Something doesn't smell right about this recovery

68
Tue, Jul 22, 2014 - 7:22am

I had a long chat with an old friend the other night. Our daughters were close friends at age 4 through 8 before we chased a career into another state. My daughter’s best childhood friend is getting married and she and I drove from AZ to Memphis TN for the wedding. She is 20 and I don’t expect I will get to talk with her this much again. For me, the road trip has been enjoyable, and I think it has for her as well.

So my old friend, the father of the bride, and I started talking about the economy. He and I have a common concern in that our kids are striking out on their own, looking for careers. As we chatted for several hours, I did my best to try to explain economic issues as I saw them, but several constraints were in my mind, filtering what I said

  • I really ought to listen as much as I talk.
  • I don’t want to come off as an alarmist
  • It’s not advisable to continually say, “No, you are wrong.”
  • He does not understand economics, and our time is too precious for a series of lengthy lectures.
  • We had many daughter-raising issues to discuss.

I desire to appear to him as the rational, educated, concerned person that I am who has decided to take action to protect our financial future, rather than trusting in the system that has failed. I am hoping he will think, “Hmmm, Jerome seems like he has this all figured out. Maybe I’ll follow his lead and buy gold.” But as he sat there listening and smiling, he may have thought,” Oh my God. What happened to my dear friend. He is off the deep end.” He tactfully asked me twice, “Don’t you think the recession natural, that we should expect this now and then?”

He believes that we are recovering but I suspect that he knows in his heart that we are not. He asked me the question, instead of making an assertion, because his mind knows that he does not have the evidence to back an assertion. People like my friend suspect that this recovery we keep hearing about is more mist than substance. He may not be ready to admit it yet, but he did listen to me for a long time the other night.

People are still out of work. My 23 year old son has not been offered any high paying jobs that would tempt him out of college the way I was seduced away from college when I was 19. Our kids are working at fast food joints and still living at home when they should be getting their own places and finding roomates. Even young couples are renting homes rooming with other young couples (according to my property manager), not to save money, but to make it on their own at all. A large landlord friend of mine reports more and more families shacking up with extended family to make it. That is how they’ve made it in Mexico for several decades now.

Last night our member silverismoney disclosed to us that he had friends in finance that are waking up and interested in PMs. He asked them, Why are you guys looking into it?" and they replied, "It's becoming obvious to a lot of us that something is NOT RIGHT with the paper markets so we have decided to move some of our paper into physical and do not know where to begin."

My wife and I watched Margin Call the other night. As the film wound down to a close, Jeremy Iron’s character (not sure if he was Blankfein or Dimon) explained to Sam, who thought it was wrong of them to sell the toxic mortgages to their clients, that crises like this were normal—what they did in dumping the bad MBS securities on their clients was justified. Iron’s character recounted a lengthy list of crises dating back into the 19th century, as though 2008 was simply another. That particular scene has led me to conclude that the movie was allowed to be made to explain to all the sheep that 2008 was normal and we will recover—just another crisis like the ones we have always weathered. Is that our take-away from a good movie—that financial crises are normal and we should expect them? That we will always recover? What Hollywood failed to mention in Margin Call was that the FEDs actions after the crisis may have saved your IRA, but it didn’t stimulate a recovery this time.

This was not just another crises and the FED has tried everything to “fix” the economy. While they may have staved off a collapse, nothing is better and people are beginning to figure it out

The all-wise FED governors, lowered interest rates to ZERO and didn’t stimulate a thing. Enter QE as the FEDs next trick. But QE1 & 2 failed to reignite the economy.

Third time is the charm. The FED unveils Operation Twist. I view that effort NOT as an attempt to help the economy, but as the FEDs desperate action to keep interest rates from rising , to get all those high-interest bearing T-bills out of the market elbowing retirees like my Dad out. They took the safest option off the table for investors, forcing them to turn to stocks to chase some kind of yield. But the economy did not get better.

Ask Bunker Bear: Operation Twist or Twits?

So in desperation the FED began QE3 (infinity) to keep the stock markets moving higher. But people are catching on… they suspect something is wrong, pressuring the FED into tapering QE to convince people that we are recovering... because recoveries do not continue the emergency measures for 5 years. So as QE has been tapered, some Belgian investor has been picking up the slack, buying up all the excess T-bills so our government can keep deficit spending.

