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March 07, 2008




I was looking at some numbers from the oil markets and started to think about a series of articles over at American Thinker regarding KSA gaming the oil markets in 2005. I'm backing off on that for right now and I'm going with Rick's suggestion that it is Tulip Mania (or in this case closer to NASDAQ 5000 or NIKKEI 40K{right before the 1st Persian Gulf War}).

The other problem with all this is the tanking of the dollar over the last 6 odd years. If the dollar found a floor and began to strengthen a bit the bloom on oil would come off and stories like the big Brazil finds and the data showing that supplies are at or near all time highs would actually make a difference.

I'm really puzzled by the dollar story with my quick once over. The dollar index tumbled down from 121 to the mid-90's from about 2002 to 2004 with a bit of a rally for about 18 months and has fallen through the floor the last year. A weakening job market, a weak housing market, the combined effects of FISA reform, Sar-Box, and the Patriot Act (meaning that the Office at Foreign Asset Control could have a huge source of data to mine), the rise in the use of the Euro, and the present value of the expiring of tax cuts all seem to be part of the story. With Eurozone rates sitting at 4% and Britian sitting at 5.25% the dollar is going to keep on selling off if the Fed keeps on cutting rates.



(Unlike Jane, I'm not particularly averse to a little of the ol' ultra-violence--it's as American as cherry pie, and makes for great viewing.)

Ahhhh you missed my sarcastic tone.

I think Obama is tanking, and he didn't even give it a good run. The going got tough and his response is to fire staff members. That second coming thing is harder to pull off than he thought I guess. And I don't think any hard core supporters will even see the fall so they will simply blame Madame second fiddle - all the way to the convention. What's left to do but to take to the streets?

I feel the chip on MO's shoulder starting to dig in a little deeper.



If you are worried about the economy,ditch bio-fuels and grow wheat.Algorism has pushed us to the edge of a food crisis.


I don't think he is tanking-it's what the media want you to think. He is ahead of Hillary on all counts. rasmussen shows a Michigan do-over gets Hil and Obama 41% each, so an even split of delegates. Give him Edwards take in Florida and he ends up with 47% to Hil's 55% another almost even split in delegates. He holds her to 10 points or less in Pennsylvania and you've got ballgame for Obama. The only way she gets it is to steal it. Hil better get ready for VP or Senate Majority leader. News flash- Puerto Rico has changed to a primary on June 1st.



The only way she gets it is to steal it.

That is the Clinton Way after all.


I'm kind of like McCain when it comes to the economy. It isn't my strong suit. What I do know though is Bush's name was not linked to the Dow Jones smashing the all time record, growth in the housing market, the jobs created. His name is prominent now, though. Funny how that works.

I can't figure out how increasing taxes will turn the economy around. I'm sure Clinton and Obama will give lessons on that shortly.

Other Tom

No, Hit--I still think he'll get his 300+, but the biggest obstacle to his doing so is the economy.

RickB, it's true that unemployment ticked down 0.1% in Feb., and in fact is largely unchanged over the past six months--I think it was even up at 5% a few months ago, and is now down at 4.7. But under Bush it's been consistently higher than in the final few years of Bubba, and we'll be hearing about that incessantly come the fall. In any event, we're seeing a growing inflationary threat and a very substantial erosion of shareholder equity across the markets--people's 401k's are taking a hit. We're looking at an inflation-adjusted Dow that's essentially flat over the past four years. I think the economy definitely poses a threat for the GOP in the fall.

I believe it would be extremely difficult to manipulate oil futures--it would require collusion on a pretty broad scale, and in the US it would be a felony for anyone who took part.


Via Iain Dale, here's some ruminating that is so outside the box (but inside the Constitution) that only a foreign journalist could have come up with it:

So how about it? Hillary and Barack toss a coin, and the one who wins gets first try for the White House. If they win, he/she does two years as POTUS (president of the United States), and then hands over.

A White House job share. How´s that for "change"?

Two years for Hillary to fulfill her ambition (and allow Barack to gain more experience), then she can resign and let him take over. I can't wait for the Vice-Presidential confirmation hearings that would follow.


OT and Rick, my brother suggests that the people who lose their jobs first are people who don't show up claiming unemployment insurance--illegals.

