Just out from Case-Shiller/S&P/CoreLogic and whoever else:

New York, March 29, 2016 – S&P Dow Jones Indices today released the latest results for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices. Data released today for January 2016 show that home prices continued their rise across the country over the last 12 months. More than 27 years of history for these data series is available, and can be accessed in full by going to www.homeprice.spdji.com. Additional content on the housing market can also be found on S&P Dow Jones Indices’ housing blog: www.housingviews.com.  

Year-over-Year  The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a slightly higher year-over-year gain with a 5.4% annual increase in January 2016. The 10-City Composite is up slightly at 5.1% for the year. The 20-City Composite’s year-over-year gain is 5.7%. After seasonal adjustment, the National, 10-City Composite, and 20-City Composite rose 0.5%, 0.8%, and 0.7%, respectively, from the prior month.  

Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities with another month of double digit annual price increases. Portland led the way with an 11.8% year-over-year price increase, followed by Seattle with 10.7%, and San Francisco with a 10.5% increase. Eleven cities reported greater price increases in the year ending January 2016 versus the year ending December 2015. Phoenix reported an annual gain of 6.1% in January 2016 versus 6.3% in December 2015, ending its streak of 12 consecutive months of increasing annual gains. The western part of the country saw the largest price gains in the past year; the northeast is the weakest region.

Month-over-Month Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index, the 10-City Composite, and the 20-City Composite all remained unchanged in January. After seasonal adjustment, all three composites reported strong advances. Eleven of 20 cities reported increases in January before seasonal adjustment; after seasonal adjustment, all 20 cities increased for the month.

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For me the key thing is we are still at early 2005 levels – without inflation adjustments.  No commissions, in and out.  Just the prices and they do a damn fine job of tracking ‘em.

Stock futures down 70.

Reason for Optimism

As you know, I am still of the opinion that although we could have a further decline, and perhaps a retest of the lows from January-February, there is still plenty of reason to believe we could go on and hit my predicted new all-time market highs before Summer is over.

Worth noticing (and reading in its entirety) is a speech by John Williams (not the composer) who is the head of the San Francisco Federal Reserve.

In a speech in Singapore overnight, he makes many of the same points we do around here in supporting the bullish case.

“Turning first to U.S. employment, things are looking very good. There are a variety of measures to gauge the health of the labor market, but the most widely discussed, and most frequently used, is the unemployment rate. Unemployment will never be zero, because in any well-functioning economy, people leave jobs and new people enter the workforce. Economists use the term “natural rate of unemployment” to describe the optimal rate for an economy at full health. It’s hard to know what the exact number is, but I put the natural rate at about 5 percent.

We’ve dipped just below that mark, to 4.9 percent, and I expect the unemployment rate to continue to edge down, reaching the mid-4s by late this year. This is a reflection of steady improvement in a labor market that has fully recovered from the recession and its aftermath, when we saw a peak of 10 percent.

Of course, there are other indicators, which have been the focus of much debate and concern—workers who are part-time for economic reasons and the labor force participation rate have received particular attention. There is some worry that these represent a workforce in more trouble than the unemployment rate alone would indicate. But looking more closely at the data, we’ve actually come quite far on both. In fact, while part-time employment for economic reasons looks like it’s still somewhat elevated relative to historical norms, the labor force participation rate now appears to be consistent with its longer-term trend—or what we might more simply call “normal.”1

A further sign of labor market health is that more people are quitting their jobs. People have greater confidence that they’ll find work, and they’re probably right: Job vacancies are hovering around the highest levels since they started collecting the data back in 2000, and we added 2¾ million jobs in 2015. To sum up, we have either reached or are close to maximum employment across a broad range of markers.”

Eventually, after touching on a lack of global data, he wraps up with:

“All in all, my outlook is positive. I see continued growth in the U.S., and I don’t see the global situation as dire. The ability of governments and central banks to respond to their own needs while navigating global conditions may not be a miracle cure, but it offers stability.”

And if that sounds a lot like the position we’ve taken since we most saw what was coming with our www.peoplenomics.com Aggregate Index approach to things, you’re absolutely right.

There are, of course, a lot of unanswered questions.  Two that come to mind are:

1.  What happens to the US Economy when the ultimate cost of higher immigration begins to clarify.  In other words, when immigration is a strong-running tide, there is an economic stimulative effect.  It’s due to newly arriving people finding a place to live and a source of food, transportation, and so on.

The problem is, absent an aggressive plan for assimilation, that in short order, lacking the aggressive resettlement plan, assistance (and importantly for Europe’s version of Reconquista by Muslims) participation.  Absent those elements, the social costs can climb quickly and that’s what Europe is on the leading edge of right now:  Lots of immigration, sure.  But costs accruals are beginning to appear.

2.  The second longer-term problem is human replacement automation.  I have mentioned many times my keen interest in  Momentum Machines which is seriously at work on the “problem” of automating fast food production.

I love what they are doing, but there is a huge asterisk alongside my support.  That is a problem that goes back to the fools on the hill in Washington who have not resolved the centuries long debate between the forces of socialism and capitalism.

My late ancestor, Andrew N. Ure, was frankly a corporate apologist for the British factory owners at the dawn of the industrial revolution.  He was often taken to task directly by a lazy oaf by the name of Karl Marx who frequently called out the older Ure.

The problem of owning the means of production hasn’t gone away.  Yet at the beginning of human labor replacement, the older Ure did get some things right.  But then again, so did Marx.

