Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
There are several signs out this week that may be signaling that the housing market has moved past its bottom into a full-fledged recovery. First of all, existing-home sales jumped 6.8 percent in March, and are up 16 percent over the rate of March 2009. We now have roughly an eight-month supply of available homes, down from eight and a half months in February; the rule of thumb is that we need six months' inventory to have a healthy market.
More intriguingly, the Wall Street Journal reported that home builders in Arizona have started buying up land. There was actually a bidding war for some developed land in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, and there are reports of big land purchases around the country. At the very least, these people expect the price of land to increase sometime in the near future, if not the price of houses.
Home builders certainly have some of the best knowledge of where the real estate market is headed - and the most to gain from placing their bets properly. It's nice to see that even in an area like Phoenix, which was ravaged by the deflation of the housing bubble, people still see opportunities for growth.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Interestingly enough, the hundred is more popular overseas than it is here at home. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said, "We estimate that two thirds of all $100 notes circulate outside the United States." That's a total of 6.5 billion Benjamins, or $650 billion, of American money in foreign pockets.
It also suggests that holding American hundreds is a choice for these people, who could be carrying around their homeland's money if they so chose. The $100 overhaul may make these bills more secure, and even more attractive, around the world. If so, that's a good reason for the redesign.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
We also have a supposed Easter effect for the strong retail numbers we saw for March. Retail sales for the month were up 9.1 percent, according to sales tracker Thomson Reuters, from March of 2009. That's the largest single increase in sales since these records first were kept, in 2000. Again, Easter was credited for impacting the numbers, with the holiday falling at the very beginning of April; an economist from Moody's called it a "special factor."
Did Easter affect either of these numbers? It's possible it had some impact on retail sales, although people don't buy a whole lot for Easter beyond a baked ham and some marshmallow peeps. It's harder to see how it would affect employment, which isn't generally driven by the Easter holiday. Also, there will always be complicating factors in the economy, and no season is ever exactly like another. It wouldn't be unwise to simply take these numbers at face value.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Those different periods were kinder to different kinds of stocks. Last year, the S&P growth index - featuring highflying stocks of companies that are expected to show strong growth - rose 29 percent, while the S&P value index - featuring stocks of companies that were considered beaten-down or undervalued - rose just 17 percent. But in a quieter environment, the situation has been reversed. Since the beginning of this year, value stocks have risen 7.4 percent, while growth stocks are up just 4 percent.
That's been the pattern for a long time. Growth stocks tend to do better when the market is roaring, and value stocks do better when things have cooled off, or in bear markets. Growth stocks, for instance, did better in the pre-crash year of 1987, and in the dot-com explosion of 1995-1999, but in most years, value stocks take the prize.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Some researchers at the Fed have looked into that very question, and they've found that housing is not distorting the overall inflation numbers to any great degree. They broke down consumer spending into 50 different categories, and found that inflation has slowed in most of them, including jewelry, transportation, and electronics. There were a few categories in which prices had risen, such as used cars, but those were a decided minority.
The researchers also recalculated their preferred inflation measure without housing costs included. With housing, the February inflation rate was a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year. Taking out the costs of renting or owning a home, the research indicates that rate would jump to 1.55 percent.
In other words, falling housing prices have kept the inflation rate lower than it would otherwise be. But even aside from housing, inflation is still pretty low.