Thursday, May 19, 2011

General Economics

Bloomberg | Existing-Home Sales in U.S. Unexpectedly Fall
Purchases of existing homes dropped 0.8 percent to a 5.05 million annual pace last month, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington.
Fox News | Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits
Applications for benefits dropped 29,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 409,000 the Labor Department said.
Market Watch | April leading economic indicators fall 0.3%
The pace of economic growth may be "choppy" in the summer and fall, the Conference Board said Thursday as it reported that its leading economic index fell 0.3% in April, the first monthly decline since June. "The economy has been growing moderately and delivering some new jobs," said Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board, in a statement.
Bloomberg | Philadelphia Area’s Manufacturing Expands at Slowest Pace in Seven Months
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index fell to 3.9, the weakest reading since October, from 18.5 a month earlier.
Market Watch | Private mortgage issuer urges Fannie wind-down
The top official of a California firm that has issued the only two major private residential mortgage security transactions since the financial crisis of 2008 said on Wednesday the illiquid private securities market would come back if the government winds down government-seized housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
WSJ | Japan Slides Into Recession
Japan's economy contracted at a much-worse-than-expected 3.7% annualized rate in the January-March period, tipping the country into a recession as the March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused declines in consumer spending, business investment and private-sector inventories.
CNN: Money | Congress: Protect workers' 401k funds
Congress wants to make it tougher for workers to tap their 401(k) retirement funds -- and to make it easier for them to repay those loans when they do.
Hawaii Reporter | Moody’s Downgrades State of Hawaii’s General Obligation Bond Rating
Hawaii’s “strained” state financial operations, the depletion of its reserves in fiscal year 2011, and covering budget shortfalls with one-time solutions — these are the factors that Moody’s Investors Services cited in downgrading the general obligation bond rating for an estimated $5.1 billion in debt.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Bloomberg | Oil in N.Y. Trades Near Highest in More Than a Week on U.S. Supply Decline
Futures were near $100 a barrel after as much as 0.7 percent. Stockpiles slipped 15,000 barrels last week to 370.3 million, the Energy Department said yesterday. Supplies were projected to rise 1.7 million barrels in a Bloomberg News survey.
Washington Times | DIAMOND: TSA vs. Texas
Showdown over pat-downs opens important constitutional debate.
Daily Caller | Inactivity on trade is leaving U.S. small businesses behind
Since the U.S. negotiated its first free trade agreement in 1985, FTA's have become an integral part of U.S. trade policy. The eliminate monetary tariffs and other barriers on goods, which simplifies the exporting process and allows for greater profit margins for small businesses.
Washington Times | GRAVES: Business will step up when Obama backs off
Small companies need to feel safe from federal mandates.
Financial Times | Fund must turn away from DSK’s economic mistakes
Mr. Strauss-Kahn's decision to treat the crisis as a matter of liquidity rather than solvency led the IMF to eschew any notion of debt restructuring, or exiting from the euro, as a solution to the periphery's public sectoer and external imbalance problems.
Cato@Liberty | Are Oil Futures Markets Being Manipulated?
A few weeks ago President Barack Obama announced the creation of a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, a working group under the Department of Justice that will be charged with rooting out manipulation in oil futures markets.
Bloomberg | Government Prays a Bigger Sucker Is Out There: Jonathan Weil
Look through the footnotes in American International Group Inc. (AIG)’s latest annual report, and you will see a long section analyzing the company’s ability to use past losses to offset future income-tax obligations.
MSN | Why home prices are falling -- again
Too few buyers with too many homes for sale depresses prices. Analysts foresee an additional 10% plunge -- an opportunity for landlords and investors, but bad news for homeowners.

Econlog | Steven Levitt's "Daughter Test"
If the answer is that I wouldn't want my daughter to do it, then I don't mind the government passing a law against it.
Political Calculations | Are Teacher Unions Gouging Teachers?
How much mondy do teachers unions really need to collect from their members to represent their interests with their employees?
WSJ: Real Time Economics | Foreign Buyers Getting Firesale Prices on U.S. Housing
For U.S. homeowners, the family moving in next door could be Canadian. Or Chinese.

Mercatus Center | Public-Sector Unionism: A Review
Public sector unions are able to affect governments‘ fiscal and budgetary policy by exerting influence through the collective bargaining process and through political activity by backing candidates likely to support the union‘s agenda. The effectiveness of these approaches in raising wages, employment, and spending depends on the interaction of collective bargaining laws and the political activity of unions.

Health Care

Daily Caller | Who's still waiting for waivers and who got denied? Obama won't tell us
Amidst the news that 38 of the 204 Obamacare waivers approved in April went to posh entertainment venues in the Housae Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's district, new questions about the Obama administration's transparency pledge have arisen.
National Journal | Pent-Up Demand Expected to Drive Medical Cost Growth
Employer medical costs are expected to rise 8.5 percent in 2012, up from 8 percent in 2011, in part due to pent up demand from those who delayed care during the economic downturn, according to a report published on Wednesday.
Politico | Obama to Romney: 'Great idea'
While raising money in Boston on Wednesday, Obama alluded twice to Romney's role in enacting the Massachusetts health care law, the latest reference to the former governor's record that has haunted him as he eyes a White House bid.
National Journal | Go Ahead, Have Another Cup
Men who drink a lot of coffee appear to have a lower risk of developing a deadly type of prostate cancer -- and the more they drink, the lower the risk, researchers reported on Wednesday.

