The Disconnect and Economic Classes

The aggregate headline economic data shows things are not all that bad, and the recovery is proceeding modestly along — why then, the disconnect?

Perhaps the answer is found in the annual Census Bureau report on consumer income; it slipped out almost unnoticed last week. This report may have gotten overlooked, coming out as it did contemporaneously with Katrina. But it raises important issues, touching as it does on so many elements of our thesis of an anemic and waning, stimulus-driven expansion.

It also is stimulative of discussions regarding the development of income classes in the United States in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Here are some of the details, via the WSJ:

"Although the U.S. economy grew robustly last year, the income of the median household slipped a bit, wages of full-time workers fell, the number of Americans living below the poverty line rose and more Americans went without health insurance, the Census Bureau said in its annual report on consumer income.

The snapshot suggests that the recovering economy, while adding jobs and showing productivity gains since the recession of 2001, isn’t paying dividends to everyone. The economy grew by a healthy 3.8% in 2004, but the new Census Bureau report underscores that one unusual feature of the recovery has been sluggish gains in income for many, particularly at the bottom and middle. The share of all income going to the top fifth of households rose slightly to 50.1% last year, matching the 2001 high and well above the 45.2% reported in 1984, the bureau said."

This explains, in large measure, the disconnect between recent polling data of Americans — from Presidential Approval Ratings at their lows to weak Economic expectations — versus a specific sub-group of upbeat Dismal Scientists.

But while historical trends continue — of course the poor get poorer and the rich get richer — the really intriguing part of this picture is the middle class squeeze. Let me remind readers that throughout most of economic history, there have only been two classes: The Rich and the Poor. Today, we arguably have 4 economic strata: The Poor, the Middle Class, the Rich, and the Ulltra-Wealthy.

I find two elements of this to be utterly fascinating:
The diminishing Middle Class, as well as the rise of the Ultra-Wealthy:

1. The diminishing Middle Class A large population occupying the economic strata between the rich and the poor is a relatively recent — and potentially fleeting — post-war phenomena. There have been merchants and craftsman for thousands of years, but they were much closer in lifestyle to the poor than the rich. On a scale of 1-10, with the poor at 1 and the rich at 10, I’d put this group at a 3. It wasn’t until the post WWII period where the middle really moved towards, well, the middle, occupying a range from 4-6. (These #s are not quantifiably derived — they are rough estimates).

I wonder if today we are at the onset of this group becoming a considerably smaller. Think about the jobs that used to pay a comfortable wage + benefits, from manufacturing to postal workers, that are going away or getting downsized or simply replaced by technology and/or the private sector.

Consider also the reasons why GM and Ford have such competitive legacy problems — they are competing against Korean and Japanese companies who’s government pays for many of the expenses of their rising middle class — healthcare, child care, retirement accounts, etc. And the competition from Chinese firms is so intense because their workers are willing to accept wages that moves them from the 0/1 range on the 1-10 scale to a 2-3.   

Some Americans have adapted by throttling back their lifestyle — in effect becoming lower income. Others have gotten the entrepreneurial spirit, started their own gigs, and moved further upstream. But for the most part, the middle class is getting squeezed smaller, with each end of the bell curve distribution moving (up or down) into the adjacent class.

My fascination with this is how it impacts consumer spending and the comapnies affected by that.

2. The Ultra-wealthy have always been around — Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frick, Guggenheim, etc. What’s so intriguing to me about this is how the Ultra-Wealthy class has expanded wildly over the past 20 years, thanks to a combination of 3 elements: a) a technological meritocracy; b) a readily available method of cashing out the benefits of that meritocracy via options and the stock market; c)  a significant drop in the highest tax brackets.

Even without the Market, Bill Gates would have been a billionaire. He made money the old fashioned way — monopoly profits ala the Rockefeller or Carnegie model.

But think about all the other players who are Billionaires w/o the advantages of a monopoly: Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos, Meg Whittman, Scott McNealy, John Chambers, The Yahoo and Google Boys, Michael Dell, Mark Cuban, Andy Grove — and thats just tech. I haven’t even mentioned all the telecom Billionaires. The past few years gave the major insiders of the home builders an opportunity to cash out — and they have been doing so in droves, entering that rarified group. That’s before we get to the Real Estate moguls, the Hedge Fund billionaires, or the big entertainment money.

