Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We Are All Killers..Until we stop flying
New fuel consumption figures for both fast passenger ships and ultra high-speed trains suggest that their carbon emissions are comparable to those of planes(22). What all this means is that if we want to stop the planet from cooking, we will simply have to stop travelling at the kind of speeds that planes permit.
Global credit ocean dries up
"There are several hundred billion dollars of positions in the carry trade that will be unwound as soon as they become unprofitable," said Stephen Lewis, an economist at Monument Securities. "When the Bank of Japan starts tightening we may see some spectacular effects. The world has never been through this before, so there is a high risk of mistakes."

Quick Overview

  • The National Association of Realtors said resales of U.S. homes dropped 2.8% in January to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 6.56 million, the lowest in two years.

  • The Conference Board said U.S. consumer confidence fell unexpectedly in February to 101.7 from a revised January 106.8.

  • The U.S. Commerce Department said that U.S. GDP was up 1.6% in the fourth quarter, better than the previous estimate of 1.1%. For all of 2005, GDP increased 3.5%.

  • Canada's GDP was up 0.6% in the fourth quarter and up 2.9% for 2005.

  • YoY Consumer prices in the Euro zone were up 2.4% in January

  • Industrial production in Japan was up 0.3% in January.

  • YoY surface trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico rose 13.5% in December, the Department of Transport said.

  • Argentina's jobless rate fell a full percentage point in the fourth quarter as the thriving economy continued to create new jobs.

  • France Jan. Unemployment Rate rose to 9.6% vs. 9.5%.

  • Australia Current Account Deficit for Q4 out at -14.4B AUD vs. -13.6B expected

  • Newmont Mining (NEM) reported a drop in fourth quarter production despite high gold prices.

  • Dow-Jones Newswires reported that Brazil is building 52 sugarcane mills to meet growing domestic and global demand for ethanol.
Neocons jump ship

Monday, February 27, 2006

Harper's Calls For Impeachment
“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.
Senator Feinstein's War-Profiteering
The Democrats aren’t just letting the Republicans get away with murder, however, some of them are also reaping the benefits of the Bush wars. We constantly hear about Dick Cheney’s ties to Halliburton and how his ex-company is making bundles off US contracts in Iraq. But what we don’t hear about is how Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband are also making tons of money off the “war on terror”.
Venezuela Cautions U.S. It May Curtail Oil Exports The minister, Rafael Ramírez, said Venezuela, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and supplies more than 10 percent of American oil imports, could act in the face of what he described as aggression by the Bush administration
America's younger workers losing ground on income
From 2001 to 2004, median income fell 8 percent for householders under 35, a survey shows.

Quick Overview

  • A survey by the National Association for Business Economics increased its estimate of first quarter U.S. GDP growth from an annual rate of 3.4% to 4.5%.

  • New home sales fell 5% in January to the lowest level in a year, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Sales fell for the fourth time in six months during a balmy January, while the number of homes on the market hit a record high (Ed. Note: Right now, the number of homes on the market in the United States is 528,000) - the largest supply of homes in nine years. Sales are down four times in six months. December home sales rose 3.8%. Sales fell 7.0% in November, rose 7.7% in October, sank 2.0% in September and fell 7.1% in August.

  • China should reduce the dollar share of its foreign exchange reserves because of the risks posed by the instability of the U.S. currency, influential economics professor Xiao Zhuoji said in an interview published on Monday.

  • Hawkish comments by Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui last week fueled expectations the central bank will end its ultraeasy monetary policy around April.

  • Canada's exports were up C$6.1 billion because of higher energy prices. Imports were up C$2.1 billion.

  • YoY Japan's exports of cars, trucks and buses jumped 17.3% in January, rising for the sixth straight month.

  • Intel Corp announced plans Tuesday to build a $300-million chip assembly and testing factory in southern Vietnam

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Free speech, even if it hurts
Today, you may be imprisoned or fined for dissenting from the accepted Holocaust history in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Switzerland.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Cancelled home orders: Latest bubble prick?
Home builders are growing concerned about an increasing number of cancelled new home orders, which experts say could be a sign of an underlying weakness in the recent run in home prices.
Verizon Faces New $20B Suit over NSA Spying Complicity
Upping the ante in what may be a high-stakes legal battle, an Upstate New York lawyer filed a $20 billion class-action lawsuit against Verizon last week, charging that the company violated customer confidentiality in aiding warrantless eavesdropping by a federal spy agency.

