Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cluelessness or Cognitive Dissonance?

My apologies for not writing any posts for a while but I do get tired of having to repeat myself so frequently.

Once again we see the cluelessness of the financial reporters in a couple of articles from the past few days. First up was an AP story (via MSNBC) which reported on an analysis from Fidelity Investments on people raiding their 401Ks due to "hardships." This came on top of the Weekly New Unemployment claims report showing (Reuters via CNBC):

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, yet another setback to the frail economic recovery.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 500,000 in the week ended August 14, the highest since mid-November, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 476,000 from the previously reported 484,000 the prior week, which was revised up to 488,000 in Thursday's report.

But today's (Sunday, August 22) NY Times really steps in it.
Renewed economic uncertainty is testing Americans’ generation-long love affair with the stock market.

Investors withdrew a staggering $33.12 billion from domestic stock market mutual funds in the first seven months of this year, according to the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry trade group. Now many are choosing investments they deem safer, like bonds.

If that pace continues, more money will be pulled out of these mutual funds in 2010 than in any year since the 1980s, with the exception of 2008, when the global financial crisis peaked.

Small investors are “losing their appetite for risk,” a Credit Suisse analyst, Doug Cliggott, said in a report to investors on Friday.

Now, there is obviously some validity to this but buried three quarters of the way down in the article is a far more likely reason:
And the flight from stocks may also be driven by households that are no longer able to tap into home equity for cash and may simply need the money to pay for ordinary expenses.

Five hundred thousand new jobless claims the past week. The rolling four week average at 482.5K (highest since December '09). Unemployment hovering between 9.5 and 10%. Underemployment added in basically doubling that.

I'm one of the lucky ones as I've mentioned before. I cashed out my 401K/SEP-IRA and such in order to survive a few years ago. Even with paying the early cash out penalties, I still got to spend more of it on myself than those folks who watched theirs swirl down the drain as the market crashed in 2008.

So as we watch the politicians come scrounging for votes this November, here's a few things to think about.
1) President Obama's "Deficit Commission" is looking at things such as raising the retirement age and use "Social Security's in crisis" as a theme to avoid paying back Special US Treasury Bonds.

2) People like Mitch McConnell like to go on shows like Meet the Press and talk about how Social Security is in crisis even though those Special Treasury bonds are "pieces of paper sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere."

3) Raising the retirement age keeps older people (those still fortunate to be employed that is) in the work force longer

4) Keeping older people in the work force longer keeps younger people from getting the entry jobs in the work force.

The economic world in the United States and worldwide is not a vacuum. All the pieces of it intersect and interact. At some point the so-called political, business, and TradMed elites are going to have to admit to themselves that the world is not as they envisage it. People all over the country are scared and angry. They see bleak futures for themselves and their children and grandchildren. Empty platitudes and simplistic slogans are not going to mollify people any longer. We see it in the demonizing of the "others," be they brown people, gays, or whatever the minority group du jour.

And because I can:

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