I’m guessing that there are more people in the U.S. with a net wealth in excess of 250 million dollars (inflation adjusted) than ever before. Thats truly astonishing. And given my fascination with multiple variables, I wonder if the same underlying factors  are the root cause of these changes (i.e., globalization and the maturing of capital markets) — or if there is any sort of a causal relationship between the two (I doubt it, but good luck trying to quantify it) . 

But I digress.

Here’s the snapshot on household income and wages:
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click for larger chart
Census08302005184013
Courtesy of WSJ

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The relevance to markets, of course, is that 70% of our GDP is consumer related. Much of that  spending comes from the middle and lower classes.  How flush they feel is a key to future spending patterns. 

Here’s some of the specifics from the Census Bureau via WSJ:

"Median income fell most sharply in the Midwest, where it dropped 2.8% to $44,700, though it remains $300 higher than the national average. The drop — accompanied by a rise in poverty in the Midwest — partly reflects the disappearance of high-wage manufacturing jobs.

Across the country, the Census Bureau said, median earnings for full-time workers employed year-round dropped significantly last year. Men’s earnings declined by 2.3% to $40,798 and women’s 1.0% to $31,223. The data, which don’t reflect employer-provided health benefits, measure pretax income.

The fraction of Americans living below the official poverty line — $19,307 for a family of four last year — rose for the fourth consecutive year to 12.7% in 2004 from 12.5% the year before, the bureau said. Last year, 37 million Americans were living in poverty, about 1 million more than the year before and 5.4 million more than in 2000 when poverty bottomed out as the economy peaked.

The poverty rate rose for non-Hispanic whites — to 8.6% from 8.2% the year before — while falling among Asians to 9.8% in 2003 from 11.8%. Among blacks and Hispanics, there wasn’t any significant change, the Census Bureau said. The biggest increase was among people between the ages of 18 and 64, rising to 11.3% from 10.8%. Among those 65 and over, the poverty rate fell to 9.8% from 10.2%. The Census Bureau poverty data don’t reflect noncash government benefits, such as health insurance or food stamps.

The Census Bureau also said that the percentage of Americans without health insurance remained stable at 15.7% in 2004. The number lacking insurance increased by 800,000 to 45.8 million while the number with public or private health insurance increased by two million to 245.3 million."

Intriguing developments well worth watching.


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UPDATE:  September 10, 2005 10:14 am

For a fascinating variation on the Meritocracy/Plutocracy discussion, see this post from Dan Gross:  PLUTONOMICS   


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Source:
Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage the United States: 2004
By Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, Cheryl Hill Lee
U.S. Department of Commerce
Economics and Statistics Administration
U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, August 2005
http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf

Recovery Bypasses Many Americans
Despite Economic Growth, Median Household Income And Wages Fell Last Year
ROBERT GUY MATTHEWS
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, August 31, 2005; Page A2
http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112541186730226640,00.html

U.S. Poverty Rate Was Up Last Year
By DAVID LEONHARDT
Published: August 31, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/national/31census.html

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. Larry Nusbaum, Scottsdale commented on Sep 10

    1. The so called middle class was devastated during the recession of 1991-1994. Many fell out.
    2. During the period from 2000-2003, $6 trillion was lost in the stock market and $6 trillion was gained in the real estate market. I believe that more of that gain was spread out amongst average (middle class) than the more concentrated loss in stocks.
    3. Reported income is simply not what it used to be because so much is made and not reported, especially from the recent explosion in LLC formations.
    4. The statistics continue to show that too many Americans retire at or below the poverty rate of $19,000 per year. Due, in part, from a lack of planning/savings. I hope that will not be true with the pending retirement of Baby Boomers……….

  2. Emmanuel commented on Sep 10

    I like your analysis of the implications of inequality, Mr. Ritholtz. But, I must say that the decline in real household incomes is relatively well-reported. I’ve noticed that you like highlighting articles that appear in the WSJ. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that and I too like it as a news source, but we shouldn’t mistake WSJ as a mass news provider. Its readers tend to be people economists like to refer to as capital holders.

