Pay More, Get Less

Earlier this week, we noted a deceptive rise in Retail Sales that was driven by price increases, not sales gains. Measured in Real terms, the inflation adjusted change in year over year sales actually dropped back to levels not seen since 2003.

The NYT’s Floyd Norris hammers this point home today:

"FACED with tightening credit and a slowing economy, America’s consumers are being forced to scale back their purchases, but high prices of necessities are keeping their overall purchases rising at a reasonably strong rate.

The retail sales report for January showed overall retail sales that were stronger than many economists had expected, and was well received by the stock market on Wednesday, the day it was released. In total, retail sales are running more than 4 percent over the level of a year ago, an increase that is above the overall inflation rate and much stronger than the sales were when the last recession began in early 2001.

But the overall change is misleading. One reason for its strength is that prices of necessities are up sharply over the past year, meaning that those items consume more and more of the household budget, leaving less for other things.

Over all, Americans are spending about 13 percent more on food and energy now than a year ago. The figures, as are all the figures shown in the charts accompanying this article, are based on three-month moving averages of seasonally adjusted figures, and compare this year with last year." (emphasis added)

The chart below is rather telling:
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16bizchart650

Chart courtesy of NYT>

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The actually rate of sales today is better than it was  as we entered the 2001 recession. Much of that positive appearing difference, unfortunately, is inflation . . .

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Previously:
Retail Sales Show Inflation, Not Growth  http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2008/02/retail-sales-sh.html

Real Retail Sales Fall to 2003 Levels    http://bigpicture.typepad.com/comments/2008/02/retail-sales-ga.html

Source:
Buy Less but Pay Lots More, and Get a Misleading Rise in Sales
FLOYD NORRIS
NYT, February 16, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/16/business/16charts.html

Category: Commodities, Consumer Spending, Economy, Inflation

Friday Night Jazz: Billie Holiday

All_or_nothing_at_allBy now, you should have some feel for my taste in music, and the wide ranging and eclectic flavors that live on my iPod. But unless you are a fool or a wizened old pro, any attempt at doing a Friday Night Jazz on Billie Holiday is likely to fall flat on its face.

Lucky for us, Nat Hentoff — formerly the Music critic of the Village Voice, and now the Jazz columnist  of the WSJ is just such an old pro. In this week’s WSJ, he looked at a few new reissues of Lady Day’s music:

"Billie must have come from another world," said Roy
Eldridge, often heard accompanying her on trumpet, "because nobody had
the effect on people she had. I’ve seen her make them cry and make them
happy." Lady Day, as tenor saxophonist Lester Young named Billie
Holiday, still has that effect through the many reissues of her
recordings, including the recently released "Lady Day: The Master Takes
and Singles" of the 1933-44 sessions (Columbia/Legacy, available on
Amazon) that established her in the jazz pantheon.

Rare_live_recordings_19341959I grew up listening to those sides, which infectiously
demonstrated — as pianist Bobby Tucker, her longtime pianist, noted –
that "she could swing the hardest in any tempo, even if it was like a
dirge . . . wherever it was, she could float on top of it." But none of
the previous reissues, as imperishable as they are, have as intense a
presence of Lady as in the truly historic new five-disc set "Billie Holiday: Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959" on Bernard Stollman’s ESP-Disk label.

This is a model for future retrospectives of classic
jazz artists of any era because researcher and compiler Michael
Anderson, in his extensive liner notes, provides a timeline of her jazz
life — describing the circumstances of each performance in the context
of her evolving career. One example: a live radio remote from Harlem’s
Savoy Ballroom in 1937 when the 22-year-old singer "began a special
association with her comrade, ‘The Prez,’ Lester Young" — grooving
with the Count Basie band in "Swing Brother Swing."

Complete_billie_holiday_on_columbiaHow could I possibly hope to improve on that?

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For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Lady Day, a great place  is NPR Billie Holiday: ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ special. There’s a 54 minute radio broadcast discussing her history and music.

As far as albums go, there are lots of choices, but they pretty much come down to a) Boxed Sets; 2) Early work; 3) Later years.

If you want to start with something basic, go for A Musical Romance -  agreat duet with Holiday and her long time friend and msucial collaborator, Lester Young. You can also go to the 2 disc All or Nothing at All. The 2 CD Complete Decca Recordings is also quite good.

Complete_billie_holiday_on_verve_19For the more ambitious, the boxed sets are the way to go:

Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944)

The Complete Billie Holiday On Verve, 1945-1959   

The set Hentoff refers to above is the 5 disc set  Rare Live Recordings, 1934-1959   

Students of her latter work will be interested in:

Lady in Satin 

Lady in Autumn

Lady_in_satin

 

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Videos after the jump . . . 

 

 

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Category: Digital Media, Friday Night Jazz, Music

How SubPrime Really Works

Since its a slow Friday before a 3 day weekend, let’s have some fun.

As the credit market has gone into the crapper over the past few weeks, gallows humor seems to have gotten the best of investors and traders. This hysterical piece of financial wit — in Powerpoint no less — has been circulating round Wall Street trading desks for a few days now.

I embedded it into Google apps and posted it on line so everyone can enjoy the warped sense of humor that accompanies losing $100s of billions of dollars.

Ain’t Wall Street grand?!?
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click to launch slide show

Ace_mortgage

Category: Credit, Derivatives, Finance, Real Estate, Trading, Video, Web/Tech

WTF? Feds Shutting Down Economic Data Site

Category: Data Analysis, Economy, Politics, Psychology

FGIC: Let Us Split in Two

Category: Credit, Derivatives

The Monolines Are F#@%ed!

Category: Corporate Management, Credit, Derivatives, Short Selling, Taxes and Policy

Tigger Economics

Category: Markets, Psychology

Quote of the Day: Liquidity Trap

Category: Economy, Federal Reserve, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Real Estate

FOMC Speech

Category: Federal Reserve

Housing and Monetary Policy

Category: Currency, Federal Reserve, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Real Estate