Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Another Instalment


...of you know you're in strange economic times when...

It pays more to turn in a bank robber than to rob a bank

"Bank Heists Rise in Houston, But Crime Not Paying Well" (LoanSafe)

When ex-convict Henry Bata passed a note demanding money from a Houston bank teller, he threatened the woman, claimed to be part of a violent bank-robbing gang and walked away with close to $5,000.

Bata, a 42-year-old Conroe resident, pleaded guilty to the robbery and is now headed to prison for a 30-year sentence – which means he’ll spend one year behind bars for each $166 chunk of cash he nabbed.

Not only are Houston bank robberies taking place at a faster pace than last year and on track to surpass the record of 171 holdups in 2010, but culprits are getting hard prison time, sometimes for stealing even less than Bata, said the FBI.

“More often than not, they are walking away with considerably less than what Crime Stoppers offers,” in their standard $5,000 reward, noted FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap. “So it pays more to turn in a bank robber than robbing a bank, and we’re seeing that a lot.”

Eating in is the new dining out

"Economy Drives Diners to Their Grocery Stores" (UTSanDiego.com)

People are eating out less, buying more prepared food

With recession-squeezed consumers eating out less, grocery stores are seeing a sales boost from an expanding menu of prepared meals.

For years, traditional grocery stores have lost ground to restaurants and takeout, as busy people looked for a quick-fix dinner or lunch option.

Now those people want bargains as much as convenience. As they seek to stretch their food dollars, they are finding that many supermarkets have been improving their ready-to-go offerings.

The result is that some stores have seen 7 percent to 10 percent growth in sales of prepared items, said Wade Hanson of Technomic, a Chicago-based food and restaurant industry consulting firm.

Jobseekers are being blamed for high unemployment

"Are the Unemployed Looking For Work in All the Wrong Places?" (Washington Post)

Here’s one explanation for our stubbornly high unemployment rate: A construction worker gets laid off and spends months looking for more construction work, rather than readjust his expectations and acquire new skills to find work in, say, the health-care industry, which has experienced steady growth throughout the recession. It’s what economists describe as as a “mismatch” between job openings and those seeking unemployment, and some argue that it’s responsible for why so many are unemployed. If those seeking work realigned their expectations, got more training, or were simply willing and able to move to a different state for work, then we could bring down unemployment to more reasonable levels. Indeed, a lot of recent hiring has been across sectors.

Central bankers are becoming armchair psychologists

"Are You Happy? Ben Bernanke Wants to Know" (ABC News)

Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn't just about money and material benefits, Bernanke said. It is also about understanding and promoting "the enhancement of well-being."

Some scams are legal

"Pimco's Bill Gross Says Stocks Were A Ponzi Scheme For The Last Hundred Years" (Forbes)

Anyone with an investment portfolio is probably familiar with the well-worn phrase “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Bill Gross goes a step further in his August Investment Outlook, writing that not only should we not expect big returns from equities any time soon, maybe we should never expect them again.

“The cult of equity is dying,” the founder and co-CIO of Pimco begins his monthly commentary, which goes on to call the 6.6% historical real return from stocks that many investors have taken for granted a “Ponzi scheme.” (Gross has a penchant for the term, previously slapping the Ponzi moniker on Fed policies like QE2.)

The argument goes something like this: $1 invested in the S&P 500 in 1912 turned into more than $500 adjusted for inflation by 2012, but that 6.6% rate of return came with real GDP only running at a 3.5% clip annually. Gross says that “somehow stockholders must be skimming 3% off the top each and every year,” and that those profits must have come at the expense of lenders, laborers and the government.


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