Cato@Liberty | If You Liked Obamacare, You’ll Love Goodwin Liu
As I blogged last year, Liu is, without exaggeration, the most radical nominee to any position that President Obama has made. He believes in constitutional positive rights — not that the welfare state and all its accompanying entitlements (and then some) are a good idea, but that they are constitutionally required.
Volokh Conspiracy | Are Health Care Waivers Political Favors?
The problem is that HHS has not been sufficiently clear about the criteria it is using in its waiver decisions. As a consequence, it is difficult to know whether waivers are being used improperly.


CNN: Money | Who pays the most in property taxes?
Of the 10 counties with the highest property taxes in the United States, all are in New Jersey and New York. Connecticut and New Hampshire also had counties that finished high in the rankings.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Washington Post | California Gov. Jerry Brown is too eager to embrace taxes
On Monday, Brown reported good news that actually is bad news for his agenda, which he has modified hardly at all. An unanticipated $6.6 billion in tax revenue over the next 13 months will reduce the projected $15.4 billion deficit, but will also reduce the force of his dire warnings about a budget balanced only by spending cuts. Yet he still insists on five-year extensions of higher sales and vehicle taxes. His only concession to the revenue windfall is to propose higher income taxes for four rather than five years.

Tax Foundation | New York, New Jersey Lead Nation in Property Tax Burden
Now, for the first time, we are pleased to present data that includes nearly all counties in the United States. We rank counties three different ways: by median property taxes paid on homes, by median property taxes as a percentage of median home values, and by median property taxes as a percentage of median household income.


CNN: Money | Fed minutes: QE2 jitters still there
A few Federal Reserve officials are skeptical that the central bank should carry out its full $600 billion bond-buying program through June.
Bloomberg | Goldman Cuts Dollar Forecast Versus Euro on Growth Outlook
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), the U.S. bank that lost money from trading on only one day in the first quarter, cut its dollar forecasts saying growth in the world’s largest economy is lagging behind other nations.
Market Watch | SEC seeks to limit credit-rater conflicts
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday voted to propose a package of regulations that proponents say would stop credit-rating agencies from providing inflated opinions to get more business.
WSJ | Fed Officials See Gradual Exit Plan
Federal Reserve officials laid out a broad blueprint for very gradually tightening financial conditions when the economy is healthy enough to bear it.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Minyanville | What Happens When QE2 Ends?
By the time Main Street starts to feel the pain and another recession begins to creep up, the demand from Congress for QE3 will be there.


Bloomberg | Biden-Led Debt-Cutting Group Is Said to Agree on $200 Billion in Savings
The narrower focus of the Biden talks stands in contrast to the work done by the so-called Gang of Six, led by Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, that hit an impasse as it sought an agreement to reach $4 trillion in debt reduction over 10 years by trimming defense spending and entitlement-program benefits and raising revenue by closing tax loopholes.
Politico | GOP isn't buying Barach Obama's debt limit pitch
House Republican leaders have spent a lot of time lately assuring Wall Street that they understand the calamitous consequences that would result from a defualt on the nation's debt.
WSJ | States See New Need for Bonds
Some states may issue municipal bonds to shore up their underfunded unemployment-benefits programs, gaining flexibility but not necessarily a long-term answer to keeping the programs solvent.

Econ Comments                                                                                                             
Washington Post | The symbolic battle over the debt ceiling
Symbolism doesn’t pay off debts or cover the costs of Social Security and Medicare. This has not stopped politicians in the nation’s capital from engaging in an extended and entirely symbolic fight over how to raise the debt ceiling.
National Journal | Coburn Op-Ed: ‘Let the Debate Begin’
Days after stepping out of the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” budget negotiations, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday that all is not lost.
RCM | How to Address the Debt Ceiling
Creative accounting has a bad reputation. Just ask the people who invested in Bernie Madoff. Or the Congress that paid for a new healthcare law by promising ten years of tax increases and six years of higher spending. Failing to honor obligations has consequences.
WSJ | The Outlook at Calpers Is Brightening, a Little
The nation's biggest pension fund is on target to notch one of its strongest annual returns in the past 20 years, performance that is helping the fund regain its health and its confidence.


NYT | Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling
Now evidence is emerging that the damage wrought by the sour economy is more widespread than just a few careers led astray or postponed. Even for college graduates — the people who were most protected from the slings and arrows of recession — the outlook is rather bleak.

WSJ: Real Time Economics | Most Common Jobs Among Lowest Paid
The largest occupations in the U.S. last year were mostly low-paying jobs like salesmen and waitresses, a new report shows.