The spate of good news about the economy, headed up by the National Association of Realtors (NAR)’s report that pending home sales increased by 7.3 percent in November from October, has resulted in improved outlooks by many observers, along with warnings from others not to get overly confident.
China is the largest producer of rare earth elements, or “rare earths, “which are important for many sophisticated technology applications. In fact, it has been estimated that China has 97 percent of the current production of these elements. The Chinese government has restricted exports of these rare earths and at least part of the reason appears to be to push up the price of the rare earths on the international market, and closely related to that was the goal of giving Chinese manufacturers a competitive advantage in international markets by giving these operations lower production costs of the rare earths that they use.
One of the most erroneous and harmful ideas of our time is the notion that free-enterprise capitalism and the society upon which it is based are incompatible with the moral standards of Christianity. Indeed, one of the main drivers of the Occupy Wall Street movement is its condemnation of “corporate greed.” And before the Occupy Wall Street crowd got going, Michael Moore was condemning free-enterprise capitalism in his spurious 2009 documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. In one scene, Moore, one of those so-called limousine liberals who have profited very handsomely in our free-enterprise economy, asked a couple of religious leaders about capitalism. They both agreed that capitalism is “evil,” without explaining exactly why. Presumably, we are supposed to understand that Moore provides the explanation throughout the film. (One cannot help but wonder how many religious personages Moore had to interview, in order to get the responses he used.)
The results of a survey by the Associated Press of 36 Keynesian economists — economists who believe that government is the driving force behind a strong economy — are in: President Obama received just “mediocre marks” for his handling of the economy since his inauguration on January 20, 2009. Half of those surveyed rated his performance as “fair” while 13 rated it as “poor.” The remaining five gave the president a rating of “good.” None rated his performance as “excellent.”
Following a less-than-spectacular holiday shopping season, two 20th century mainstays of America’s retailing culture appear to be a step closer to historical nostalgia. As reported by the Associated Press, the parent company of Sears and K-Mart announced that it is planning to close at least 100 stores, “a move that sparked speculation about whether the 125-year-old retailer can avoid a death spiral fed by declining sales and deteriorating stores.” AP reported that Sears Holdings Corp., “a pillar of American retailing that famously began with a mail-order catalog in the 1880s, declared Tuesday that it would no longer prop up ‘marginally performing’” Sears and K-Mart locations.
According to economist Mark J. Perry a consumer doing some Christmas shopping in December 1964 with a budget of $750 could have purchased a single Sears Silvertone Entertainment Center color television set.
Zachary Karabell, writing at The Daily Beast on Thursday, claimed that the latest numbers on the US’s economy were showing some modest improvement. After reviewing comments from the Federal Reserve in their final statement of the year (the economy is “expanding moderately”), the Institute for Supply Management (index above 50 for several months, indicating growth), the Gross Domestic Product numbers (growing at about 2 percent on an annual basis), unemployment (dropping slightly), and consumer sentiment (up a little), Karabell concluded “The real dirty little secret of the American economy is that we are doing OK.”
Conservative economist Robert Higgs' (pictured at left) warnings about the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Dependence on Government were already outdated when they were published on Thursday. The updated statistics from Heritage for 2011, published the next day, showed the situation in the United States to be even worse than Higgs warned.
When Kyle Bass defended his decision on BBC Radio Hard Talk on November 17th to purchase 20 million nickels, he was just putting Gresham’s Law into operation. Bass, the founder and principal of the hedge fund Hayman Advisors, did the math and discovered that he could purchase 6.8 cents worth of copper in each nickel for just 5 cents. Nickels are 75 percent copper while pennies (minted between 1909 and 1982) are 95 percent copper and the recent spike in copper’s price simply made it too good a deal for Bass to pass up.
House Republicans, accelerating efforts to combat the frenetic influx of federal regulations that continue to flood the U.S. economy, passed the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) Friday, which would require all federal agencies to audit proposed rules more thoroughly before they are enacted, and make sure procedures for rulemaking follow proper steps. Federal courts would be more involved in the process, and regulators would be forced to examine potential costs and benefits of alternatives.