Posts filed under “Think Tank”
Here’s an excerpt from my latest update on the slow transition from printed books to electronic books. The course of technological innovation never did run smooth:
When it comes to ebooks, no one seems to be able to keep a level head. Publishers are in self-induced swivet; Amazon is being a shortsighted bully, and the press is entering the silly season when just about anything qualifies as news. But to understand why the scheduling of a few ebooks creates so much worry, it is worth understanding the current context of book publishing.
We’ll know more in a few weeks when the Q2 earnings come through for the publishers and booksellers. But even if the quarter shows some strength—and that’s magical thinking—it won’t offset the beating all but one of the major firms took at the beginning of the year. Large publishing houses are like pyramids: Best-sellers are the pointy top and backlist is the burly base. Together they support the great mass of unmemorable titles in between.
Except that turns out to be the old publishing business. The recession and deleveraging and the death of retail have created a new business that looks more like a diamond with best-sellers on top and a smaller backlist on the bottom, you know, just the perennials like 1984 and Animal Farm. (I’ve tried to outline some of those forces here and here.)
In between is a large and unwieldy cost structure—warehouses and sales forces and marketing staffs that are overbuilt for the streamlined retail environment of Amazon, Costco (COST), and fewer and fewer superstores; large staffs in expensive Midtown Manhattan offices; as well as a mass of books bought for wishful-thinking advances that are still clogging the publishing pipeline—that can’t be brought quickly back into balance.
Kindle Under Fire
The Big Money; July 21, 2009
Category: Think Tank
Bernanke in his speech is saying most of what we already know about the economy and specifies that its the household/spending outlook that is the “important downside risk” which we know is the disease of the credit crisis. He says the unemployment rate will remain elevated even as the economy recovers (we need to generate…Read More
If the front page article of today’s WSJ is any indication, Bernanke’s testimony on the economy and monetary policy will be anything but boring. Bernanke lays the groundwork for some of what he’ll say in an editorial that lays out “The Fed’s Exit Strategy.” It sounds great but if the Fed gets the timing wrong,…Read More
This week I offer two short essays for your reading pleasure in Outside the Box. The first is from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing in the London Telegraph. He gives some more specifics about the situation in Europe I wrote about this weekend.
He ends with the following sober quote: “My awful fear is that we will do exactly the opposite, incubating yet another crisis this autumn, to which we will respond with yet further spending. This is the road to ruin.” This is a must read.
And the second piece? Last week in Outside the Box we looked at an “Austrian” (economic) view of the inflation/deflation debate from my friends at Hoisington. This week we look at the 180 degree opposite with Keynesian aficionado Paul McCulley, who argues that the Fed should be Responsibly Irresponsible and target higher inflation. This essay has brought some rather heated arguments in print and from some of the people who will be with Paul and me at the annual Maine fishing trip. And you can bet I will put them all together with a little wine to see how the argument ensues. I will report back.
And Paul ends with a great and what is a quite controversial line, “Yes, as Bernanke intoned, there are no free lunches. But no lunch doesn’t work for me. Or the American people. While it is true, as Keynes intoned, that we are all dead in the long run, I see no reason to die young from orthodoxy-imposed anorexia.”
And finally, this one last note on European banks: “European banks including Societe Generale SA and BNP Paribas SA hold almost $200 billion in guarantees sold by New York-based AIG allowing the lenders to reduce the capital required for loss reserves.” (Bloomberg). Want to think about the US taxpayer paying to bail out Europeans banks? Think that might be a tad controversial? This could be explosive.
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
Fiscal ruin of the Western world beckons
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
For a glimpse of what awaits Britain, Europe, and America as budget deficits spiral to war-time levels, look at what is happening to the Irish welfare state.
Events have already forced Premier Brian Cowen to carry out the harshest assault yet seen on the public services of a modern Western state. He has passed two emergency budgets to stop the deficit soaring to 15pc of GDP. They have not been enough. The expert An Bord Snip report said last week that Dublin must cut deeper, or risk a disastrous debt compound trap.
A further 17,000 state jobs must go (equal to 1.25m in the US), though unemployment is already 12pc and heading for 16pc next year.
Education must be cut 8pc. Scores of rural schools must close, and 6,900 teachers must go….Nobody is spared. Social welfare payments must be cut 5pc, child benefit by 20pc. The Garda (police), already smarting from a 7pc pay cut, may have to buy their own uniforms. Hospital visits could cost £107 a day, etc, etc….
