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Black Friday: Deals up 21%, freebies down

November 28, 2008 --

By Biz Reporter,

ShopLocal reports a 21% increase in Black Friday deals compared to 2007.  Stores are scrambling to get the most out of a drop in consumer spending and a diminishing economy.

Deals may be up, but freebies offered by stores appeared to be in decline in Oregon.  The Oregonian Black Friday advertisements show only one department store offering free gifts to the first customers compared to two to three stories in years prior.  In 2007, two sporting goods stores offered free gift cards ranging from $5 to $500 to the first 200 customers.  This year saw only one outlet (Joes) offering such free gift cards.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 27, 2008 --

Best wishes and thankfulness from Oregon Report

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Oregon gas prices lowest since 2006

November 26, 2008 --

BY AAA Oregon,

“Oregon?s gas prices are at their lowest level since March 2006. The statewide average for regular unleaded drops another 16 cents this week to $2.22. The national average falls another 15 cents to $2.07 and is at its lowest level since March 18, 2005.”AAA Oregon Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds says, “Both averages are about a dollar lower than they were a year ago, and are about 50% lower than the record highs of more than $4 a gallon we set in July.”

The national average for diesel also drops below $3 per gallon this week for the first time since September of last year. And Oregon?s average for diesel is just above $3 per gallon, also at the lowest point since September 2007.

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A closer look at the Starbucks 97% profit drop

November 25, 2008 --

By Alyssa Williams, Biz Reporter

With the recent announcement of Starbucks’ new evolution of card rewards that “takes the next step in putting money back in loyal customers’ wallets,” one may think Starbucks needs the money in its own back pocket after a 97 percent profit drop. However, Starbucks is one of many businesses to suffer severe reduced profits in the current economic crisis, and there is no evidence to conclude that these businesses cannot recover from the profit decrease.

Businesses from all sectors are beginning to feel the pinch of the poor economy.   For example, retail store J.C. Penny’s profits dropped 52 percent and the Cheesecake Factory Inc. dropped 36 percent in their third quarters.    More locally, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced they will cut back $1 million for its 2009 budget, one of the greatest financial crises in the history of the organization.

Starbucks rebound plan

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Did We Economists Miss the Housing Problem?

November 24, 2008 --

By Bill Conerly, Businomics, Conerly Consulting LLC

A reporter called yesterday for a retrospective on my forecast of a year ago.  I groaned, thinking the headline would be “Gotcha!”  Be the actual quotes he had weren’t so bad.  Apparently I said that we had overbuilt housing and that it would take a couple of years at least to work off the excess supply.  Boy, that sounds right.

Confirming that is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics which says in 2005 there was a burst of stories about a housing bubble.  Here’s their chart, based on 50 major daily newspapers and how often stories refer to a housing or real estate bubble. (Hat tip to Arnold Kling at EconLog.)

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Weekly News Quiz 11/21

November 21, 2008 --

Test your knowledge on what happened this week.

1. What economic index saw its largest single month fall since before World War II this week?
1) Consumer Confidence
2) Consumer Prices
3) Oil prices

2. Which Oregon museum announced 10% layoffs this week?
A) OMSI
B) Evergreen Aviation
C) Portland Art Museum
D) Oregon Zoo

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Oregon Heating Oil Customers Get Price Relief as Economy Falters

November 20, 2008 --

From Oregon Petroleum Association,
PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For Oregonians who use home heating oil, the struggling economy has delivered at least one bright spot: heating bills are dropping along with the temperatures.

Crude oil prices, which reached a record high of $145 a barrel in July, fell below $56 a barrel this week — a drop of more than 60% in four months. “Worldwide and domestic oil consumption has plummeted,” explained Molly Brady, President of the Oregon Petroleum Association. “Prices could keep dropping if a weak economy continues to dampen oil usage.”

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Poll: Protecting Jobs vs. Protecting the Environment

November 19, 2008 --

By Moore Information,

As economic conditions have continued to worsen throughout 2008, voters have grown more concerned about protecting jobs than protecting the environment. Asked which issue they are more concerned about today, 65% of U.S. voters say they are more concerned about protecting jobs, while only 27% are more concerned about protecting the environment. This is a notable change from six months ago, when concern about jobs was higher than concern about the environment, but to a lesser degree than today. Further comparison to past data reflects a pattern of concern consistent with the economic ups and downs over the past three years, as reflected in the following table:

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Europe frees the market for ugly fruits and vegetables

November 18, 2008 --

By Economist Dr. Eric Fruits, Econinternational

The BBC reports that the European Commission has scrapped rules that prevent oddly-sized or misshapen fruit and vegetables being sold in Europe. The EU’s agriculture commissioner called it “a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot.”

Proponents of the scrapped rules say they were introduced to ensure common EU standards.  Critics decried the rules as examples of Euro-madness.  If the rules were madness, then surely everyone would have voted to scrap the rules.  Instead, the BBC’s blog notes that that 16 countries–mainly the big fruit and vegetable producers–voted against scrapping the rules.

If the rules were such Euro-madness, why would 16 countries vote to continue the madness?

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TARP: Banks give Congress the right to screw them

November 17, 2008 --

By Bill Conerly, Businomics, Conerly Consulting,

TARP is, of course, the Treasury plan to provide capital to banks.  There are terms of the deal described in the press and in official documents from the Treasury.  However, the deal is subject to any modification that Congress wants to make.  Section 5.3 says that Treasury may unilaterally change the terms of the deal to conform with laws passed by Congress.  This is a huge danger.

Back in the savings and loan crisis, Congress changed the terms of deals made between the government and banks.  The Supreme Court said that whenever Congress does that, the government may owe damages to the banks for violating the contracts.  (I was an expert witness in two of the damages lawsuits.)  This time round, it won’t be a violation of contract for the terms to be changed, because the contract says the terms are whatever Congress wants them to be.

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