The Weekly Rap! Friday Nov 30, 2012

The Dow is currently trading at 12,553 higher by 445 pts compared with two weeks ago.  The S&P 500 is also trading higher at 1,412.  Gold is trading at $1,714 an ounce, while oil futures at $88.35 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $3.38/Gal.

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes, which move inversely to prices, are trading at 1.61%.  30-year Treasury Bond yields are trading at 2.80%.  The MBS (Mortgage Backed Security) FNMA 30-year fixed 3.0% coupon, containing 3.25-3.625% mortgages, pretty much the benchmark or how rate sheets are priced these days, is about 75% of the over-all production.  This security is currently at 105.21 still trading in a tight range.  Basically each percent change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.

In economic news this week; There’s quite a bit of news this week, but I’ll try to consolidate as much as possible.  The overall news for the week is slightly positive but nothing to get excited about.  The major news continues to be the impasse our politicians face as the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and spending cuts will take place at year end if they can’t come to an agreement.  These were put in place over the last few years by the politicians because they couldn’t agree (or compromise) then.  My fear is that they will just raise the debt ceiling again and push the decision on to the next term.

U.S. durable goods orders were basically flat or unchanged in October, mainly because of slower demand for automobiles and airplanes and a reversal in defense orders.  Most other manufacturers saw an slight rise in demand, however, in a sign that conditions aren’t getting any worse in an already-soft segment of the economy.  Why do we watch Durable goods orders you ask?  Well, these are items such as cars, computers or heavy machinery expected to last at least three years. A sort of economic canary in the coal mine, orders spike when growth accelerates and soften when we experience a slowdown.

Business contacts told the Federal Reserve that manufacturing was either slowing or outright contracting as the fiscal cliff clouds the outlook for factory owners, according to the latest Beige Book report on current economic conditions released on Wednesday.  The extent of weakness in manufacturing was more pessimistic than recent reports on durable goods and industrial output, and caught most economites by surprise.  It’s very difficult to plan ahead when you have looming uncertainty over what could make or break your business based on what our government decides over taxation, spending and other factors.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.7% rate from July through September, up from 2% in the government’s ”advance” estimate.  Slower consumer spending and the decline in business investment suggest the faster level of growth in late summer is unsustainable.  Consumer spending was revised down to 1.4% from 2%.  What’s more, business investment in capital goods was changed to a 2.2% decline from a 1.3% drop. Spending on equipment and software slumped 2.7% instead of being flat.  The keys are whether the fiscal cliff is averted and consumer spending picks up.  Personal consumption accounts for as much as 70% of the U.S. economy.

On a national level; home prices rose in September for the sixth straight month, signaling that the housing market is “in the midst of a recovery,” according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index.  The 20-city composite index posted a 0.3% increase in September to reach the highest level in two years, following a 0.8% gain in August.  Home prices were up 3% from September 2011 for the largest annual percentage growth since July 2010.

Pending home sales rose 5.2% in October continuing to signal a recovering housing market, the National Association of Realtors reported. Consumer confidence rose slightly as well in November to its best reading in more than four years, as growing hopes for the jobs market buoys sentiment.  This month’s moderate improvement was the result of an very slight rise in expectations, while consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions continues to hold steady. Over the past few months, consumers have grown increasingly more upbeat about the current and expected state of the job market, and this turnaround in sentiment is helping to boost confidence.

And now for the Rant:  In order to keep this short I have moved the rant to my Blog site Bartoksblog.com  Today’s rant is titled “Glee, A show that is promoting Bulimia among our  school age children”

If you know anyone who can benefit from my services, please call me.  My greatest goal is to see clients and friends happy.  I guess that’s why I love providing mortgage financing.  It’s an immediate gratification when you can help someone purchase a home, or lower their payment on their existing home.

