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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Weekly jobless claims up slightly, oil prices steadily rising

Broken record:

The initial weekly jobless claims number came in at 371,000, which shows a stable, moderately growing jobs market, and not much more. The more reliable month average is at about 365,000.

The number is expected to more accurately reflect the jobs market beginning late this month and early February, though the number has pretty much been consistent for several weeks and shows what the monthly unemployment figures showed last week, that growth continues but has not picked up. When will that change? Who knows?

Another number to watch is oil prices, which have crept up recently and are now above $94 a barrel in early trading. Gas prices have been low for some time now. Steadily increasing oil prices can change that in a hurry, though.

Now that we are beyond the fiscal cliff hump, we have other stupid legislative fights coming up fairly soon, including the budget and the far more dangerous debt ceiling. Shutting down the government over a budget fight will hurt the economy in the short run but probably won't do long-term damage. But shutting it down by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which would lead to us not paying our debts for the first time in history, will do short and long-term damage.

Once we break our promise to always - always - pay our debts, there's no un-ringing that bell. We would have undermined the reason the dollar is the world's currency, because everyone around the globe believes that we will always pay up, that they can count on us, no matter what.

If folks in Washington want to use leverage to force spending cuts and entitlement reforms, they should do it with the budget, not the debt ceiling.

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