I recently came across Jodi Beggs’s awesome (and tongue in cheek, and that’s a compliment from a site called DQYDJ!) economics site, “Economists Do It With Models“. Perusing her recent history, I came across an article entitled “Adventures in Fact-Checking, GOP Debate Edition” where Jodi fact checked some statements made by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and found them, on the surface, to be false. Fair enough – the candidates both made statements to the effect that Ben Bernanke is the most inflationary Fed Chair ever. Playing fast and loose with the facts is wrong, but I don’t entirely like how Ms. Beggs ranked the Chairmen – by annualized inflation during their term. To explain why I’ll turn to an unlikely (yet, strangely appropriate) place- baseball.
“Oooh-yeah just like this
Come on little miss and do the twist” – Chubby Checker, The Twist
I thought the quote was pretty clever, but you could also attach one of a couple of subtitles on this post: “Why Thomas Sargent Deserves Half the Nobel Prize” or, if you like classic entertainment, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Dance”! Let’s stick with Thomas Sargent, who just won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in the field of “Rational Expectations”. “Rational Expectations” in Economics, as you might guess, refers to the changing expectations of the market (investors, citizens, whomever) to policies that will affect them. Basically, you cannot assume that the reaction to a new policy will have the desired effect.
One of the things we like to do here at Don’t Quit Your Day Job is to reveal interesting things hiding in plain sight. One of those things: subtracting the Daily Treasury Real Yield rate from the Daily Treasury Yield rate gives you a good idea of the market’s expectations of inflation. Even though media prognosticators won’t agree on whether we’re in for a deflationary era, hyperinflation, or a whole lot of nothing, you can get a reasonable prediction from market data. Our explanation is below, along with the limitations of this method.
Well, probably not the death of free checking accounts, but a little hyperbole never killed anyone, right?
DQYDJ already gave you a “view from 35,000 feet” analysis of new debit card transaction caps in our last article, but we wanted to follow it up with something deeper, for those interested in how the sausage is made. We’ve dug into two of the more recent Bank of America investor releases and are ready to share our thoughts on why Bank of America’s move is rational – and you can expect other banks to follow. Yes, likely even online banks and credit unions. However, first up is Citibank, who is eliminating free checking… unless your account is over $6,000.
The San Francisco Bay Area, generally agreed to include the nine California counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma, is one of the wealthiest regions in the United States. From its powerhouse engineering and business schools to the Venture Capital firms in Menlo Park and Palo Alto; from the financial buildings in San Francisco to the tech firms in Silicon Valley, the region has an immense capacity for generating wealth (and a history of massive booms and devastating busts).
There is a part of the Bay Area, which I’ll call the Inner Bay (although I know it is sometimes called the “Real Bay Area”) which has an especially concentrated amount of wealth. That wealth is reflected in home prices which are among the top in the nation. In the Inner Bay, consisting of Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara County, it’s not unheard of for houses around 1,000 square feet to sell for close to a million dollars (or more, in places like Atherton, Saratoga, Los Altos and Palo Alto).
Here at DQYDJ we’ve rambled on recently about the affordability of homes, and even tried to convince you that when mortgage interest rates are low it’s not necessarily a good time to purchase a house. We’ve tried to make the point that affordability in Real Estate seems conditioned on affording payments instead of the actual purchase price of a home. That said, we left our readers hanging by not graphing that affordability with changing interest rates.
For a deeper background, please visit “Rooting for Price Increases and Low Interest Rates” for a description of the DQYDJ Median Home Affordability Index, and “Home Price Affordability Calculator” to play with the affordability numbers yourself.
As educational inflation makes college more and more expensive, there is a curious slide in the SAT scores colleges use as one of the factors in determining who will get admitted into a new class. For years, SAT scores (standing for the Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT scores (standing for American College Testing) have been the final hurdles for High School seniors (and practice for HS juniors) who are looking to go on to college. As a standardized test used by colleges and universities to compare students to each other across a new class, SAT scores are also useful to compare students in various years. SAT scores, which had a clear positive trajectory from 1995 until 2005, started sliding until today. 2011′s average score of 1011 is only one point above the 1995 average of 1010.
Here’s an interesting link, this time brought to you by an Economist piece which asks, “Who are the world’s biggest employers?”. Luckily, they answer. The top spot went to our own United States Department of Defense, with a whopping 3.2 million people on the payroll.
As you may recall, the United States implemented a huge package of stimulus – about $787 billion worth – in 2008, President Obama’s first year in office. Included in that package was a fair amount of temporary tax cut measures, increased funding for programs like unemployment and food stamps, and a large list of spending on various projects identified as “Good Investments”. This is relevant for two reasons. First, President Obama proposed in a recent speech $447 billion in new spending along similar lines to the original stimulus (do the math, that will be $1.2 trillion in ‘stimulus’, not including the plethora of other stimulus programs like Cash for Clunkers) . Second, it is relevant because the Congressional Budget Office recently declared the original stimulus a success based upon the models which were used to propose the stimulus.
Great attention in major media sources has been called to the recent dip in oil prices (CL1Q) which peaked at over $114 per 159 liters of light crude. It is hovering around $94 now, which is a decrease of over 16% from the peak. Traditional thinking claims that gas prices typically peak in the summer months due to more gas being used during holiday travel times such as the 4th of July and Memorial Day (and Earth Day: irony?). One of the recent developments is a claim by OPEC companies that the International Energy Association (IEA) released emergency oil stocks to alter the oil prices. In response, some observers believe that Saudi Arabia will not follow through on their promise to increase oil production by as much as originally claimed (some reading here and here). The confusion as to how each individual country will respond to this creates very different incentives for each of the countries in OPEC.