Credit-card delinquencies are at record highs, according to Fitch Ratings, and the U.S. unemployment rate of 8.9 percent is the highest since 1983. As more consumers fall behind on bills, settlement companies often end up adding to the debt burden rather than offering a cost-saving solution, said Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Silver Spring, Maryland.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has begun a national investigation of settlement companies, and has sued two for fraud and false advertising. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also filed two lawsuits against debt-settlement companies, alleging they “engage in deceptive marketing practices” and “do little or nothing to improve consumers’ financial standings.” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sued a debt settlement company in March, saying it engaged in “deceptive and misleading acts,” according to court documents.
It is much better to avoid this problem by taking wise personal finance actions – don’t take on personal debt for minor purchases (for a mortgage then debt is fine, probably fine for a car – though avoid debt if you can). The “secret” is not very secret. Just don’t buy what you can’t pay for. It is very simple, many people just don’t want to follow that simple strategy. Also save money in an emergency fund, so when some emergency comes along you don’t go into debt. You just use your emergency fund.
Once you are stuck in a bad situation with more debt than you can afford to pay back you have bad choices. Obviously many try to take advantage of you. Frankly they realize many that are stuck in bad financial position make bad financial decisions. Therefor it is a good place for those trying to rip people off to find people to take advantage of. The best way to deal with this is not to try and find the best debt negotiators it is to manage you finances well and not get in trouble.
Related: Personal Saving and Personal Debt in the USA – How to Use a Credit Card Successfully – Credit Card Companies Willing to Deal Over Debt – Where to Keep Your Emergency Funds? – Americans are Drowning in Debt
The current economic climate is very bad and all car manufacturing in the USA has declined in the last 2 years. But the longer term trend is that foreign companies are manufacturing more and more here while the USA companies fail to. This year it is likely the “big three” will manufacture fewer than 50% of the cars manufactured in the USA (the “big three” have more production in Canada and Mexico than the “foreign” companies do).
This transplant industry is replacing Detroit’s manufacturing. Through mid May, all North American assembly plants (including Canada and Mexico) have built 2.77 million cars and light trucks, half the production level of the year-earlier period. Of these, Detroit’s Big Three have built only 1.5 million of these vehicles, just 268,000 more than the transplants.
Toyota took over a badly managed GM plant in California; it was a joint venture, but the Japanese ran the plant. GM sent young executives to work there and learn Toyota’s manufacturing and quality techniques. They learned, but when they came back to GM, the GM bureaucracy would not change its ways.
Read about the joint Toyota – GM plant: Remembering NUMMI. The problems of GM, Ford and Chrysler are due mainly to long term failures or management. It is not impossible to manufacture in the USA. But it is difficult to maintain poor management systems, without overpaid executives when others manage better and don’t take so much of the profits into their own pockets.
Related: posts on manufacturing – Big Failed Three, Meet the Successful Eight – Leading Manufacturing Countries in 2007 – Honda has Never had Layoffs and has been Profitable Every Year – People: Team Members or Costs
But there may be another, less benign, reason for rising productivity. In past downturns, educated professionals have escaped mainly unscathed. This time businesses are relentlessly hacking at their professional workforce—a tactic that boosts short-term productivity while hurting long-term growth. Rising productivity may be a sign of weakness, not strength.
Over the past year the number of employed professionals has fallen by 0.7%, a rare decline. Outside of the still-growing education and health-care occupations, the number of employed professionals has dropped by a dramatic 3.6%.
Cutting productive staff for short term rewards is definitely a negative for long term productivity. My guess is the management ranks are not as productive as the non-management ranks are however. My sense is their is more room to eliminate non-value added activity from management positions which will not harm long term productivity growth.
A good way to improve productivity is to reduce excessive pay for senior executives. As the money wasted on exorbitant pay that senior executives lavish on themselves is reduced the capital wasted on them can be better deployed in ways that will improve productivity.
