Confusing isn't it. You pick up one of the country's leading newspapers in the morning and the headline reads something like, "There is light at the end of the tunnel." Meaning, of course, that the economy is about to turn the corner and begin to recover. That same day's evening edition of another major news publication says, "Dow down 257 points; Housing foreclosures and unemployment rise again last month." What's to be believed?
Hoping that last week's Economic Outlook Conference in Morgantown would provide some insight on what's going to happen in the near term proved to be a disappointment. It's not that the conference wasn't informative and worthwhile. It's that the world economy is so unstable that no one seems to know what's going to happen.
Chief U.S. Economist for HIS Global Insight Nigel Gault stated that the economy should bottom out and begin to show some signs of recovery in late 2010 or early 2011. His PowerPoint presentation, through a series of multi-colored graphs and charts, verified the one glaring fact that we all know - we are in deep trouble.
He confirmed something else we all know, that the subprime market glut and greed was the biggest excess the world trading system has ever known, laying at the very bottom of the current world recession we are now in - the worst since the post-war era. I assume he meant WWII - he wasn't specific.
One common thread of the whole mess is that the recession is global and the United States economy is not the most severely affected. According to Gault, Singapore and Korea (South Korea I suppose; North Korea doesn't have an economy to begin with) have been the most severely damaged.
One thing that didn't happen but was feared by nearly every economist worldwide is that the economies of the major players such as the U.S., China and Europe didn't decouple - at least not yet. He said the world is still looking to the United States to pull everyone out of this mess. "To do so, though," he said, "will take an even greater fiscal stimulus program, and the banking sector must be fixed." Ironically, he did not advance any ideas toward that end. Who, in his or her right mind, would at this juncture?
One of the more interesting points of Gault's presentation was his predictions of what would have happened were it not for the fiscal stimulus package approved by the president and Congress. He predicted that while the gross domestic product would have fallen by 3.5 percent anyway, it would have fallen 4.5 percent without the stimulus package. Job losses with the stimulus package are predicted to continue to increase through 2009 bottoming out in mid-2010 before beginning to recover. Without the stimulus package, Gault predicted that job losses would have seen an additional 2.3 percent increase, bottoming out in mid-2010.
There's not much need in mentioning the housing market - everyone who owns a home knows what happened here. West Virginia, however, is about one-half of 1 percent below the national average of 1 percent in home foreclosures. Florida sits at the top of this dismal situation with 2.4 percent of all home mortgages in foreclosure. California is second with almost 1.5 percent in foreclosure.
While West Virginia homes have lost between 10 percent and 13 percent of their values over the past couple of years, those losses pale compared to the two states mentioned above. Good old West Virginia - we never see the best of the good times nor the worst of the bad times. We just keep sailing along.
Gault noted that homes have shown a slight uptick in sales over the past few months, but a significant surplus still exists.
Gasoline prices are predicted to continue to rise throughout the remainder of 2009 reaching a high of around $2.75 per gallon at the pump during the fourth quarter. They should remain fairly stable at that price in early 2010 then rise to around $2.90 during the last quarter of 2010. In mid-2011, the prices are forecast to jump to $3 per gallon. An interesting note here as pointed out by Gault: Every 10-cent increase at the pump costs consumers $12 billion per year - 0.12 percent of disposable income.
There's an interesting article in this month's The Atlantic magazine written by Jeffrey Goldberg, concerning his dilemma, and frustration, with the stock market and his 401(k), which he saw devalued by between one-third and one-half. Written in the if-I-don't-laugh-I'll-surely-cry-style, Goldberg describes his odyssey of trying to get an answer of what "actually" happened to the stock market. It's well worth reading. Goldberg is an Atlantic national correspondent and the author of "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror."
Homestead School is preparing to celebrate its 70th anniversary on May 1, with a host of activities beginning on Friday at 1 p.m. The public is invited. Students will provide a musical program and weave the May Pole. After the weaving ceremony, students will serve refreshments to the student body in the cafeteria. Community members will be served in the gymnasium.
Beginning at 9 a.m. on May 2, a craft bazaar and concession stand with coffee, donuts and sweets of all kinds will be open until 2 p.m. A May Day walk on the Homestead Recreation Walking Tail will commence at 1 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., a chicken barbecue dinner will be served. The cost of the dinner will be $7. From 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., local talent will provide a variety of live music. Alumni and community members are invited to come see old friends, make new ones and reminisce about their good times at Homestead School and the neighborhood.
The Homestead Project was developed to help farmers, miners and lumber workers hit hard by the Great Depression by establishing them in their own homes. By November 1935, construction was completed on 129 Homestead houses. Eight types of houses were built, each with a root cellar, garden, chicken coop, coal bins and a barn or garage. The average plot of land was 1.72 acres. Each man had to work three days a week for cash - 30 cents an hour - and three days for credit to be applied to the purchase of his home. The Tygart Valley Homestead was the only one of its kind to pay back to the U.S. government its construction debt in its entirety.
Those who had Internet service through Cebridge.net before it was taken over by Suddenlink and still have the Cebridge.net server address are being hit with a scam from the e-mail address WEBMAIL@CEBRIDGE.NET saying: "Due to spam complaints of e-mail users in our cebridge.net webmail system, our investigation shows that your e-mail address is compromised and is used to send out spam message (sic) in our cebridge.net webmail system. As a result, your Username (sic) will be disabled if you do not send us the below required information within twenty four (sic) hours." The message is asking for: "Your Full Names (sic), Email address, Password, Retype Password." It ends with: "Hoping to serve you better. Cebridge Webmail Management Team Services."
I called Suddenlink customer service and was informed that this is indeed a scam. Do not open the message. Delete it immediately. The woman at Suddenlink customer service said they would never ask for that kind of personal information without first going through their authentication process. Note also the grammatical mistakes in the message - another indication that the message came from a source of questionable integrity.