For additional information please visit my Stanford Mortgage website: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com/agents/Blog
Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor

 

“Glee, A show that is promoting Bulimia among our school age children”

I wrote a couple weeks ago that Glee is probably the most hypocritical shows on TV right now popularizing Bullying while trying to act as if they were against it.  The popular kids i.e. the football players and the cheerleaders (that are never out of uniform) are constantly bullying through verbal abuse and throwing slushies (large iced syrupy drinks) in the faces of the unpopular.

Well they’ve stepped it up a notch and are now promoting Bulimia!  The newest character, cheerio Kitty, is acting as if she were her friend,  teaching a “less than popular” character Marley, how to use two fingers to make herself throw-up and also to use laxatives in order to keep her weight down.  Marley’s mother is a very overweight cook in the school kitchen and Kitty constantly reminds her that she will look like her mother if she doesn’t lose weight and these techniques are the only way to do it.  Kitty is also secretly “taking in” or tightening her costume to make it look like Marley needs to lose weight.

Now the producers are making this out to be fun and entertaining,  but isn’t that what our children want these days to be wanted, to be accepted, and to be entertaining?   I really don’t know what the producers are thinking.  Well I do, it’s about ratings!  But if this behavior is popularized on TV, don’t you think that students in REAL schools may attempt to emulate this?  I would love to hear your input.  This is my reality show!  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Cauliflower Au Gratin

Cauliflower Gratin Back

Ingredients

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups cream
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock (preferably concentrated)
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 inch florets
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated good quality Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon leaves, roughly chopped (use dried if you can’t find fresh)

 

Directions

I’m a firm believer that if you add cheese to anything it makes it taste better especially vegetables.  Cauliflower I think is one of those great fall veggies that when mixed with cheese, sauce, and the crunch of toasted bread crumbs is more of a comfort food that makes you feel good inside.

Dice the onion into a fine dice and add along with into a 2-quart saucepan with a splash of Olive oil and sweat (until softened) and then add the chicken stock bay leaf and cream.  To make this dish vegetarian you can use vegatable stock instead of chicken stock and for a lower fat version, use milk (whole or reduced fat) instead of cream.  Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook without boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve or strainer. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Steam the cauliflower until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange the cauliflower in a shallow 2-quart casserole dish and set aside as you prepare the sauce.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the flour to the pan and stir to form a blond roux. (Do not allow the mixture to brown.)  Add the simmered, strained cream/chicken stock to the pan and whisk until smooth.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened, smooth, and creamy. Combine the grated Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.  Remove the pan from the heat and add ½ of the grated cheese mix, stirring until melted.  Strain the sauce and pour evenly over the cauliflower.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8-inch sauté pan and add the bread crumbs. Toss well to coat. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and the chopped Tarragon. Sprinkle the remaining cheese mix and the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the cauliflower and bake until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes.  Enjoy!

Chef Bill

Glee, A show that exploits Bullying while society is fighting to defeat it!

Let me start this rant off by saying that I along with my family watch the TV show Glee and have since it first aired.  I don’t know how many of you watch Glee, but I have to say that I’m surprised that someone else hasn’t picked up on this.  That is that Glee is probable the most hypocritical shows on TV right now.  The popular kids i.e. the football players and the cheerleaders (that are never out of uniform) are constantly throwing slushies (large iced syrupy drinks) in the faces of the misfortunate.

The character of Sue Sylvester is the biggest bully of them all, insulting and degrading everyone she comes into contact with.  She has derogatory names for each cast member (Kurt / Porcelain etc) and for some reason the fans must love it or the producers wouldn’t encourage it.  Not only are they encouraging it this year, they’ve kicked it up a notch.  This season, after many of the cast have graduated, a new head cheerleader has taken Quinn’s place.

One of the newbies, Sue Sylvester’s “new head bitch” is Kitty (Becca Tobin), a cheerleader who has no problem telling people what she’s thinking.  She’s horrible, rude, degrading, and just downright mean.  She pushes others around and acts like a bully on steroids.  It’s hard to watch.  I really don’t know what the producers are thinking.  I mean if this behavior is encouraged on TV, don’t you think that students in REAL schools aren’t going to emulate this?

