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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- September 30, 2012

Data that lives forever is possible: Japan's Hitachi - - September 24, 2012 -  The company on Monday  unveiled a method of storing digital information on slivers of quartz  glass that can endure extreme temperatures and hostile conditions  without degrading, almost forever.  And for anyone who updated their LP collection onto CD, only to find  they then needed to get it all on MP3, a technology that never needs to  change might sound appealing.  "The volume of data being created every day is exploding, but in terms  of keeping it for later generations, we haven't necessarily improved  since the days we inscribed things on stones," Hitachi researcher  Kazuyoshi Torii said.                     "The possibility of losing information may actually have increased," he  said, noting the life of digital media currently available—CDs and hard  drives—is limited to a few decades or a century at most.  And the rapid development of technologies has resulted in frequent  changes of data-reading hardware.  "As you must have experienced, there is the problem that you cannot  retrieve information and data you managed to collect," said Torii,  apparently referring to now-obsolete record players and cine films.                          Hitachi's new technology stores data in binary form by creating dots  inside a thin sheet of quartz glass, which can be read with an ordinary  optical microscope.  Provided a computer with the know-how to understand that binary is  available—simple enough to programme, no matter how advanced computers  become—the data will always be readable, Torii said.  The prototype storage device is two centimetres (0.8 inches) square and  just two millimetres (0.08 inches) thick and made from quartz glass, a  highly stable and resilient material, used to make beakers and other  instruments for laboratory use.                      The chip, which is resistant to many chemicals and unaffected by radio  waves, can be exposed directly to high temperature flames and heated to  1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 Fahrenheit) for at least two hours without  being damaged.  It is also waterproof, meaning it could survive natural calamities, such  as fires and tsunami.

US durable goods orders drop 13.2 percent in August, biggest decline in more than 3 years - Associated Press – September 27, 2012

Durable goods orders take worst monthly drop since recession - Reuters through MSNBC - September 27, 2012 - New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods in August fell by the most in 3-1/2 years, pointing to a sharp slowdown in factory activity even as a gauge of planned business spending rebounded.                    The Commerce Department said on Thursday durable goods orders dived 13.2 percent, the largest drop since January 2009, when the economy was in the throes of a recession. Orders for July were revised down to show a 3.3 percent increase instead of the previously reported 4.1 percent gain.                       Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders for durable goods -- items from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last at least three years -- to fall 5 percent.                     Last month, the drop in orders reflected weak aircraft and automobiles demand. Boeing received only one aircraft order in August, down from 260 in July, according to information posted on the plane maker's website.

Student-Loan Default Rates Rise as Federal Scrutiny Grows - Bloomberg - September 29, 2012 - More than one in 10 borrowers defaulted on their federal student loans, intensifying concern about a generation hobbled by $1 trillion in debt and the role of colleges in jacking up costs.                    The default rate, for the first three years that students are required to make payments, was 13.4 percent, with for-profit colleges reporting the worst results, the U.S. Education Department said today.                        The Education Department has revamped the way it reports student-loan defaults, which the government said had reached the highest level in 14 years. Previously, the agency reported the rate only for the first two years payments are required. Congress demanded a more comprehensive measure because of concern that colleges counsel students to defer payments to make default rates appear low.                 “Default rates are the tip of the iceberg of borrower distress,” said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of The Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California.                       The data follows complaints that commission-driven debt collectors the government hires aren’t telling students about affordable options to repay their debt, especially a plan that lets them make payments tied to their incomes. Students have borrowed $1 trillion to pay for higher education, surpassing credit-card debt.

The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: Over $120 Billion In Federal Student Loans In Default - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - September 28, 2012 -   Whereas earlier today we presented one of the most exhaustive presentations on the state of the student debt bubble, one question that has always evaded greater scrutiny has been the very critical default rate for student borrowers: a number which few if any lenders and colleges openly disclose for fears the general public would comprehend not only the true extent of the student loan bubble, but that it has now burst. This is a question that we specifically posed a month ago when we asked "As HELOC delinquency rates hit a record, are student loans next?" Ironically in that same earlier post we showed a chart of default rates for federal loan borrowers that while rising was still not too troubling: as it turns out the reason why its was low is it was made using fudged data that drastically misrepresented the seriousness of the situation, dramatically undercutting the amount of bad debt in the system.                        Luckily, this is a question that has now been answered, courtesy of the Department of Education, which today for the first time ever released official three-year, or much more thorough than the heretofore standard two-year benchmark, federal student loan cohort default rates. The number, for all colleges, stood at a stunning 13.4% for the 2009 cohort. The number is stunning because it is nearly 50% greater than the old benchmark, which tracked a two year default cohort, and which was a "mere" 8.8% for the 2009 year. Broken down by type of education, and using the new improved, and much more realistic benchmark, for-profit institutions had the highest average three-year default rates at 22.7 percent, with public institutions following at 11 percent and private non-profit institutions at 7.5 percent. In other words, more than one in five federal student loans used to fund private for-profit education, is now in default and will likely never be repaid!
And while it is impossible using historical data to extrapolate with precision what the current consolidated federal student loan default rate is, we do know that there is now $914 billion in federal student loans (which also was mysteriously revised over 50% higher by the Fed just a month ago). Using simple inference, all else equal (and all else has certainly deteriorated), there is now at least $122 billion in federal student loan defaults. And surging every day.                  Ladies and gentlemen: meet the new subprime....

