November 16, 2017

Vox.com Columnist Downplays UCLA Players’ Crimes, Takes Cheap Shot at Trump

It has been known at least since Saturday, i.e., five days ago, that the three UCLA basketball players detained in China last week on shoplifting charges who were forced to stay in the country while the rest of the team went home were accused of stealing items from three stores, and a day since they’ve admitted it. Somehow, that news never got through to Vox.com’s John Kirby, who shortly after noon on Thursday claimed that the trio had only stolen “a pair of Louis Vuitton sunglasses,” and seemed more interested in getting in digs at President Trump than relaying accurate facts.

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Econ Catchup; ISM Indices, Cars, Construction, Unemployment Claims, Production, and Latest GDP Estimates

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:28 pm

It’s taken about a month to genuinely get back in gear, during which time, with the exception of the ADP Employment Report and the government’s monthly jobs report, I’ve mostly ignored the economy.

This is a good time to catch up, because I’m not in the mood to get lost in the he-said, she-said the avalanche of sexual harassment and sexual assault-related allegations out there against politicians and celebrities, and there’s plenty of other people covering them. (Not saying they’re unimportant or that the ones which are true don’t need to be sorted out from the ones which aren’t, because they are, and they do.)

So let’s go back to the first of November, and catch up on where the economy is going a year after Donald Trump’s election:

November 1: October ISM Manufacturing — October’s result was 58.7 percent, down from September’s 60.8 percent. September and October were probably the two best consecutive months in many years. The GDP drivers of New Orders, Production, and Backlog have all been very positive. Recall that in the September 2016, this index briefly fell below 50 percent, i.e., manufacturing was in contraction. Now every industry except two is expanding, and the ones that aren’t were at the same level of activity in October as they were in September.

The reports here are so strong that I’m concerned that they presage inflation and supply or labor bottlenecks. Though that’s obviously a nice problem compared to the alternative, it’s still a problem.

November 1: October Vehicle SalesSales were down 1.3 percent in October, and are down 1.7 percent year-to-date. Through October, GM and Ford are down slightly, while Chrysler is down a whopping 8.7 percent. GM and Ford’s mixes have gravitated towards light trucks, so their dealers’ revenues are probably higher, but over half of Chrysler’s unit sales decline is in trucks, so their dealers have to be struggling. Meanwhile, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are all slightly up from last year through October; Toyota’s and Nissan’s mixes have all moved towards light trucks, but Honda’s has not, which has to be worrying the folks in Marysville, Ohio. In the lower tiers, Subaru and VW are having good years, while Kia and BMw are not.

November 1: September Construction Spending — Seasonally adjusted construction spending increased 0.3 percent in September, but since July, this area has performed weakly, and is down about 1 percent from the January-June average.

November 3: October ISM Non-Manufacturing — September and October were both strong, with readings of 59.8 percent and 60.1 percent, respectively. Though the Non-Manufacturing Index is on a nearly eight-year winning streak, these readings near the top of what we’ve seen during that time. The GDP drivers of New Orders and Business Activity have been well into the 60s, while Backlog of Orders is expanding more slowly (53.5 percent in October). 16 of 18 industries are expanding, while only two are in contraction.

November 15: October Retail Sales — The seasonally adjusted October advance was 0.2 percent; ex-autos increased 0.1 percent. That doesn’t seem impressive, until you remember that September’s increase was 1.9 percent, largely as a result of hurricane recovery spending. One would have expected an overall October pullback, but it didn’t happen. Year-over-year monthly increases have generally been 4 percent or higher, which, even after considering inflation, is an improvement over previous years.

November 1, 8 and 15: Weekly Unemployment Claims — As of today’s report, the three weekly figures published in November have all been below 250,000 (229K, 239K, and 249K, respectively). I wouldn’t want to see claims get above 275K consistently, so these figures reflect a strong labor market without huge disruptions.

November 15: October Industrial Production — The Federal Reserve’s report yesterday showed a 0.9 percent increase after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in September Three prior-month results were also revised up. There’s probably some hurricane recover in these figures, but this is very good news compared to what we were seeing until about six months ago.

GDP growth: Meanwhile, in the bigger picture, it looks like third-quarter GDP, which came in with an annualized 3.0 percent in the first estimate, is headed towards an upward revision in this month’s update. Moody’s is currently predicting an upward revision to 3.3 percent. As to the fourth quarter, Moody’s is currently predicting 2.7 percent, while the Atlanta Fed is predicting 3.2 percent. If the economy really turns in three consecutive quarters of 3 percent or more, it would be the first time that’s happened since 3Q2004 through 1Q2005.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (111617)

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: Father Janos Brenner, Hungarian priest and martyr

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Szombathely, Hungary:

Hungary, Nov 11, 2017 / 03:03 pm

Besides the smiling Pope, John Paul I, several other people’s causes advanced towards sainthood this week. Among them is Servant of God János (John) Brenner, a Cistercian Hungarian priest whose martyrdom was acknowledged by Pope Francis this week.

Brenner was born on Dec. 27, 1931 in Szombathely, Hungary. A young person “full of life, joy and mischief,” Brenner attended Catholic schools run by the Cistercian order (a reformed order of Benedictines) for several years until the nationalization of schools by the communist government which came to power after World War II as part of the Eastern Bloc.

He felt called to the Cistercian order. He applied and was accepted as a novice to the order in Zirc in 1950, and took the name Br. Anastasius (Anasztáz).

However, only a few months after Brenner began formation, the communist government began suppressing religious houses. To protect the men in formation, the novice master moved the young brothers from the abbey to private apartments, where they hoped to continue formation in secret.

It was around this time that Brenner, along with a few other novices, moved to the local seminary to begin studying to become a priest, while continuing with his Cistercian formation through correspondence.

Despite the dangers and religious oppression going on around him, journal entries from Brenner at the time display a deep trust in God and a strong desire to do his will.

“There is no greater joy than when man who is nothing, can be even more annihilated in Christ and immerse himself into the infinite world of His soul filled with wonderful riches which are forever given over to us,” he wrote in 1950.

“Even if the road is rough, I look at your pain- ridden face and follow you. I ask you only one thing: May I always fulfill most precisely what you give to me as my vocation.”

Brenner took vows with the Cistercian order and then was ordained a priest in 1955.

Throughout his ministry, he was known for his willingness and readiness to serve and to sacrifice, and took as his priestly motto the verse Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

Brenner was especially talented at working with youth, which all the more made him a target of the communist government.

Even when he was made aware of personal threats against his life, and his bishop offered to transfer him elsewhere for his own safety, Brenner responded: “I’m not afraid, I’m happy to stay.”

On the night of Dec. 14, 1957, Brenner was falsely called to give last rites to a sick person in a neighboring town, amid the reprisals for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

He left his home, carrying his anointing oils and the Eucharist, but was ambushed in the woods outside Rabakethely and stabbed 32 times. He was found dead the next day, still clutching the Eucharist in his hands, which has earned him the title of the “Hungarian Tarcisius.” St. Tarcisius was a young boy and third century martyr who was also killed while carrying and protecting the Eucharist.

While the communists had hoped that Brenner’s death would intimidate the faithful in the area, they could not stop devotion to Brenner’s memory. …

Go here for the rest of the story.