Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Now Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programs

Reminder to FB readers, click on Original Post to see the whole thing and access the hotlinks.

Long time readers know that I have huge concerns about our future as a nation (and frankly as a city too).  Those concerns did not keep me from the Chicago Auto Show, where I sat in several cars to see if I might like them enough to spend money.  The verdicts were swift - driving the Camaro would be like driving a coffin.  If I want a muscle car the Mustang is it.  The Mini is cute but the cockpit isn't.  The Genesis coupe doesn't impress as much as the Altima coupe.  I still want to try a Wrangler, but not if I need a step stool to climb in.  The Grand Cherokee is more than I want, even if it is Trail Rated.  I still lust after the Mazda Miata, although I could be talked into a Volvo S40 (more practical), which I have driven before, and liked a lot.  Regardless, no new car will be in my life before the end of this year.  The price I am paying for successfully refinancing my condo.

In the meantime, I intend to get my 14 y.o. SC1 repainted and prettied up.  I was talking about this with some friends and one asked me why I was spending so much money on the Saturn if what I really wanted was a new car, even if a year away.  My answer was swift, and recent events point to the truth of it;

Because 9 months from now things could be very different.

It has not been 9 months and already I am wondering if the suicide of the Tunisian fruit vendor might not be a Black Swan event.  Who among us could have foreseen that one suicide would ultimately lead to the toppling of Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, threats to the Bahraini and Algerian regimes, and bring Libya to the precipice of civil war if not over it outright?  The Saudis are not necessarily immune, and it appears the King is paying attention.  The Drumbeat section of The Oil Drum is awash in analysis and prognostications from all over.  None of it is pretty.

Oil prices are vulnerable, and by extension so is the economic recovery.  Brent prices, which largely impact Europe and our East Coast refineries, have reached and exceeded $100/barrel.  NYMEX is inching up, and is well over $90 right now on March and April futures contracts.  One article I saw reports a rumor that Qaddafi has ordered security forces to sabotage the oil pipelines.  One hopes that is not true, but anyone familiar with Qaddafi's recent speech cannot assume he is acting rationally, or that the remaining loyalists won't act on his demands.  If Libyan production is shut-in for 3-4 months (or longer) don't assume that the Saudis will run to the rescue even though they say they can.  That gloomy assessment is not limited to one analyst.

The folks who predicted a 2011 of economic growth may have to eat their words.  Until the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East settles down, nothing is certain aside from disruptions.  Are you ready to deal with the implications of a no-growth/little growth year?  I don't think the public at large is.  I talked with one of Joe's supporters yesterday and she doesn't care to spend time looking into the future very far.  I suspect she has a lot of company.  Time will tell if I am right.

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