Rick Ballard


If that were true, it should show up in the California stats because the BLS uses the very inflated Census figures on illegals to determine the total number for the labor force. Immigration (and Census) stats have assigned 40% of the 515,000 additional illegals per year to CA since 2000, yet the CA unemployment rate has jumped by 20% in the past year.

I believe that Census has been overstating the increase in illegals by about 300,000 per year since 2001 and their recent revisions indicate that they are beginning the backpedaling required to compensate for the error before the 2010 Census exposes them as either incompetent (on the very generous side) or willfully fraudulent (on the Pew - create a problem side).

In either event, CA stats don't support the argument that illegals have a positive effect on reporting of unemployment.

It may well be that the auto manufacturer's buyouts of UAW featherbedders has as big an impact as the increased numbers of those retiring. It will take a few more months worth of numbers to make a determination.

We'll see another jump in productivity if accelerated retirement is the cause, similiar to what occured in the 3rd quarter after the July-August increases in retirements.


If Obama wins Mississippi and Wyoming the story will be about Obama's Recovery. The news cycle is very short these days.

Rick Ballard

McCain to Hagee: "Hold still, Rev. backing this bus over you ain't easy"

Told ya. Step, glide, pirouette, step.


Since this seems to be the economics thread tonight, I found this about the sub-prime crisis from Mankiw's blog. Very funny.

Other Tom-

It was a flight of fancy that I had regarding the oil markets and thinking back to the Hunt Brothers (with a bit of help) cornered silver.

The thinking began with Stiglitz's claim that the costs of the Iraq War include an "Iraq War premium". If it were measurable then the decrease in violence in Iraq should show up as a price decrease in oil. If anything the "Iraq War Premium" is inversely related to the price of oil. This got me thinking about the larger security enviroment and massive price spikes whenever someone gets shot in Nigeria, Chavez starts acting up, or Iran starts feeling their oats. I didn't bother running all the numbers but it seems that a "security premium" in oil is overstated even with all the violence in the ME/WA/VZ (or it is inside the comparative advantage of ME producers, about $7/bbl).

In all of this the dollar has been the back drop and I'm still at a loss as to the primary factors for it to have fallen through the floor as fast as it has. It seems to me to have been over done even with demand growth of pounds, euro, etal (anything but the dollar) and the outflow of petrodollars from the ME to the ROW (too many dollar chasing too few goods). FWIW...

Jimmy Jones

VERY GREAT STORY! NICE WEEKEND FOR ALL! http://www.spymac.com/details/?2350301


Very good file! You must see!




Rick, I think you hit the right tone for what McCain needed to do: back the bus up over (back up over?) Hagee. I have to say he seems to have done it rather cleverly--he waited a week for the endorsement to sink in, then pulled the rug out from under Hagee. By citing his own children, something Hagee should have known about, he undercuts Hagee's ability to respond. And--McCain was helped in all this to an immense degree by the MSM focus on Hillary and Obama.

Rich, the WSJ has had a steady stream of articles and editorials re the Fed and monetary policy, going back to last year. They and Steve Forbes agree that the US has followed a weak dollar policy, and that has got us in the position we're in now. Neither claim that a recession is inevitable--only that mishandling of the current situation could lead to an avoidable downturn.

Bill in AZ

Rick, Rich - thanks for the responses... Don't know what to think about the oil price, but it doesn't seem natural. When housing started to flatten a few years ago, you could see he shift to the stock market. When it started to flatten, the speculator money needs to go somewhere... maybe some of it has gone to oil. Would be nice to see that bubble pop. Generally, when oil gets to a certain point, usage drops, and tankers start backing up into the ocean. The price can be whatever they say, but if it isn't moving the oil ticks aren't making anything. Funny thing about capitalism - it kicks in eventually.

Regarding the dollar and currency in general, I just cantankerously assume Soros is mucking around in there somewhere. He tried to buy the last election, and whines about his wasted $25 million, and all he has to show for it is warehouses full of unsellable Bush bashing books. He has the wherewithal, the knowledge, and can buy the the people who can truly muck things up for the economy - and that is one area where he could move the electorate and buy the election. Surprised he didn't work that angle last time around. There ought to be a SorosWatch website so we can track what he is doing. Unnerving when he's too quiet.