Interest rates must not rise! When you are a 17 trillion debtor, who borrows money to make the payments on your loan, rising interest rates mean you have to borrow even more from a world that does not have it to loan.—except for that Belgian investor who is happy to keep loaning to this US debt-addict. I wonder who it is? This economy has been ruined and people are beginning to wake up.

I wonder what the FED will try next. No doubt the plan will have a highly technical economic title—like “Monetary Collateral Amplification”—so they can fool people into thinking the FED knows what they are doing. or maybe they do what the SEC was doing at their computers all day, frustrated that they can actually do nothing.

I hate it when a mechanic replaces a part and it still doesn’t fix the car. After the 4th or 5th attempt, I start to get really pissed about him running up the bill and having no clue as to what is wrong or what to do about it.

And why else are people not quite sure about the “recovery?” On one hand, they do not see it. Even those with jobs recognize their employer’s challenges. But our media continues to parrot “Recovery! Recovery!” every chance they get to keep the general population from panicking or protesting, and to keep them spending. While one factory may be ramping up in North Carolina, another three have close in Ohio. But we only hear about the one these days. People are in cognitive dissonance about it, wanting to believe the lie, but intuitively concluding that the economy is still very weak.

There is too much debt personally and at every level of government. And there is not enough collateral to cover that debt if the crisis re-asserts itself. The good full-time jobs are evaporating as our leaders point at the job numbers (inflated with part-time positions) and brag.

Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford - a 1 page book!

The FED is the major buyer of stocks, followed by corporations buying their own stock to keep the values high. Market volume is declining.

The only assets that can survive the debt fueled inflation that is fast approaching are tangible goods. Gold holds the most value in the least physical space and has great potential to increase your value. Food will be essential—especially IF another crisis strikes. Any other tangible goods that we need for life is a great place to store what value you have.

I do not consider real estate safe—it is better than paper, but Detroit gives us all reason to question how valuable a home really is. Looks like Flint is next. And I know from personal experience that homes throughout the American Midwest are still selling at only half their value of 2008—cheaper than you can build one.

Paper securities can go to zero faster than you can log in to your online broker and sell out, faster than you can call your busy broker on “stock crash morning” and get her on the phone. Even the dollar is not exempt from an instant devaluation. Store your treasure in heaven and keep your money in gold, grain & goats.

You all remember Maslow’s pyramid from your Psych and Soc 101 classes. Humans strive to achieve success at each level, moving up the pyramid as they are able. Well, I predict we will all abandon our efforts at achieving self-actualization soon and be working real hard to maintain our position on those lower levels.

But I am preaching to the choir here. And if all this is new to you, maybe now you are part of the choir.

We all still have a burden to do everything we can to wake up our friends and relatives who are weary of us crying wolf. If we calm down and point out a few things that get people to thinking, we’ll have a better chance to get them to listen and take some reasonable actions.The first step in convincing people to take action is to convince them that action is needed.

They know something is wrong. Start there. If you can confirm their suspicions, it naturally and logically leads to very important questions, “What can I do about it? How can I protect myself?” And I think you have some ideas about what to do...

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Fred Hayek
Jul 23, 2014 - 7:45pm

El Gordo -- I don't think knowledge should ever be criminal

While I excoriate the corrupt culture of Wall Street, I've always been, at the very least, ambivalent about the concept of insider trading. I don't think knowledge should ever be criminal. However, I think you CAN reasonably criminalize the effort to gain unfair advantage. If you're talking on the phone to your brother, he's moved to New York and has taken up rooting for the yankees. You kid him about being a frontrunner. He replies that they're not at the front any more. They've gone down lately even faster than XYZ Corp., where he works, is going down. Everyone'll know in a week he says. The two of you go on to talk about your exasperating sister and what loser boyfriend she's fallen for now. After twenty minutes of this you say bye and hang up.

You didn't pursue that information. It came to you without effort on your part the same as if you were walking down a New York street and two guys getting into a limo blab the same information audibly to anyone on the sidewalk as you were.

What did you do wrong? I don't see that you did anything wrong.

