Orders for durable goods — things like washing machines or drills or escalator parts — surged 22.6 percent in July. That number got a great response from Wall Street guys today.
“A sharp increase.” - Wells Fargo Advisors’ chief macro strategist Gary Thayer
“It was stunning.” - Ben Herzon, senior economist with Macroeconomic Advisors
“Massive.” - Wrightson ICAP’s chief economist Lou Crandal
But then they said this:
“Modest.” - Thayer
“Don’t have much bearing.” - Herzon
“Pretty much irrelevant.” - Crandal
So what gives?
It turns out, most of the surge in durable goods is due to one company, Boeing. It got a bunch of new orders for expensive airplanes. Airplane orders take a long time to fill and could conceivably be canceled, so while the plane orders is great for the long term, it's not such good news for right now.
“A lot of that won’t translate into immediate production increase so you really need to factor that out,” Thayer says.
So forget airplanes — forget washing machines, even. In fact, you can forget most of the stuff in the durable goods report, Crandal says.
“Most of the durable goods report is of very little relevance because there are better measures of almost everything that forms the various components of this report,” he says.
Surveys of auto sales, for example, are more accurate and early than the auto sales data in the durables report — in particular, the advance report which is subject to significant revision.
“The one thing that’s really crucial is the performance of capital goods orders,” says Crandal. Specifically, non-defense durable capital goods.
That’s the equipment businesses buy in order to make things businesses sell.
“To put equipment in place, businesses have to be confident that they can sell the stuff that equipment is going to produce,” Herzon says.
Those numbers are up 11 percent over last year with some revisions that make June look really good too (from 1.4 percent up to 5.4 percent). It means businesses are more confident. Consumers seem to be, too.
“There’s been a sea change in the way that people respond to questions about whether jobs are plentiful or hard to get,” says Crandal.
In four months, the number of people who think jobs are plentiful jumped from 13 percent to 18 percent — more than that number rose in the past two years combined.
“I don’t think it’s a sign the economy’s about to start booming, however it is reassuring that we may have some momentum going into next year,” says Crandal.
A lot of businesses and consumers seem to think so too.
Melissa Block talks with Sloan Gibson, the deputy secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, about the results of a recent probe into wait times at VA facilities.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has arrived in West Africa to assess the Ebola outbreak. The situation in Liberia, he says, is "absolutely unprecedented."
Israel and Hamas have agreed on a cease-fire, which raises hopes of an end to the seven-week war in Gaza that has killed more than 2,000 people.
Burger King is buying Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee-and-donut chain, in a deal valued at $11 billion.
The 17-story shard of an apartment building, which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, looms over a Gaza City neighborhood. The tower is a symbol of the ongoing, dangerous uncertainties of life late in the second month of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Two years ago in Anaheim, Calif., events unfolded not unlike those recently in Ferguson, Mo. In Anaheim then, two Latino men were shot by police, and civic anger turned into a few nights of sometimes-violent demonstrations. Now, Anaheim's police and government are trying to work more closely with the Latino community, and a vote in November could make some major changes.
But the report from the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs did find other systemwide problems that the department said it will fix.
Libya keeps spiraling downward as Islamist fighters slug it out with forces loyal to a rogue general in the capital and elsewhere.
Ebola has a nasty reputation for damaging the body, especially its blood vessels. But when you look at the nitty-gritty details of what happens after a person is infected, a surprising fact surfaces.
Starting Tuesday, Detroit will resume shutting off people's water if they’re behind on their bills.
For the last month, the city has put a moratorium on those shut-offs, which have been internationally criticized as inhumane. That pause gave people a chance to get on payment plans with the water department. On Saturday, thousands of Detroiters lugged their kids, strollers and grandparents out to a sign-up fair at the Cobo Center downtown.
Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells went down to check it out:
Want to pay your bill? Get in line, buddy.
The line is huge. You can walk 30, maybe 40, seconds and not even get halfway to the front.
There are kids sprawled out on the floor, people shifting sleeping babies from arm to arm – but no seniors, impressively. They’re allowed to cut the outside line, where they’re brought inside the fair…to wait some more.
At least there are chairs inside. Lots and lots of chairs, filled with hundreds of people waiting for their number to be called by an official-looking women with a bullhorn.
Luna Simpson, 42, says she’s been waiting here for five hours with her grandsons, CJ and Joshua. If there was a cute kid contest at some point during this event, CJ, age 4, and Joshua, age 6, would sweep. You can’t beat matching "Iron Man 3" T-shirts.
“I told them we were going to come here, get on the budget plan so we could save some money," Simpson says. “So we could do some extra stuff with the extra money.”
Extra money for fun stuff? Not really.
“More bills!” laughs Simpson. “School clothes, gas."
The Simpson family would ideally like to let Josh play basketball this year, which, of course, costs more money.
“I wish I could go to basketball!” CJ opines.
Is it possible when he's older, maybe?
“Yes,” he says. “I’m only 4, and Joshua is only 6.”
The magic number to keep your water on: 10 percent
After their number is finally called up, the Simpson family is sent to one of the dozens of tables where water department reps are helping people work out payment plans.
