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Friday, April 20, 2012

Rail Better

Rail is improved this week. Carloads YTD are down 3.1% over the year, total ton-miles are down 2.3%, and intermodal is up 2.4%.

The impact of last year's Japanese disaster is showing up in YTD negative carloads - this week negative categories are only 7 out of 20.

I'm concerned about the growing weakness in trailers in the intermodal category, now down 9.1% over the year. These tend to be associated with exports. 

Crude inventories are high, but YoY four week comparisons are improving. Distillate is only down by half a percent YoY on a four week basis. When you look at actual levels the weakness is quite evident, but the YoYs are improving because economic activity was so adversely impacted last year.

This lends some more credence to my optimistic trucking links. If I were right in my hopes for a skipping recession this year, you'd see exactly this sort of thing.

However if I were right in my hopes for a skipping recession this year, you should not be seeing the weakness in retail and temp employment, nor the claims. We can stand a short period of that without too many additional negative correlations, but will it be short? It depends on how hard they have to cut to maintain some profitability.

My tentative two month resistance level on the 10 year Treasury yield is now 1.88%. Money's got to go somewhere, and there isn't much left anywhere else.The Fed backstop doesn't function at all on the lower levels.

The radio advertising is highly recessionary in the NE, especially on autos. It's "fog-the-mirror" time for many dealerships.

Note: The Establishment indicators that I watch closely when underlying circs warrant are these:

Out of curiosity, why would intermodal trailers be correlated with exports? Those are generally delivered near the intermodal yard, not put on a ship. Is that traffic largely components for manufacturers or something?
The stuff being shipped in is mostly in containers. Domestic production mostly start in trailers.

All I know is that it does seem to correlate with goods exports. Maybe it's really a marker at this point for domestic production?
That seems most likely, given the correlation.
I just returned from visiting a new Cabella's super store that just opened near us. Friday AM in the worst recession since the Depression and...........the parking lot is over filled, the store is wall to wall customers filling up carts, and the gun sales are frantic.

I'm asking myself, "Why?" You can buy any of the stuff they sell there either on line or in the many outdoor stores this region is well serviced by. Where is the money coming from? And it's Friday. Doesn't anyone work anymore? It's anecdotal evidence. Not as good as charts of data, but with $5 gasoline does it add up? I don't know what to make of it.

Camping/hiking season is coming. That might have something to do with it. If it's a new location for Cabela's, that can bring a crowd.

Firearms sales are through the roof. I've heard multiple reasons for this, ranging from the sharp increase in concealed carry permits (just 'cause it's becoming socially acceptable) to some grimmer reasons. From conversations I've had, I think it's partly just that people with money are spending it on durable items while the money is still worth something.

According to rumor, ammo sales are up because of the increase in gun owners, the military and law enforcement are supposedly increasing their stocks, and inflation/political concerns.

Out of curiosity, were the firearms sales more long arms or pistols?
Cabelas' stores are basically a theme park built around the gear they sell. One went in near me about 7 years ago; there was a giant fish tank full of game species, a wing of taxidermized trophy big game, a shooting gallery etc etc. Could spend a couple of hours in there and not spend anything. While there, though, chances are you'll see something and make an impulse purchase.
The other thing about Cabelas stores is their product appeals to all income levels. One person might walk out with a few bucks of fishing gear; another might have just bought $10K of gear for an Alaskan bear hunt.
The gun sales were more of the long gun variety. They have a department where they do a background check while you shop. About every two minutes they were calling people's names on the PA. Amazed me.

I sold my last gun in 1985 because I was through hunting and didn't see reason to own one for self protection. I'm now looking to buy a shot gun and a hand gun - mostly as investments. But I can see the fun and practicality in going out and doing some target practice. Lord knows I've got the time. Break in crime is increasing all over the Puget Sound. Never hurts to be prepared.

I'd never been in a Cabelas before. Used to get their catalogue, which was a monster. It is as Scott describes - a giant man cave amusement park. I will go back.

There is, naturally, a generational component to this, too.

The renewed interest in owning or carrying firearms for protection is probably a function of an aging population to a certain extent. Young guys figure they'll just whoop an attacker. Old guys aren't so sure. Me, I'm starting to wonder.

Really? Break-in crime rising? That seems suicidal.
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Break-in crime is rising everywhere, especially in more rural areas. Even pick-up robberies (in which somebody drives up in a truck while you're not there and steals whatever) is rising.

As soon as people get robbed once they stop feeling secure; the second time they buy guns. Cuts to police forces in some areas have left people aware that they can't possibly expect coverage.

Also young women seem to be more into it, especially carrying concealed.

I think the events of 9/11 changed perspectives and events since have reiterated the lesson.

The stupid Mexican caper left everyone aware that some of the government would do almost anything to change the legal environment for guns, which is another boost.

Lastly, the way the Martin/Zimmerman thing has gone down is going to give it another boost.

You just can't let a group - even if that group is mostly just talk - announce a bounty on a private citizen's head and not have the federal government be seen to intervene. About a week after that hit Drudge, the geezers in all the areas hit by the 60s riots started arming up. Gun control in the US is over for another generation.

