Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Good Economic Data - From the Federal Reserve II

Frankly, I am amazed by all the data that the Federal Reserve staff publishes. It covers so many disciplines.  I cannot begin to name them all, I suggest you take a look on the website.

However, one of my favorite publications is Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization.  If you love manufacturing data, this is the one for you.  I am not aware of any data that comes close to this piece. As an economic indicator, it is in a class by itself.  It is a monthly release, but not always on the same day.  The publications on the website go back to 1997. It runs 19 pages and consists of 15 tables.

This monthly publication looks at industrial production, plant capacity, and plant utilization for various manufacturing industries, mining, and utilities in the United States. This is the essence of manufacturing data. In fact, 89 industries are indexed. I know this is not necessarily the best explanation of the publication. In fact, the Federal Reserve does a far better job describing what each component is and I encourage you to read it.  I will simply add that if you enjoy all aspects of manufacturing, then this report is a must read to keep track of various industries and the health of these vital U.S. economic sectors. 

Link: https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g17/default.htm .  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Good Economic Analysis - From the Federal Reserve I

 I read alot of economic data.  It comes from magazines I subscribe to, the federal government, banks, etc.  The list goes on.  

Frankly, we have an abundance of economic data to read.  What is often lacking is analysis.  One of my favorite sources is the Federal Reserve. And one of my favorite publications is the Beige Book. That is the common reference.  The full name is Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District.  I prefer the Beige Book.

This publication comes out eight times a year. It is packed with anecdotes and analysis.  It starts with a brief national overview and summary of every region. Next, each region is discussed in great detail. Now do not ask me about the regions, I too question the methodology. (you might too after seeing the regions)

That should not detract from the value of the report. It is an easy read. Consider each one like this. You just listened to a detailed economic data presentation by an esteemed economist.  If you are like me, you might be scratching your head and asking what does it all mean. The Beige Book is the response. A quick read about economic conditions across the United States by region.  It is easily understood and you do not doubt the sources or the analysis.  A truly valuable and unique publication.

If you doubt my word, read the intro on the website.  

Link:  https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/beige-book-default.htm

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Desert to you. Home to Me

In September of 2019 I posted this picture and the caption “Desert to you. Home to Me “on my Twitter and Instagram feeds.  

I have been home numerous times in my life.  We always stayed at my parents’ home until they sold it.  In fact, I have stayed in a hotel only twice in Midland, my father’s funeral and my 40th class reunion. 

The reunion stay was truly different.  I had far more free time and drove around looking at old haunts and favored locations.  It was my first time downtown in decades.  And the first time every meal was at restaurant.

So I took my wife to restaurants she never went to before, like Wall Street and Luigi’s.  And yes, neither one changed.  It was like going to lunch with Dad or the family going to dinner in 1976.

We drove by my relatives old homes and went to the refurbished Dennis the Menace Park. 

We visited my old high school and took a tour.  It underwent substantial changes over the past 40 years.  But some of the older sections were preserved.

As I drove around my first day I thought it would be great to move back to Midland.  By the end of reunion, I was not so sure. This is by no means a cut or dig about Midland, but rather I think my interests and what Midland offers are not parallel.

Midland is a wonderful city for raising a family. It has a sense of risk and independence due to the wildcatters (oil men) and ranchers.  The schools were outstanding institutions and the teachers (most of them) outstanding individuals.  This is not a formal city, only the bankers, lawyers, and accountants wear suits.  Oilmen and other professionals did not.

It was the heyday of the company car. You could spot them a mile away, usually a Chevrolet Impala.

Midland was a city of professionals.  It was not an industrial town.  At one time Midland had a Rolls Royce dealership.  A key point people forget, back in the 70’s, the largest independent bank in the US was in the small city of Midland (less than 100, 000 people).

I realize that this sounds very nostalgic.  So let me end with these thoughts. 

I grew up in a wonderful city with so many positive attributes. I have a supportive and loving family.  I developed my writing in Midland.  I had incredible friends.  While I could tell you lots of negative aspects of Midland, they pale in comparison to my love of the city. 

However, I also know I cannot really go back.  The common saying is you cannot go home again, for you are a different individual. It is seldom added that the home also evolved.

You see a desert. I see home. And I always will.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Opportunity Zones - An Excellent Primer

 This is a very short post.  One of the most recent federal incentive programs is Opportunity Zones. It is also one of the most complicated.  I read numerous articles and stories about Opportunity Zones.  Most are helpful. However, I ran across this article in Econ Focus. It gives an excellent history, background, and general information about Opportunity Zones. It is a very good article for those seeking to understand it and those seeking to explain it.  

The article is by Jessie Romero. Link:  https://www.richmondfed.org/publications/research/econ_focus/2019/q1/feature1

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Bit of History

One publication I enjoy is Econ Focus, published by the Richmond Federal Reserve.  It is a quarterly magazine. 

Learning history gives us perspective on challenges we face today and tomorrow.  It also reminds us of the importance not taking any infrastructure improvement for granted.  

This most recent edition focuses on rural issues.  However, one of the most interesting articles is about the history of electrifying the rural parts of the U.S. In fact the title of the article is "Electrifying Rural America".

