Catching my eye here and there around the web: latest housing indicators may not be as bullish as they seem, what to make of all the indictments, price-gouging is all-American, and more insights into fuel use per dollar of GDP.
Housing downturn? Calculated Risk remains bearish despite the strong September value for housing starts and other indicators. He notes:
In the previous housing busts, ‘Starts’ stayed strong right into the slow down and the excess inventory led to many builders going bankrupt. Usually ‘Starts’ is a trailing indicator for the housing market.
Indictments. Where would I be without Tradesports to tell me what the news means? Tradesports sez: chances of indictments are 20% for DeLay, 60% for Rove, and 80% for Libby.
But probability of confirmation of Miers plunged as low as 20% this morning on stories such as these from Captain Ed. It’s since recovered, though still below 50%.
Price gouging. I along with many others have made the point that raising the price of an item in times of emergency is a necessary response to lower supplies and increased demand. To this
Christopher Westley adds the following full-throated defense of price-gouging:
The gas station owners, not public authorities, are the ones who risk their capital in order to satisfy customers. They are the ones who hire labor, set contracts with suppliers, and organize resources so as to provide goods to customers via voluntary exchange. They should be able to charge whatever prices they want.
That’s why Jason McBride should have been able to charge $5.00 or more a gallon for gas if he wanted. Or he could have given it away for free. Or he could have stacked it up in one-gallon cans, placed a table cloth over it, and had a picnic. After all, it was his property.
Fuel efficiency. Responding to my observation that oil use per dollar of real GDP has steadily been declining, Stuart Staniford notes that miles driven per dollar of real GDP are remarkably constant, leaving one to wonder what magnitude of gas price increase or economic dislocation would be necessary to bring about an actual decrease in miles driven: