The Elements That Make Up the Economic Seasons

We are all familiar with Porgy and Bess classic Summertime line, “When the fish are jumpin’…” that can bring back memories of the Old South or at least remind us of an era gone by. As summer ambles, with too many back to school television advertisements already, I wonder where the time has gone.

Winter, spring, summer and fall make up the four weather seasons of the year. The seasons are pronounced more than others depending on the geographies. So, as time passes I’m reminded of the seasons to come and the others that have come and gone since our credit collapse in 2008. This short post attempts to share LANDCO’s view on the elements that make up the economic seasons, where we are in them,and when we may anticipate a change.

Unfortunately, the factors that define the economy are real and are too often subjected to varying interpretations for all sorts of competing reasons. Unemployment is quantifiable whether we want to include or exclude certain elements that make up the figure. The formula is not obvious but it is consistent.

Our fiscal deficit is even more difficult to understand due to the complex inclusion / exclusion of elements making up its bottom line as well as the varying time frames. Comparing ours with other

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countries adds another layer of complexity not withstanding the accuracy of our foreign contemporaries. That said, the currency markets won’t lie and we cannot deny the value of the dollar at any given time. An Eastern perspective would offer that these three statistics making up any economy are neither good nor bad. That said, the numbers

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aren’t lying and they are determining how the US ranks as an economic power. What happens to them will alter the seasons.


Housing prices have moved significantly higher, though only in certain regions. According to the latest Case-Shiller Report, 20 out of 20 statistical areas that make up their composite index experienced growth and that is obviously positive news. There is

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much disagreement, however, on the nature of how the statistics are recorded as compared to other indexes that report much lower growth rate. The Shiller index does not capture significant quantities of housing stock not located in his monitored regions that remain slumped or slumping.


Employment growth has not increased significantly and certainly not by enough to drive demand for housing in most markets by itself. Uncharacteristically low interest rates maintained largely by QE3 and relatively constrained housing supplies are mostly responsible for any housing price increases.

Central Bank

Quantitative easing by the Central Bank continues to clear government guaranteed debt off of the balance sheets of banks and other institutions fortunate enough to own it. These banks get a hall pass even if the securities aren’t worth their face value. Without the easing, lenders

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would be much more limited, if not precluded in their ability to lend. What happens to these government backed securities? Nothing has to. They can stay on the Central Bank’s ledgers forever, or until they can be sold for a profit. It only moves decimals from one category to another. LANDCO concludes that “the US economy” is not improving if we measure it on the basis of housing prices.

Stock Market

Equities appear to float up to even loftier territory with many forecasting higher

values yet to come. Like housing, it takes only a few shares to trade at a given time for a price point to be established and a presumed capitalization (value) for all of the remaining shares. Multi-billion dollar capitalizations are made at every trade. And it appears there is a run stock as it is seen as the better alternative investment. Why not invest in liquid investments that throw off a dividend multiples times higher than bonds? Does the price of stock have anything to do with the economy? Maybe people spend a little more when they feel their 401ks are richer. LANDCO does not consider the stock market value, as ranked by its indexes, a meaningful measurement of the health of the US economy.

If the 5-year economic winter can warm to real employment growth we think a true spring will occur and real estate yields will align with those of bonds and stocks. Meanwhile, as more and more purchases are made at low cap rates and high stock and bond prices rule the day, LANDCO will invest in real estate or their derivatives on metrics that assure high yield and short term duration as a hedge.

LANDCO’s distressed debt and asset acquisitions are chosen for the underlying real estate’s forensic appeal but only at prices that allow for immediate upside. As spreads begin to widen again money will rush back and forth into competing investments causing frustration in the open markets and appeal for well purchased real estate assets.

“…And the cotton is high.”