The show even devoted one show last season to anti-bullying.  If this isn’t hypocritical I don’t quite know what is.  We are thankfully in an era where bullying has begun to not only be noticed but attempts are being made to stop it from happening.  I understand that the strong will always enjoy power over the weak but do we have to encourage this on a popular TV show.  I would love to hear your input.

This is my reality show!  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Too Brine or not to Brine, A Turkey recipe for success!

English: A Thanksgiving turkey that had been s...

A Thanksgiving turkey that had been soaked for 8 hours in a brine of water, salt, brown sugar, cut and squeezed lemons and oranges, and chopped onion. Roasted in the oven in a roasting pan, for nearly 4 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best way to get flavorful poultry, regardless of how it is prepared, is to start with a brine. I began brining turkeys a few years ago, and now it’s a process I swear by. I cook two turkeys each year for Thanksgiving (our family demands lots of take home leftovers). One is deep fried in peanut oil, and the other is marinated overnight (in buttermilk, Franks hot sauce, tequila and lime juice) and barbequed on a rotisserie grill. I brine each prior to cooking.

Brining adds moisture and flavor to poultry (and pork) and helps to keep it from drying out.  It’s a salty sweet aromatic liquid for marinating poultry meat in order to enhance flavor and moistness when cooking.  The sugar works to counteract the flavor of the salt and maintain the flavor of the turkey.  A turkey can be a serious investment in time so you want to make sure it is perfect, especially if you’re entertaining. Whether grilled, smoked, fried, or roasted, your turkey should be brined first.

Ice Water 1 Gallon
Kosher salt 3 Cups
Brown Sugar 1 Cup
Fresh Apple Juice 2 Cup
Orange Juice 2 Cup
2 bay leaves  
Smashed garlic cloves ½ Cup
Black peppercorns 2 Tbls
Fresh Rosemary 4 Sprigs
Fresh Oregano 4 Sprigs
Thyme 4 Sprigs
Parsley ½ bunch
Lemons halved and squeezed into mix 2

To properly brine a turkey you need to start the night before you plan to cook. You will need at least 8 hours, a container large enough to hold your turkey and enough brine to cover it, and enough room to refrigerate it or keep in cool (below 40 degrees). A large stainless steel stock pot or even a 5 gallon clean plastic bucket make excellent containers. Whatever container you choose, the turkey must have enough room to be turned, so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bag for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe resealable bags that are great for brining.

The turkey should be cleaned out, completely thawed, and should not be a self-basting or Kosher turkey. Self-basting and Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will make your brined turkey too salty. Make sure to check the ingredients on the turkey before you decide to brine. A fresh, “natural” turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work just as well.

For the brine; combine all ingredients except ice water in a pot and bring to a boil. Using fruit juices in a brine you add sweetness and a light acidity that tenderizes and permeates the meat you are brining.  Simmer for 20 min to dissolve salt, sugar and let ingredients get happy together. Add to ice water to cool. Marinate poultry for 8 to 12 hrs and then prep for cooking. I usually do this the night before and let the turkey sleep in the brine overnight.

If you don’t have room in the refrigerator, try a cooler. Make sure it’s big enough to hold your turkey and can contain both the bird with the brine in a bag and ice. The cooler will not only help keep the turkey cool, but provides the option to brine your turkey without taking up space in the refrigerator. If the weather is cool and not freezing, you can put the whole thing in the garage or outside until you are ready to cook the turkey. Just make sure it’s sealed to keep any critters form enjoying your dinner before you do.

After about 8 to 12 hours, remove the bird from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surface inside and out. If you don’t get the brine rinsed of thoroughly, you will get a very salty bird. Discard the brine and cook the turkey per your recipe. You will notice the second you start to carve your turkey that the brining has helped it retain moisture. The first bite will sell you on brining turkeys forever and after you’ve tried this, you will want to brine all your poultry.