Eventually, we are going to have to sort this out because (thanks to the one percent who keep investing in new industry) we are going to eventually face the matter of “machine ownership.”

One approach is to tax machines, based on the number of jobs they replace.  But with corporations solidly in control, buying policy and tax benefits at will in Washington, this will not likely take place anytime soon.  Besides, should that actually happen in the USA, the forces of the One Percent will simply move ALL manufacturing offshore. 

Even that ploy would blow up over time, however.  So we are left modeling this gargantuan battle in which the future of Life itself is up for grabs. 

In the short term, private ownership still owns production.  Socialism, though, owns human services, transfer payments, immigration, and a host of other community consciousness kinds of area.  Yet nothing succeeds like greed and self-interest.  So there you go:  The work either goes away when no labor is required (which is why welfare is a mess) as on the flip side, welfare goes away with the triumph of Ownership.

At age 67, the odds of this being sorted out before I die is exactly zero.  The bright spot continues to be the Internet.  Humans all over the world are beginning to communicate and in a way, we might – with an all-pervasive communications paradigm, be able to outgrow the need for governance.  It will – in time, and in the most optimistic case – become embedded in each and every transaction between humans.

Yeah, yeah.  Fat chance.

But if we can stay out of the glass-lined ditch after the flash war the neocons are planning in Korea (we’ll get into that this weekend in Peoplenomics), there actually is a paradigm where computational dynamic agreement has a slim chance of replacing the corrupt humans who have the helm now and are driving aimlessly….well….to where we are this morning.

Eventually it all comes back to the quality of people we elect.  And that gets us to:

The Silly Distractions – Idiots at Large

The political mess in America has to embolden those who already hate us.  I’m thinking ISIS, North Korea, perhaps elements in China, a bunch of the Muslim world and so on.

With headlines like these, it’s almost understandable:

Hillary Clinton puts focus on Supreme Court in Madison speech

Grassley hits back at Clinton: ‘The FBI’s going to question her’

Meantime, turncoat “ Speaker Paul Ryan coming to Alabama, raising money to hold GOP House majority.

What’s the old saying?  You can always tell a Liberal, but you can’t tell ‘em much,

Case in point: “Streisand: Hillary Fighting ‘Outright Sexism’ to Become President.”

Naw Babs.  Hell, I’d vote for Clinton in a heartbeat if she had stood up and left Bill, if she’d been more along the lines of a Scoop Jackson democrat, had lowered taxes, hadn’t backed the neocon holdovers a State in Benghazi, (what is neocon Nuland doing working for Bill/ Dick Cheney and then O?  Whatzzat about, huh? I mean except backing the neos in Ukraine?).  If Hil  had not set up her foundation, wasn’t under investigation for potentially treasonous acts…

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse?  Here’s a report that Hillary ‘had several abortions’, kept Chelsea for political appearances: Bill’s former lover.”

Sheesh!

von Ryan’s Audacity

What is so audacious – is that it seems Paul Ryan is trying to possibly snake (or is that weasel?) his way into even higher office.  Ryan doesn’t seem to understand that he’s already been cast off by reasonable conservatives (like me) as the head of the Obama wing of the GOP, which in case you hadn’t notice has violated more conservative principles than I can shake a stick at. 

Hand me that stick, would you… (thanks).

Here goes…short version.  TPP laydown, Obamacare pushback to 2017 so the crooks can lie their way back in for further terms, the budget laydown, crappy borders, allowing Executive fiat unchecked…whew.  Need a lighter stick.  Something light and hickory next time, please?

It’s so bad – and so trashy and lowbrow – that even the Washington Post comments “Mr. Ryan is wise not to alienate Mr. Trump’s supporters.”

You’ll have to pardon me for a moment as I run outside to puke.  Any sentence that begins “Mr. Ryan is wise…”  feels like….hoooaaaahhhh….  (gasping) spin!

Federal Nutrition Regs

“Feds to Fine Schools for Not Following Michelle Obama’s Lunch Rules.”

In fairness, Michelle O championed the Hunger-free Kids Act but no white bread? Calorie limits and sodium limits?  Sayeth the great Wikipedia:

  • Gives USDA the authority to set new standards for food sold in lunches during the regular day, including vending machines.[11]
  • Authorizes additional funds for the new standards for federal-subsidized school lunches.
  • Provides resources for schools and communities to utilize local farms and gardens to provide fresh produce.
  • Provides resources to increase nutritional quality of food provided by USDA
  • Sets minimal standards for school wellness policies
  • Limits milk served to nonfat flavored milk or 1 percent white milk

Still, does government need to regulate everything?  I mean where does it end?

Newspocalypse in the PhoneRev

Newspapers are going cannibal to avoid being wiped out by the PhoneRev.

Yah see?  None of this would have happened if we’d stayed with wired connections and pay phones.

Wouldn’t have to worry about the FBI hacking a phone booth, would you?

You saw where FBI hack may raise questions about iPhone security?

(sniff, sniff…)  I smell lawyers.

Reader Note:  I received a number of suggestions for “tuning up” the site since we began the process of updating core code.  As you (should) see this morning, brown background is a lot easier on the eyes.  A number of people suggested a different color for the reading area (parchment) but the problem with that is on some printers it doesn’t show well if someone wants to make a reading copy.

Mobile and Tablet Charts are still turned off.  These are particularly problematic, but it does give us some (else) to do in what passes for spare time around here.  Most people call that sleep.

Thanks for your patience with our bulldozer approach to things.  Sometimes, the best way to get things the way you want them is to demolish the building and rebuild.

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