“And you’re showing a balance of $399.74,” the attendant tells Simpson. “So, you would be able to go onto a payment arrangement for $39.97. You want to go onto a payment arrangement today?”
“Yes!” says Simpson.
That’s a 10 percent down payment on what she owes. It's what the water department is now requiring you pay up front, within the next two weeks, before you can get on a payment plan.
Once you’re on a plan, your water won’t be turned off — so long as you stay current on your bill.
You also have 24 months to pay off the rest of what you owe, on top of your monthly bill.
Don’t have the down payment? Uh oh.
If this all sounds more flexible than what the department used to offer, that’s because it is.
After all the protests and UN criticism against the city turning off people’s water, city officials are bending over backwards to assure residents that they are on their side.
What if you can’t get your hands on that 10 percent payment in the next couple of weeks?
That's Vivian Logan's story. She came here because she owes $3,000 on her water bill, and she says she doesn't have the $300 she needs to get on a payment plan.
"That’s the problem," Logan says. "And even if I could get it in 14 days, I’m not going to be able to pay $300 possibly a month, on top of my other bills after that."
Now, there are nonprofits and aid groups who want to help people like Logan.
The Detroit Water Fund, for example, has at least half a dozen booths at the fair. To qualify for their help, you need to:
- Make that first 10 percent down payment, and
- Fall within 150 percent of the poverty line, which calculates to about $35,775 for a family of four.
There’s also help from the United Way, but their income restrictions are a little lower: You need to make under 120 percent of the federal poverty line.
Logan says she’s just a little higher than that cut off, and that she doesn't have money for the down payment required to get aid from the Detroit Water Fund. She has no idea what to do now.
“Who knows? You tell me,” Logan says. “You tell me who I can refer to, so I can get some help.”
For many, the day ends in relief.
"What we’ve found is that people have been able to find that assistance," says Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan’s chief of staff. "They’ve been able to go to their friends, to their church, family members."
Simpson is one of those fortunate people.
She looks hugely relieved as she makes that first down payment, smiling while she tells the boys what they can afford now that they don’t have to worry about losing their water: gas, clothes and, maybe, even some basketball.
Freeh, who issued a scorching report in the Penn State University sex abuse scandal, apparently drove his SUV off the road in Vermont.
BBC correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh has been living in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, for the last 20 years. He has been reporting on the Ebola epidemic from one of the hardest-hit areas: a slum called West Point, home to between 50,000 and 100,000 people. It's currently under quarantine, while the rest of Monrovia is under a strict curfew.
"Following the imposition of this restriction, people are stuck there," he said. "Even those who had just gone there to spend time with relatives are all stopped from leaving."
As if the fear of Ebola wasn't enough, Paye-Layleh says, this year's rainy season in Liberia has caused cholera infections and outbreaks of other diseases, and many people won't go to the hospital to get treated out of fear that they might be mistakenly diagnosed with Ebola.
"Anybody developing high fever should be presumed Ebola-positive until the contrary is proven, as opposed to saying 'if you have a fever, come to the hospital, maybe it is not Ebola,'" he said. "As a result of that–and knowing that eventually if they are tested positive for Ebola they will be taken into isolation... separated from their families–many people who are suffering from other illnesses just remain home to die."
Although commerce continues in Liberia for pure essentials like food, Paye-Layleh says the epidemic has taken a toll on Liberians' social lives as well. His job as a journalist, he says, has been made difficult because person-to-person contact is diminishing as a result of the outbreak.
"Our tradition of meeting people, greeting people has now been starved because of Ebola. We are not skeptical to get around friends, to get around other relatives, because you don't know who has come in contact with whom. It's going to make things a bit difficult."
Listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.
Watching other people play video games might not sound exciting to everyone. But for gamers, it’s a whole different point of view – and a big market. Amazon wants a slice of that, so they have decided to purchase the video game start-up Twitch for $970 million.
"So, Twitch is this website, or some would call it a platform, that streams video game content and live game play to about 55 million people every month," says Ben Johnson, host of Marketplace Tech.
Why would Amazon pay almost a billion dollars for a start-up that allows people to watch others play "Pokémon"? Johnson says the numbers explain it all.
"Twitch had 43 percent of the live video streaming traffic by volume in a given week," says Johnson. "That’s above ESPN’s website, MLB.com, CNN."
Last year during a championship for the game "League of Legends", 32 million people were reportedly watching live.
"That’s more than the audience for the finales of Breaking Bad, 24 and The Sopranos combined," adds Johnson.
Just one of many Twitch channels showing live footage of "League of Legends."
The ISIS Downtown condo project in Florida has changed its name, as did a mobile-payment company. Others are distancing themselves from the ideology of the group now called the Islamic State.
The question will be if Kevin Counihan can replicate his success in Connecticut with the federal health exchange, which was plagued with problems. The goal: A smoother Year Two for Obamacare.
One man used a $22 device that jammed a fellow passenger's seat. The ensuing fight ended when the woman threw a cup of water at the man and the airline diverted the flight.
The attack killed more than 160 people across the city, including six at the Chabad center. Rabbis from across Asia attended the reopening of the Nariman House in historic south Mumbai.
As part of the $11 billion deal, Burger King will transfer its headquarters to Ontario and cut its tax bill considerably.