May 4, 2016

CNN Story, NY Times Editorial Fail to Tag Disgraced Sheldon Silver as a Dem

Forner New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday after being convicted last year “in a $5 million corruption case alleging he traded favors to enrich himself and then lied about it.”

Perhaps cognizant of the fact that media watchers are looking over their shoulders, the primary dispatch and several other news stories at the Associated Press, as well as the primary story on Silver’s sentencing at the New York Times, tagged him as a Democrat within the first two or three paragraphs. That’s progress, but if Silver was Republican or conservative, his party affiliation would likely have made it into the headline and/or first paragraph. However, CNN, which has fancied itself as a wire service competing with AP for the past six years, failed to mention Silver’s party at all in its story on his sentencing (bolds representing missed opportunites to include a party tag are mine):

(more…)

Well, Maybe We Did Some Good Today

Last night, I went after the Associated Press at BizzyBlog for making its breaking news writeup about the death of Charles Keating IV predominantly (and dishonestly) about his grandfather, the late Charles Keating Jr.

Here is what AP wrote:

(Paragraph 1 of 5)

The Navy SEAL killed in Iraq has been identified as Charlie Keating IV, the grandson of the late Arizona financier involved in savings and loan scandal.

(Paragraph 5 of 5)

Keating’s grandfather, Charles H. Keating, Jr., who died in 2014 at age 90, was the notorious financier who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s.

Note that AP was so eager to get the story up that its first paragraph skipped “the” between “in” and “savings.”

The wire service persisted in using those two paragraphs as it expanded the story during the late-evening and overnight hours.

Overnight, the wire service’s headline even smeared Charles Keating IV (“Navy SEAL killed in Iraq was close to disgraced grandfather”) for having the nerve to love his “disgraced” grandfather.

As I explained yesterday, the “served prison time” smear omits the inconvenient fact that all of Charles Keating Jr.’s trial convictions were eventually overturned on appeal, leaving him “without any convictions other than that from his plea bargain,” and that the entire saga was really about out-of-control prosecutors criminalizing a civil matter who were, after years of appeals, finally turned back.

I just noticed that the AP’s writeup this afternoon, this time with two identified reporters, has only the following reference to Charles Keating IV’s grandfather, in Paragraph 4 of 16:

Keating, a grandson of an Arizona financier involved in the 1980s savings and loan scandal, went to high school in Phoenix. Though known for his family name, he achieved his own status as a track and cross-country champion.

That’s as it should have been from the very start.

I’d like to think that the reaction to last night’s BizzyBlog post and this morning’s related NewsBusters post might have influenced AP to do the right thing, moving it to concentrate on the life story of a solider who gave his life for his country instead of what his grandfather did or didn’t do decades ago. Given their track record, it’s hard to imagine that the wire service would have done so without pushback — and even now, the story’s URL still includes a passive-aggressive “disgraced-grandfather” reference.

To those who created some pressure on AP by promoting the BizzyBlog and/or NewsBusters posts on social media and elsewhere, or complained directly to AP: Thank you.

April 2016 ISM Non-Manufacturing: 55.7 Percent, Up From 54.5 Percent in March

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 6:27 pm

From the Institute for Supply Management earlier today (bolds are mine; most paragraph breaks added by me):

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in April for the 75th consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

… The NMI® registered 55.7 percent in April, 1.2 percentage points higher than the March reading of 54.5 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slightly faster rate.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 58.8 percent, 1 percentage point lower than the March reading of 59.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 81st consecutive month, at a slower rate in April. The New Orders Index registered 59.9 percent, 3.2 percentage points higher than the reading of 56.7 percent in March.

The Employment Index increased 2.7 percentage points to 53 percent from the March reading of 50.3 percent and indicates growth for the second consecutive month. The Prices Index increased 4.3 percentage points from the March reading of 49.1 percent to 53.4 percent, indicating prices increased in April for the first time in three months.

According to the NMI®, 13 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in April. The majority of the respondents’ comments reflect optimism about the business climate and the direction of the economy.

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE

The 13 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in April — listed in order — are: Information; Management of Companies & Support Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Wholesale Trade; Health Care & Social Assistance; Utilities; Finance & Insurance; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Construction; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Public Administration; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Retail Trade. The four industries reporting contraction in April are: Other Services; Mining; Transportation & Warehousing; and Educational Services.