Chef Bill

The Weekly Rap! Friday Nov 9, 2012

The Dow is currently trading at 12,857 lower by 338 pts over last week.  The S&P 500 is trading higher at 1,386.  Gold is trading at $1,685 an ounce, while oil futures at $85.77 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $3.65/Gal.

Yields on 10-year notes, which move inversely to prices, are trading at 1.64%.  30-year bond yields are trading at 2.78%.  Mortgages or FNMA 3.5% MBS (Mortgage Backed Security) is currently at 106.66 trading a bit higher post-election.  Basically each percent change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.

In economic news this week; The Institute for Supply Management a gauge of non-manufacturing activity declined slightly to 54.2 in October from 55.1 in September. Readings above 50% indicate expansion. Of key components, the new-orders index, a sign of future demand, fell to 54.8 from 57.7. The business activity/production index declined to 55.4 from 59.9. Meanwhile, the employment component rose to 54.9 from 51.1.  What does this all mean?  Well, basically we’re growing but at a snail’s pace.

The Labor Department reported that Job openings at U.S. workplaces dropped slightly to 3.56 million in September from 3.66 million in August. Compared with last year, job openings have risen a mere 2%.  Private job openings increased 3% while government openings fell 8%. Claims for unemployment benefits fell modestly last week, but the data was distorted by Hurricane Sandy.

Consumer sentiment, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, is at the highest level in more than five years, led by brighter views on current conditions, according to the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer-sentiment index which rose to 84.9 in November, the highest level since July 2007. The gauge, averaged about 87 in the year before the most recent recession.

This rise in sentiment explains why consumers continue to spend more.  The Fed reported that consumers increased their debt in September by $11.4 billion, the second straight strong gain. For the third quarter, consumer credit increased at a 4% annual rate. As in the prior month, the increase in September credit came from a jump in non-revolving debt such as auto loans, personal loans and student loans.

For additional information please visit my Stanford Mortgage website: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com/agents/Blog
Sincerely,

Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor

“NY Marathon Runners come to the aid after event was canceled”

Last week I wrote about the Mayor of NY attempting to hold the New York City Marathon despite being just days after the worst natural disaster ever to hit the area.  Well something good came out of it.  With slightly more than 36 hours to go, the race was canceled or postponed and the resources that were being dispatched to hold the race were appropriately re-dispatched to help victims of the storm.

The decision hardly discouraged a group of nearly 1,300 runners from boarding the Staten Island Ferry toward the starting line. A different kind of marathon took place though with runners carrying backpacks filled with things like baby wipes and energy bars to those in need.  These runners ran their own marathon, carrying garbage bags and backpacks full of donated supplies ranging from blankets to Home Depot gift cards that they delivered to the destroyed homes of Staten Island residents.

The group was organized through Facebook and Twitter.  A longtime marathoner and sports physician Jordan Metzl stated; “As soon as it was canceled, I started emailing with friends. We created a Facebook page for runners like us who, instead of asking for money, could run on Staten Island with things that could be donated.”  Metzl’s Facebook page had more than 4,000 “likes” as of Sunday morning.

The same communications seemed to be happening all across the city for the race participants. Jaclynn Larington and Sarah Hartmann started NYCMore2012.org, a relief effort site compiling volunteer opportunities in hard-hit communities around the city. A news release on Friday called it “a central communication outlet for the various organizations that are sending their messages from a variety of sources.”

I love to see it when social media can be used for something constructive as rallying relief efforts.  Sometimes you need to see the worst to appreciate the best.  This is my reality show!  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Bill Bartok

The Weekly Rap! Friday Nov 2, 2012

The Dow is currently trading at 13,195 higher by 137 pts over last week.  The S&P 500 is trading higher at 1,425.  Gold is trading at $1,685 an ounce, while oil futures at $85.33 a barrel.  Gas prices, (Regular in El Dorado Hills, Costco, AM/PM), are at $3.75/Gal.

