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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Close To Caving In

Ya know, folks, my forecast for a second half strengthening isn't looking very wise.

Crude inventories:
Total products supplied over the last four-week period has averaged about 18.7 million barrels per day, down by 2.9 percent compared to the similar period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied has averaged nearly 9.0 million barrels per day, down by 2.3 percent from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied has averaged about 3.8 million barrels per day over the last four weeks, down by 2.9 percent from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied is 2.1 percent higher over the last four weeks compared to the same four-week period last year.
Oh, she does not like that diesel number. She does not. She is whimpering and groaning and holding her head. There is pain, there is suffering, there is grief and worry and sorrow.

This syndrome is somewhat alleviated by knowing that a bunch of oil speculators are about to get their financial skulls crushed, but only somewhat. For every bruise they get, someone is sitting hungry and cold in the dark. Ah, some levels of stupidity are truly sinful. Refinery utilization was up to 83.7%.

Over the last ten days I have seen some signs of real stress in groceries. We only have about four more weeks before the game is over; if we can't pull out before the third week of June, there may not be enough left to get us through into the second half.

Right now, second quarter GDP is looking grim. Really grim! There should be some blippage from the impact of the flooding, but we are on very, very, VERY thin economic ice.

If you are in a good mood, you might want to read this hilariously stupid NY Times article. They think the gas/FICA tax cuts just even out. Even for the NY Times, this is stupid. It could not be more stupid; they have ascended the apex of stupidity.

The Consumer Index folks whom I watch showed a serious rolling over occurred in April as gas prices kept going up. Things snapped back a decent amount when Osama was caught and oil seemed to have finally broke. But since then things have flat-lined at the Feb/March level.

From watching it for over a year now, the typical pattern is a severe drop followed by a bounce as it seems people kind of figure out how bad it is and decided it's safe to make some of their deferred discretionary purchasing, but after each drop the bounce back is to a lower level.

So, as I've said over and over the geniuses at the Fed have spent $600B to goose the stock market some 30% for the upper-class and as a side-effect have drained at least $600B, but I should do the math, as dollars have left the country to pay for commodities on the backs of the middle-class and poor.

And if the stock market tanks following the cessation of QE2, what will they have to show for their $600B?
Our March business was very strong. However, everyone increased prices by about 5% on April 1. While April was another strong month, May has fallen off a cliff. New sales are dead but service is king of the hill right now. Right about the time gas hit $4/gal here in Illinois the phone traffic took a big hit.
Anon - I try to pretend it's not happening, but the gears clashed in April, and now it seems we are decelerating.

Allan - Yeah. It's the mass of the country that is feeling the bite in their pocketbooks.

Chance isn't helping us, and it may well cause weakness to turn into something more serious. Japan, tornadoes, floods - they are not the whole story, but they are further negatives landing on top of a loadbearing economic structure that's losing altitude.
April 15th took a lot of money out of the economy
at the wrong time.
Our retail business saw a nasty drop-off after April 15.

If spork is right, this would be the second downturn I can think of that was precipitated (though not necessarily caused) by tax day. In 2000, the tech stocks started crashing irretrievably when all those paper-wealthy, financially-naive engineering employees were suddenly made aware that they owed tens of thousands in taxes on options that were under water, and had to sell vested holdings to pay up. (Not me, I was working in an unfashionable corner of the economy at the time, but I knew a number of people caught in this bind.)

April 15 is an illogical discontinuity in our economy.
I'd bet a lot of the apparent spike in spending in March and Early April was from people who calculated they were going to owe on April 15 and so bought some "business-expenseable" items to cut their tax bill down a bit.

Not that I would know anything specific about this, just speculating. Yeah, speculating... like a pension fund.
The wife works for Fortune 500 co in technology. They have put tighter restrictions on travel before, but it ratcheted them up tighter recently. No offsite meetings with company personnel only, ANY plane ticket purchased less than 14 days out has to go 3 levels up for approval (even on sales calls). They are also discontinuing company smartphones for anyone below VP, with only a small number of exceptions. Revenue growth is extremely hard to come by.
Charles Kiting,

"Not that I would know anything specific about this, just speculating. Yeah, speculating... like a pension fund."

If I was speculating, I'd be looking to invest in ProShares Ultra Economist Confusion (assuming such a fund could be made available).

UK unemployment: what the economists say

"City economists, familiar with the concept of jobless growth, are confused by Britain's growthless jobs"
Please do not indicate that they have ascended the Apex of stupidity, or they will do their best to prove you wrong.
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