Friday, February 24, 2006

U.S. to Pay Big Employers Billions Not to End Their Retiree Health Plans
Mr. Reed Consults With Padre Kino

Quick Overview

  • Durable goods orders dove 10.2% in January from the previous month for the biggest drop in six years, led by a decline in commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department said Friday. Excluding transport, orders were up 0.6% on the month.

  • The U.S. economy can cope if the Federal Reserve makes a "mistake" (they usually do) and raises interest rates too high, one of its top policy-makers said on Friday, in remarks implying he did not fear delivering more rate hikes.

  • Brazil's economy posted a tepid fourth-quarter recovery after a third-quarter slump, ending the year on a weak note that slowed full-year 2005 economic growth to 2.3 percent, less than half that of the year before.

  • The USDA said there were 12.110 million head of cattle on feed on February 1st, up 6.8% YoY. Placements in January were up 16% YoY. Marketing’s were up 2%.

  • The USDA estimated this week's beef production at 443.4 million pounds, up 2.8% from a year ago. The USDA estimates pork production at 395.9 million pounds, down 0.2% from YoY.

  • The Florida Citrus Processors said there were 92.7 million gallons of frozen orange juice concentrate in inventory on February 18th, down 35% YoY.

  • London copper inventories are at 109,225 tons.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

India spreads its net for gas, any gas
Families' budget squeezed by rising costs
From an economic point of view, core inflation — for now — isn't overly worrisome but it is "generating some angst within the Fed," said Sherry Cooper,

Quick Overview

  • U.S. Jobless claims were down 20,000 last week to 278,000, signaling a stronger economy than expected.

  • The Bank of Japan on Thursday sent the strongest signal yet of an imminent end to its ultraloose monetary policy, saying it would move quickly when prices recover steadily -- a trend it said was already beginning.

  • Germany's Ifo index, increased from 101.8 to 103.3 in February, the highest reading in 14 years.

  • The unemployment rate in Brazil climbed from 8.3% to 9.2% in January.

  • Cotton mill use rose from an annual rate of 5.51 to 6.24 million bales in January.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy said that:
    Supplies of crude oil supplies were up 1.1 million barrels to 326.7 million barrels.
    Supplies of unleaded gasoline were up 100,000 barrels.
    Supplies of heating oil were up 400,000 barrels.
    Supplies of underground natural gas were down 123 billion cubic feet last week to 2.143 trillion cubic feet.

  • The World Gold Council said gold demand totaled 3,754 tons in 2005, up 7% YoY. YoY mine production was up 1% at 2,494 tons. The largest increas in demand came from India, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and China.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Quick Overview

  • Following two months of downturns, the U.S. consumer prices rose 0.7% in January the most in a year, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Excluding food and energy costs, prices were up just 0.2%.

  • Turkey is surrounded by 75% of the world’s known reserves of oil and gas. Long-term strategies plus recent developments are turning the country into an energy hub for the region.

  • Canada's consumer price index rose 0.5% in January and up 2.8% YoY.

  • Factory orders in the U.K. increased from -28 to -18 in February, more than expected.

  • ED&F Man predicted that world cocoa production will be down 3% in 2005-2006, resulting in a production deficit of 221,000 tons.

  • U.S. refineries want to end their use of MTBE as a gasoline additive and switch to ethanol, however the Department of Energy warned there may not be enough ethanol around.
Segway creator unveils his next act
Inventor Dean Kamen wants to put entrepreneurs to work bringing water and electricity to the world's poor.
Rising Risk of Epidemics Seen
“A good analogy to this is that we’re living through a mass extinction,” said Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. “As lots of species are dying off through human action, human pathogens seem to be going through a bit of a reverse.”
Culture of Fear Attempting to avoid all risk is a recipe for technological and economic stagnation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Quick Overview

  • The Conference Board's U.S. index of leading indicators rose by 1.1% in January, to a record high of 140.1.

  • A high-ranking Japanese banker urged the Bank of Japan on Tuesday to end its ultraloose monetary policy as quickly as possible and return to a "more normal" stance.

  • Moody's Investors Service lowered General Motors Corp.'s debt rating further into "junk" territory Tuesday, citing doubt the company can set up competitive wages and benefits without filing for bankruptcy protection.

  • Canada's index of leading indicators rose by 0.5% in January to 211.4.