The obvious question is how ISM is so positive when non-manufacturing growth per the latest GDP report is probably about an annualized 1 percent (based on a Markit estimate that manufacturing has been contracting at 3 percent).

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UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: Zero Hedge refers to Markit’s report on services, which tells us that recent news is “consistent with economic growth picking up from the 0.5% seen in the first quarter to a mere 1.0% at the start of the second quarter, suggesting the bounce-back from the weak start to the year is far from impressive.”

March 2016 Factory Orders: Up 1.1 Pct., Beating +0.5 Pct. Expectations; Inventories Up, Unfilled Orders Down

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:21 am

Predictions are for a 0.5 percent pickup following a 1.7 percent drop last month.

Since this is all orders, petroleum products will be in the mix, and instead of influencing declines, as was the case until early this year, they’ll be influencing increases.

HERE is the report: A better than expected March, following a downwardly revised February —

Summary

New orders for manufactured goods in March, up two of the last three months, increased $5.0 billion or 1.1 percent to $458.4 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This followed a 1.9 percent February decrease.

Shipments, up following eight consecutive monthly decreases, increased $2.2 billion or 0.5 percent to $464.7 billion. This followed a 0.8 percent February decrease.

Unfilled orders, down three of the last four months, decreased $1.2 billion or 0.1 percent to $1,182.6 billion. This followed a 0.4 percent February decrease. The unfilled orders-to-shipments ratio was 7.01, down from 7.02 in February.

Inventories, up following eight consecutive monthly decreases, increased $1.1 billion or 0.2 percent to $635.1 billion. This followed a 0.5 percent February decrease. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.37, unchanged from February.

Orders and shipments are still down year-over year, and are STILL below levels seen four years ago.

The combination of inventories going up and unfilled orders coming down is not a good sign of strong prospects ahead.

__________________________________

UPDATE: Zero Hedge — “Not only did Core Durable Goods Orders drop 1.4% YoY – the most since Dec 2015 – but the overall level fell to its lowest since Dec 2013.”

UPDATE 2, 5:45 p.m.: Zero Hedge, at a separate post

In 60 years, the US economy has never suffered a 17-month continuous YoY drop in Factory orders without being in recession. Which begs the question: are we in one now. Moments ago the Department of Commerce confirmed that in March, US factory orders – despite rising 1.1% sequentially and above the 0.6% expected – declined for 17th consecutive month on an annual basis, dropping 4.2% from a year ago.

ADP April 2016 Employment Report: 156,000 Private-Sector Jobs Added (See Conference Call Notes)

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 8:32 am

Can’t get to the ADP site right now, but an email from ADP tells me that 156,000 seasonally adjusted private-sector jobs were added in April, a disappointing result.

More details later.

Update: HERE IT IS (direct link):

Private-sector employment increased by 156,000 from March to April, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

From the press release:

Payrolls for businesses with 49 or fewer employees increased by 93,000 jobs in April, about the same number as March. Employment at companies with 50-499 employees increased by 39,000 jobs, well off from last month’s 66,000. Employment at large companies – those with 500 or more employees – dropped off to 24,000 from March’s 35,000. Companies with 500-999 employees added 15,000 and companies with over 1,000 employees added just 9,000 this month.

… “Despite the softest overall monthly jobs added in three years, small businesses remained an engine for job growth in April,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, VP and head of the ADP Research Institute. “Smaller businesses are less susceptible to global conditions, such as low commodity prices and the strong dollar, that may have caused larger businesses to ease up on hiring.”
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market appears to have stumbled in April. Job growth noticeably slowed, with some weakness across most sectors. One month does not make a trend, but this bears close watching as the financial market turmoil earlier in the year may have done some damage to business hiring.”

Revisions to prior months:
- March — from 200K to 194K
- February — from 205K to 207K (originally 214K)

Expectations were for a gain of 196K-205K.

________________________________

UPDATE: Wish I would have seen the report online earlier, because the report shows 13K jobs lost in manufacturing. Combined with the government’s reported -47K in combined February and March losses, that totals 60K in seasonally adjusted losses in three months. If we see that in the government’s report on Friday, I believe that’s going to that would represent by far the worst three-month streak since the jobs recession ended in February 2010.

