LEIs Dip Again

You know the drill:  The (modified) leading indicators come out yesetrday — weak once again; The excuse making should begin any moment. This time, expect to hear how this sentiment drop shouldn’t be taken too seriously, due to Katrina.

Except all this data predates Katrina.

Obligatory snark:  I guess we now wait with baited breath to see if and when the Conference Board will reconfigure the Leading Economic Indicators (again) to shift the weighting of the sentiment aspect . This time, they will attempt to explain how when sentiment declines, its a net positive to the economy. It turns out that the only way sentiment is a negative is when there are widespread mass suicides . . .

Ubiq-cerpt:™

The Conference Board said five of 10 indicators that make up the leading index rose in August. These included manufacturers’ new orders for non-defense capital goods, manufacturers’ new orders for consumer goods and materials as well as stock prices.

Negatives sapping the index included activity in building permits as well as the consumer confidence.

Conf Board Chart:

Leading_econ_ind

Here’s the specific data from the Conf Board:

Leading Index Factors
1 Average weekly hours, manufacturing 0.2533
2 Average weekly initial claims for unemployment insurance 0.0328
3 Manufacturers’ new orders, consumer goods and materials 0.0755
4 Vendor performance, slower deliveries diffusion index 0.0702
5 Manufacturers’ new orders, nondefense capital goods 0.0191
6 Building permits, new private housing units 0.0263
7 Stock prices, 500 common stocks 0.0375
8 Money supply, M2 0.3521
9 Interest rate spread, 10-year Treasury bonds less federal funds 0.1034
10 Index of consumer expectations 0.0298

>

Sources:
The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators Dips in August   (PDF)
September 22, 2005
http://www.conference-board.org/economics/bci/pressRelease_output.cfm?cid=1"

Gloomy sentiment erodes economic indicator
Future economic activity gauge falls for second straight month in August
MSNBC,  10:42 a.m. ET Sept. 22, 2005
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9438477/

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Compare & Contrast: FEMA vs Wal-MART

There are certain things I expect for my tax dollars:  Schools, Police services, Military protection, Infrastructure, etc.

This is true whether you believe in big government or small. Note that these are not politically charged issues — should the EPA be eliminated, why not privatize NASA, etc.

I am referring to the very basic services government is formed to provide.

Which is why the simply incompetant job performed by FEMA is such a cause for concern: Somehow, we seemed to have lost interest in strategic planning — there is no intelligent design (pun intended) in anything the goverment does lately.

Even more pathetic than the failure at the Federal level is the post-disaster excuse making. Echoing similar 9/11 excuses, the "No one could have seen this coming crowd" is out pushing the same canard.

Let’s put that lie to rest right here, via the WSJ:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency could learn some things from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, when Katrina was reclassified to a storm from a tropical depression, Jason Jackson, the retailer’s director of business continuity, started camping out in Wal-Mart’s emergency command center. By Friday, when the hurricane touched down in Florida, he had been joined by 50 Wal-Mart managers and support personnel, ranging from trucking experts to loss-prevention specialists.

On Sunday, before the storm made landfall on the Gulf Coast, Mr. Jackson ordered Wal-Mart warehouses to deliver a variety of emergency supplies, from generators to dry ice to bottled water, to designated staging areas so that company stores would be able to reopen quickly if disaster struck.

Then, when the hurricane knocked out Wal-Mart’s computerized system for automatically updating store inventory levels in the area, he fielded phone calls from stores about what they needed. He also alerted a replenishment team to reorder essential products, such as mops and bleach. And by Tuesday, scores of Wal-Mart trucks, some escorted by police, were setting out to deliver 40 generators and tons of dry ice to company stores across the Gulf that had lost power.

Katrina is the biggest natural disaster Wal-Mart has ever had to confront. Initially, 126 of its stores, including 12 in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and two distribution centers were shuttered because they were in Katrina’s direct path. More than half ended up losing power, some were flooded and 89 have reported damage.

But by this past Friday, all but 15 of the idled stores had reopened. From Boutte, La., to Pass Christian, Miss., Wal-Mart frequently beat FEMA by days in getting trucks filled with emergency supplies to relief workers and citizens whose lives were upended by the storm.

Wal-Mart’s speed in responding to Katrina underscores the extent to which it and other big-box retailers like Home Depot Inc. have become key players in responding to natural disasters. Whereas FEMA has to scramble for resources, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has it owns trucks, distribution centers and dozens of stores in most areas of the country. It also has a specific protocol for responding to disasters, and it can activate an emergency command center to coordinate an immediate response. In the short term at least, the hurricane has helped boost Wal-Mart’s tattered image, damaged by a major sex-discrimination suit and allegations that it provides workers stingy pay and benefits.

Its astonishing that some people keep pressing the same old misinformation into service . . .

Source:
At Wal-Mart, Emergency Plan Has Big Payoff
Ann Zimmerman and Valerie Bauerlein
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, September 12, 2005; Page B1
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112648681539237605,00.html

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Incentivizing Your Customers to Steal Your Product

Bob Lefsetz explains to the major labels why they are either incompetant business people, or just plain ol’ dumb:

It’s this kind of stuff that got the labels in trouble in the FIRST PLACE!

Why do these companies feel that their actions have no consequences?
It’s not only record labels, it’s the radio industry too.  They cut the
playlists, added a ton of commercials and what happened??  PEOPLE
STOPPED LISTENING!  Yup, they keep making new people every day, the
population is increasing, but radio listenership is down.

In the nineties the labels released shittier and shittier acts with
only one good track on their CDs that kept going up in price.  The
companies believed they had all the power, that they could DICTATE to
the marketplace.

Wrong.  The customer ALWAYS has the power.  To see P2P services purely
in the context of free is to miss the point.  From the very BEGINNING
of Napster, when fewer people were trading files than today, however
much publicity the practice was receiving, college students were
TESTIFYING!  Albums sucked and were overpriced to boot!  And that they
wanted to acquire music in a new way.

The battle is over.  Apple’s already sold 22 million iPods.  Don’t
expect a fall-off for Christmas.  The iPod Nano will be hotter than any
album released by the Big Four.  iPod users want the file, the CD is
irrelevant, unless it’s used as a ripping device.  WHICH IT CAN NO
LONGER BE!

Instead of looking towards the future, getting AHEAD of the marketplace
and corralling the public in a profit-making venture, the labels want
to keep everybody in the past.  They want to focus on CD sales.  Oh,
Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and the other powers say they BELIEVE in the
digital sphere.  But the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody and Yahoo
Music are INHERENTLY crippled services that the public is not
interested in.  Only a tiny FRACTION of the public utilizes these
services.  Because they don’t deliver what people want, which is much
more USABLE music at a LOW PRICE!  But, these services do one thing the
labels LOVE!  They make the CD look like a good alternative.  This is
like selling
Hyundais with three wheels and saying horse and buggies look good in comparison! 

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Category: Finance, Music