    I just did a quick search on Yahoo! with keywords such as “household income” and “wealth gap” and found numerous articles about the Census Bureau’s findings in a wide variety of publications. What I suspect is that Mr. Average–who reads USA Today and TIME Magazine–is well aware of this situation. I don’t mean to speculate here, but I guess people have become inured to this sort of thing. They don’t like it, but what can they do?

    I’m going to have to refer to another uppity journal, The Economist, which believes that differentials in education need to be called into account:

    America is becoming a stratified society based on education: a meritocracy.

    But what if education itself becomes stratified? Historically, America’s education system has been the main avenue for upward mobility.

    The difference in quality of education in rich and poor districts is well-noted and doesn’t need repeating.

    So the challenge is different. But the solution once again is to be found in the education system—particularly America’s rotten public schools. Republicans are, generally speaking, reluctant to spend more money—partly because they represent people in richer school districts and partly because so much cash has already been wasted (America spends much more than other countries). Meanwhile Democrats, enslaved to the teachers’ unions, are generally unwilling to countenance reforms such as school vouchers and testing; and they are also keener on affirmative action, the system of race-based preferences which makes universities less competitive and keeps the poison of race in a debate which is best focused on income.

    I kind of agree with The Economist that leveling the playing field by offering a quality education to a broader swathe of the population makes sense, and I don’t just mean “No Child Left Behind”. In the words of Alan Greenspan (who can be a dull, obtuse speaker but speaks clearly sometimes), the economy is becoming increasingly driven by “conceptual” thinking: How do you price a barrier option, or how do you determine the composition of a collateralized debt obligation? These concepts are not readily intuitive, but more of this sort of thing will be needed in the future. It’s up to Mr. Average if he’ll demand better access to this kind of knowledge, or slip even further behind.

  3. D commented on Sep 10

    It’s interesting that you came out with this because just this week I had a discussion with a colleague on this topic. He said that the average American household was getting richer and I disagreed. I agreed that there were more rich but my thinking is that the middle class is losing out. So I’ve been out looking for evidence and it’s not easy.
    We keep on looking at household income but I think expenses are a very important indicator…

    2 earners vs. 1
    While not long ago a middle class household could live on one income, most households now depend 2 incomes to maintain the same lifestyle as their parents.

    Cost of education
    Education has gotten so expensive that many students graduate with huge debt loads. I read somewhere that there are now quite a few concentrations where the jobs do not pay enough to compensate for the debt load. Does it make sense for someone to tack on 40K in debt for a 40K salary? This has huge implications for the future of the middle class because at one point, only the rich will be able to afford studies in social policy and we all know how self-serving the rich are!

    Pensions and other benefits
    Companies have been killing their defined benefit plans and health care plans. By all indications, this will only intensify in the near future. There are a whack of retirees who will be caught with their pants down. We don’t see it currently because current retirees still benefit from a system that has been quite generous but this will gradually disappear as the of workers to retirees goes from 5/1 to 2/1

    Debt
    30 years ago, people didn’t take on debt for stuff that vanished before they even paid for it like we do today. Most people have no concept of the time value of money yet our financial system lets them borrow huge amounts of money for years on variable rates. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

  4. Chad K commented on Sep 10

    A few notes:

    Are you seriously saying that we should federalize health insurance so that GM and Ford can continue their gross inefficiences?

    Though the gap is still there, it’s very nice to see female median earnings rising at a much faster pace than male. Very possible that we’re getting to equality in the workplace faster than we thought.

    I think the poverty number for a family of 4 should be closer to 25k or so. It’s easy enough to survive in the midwest on 25k, but that number should be regionally adjusted. 25k isn’t going to do anyone any good on the majority of the east and west coast.

    Though the number of people below the current poverty line is up, the percentage is below long term averages.

    Also, what is the official demarcation for “top 5% of earners”. I’m betting most people in that category didn’t know they were.

    Just a quick note to poverty level… thinking about bare minimum to provide for a family of 4.

    $600 /mo for housing (minimum here) [2bd rm apt]
    $400 /mo min for food / groceries [$100 ea]
    $200 /mo transportation to/from work [no mass transit]
    $150 /mo utilities, etc
    $150 /mo insurance [average 4 person cost here]
    _____
    $1500/mo = $18k/yr

    Let’s not forget the unavoidable taxes that punish lower income workers.