UPDATE 2: Zero Hedge notes that today’s topline number is the worst in three years.

________________________________

CONFERENCE CALL NOTES:

Mark Zandi, Moody’s —

Topline number was soft. Taken at face value, that would suggest some weakening in job growth after 5 years of 200K/mo.

Doesn’t think anything fundamental has changed, though, because other data doesn’t indicate trouble (e.g., initial unemployment claims). Also, this month the company-company correlation wasn’t as strong (?), matching wasn’t normal.

It does bear watching. GDP growth has slowed, and historically it has led employment a bit.

Turmoil in financial markets may be a factor. Down 15% earlier this year but came back.

I don’t think anything fundamental is happening here, but bears close watching. We’ll have to see. Yellow flare, not red flare.

Even at face value +170K for BLS on Friday would still be a very strong number. Econ only needs to create 80-90K/mo. to absorb people looking for wark and keep unemployment rate down. Still closing in on full employment, April didn’t stop progress in getting there. Slowed down, but not stopped. Full employment will be genuinely achieved by late summer.

ADP-based wage-growth numbers are pretty strong, indicating wage pressures. Year-over-year individual wage growth for those who are staying in their jobs has been pretty strong and is accelerating (+4.8 percent), and the pace of that wage growth has accelerated (it was 3.8 percent a year ago). Pickup in wage growth (ADP-based) broad-based across every demographic (region, industry except energy, millennials are doing well, big cos are paying better). Improvement in wage growth is evident across the board. This is independent of mix, though. BLS influenced by mix of workers (well, yeah).

What you see “under the hood” is quite positive/encouraging. Labor market is still very strong. Labor market will continue to tighten. 1-2 years from now, biggest problem will be a lack of labor and finding workers, augurs well for continued wage growth.

Q&A:

Chris Rugaber of Associated Press — Productivity numbers are out and apparently negative. Lower productivity means hiring numbers. Is this sustainable? Will it affect hiring?

Answer: Low productivity growth hasn’t been a big problem up to this point because of labor market slack. Job growth will slow if it doesn’t pick up, so productivity growth needs to improve. Enormous implications if it doesn’t improve. Needs to come back to life or there will be problems a year from now.

But why is it so depressed? One theory is that GDP really is higher and so is productivity. Another theory is that secular stagnation has set in (Robert Gordon). Another is that temporary forces will let up.

Me: Average Weekly Hours and GDP 1Q revisions.

Answer: Hours not a material change.

GDP is tracking higher (0.7% now). Construction better. Retailing stronger than thought. Vehicles strong.

Wednesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (050416)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

This open thread is meant for commenters to post on items either briefly noted below (if any) or otherwise not covered at this blog. Rules are here.

Positivity: Use your vote to protect life — Northern Ireland’s bishops

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Belfast, Northern Ireland:

May 2, 2016 / 01:53 pm

Northern Ireland’s voters should use their vote to uphold the right to life, not violate it, the Catholic bishops of the region said.

“The social and moral teaching of the Church is clear, that it is never morally acceptable to support any policy that undermines the sacred inviolability of the right to life of an innocent person in any circumstances,” they stressed.

The bishops released an April 27 pastoral reflection message ahead of Northern Ireland’s May 5 elections.

“As Christians, our encounter with the risen Jesus, living and among us, is a decisive event that has consequences for every aspect of our lives. This includes our lives as citizens,” the bishops said.

Voting is a moral act, they explained: “Each vote cast, or not cast, potentially influences the values that will shape future law and policy.”

The bishops reflected on Catholic social teaching’s role in seeking the common good in Northern Ireland.

Their message, titled “A better future: towards a culture of life, care and hope for all,” discussed at length the protection of human life.

“Central to the good news that the Church proclaims is that the life of every person is sacred and inviolable, irrespective of the stage or state of that life,” their message said. They voiced regret that some people “caricature the Church’s promotion of the inviolability of human life, from conception to natural death, as a mere ‘religious doctrine’, and therefore to be dismissed in the name of a free and secular society.”

“The principle of the inviolability of innocent human life is the most fundamental of all moral principles,” the bishops continued. “This is not only a religious doctrine, but a universal human value upon which our very freedom and dignity as a person rests.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.