Rick, while the large loss of durable goods mfg. jobs could support your view on the effects of retirement and productivity gains, the other side of the coin is that another big loser of jobs was the construction industry. There, retirement and/or productivity gains are far less likely to be the explanation.


Bill, it's going to be the Three Trillion Dollar bullshit. That bogeyman can be blamed for everything, it can be laid at Bush's doorstep like a crap-filled burning bag, and it will end up making Soros a lot of money. I'm glad he's likely to burn in Hell.


According to the IBD, Obama And Rezko:

In 2005, when Rezko was under federal investigation for influence peddling in Blagojevich's administration, Obama and Rezko's wife, Rita, bought adjacent pieces of property from a Chicago doctor.

The doctor sold one parcel to Obama for $1.65 million, $300,000 below the asking price, while Rezko's wife paid full price, $625,000, for the adjacent vacant lot. Six months later, Obama paid Rezko's wife $104,500 for a 10-foot-wide strip of her land, allegedly so that he could have a bigger yard.

The deal rendered the Rezko parcel too small to build on, thereby increasing the value of Obama's property. What was Rezko expecting in return for this favor to Obama that made Rezko's parcel almost worthless?

I'm sorry for coming to this late, and apologize if I'm repeating (as I surely am) what others have already said--however, the IBD editorial is new and, at least to me, makes the situation crystal clear.

It seems to me that, since/if the Rezko lot was rendered too small to be developed--rendering it virtually worthless--the practical effect of this deal is that the Obamas get control (although not actual ownership) over both lots while paying only a small portion of the actual value of what the Rezko lot would have been worth if it had not been diminished in size. The only way the Rezko lot would ever have any value of its own (accepting the IBD's statement of the facts) would be if the Obama's or future owners of the Obama lot were to transfer the ten foot strip back to the owners of the Rezko lot. So the Obama's get control over the Rezko lot, valued at 625K, while paying only 104.5K. Obama gets the effective benefit of owning a double lot (as the IBD points out, this substantially increases the value of the lot he owns) while only paying a fraction of what he would have had to pay if he had purchased both lots outright.

All this was made possible by Rezko, to whom the Obamas owe a debt of gratitude--if nothing else.

Shady in the total context (to include Rezko's associates and other influence activities) but, without additional solid facts, probably not criminal. However, this is the kind of shady deal that most people can easily comprehend, so the interest should continue.


I agree, anduril, that editorial explains the deal quite clearly. I think your link is broken, though - try this one:

IBD editorial


Thanks, porchlight. Second time in two days I've done that.


Yes, the bottom line to all of this is that Obama accepted a $500,000 gift from a corrupt Chicago political fixer. It was laundered through a series of real estate transactions, but it was still, in essence a half a million dollar gift. The real question is, was it a pay off, or a down payment?

Rick Ballard


The illegal immigrant component within construction was washed out of residential between Aug '06 and April '07. The highest total employment in construction occured in Jan '07 and current construction employment is higher than it was in Aug '05 - at the height of the residential boom. Nonresidential construction picked up all the slack until October but it's cooling off at the moment. It will be interesting to see if lifting the jumbo cap will have a significant impact on residential construction in the 3rd quarter.

The productivity gain I mentioned is purely illusory in that it is derived from getting rid of the most expensive employees - those close to or at retirement and taking some amount of time to replace them with less expensive employees. Production per man hour doesn't increase but cost per unit falls. For a bit.

Just one of those funny 'accounting tricks' that get headlines from our hopelessly ignorant (and highly partisan) business press.


Yes but the Times UK article said Ms Rezko sold her remaining bit to her husband's lawyer who has it on the market for $995 k. I assume that's hokey and designed to avoid this argument, but one presumes the Times didn't just make that up . That ppaper, however, is the only one reporting that info.

Rick Ballard


The editorial fails for me because it does not specify why "The deal rendered the Rezko parcel too small to build on"

I've been through the zoning ordinances and setback requirements and I believe that the editorial may be relying upon lot square footage requirements that pertain to single family residences rather than townhouses. The lot is currently zoned for townhouses and it would take more than assertion to convince me that it's truly unbuildable. It might be but I haven't seen the actual rationale backed up by ordinance and drawing.


