Thursday, August 27, 2009

Water, TARP, incentives, and Austin.

Here's an interesting article on the issue of water in Latin America.

Here's a look at TARP funds--they were actually used to make loans! Some were afraid this may not be the case for very much of the funds.

A TED talk (those things are great) by Dan Pink, former speechwriter for Al Gore. He talks about incentives, and how they can hurt. Also follow the links for similar talks by Dan Ariely.

Austin, TX looks like it's going to rebound this year, too. News for Texas looks relatively rosy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The rich, Bernanke, unemployment, and cell phones

Over the past two years, the rich have not gotten richer, ending a 30-year rise.

Bernanke is apparently optimistic on near-term growth. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, I think. There's a lot of reason to be optimistic, it seems.

Unemployment rose in 26 states.

Another development article: the solar-powered cell phone. I always thought heat was detrimental to the lifespan of electronics--though, I guess a solar-powered cell phone makes more sense than a wind powered or hydroelectric cell phone. Still, there are small solar cells you can buy to charge small electronics. Why not just replace the car charger (or whatever) with a solar charger?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Silver bullets, aid money, institutional reform, and Texas

Dennis Whittle tell us about the attraction and myth that is the developmental silver bullet.

Here's an interesting graphic on monetary flows of developmental aid. Aid in Israel has shrunk a lot, apparently.

Another of development: William Easterly reminds us that institutional reform may help developing nations, but we don't know what that means. I disagree that the term is meaningless, though. It helps us to narrow down what types of reforms might be most helpful, and then a more detailed analysis of the factors of institutional reform may help us pin down specific actions.

The economy in Texas is looking strong! Or, at least, looking to rebound soon. I don't expect commercial real estate construction to start up very strongly soon, though.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Health care, global health care, job losses, love, and ham

Myths of health care reform. It seems like there are a lot of scare tactics.

While discussion on domestic health care policy is fierce, Ruth Levine reminds us about global health care policy.

Back here, job loss claims are slightly up, while the overall unemployment rate is down slightly. I'm hoping that we avoid 10%.

Love is worth over a quarter million dollars.

What would your bank do if you offered them wine and ham as collateral?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Job markets, mortgage default rate, credit, and spending

Insight's best and worst job markets. It's nice that the page is continually updated, too.

13%? That's a very high mortgage default rate. And it's not supposed to peak until at least a year from now. CalculatedRisk tells us that the problem is growing to fixed rate prime loans. Yikes! That last link also shows rates per state.

Banks are cutting credit limits for 58 million card holders. I've also heard that they're raising the rates that they charge companies who use their credit card services for payments. This sort of thing isn't a surprise, due to recent credit card reform, and this is probably a good sign.

Here's a neat graphic: how the average consumer spends his paycheck. It's actually a "consumer unit," which is apparently about 2.5 people with 1.3 earners.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Development, savings rates, and billions of dollars

Charles Kenny, via William Easterly, on the successes of development. If you're down on development issues, this is a very worthwhile read.

Speaking of development, check out Intel's Small Things Challenge. It's kind of like the free rice site, except Intel donates money to a couple of charities, and if they get enough clicks, then they donate $300,000.

On an unrelated note, the personal savings rate was at a 15 year high this past quarter. It's still nowhere near where it used to be from the 60s to the 80s. I haven't looked at much international data, but it looks like a lot of countries are pretty low.

Here's a visualization of the billions of dollars that are spent on a variety of things.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Subprime mortgages, the end of the recession, FDI, and health care

The Cleveland Fed presents us with ten myths about subprime mortgages.

Mark Thoma tells us when we'll know that the recession is over. I think there are two important themes: 1) it's tough to tell, and 2) it'll be pretty obvious when it's there.

Foreign investment in long-term US bonds are up. Although China is pulling out some of its money, the scare that everyone wants to pull out their money and ruin the US is unfounded. Sometimes, economics is telling people the obvious, when they want to believe the ludicrous.

The public health care option may be off the table. Back to high health care expenditures? Have congressional Republicans attempted to make any concessions at all? Bipartisanship seems to imply compromise.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Good news on the recession, sugar, bubbles, and new homes.