However, if you and your brother are talking on the phone and you keep interrupting him every sentence or so to ask about XYZ corp. Did that new project pan out? What are the higher ups saying? Etc. There's intent there. You were trying to ferret out information and get an "unfair" advantage.

I just don't see how obtaining knowledge innocently, with no intent to gain an unfair advantage should be criminal. That's making knowledge criminal and that seems as crazy to me as a completely natural plant, cannabis, being criminal.

El Gordo
Jul 23, 2014 - 5:57pm

More ethics

Let's say that I own a stock and I get word from my brother who works at the company that he had heard bad news would be coming soon. So, I decide to sell that stock. Have I violated an ethical standard? Let's assume that later there is no bad news and the stock goes up, but I missed the boat. Conversely, the bad news is announced and the stock goes to zero. Should I have just hung on to it? I selling into the market different from selling to a friend? Should I take my used car to the auction rather than selling it to my neighbor at a higher price? These are all questions that we face every day. I submit that the answer is not necessarily clear cut.

DeaconBenjamin
Jul 23, 2014 - 4:53pm

The TRUTH about China’s Massive Gold Hoard

I don’t want to say that mainstream analysts are stupid when it comes to China’s gold habits, but I did look up how to say that word in Chinese…

One report claims, for example, that gold demand in China is down because the yuan has fallen and made the metal more expensive in the country. Sounds reasonable, and it has a grain of truth to it. But as you’ll see below, it completely misses the bigger picture, because it overlooks a major development with how the country now imports precious metals.

I’ve seen so many misleading headlines over the last couple months that I thought it time to correct some of the misconceptions. I’ll let you decide if mainstream North American analysts are stupid or not.

The basis for the misunderstanding starts with the fact that the Chinese think differently about gold. They view gold in the context of its role throughout history and dismiss the Western economist who arrogantly declares it an outdated relic. They buy in preparation for a new monetary order—not as a trade they hope earns them a profit.

Combine gold’s historical role with current events, and we would all do well to view our holdings in a slightly more “Chinese” light, one that will give us a more accurate indication of whether we have enough, of what purpose it will actually serve in our portfolio, and maybe even when we should sell (or not).

The horizon is full of flashing indicators that signal the Chinese view of gold is more prudent for what lies ahead. Gold will be less about “making money” and more about preparing for a new international monetary system that will come with historic consequences to our way of life.

With that context in mind, let’s contrast some recent Western headlines with what’s really happening on the ground in China. Consider the big picture message behind these developments and see how well your portfolio is geared for a “Chinese” future…

Gold Demand in China Is Falling

This headline comes from mainstream claims that China is buying less gold this year than last. The International Business Times cites a 30% drop in demand during the “Golden Week” holiday period in May. Many articles point to lower net imports through Hong Kong in the second quarter of the year. “The buying frenzy, triggered by a price slump last April, has not been repeated this year,” reports Kitco.

However, these articles overlook the fact that the Chinese government now accepts gold imports directly into Beijing.

In other words, some of the gold that normally went through Hong Kong is instead shipped to the capital. Bypassing the normal trade routes means these shipments are essentially done in secret. This makes the Western headline misleading at best, and at worst could lead investors to make incorrect decisions about gold’s future.

China may have made this move specifically so its import figures can’t be tracked. It allows Beijing to continue accumulating physical gold without the rest of us knowing the amounts. This move doesn’t imply demand is falling—just the opposite.

And don’t forget that China is already the largest gold producer in the world. It is now reported to have the second largest in-ground gold resource in the world. China does not export gold in any meaningful amount. So even if it were true that recorded imports are falling, it would not necessarily mean that Chinese demand has fallen, nor that China has stopped accumulating gold.

China Didn’t Announce an Increase in Reserves as Expected

A number of analysts (and gold bugs) expected China to announce an update on their gold reserves in April. That’s because it’s widely believed China reports every five years, and the last report was in April 2009. This is not only inaccurate, it misses a crucial point.

First, Beijing publicly reported their gold reserve amounts in the following years:

  • 500 tonnes at the end of 2001
  • 600 tonnes at the end of 2002
  • 1,054 tonnes in April 2009.

Prior to this, China didn’t report any change for over 20 years; it reported 395 tonnes from 1980 to 2001.

