Chris Lau - Seeking Alpha

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Are you being Fooled by the Numbers?

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

US Labour
The Department of Labour reported the following:
  • initial claims was 492,000, a decrease of 94,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 586,000
  • advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.4 percent for the week ending Dec. 20, an increase of 0.1 percentage point
  • advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Dec. 20 was 4,506,000, an increase of 140,000
The positive spinoff was that the rate of unemployment declined. Remember though that in December, people are in holiday mode.

GM Rescue Unwise
The Treasury Department said it would invest $6 billion to stabilize the troubled company. This would seem to be good because up to 25% of buyers were unable to make a purchase because loans were not available. GM is announced that it would offer financing as low as zero percent for up to five years on select new cars and trucks.

Lax lax financing in the banking sector for homes resulted in foreclosures. GM is now accumulating consumer debt, hoping to increase demand until the economy improves. The risk is that the economy does not improve in time for GM.

It seems to be smoke and mirrors. It is like giving vitamins to someone who has a flu. As I stated in a previous entry, GM should still be worth zero.

U.S. October Housing (Some real numbers)
  • Prices fell 18 percent in October from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller Housing Index
  • Prices fell 2.2% month-over-month
  • Only 2.5 percent of Americans say they plan to buy a home in the next six months
Although there has been Santa Claus Rally over the past few days, volume is light. On the plus side, volatility has declined substantially since mid-November when the Dow hit low numbers. Still, the economic numbers are very grim as the markets enter 2009.