Monthly Archives: March 2010

Analysts: Wall Street, not Main Street, driving up oil prices

Here’s a report from MSNBC on the current state of oil pricing. Seems your friendly hedge fund and pension fund are why you’re paying more at the pump.

Your thoughts?

Welcome to the new century: Internet overtakes TV

Here’s evidence of a paradigm shift in action, from research by ratings company Arbitron:

“For the first time more people would choose to eliminate television from their lives than the Internet if they were forced to choose.  Just over 49 percent said they would eliminate television, compared to a little over 48 percent who said eliminate the Internet.

“When we first asked this question in 2001, the spread was 72 percent for eliminating Internet and 26 percent for eliminating television – the shift over these nine years has been steady and profound” said Edison Research president Larry Rosin. Bill Rose, senior vice president of marketing at Arbitron added, “If you look at those Persons under age 45 the gap towards eliminating television is much greater.”

Financial reform moves through Senate

Here’s a little recap from the Washington Post on the Senate’s progress with financial reform.

I got a special chuckle out of the reference to capitalizing on public anger over Wall Street excesses.

I guess Chris Dodd and his Beltway Boys haven’t been reading this blog.

And in a related development, I’ve just polished off “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, and watched a couple of his television appearances. Suffice to say that Mr. Lewis hasn’t softened my hardened view of Wall Street bankers.

“Inside the financial world, there is a [mind-set of] ‘please stop us before we kill again,’” Lewis said.

Here’s a piece from the Motley Fool on Lewis, whose take on the aforementioned excesses is pretty interesting.

Poll: 82 percent of Americans favor Wall Street crackdown

According to Reuters, a Harris poll shows strong support for tighter regulation of Wall Street.

Your thoughts?

More citizens are not taxpayers

The Tax Foundation reports that 51.6 million filers didn’t pay any taxes in 2009, a record, and many of them got a little something back. The way the tax schedules now read, a family of four can now make over $50,000 and not owe any taxes if they take the standard deduction and child tax credits. According to the foundation:

“The number of nonpayers has increased by 59 percent in less than a decade, growing from 32.6 million in 2000 to 51.6 million in 2008. In the same time period, the total number of tax filers grew by only 10 percent.

The Tax Foundation’s point: as more people don’t pay taxes, the more people who won’t care as government spending goes up.

Fox proposes regulations on henhouse

I love irony.

Especially this little piece of news from Bloomberg.

Enjoy.

Job openings turn up in January

The number of job openings nationwide was 2.1 percent in January, up slightly from the month before — it’s good news for the economy and the highest rate in nearly a year, although it’s still a very low rate. The sectors ahead from a year ago were leading edge sectors construction and manufacturing. The big losers were trailing edge sectors retail, professional services and state/local government.

Cost of March Madness for American businesses: $1.8 billion

Millions of office workers across America will keep at least one eye on the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, which starts next week. Outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas estimates that look, at 20 minutes per person, will cost employers $1.8 billion in lost productivity.

Want to know why the banks screamed when overdraft fees were outlawed?

US banks made $38 billion off overdraft and insufficient funds fees last year — $38 billion!! — an average of $376 per household, according to bank consulting firm Bretton Woods. That’s up 10 percent from 2008 and 27 percent from 2005.  After July 1 people will have to volunteer for the high-cost loans to cover insufficient funds.

The company figures this will also eliminate about $6 billion in short-term credit. Could this be a bonanza for payday loan places?

Annual housing forecast released Friday

Stan Longhofer and the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate will release their 2010 housing market forecast on Friday.  See Friday’s Eagle and Kansas.com for a full recap of the findings.

It’ll be interesting to see if Longhofer thinks the local market is ready to stand on its own without the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit and the $6,500 credit for five-year homeowners.

Good News: Job cuts hit lowest point since 2006

National ouplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports today that the number of job cuts has dropped to its lowest level since June 2006. That’s half the battle. The bad news is that eocnomists are calling for slow recovery this year, in the 2.5-3 percent range. That means relatively little new hiring as companies continue to work their existing work forces a bit harder, hiring only here and there. The unemployment rate has been projected by many to remain above 9 percent through the year.