Long time readers of Thoughts from the Frontline will be familiar with the name The Liscio Report. It is one of my "secret" sources of high quality analysis on a wide range of topics including taxes, employment and the underpinnings of the economic headlines that we read which can be so distorted. I say secret because they get nowhere near the attention their work deserves. Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood, authors of The Liscio Report, do actual on the phone conversations with each of the various states on their tax collections, employment and so on. I find their primary research to be invaluable. Their real time proprietary research based on state withholding and sales tax receipts gives their clients a unique insight into the state of the US economy.
I have talked them into letting me send out their most recent letter, which I found very informative. While their work is not inexpensive ($7,500 annually), for hedge funds, banks, proprietary trading desks and those who need to know what is actually happening as opposed to whatever spin is being put out in the press, you should check them out at www.theliscioreport.com.
And before we jump into their report, I feel the need to comment on the revelations this last week about Lehman and what looks like can only be called fraud. How much more of this is going on? Regulators now have a road map to know what to look for. Auditors are now on notice that this lack of transparency and cooking the books at quarter's end must not be condoned.
And while we re on the topic of transparency, for God's sake, can't we get credit default swaps on an exchange before they blow us all up again? Please? Someone? Anyone? It's been two years. It's what brought Bear and Lehman down. Bluntly, the reason the banks oppose this is that the commissions for an OTC credit default swap are astronomical when compared to what will become a $10 commission on an exchange.
OK, I'll now stop my rant, and allow you to enjoy The Liscio Report. Have a great week.
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
Revenues stabilizing, though it helps to be rich
The Liscio Report
In February, 56% of the states in our survey met or exceeded their forecasted sales tax collections, up from 50% in January, and 13% reported positive collections over the year, down from 30% in January. Our intensity index, over-the-year rate of change weighted by state population, was –2.33%, about even with January's –2.28%, and the aggregated divergence…