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Thoughts From the Frontline, May 2009

This Way There Be Dragons

May 29, 2009

In fantasy novels the intrepid heroes come across a sign saying "This Way Be Dragons." Of course, they venture on, facing calamity and death, but such is the nature of fantasy novels. We live in a very real world, and if we don't turn around there will be some very nasty dragons in our future. This week we look at three possible paths we can lead the world down. We then review a number of charts and data on the housing market.

If you just read the headlines on this week's data, you could be...

The Paradox of Deficits

May 23, 2009

From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-leggedy beasties

And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

--Old Scottish Prayer

There is something that is bumping around in my worry closet. The bond market is not behaving as if there is deflation in our future, and the dollar is getting weaker. Unemployment keeps rising, but most of all, the US government deficit looks to be spinning out of control. This week we look at all of this and take a tour around the world to see what is...

Faith-Based Economics

May 15, 2009

Why does government data need to be revised so often? Is it conspiracy, as some claim, or is it methodology? And if it is methodology that leads to faulty data, then why not change the methodology? Is unemployment a lagging indicator, as conventional wisdom suggests? We look again at the underlying assumptions to suggest that things are not always the same. And finally, we look at unsustainable trends, fiscal deficits, and health care -- there is a connection.

But first, a quick note about the...

Green Shoots or Dandelion Weeds?

May 8, 2009

Go to Google. Type in "green shoots." In about a 10th of a second you will find 28,900,000 references. Scrolling through a few pages, you find a lot of references to the beginning of the end of the recession. Today we look at some data to see if we can indeed see the end. Most readers will be surprised to know that the number of people employed in the US went up (!) in April. Yet so did the unemployment rate. Is that green shoot just another dandelion weed in our economic garden?

We'll jump...

Sell in May and Go Away

May 1, 2009

The old adage that one should "sell in May and walk away" has been around for years. I mentioned that bromide about this time last year, urging readers to head for the sidelines if they had not already done so. I was also suggesting a strategic retreat in August of 2006 (after which the markets went up 20% before plummeting). In this week's letter we look at the actual data and offer up a fresh viewpoint. Then we turn our eyes to the recent GDP numbers, which were awful, though many took...