  • In January the U.K. posted a monthly budget surplus of 12.6 billion pounds. This is the largest surplus in thirteen years .

  • The USDA said that, on January 31st, there were 61.3 million pounds of frozen bellies in storage, down 3% YoY. Frozen pork totaled 528.5 million pounds, up 6% YoY.

  • The USDA said that, on January 31st, there were 1.064 billion pounds of frozen orange juice in U.S. cold storage, down 32% YoY.

  • Dow-Jones Newswires reported that because of strong ethanol demand, Brazil will reduce ethanol in its gasoline from 25% to 20%.
Senior Lawyer at Pentagon Broke Ranks on Detainees

Friday, February 17, 2006

U.S. Rejects U.N. Report on GitmoThe United States, which is a member of the commission, has criticized the body itself for including members with poor human rights records.
China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran
China is hastening to complete a deal worth as much as $100 billion that would allow a Chinese state-owned energy firm to take a leading role in developing a vast oil field in Iran, complicating the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern nation and roll back its nuclear development plans, according to published reports.
Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe
Iraq economy falls below pre-war levels
Senator Conrad, citing the special inspector general, said almost all economic indices showed Iraq was better off before the US had invaded. Republicans, too, are sceptical of administration claims of progress. Senator Chuck Hagel told Ms Rice on Wednesday he believed the situation was getting worse.
Sea levels likely to rise much faster than was predicted
Scientists have found that many of the huge glaciers of Greenland are moving at an accelerating rate - dumping twice as much ice into the sea than five years ago - indicating that the ice sheet is undergoing a potentially catastrophic breakup.

Quick Overview

  • The U.S. producer price index rose 0.3% in January and up 5.7% YoY. Excluding food and energy, prices were up .4% in January.

  • The United States should focus on its global trade shortfall with the rest of the world and not solely on the two-way trade gap with China, the president of the Asian Development Bank said on Friday.

  • Class 8 truck orders in North America are off to a roaring start in 2006, with January’s total reaching an all-time monthly high of 43,100 units.

  • The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment dropped from 91.2 to 87.4 in February.

  • Google Inc. on Friday criticized the Bush administration's demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests as a misguided fishing expedition that threatens to ruin the company's credibility and reveal its closely guarded secrets.

  • Dow-Jones Newswire reported that the Ag Secretary of Minas Gerais said that 15% of his state's coffee crop has been lost to dry weather. Half of Brazil's coffee crop comes from the state of Minas Gerais.

  • The International Copper Study Group said that in the first eleven months of 2005, world copper demand exceeded production by 154,000 tons – this with demand down 1% YoY and production up 4% YoY.

  • Japan's GDP increased 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2005, more than expected. For calendar year 2005, real GDP was up 2.8%. Japan's latest economic growth figures show that prices, as measured by the GDP deflator, were still declining in the October-December quarter, prompting fresh calls for the Bank of Japan to weigh carefully any decision to end its ultraeasy policy.

  • Wholesale sales in Canada were up 0.4% in December. For 2005, wholesale sales were up 5.4%. Retail sales at Canada's large retailers were up 1.4% in December and up 5.9% for all of 2005.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Australian bird flu vaccine on its way

Releasing early results of a clinical trial on a vaccine to combat the deadly virus, CSL (csl.ASX:) chief scientific officer Dr Andrew Cuthbertson said the company was confident it was safe and effective.
Japanese Putting All Their Energy Into Saving Fuel
"We're saving [$100] a day at city hall by shutting off the heat,"
EPA Revokes Gasoline-Additive Mandate
States no longer will have to add corn-based ethanol or MTBE to gasoline to fight pollution — a requirement that costs as much as 8 cents a gallon — under rules announced Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Amid China Threat US To Hold Mammoth Naval Operations In Pacific

Quick Overview

  • The number of workers filing initial unemployment claims rose by 19,000 last week to 297,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

  • U.S. Housing starts rose 15% in January, the biggest jump in 33 years, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

  • The price of imported goods rose 1.3% in January, but just 0.2% excluding oil prices, the Labor Department said Thursday

  • The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's index of business activity increased from 3.3 to 15.4 in February, stronger than expected.

  • Retail sales in the U.K. were down 1.3% in January, the biggest drop in over a year.

  • Argentina's gross domestic product expanded 9.1 percent in 2005, its fastest in 13 years, as construction and agriculture led the economy to its third straight year of robust growth

  • The DoE said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 102 billion cubic feet to 2.266 trillion cubic feet. Supplies are now up 24% from a year ago.

