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Opinion, commentary and analysis on everything that makes the U.S. housing economy tick -- not to mention the ghosts in the machine, too. Written by HW's team of editors and reporters each business day.

The Rundown: What you have to know Jan. 28

From the State of the Union to the state of the market

January 28, 2014
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With the State of the Union’s expected focus Tuesday night on "income inequality" this slightly ranty rant arguing that the Federal Reserve is the "engine of income inequality" brings up some points worth considering.

(Reminder, HousingWire will be live-blogging the State of the Union, 9 p.m. ET until closing time.)

Mortgage Bankers Association President and CEO David Stevens tells Marketwatch President Obama might say Tuesday night that "not enough Americans have access to credit" and that Obama will focus "in on the broad recovery of the housing market, but [says] that some families have been left on the sidelines."

Fox Business News says orders for durable manufactured goods "unexpectedly" fell (if it’s always unexpected, should we get a new crop of forecasting economists?) in December, as did a metric of planned capital goods spending. It was an across-the-board decline.

Digging deeper in the raw report, notably it says that durable goods orders for computers and electronics was at the lowest level since December 1993. Combine this with the gut punch retail sales took in December, and it’s hard to see any reason for the optimism the mainstream pundits are pushing. Unless it’s just that people don’t buy iPhones and laptops when it’s cold out, or for Christmas.

But it's more than that or iPhone sales.

As Stephen Roach, the former Morgan Stanley Asia chairman and chief economist, who isn't pleased with all this recovery talk, notes,"The record plunge in consumer demand during the Great Recession has been followed by persistently subpar consumption growth. This should not be surprising. The American consumer was, in effect, ground zero in this horrific crisis. Far too many US households made enormous bets on the property bubble, believing that their paper gains were permanent substitutes for stagnant labor income. They then used these gains to support a record consumption binge."

The lousy durable goods report, as well as other market unrest, won’t change the Fed’s course, most say. Barring a meteor strike or something equally unlikely, on Wednesday, the Fed will vote to pare another $10 billion off its program of printing money to buy bonds, reducing the monthly purchase to $65 billion in Treasurys and bonds.

This is surprising to whom?

Federal regulators don’t like what they can’t control and spy on (they love you) so they’re cracking down on Bitcoin yet again. Plus they don’t like having a digital competitor in the fiat money marketplace. Granted, there are charges of money laundering and unlicensed money transmittals, but doesn’t that just put them in the same boat as some banks where that kind of thing is rewarded?

Speaking of a break from stifling rules, a New Zealand public school ripped up its exhaustive list of rules, prohibitions and protective restrictions on playground activity and they were amazed to see a decline in bullying, injuries, and hyperactive kids acting out in class. The no-cost experiment (just abandon the rules) showed a principle few in Washington understand – spontaneous order at work. 

If you think you’re having a bad day, just compare.

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