A few pieces from Capital Gains and Games. Some thoughts on the unemployment numbers--getting worse slower isn't getting better. Still, I prefer getting worse slower. Still, the prospect that the unemployment rate won't hit 10% is great. The deficit would have been the same under Bush (or McCain) and is likely going to be less than originally forecast. So, it was largely unavoidable. Still, I hope that our money was put to good use.

A reduction in the supply of sugar is causing prices to increase. If there are profits to be made, then we'd expect other firms enter the market. Good sign for South American and African sugar farmers?

The Business Pundit speculates at the next possible bubble to burst. Gold seems a little far fetched to me, as I always thought of gold as a back-up place to store wealth, which means that it'd be more of an effect than a cause of speculation.

Felix Salmon reminds us that a home is not an investment as Krugman buys a new place. I've seen it argued that people thinking of homes as investments is a part of what caused the housing crisis.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Healthcare, good income news, good recession news, and blips.

Chris Dillow looks at the relationship between health care spending as a percentage of GDP and life expectancy. It's not the whole story, of course, but it does start an interesting discussion.

Real average hourly earnings is up a lot. Presumably, firms are holding on to qualified workers. We'll see how this measure holds out against the unemployment rate.

The chances of positive GDP growth are up! According to a Philly Fed survey. It's been a long recession.

Capacity utilization has a small up-blip, and industrial production is up. This, honestly, doesn't tell us much. If it continues up, that's a good sign, but this increase is probably too small to indicate anything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Unemployment rate <10%, income distribution, IV, the recession's end, and unemployment again

Nate Silver makes the claim that the unemployment rate won't hit 10%. Bold, considering there are many expecting it to go well above 10%.

People in the top .01% have 6% of the nation's income, the highest ever. It's interesting how it was so low for so long.

The Economist has an interesting article on instrumental variables. The gist: they attain more accurate answers to less broad questions. Instrumental variables are tools, however. We should never rely on one tool in our toolbox--that has always led us astray. That's just like articles bashing macroeconomics due to "bad" econometric forecasting.

According to this graph, a lot of economists seem to think that the recession is over. That's the WSJ, though, so take that with a grain of salt. The more interesting part, in my opinion, is that the unemployment predictions, on average, don't hit 10%. More predictions here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Venezuela, China, and land grabbing

Venezuela's inflation (still) isn't doing so hot. No surprises there, right?

Though, China's doing well! (again, still) A lot of countries seem to want to piggy-back on China's growth. Still, no surprises. Investing in China yields better returns than investing in a country with negative growth.

Since bubbles have popped, investors are buying up land in developing countries. Housing isn't bringing in money anymore, so commodities and land is where the money is going. ... So, what happens to the developing countries when this new bubble pops?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Taxes and unemployment, the recession, health care, income, and advertising.

Krugman reports that there is no correlation between taxes and the unemployment rate. Looks like, if anything, there might be a negative correlation.

Though the specifics vary slightly, things are looking a little better now for Krugman and Hamilton.

Health care is a pretty tough issue, politically.

Political Calculations has data on how your income will increase each year.

Karl Smith continues discussion on the advertising industry. I think he's wrong when he says that people aren't easily swayed--though, they may not be so easily swayed as advertisers may think. I think people can be swayed to at least try a new cereal, even if it costs 20 cents more. They may not be swayed in buying a car. When you're talking about relatively cheap, quickly consumed goods, advertising can be powerful. Advertising may actually convince us to try a new restaurant, or a new brand of deodorant.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oil and gas prices, health care, university productivity, and Houston power rates

James Hamilton takes a look at oil and natural gas prices. Something has got to give.

PBS has a Frontline report comparing the health programs in five capitalist democracies around the world. Paul Krugman explains why health care can't be solved by the free market. Seems to me that health insurance suffers the tragedy of the commons.

Catherine Rampell at Economix reports on a measure of productivity of universities.

Houstonians: TXU is lowering their rates. They may still not be the lowest for you, but keep an eye out! How's that for price fluctuation?