Calculated Risk has the good news. First, U.S. auto sales.
U.S. Light Vehicle Sales at 15.5 million annual rate in November, Highest Since 2007
Based on an estimate from Autodata Corp, light vehicle sales were at a 15.54 million SAAR in November. That is up 15% from November 2011, and up 9% from the sales rate last month. This is the highest level of sales since December 2007.
This was above the consensus forecast of 15.0 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate), however some of the increase was a bounce back from Hurricane Sandy that negatively impacted sales at the end of October.
This graph shows the historical light vehicle sales from the BEA (blue) and an estimate for November (red, light vehicle sales of 15.54 million SAAR from Autodata Corp).
That was yesterday's good news. Here's today's as I type this, which is about real estate.
From CoreLogic: CoreLogic® Home Price Index Marks Eighth Consecutive Month of Year-Over-Year GainsThat was the good news.
Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 6.3 percent in October 2012 compared to October 2011. This change represents the biggest increase since June 2006 and the eighth consecutive increase in home prices nationally on a year-over-year basis. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices decreased by 0.2 percent in October 2012 compared to September 2012*. Decreases in month-over-month home prices are expected as the housing market enters the offseason.This graph shows the national CoreLogic HPI data since 1976. January 2000 = 100.
Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationwide also increased on a year-over-year basis by 5.8 percent in October 2012 compared to October 2011. On a month-over-month basis excluding distressed sales, home prices increased 0.5 percent in October 2012 compared to September 2012, the eighth consecutive month-over-month increase. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.
The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that November 2012 home prices, including distressed sales, are expected to rise by 7.1 percent on a year-over-year basis from November 2011 and fall by 0.3 percent on a month-over-month basis from October 2012 as sales exhibit a seasonal slowdown going into the winter.
“The housing recovery that started earlier in 2012 continues to gain momentum," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “The recovery is geographically broad-based with almost all markets experiencing some appreciation. Sand and energy states continue to experience the most robust appreciation and some judicial foreclosure states are even recording increasing prices.”
The index was down 0.2% in October, and is up 6.3% over the last year.
The index is off 27% from the peak - and is up 9.6% from the post-bubble low set in February (the index is NSA, so some of the increase is seasonal).
The bad news is that I was right to have second thoughts about posting Professor Farnsworth yesterday, although not for the reasons I suspected. I suspected there would be bad economic news. Instead, the news was good, as the above story shows. What actually happened was that the price at the corner station shot up to $3.55 from $3.37 this morning. Good thing I filled up yesterday. That means the price is now more in line with the $3.61 expected from the price of Brent.
The three stations a few blocks away are still selling regular at $3.37, so I'm skeptical the corner station's price will stay that high. I expect it to drop to $3.49, then $3.45, at which point the other stations should increase their price to match. Let's see if that happens.
I have more. Follow over the jump for the car and fuel news from last Saturday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obamafish edition) on Daily Kos.
Again, I give you the good news first.
Reuters via Scientific American: Ford Fusion wins 2013 "Green Car of Year" award
By Nichola Groom and Bernie Woodall
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, which has emphasized boosting the fuel economy of its lineup to attract car buyers, won a top "green car" award for its Fusion midsize sedan, making it the least expensive model yet to earn the title.Reuters via Scientific American: U.S. Launches New Project to Develop Electric-Vehicle Batteries
In the past, sales of green vehicles have been hampered by their relatively high price tags.
The Fusion, which starts at $21,700 for the gas-powered base model, won because it is offered in a wide range of powertrains, said Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal, which gives out the annual award to recognize leadership in cutting emissions.
"It won by virtue of the fact that it offers an array of choices," Cogan said after announcing the award during the LA Auto Show on Thursday. "This is huge.
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration launched a fresh $120-million research project Friday, aimed at developing cheaper batteries for electric vehicles, a sector that has faltered despite billions of dollars of prior government investment.Now, the not so good news, although I think that ethanol from crops are losers as alternative fuels.
The Energy Department will dole out the money over five years to establish a research hub for batteries and energy storage, backed by five national laboratories, five Midwestern universities and four private firms.
