Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to give his annual Jackson Hole speech on August 31 while the world waits in anticipation. They are likely to be disappointed.
In past years, the invitation-only event hosted by the Kansas City Fed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has been an opportunity for Bernanke to suggest future Fed policy actions. In 2010 he said that a second round of stimulus — called QE2 for Quantitative Easing Round Two — was likely, and in November the Fed began its purchase of another $600 billion of long-term debt securities.
Since then little has changed: Unemployment remains significantly above eight percent, the housing market remains largely moribund, gross domestic product remains barely positive, and consumer confidence is waning.
In what analysts say is another indication that the economy will get worse in the not-too-distant future, recent filings by billionaire financier George Soros show he dumped virtually all his holdings in major financial companies like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup. His multi-billion-dollar U.S. fund also loaded up on gold, with the portfolio now holding more than $130 million worth of the precious metal.
Meanwhile, other experts like legendary investor Jim Rogers are warning of "financial Armageddon" as governments and central banks continue to print and spend currency they don't have. Some economic analysts even believe food and energy systems could collapse along with the economy in an unprecedented global calamity unknown in human history.
The prices that Americans pay for gas at the pump may reach an all-time high this summer. The average price is $3.70 per gallon, which is an increase of 30 cents since July and the climb in price from July to August was 9 percent. The increase is particularly concerning because a reduction in global demand, caused by a persistent world-wide recession, has kept demand for gas relatively low. Some have predicted that the price of gas will reach $3.90 per gallon before Labor Day. Gas prices have risen each month for seven straight months this year.
The current drought afflicting the country is driving up the price of corn and reviving the debate over ethanol mandates that redirect corn from food to fuel.
Because of the drought, corn yield per acre this year will be the lowest since 1995, while the actual production of corn will be the lowest since 2006. A congressional mandate to turn corn into ethanol in order to reduce emissions requires converting nearly 40 percent of that harvest into 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol. That leaves precious little to feed cattle and people, driving up the price.
President Obama made sure that Iowa farmers knew that he was “there for them” during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on August 13, by announcing another package of “aid” during the drought. The aid will involve the purchase of $100 million of pork, $50 million of chicken, and $10 million each of lamb and catfish. This comes on top of $30 million of aid announced last week.
The latest numbers from China on its gross domestic product, factory output and electricity usage all show a bubble bursting. Kevin Yao, writing from Beijing for Reuters, expressed surprise when the latest numbers about China’s factory output came in at its lowest level in three years: “China’s factory output growth slowed unexpectedly in July…[due to] stiff global headwinds…”
Foreclosures of homes are increasing, July economic reports reveal. Homes are the most important asset that ordinary Americans possess, and the value of that asset was long presumed by middle class Americans to be one which would steadily increase over time, punctuated occasionally and in some regions with soft markets and in other regions with quicker growth. Over the last four years, however, the value of the American home has been stagnant, even as the cost of living has increased.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is attracting renewed scrutiny after an outraged senior official resigned last month, saying he was “ashamed” to even be associated with the Fund while publicly blasting it for “incompetence,” illegitimate selection of “tainted” leadership, and suppressing critical information.
After serving at the global organization for some two decades, IMF economist Peter Doyle — a former division chief at the European Department and a respected advisor when he jumped ship — also said many of the problems were actually “becoming more deeply entrenched.”
“After twenty years of service, I am ashamed to have had any association with the Fund at all,” Doyle wrote.
Biotech companies such as Monsanto, with help from the U.S. government, are starting to overcome the EU's resistance to Genetically Modified crops. However, there is growing opposition to GM crops in the United States.
When shipping and supply managers were quizzed about their current outlooks by two separate reporting agencies, their answers were the same: Orders are slowing and so is production of manufactured goods. The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), released in late June, and the Report on Business of the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), which was released on Monday, each showed significant slowing. The PMI’s manufacturing index came in at its lowest level since last July, while new orders for durable goods (autos and appliances) fell sharply in June, continuing a trend downward since early spring. It also showed a decline in the backlog of orders, the first since last September.