Spending on high-end, especially collectibles, has plummeted due to the recession. I know this because one of my brothers tracks it and tells me.

But spending on lower level guns is through the roof and will continue to be. Also interest in hunting is up.

I spent a very interesting few hours on Youtube a couple of weeks ago. I ran into a line of videos really marketing CCW holsters for women. There's money in this.
Neil said, "Really? Break-in crime rising? That seems suicidal."

It may seem that way, but people in the People's Republic are not that well armed. Mostly birkenstock wearing, granola eating, peace at any price libs.
The two most common break ins are home invasions of older people and waves of break ins by thieves that case a neighborhood, then do a wave a robberies of the houses they deem most vulnerable.

It has branched out from the innner cities of Seattle and Tacoma to the suburbs. My little farm town is reasonably peaceful, but we have a large population of latinos with associated gang activities. About one gang related shooting a month. There are areas of this small burg that I avoid because that's where the shootings mostly occur.

Maybe I am feeling more paranoid as I get older. These are unsettled times and the Feds are not helping with their uneven enforcement of the law ie not doing anything about the wanted, dead or alive posters and the New Balck Panther Party's activities.
Re "unequal enforcement of law"

In local news, Denver was hoping to head off another round of "Occupy" by making it illegal to camp (tents/ sleeping bags) around the Capitol and Civic Center areas. Right on cue the whiners chime in "But that's like declaring WAR on the HOMELESS!"
The Police Dept then volunteered that of course they wouldn't arrest The Homeless, they'd refer them off to various kinds of social services, etc. The thing that hit me: it's ALREADY NORMALIZED to apply the law to some and not to others. It's mainstream. The USA has already reverted to jungleball: certain laws for you, other laws for me and mine, and let's both get behind the idea of whole DIFFERENT laws for those other guys in the corner.

In fairness, it's always been that way. Drug laws, for example, were never intended to be applied to white suburbanites smoking white drugs. Ditto for firearms regulation, when it was first enacted.

What's different is that the inequality was always something slightly shameful, something which had to be rationalized. Now they want to make it the ideal to which we aspire.
Jimmy J.,

"I sold my last gun in 1985 because I was through hunting and didn't see reason to own one for self protection. I'm now looking to buy a shot gun and a hand gun - mostly as investments. But I can see the fun and practicality in going out and doing some target practice. Lord knows I've got the time. Break in crime is increasing all over the Puget Sound. Never hurts to be prepared."

June 23, 2010
Personal Safety

"When I turned bearish in the summer of 2004 I thought it would be a good idea to buy gold and silver. I didn't just stop there though. I figured a handgun could serve two purposes. First, a decent one is collectible and should hold its value. Second, well, you know.

I no longer own the gold and silver. I still have the 1911. It just sits in a safe in the garage. I have no great desire to move it to my night stand unless the economy really heads downhill (which I obviously hope never happens). I continue to believe that locks, a dog, a big jammer or two, and my girlfriend's cell phone are far better forms of defense. I'm one of the few (perhaps only) people in my neighborhood to actually lock the gates to the backyard. This even after at least a few houses near me were robbed? Go figure."

I live in the Puget Sound area. Small world.
A_Nonny - That's not legal, you know. It can't survive a court challenge, but then all the police really want is something to cover them to haul the OWS people off and destroy the encampments, after which they will probably let them loose.

Still, it's this sort of thing which is a big threat to everyone's civil rights. The fact that an official could even say that in public ... we're all quite correct to respond with concern.

Neil's right. A lot of our "control" laws have been passed with the view of application toward some particular undesirable group. But so far, the courts have rarely gone along with that.
Instapundit had a nice link this week about an 89 year old woman that chased a robber off by firing at him. And I can come up with several links of women bloggers that are now gun owners. In all cases, they seem to have gotten guns after a confrontation witha man or groups of men. Gun ownership is becoming more acceptable for women and I suspect that also accounts for some of the increase. There is a fair amount of hostility out there towards women. (I got my concealed weapons permit after a guy tried to force me into a wreck by refusing to allow me to pass him or drop behind him on the highway. I also have had a guy stop on the highway in front of me and get out of his car to scream at me. ). The news media also likes to play up scary home invasion stories, especially magazines targeted towards women. I don't have much in the way of guns these days but have been considering something for home protection.

And I've driven by that Cabelas on the way to visit the grandson in Tacoma. Do you think there are enough of us here to change WA state politics?
Vote McKenna and any other Rs on the ballot. I know its not exactly inspiring, but lookat what we've got now. Heading for California-like governance if we can't change.
Having spent the last three years fighting DNR, I think it's already too late. The beaureaucrats are in charge and can do pretty much whatever they want. You might think that the courts have final say on interpreting the law but they exist to sign off on whatever the Department wants. I guess I expected that property owners and taxpayers would get fair treatment but right now, I'd say that the only way this will change is to clear out some state employees and see if we can't find new ones that understand the concept of public service.
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