New York still is up 73.4% from January 2000, though down 19.7% from its June 2006 peak. The Detroit index is 29% lower than in January 2000. Detroit home prices are back to their mid-1995 levels.
Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco continued to lead year-over-year decliners, with drops over 30%. Minneapolis led month-to-month decliners, as the rate of decline accelerated there. The rates of decline also accelerated in Boston, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, Portland, San Diego and Seattle.
Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Boston and Charlotte managed to avoid double-digit year-over-year declines. Measuring from each market’s peak, Dallas has suffered the least, down 11.1% from its peak in June 2007; while Phoenix is down 53% from its peak in June of 2006. All of the 20 metro areas are in double digit declines from their peaks, with two — Phoenix and Las Vegas — in excess of 50%.
Bernstein estimates that the amount of crude entering the SPR ports in China—the world’s second biggest oil consumer after the U.S.–has increased by around 400,000 barrels a day since November, based on its assessment using the satellite imaging services of Google, the search engine company.
There’s likely more to come. Bernstein says satellite images show a marked increase in oil-storage construction over the past few years and estimates that China’s number of days of forward demand–a gauge of oil storage–amount to just 28 days of imports and 14 days of total demand.
China is targeting storage capacity that will hold demand cover of around 90 days. (The U.S. currently has storage for about 62 days of oil imports.) In other words, there’s a lot more oil still to be packed away in China now and in the coming years as more facilities are built.
This is another smart move by China, in my opinion. With the huge amount of cash they are holding, I would rather hold more of it as crude than dollars. And stockpiling the crude also protects the domestic demand from supply shocks. I would also take other steps they are taking, like investing heavily in adding wind power capacity.
In hindsight there seems something rather perverse about only providing the best care to retired workers. In theory, the government should make private insurance cheaper for everyone else because then the young won’t have to subsidise (at least through their health-care premiums) the old. The main problem, which European countries have learned, is that sustainable, government-provided care and timely access to the most innovative treatments tends to be mutually exclusive.
John Bogle was the founder of Vanguard Group and a well respected investment mind. He has written several good books including: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, Common Sense on Mutual Funds and Bogle on Mutual Funds. This interview from 2006 discusses the state of the retirement system, before the credit crisis.
Frontline: How do they get away with that? Don’t they have to fund them?
John Bogle: No, they don’t, because a lot of it is based on assumptions. Our corporations are now assuming that future returns in their pension plan will be about 8.5 percent per year, and that’s not going to happen. The future returns in the bond market will be about 4.5 percent, and maybe if we’re lucky 7.5 percent on stocks. Call it a 6 percent return — before you deduct the cost of investing all that money, the turnover cost, the management fees. So maybe a 5 percent return is going to be possible, in my judgment, and they are estimating 8.5 percent.
Why? Because when they do it that way, corporation earnings become greatly overstated, and all the executives get nice, big bonuses. They are using pension plan assumptions as a way to manage corporate earnings and meet the expectations of Wall Street.
Frontline: So if a company overstates the value of its pension plan assets, it makes the company look better to Wall Street, so there’s an incentive to kind of exaggerate, if not cheat.
John Bogle: That is precisely correct. And let me clear on the cheating: It’s legal cheating; it’s not illegal cheating. In other words, you can change any reasonable set of numbers — and corporations have done this, have raised the pension assumption from 7 percent to 8.5 percent — and all of a sudden that corporation will report an earnings gain for the year rather than an earnings loss that they would otherwise have. Simple, legal.
The entire PBS series (from 2006) on 401(k)s (including interviews with Elizabeth Warren, David Wray and Alicia Munnell) is worth reading.
In February of 2009 he spoke to the House of Representatives committee exploring retirement security.
The Indian stock market surged 17% today on the election results that gave the Congress party an unexpectedly decisive victory. The market was closed early due to the huge spike in prices. The Indian stock market was up 26% this year, before the move today.
