody is surprised that the above bit of ‘shameless cheerleading’ turns out to be the sole survivor of tonight’s ‘3-fer’ which should only serve to make the next offering that much more interesting…

Consumer Confidence Declines in U.S.

Published: October 27, 2009 [Yet another tale so unloved that nobody on the NY Times Staff claimed it as their own…]

Consumers’ confidence about the United States economy fell unexpectedly in October as job prospects remained bleak, a private research group said Tuesday, fueling speculation that an already gloomy holiday shopping forecast could worsen. [There it is again…’unexpectedly’…when nothing could be further from reality! What the hell is wrong with these people?]

The Consumer Confidence Index, released by The Conference Board, sank unexpectedly to 47.7 in October — its second-lowest recording since May.

Wall Street analysts [who have been wrong about everything since this crisis began] predicted a reading of 53.1. [I wonder who is ‘surprised’ by this ‘unexpected’ turn of events? I’m pretty sure it’s not the vast majority of the public who still have more than one synapse in communication with the rest of their brain!]

A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing. Above 100 signals strong growth.

The index has seesawed since reaching a historic low of 25.3 in February and climbed to 53.4 in September. [Um, since most people are unaware of the screwy way this index is calibrated…most would think a reading over 50 would be a good thing…and they’d be laboring under a false impression.]

Shoppers have a grim outlook for the future, The Conference Board said, expecting a worsening business climate, fewer jobs and lower salaries. That is particularly bad news for retailers who depend on the holiday shopping season for a hefty share of their annual revenue.

“Consumers also remain quite pessimistic about their future earnings, a sentiment that will likely constrain spending during the holidays,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. [Between the firings and the take-backs, what would you expect the average consumer to think? Ironically, there are some idiot capitalists out there who think Christmas has come six months early! People who have ‘taken advantage’ of the tight labor markets to slash and hack to their hearts content (Only to sequester themselves away with their advisors after the fact to plan how they are going to convert the new-found ‘cost savings’ into bonuses for themselves…]

Economists expect holiday sales to be at best flat from a year ago, which saw the biggest declines since at least 1967 when the Commerce Department started collecting the data.

The Consumer Confidence Index survey, which was sent to 5,000 households, had a cutoff date of Oct. 21.

I guess it’s pretty easy to see why that little ‘stink blossom’ got the ‘deep six’, who the hell has been pushing up the stock market for the past six months with consumer sentiment numbers like that? Naturally, I’ve never seen one of these ‘consumer confidence surveys’…do you first have to make the Forbes 400 list to get one sent to you or does it have something to do with your zip code? Because you can rest assured they aren’t asking ‘working people’ what they think of the economy…or anything else for that matter.

And so we arrive at tonight’s final offering where we are left to wonder, given the market’s ‘mixed’ close (only the Dow posted a gain and it was a slight one at that…) why this piece was cut from the list…

U.S. Stocks Drift on Mixed Economic Data

Published: October 27, 2009

Stocks fluctuated in early Wall Street trading on Tuesday as investors grappled with grimmer-than-expected data on consumer confidence, despite signs of hope in the housing market. [Apparently, ‘mass dementia’ is assumed by the investor class…]

At 10:15 a.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was at 9,876.20, up 8.24 points or 0.08 percent. The Nasdaq was down 0.6 percent at 2,130.17, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 0.2 percent at 1,065.31. On Monday, the major United States stock averages dropped by significant margins. [They mean yesterday, in case you’re wondering…]

The consumer confidence index, released by the Conference Board, provided insight into sentiment about the overall economy and the state of the job market. The index, which is based on a 5,000-person survey, hit 47.7 in October, six points lower than economists had predicted and a sharp decrease from September. [Contrast that statement with the explanation of how the index is scored in the piece above…47.7 is hellacious, just as 75 would be!] That number seemed to worry investors, who view the index as a good predictor of how much consumers will spend. The report on housing prices, known as the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index, showed that prices across the nation continued to improve [extremely modestly] in August, beating analyst expectations and [purposefully] feeding [mis-placed] optimism that the housing market was on track to recovery. But prices fell in four of the 20 [cherry picked] major metropolitan areas that the index measures.

Overseas, the Nikkei average in Japan closed 1.45 percent lower. In afternoon European trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent to 5,215.48, Germany’s DAX added 0.2 percent to 5,655.26 and France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.4 percent to 3,760.88. [Apparently these markets took a beating in ‘after hours’ trading as they are all (except the FTSE) down as of 9:00 PM EST.]

In London, BP PLC, Europe’s second largest oil company, gained 4 percent after reporting a 34 percent decline in third-quarter profit to $5.3 billion, a result of falling oil and gas prices. [Could this be the work of the falling dollar as well?]

BP’s earnings fell short of an $8.0 billion profit in the third quarter of 2008, but were an improvement from $4.4 billion in the second quarter and exceeded analysts’ forecasts.

Two other oil stocks, Total and Shell, added 2.1 percent and 1.4 percent respectively, partly offsetting a weakness in financial stocks.

In Asia, stocks fell after the strengthening dollar helped lead to drops in American markets on Tuesday.

So there you have it good citizen, our first ‘3-fer’ in quite some time. You may ask yourself what this exercise accomplished and you’d be correct to surmise not a hell of a lot.

We did, by chance, catch a ‘blue-bird’ as the two ‘deleted’ articles both reference the consumer confidence index and one of them even explained how the index works…making the above article look somewhat inaccurate, thereby explaining its departure from the line up of today’s posts on the NY Times.

You can bet your boots that somebody caught the ‘discrepancy’…they just caught it a little late. Which didn’t prevent them from yanking the offending content ALONG WITH the piece that provides the explanation of how the index works!

Be prepared good citizen to see future articles crowing about consumer sentiment being over 50%…now that you know anything less than 90 is no good at all!

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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