There is no five-year schedule. There is no schedule at all. They’ll report whenever they want, and—this is the crucial point—probably not until it is politically expedient to do so.

Depending on the amount, the news could be a major catalyst for the gold market. Why would the Chinese want to say anything that might drive gold prices upwards, if they are still buying?

https://www.caseyresearch.com/articles/the-truth-about-chinas-massive-go...

Jul 23, 2014 - 1:22pm

Capitalism & ethics

El Gordo,

Capitalism is dependent upon trust. Francis Fukayama wrote a book arguing the point called Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity

If I cannot trust a vendor to deliver a product, if I cannot trust my employees to give me 8 for 8, if I cannot trust a person to sell me a car without telling me all they know about it, then the capitalistic system breaks down.

Sociopaths seriously disrupt trust, but they are experts at lying and manipulating perceptions to continue their games. What they did in Margin Call was highly unethical and they all knew it. But the stakes were so high--survival as a corporation--that they decided to cause others to fail rather than eat their own mistakes and go bankrupt.

Seems that in my experience that I can trust people I do business with about 80-90%. I cannot trust all people 100%. Like my old employer who made verbal promises about my endowed professorship t kept the wording of the contract ambiguous. Thus when they broke those promises, I had no recourse. I should have had my lawyer review that contract before I signed it (due diligence). But over 13 years, my paychecks never bounced, so that employer was not all bad.

Sometimes we do not know the condition of what we sell, or sometimes the product is potentially flawed. I argue that the seller must disclose all that is known. I have problems with the "gray area" of things I suspect could be wrong but do not know for sure. Should I mention any potential problem, whether I know what I am talking about or not? Is this where the buyer's due diligence is required?

I sold a house last year that had a flood in the basement several years earlier. I installed a French Drain in that basement to correct that problem, but since that time it had not rained hard enough to test the system. Last Spring, it rained for 6 days straight and the basement had some minor water leakage seep past the drain system. It ruined the floor. The buyer (a friend) contacted me. I offered to come correct the situation. I felt that was the ethical thing to do. It cost me 8K and two weeks time to upgrade the system, correct some potential issues, and replace the flooring throughout, but I sleep at night and still have a friend who trusts me.

Well, that is my view in a nutshell.

El Gordo
Jul 23, 2014 - 12:49pm

Dr. J

Just wondering where you stand re: ethics versus pure capitalism. If I know that I'm selling a flawed product, am I obligated to inform the buyer, or is it the buyer's obligation to investigate the product and determine on his own whether or not to buy it? I want to make a profit - my buyer also wants to make a profit. If my buyer thinks he can make money on my product, he will likely buy it. If I think it's a good product with future viability, why would I sell it? If I know that the competition will arrive at the same conclusion I have at some point, should I not be wanting to get out first before they figure it out, or should I just hang on and share in the losses with the rest of the pack? I do not see an ethics problem here. The customers that I have taken advantage of will have their own opinions of me and will likely never do business with me again, so I will be rebuilding from the start, but there will be something to rebuild - otherwise, I'll probably fold along with the rest. I have to take this into account when I am determining what is in my best interests. This idea of mutual suffering just doesn't make sense to me. Capitalism demand that I look out for my owner's interests first.

turnoffthewater
Jul 23, 2014 - 12:20pm

New boss same as the old boss

It was fall of 2008, Lehman was all over the charts, news everyday, the sharks were circling their prey; Clearly a telegraphed failure in retropect.. I did so happen to engage in a minor short position during the failure. But certainly not the same as the over the weekend napkin valuations of bears and strains (stearns) who walked away with? After the smoke cleared, I was a believer in metals. I saw the movie...but wasn't very impressed. But I do like Jeremy Irons, he's a good actor and Kevin Spacey, is as well.

treefrog
Jul 23, 2014 - 9:56am

green lantern

depends on whether you supplement with cabbage or (premium grade) brussels sprouts.

ag1969
Jul 23, 2014 - 9:54am

The Rot Within, Part I: Our Ponzi Economy

Depending on blowing the next bubble to temporarily prop up the economy is the height of foolhardy shortsightedness.

