26 October 2006

Seasonally Adjusted Oil Prices to win an Election

I found this story on a blog (a blog with pictures that I wouldn't recommend anyone looking at because I'm not a fan of porn), with links back to www.usatoday.com that didn't work, and I can't find the original on the USA Today site either. But I love this story.

The emphasis in the article below is mine.

Many Americans look for political manipulation as gasoline prices plunge
By Brad Foss, Associated Press

WASHINGTON --— There is no mystery or manipulation behind the recent fall in gasoline prices, analysts say. Try telling that to motorists. Almost half of Americans believe the plunge at the pump has more to do with politics and the November elections, than economics.

According to a new Gallup poll, 42% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." Fifty-three percent of those surveyed did not believe the conspiracy theory; 5% said they had no opinion. Not surprising, almost two-thirds of those who suspect President Bush intervened to bring down energy prices before Election Day are registered Democrats, according to Gallup.

White House spokesman Tony Snow addressed the issue Monday, telling reporters that "the one thing I have been amused by is the attempt by some people to say that the president has been rigging gas prices, which would give him the kind of magisterial clout unknown to any other human being."

Fimat USA oil analyst Antoine Halff says there is no doubt "the downturn in prices is welcome news from an electoral standpoint for the ruling party." But he scoffed at the notion that the president has the power to muscle a global market.

At a suburban Miami Mobil station, where regular was selling for $2.66 a gallon, no one was buying the conspiracy theory. "The decrease of gas prices is simply due to a seasonal adjustment of price," said Javier Gudayal, a 48-year-old attorney. "And that the Bush administration does not have the power to manipulate."

But in Los Angeles, which has some of the highest gasoline prices in the country, motorists wouldn't rule out the possibility of politicians eager to sway the electorate. Twenty-eight-year-old attorney Amnon Siegel sensed more than market forces at work. "I'm sure there's some sort of string-pulling going on," Siegel said.

I'm intrigued by the idea of seasonally adjusting gasoline prices.

I'm really good at seasonally adjusting things. If you want New Home Sales at 900 million, I could get you that answer. That's why at the Census Bureau and other government agencies, once you've set the seasonal adjustment options, you aren't allowed to change them month by month. I remember a time back in late 1992 when we knew that the estimates for New Home Sales were off, but we didn't want to change it before the election for fear that someone would think that we were trying to influence an election. As I pointed out back then, not changing bad numbers also effects the election, but no one was listening, and I was new in DC back then.

So even if someone could fix a bunch of number in a bunch of different time series, what would you have to be able to change so that you could actually influence the price of gasoline? If you seasonally adjust a time series of gasoline prices, and make the current price $2 a gallon, that doesn't mean that it will really be $2 a gallon at the pump. You'd have to be able to sway a lot of different factors to really get the prices to change.

Of course, what the 48-year-old lawyer from Miami really means is that oil prices usually come down after summer vacations are over, and with a mild hurricane season, they fell again. There are seasonal fluctuations in oil and gasoline prices. If we seasonally adjusted the prices, we'd really be paying more for gasoline now, and less for heating oil. Think about that.


17 October 2006

Cardinals/Mets baseball

I'm a bit of a Cardinals fan, growing up in a town with a Cardinals farm league team. I admit that I like watching small town baseball better than the big boys. Maybe because I can see the game better. But I do follow baseball some, and especially the Cardinals, I suppose.

I found an article about post-season pitching titled "Seasonal Adjustment". I wonder if my seasonal adjustment software could help them with their pitching line-ups. Just kidding.

From www.courant.com

Seasonal Adjustment
Glavine, Weaver On Three Days' Rest
October 16, 2006

ST. LOUIS -- Last week's rainout of Game 1 has forced both managers to use their Game 1 starter on three days' rest for Game 5 tonight. That's postseason baseball, where nothing is routine about changing your routine. "This time of year, I think the physical side of it is taken care of by the adrenaline," said Tom Glavine, who will start for the Mets against the Cardinals' Jeff Weaver.


02 October 2006

Paper accepted

My paper was accepted at the ICES III conference in Montreal in June. I was already going as an invited speaker, so sometimes I wonder why I wanted the extra hassle of presenting a paper, but I'm sure that it will motivate me to keep working on my research.

After some time off in September to get the kids off to a good start in school, and a trip up to the DC area, October is proving to be quite productive, and I hope to have some new papers on the web site soon.