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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisconsin And Other Financial Stories

Wisconsin: Okay, one of the big battles is over arbitration rules that may sometimes be skewed in the union's favor, and the WEA Trust. The WEA Trust is an insurance company set up by the union; a lot of teachers' contracts require the school boards to purchase its insurance. Which can be pricey. Walker's speech up at Althouse.

WEA Trust: Blog with pro and con references. Another post. Some numbers by one of those independent taxpayer-type associations. What WEA Trust says about it. Scott Niederjohn's article about it.

I didn't find WEAIC on the HHS Obamacare waiver list, but man, there sure are a lot of union plans on that list. Many of these started with the best of intentions, but money does tend to stick around at the union management level. Sometimes the fund pays bargaining fees or acquisition premiums to unions; sometimes it's a touch more subtle, such as the premium money going through the union into the welfare fund with the union getting the "extra" (individuals who chose cheaper coverage). I suspect that there are so many union plans (this is for the waiver on annual coverage) not because union plans are worse but because they got the waivers first and had "outreach" assisting them.

In other economic news. the last pollyannas have given up trying to claim that home prices in the US are recovering. They are not. Nor is commercial real estate recovering. Both apparent rebounds were statistical artifacts. In residential, the housing tax credit had a lot to do with it.

FHLB Pittsburgh made a profit!! Unaudited. :Lower MBS losses, so it's not all bad.

Existing Home Sales rose YoY; home prices dropped YoY, most especially in the west. Actual reports at this link, if you care. Condo prices fell much harder than single-family. Not surprisingly, condo sales rose much more than single-family. This is all about incomes now; the affordability is pretty good, but fewer persons qualify for the lower-priced mortgages or even any mortgage. Average mortgage rates did drop to 5%, though, and MBA apps came up.

Economically, energy prices now outweigh just about every other factor. In particular, Italy's oil supply is very dependent on Libya. The Italian exchange crashed and then didn't open on technical issues. There is a lot of Libyan cross investment in Italian companies compounding the problem. Italy's debt problems are now accentuated. US oil stocks are still very strong; Brent is trading at an awful premium to WTI.

I don't think anyone believes that the ME problems will be temporary. The Saudi King is handing out lots and lots of dough; perhaps Saudi will pump more oil to pay for it, although if the House of Saud can hang on it's going to be getting an economic windfall from the disruptions.

This sort of thing is very good for US Treasuries, and one can see the effect both in short and long yields this week. The wit and wisdom of Stephen Leacock are still relevant. Bund yields are moving both up because of the inflation issues and down because of a gallop to safety; the press is on for rate increases.

The picture for European banks is getting steadily worse; the fundamentals for the individual entities have to be carefully watched. (One wonders if this criminal isn't making an epistemological statement, although bank robbers are not known for their philosophical musings.) The leadership change at Bundesbank just adds a little more uncertainty to the mix; Merkel's candidate will probably support her desire to extend bailouts. However, all the bailout fervor collapses with Italy, and I do not think that Italy will recover. I think Italy needs to resume the lira, although it has plenty of time. It will not do it until considerably later.

The Canadian dollar will probably be helped again, although the strength of the loonie is not helping Canucks export to the US. Industrial metals are falling in price; buyers are taking the energy worries quite seriously.

I have been laughing myself nearly into a coma at the US NY Times/WaPo Axis of Idiocy as they try to portray what is happening in Wisconsin as somehow significant, or in any way parallel to the 1848-sh wave in the ME. It is not. By the Leacockian standard, I guess this qualifies US Treasuries a very good buy indeed, because our national leadership and punditry appears to be drunken fools who are unequivocally citizens of the United States of America.

I think the biggest thing WI shows is how good the Dems are at propaganda. People seem to take their statements at face value and don't even bother to do any research. We're back to my argument that we need someone out there with charts to explain what is really going on.
Is it Democrats or is it the press?

It's quite hard to find facts nowadays. I've been watching the actions in a number of Dem states, and they are actually a lot harsher than say, in NJ under Christie.

It's not reported.
It's the press in general. They only print press releases nowadays, the number of actual reporters is so small. It's worse on TV - they send someone outside to essentially read a press release - the illusion of reporting. But the blame goes to the editors who pick and choose which press releases to re-publish/broadcast.

And that makes your question a distinction without a difference. Fox News and WSJ stick out like sore thumbs, not because their credibility is any better or worse (it is exactly the same) but because they chooses to re-publish/broadcast different press releases.

That's why I don't call them reporters anymore, I call them reparrots.
I don't know. Is Michael Moore the press? Huffington report? I've seen links from both of them posted in Facebook, that other place we get our news these days.
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