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Thursday, 31 May 2012

April Restaurant Index Above 100 for 6th Month

"The outlook for the restaurant industry remained positive for the coming months, as the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) stood well above 100 in April. The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 101.6 in April, down 0.6 percent from the strong level of 102.2 registered in March. Despite the decline, April represented the sixth consecutive month that the RPI stood above 100 (see red line in chart above), which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

Although the Restaurant Performance Index dipped somewhat in April, it remained solidly in positive territory. Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the 11th consecutive month, and a majority of them expect business to continue to improve in the months ahead.

 The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 102.2 in April – down slightly from a 15-month high of 102.4 registered in March (see red line in chart). April also represented the eighth consecutive month that the Expectations Index stood above 100, which signifies a positive outlook among restaurant operators for business conditions in the coming months."

MP: Further evidence of an improving outlook for U.S. restaurants is provided by Census data showing that sales for "Food Services and Drinking Places" were up by 8.5% in April from a year earlier, following a 7.4% increase in March.  After being flat in 2008 and 2009, sales at "food services and drinking places" are now 17% above the June 2009 level when the recession officially ended, and set a new monthly record high (in both real and nominal dollars) of almost $44 billion in April.  

Moreover, sales at "Full Service Restaurants" set a new monthly record high (both nominal and real dollars) of $20.4 billion in March, and were up by 13.1% year-over-year, following a 13.7% increase in February. The relevant data suggest that the restaurant industry has made a full recovery from the recession and is now operating back above pre-recession levels for inflation-adjusted sales. Regardless of how consumers answer confidence survey questions, the strong improvements in restaurant sales and the RPI in recent months would indicate that tracking actual consumers spending on restaurant meals is reflecting a high level of consumer confidence. 

March U.S. Oil Production Highest Since 1998

Domestic Oil Production is Booming in North Dakota and Texas on Private Land: It's the Fuel of the Future
The Department of Energy released data today showing that U.S. field production of crude oil came close to reaching a 14-year high in March, with average daily production of 6.26 million barrels.  That was the highest average daily oil production in any month since June 1998, almost 14 years ago, when average output was slightly higher at 6.267 million barrels.

March oil production was 11% ahead of last year, as 630,000 more barrels were produced on average each day in March compared to last year.  Production increases of 215,000 more barrels per day in North Dakota in March of this year, and 388,000 more barrels per day in Texas were responsible for most of the overall national increase of 630,000 barrels per day.

It should be noted that these significant increases of crude oil production in North Dakota and Texas over the last year are taking place mostly on private and state lands, and have nothing to do with President Obama's "All-of-the-above" energy policy he introduced in his January State of the Union address.

Related: From my oral testimony today before the House Oversight Committee, full written testimony here.

"Even the government’s own forecasts predict that renewable energy will continue to play a relatively minor role as an energy source over the next several decades out to the year 2035. And traditional energy sources like oil, gas and coal will continue to provide the overwhelming share (more than three-quarters) of the fuel required to meet U.S. energy demand for the next three decades at least.

By favoring new, costly, subsidy-dependent alternative energy sources over traditional sources, and by not fully supporting the proven, job-creating, low-cost fossil fuels, it would be more accurate to describe President Obama’s costly energy strategy as “some of the most costly above” instead of “all-of-the-above.”

What we really want is an energy policy that is not based on “all-of-the-above” or “some of the above,” regardless of cost, reliability, and economic and scientific merits, but rather an energy policy that is grounded in the logic of “all of the energy sources that are actually cost-competitive.”

President Obama might wish for an energy future of alternative energy, but the scientific and economic realities suggest that the "fuels of the future" will mostly be the same as the "fuels of the past" — dependable, reliable and low-cost oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear."

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Gas Drops Below $3 per Gallon in South Carolina

Damn those greedy oil speculators, they've driven gas prices down to $3 per gallon in South Carolina.  

Update: Gas is now below $3 per gallon in South Carolina, currently as low as $2.98 on Saturday morning. 

Oil Prosperity Update for Eagle Ford Texas

1. Fuel Fix -- "Robust drilling activity in the Eagle Ford Shale is rescuing the state’s lodging sector. San Antonio-based Source Strategies says in its newest Hotel Brand Report that hotels in the counties with the most oil-and-gas production were responsible for 75% of the $151.3 million in additional revenues hotels produced statewide between the first quarter 2011 and the first quarter this year. That occurred even though those oil-and-gas-rich areas account for only 38% of the 395,100 hotel rooms in Texas. The rest of the hotel sector recorded insignificant revenue gains of 3.2%.

“The economic impact of oil and gas is huge,” said Bruce Walker, president of Source Strategies."

2.  — "The sales tax revenue bump generated by Eagle Ford Shale production could have a positive effect on local governments’ creditworthiness, according to analysis by a noted rating agency.

A study by Moody’s Investor Service showed increased revenues could have a “credit positive” effect on bond ratings for 61 entities Moody’s rates across a 20-county region of South Texas impacted by Eagle Ford development."

MP: Welcome to the new Bakken.....

Markets in Everything: Belgian Soccer Fans for Sale on eBay to Root for Your Country in Euro 2012

Listed on Ebay (current bid approx. $445 with 7 days left):

"Once again we Belgians have no team to root for at the Euro 2012 soccer championship. Since tournaments are much more fun when you have a favorite team, we decided to put our fandom for sale on eBay.  All profits will be sent directly to Unicef. 

What is for sale: During Euro 2012, all members of this Facebook Group will root for the national soccer team of the highest bidder, or the national team of his choice. Even if it's Holland. We will watch the games, wear the colors, possibly even buy the flag and learn the national anthem. Pictures and videos will be made and sent to the winning bidder to be posted on his or her website.  Slight hooliganism is available at extra cost. We can, for example, kick a pigeon or smoke in a non-smoking area if such pleases our master.

Once the team is eliminated, we will grieve for 24 hours and then put ourselves for sale again on eBay. Hopefully joined by the previous winner since he or she will also have become an orphaned soccer fan by then." 

HT: Marc Purcell