As you will see, electrifying the U.S. started in the 1870s and by the 1920s most cities ran on electricity.  In fact, by the 1930s nine out of 10 urban and nonfarm rural homes had electricity. It made daily living easier. 

However, the rural areas did not share in the infrastructure improvement. As you read the article, you may find arguments used by utility providers then sound familiar today. 

One fact I did not know, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration by executive order.  More on that in the article.  And here you thought only recent presidents used executive orders excessively (Now do you see? That is why a sense of history is so important).  

Finally, one remaining observation.  In the early part of the 20th century or for that matter, any century, infrastructure is an absolutely critical component of a successful economic development program.  Enjoy the article. 

The article is by Tim Sablik.  Link to article:  https://bit.ly./rural-elec

Sunday, August 2, 2020

C-SPAN - Showcasing a Very Successful Public/Private Partnership

Today on C-SPAN I watched an excellent example of a public/private partnership.  It was the return of SpaceX and the partnership with NASA.  I watched most of the coverage today and it was astounding.  

This is a very unique partnership.  While I could try to explain it, I think the following NASA blog post does a far better job.  What I find most interesting is NASA was created in 1958 and SpaceX was established 44 years later.  NASA has about 17,300 employees, SpaceX slightly less than half that. We forget that NASA always relied on partners, but this one is unique and historic.

Watching the C-SPAN coverage today reminded me of the emotions I felt while watching NASA space flight take offs and landings in the 70s and Shuttle flights in the 80s.  Those decades (and future ones) allowed us to see amazing pictures, film, and hear commentary for the most advanced technology in the world.  Yes, we had setbacks, but we always reemerged, stronger and better.  Now we are taking a new and exciting direction to continue exploring space.  (Que: Space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise...). I know, you thought that too. 

Yesterday I watched the separation of the capsule from the International Space Station. And today I watched the landing and an impressive press conference - all courtesy of C-SPAN.  If you watched, you saw two groups, the NASA team and the SpaceX on a split screen. The following is the link to the C-SPAN video. It is over six hours, but well worth it. In an era of angst and uncertainty, this might remind you of the commitment to excellence and the benefits of public/private partnerships.

And just because it is my blog, from the introduction to every original Star Trek episode:  "Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  Its five year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life; and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before."

Saturday, August 1, 2020

C-SPAN or Twitter?

Yes, I have two Twitter accounts. One of the accounts is for personal use. The personal one is individuals and organizations I follow for a variety of reasons. An example is authors, writers, and columnists I admire and learn from.  Some are think tanks and other similar organizations that publish very thought provoking studies and analyses.  A number are individuals I find both interesting and humorous (@LordBuckethead).  And finally, I follow several news organizations and journals.  I have 215 followers and I follow 1,372 accounts. Consider it my news feed. I liken it to the old stock market or Western Union ticker tape machines (picture below). 

So after Attorney General Barr testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on July 28th I started reading various accounts. Unfortunately, I am not sure if all the tweeters saw the same hearing. At least I could not tell reading various and numerous tweets.  Was AG Barr frustrated or was he patient with the process?  Were many members asking four minute and 55 second questions and then expecting an answer (know each congressman was allowed five minutes to question AG Barr)?  Were some members asking really intelligent questions?  Were some members asking non-germane questions?  Were some members asking for a yes or no answer to a complex question?  Were some members asking questions to AG Barr and when dissatisfied with the response would say "the right answer is..."?  Were some members asking soft ball questions?  Were some members playing to the camera? Were some members simply made statements and asked a question, but would not let AG Barr answer.  Were some members disrespectful to AG Barr? Did some members ignore the committee rules?  Did we see lots of talking and no listening?

As I read the various and numerous tweets, I could not reach a conclusion about how the hearing went.  It was not so much as some members this or AG General that. Rather it was usually sweeping statements about the entire hearing. 

So what could I do?  C-SPAN to the rescue.  I decided to watch the entire five hour hearing and much to my surprise all the tweets were essentially correct if you zeroed in on one or a few snippets of the hearing. Almost each tweeter had ample snippets to support a somewhat one sided opinion.

If you are interested in government and policy, perhaps C-SPAN is the best vehicle for an unvarnished view of a Congressional hearing. No commentary, no opinions, only the committee members and the individuals testifying. 

My opinion?  I am glad I spent five hours watching the entire hearing.  It was informative, entertaining, and thought provoking.  And it was well worth the time.  You may notice I did not give a qualitative opinion.  And I will not.  I doubt any one is truly interested in my opinion. 

I realize most people do not have five hours to watch and hearing. Frankly, they can be somewhat boring.  So why waste time. In the long run, will it really make much of a difference?

But for me, I should do watch hearings more often.  Basically, I learned that I should watch an entire hearing if I am interested in the topic. From that I can determine my own opinion and conclusion based on the actual event.  At the very least, I can say "at least I watched the entire hearing".  

Finally, if you learn nothing from this, at least follow @LordBuckethead on Twitter.

Clip for the AG Barr hearing:

Next?  The technology hearing held on July 29th by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. 

Retro Ticker Tape Machine On A White Background Stock Photo ...

Postscript I:  on a personal note, this is my 200th blog post. 

Postscript II:  ON C-SPAN now is NASA/Space X Return to Earth (it is very interesting)