    I’m not a big fan of “tax the rich”, because the rich pay my bills…. however, I don’t think that anyone below that poverty line should have to pay any income or payroll taxes. There’s no reason that the range for SSI can’t be moved from 0-85k to the 25-125k range. I believe I read somehwere that the 25-125k would cover the current 0-85k.

  5. Norman commented on Sep 10

    1) 50% of the U.S.’s people in poverty own their own homes. Further, the full 100% on average have more living space than the average European does.

    2) Personal Disposal Income as a percentage of GDP (5yr average) is now at 73.9%; in 1987, 73.7%; and, in 1970 69.5%.

    3) Income disparity is a function of education. Get educated and live well. That’s the message.

  6. spencer commented on Sep 10

    On 9 sept Nicholas Eberstadt had a good op/ed in the New York Times arguing that this was a horrible statistic. As with almost everyone that makes this case he used averages and would not touch the subject of income distribution at all. Basically, this argument is that when Bill Gates enters the room the average income in the room leaps, so we all have to be richer.

    He says he remembers 1974 and how bad it was, so the data can not be right. I remember 1974 too. One of the things I remember about 1974 was that for all pratical purposes, there was no such thing as homelessness in the USA. That did not emerge as a problem untill the 1980s. In the pre-1980s days homelessness was so rare that the Bowery in New York was actually a tourist attraction

  7. Trends I’m Watching commented on Sep 10

    The Decline of the American Middle Class

    Barry Ritholtz analyzes the annual Census Bureau report on consumer income and describes some trends. This confirms what I’m seeing in the Atlanta area. Source: The Big Picture: The Disconnect and Economic Classes.I find two elements of this to be utte…

  8. Fred commented on Sep 10

    I remember 1974. It was pretty bad in the rust belt.

    I remember that the increase in homelessness had “rights” as a major cause. That is, the institutionalized had the “right” to be released to wander the streets.

  9. Justice Litle commented on Sep 10

    imho this is one of the interesting long run sea changes born of globalization.

    The inevitable rise of 3 billion new capitalists (China, India, Eastern Europe) is increasing equality on a global scale by making hundreds of millions of the poor less poor. At the same time, though, globalization is increasing the relative amounts of INequality within any given society by making a small number of participants strikingly rich.

    These days, it feels like new millionaires are just as likely to be minted in China or India or Hungary as in the US, as a small number of entrepreneurs and politically connected players ride the wave of momentous change. Those at the top of the food chain have more opportunities than ever before as input costs fall and opportunities expand.

    In the US, the middle class is caught in the competition squeeze. As three billion new capitalists compete in an effort to raise their standard of living, US workers by necessity see their standard of living fall. Not because capitalism is necessarily a zero sum game, but because the west has had so much, and the rest of the world so little, that a sharp adjustment will be painful for the winners who took their position for granted for so long.

    Imagine the competitiveness of the average worker as a global bell curve. For a very long time, US workers were a ‘fat tail,’ an extreme outlier on the far right side of the curve. Those who would naturally compete with them in the developing world were stymied–by lack of education, by lack of communications, by lack of access to opportunity, by totalitarian governments and backwards policies.

    Now that this situation is finally shifting, the relative magnitude of US workers’ competitive advantage is eroding, even as the cost of social programs grows larger. This naturally erodes the position of the middle class.

    The ‘ultra-wealthy’, meanwhile, are able to take advantage of two trends:

    1) the genuine expansion of opportunity brought about by expanding productivity and more free markets

    2) the intentionally inflationary policies of government and the federal reserve, which deliberately remove purchasing power from the middle class and transfer gains to the ultra-wealthy in the form of leveraged profits on paper assets.

    just my .02

  10. Robert commented on Sep 11

    There is an article in the September 12, 2005 BusinessWeek “College: The Payoff Shrinks” by Michael J. Mandel on the census which adds a little here. To wit, that the income amongst the college educated with only a bachelor’s degree fell nearly 5% from 2000 to 2004. Still in all, and not to shoot myself in the foot but…, I find it hard to think of just about any American, excepting maybe the homeless, as being poor in any meaningfull way. It may well be that the middle class is now a 3 on your scale but that is still a whole lot better than all those 0/1 Indian and Chinese not to mention the -1s in Africa.

