Spending more, saving less. Uh-oh. and Senator’s filibuster threatens highway jobs: DOT

We all supposedly learned our lesson. The credit bubble and Great Recession taught us to be more fiscally fit. Save more and spend within your means. For a while, it looked like a new era of thrift was upon us.

But is that era already coming to a close? The government reported some slightly alarming figures about personal spending in January on Monday. Spending was up 0.5% from December even though incomes rose just 0.1%

More disturbing though is the fact that the savings rate, which had been above 4% for the past months, fell to 3.3%.

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Are consumers becoming reckless again? Yes and no. The good news is that it doesn’t appear as if people are loading up debt to fuel purchases.

This is not a credit binge. Bank loans continue to contract," said Keith Hembre, chief economist with First American Funds in Minneapolis.

Instead, it looks as if the increase in spending was a direct result of people dipping into their savings. [Read the full article]

Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood on Monday blamed a senator’s filibuster for furloughing thousands of federal employees and threatening state jobs while shutting down highway construction projects nationwide.

As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country," wrote LaHood, in a press release. This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed."

LaHood was referring to the one-man filibuster of Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who has blocked a bill that would, among other things, provide a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which is a federal fund set up to pay for transportation projects around the country. [Read the full article]

One place might be one of the world’s great gatherings of supple minds: a meeting that for 176 years has drawn the aristocracy of established scientists, plus legions of younger brainiacs just getting started in biology, engineering, physics and mathematics. They came to San Diego in mid-February for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the organization that among other things publishes the preeminent journal Science.

Wandering the halls of this city’s massive convention center, I dipped into lectures and seminars on everything from the impact of genomics, rethinking stem cells, retrofitting cities to be more energy efficient to what went wrong with the global economy. [Read the full article]

Oil retreated Monday, giving back earlier gains, as the U.S. dollar strengthened and investors focused on a weaker-than-expected manufacturing report.

What prices are doing: Light, sweet crude for April delivery fell 96 cents, or 1.2%, to settle at $79.66 a barrel.

What’s moving the market: Prices retreated after making a run near $81 a barrel as the dollar rallied against rival currencies.

The dollar index (DXY), which gauges the greenback against a basket of other currencies, was up 0.6% to 80.91. A stronger dollar typically weighs on prices for commodities that are priced in the U.S. currency, such as crude oil.

Oil prices were also pressured by an industry report that showed U.S. manufacturing activity expanded in February at a slower rate than the month before.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index slipped to 56.5 from 58.4 in January. [Read the full article]

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