Carpe Diem

Net Exports Contribution to GDP Highest in 10 Yrs.

The contribution of net exports of goods and services to real GDP growth in the third quarter was revised upward to 1.37% (from the original estimate of 0.90%), and contributed to half of the 1% upward revision of real GDP growth from 3.9% to 4.9%. Further, it was the largest percent contribution to real GDP growth since the fourth quarter of 1996 (see chart above). Further, without the -1.03% decline in housing, real GDP growth would have been 5.93% in the third quarter. Read more here from First Trust Advisors.

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Summer Real GDP Growth Highest in 4 Years

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. economy expanded at the fastest pace in four years during the third quarter, growing at a real annual rate of 4.9%, the Commerce Department reported today in making its second estimate of growth for the three-month period.

The 4.9% growth rate during the summer of 2007 was only the second time in the last 29 quarters that the economy expanded at close to a 5% rate, and it was the strongest growth rate for the economy in 4 years (see chart above).

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End All Government Involvement in Education

Prayers in school, sex education and “intelligent design” are contentious school issues. I believe parents should have the right to decide whether their children will say a morning prayer in school, be taught “intelligent design” and not be given school-based sex education. I also believe other parents should have the right not to have their children exposed to prayers in school, “intelligent design” and receive sex education.

The reason why these issues produce conflict is because education is government-produced. That means there’s either going to be prayers or no prayers, “intelligent design” or no “intelligent design” and sex education or no sex education. If one parent has his wishes met, it comes at the expense of another parent’s wishes. The losing parent either must grin and bear it or send his child to a private school, pay its tuition and still pay property taxes for a school for which he has no use.

The solution is to take the production of education out of the political arena. The best way is to end all government involvement in education. Failing to get government completely out of education, we should recognize that because government finances something it doesn’t follow that government must produce it. Government finances F-22 Raptor fighter jets, but there’s no government factory producing them. The same could be done in education. We could finance education collectively through tuition tax credits or educational vouchers, but allow parents to choose, much like we did with the GI Bill. Government financed the education, but the veterans chose the school.

~From George Mason economist Walter Williams’ latest column

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Quote of the Day II

The writers’ strike basically shapes up as a couple of third cousins at Thanksgiving dinner arguing over who gets a slightly larger slice of the billion dollar pumpkin pie: the writers who create the movies and shows, or the corporations who actually take all the financial risk that allows us Hollywood writers to write in Hollywood in the first place.

~John Ridley’s NPR’s “Visible Man

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FDIC Report Suggests Banks Are Surviving Well


The charts above were created using the most recent banking data from 8,560 FDIC-insured banks, throughout the third quarter 2007, showing that:

1. Total assets of commercial banks increased by a record $446.3 billion (3.6%) to $12,707 billion, eclipsing the previous quarterly high of $331.6 billion set in the first quarter of 2006 (top chart above). Loans secured by real estate at commercial banks were up by 5.3% in the third quarter 2007 vs. the same quarter last year (see second chart above), suggesting that credit tightening in response to the subprime troubles is not a problem for U.S. banks.

2. The “net-charge offs to FDIC banks” (loans removed from balance sheet because of uncollectibility) in 2007 has been 0.50% (or about 1 loan in 200), slightly higher than last year, but about the same as 2005 (0.49%) and much lower than 2003 (0.78%), and about half the rate in 2002 (0.97%), see third chart above.

3. The number of “problem institutions” in 2007 (65 banks) is slightly higher than 2006 (50 banks) and 2005 (52 banks) as might be expected given the recent troubles in the financial sector, but lower than 2004 (80 banks), 2003 (116 banks) and about half the number in 2002 (136 banks), see bottom chart.

The FDIC report presents a picture of a U.S. banking system that is overall still very healthy, while it absorbs some of the negative effects of the subprime mortgage troubles. On the positive side, commercial loan growth set another new record in the third quarter 2007, residential mortgage loans registered the largest quarterly increase since the second quarter of 2006, “problem list” assets declined, more than 99% of insured institutions met or exceeded the highest regulatory capital requirements, more than half of all banks (51%) reported higher quarterly earnings compared to the third quarter of 2006, and net interest income increased by the best year-over-year growth rate in five years (6.5%). No credit crunch, and bank performance is healthy.

On the negative side, there are some effects of the subprime mortgage troubles: the number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem List” increased from 61 to 65 in the third quarter (probably not a big deal since there are 8,560 banks), and loan-loss provisions totaled $16.6 billion – the largest quarterly loss provision since the second quarter of 1987.

Bottom Line: As I mentioned in several recent posts, not a single U.S. bank failed in either 2005 or 2006, and only 3 banks failed in 2007 (out of 8,560 banks). The banking system today is probably much stronger than it was was in 2002 or 2003 on many dimensions (net charge-off rates, problem institutions and bank failures), and much stronger and more stable than most people give it credit for. Certainly the subprime troubles have shown some effect on banks, which is to be expected. But the fact that more than 99% of insured U.S. institutions currently meet or exceed the highest regulatory capital requirements suggests that the U.S. banking system is healthy and will absorb and survive the current turmoil in the subprime mortgage sector.

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TelaDoc Market Solution: The Doctors Is Always In

Health care entrepreneurs working outside the traditional health insurance payment system are using telephone, e-mail, text messaging and innovative computer software to make medical care more accessible and convenient for patients, according to a new study by the National Center for Policy Analysis titled “Convenient Care and Telemedicine.”

Approximately 1 million patients are now subscribers to a nationwide service operated by TelaDoc Medical Services. For a low $35 consultation fee, enrollees can talk to a doctor by phone, any time day or night.

Conclusion:Telemedicine provides important new opportunities to improve health care in the 21st century. Telemedicine is safe, efficient and convenient for both patients and providers. It is often the method preferred by patients who demand timely access to their doctors. And it is a method endorsed by a growing number of doctors who understand its potential. Other industries have taken advantage of information technology to benefit consumers in numerous ways. It is time that health care does the same.
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Online Shopping in Nov. At All-Time Record Highs

“Cyber Monday” sales set a new all-time single day record for e-commerce sales of $733 million, according to comScore, representing a 21% increase over last year. While Monday represented the first time ever more than $700 million was spent in a single day by online shoppers, comScore said that it expects spending on some days may exceed $800 million in the coming weeks.

Further, online shopping for the month of November so far is also up significantly from the same period last year by 17%, see chart above, and online shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are also up by more than 20% from last year.

What recession?