Financial Review

No Expectations

Financial Review

DOW + 100 = 17,131
SPX + 14 = 1998
NAS + 33 = 4552
10 YR YLD un = 2.59%
OIL + 1.79 = 94.71
GOLD + 2.20 = 1235.90
SILV + .03 = 18.79

Tomorrow the Federal Reserve FOMC wraps up its meeting to determine monetary policy. Even before the Fed issues a statement, the financial press is dissecting every phrase and utterance of every Fed policymaker, and trying to impart conflated significance to every twitch of an eyebrow or overstuffed briefcase. It’s pretty simple really; not much has changed over the past couple of months; the Fed is on track to end the large scale asset purchases under QE; the Fed will raise rates at some point, unless something drastic changes; the nuances of language are inconsequential. There, I’ve just condensed about 100 articles into about 100 words, and you didn’t miss anything. You’re welcome.

Today, China jumped on the QE bandwagon. The People’s Bank of China will print about 500 billion yuan, which works out to about $81 billion. They will hand out the money to the five largest banks in China. That money will eventually make its way into the financial markets. Considering the cost of printing 500 billion yuan…,

US producer prices were flat in August. The Labor Department said falling gasoline and food prices restrained its producer price index for final demand last month. The PPI moved up just 0.1% in July. For the past 12 months the producer prices increased 1.7%. The PPI last month was dampened by a 1.4 percent decline in gasoline prices, which followed a 2.1 percent fall in July. Food prices slipped 0.5 percent after rising 0.4 percent a month earlier. Prices received for services at the final demand level increased 0.3 percent after rising 0.1 percent in July. A 1.7 percent increase in prices for loan services accounted for more than 20 percent of last month’s increase.

A report from the Census Bureau showed median household income edged up just $180 last year to $51,939, a gain deemed statistically insignificant. This is the second consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive annual declines. Income at the median, meaning half the country earned more and half earned less, has declined nearly $5,000 since 2007. The share of Americans living in poverty fell for the first time since 2006, dropping a half percentage point to 14.5 percent. The Hispanic population registered the biggest decline.

Nevertheless, the poverty rate was still 2 percentage points higher than it was seven years earlier. The small drop in the poverty rate can be attributed to the increase in full-time employment. There were about 60.8 million men and 45.1 million women working full time in 2013. That meant 1.8 million men and 1 million women found full-time jobs. Currently, there are 118.6 million full-time workers in the US, that’s a 2 million increase since August of 2013. There are still big gaps between the races, and also gender inequality; women earn 78 cents per every dollar that men did; that works out to a difference of about $10,800 per year. The nation’s level of income inequality continues to be the highest of any Western industrialized nation and worse than even El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and India.

About one in five children live in poverty. The US is already ranked 34 out of 35 developed countries for child poverty, according to the UN Children’s Fund. There is some good news, however. The overall poverty rate for US children did fall, to 19.9% in 2013 from 21.8% in 2012.

According to a new survey by, one in three Americans worry about money all the time. The survey found that more people were worried about finances than death or losing a family member. Paying bills and asking other people for money back were the top two most dreaded tasks. Survey respondents age 45 and up, most of them baby boomers and are either retired or planning for retirement, said their biggest financial fear was never being able to get out of debt. Millennials were far more worried about unemployment, according to the survey. About 17.1% of 18-to-19-year-olds are unemployed and 10.6% of 20-to-24-years old are unemployed.

More Americans have health insurance. The latest numbers come from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which polled more than 27,000 people during the first three months of the year. Forty-one million U.S. residents, or 13.1 percent, were uninsured during the quarter when benefits started to kick in for people who signed up for coverage into private insurance or Medicaid via the Obamacare exchanges or elsewhere. That’s the lowest number and percentage of uninsured people since the CDC started using this version of its survey in 1997. It’s also down 3.8 million people and 1.3 percentage points from the end of 2013. The Congressional Budget Office projects 12 million people will gain health insurance by year’s end.

The US military conducted its first airstrike in Iraq yesterday as part of an expanded mission announced last week by President Barack Obama. The new phase of the campaign began with US planes striking a single fighting position set up by ISIS militants that was firing on Iraqi security forces southwest of Baghdad. Now, you’re probably thinking this is not the first airstrike, and it is not; the US has already carried out at least 162 air strikes in recent weeks, unleashing more than 250 bombs and missiles on ISIS targets. Previously, the military was limited to strikes designed to assist with humanitarian missions, such as driving militants from Sinjar, or to defend Iraqi infrastructure, or to protect US personnel and facilities. So, this is the first military airstrike. It won’t be the last.

Pentagon leadership suggested to a Senate panel today that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against ISIS, despite president Obama’s repeated public assurances against boots on the ground. Wow, that was fast. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from ISIS.

The Russian ruble fell again today; fallout from the sanctions announced last week combined with lower oil prices. Since then there’s a self-perpetuating dynamic, there’s nothing supporting the currency. Ukraine’s president has offered parts of the country’s separatist east limited self-rule for three years under the terms of a peace plan reached with Russia. Looks like Russia won. They wanted a buffer. They have no interest in owning Ukraine as long as they can control it. The Ukrainian government admits that it does not have enough fuel to heat homes and keep factories running through the winter. Peace sounds better than freezing.

One of the strange sidebar stories on the Russia-Ukraine-sanctions story, is what might happen to the International Space Station. Currently, US astronauts hitch a ride on Russian rockets. NASA has chosen SpaceX and the Boeing Corporation to build spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. The agency will award a combined $6.8 billion to the firms for the first phase of the program.

Governments of all sizes are demanding that Google hand over more and more data about its users; we know this because Google publishes a report on the data it turns over. The report is a tally of all the times a government has used its legal authority to demand that Google hand over internal data about the people who use Google products like Gmail, YouTube or its namesake search engine.

This is the 10th time Google has released numbers on government data requests. Each time, the number of requests has risen sharply, reflecting Google’s growth as a company as well as governments’ increasing use of the company’s data in criminal investigations. The roughly 32,000 requests Google fielded in the first six months of 2014 were up 15 percent from the previous six months, and up 150 percent since the company started publishing its transparency report in 2009. The growth was faster in the United States, with 19 percent growth in the first half of 2014 versus the previous six months, and up 250 percent since 2009.

The world is pumping carbon dioxide into the air at the fastest rate since 1984. Last month was the hottest August on record. The superlatives say it all: We’re running out of time to avoid climate change’s most disastrous consequences. So, why don’t we see more action on the issue? The main problem we are looking at among the leaders of countries and business communities is a general perception that taking action on climate change will reduce economic growth, reduce creation of jobs, and generally speaking it will be expensive.

But a new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate casts doubt on that idea, declaring that the necessary fixes could wind up being effectively free. The commission found that some $90 trillion is likely to be spent over the coming 15 years on new infrastructure around the world. If the $90 trillion that will be spent globally on cities, agriculture, and energy systems in the next 15 years is invested in low-carbon infrastructure and technology, economies actually will save money. The investment would generate $5 trillion in savings from factors like lower operating costs for renewable energy sources (versus fossil fuels) and increased energy efficiency, making this the cheaper option in the long run. And that’s before you calculate the benefits of avoiding disastrously high levels of CO2.

Perhaps the most important overall point of the report is that economic policies around the world are still aligned to favor fossil fuels. The commission cited the more than $600 billion a year spent to subsidize fossil fuels, more than six times the level of subsidies going to renewable energy.

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