Category Archives: Recession

I think I’ve seen this movie before…

Published by:

Except for that little dust up starting in 1938, the last time something in Austria fell, it started a World War. Fitch Ratings joined S&P and Moody’s in downgrading Hungary’s sovereign debt to junk level. Hungary rejected all bids at an auction of 12-month Treasury bills worth 40 billion forint ($186 million) after getting bids for only 22.8 billion forint. However, the concern is not for Hungary, but for neighboring Austria whose banks have a $226 billion exposure to the debt of former Soviet bloc countries. If Austrian banks fail, then… So it begins.

Today in the Freemarket – 4: Whirlpool Misses Earnings

Published by:

Whirlpool misses its analyst estimated (made up) Q3 earning per share goal of $2.68 per share instead checking in at $2.35 despite sales rising 2% to $4.6 billion. Because of this, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig announced the company would lay off 5,000 workers in North America and Europe.  End of year earnings estimates were also revised downward to $4.75 to $5.25.

Whirlpool is only going to make between $363 million – $401.1 million in profit for 2011, so naturally, American workers will have to suffer.

I appear to have misplaced the press release where Whirlpool’s executive team taking any pay cuts. Whirlpool’s five top paid executives make a cumulative $28.6 million a year.  But I’m sure it will turn up somewhere…..

Do No HARP

Published by:

Obama reveals a series of rule changes to help underwater homeowners.

 

WASHINGTON — Seeking to circumvent congressional opposition, President Barack Obama is promoting a series of executive branch steps aimed at jumpstarting the economy this week, beginning with new rules to make it easier for homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

The White House said changes to the two-year-old Home Affordable Refinance Program will help homeowners with little or no equity in their houses refinance by cutting the cost of doing so and removing caps to give deeply underwater borrowers access to the program. The new rules apply to homeowners with federally guaranteed mortgages who are current on their payments.

 

This is a terrible terrible idea. It’s being promoted as a stimulus when it is really another bank bailout at the expense of tax payers (on the front end) and homeowners (on the back end being conned into paying more for a property that is worth less) Refinancing an overpriced house at a lower rate is still paying too much. Many of these houses are so underwater that they will never recover the current value of their mortgages while the mortgage is still being paid on.

How off shoring jobs fuels Occupy Wall Street

Published by:

The people of Occupy Wall Street aren’t against the rich for being rich. They are against the rich for how they got rich. Most of the rich are as rich as they are today because they fired as many Americans as possible and moved the jobs over seas. I want the rich to bring back jobs to the U.S. so people can WORK and EARN a fair living.

Try and buy an American made cell phone. You can’t do it.
Try and buy American made clothes in anything other than a boutique store. You (mostly) can’t do it.
Try and buy an American made T.V., you can’t do it. There is nearly ZERO flat screen production in the U.S.
Try and buy an American made Lawn Mower: Briggs and Stratton, Tecumseh moved all of their engine manufacturing to China and India.

NONE of this stuff is being manufactured in the U.S. anymore…. but the price of lawnmowers hadn’t gone down. The price of TVs hasn’t gone down, the price of clothing hasn’t gone down…. so all that money saved by the companies by moving the jobs to China has gone to executive pockets while the wages of manufacturing laborers has fallen. In 2001, the 27″ CRT television I bought cost about $300, which is right around the same price for a 27″ basic LCD TV today. In those 10 years, Sony has closed the TV manufacturing plant in nearby New Stanton, PA and moved production overseas putting 650 people out of work and helping to continue to depress wages in the area.

Republican “Jobs Bill”: Lift The Ban On Dwarf Tossing

Published by:

Republican “Jobs Bill”: Lift The Ban On Dwarf Tossing

In a move that will increase employment by at least three, a Republican in Florida is proposing lifting the ban on dwarf tossing

Representative Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican, has introduced a bill to undo a ban on “dwarf-tossing” as part of what he says is his mission to repeal overreaching and outdated laws from Florida’s books. Though the dwarf-tossing measure is not a “jobs bill,” he said, it may put a few people to work in a state where unemployment is 1.6 percentage points above the national average. Dwarf-tossing, a competition in which bar patrons see how far they can throw little people in protective gear, was banned in Florida in 1989 after opponents complained that it was dangerous and dehumanizing.
This is a joke…. I hope….

Twist of the Double Edged Sword

Published by:

Forgive me, I’m still catching up on my reading.

This one jumped out at me:  The Wall Street Journal reports U.S. Consumers Reduce Debt for Fifth Month in a Row

That headline taken in a vacuum should be good news right? Well… sorta. It was consumer debt that both drove the economy for the last 30 years and yet at the same time contributed to it’s implosion.

People drastically reducing spending and (hopefully) living within their means don’t help an economy that depends on consumer spending for 70% of it’s activity.  These people (including myself) are putting as much of their resources into reducing their debt and freeing themselves from the usurious practices of the banks.  But this is a case where we have too much of a good thing. If debt reduction happens too fast, the corresponding consumer spending reduction could extend this recession far longer than normal.

About the only good thing I can see coming from this either way is that if enough people relieve themselves of credit card debt, it will hurt the banks since they will no longer be able to make money from their usury. They might actually have to compete a little and put their interest rates at a reasonable level.