Young U.S. Adults Flock to Parents’ Homes Amid Economy - Bloomberg - Kathy Warbelow and Frank Bass - September 25, 2012 - The number of 26-year-olds living with parents has jumped almost 46 percent since 2007, according to Census Bureau data compiled by the University of Minnesota Population Center. Last year, the number of 18- to 30-year-olds living with their parents grew to 20.7 million, a 3.9 percent gain from 2010.                      The figures underscore the difficulty that millions of young people have had in finding jobs and starting careers in the U.S. following the longest recession since the Great Depression. About a quarter of American adults between the ages of 18 and 30 now live with parents, while intergenerational households have reached the highest level in more than 50 years....                      The number of unemployed Americans has surged 60 percent to about 12.5 million from 7.82 million in the first quarter of 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The nation’s jobless rate, which peaked at 10 percent in October 2009, was 8.1 percent in August, compared with 5.1 percent in March 2008....

Americans Are Literally Being Worked To Death - The Economic Collapse Blog - Are you constantly tired and do you feel incredibly stressed almost all the time?  Well, that means that there is a really good chance that you are a typical American worker.  Even though our incomes are going down, Americans are spending more time at work than ever before.  In fact, U.S. workers spend more time at work than anyone else in the world.  But it was not always this way.  Back in 1970, the average work week for an American worker was about 35 hours.  Today, it is up to 46 hours.  But there are other major economies around the globe that are doing just fine without burning their workers out.  For example, the average American worker spends 378 more hours working per year than the average German worker does.  Sadly, for many Americans work is not even finished once they leave the office.  According to one recent survey, the average American worker spends an extra seven hours per week on work tasks such as checking emails and answering phone calls after normal work hours have finished.  Other Americans are juggling two or three jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  Americans are busier than ever and work is often pushing the other areas of our lives on to the back burner.  What this also means is that "family vacations" are becoming increasingly rare in the United States.  In fact, Americans spend less days on vacation than anyone else in the industrialized world.  While some would applaud our "work ethic", the truth is that the fact that we are being overworked is having some very serious consequences.  In fact, as you will see below, Americans are literally being worked to death...                            This is a sign that our society is going backwards.  Working class Americans are actually living significantly shorter lives than they used to.
Of course the garbage that passes for "food" these days certainly is not helping matters any, but that is a topic for another article.                              Sadly, those that are working themselves to death consider themselves to be the "lucky ones" in our society today.                      There are countless millions of other Americans that are sitting at home right now without a job.                      The mainstream media is trying to convince us that the unemployment rate has been falling, but that is a lie.  If the labor force participation rate was the same today as it was back when Barack Obama first took office, the unemployment rate in the United States would be 11.2 percent right now.
But that doesn't sound nearly as good as 8.1 percent sounds, right?                           And the percentage of working age Americans with a job is actually lower today than when the last recession supposedly ended.                             In this economic environment, most people are scared to death of losing the jobs that they currently have because they don't know if they will be able to get another one.                   During the month of August, the unemployment rate actually increased in 26 different U.S. states, and yet we are supposedly in the midst of "an economic recovery".
But the truth is that we are not better off than we were back during the last recession.  In fact, there are a whole host of statistics that indicate that things are getting worse.                      Unfortunately, much of the time people tend to forget that the horrible economic numbers that we are seeing have very substantial real life consequences.                    People that cannot find work and people that work very long hours for a very long period of time tend to be much more depressed than the population as a whole.                         And depression can often lead to suicide.  According to a recent Daily Mail article, more Americans now die from suicide than from car accidents....

Gasoline Supply Concerns Trump Crude SPR Rumors - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - September 28, 2012 - the end-product market has gone only one way for the last two weeks. Thanks to technical supply constraint concerns (refinery maintenance in the Atlantic Basin and supplies at their lowest in over four years) RBOB gasoline prices have jumped over 18% in the last few days as crude has drifted - which can only mean down-the-supply-chain price rises at the pump for car-drivers everywhere...

US East Coast Faces Severe Oil Shortages and High Prices as Refineries Close - -By Post Carbon - March 7, 2012 

'Zombie Economy' May Give Markets a Scare in October- CNBC - Patti Domm - September 28, 2012 - After a surprisingly good performance in the third quarter, the thinking is the stock market is ready to pull back, especially after a few choppy sessions and a new batch of data that should continue to show a slow-moving, ‘zombie like’ economy. (Read More: September Bad for Stocks? Why It's Different This Time)                     Stocks logged the best third quarter performance since 2010. For the quarter, the Dow [.DJI  13437.13    -48.84  (-0.36%)   ] surged 4.32 percent and the S&P 500 [.SPX  1440.67    -6.48  (-0.45%)   ] soared 5.76 percent.                   The coming week could provide plenty of excuses to take profits, beginning with Monday’s ISM manufacturing data, again expected to show weakness in the sector.                           Manufacturing reports from China, over the weekend, and from Europe, also Monday, will provide a look at just how sluggish global activity has become. (Read More: Stocks to Ward Off China Slump?                         Friday’s jobs report is expected to show the low level of job creation continued in September, after August’s 96,000 nonfarm payrolls. The U.S. election is also a focus this week, with the first presidential debate in the tight race Wednesday evening.                “I think the overarching thing is it’s the new quarter. What’s it mean? Did we experience any window dressing? It doesn’t feel like it to me,” said Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Partners. “To me, there’s more downside risk than upside risk.”              “I’m not sure what the catalyst is going to be, but we’re due,” said Hogan. (Read More: S&P 500 to Hit Record High in 2013—Strategist)                        Counterbalancing the disappointing economic news has been the willingness of global central banks to take action, and the Fed’s quantitative easing program is expected to provide a floor for the market if it does start to correct.

G. Edward Griffin - Psychiatry as a Political Weapon

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