Don’t let the bed bugs bite (by not riding the subway)

Stocks closed higher on a full day of economic news ahead of the long weekend. Consumer spending and incomes in July disappointed, inflation was kept in check, Chicago-area manufacturing picked up pace, and the consumer mood brightened.

The Dow rose 18 points, with 20 of its 30 components advancing; the S&P 500 Index gained 6; and the Nasdaq was higher by 22. Advancers led decliners by seven to three on the NYSE and the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures dropped $3.00 to close at $1,287.40 an ounce, and the price of crude oil gained $1.41 to settle at $95.96 a barrel.

For the month of August, the Dow gained 3.23%, the S&P 500 rose 3.76%, and the Nasdaq jumped 4.86%.

 

In Other Business News:

  • Consumer spending fell a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in July, according to the Commerce Department, while personal incomes rose a slight 0.2%. Prices, meanwhile, kept on their moderate course, with the personal consumption expenditures price index, or PCE, rising 1.6% year over year, well below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. The PCE, as Dr. Brian Jacobsen explains, is worth noting as the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation.
  • Consumer sentiment strengthened in August, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index. The index rose from 81.8 in July to 82.5 in August, higher than expected by a survey of economists.
  • The Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Index jumped to 64.3 in August from 52.6 in July, according to the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago. The increased pace in the Chicago region was much faster than anticipated, with strength in the production, backlog, and new orders components.
  • Falling food and energy prices pushed the inflation rate in the eurozone down to 0.3% in August from 0.4% in July (0.8% when excluding food and energy). The drop in in the rate of price increases raises the specter of deflation and puts attention on the European Central Bank meeting next Thursday, when it will decide whether to raise interest rates or launch other stimulative measures.
  • Brazil’s economy contracted 0.6% in the second quarter, following a revised 0.2% contraction in the first quarter. The decline in gross domestic product for a second-straight quarter put the country technically in a recession. Economic output was affected by the World Cup, when many workers took off in June, but the drop was still more than expected, putting pressure on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ahead of the much-anticipated October elections.
  • In contrast to fellow BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) member Brazil, India’s economy advanced 5.7% in the quarter ended June 30, the fastest pace since 2011. The utilities and financials sectors were strong, as were manufacturing and mining.

 

*****

Millions of Americans will head outdoors this Labor Day weekend for one of the last big celebrations of the summer. Little do they know that nightmarish creatures are waiting for them and in general hoping to bring down the economy. Luckily, the critters seem to be affecting only the transportation and water supply sectors, so we should all be fine as long as we never need to go anywhere or drink anything.

–Suzuki has recalled 17,000 sedans due to the possibility that driving them will lead to death by spider. Before arachnophobes get too nervous, it’s not that Suzuki has discovered that some of its sedans are getting colonized by spiders that will eat the sedan’s occupants alive after first ensnaring them in a full-body web straight out of nightmares. That, admittedly, would be bad, but true arachnophobes know it would be nothing out of the ordinary, as a horde of spiders is probably plotting such a thing at your desk as we speak. Instead, Suzuki has discovered that some of its sedans are getting colonized by spiders that have an inexplicable obsession with the car’s fuel lines. The spiders tend to build webs and nests around the fuel lines of the 2010-2013 model years of the Suzuki Kizashi, and then, in technical jargon, lots of bad things happen (I’m assuming that’s technical jargon because that’s what my mechanics often say to me).

–When New Yorkers respond to complaints about horrible traffic, they’re fond of pointing out their excellent public transportation system. And then bed bugs, looking up under New Yorkers’ pants legs, nod and agree hungrily, despite the general lack of beds on the subway.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has pulled five trains out of service in August due to bed bug infestations. The bugs have so far been found on the N, Q, and number 6 lines, according to The New York Daily News. There’s no word yet whether they bugs intend to expand their city-wide domination or if they’re simply lost on the N line.

–And finally, in a more heartwarming (sort of) story about the intersection of nature and modern technology, we have this story out of Sweden: The world’s oldest-known eel has died after years of productive service. Unlike spiders and bed bugs that infiltrate technological systems and ruin them, this eel had been a crucial part of its technological ecosystem, specifically, a family’s well. The eel, named Åle, was placed in a Swedish family’s well 155 years ago, and since then it had kept the water clean of bugs and other infestations. Eels typically live only seven years or so in the wild, so I wonder if this is one of those special eels that, like the allegedly male hamster I had as a child, miraculously had many more offspring, setting back my understanding of animal reproduction by several years.

Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend, and don’t let the bed bugs bite (assuming we have a say in the matter any longer).

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