Anything that hurts the banks makes me smile a little inside. It’s not like they don’t deserve it.

Just back from Germany

Published by:

I just got back from a week long vacation in Germany. I stayed with friends in Cologne and visited a few of the surrounding cites. On Friday, we rented a BMW 320i and made our own tour of castles south of Cologne.  My autobahn top speed was 210kph or 130mph. The thing I will miss most is the food. I wish we had a bakery on every corner like they do.

If the current recession has hit Germany, it doesn’t show. Walking around Cologne there is construction everywhere. New shops going up everywhere. The stores are busy and bustling. Germany has been careful to not outsource it’s labor force to foreign markets as much as we have in the US. If German companies need cheap labor, they set up shop in the former East German territories. This way, at least the GDP stays local to Germany’s economy.

Why can’t we do the same thing here? Sure, we couldn’t pay the minimal wages we pay Chinese prison laborers to sew soccer balls with their teeth, but I’m sure there are willing laborers in states like West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, etc. The cost to ship thing from Alabama factories to stores in the US would have to be a LOT cheaper than shipping it from Shanghai. At the same time, we would have an easier time making sure those workers are treated ethically and there are better safety standards in the products they produce. Just ask any Mattel executive about lead in toys and see what kind of reaction you get.

Yes some prices will go up. Do you really think $30 for a DVD player is reasonable? It’s time that we start demanding some real quality in the products we purchase.

Green Shoots?

Published by:

There was much talk earlier this spring about so called “green shoots” in the economy by talking heads trying to coin a phrase that would stick. Unfortunately for us, they had very little evidence to back up such statements. Housing was still tanking, unemployment was still skyrocketing, and GM and Chrysler were swirling down the toilet of bankruptcy.

I’ve been rather pessimistic on the economy for a while now. As recently as April I was predicting a long drawn out recovery. I also predicted that a second wave of foreclosures coming from a type of mortgage called Option ARMs would start carpet bombing the economy all over again. Well, unlike a certain ex-President of ours, I’m willing to chart a new course when provided with new information.

Here is why I am cautiously optimistic for a near term recovery. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the bottom was sometime in June 2009.

Option ARMs

First, my biggest reason for originally predicting a long, drawn out, recovery was the Option ARMs. In a previous blog post, I explained how Option ARMs are one of the most dangerous mortgage types out there. The cliff notes version of this is: You can pay less than the amortised amount each month and whatever you don’t pay gets tacked onto the principle, up to 125% of loan value, and thus charged interest. After about 5 years or once the principle reaches 125% of loan value, the monthly payment “recasts” and now the owner has to pay the entire amortized payment on 125% of the loan value and now they only have 25 years amortization… just as sugar on top. A large batch of these mortgages were due to start recasting at the end of 2009.

My reason for course change? Many of these mortgages aren’t even making it that far. 42% of Option ARMs originated in 2006 and 35% of Option ARMs originated in 2007 are more than 60 days late today. These mortgages are never going to make it to the 5 year mark for recasting. Now, I’m not saying that these people aren’t going to be foreclosed on, they are. It’s unlikely that ANY of these mortgages will qualify for loan modification since one of the requirements is a principle balance lower than the value of the home.

Here is the good part, by going into foreclosure sooner, it softens the overall impact on the economy. So while it’s still bad, it hurts less. Would you rather be hit by 18 inches of snow over a period of 3 days or get hit by an 18 inch diameter snowball?

Ford posts profit

Ford Motor Company had two pieces of good news. First, Ford posted an overall profit for 2nd quarter 2009. Their operating cash still took a $1 billion hit, but clearly progress is being made. The proof of that is in the next item.

Ford posts positive sales numbers

Ford posted their first sales gain in 19 months. Now I’m sure that a good portion of this can be attributed to the government’s Cash for Clunkers program, however Ford’s current model lineup easily stands on it’s own without help from the government. If their new Taurus had been in showrooms already, I’m sure they would have done even better.

This comes on the heals of Toyota’s statement that they are no longer profitable in North America.

Anecdotal

I do I.T. consulting work on the side. One of my clients is a real estate appraiser. Just three months ago he was talking about closing up shop. Now he’s having me refurbish older computers that haven’t been used in a while so he can bring in more help for all the work he has.

A guy who does painting and drywall work for me was talking about how he is closing on a house on Thursday but he doesn’t have time to work on it because of all the work he has coming in suddenly.

GDP only at -1%

This is where the caution part of “cautiously optimistic” comes in. That number, in a vacuum, doesn’t look too good. Taken with the numbers of the previous quarters it signals a huge turnaround. However, much of that regrowth has come from the government’s stimulus projects. Sure the bill was passed in the late winter, but it took till April and May before any sizeable amount of money was dispersed. In my area alone there are no less than four major bridge building/refurb projects that have started or resumed.

Unemployment

The unemployment numbers still don’t look too great but they tend to be a lagging indicator simply because they aren’t reported till after someone gets or loses a job. Watch the unemployment stats over the next few months.

Green Shoots?

Not really. But the seeds have been planted and watered.

Watch this space.