Yields on 10-year notes, which move inversely to prices, are trading at 1.73%.  30-year bond yields are trading at 2.91%.  Mortgages or FNMA 3.5% MBS (Mortgage Backed Security) is currently at 106.38 trading in a tight range pre-election.  Basically each percent change in the price of the security translates to the price (or points paid or credited) of the mortgage rate.

In economic news this week; consumers increased their spending last month by the fastest rate since late winter, but at the expense of reducing their savings.  Spending rose 0.8% while personal income climbed at a slower 0.4% pace.  The sharp drop in savings however, suggests the recent pace of spending might not be sustainable.

The employment cost index, or ECI, which measures the price or cost of U.S. labor, and is a closely followed gauge that reflects how much companies, governments or nonprofit institutions are paying their employees in wages and benefits rose 0.4% in the third quarter. Over the past 12 months, employment costs have risen 2.0%, up from 1.7% in the prior three-month period.  The number of new applicants for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week, but it remains stuck in a narrow range suggesting little change in hiring patterns over the past few months.

Led by brighter views on present employment and business conditions, the Conference Board’s gauge of consumer confidence rose in October to the highest level since February 2008.  The consumer-confidence index increased to 72.2 last month from a downwardly revised 68.4 in September.  Generally when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at least 90. The last time the confidence gauge reached above 90 was in December 2007, when the recession began.

In the biggest news of the month; the U.S. created a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs in October and hiring rose faster in prior months than previously believed, but the politically sensitive unemployment rate rose a tick to 7.9%.  The gains in hiring are a welcome sign that the economy is still continuing to expand at a moderate pace of around 2%.  The biggest increases in hiring last month took place in professional services, health care, retail and leisure and hospitality. Altogether, the private sector added 184,000 jobs, with government subtracting 13,000 from the final total.

Still, the economy would have to add at least 250,000 jobs a month for several years to reduce the unemployment rate to the pre-recession level of around 6%. We haven’t come close to that rate of hiring since the recession ended in mid-2009.

For additional information please visit my Stanford Mortgage website: http://bill.bartok.stanfordloans.com
Bill Bartok

Mortgage Advisor

 

“The show must go on! Or should it? The NY Marathon will be run on Sunday”

The New York City Marathon is one of the world’s most popular sporting events with runners from all over the world participating, and this year’s event is slated for this Sunday in New York.  This being just days after the worst natural disaster ever to hit the area.  Half the city still doesn’t have power, and the subways and tunnels leading in and out of the city are flooded. But the Mayor is saying “The show must go on!”  Inspiring or inappropriate?

He also stated “There’s an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy.”  Ahem, Mr. Mayor, most of these small businesses are still cleaning up from the damage left behind by Sandy.  I’m sorry but holding the event pulls resources and focus away from people in need.  Police, fire and other essential public services should be focused on helping those most in need.  There are two large generators the size of semi trucks in central park waiting for the Marathon to begin, and one is a back up!

Most of Staten Island, Hoboken, as well as many areas in NY are still under water.  Think about it; no power means no heat, no refrigeration, no ATM machines, no internet, no cell phone.  And I haven’t even touched on the damaged property.  The flooding water is toxic, contaminated with raw sewage, diesel fuel and whatever else was in the ground.  Those that have generators can’t get gas to fuel them.  Police are having to patrol gas stations to keep the peace as lines stretch for miles.  Its a fine line between order and chaos in many areas.  And the Mayor wants to stage a Marathon on Sunday?  Really?

I say just postpone it. That way, the city will still get the money, you’ll still have a high-profile event, but it would show that you’re being sensitive. But trying to rush the event, they’re not going to show the world they’re resilient, they’re going to show that they’re selfish.”  Personally I think this is a personal image issue.  The Mayor thinks he will look back and say “Look what happened, and we put on the race, and we gave them a good show.'”  This is my reality show!  It’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

Bill Bartok