Even with a free hand, the Congress-led government will face formidable challenges. India needs to swiftly build roads, highways and power plants; improve public schools and build universities for a swelling young population; and hire nurses and doctors for its feeble public health system. Most of all, it needs to address its abiding poverty. Despite over a decade of high economic growth in India, 300 million people remain below the poverty line.
India has great potential and great problems. India has poor physical infrastructure and crippling bureaucracy; India ranked the 122nd easiest country for doing business. The election results are giving investors hope the government will be able to make progress to improve the business climate, which will improve economic performance.
Can unemployment claims predict the end of the American recession? by Robert J. Gordon
To this point I have examined a single indicator to see if it is useful in predicting the end of recessions without any consideration of what is going on in the rest of the economy. Our conclusion is supported by the fact that previous false peaks occurred when new claims were at 80 to 90% of the level at the ultimate true peak. For the peak of 4 April 2009 to be false by this historical precedent, the ultimate future peak would have to be in the range of 730,000 to 800,000. As the weeks go by, such a sharp future increase in new claims looks increasingly implausible.
My reasoning leads me to conclude that the ultimate NBER trough of the current business cycle is likely to occur in May or June 2009, substantially earlier than is currently predicted by many professional forecasters.
Interesting points. Time will tell what happens. I am skeptical this measure alone will prove to be perfect but I can believe it will be one useful measure to consider. I tend to be skeptical we are close to a strong recovery. But at what point the economy moves out of a recession is less certain. I still believe we will be lucky if we show job gains by the end of this year.
Related: How Much Worse Can the Mortgage Crisis Get? (March 2008) – Unemployment Rate Increased to 8.9% – Manufacturing Employment Data – 1979 to 2007 – First Quarter 2009 GDP down 6.1% – Poll: 60% say Depression Likely (Oct 2008)
Welcome to the second edition of our investing and economics carnival.
- How Does the Current Crisis Compare to the Great Depression? by Price Fishback – “How does this compare to the Great Depression? We won’t know the final outcome of this recession for a while, but I can safely say that the current situation is nowhere near as bad as the situation during the 1930’s.”
- US GDP and imports by Matt Nolan – “Now, this doesn’t actually make sense as a measure to look at. Why? Well when we measure GDP we are interested in ‘domestic production’…”
- 100th Entrepreneur Loan by John Hunter – “Participating with Kiva is a great antidote to reading about the unethical ‘leaders’ taking huge sums to run their companies into the ground (or even just taking obscene sums to maintain their company). The opportunity to give real capitalists an chance at a better life is wonderful.”
- The Best 15 Financial iPhone Apps by David Weliver – “More than a dozen great financial apps for the iPhone make tracking and managing your personal finances on the go as easy as texting. Want to enlist your iPhone to help you get richer?”
- Bolster Your Emergency Fund In A Prolonged Crisis – “To prepare for the worst, we should picture an unemployed scenario and get serious about bulking up our emergency fund to meet at least six to eight months of expenses.”
- How to make money without a job and why you should – “There are two more advantages to alternative income besides diversification of income sources. First of all is the expansion of skills… You are learning something new, and making it that much more likely that you’ll be able to add further income streams…
- Five Low-Risk Stocks For Gen Y – “There are much better alternatives for the ultra-conservative Gen Y investors than money market accounts, Treasuries and CDs. A conservative strategy focusing on high quality, low risk dividend stocks should significantly out-perform the above investments, with very little incremental long-term risk.”
- 5 easy ways to save money and the environment – “Bottled water is a huge drain on our resources and are grossly overpriced. Reusable water bottles use fewer resources, save you money… Compact fluorescent light bulbs use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs and usually last 5 years or more…”
- Text Messaging is the Biggest Scam of the 21st Century – “The cost per GB of cable internet is $0.75… the cost per GB of cell phone data $6.00… the cost per GB of text messaging data is $800…”
I decided to add this investing and economics carnival after running the Curious Cat Management Management Improvement Carnival for several years. If you like these posts you may also be interested in the Invest Reddit where a community of those interested in investing submit and rate articles and blog posts.