No doubt Ireland has been the victim of a savagely tight monetary policy – given its specific needs. But the deeper truth is that Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, the US, and Japan are in varying states of fiscal ruin, and those tipping into demographic decline (unlike young Ireland) have an underlying cancer that is even more deadly. The West cannot support its gold-plated state structures from an aging workforce and depleted tax base.
Good Evening: U.S. stocks stretched their recent winning streak to six straight today, as some good economic news and some potential help for CIT combined to lift share prices. With more investors becoming convinced the worst is over for our economy, the major averages all tacked on gains of 1% or more. The S&P 500…Read More
Dennis P. Lockhart
President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Rotary Club of Nashville
July 20, 2009
For my remarks this afternoon, I’ll talk about how I see the economy at this juncture, the near- and medium-term outlook, and the growing concern about inflation. Let me add at this point my usual disclaimer that my remarks are my thoughts alone and may not necessarily reflect the views of my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
It’s especially important that I mention this caveat the day before Chairman Ben Bernanke makes his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Tomorrow the chairman will speak for the Federal Reserve System. Today, I am speaking just for myself, informed by advice from my colleagues at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Current economic conditions are mixed at best, but the economy appears to be in stabilization mode. Stabilization necessarily precedes recovery. A recovery has not yet taken hold but should begin before too long.
I’ll start with a look at manufacturing, which has been hard hit in this recession. Just last week we learned that manufacturing production was down 0.6 percent in June, month over month. In the past year, manufacturers have cut production by more than 15 percent, and the manufacturing capacity utilization rate dropped to about 65 percent, a record low.
Here in middle Tennessee, manufacturing accounts for about 12 percent of employment. The number of manufacturing jobs here declined by about 12 percent on a year-over-year basis in May, the most recent data available. I know that many of you here today have directly felt the troubles in this important sector.
Recent indicators of business investment are also down but are a bit less discouraging. Durable goods orders increased this spring and in May reached the highest levels in four months. On the other hand, the most recent data showed the liquidation of business inventories continuing, but the pace has slowed.
Consumer spending absorbs about two-thirds of economic output, and the recent picture in this area is mostly negative. After taking price changes into account, it appears that retail spending fell again in June. Restaurants, department stores, and building materials retailers all posted month-to-month declines. Overall, retail results are in line with the ongoing weakness in consumer spending we have been seeing.
I believe for the very first time, a Fed member is admitting that it was an artificially low fed funds rate that ‘helped create the housing bubble’ (I’m quoting Bloomberg). Voting member Lockhart just made the comment in a Q&A after a speech on the US economy. He took office as head of the Atlanta…Read More
With CIT garnering headlines over the past week in terms of its own fate but that of many small businesses reliant on it, on Friday the Fed released its weekly balance sheet data for commercial banks for the week ended July 8th and we can see what the business lending trends are. Commercial and Industrial…Read More
From a friend on the Hill:
Good news today. Some of you have noted that it is somewhat outrageous for the Treasury to privately price and sell warrants back to the banks that got TARP money instead of doing an open auction that will fetch the best price for the taxpayer. The Congressional Oversight Panel claims that the currently used secret process returns only 66 cents on the dollar to the taxpayer.
Mary Jo Kilroy, a freshman Democrat from Ohio, introduced a bill (HR 3232) to compel an open auction of these warrants with six cosponsors: Brad Sherman, John Boccieri, Betty Sutton, Jackie Speier, Marcia Fudge and Alan Grayson.
All of these members except Brad Sherman are in their first or second term in Congress, and all are Democrats. Sherman was the leader of the little noted but important ‘skeptics caucus’ that attempted to stop the $700B bailout in September.
There is also a hearing on the TARP warrant repayments on Wednesday. Many of you don’t have faith in Congress, but there are lots of crosscurrents and sometimes people here do show leadership.
Information on the bill is below.
PROFIT Act to Make Taxpayers, Transparency Priority in Bank Bailout Payback
July 16, 2009 4:21 PM
> The Washington Post: The huge profits reported this week by some of the nation’s largest banks showed that the government is succeeding in its rescue of the financial industry, but the details of those earnings reports made it clear that the broader economy is not seeing the benefits… Washington once celebrated such profits as…Read More