  • The USDA Drought Monitor continues to show drought conditions in the south-central U.S., reaching up to South Dakota and Illinois.

  • Up to 15 to 20% of the wheat belt (HRW) will be vulnerable Saturday morning to bitter arctic cold temperatures in areas where enough snow cover fails to develop. The main threat to the crop is in northern Kansas and southern Nebraska."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

K Street keeps growing
Early returns on end-of-year revenues show strong growth all along Washington’s lobbying corridor
Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt
Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.
Whistleblower says NSA violations bigger
A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Quick Overview

  • Bernanke:
    Agrees some rate hikes may be needed.
    Inverted yield curve doesn't signal slowdown.
    Concerned about path of budget deficits.
    Economy less dependent on energy than in the past.
    Is in favor of using numeric inflation targets to improve the clarity and transparency of monetary policy.

  • U.S. Industrial output fell 0.2 percent in January as warm weather slashed energy production at utilities by 10%.

  • The New York Federal Reserve's index of regional manufacturing increased from 20.12 to 20.31 in February.

  • Overall air cargo shipments rose 1.3% in December from a year earlier, but domestic shipments dipped, the Air Transport Association reported.

  • The U.K.'s unemployment rate for October to December increased to 5.1% from 4.7%.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy said that:
    Supplies of crude oil were up 4.9 million barrels last week to 325.6 million barrels.
    Supplies of unleaded gasoline were up 2.2 million barrels
    Supplies of heating oil were down 700,000 barrels

  • The Green Coffee Association said that U.S. coffee stocks were 4.95 million bags – up 282,693 bags.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

U.S. federal government will give away $7 billion
Projections in the Interior Department's new budget estimate the federal government will permit the royalty-free pumping of $65 billion of oil and gas from federal land over the next five years, saving companies $7 billion, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Quick Overview

  • U.S. retail sales were up 2.3% in January -- more than expected. Excluding autos, sales were up 2.2%.

  • The Bush administration on Tuesday vowed tougher steps to make China play by global trade rules, including more enforcement staff and possible trade litigation.

  • U.S. consumer confidence rose in the latest week, ABC News and The Washington Post said on Tuesday.

  • The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise official interest rates again for the 15th consecutive time at its next meeting on March 27-28.

  • London inventories of copper are at 105,450 tons

  • YoY consumer prices in the U.K. were up 1.9% in January .

  • In 2005, GDP increased 1.3% in the Euro zone and 1.6% in the EU-25.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Quick Overview

  • The Bush administration, facing rising political pressure over the record U.S. trade deficit, on Monday urged China to further liberalize its currency policy but predicted the trade gap would moderate.

  • The U.S. labor market may be facing supply constraints that could make efforts to boost job growth with easy monetary policy backfire, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Sandra Pianalto said on Monday.

  • Retail sales in the U.K. were up 1.5% in 2005, online retail sales were up 29%.

  • The Bank of Japan said that wholesale prices were up 2.7% in January YoY. There is speculation that Japan may shortly end its policy of low interest rates.

  • The national average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.30 a gallon over the past three weeks, according to the latest Lundberg Survey of filling stations released Sunday.

  • Syria has switched all the state's foreign currency transactions to Euros from dollars amid a political confrontation with the United States, the head of state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria said on Monday.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quick Overview

  • The U.S. trade deficit widened to a record 725.8 billion in 2005. U.S. exports were up $2.3 billion in December to $111.5 billion while imports were up $3.3 billion to $177.2 billion.

  • Brazil's advance to an investment grade rating is a matter of time now that the South American nation's economy is on a stable growth trajectory, Finance Minister Antonio Palocci.

  • This year Brazils government has bought back $2.3 billion of about $90 billion of debt denominated in foreign currencies.

  • YoY Japans producer price index was up 2.7% in January.

  • Japans machinery orders were up 6.8% in December, more than expected.

  • Canada's unemployment rate increased from 6.5% to 6.6% in January

  • France's GDP increased 1.4% in 2005, down from 2.1% YoY.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Quick Overview

  • The number of workers filing initial unemployment claims rose by 4,000 last week to 277,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.

  • U.S. wholesale inventories rose 1% in December, the Commerce Department reported Thursday

  • The Fed said its overall holdings of Treasury and agency debt kept for overseas central banks rose $3.391 billion in the week ended Feb. 8, to $1.546 trillion.