All the conventional policy fixes proposed by Demopublican politicos, technocrats and the vast army of academic/think-tank apparatchiks are the equivalent of slapping a coat of paint on a fragile facade riddled with dryrot. All these fake-fixes share a few key characteristics:

1. They focus on effects and symptoms rather than address the underlying causes, i.e. the dryrot at the heart of our government, society and economy.

2. They maintain and protect the Status Quo Powers That Be--no vested interests, protected fiefdoms or Financial Elites ever lose power as a result of these policy tweaks.

3. They are politically expedient, meaning they assuage the demands of vested interests rather than tackle the rot undermining the nation.

4. They ignore the perverse incentives built into current systems and the incentives of complicity, i.e. to cheer another coat of paint on the dryrot rather than face the costs of real reform.

The financial underpinnings of the economy and society are rotting from within: finance, higher education, defense, healthcare, law, governance, you name it.

This week I want to highlight a few key causes of this pervasive and eventually fatal systemic rot.

Let's start with Our Ponzi Economy...

https://www.oftwominds.com/blogjuly14/ponzi-economy7-14.html

Visit the FAQ page to learn how to track your last read comment, add images, embed videos, tweets, and animated gifs, and more.

Safety Dan
Jul 23, 2014 - 8:54am

BIS GM Speech @ Annual Meeting

84th Annual General Meeting

-Most interesting is the last; Presentation by Hyun Song Shin, Economic Adviser and Head of Research.

General Manager's speech: Stepping out of the shadow of the crisis: three transitions for the world economy

Speech delivered by Mr Jaime Caruana, General Manager of the BIS, on the occasion of the Bank's Annual General Meeting, Basel, 29 June 2014.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen

This year's Annual Report offers our views on current challenges and aims to examine policies that might help us step out of the long shadow of the crisis. Our approach is to seek a long-term perspective with a view to shedding light on both the build-up of financial imbalances pre-crisis and their lasting consequences.

In my remarks, I will focus on my own observations on the Annual Report. Claudio Borio, Head of the BIS's Monetary and Economic Department, and Hyun Song Shin, Economic Adviser and Head of Research, will elaborate afterwards on some specific points.

Seven years on, the Great Financial Crisis still casts this long shadow on the world economy. The good news is that the global economy is healing and global growth has picked up during the past year. Reforms have taken hold, if unevenly. The recovery in the advanced economies has broadened. The euro area has eventually emerged from recession, while the slowdown in emerging market economies (EMEs) seems to have abated. The consensus expectation is for global growth to gradually return to pre-crisis rates (Graph 1).

The less good news is that challenges continue to be serious and new risks are emerging. By historical standards, the upswing has disappointed. But this should not be surprising. Consumers, firms and banks in crisis-hit economies are still repairing their balance sheets and grappling with an overburden of debt. Private sector deleveraging is most advanced in the United States; in other countries, including large tracts of the euro area, it is still very much work in progress. During the boom, resources were misallocated on a huge scale, and it will take time to move them to new and more productive uses. Meanwhile, a number of EMEs have moved into the late stage of their own financial booms. While these booms have helped to extricate the global economy from the Great Recession, they are now confronting the EMEs with a range of economic risks. And these risks cannot be altogether offset by the additional room for policy manoeuvre that the EMEs have won for themselves over the last few years.

Full speech, including graphs (PDF, 7 pages)

The financial cycle, the debt trap and secular stagnation

Presentation by Claudio Borio, Head of the Monetary and Economic Department

The changing face of financial intermediation
Presentation by Hyun Song Shin, Economic Adviser and Head of Research

Jul 23, 2014 - 8:31am

Great Rant

I loved you rant about Margin Call, Fred. My first two viewings of that film had me focused on understanding what went wrong with MBS markets in 2008. But closer analysis, as you have done, reveals the film's efforts to make the Wall Street people look much "better" than they really are from an ethical perspective. According to the film, it took a Rocket Scientist to figure out that the MBS products were failing.