Yes, I think the lawyer's listing is just for show. I wonder how long it's been listed and if anyone has shown any interest. Would be great to get the opinion of a real estate agent who works in that neighborhood.



The illegal immigrant component within construction was washed out of residential between Aug '06 and April '07.

No, I wasn't talking about the illegal immigrant component within construction. My comment was based strictly on newspaper reporting this morning which stated that construction sector jobs had decreased about 220K during the last twelve months and 39K in the last month. My point is that those job losses were unlikely to have been through retirement. The cause could have been less work--as you point out for the period since October.


Re the lot and zoning. The lot was zoned for town houses before the transfer based on a width of, I believe, 50 ft., which is pretty standard. I don't know the requirements, but I'm assuming that after the 10 ft. strip was transferred, the lot was left at only 40 ft. wide, which might be too narrow for current zoning standards for brand new construction. Where the IBD got their info, I don't know.



The productivity gain I mentioned is purely illusory in that it is derived from getting rid of the most expensive employees...

Another area that has been hit hard with unemployment is the financial services sector. A quick peak over at BLS summary shows they have lost 116k over the last 6 months. The productivity gains from eliminating those at or near retirement could go into business investment, but will most likely go to lawyers to make sense of this mess and golden parachutes for the VSG's that made the mess in the first place.

The thing about the recent commentary regarding the dollar is that the Bush Administration cut taxes in 2001 and 2003 while the fed was raising rates from 2004 to 2006. The dollar fell out of bed in 2002 and with the exception of a minor rally from the end of 04 to early 06 it has fallen by about 40% [these numbers are the us dollar index]. Even with all the problems that are going on, I'd find it hard to believe that the dollar is as weak today as it was in 1973. I'd say the current dollar weakness is more a function of political uncertiany (tax cuts expiring, a less business friendly climate) than it is any sort of merchantalist manipulation of the currency.

Even rice isn't safe anymore.


darn it...


...uncertainty...mercantilist manipulation...

Rick Ballard

"My comment was based strictly on newspaper reporting this morning"

Yeah, I know. I'm not sure what the point is in dragging around propaganda factoids like dead mice. Drops in construction employment in January and February aren't exactly ahistorical occurences in bad winters (even considering seasonal adjustment) and drops in employment from historic peaks aren't newsworthy unless they break through an underlying trend line. Construction employment would have to drop by an additional 500,000 jobs to match the drop from '90-'94 in severity.

Oddly enough, you never see that type of explication in the business news these days.


Don't you have to kick the tires on the hedge funds a bit to get to "cause" on the dollar 'weakness'? I don't know of a statutory mechanism that the Fed could use to prevent Carlyle from "creating" dollars but the market seems to be quite effective in making them disappear. When the dust settles, will the dollar be "stronger" due to the reduction in the evanescent M-3?


I'm not sure what the point is in dragging around propaganda factoids like dead mice. Drops in construction employment in January and February aren't exactly ahistorical occurences in bad winters (even considering seasonal adjustment)

Which is why I included the 12 month drop.

and drops in employment from historic peaks aren't newsworthy unless they break through an underlying trend line.

I'm perfectly happy to look at a chart showing what the trend line is.

Construction employment would have to drop by an additional 500,000 jobs to match the drop from '90-'94 in severity.

I post here because I'm interested in politics, not because I have anything to contribute on economics. In 1992 Clinton won an election by falsely claiming that we had the worst economy in 50 years. That was a political statement, not an economic one. We probably won't have to match the '90-'94 job drop in severity to give the Hillary (Obama may be another matter) a potent weapon against the GOP--given the underlying uncertainties. And that's the point of "dragging around propaganda factoids like dead mice"--to evaluate their possible effectiveness.


Only the young and idealistic would fall for a politician promising to bring us together. The old and idealistic, like me, know that we have to stand by principles to keep the country from failing.

The old and cynical are the Clintons.


Only the young and idealistic would fall for a politician promising to bring us together. The old and idealistic, like me, know that we have to stand by principles to keep the country from failing.

The old and cynical are the Clintons.


Please do not hesitate to have Metin2 gold . It is funny.

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