  • General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are forming partnerships with energy companies on projects that could make ethanol a more mainstream fuel, USA Today reported Thursday.

  • The USDA's 2005-2006 U.S. ending stocks estimate for:
    Corn was reduced from 2.426 to 2.401 billion bushels.
    Soybeans were increased from 505 to 555 million bushels. The stocks to use ratio is now 20%, the most in nineteen years.
    Wheat was unchanged at 542 million bushels.
    Sugar was increased from 1.320 to 1.661 million tons (this is due to higher import quotas).
    Cotton was increased from 6.90 to 7.00 million bales.

  • The USDA's 2005-2006 world ending stocks estimate for:
    Corn was unchanged at 128 million tons.
    Soybeans were increased from 53 to 54 million tons.
    Wheat was reduced from 145 to 142 million tons.
    Cotton was increased from 51 to 53 million bales.

  • The USDA's estimate of the Florida orange crop remained at 158 million boxes, but the projected juice yield was increased from 1.55 to 1.58 gallons a box at 42.0 degrees Brix.

  • Statistics South Africa said the country's 2005 gold production was down 12.8% YoY.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 38 billion cubic feet to 2.368 trillion cubic feet. Supplies are now up 23% YoY.

  • The unemployment rate in Australia increased from 5.2% to 5.3% in January.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

China may eradicate poverty by 2050
However, he was keen to point out that the current situation is still not that optimistic. The economic index of China in 2001 equaled that of the United States 100 years ago. China is lagging far behind developed countries in terms of urbanization, life-expectancy and adult literacy.
Another cyberdissident imprisoned because of data provided by Yahoo
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the US firm Yahoo ! for handing over data on one of its users in China which enabled the authorities there to send him to prison for eight years, the second such case that has come to light in recent months.

Quick Overview

  • The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity for the week ended February 3 decreased 1.2 percent to 619.3 from the previous week's 626.8.

  • Leading indicators for Japan increased 0.5% in December to 101.1.

  • Manufacturing production in the U.K. increased 0.3% in December, slightly more than expected.

  • Mexico City authorities are likely to close a Sheraton hotel in the capital that threw out Cuban officials on orders of Washington, a move that angered Mexicans who say the country's sovereignty was abused.

  • The Brazilian government estimated the 2006-2007 coffee crop at 42.0 million (60-kg) bags

  • The U.S. DoE said that:
    Supplies of crude oil Crude oil were down 300,000 barrels last week to 320.7 million barrels.
    Supplies of unleaded gasoline were up 4.3 million barrels.
    Supplies of heating oil were down 1.6 million barrels.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Quick Overview

  • Industrial output in Brazil expanded in December at its fastest pace in more than two years.

  • Toyota earned roughly $3.3 billion in the quarter that ended on December 31st, up 34% from a year ago.

  • Industrial production in Germany was down 0.5% in December.

  • India's government said the economy will grow 8.1% this current fiscal year.

  • Toronto stocks plunged 263 points on Tuesday, their biggest one-day drop since April 2004, as investors pocketed gains on energy and mining shares amid sharp declines in commodity prices.

  • Shell CEO Jeroen Van Der Veer said that "The world is not running out of energy, the world is not running out of fossil fuels....we are a long way away from the peak."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Quick Overview

  • Bush is asking Congress to increase federal spending by 2.3% in 2007 to $2.77 trillion with a projected shortfall of $354 billion.

  • Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher said on Monday that U.S. fourth quarter growth could be revised higher and the country's rampant housing market did not pose the danger that many think.

  • Manufacturing orders in Germany were down 1.6% in December.

  • Canada's building permits were up 9.3% YoY.

