President Obama reviews the Guard of Honor during an official arrival ceremony with King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Abdul Razak in Parliament Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Photo by Pete Souza)
1:15 AM EDT: President Obama and Prime Minister Najib Hold a Press Conference (Audio Only)
3:55 AM EDT: President Obama Participates in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Town Hall, Kuala Lumpur
Bloomberg: Consumer Sentiment In U.S. Rose In April To Nine-Month High
Consumer confidence rose in April to a nine-month high, showing Americans are growing more upbeat about the economy as the labor market gains traction. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment increased to 84.1 from a four-month low of 80 in March. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 83 after a preliminary April reading of 82.6. Consumers were more optimistic about current conditions than at any time since July 2007 as smaller ranks of the unemployed, near-record stock prices and higher property values help bolster household finances. Further strides in the labor market that generate bigger wage gains would provide additional impetus for the consumer spending that makes up almost 70 percent of the economy. “Consumer sentiment continues to chug higher,” said Brett Ryan, an economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “It means people are getting jobs or incomes are increasing or they feel a little bit more stable about their situation.”
Gains in sentiment are translating into stronger sales. Cars and light trucks sold in March at a 16.3 million annualized rate, the fastest since May 2007, following a 15.3 million pace the prior month. Purchases at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC all topped analysts’ estimates. “The economy is entering the second quarter on an improved trend,” Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist at Ford, said on an April 1 conference call. There are “some signs of improving wage and income gains. Very steady consumer confidence is also helping to be a support.” More job opportunities are helping underpin sentiment. Payrolls climbed by 192,000 workers in March after a 197,000 increase the previous month that was larger than first estimated, the Labor Department said earlier this month. Private payrolls, which exclude those at government agencies, exceeded the pre-recession peak for the first time.
EIA: Solar-Electric Generating Capacity Increases Drastically In The Last Four Years
U.S. solar capacity increased significantly in the last 4 years. In 2010, the total solar capacity was 2,326 MW which accounted for a comparatively small fraction (0.22%) of the total U.S. electric generating. capacity. By February 2014, this capacity increased 418% to 12,057 MW, a 9,731 MW gain, and now accounts for almost 1.13% of total U.S. capacity. Net metered applications, which are generally intended to displace retail purchased power to lower the overall energy bill for a host site, have increased each year since 2010 at an annual rate of about 1,100 MW and now total 5,251 MW. Although sunny California has the largest net metered solar capacity (38% of the total), abundant sunshine is not the only growth factor for this sector. Net metered applications are typically incentivized through various state level programs. New Jersey and Massachusetts together represent an additional 21% of the total net metered solar capacity. Overall, nationally the growth in net metered photovoltaic capacity is fairly evenly split between residential and commercial applications.
Utility scale PV applications, which are 1 MW or greater, have also expanded significantly and currently account for 5,564 MW. In 2013 utility scale solar exceeded the capacity of net metered applications. Sunny states like California (2,702 MW, 49% of the total utility scale PV) and Arizona (960 MW, 17%) enjoy favorable siting conditions. However, North Carolina accounts for 340 MW or 6% of the total utility level solar capacity, and is the third leading state in this sector largely due to state incentives. In summary, the U.S. solar capacity has moved quickly from a relatively small contributor to the nation’s total electric capacity into a one of comparative significance. Much like the wind sector growth, which grew tremendously from 6,456 MW in January 2005 to 60,661 MW to January 2014, solar capacity is quite clearly up and coming.
It doesn’t get enough attention, but I still consider the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) one of the more important breakthroughs for progressive governance in the Obama era. That its work on our behalf tends to happen far from the spotlight somehow makes it more impressive – the agency’s work isn’t showy, it’s just effective. It was the CFPB that recently announced multi-million dollar fines for four mortgage insurers for “doling out illegal kickbacks to mortgage lenders in exchange for business.” It was the CFPB that cracked down on a lender for allegedly “paying illegal bonuses to employees who steered home buyers toward higher-interest loans.” It was the CFPB that ended 2013 with “a string of enforcement cases … on lending discrimination, mortgage servicing, online lending and credit card products.”
And it’s the CFPB that keeps adding to its to-do list. Federal regulators are investigating reports that lenders are pressuring thousands of college graduates to immediately repay their full student loan debt when a relative who co-signed the loans dies or files for bankruptcy. So, the CFPB is intervening on consumers’ behalf. The young people are feeling pushed around by lenders, so now they’ll have a government agency doing what they can’t: push back. Remember, congressional Republicans fought tooth and nail to destroy the CFPB, even using unprecedented, legally dubious schemes to prevent the agency from even getting to work. Fortunately for consumers, Republicans failed.