The four companies joining the project are Dow Chemical Co, Applied Materials Inc, Johnson Controls Inc and Clean Energy Trust.
Nature via Scientific American: Growth of Ethanol Fuel Stalls in Brazil
The nation's shortages are a sobering lesson for a biofuels pioneer
By Claudio Angelo and Nature magazine
“A new moment for mankind.” That was how Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, described his country’s biofuel boom in March 2007. Back then, Brazil was the poster child of ethanol fuel, its output second only to that of the United States. Fermenting the sugars in the country’s abundant sugar cane produced a motor fuel that lowered carbon dioxide emissions, and many saw Brazil as a model for how the world could shed its addiction to oil, creating jobs along the way.Looks like the Auto Club thinks ethanol is a loser, too, although for different reasons.
Five years on, Lula’s vision has tarnished. Biofuels are falling from grace around the world as critics charge that devoting millions of hectares of agricultural land to fuel crops is driving up food prices and that the climate benefits of biofuels are modest at best. But the fall has been hardest in Brazil, where government policies have compounded the effects of the global economic downturn.
Domestic consumption of liquid ethanol this year has been 26% lower than for the same period in 2008. Forty-one of the country’s roughly 400 sugar-cane ethanol plants have closed over that time. The price of pure ethanol at the pump is so high that in most states it is cheaper to fill up flexible-fuel cars with petrol blends that contain about 20% ethanol. The shift back to fossil fuels, combined with rapid growth in the number of cars on the roads (see ‘Fuelling Brazil’s transport boom’), has worsened city smog and caused emissions in the transport sector to spike at about 170 million tons of CO2 in 2011, up from less than 140 million tons in 2008. “We are increasing the world’s GDP: we are buying more oil and spending more on pollution-related health care,” jokes Ildo Sauer, who studies energy policy at the University of São Paulo and is a former director of the state oil giant Petrobras.
Brazil’s ethanol roller coaster is a sobering example of what can happen when climate and energy planning clash with economic decision-making. It began with the 2008 economic crisis, which staunched new investments in the sector just as it was expanding rapidly, and deep in debt. Rather than developing new plantations, the industry fell back on harvesting cane from older, less-productive sites, and average yields plummeted from 115 tons per hectare in 2008 to 69 tons this year. Combined with two bad harvests, this has forced Brazil to import some 1.5 billion liters of maize (corn) ethanol from the United States over the past 2 years.
Reuters via Scientific American: AAA calls for suspension of E15 gasoline sales
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Leading road travel group AAA on Friday called on the U.S. government to suspend the sale of gasoline with a higher blend of ethanol fuel, the latest opposition against increasing the use of biofuels in transport.And now, some good news about conventional fuels, namely decreasing their pollution potential.
A lack of public awareness about the risks of using 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, in older cars could cause problems for motorists, according to an AAA study published Friday. The current standard is 10 percent, or E10.
The Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 in 2011 for cars and light trucks made since model year 2000, spurring opposition from auto-makers, service station owners and oil refiners who fear it may damage older engines, leaving them exposed to legal action from motorists.
Only about 5 percent of the 240 million light duty vehicles on U.S. roads today are approved by manufacturers to run on the E15, AAA said.
Reuters via Scientific American: Senators push Obama to propose clean gasoline rules
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of Democratic senators on Thursday will urge the Obama administration to propose rules to cut smog-forming emissions from gasoline, regulations opposed by many Republicans.If that's passed, then it's worthy of Professor Farnsworth! Also, why am I not surprised that Senator Gillibrand is leading this effort? Of course she is; she likes science!
The lawmakers, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, want the Environmental Protection Agency to propose rules that would slash the sulfur content in gasoline this year and to finalize them next year.
"Tier 3 will substantially reduce harmful pollutants that are responsible for health-related ailments such as heart attacks, premature death, asthma attacks and other chronic lung diseases," Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a letter obtained by Reuters that will be sent to President Barack Obama later on Thursday.
The rules, which had been expected to be proposed early in 2012, would require the sulfur content of gasoline to be cut to 10 parts per million, down from the current 30 ppm standard. Republican lawmakers have opposed the rules saying they would add costs to refiners and put jobs at risk.