  • Brazil's economy could grow faster if the government were to spend less and use its money more efficiently, Finance Minister Antonio Palocci said on Monday.
Will Europe’s Flat Tax Revolution Spread from East to West?
Under a flat tax, all households receive a generous family-based allowance, and are then taxed at a low rate on any income above that amount. Graduated tax rates are abolished and all loopholes are eliminated. This type of tax reform simultaneously creates a simple and transparent tax system and minimizes tax penalties on work, saving and investment. Free-market Estonia was the first to adopt a flat tax, implementing a 26 percent rate in 1994, not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The two other Baltic states followed in the mid-1990s, with Latvia choosing a 25 percent rate and Lithuania 33 percent. Learning from its neighbors, Russia shocked the world with a 13 percent flat tax that went into effect in 2001. The idea was taken up in 2003 by Serbia, which adopted a 14 percent rate. Slovakia climbed on the bandwagon the following year with a 19 percent rate, as did Ukraine, which chose 13 percent. Romania joined the flat tax revolution in 2005, with a 16 percent rate, along with Georgia, which chose 12 percent – giving it the honor (at least so far) of having the lowest rate.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Powell's Former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson Calls Pre-War Intelligence a 'Hoax on the American People' Tonight on PBS Program 'NOW'
"I recall vividly the Secretary of State walking into my office," Wilkerson tells NOW. "He said: 'I wonder what will happen if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction?'" In fact, no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.
The War in Iraq Costs ? in $$$

Friday, February 03, 2006

Earmark -- It's $$$, Not Body Art
Blair-Bush deal before Iraq war revealed in secret memo

Quick Overview

  • U.S. factory orders were up 1.1% in December and up 8.4% for 05.

  • The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment dipped from 91.5 to 91.2 in January.

  • The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, a 4 1/2-year low as businesses cranked up hiring in January.

  • The ISM index of U.S. services fell from 61.0 to 56.8 in January, still a sign of expansion.

  • Argentina's consumer prices climbed 1.3 percent in January, driven up by rises in tourism, health care and food costs, the Economy Ministry said on Friday.

  • The USDA increased the permissible raw sugar imports for 2006 by 250,000 tons to 1,901,497 tons.

  • An index of services in the Euro zone increased from 56.8 to 57.0 in January, the highest in two years.

  • Eurostat estimated inflation in the Euro zone at 2.4% in January, up from 2.2% in December.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Much Talk, Mostly Low Key, About Energy Independence
...That leaves as a centerpiece of the administration's new energy strategy an emphasis on ethanol, which is rising in favor among alternative fuel sources. Ethanol production from corn in the United States still relies on subsidies, but ethanol made from sugarcane in Brazil competes handily with gasoline. In fact, it was only after Brazil's government exposed ethanol to market forces in recent years that its success became clear.

Brazil's sugarcane industry produces about 160,000 barrels of oil-equivalent a day, assisting the country in achieving self-sufficiency in oil sometime this year, according to David G. Victor, director of the program on energy and sustainable development at Stanford University. Still, unlike Japan and China, which have plans to import Brazilian ethanol, the Bush administration has retained a 54 cent tariff on every gallon of imported ethanol.

"It's remarkable that we're not taxing fuel from Saudi Arabia while we're taxing fuel from Brazil," said Gal Luft, a co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a research organization in Washington that specializes in energy issues.

Quick Overview

  • Chain store sales rose in January, suggesting consumers are alive and well in the New Year and ready to power U.S. economic activity higher. Year-over-year sales increased 5.0% to 5.1% from the January 2005 level after a 3.5% to 3.6% gain in December.

  • YoY U.S. productivity in the fourth quarter was down 0.6%, the first decline in over four years. For 2005 productivity was up 2.7%, the smallest gain in four years. Unit labor costs were up 2.5%.

  • The International Monetary Fund should review exchange rate regimes with a more critical eye and be tougher on countries with unsustainable currency policies, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary Tim Adams said on Thursday.

  • U.S. Jobless claims were down 11,000 last week to 273,000.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 88 billion cubic feet to 2.406 trillion cubic feet. Supplies are now up 14% from a year ago.

  • The U.S. Congress voted to end the cotton subsidy program on August 1st.

  • State-run oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, is considering building a US$226 million ethanol pipeline to meet a growing global demand of the sugarcane alcohol fuel.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Quick Overview

  • An index of U.S. manufacturing growth fell for the third straight month from 55.6 to 54.8 in January, the Institute for Supply Management reported Wednesday.

  • Construction spending rose a full 1% in December, the sixth straight increase, the Commerce Department reported.

  • The unemployment rate in the Euro zone increased from 8.3% to 8.4% in December. For the EU-25, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.5%.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy said that :
    Supplies of crude oil were up 1.9 million barrels to 321.0 million barrels.
    Supplies of unleaded gasoline were up 4.2 million barrels
    Supplies of heating oil were up 1.8 million barrels.
    The bearish U.S. inventory data triggered a 2% drop in crude-oil prices and a more than 6% tumble in natural-gas futures.