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Mark's Market Blog

8-15-09: Stocks up, confidence and spending down

By Mark Lawrence

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The market up shot for four weeks, and is now what's called "range limited." This means the market seems stuck in a channel between about 1000 and 1015. Everyone, including me, thinks this market will regain traction in a short while and continue upwards a bit more. It's what happens later this year where not everyone agrees. . .

S&P 500, Jan 1 2009 to August 14 2009

Germany and France reported a return to economic growth during the second quarter, ending their recessions earlier than many policymakers and economists expected. This means their economies grew a tiny amount in the second quarter. France has returned to more important issues, for example outlawing the Muslim swimming suit, the "burquini," from all public pools in France.

Deutsche Bank analyst Karen Weaver predicted that by next year, half of American homeowners with mortgages will be underwater. Currently that number is 32%, about a third. The number of U.S. households on the verge of losing their homes rose 7 percent from June to July. Foreclosure filings were up 32 percent from the same month last year. More than 360,000 households received a foreclosure-related notice. That's the highest monthly level in more than four years. Banks repossessed more than 87,000 homes in July, up from about 79,000 homes a month earlier.

49% say they disapprove of Obama's "handling of healthcare policy," 43% say they approve. The debate has included confrontational town-hall meetings conducted by members of Congress who have returned home for the August congressional recess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called some of the disruptions of those meetings "simply un-American." The president's overall public job-approval stands at 54%, down from a high of 69%.

Researchers found that the average user of food stamps had a Body Mass Index 1.15 points higher than non-users. For an average American woman, this would mean an increase in weight of 5.8 pounds. I decided not to include a picture for this.

The number of banks exceeding the level of nonperforming loans that regulators said could threaten their survival, equal to 5% or more of their holdings, has more than doubled so far this year through June. There are now 150 publicly traded U.S. lenders at or above this threshold for toxic loans. Last week I mentioned that you could check our your bank's health at I'm in the middle of moving to a new bank.

Boeing has stopped work on its new 787 Dreamliner because of manufacturing flaws at an Italian supplier. Boeing acknowledged in June it was having problems with stress joints on the Dreamliner where the plane's wings are joined to the aircraft's body. The first test flight for the long-awaited 787 aircraft has been delayed indefinitely. The first 787 delivery was once scheduled for May 2008, but continued problems at the Italian plant have postponed first delivery for over two years so far. Boeing accounts for about 4% of all US exports, so this Italian company is screwing things up for everyone.

U.S. consumer confidence fell in early August as a growing number of Americans fretted about their finances even though they expected the broader economy to improve. Confidence is significantly lower among Americans making a family income of less than $50,000 per year (-63 v. -22), and significantly lower among democrats than independents or republicans (-54, -42, -36 respectively).

US retail sales edged down 0.1 percent after increasing 0.8 percent in June. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, sales fell 0.6 percent in July after rising 0.5 percent the prior month. Analysts had expected a boost to retail sales from the government's "cash for clunkers" program and predicted a 0.7 percent advance in overall July sales. They said the program had pulled spending away from other sectors. The decline in July retail sales included a 2.1 percent drop in sales at gasoline stations.

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