Economics Update

It’s a heavy news day. I know this because I was not sure whether or not consumer confidence falling to its lowest level ever recorded, and the Conference Board’s sentiment index began in 1967.

Economists were predicting an increase from 44.9 to 45.5.

This probably explains why the International Council of Shopping Centers says that this has been the weakest holiday sales season since 1970.

Well, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index fell 18% from October 2007 to October 2008, so the index is now at March 2004 levels, and by all indications, it’s still headed down.

Will the last realtor please turn off the lights?

Finally, in 4th place in the competition for which story should be the lede, we have
assets in mutual funds falling 3% in November, they are down 22.7% since December 2007.

What we are seeing here is a slow run on mutual funds by investors who are fleeing to quality.

Banks are fleeing to quality too, with banks cutting lending this year by 55%, to the lowest level since 1994.

In currency, Russia has devalued the ruble again, it’s now down about 18.6% from its peak.

The dollar fell again against the Yen and Euro, though it rose against the Pound, largely because the UK appears to be in worse shape than the US.

I wonder if this might give additional impetus for the UK to move from the Pound to the Euro.

The fall of both the USD and the Pound are largely because of “quantitative easing”, otherwise called printing money, by the central banks.

One bit of financial news that surprises me is that the
Israeli Shekel just had it’s biggest pop vs. the dollar in 10 years, and this was despite the fact that the central bank cut its benchmark rate by 75 basis points (¾%).

The claim is that it’s year end repatriation of profits that drove the Shekel up, but my guess is that it’s people who think that the current fighting will calm things down in the short term (3-18 months) and are trying to flip the currency for a quick buck.

In energy, both oil and retail gasoline were down today, and this picture is from today. (Click picture for link)

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