  11. Larry Nusbaum, Scottsdale commented on Sep 11

    Posted by: Justice Litle | Sep 10, 2005 5:22:38 PM: “At the same time, though, globalization is increasing the relative amounts of Inequality within any given society by making a small number of participants strikingly rich.”
    YES, IN THE BEGINNING. But, unlike during the period of communism, more and more will start to participate in the economic oppotunity in their country.
    “Imagine the competitiveness of the average worker as a global bell curve.” – ARE THEY REALLY COMPETING FOR SIMILAR JOBS?
    Since 1980, our government and our country has been the most efficient in our history. The middle class certainly has been given the oppotunities to get educated and create wealth. Just ask new immigrants about those entrpreneurial opportunities. Too many of us have not taken advantage, for whatever reasons.

  12. Zack commented on Sep 11

    I’ve gone back after many years in the workforce for an advanced degree. I’m at a state school, with a representative middle-class population.

    Fun facts: At this particular school, year over year, the number of declared Computer Science and Engineering majors was down 35%, and 29% the year before that.

    My anecdotal impression: Students have seen the effects of globalization on their parents, and have no interest in entering an unwinnable bidding war for starting salary.

    The beneficiaries? Geology (up 47% this year) and the health sciences (up 31%).

  13. Damian commented on Sep 11

    Meg Whitman doesn’t have a monopoly in eBay? I tend to disagree – I would argue that getting market liquidity for another auction site, at this point, is very, very difficult. I find it amazing, however, that Google has not attempted it. Perhaps it is from watching the failure of Amazon and Yahoo to enter the US auction market that is making them pause.

  14. Larry Nusbaum, Scottsdale commented on Sep 11

    I remember 1974. It was pretty bad in the rust belt.
    I remember that the increase in homelessness had “rights” as a major cause. That is, the institutionalized had the “right” to be released to wander the streets.
    Posted by: Fred | Sep 10, 2005 4:28:56 PM

    Fred: Wasn’t the great release program happen on Reagan’s watch in the 1980’s?

  15. Larry Nusbaum, Scottsdale commented on Sep 11

    Posted by: Damian | Sep 11, 2005 12:22:09 PM: “Meg Whitman doesn’t have a monopoly in eBay? I tend to disagree – I would argue that getting market liquidity for another auction site, at this point, is very, very difficult. ”

    That’s what they told Dave Thomas one day in Columbus when he asked if McDonald’s had a “monopoly”…………..

  16. Lord commented on Sep 11

    The bottom 90% of the income distribution have falling incomes, 90-95% hold their own, and only the top 5% really get ahead. Since over a quarter of the population have a degree, education is not sufficient to put you in that class. Generally it means owning a business, even if that business is you, inc. Education may be more a hindrance as it educates employees, not businesspeople, and employees don’t end up there unless they make it to CxO.

  17. erikpupo commented on Sep 12

    Larry,

    You make some very good points. Things to consider though:

    1. Was the 1991-1994 recession really devastating? To me, the word devastation implies 1920’s, 1970’s style economic destruction. Most people dont even remember or care about the 1991 recession. Ask people to remember stagflation or the Great Depression, though, and they will have horror stories.

    2. I understand the redistribution of equity from stock to real estate, but I dont think its as cleanly given to the middle class as you think. I think the problem is that much of the real estate equity has been pulled into consumption, as people want to spend their cash rather than take for granted their paper weatlh (as many did during the stock market bubble)

    3. The downside of a lack of reported income (which I tend to agree with) is less tax revenue for the government, which puts more borrowing pressure on the Feds to maintain federal spending.

    4. The abundance of credit availability masks the true nature of lower and middle class economic problems.

    5. And please dont tie the word government and efficiency together in a sentence. As a contractor to the government those words are like saying “EVIL IS GOOD”. Most government programs are not designed for efficiency, and most efficiency experts for the government die of stress-related problems.

  18. camille roy commented on Sep 12

    “I remember 1974. It was pretty bad in the rust belt.
    I remember that the increase in homelessness had “rights” as a major cause. That is, the institutionalized had the “right” to be released to wander the streets.”

    Is there some sort of goofy rightwing insinuation here, implying that the the crazy wander the streets because lefties let them out of the loony bin?

