This week, a WTF pair of plots were published on some economic data, namely US retail sales and consumer confidence.
I have a theory about that…

Here is the Consumer Confidence plot at Calculated Risk

and here is the Retail Sales chart also from CR

Note that consumer confidence, which is generally taken to be a coincident economic indicator, declines sharply, while retail sales increased.

Confidence and Sales conveniently combined (click to embiggen)

from zerohedge

So, clearly, this is because there were 5 weekends in the reporting period because costs per item on essentials are up because of the Andelkrag Effect from Prince Valiant!

Andelkrag! (click to embiggen)

In an early Prince Valiant story, which I vividly recall reading in the Original Icelandic as a child, Valiant travels to Castle Andelkrag under siege by Attila the Hun and, for reasons I do not recall, breaks through the lines to join Prince Camoran and the castle defenders who wait for word of reinforcements who will break the siege.

There are no reinforcements coming, and Camoran knows that.

So each day the knights fight, and each night they feast.
Valiant asks Camoran why he does not conserve their supplies, and Camoran essentially replies that there is no point – they are going out in style!

One day, no food remains for the feast.
The women go up the hightower, carrying small knives at their belt.
Prince Camoran torches the castle, and the knights charge the Hun lines.

Everyone dies.

Except of course our hero, who, like a true Norse hero, serendipitously survives, heroically, and escapes to tell the tale. And exact brutal revenge…

That explains the “WTF” economy.

I don’t recall the story telling us anything about the non-noble non-combatants.
They are rarely in the stories.

The other interesting thing about the plots, is that:

1) the consumer confidence drop and level seem to be strong predictors of imminent recession

2) incumbent Presidents, in recent times, consistently lose re-election when this happens shortly before election (yes, both times, ok 3 times if you count Gore… – I’m an astrophysicist we extrapolate from sparser data than that all the time!).
Be interesting to see if this dip is short enough and early enough for Obama to get out of it, and, of course, whether any republican candidate who can beat Obama can survive the primaries.


  1. #1 Fred Magyar
    August 14, 2011

    As an astrophysicist you might enjoy these recent posts over at The Oil Drum

    Galactic-scale energy: Part 1

    Posted by Euan Mearns on July 22, 2011 – 9:45am
    Topic: Supply/Production

    Galactic Scale Energy, Part 2: Can Economic Growth Last?

    Posted by Euan Mearns on July 29, 2011 – 10:29am
    Topic: Economics/Finance
    Tags: economic growth, energy consumption, limits to growth, tom murphy [list all tags]

    But hey the universe is infinite, right?

  2. #2 FuturePostdoc
    August 14, 2011

    For people still underwater, perhaps. Possibly also because of the strong income and wealth gradients: luxury spending is doing well (I gather) as the stock market is up, but Walmart spending is not, as so many remain unemployed. So some of that huge difference is just weighting: one is by number, the other by number * amount they can spend.

  3. #3 Phillip IV
    August 14, 2011

    I see another possible explanation: when consumer confidence is low, consumers postpone spending to a future recovery period. But when that recovery fails to take place, and doesn’t seem likely anywhere in the near future, a part of the postponed spending will then be realized because it simply can’t be postponed any longer, even if it means higher debt than desirable: the old car just doesn’t run anymore or the roof has started leaking too badly – thus, any event that pushes projected recovery far back towards the horizon could conceivably and paradoxically cause an increase in spending.

    As regards Andelkrag, I don’t think there was any overbearing reason Valiant went there – he heard tales of their heroism and went to join them in their hopeless struggle, that’s all. He was the expected reinforcements – in as much as he was the only one foolhardy enough to join a lost cause at the final moment.

    As for the non-noble non-combatants, the only picture I recall vividly is the dwarfed court jester girding himself with a sword belt and joining the knights in the final sortie.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.