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Key Economic Events Week of 7/13

7/13 11:30 ET Goon Williams speech
7/13 1:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
7/14 8:30 ET CPI for June
7/14 2:30 ET Goon Bullard speech
7/15 8:30 ET Empire State and Import Price Idx
7/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
7/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Philly Fed
7/16 11:00 ET Goon Williams again
7/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts and Permits

Key Economic Events Week of 7/6

7/6 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
7/6 10:00 ET ISM Service PMI
7/7 10:00 ET Job openings
7/9 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims
7/9 10:00 ET Wholesale inventories
7/10 8:30 ET PPI for June

Key Economic Events Week of 6/29

6/30 9:00 ET Case-Shiller home prices
6/30 9:45 ET Chicago PMI
6/30 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
6/30 12:30 ET CGP and SSHW to Capitol Hill
7/1 8:15 ET ADP Employment
7/1 9:45 ET Markit Manu PMI
7/1 10:00 ET ISM Manu PMI
7/1 2:00 ET June FOMC minutes
7/2 8:30 ET BLSBS
7/2 10:00 ET Factory Orders

Key Economic Events Week of 6/22

6/22 8:30 ET Chicago Fed
6/22 10:00 ET Existing home sales
6/23 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for June
6/23 10:00 ET New home sales
6/25 8:30 ET Q1 GDP final guess
6/25 8:30 ET Durable Goods
6/26 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Spending
6/26 8:30 ET Core inflation

Key Economic Events Week of 6/15

6/16 8:30 ET Retail Sales
6/16 8:30 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
6/16 10:00 ET Chief Goon Powell US Senate
6/16 4:00 pm ET Goon Chlamydia speech
6/17 8:30 ET Housing Starts
6/17 12:00 ET Chief Goon Powell US House
6/18 8:30 ET Initial Jobless Claims
6/18 8:30 ET Philly Fed
6/19 8:30 ET Current Account Deficit
6/19 1:00 pm ET CGP and Mester conference

Key Economic Events Week of 6/8

6/9 10:00 ET Job openings
6/9 10:00 ET Wholesale inventories
6/10 8:30 ET CPI for May
6/10 2:00 ET FOMC Fedlines
6/10 2:30 ET CGP presser
6/11 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims
6/11 8:30 ET PPI for May
6/12 8:30 ET Import price index
6/12 10:00 ET Consumer sentiment

Key Economic Events Week of 5/25

5/26 8:30 ET Chicago Fed
5/26 10:00 ET Consumer Confidence
5/27 2:00 ET Fed Beige Book
5/28 8:30 ET Q2 GDP 2nd guess
5/28 8:30 ET Durable Goods
5/29 8:30 ET Pers Inc and Cons Spend
5/29 8:30 ET Core Inflation
5/29 9:45 ET Chicago PMI

Key Economic Events Week of 5/18

5/18 2:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/19 8:30 ET Housing starts
5/19 10:00 ET CGP and Mnuchin US Senate
5/20 10:00 ET Goon Bullard speech
5/20 2:00 ET April FOMC minutes
5/21 8:30 ET Philly Fed
5/21 9:45 ET Markit flash PMIs for May
5/21 10:00 ET Goon Williams speech
5/21 1:00 ET Goon Chlamydia speech
5/21 2:30 ET Chief Goon Powell speech

Key Economic Events Week of 5/11

5/11 12:00 ET Goon Bostic speech
5/11 12:30 ET Goon Evans speech
5/12 8:30 ET CPI
5/12 9:00 ET Goon Kashnkari speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Quarles speech
5/12 10:00 ET Goon Harker speech
5/12 5:00 ET Goon Mester speech
5/13 8:30 ET PPI
5/13 9:00 ET Chief Goon Powell speech
5/14 8:30 ET Initial jobless claims and import prices
5/14 1:00 ET Another Goon Kashnkari speech
5/14 6:00 ET Goon Kaplan speech
5/15 8:30 ET Retail Sales and Empire State index
5/15 9:15 ET Cap Ute and Ind Prod
5/15 10:00 ET Business Inventories

Key Economic Events Week of 5/4

5/4 10:00 ET Factory Orders
5/5 8:30 ET US Trade Deficit
5/5 9:45 ET Markit Service PMI
5/5 10:00 ET ISM Sevrice PMI
5/6 8:15 ET ADP jobs report
5/7 8:30 ET Productivity
5/8 8:30 ET BLSBS
5/8 10:00 ET Wholesale Inventories

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