    If so, let me correct this impression. Crazies wander the streets because rightwing governors such as Reagan didn’t want to pay for community housing. The fake promises of this policy foreshadowed so many Republican policies to come: let the loonies out with the promise of community care, and then the funding for that care never materialized. Why spend money on social services when you can cut taxes on the rich?

    Really this country has one overwhelming political priority: Kiss Rich Butt.

    It’s astonishing how many people who work for a living sacrifice themselves and their children for this.

  19. erikpupo commented on Sep 12

    Barry,

    I too am totally fascinated by the odd disconnect between various economic data points (although it sounds like you apply . The figures you cite would not argue for such high levels of consumption. High gas prices combined with a weakening middle class and data that shows weak income and job growth would seem to argue for a weaker economic model. Furthermore, the growing dicsonnect between optimists and pessimists on the fate of the econimy is truly an intriguing debate

    It all comes back to me on the issue of credit and its abundance and ease of use. The ease with which a person can get credit, the low levels of income credit requires, the various and overwhelming uses it is taking (credit for gas, for Mcdonalds, for every purchase imaginable) all factors in to the overall picture of an economy that thrives even when hard data does not seem to back it up.

    I also would agree with Larry Nussbaum that the underground economy increasingly takes precedence as a “class” within our economy. The downside of this, of course, is that it lowers the overall taxable revenue the country can draw from as pressure intensifies to begin reducing deficit spending. The upside is that it allows the lower classes of the economy a channel towards the rich and possibly ultra-wealthy classes.

  20. Larry Nusbaum, Scottsdale commented on Sep 12

    Posted by: erikpupo : ” Was the 1991-1994 recession really devastating? To me, the word devastation implies 1920’s, 1970’s style economic destruction. Most people dont even remember or care about the 1991 recession. Ask people to remember stagflation or the Great Depression, though, and they will have horror stories.”
    Could be. I had always held that the 1990-1993 was the worst recession since the end of WW2. Of course, we are talking about the US and not Kurdistan or Sudan. *I am posting from my bunker, while the children are asleep, not sure what year this is*

  21. Jim commented on Sep 14

    I’m new to this blog thing but I noticed you entry on Altercation and was going to respond there, but I thought it would be better to go to the source. So here goes:

    You make some interesting points in your post (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3449870/) however I am confused on why you are intrigued about some things, especially if it is your job to look at the The Big Picture. First, why are you intrigued that the ultra-wealthy class has expanded wildly over the past 20 years? Don’t you realize that the web/internet as well as cell-phones have virtually become a staple of life over that time period? You must, because the billionaire list you provide is inudated with individuals in these industries as well as his current blog applauds Google’s new blog serach function. In addition, the super wealthy class didn’t increase significantly because of reason “C” (a significant drop in highest tax brackets), it may have helped, but very little in the big picture view. Points A and B definitely helped but point C really didn’t because if I make $500 million a year and I’m in the 50% tax bracket then I take home $250 million; if I’m in the 30% tax bracket then I take home $350 million. So does that mean I’m struggling if I’m in the 50% tax bracket? Second, you are intrigued that the middle class is actually diminishing? Why? You provide perfect examples that the global economy, foreign government subsidized industries/companies and societies as well as other global and societal market changes all play into the role of the diminishing middle class. What’s intriguing to ME is if you know all the facts and have come to the logical conclusions then why the puzzlement?

  22. The Big Picture commented on Jan 6

    Good Not Great Holiday Shopping Season

    Back on December 1, I mentioned that Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range. This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections. The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina…

  23. The Big Picture commented on Jan 6

    Good Not Great Holiday Shopping Season

    Back on December 1, I mentioned that Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range. This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections. The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina…

  24. The Big Picture commented on Jan 6

    Good — Not Great — Holiday Shopping Season

    Back on December 1, I mentioned that Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range. This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections. The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina…

  25. The Big Picture commented on Jan 7

    Good — Not Great — Holiday Shopping Season

    Back on December 1, I mentioned that Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range. This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections. The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina…

  26. The Big Picture commented on Jan 7

    Good — Not Great — Holiday Shopping Season

    Back on December 1, I mentioned that Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range. This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections. The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina…

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