Thursday, May 3, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | Startups make up a smaller share of U.S. businesses
In the land of liberty and opportunity, startups continue to make up a smaller share of the American business landscape
Bloomberg | Consumer Comfort in U.S. Declines to Lowest Level in Two Months
Consumer confidence dropped last week to a two-month low as more Americans grew concerned about their personal finances.
Market Watch | U.S. productivity drops 0.5% in first quarter
The productivity of U.S. businesses and workers fell less than expected in the three months through March but dropped for the first time in three quarters, based on a preliminary government reading issued Thursday.
WSJ | Euro-Zone Economic Woes Deepen
Business activity in the euro zone's manufacturing sector shrank at the sharpest pace in almost three years in April, according to a closely watched survey, and the currency area's unemployment rate rose in March to match a record, as 169,000 people lost their jobs, indicating the region's economy is likely to continue to contract in the second quarter.
Bloomberg | Small-Cap Tech May Lure Investors Bullish on Growth
The investment outlook for small-cap technology companies is improving as cheap valuations and conservative earnings estimates make them more attractive, after being weighed down by concerns about the economy.
Market Watch | 30-year mortgage rate hits record low of 3.84%
Mortgage rates are at record lows, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average declining to 3.84% in the week ending May 3 from 3.88% in the prior week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly report.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CBO | How Would Proposed Fuel Economy Standards Affect the Highway Trust Fund?
A Proposed Rule to Tighten Fuel Economy Standards Would Gradually Decrease Fuel Consumption, Eventually Reducing Revenues from the Gasoline Tax by 21 Percent in 2040
Politico | China financial reform is critical to U.S. growth
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are due to sit down in Beijing on Thursday for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Despite the diplomatic tensions during negotations about a leading dissident, Chen Guangcheng, preparation for the dialogue continued.
Washington Post | The fallacy of blaming oil ‘speculators’
We should exorcise the politically convenient notion that high oil prices result from the market maneuvers of greedy “speculators.” It’s convenient because it suggests that a solution to high pump prices — or a partial solution — is to banish the offending speculators from the marketplace. That’s fantasy.
Real Clear Markets | How to Reduce the Government's Trillions In Housing Credit Risk
Over $5.8 trillion in home mortgage debt in the United States is now either owned or guaranteed by a federal entity - be it the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Ginnie Mae, the Veterans Housing Administration, or one of the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) under "conservatorship" since 2008.
Investors | Many Who Portray Themselves As Part Of The 99% Live Like The 1%
President Barack Obama and Wall Street occupiers, along with their allies in the mainstream media and on college campuses, have maintained an ongoing attack on high-income earners, people they call 1 percenters.
Washington Times | War on fossil fuels continues
The April 30 resignation of Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Al Armendariz after he was caught telling the truth - that he wants to “crucify” companies he claims don’t comply with environmental laws - will do nothing to slow the Obama administration’s senseless war on fossil fuels.
The American | Why Aren’t Banks Lending to Small Business? Ask Bernanke.
On March 29, at a lecture at George Washington University, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke innocuously remarked that lately “small businesses have … found it difficult to get credit.” Too bad that none of the students at the lecture thought to ask him why. A case can be made that the Fed is partially responsible.
Real Clear Markets | Public Pension Stimulus Nonsense
Breaking windows will stimulate the economy, according to a leading public pension advocacy group. Skeptical? The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) has not literally endorsed breaking windows, but a report recently published by the organization relies on the same economic fallacy.
Washington Times | Folly and immorality of E15
As if E10 ethanol mandates aren’t folly enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will now permit ethanol manufacturers to register as E15 gasoline suppliers.

Tax Foundation | High-Tax Europe Heading into another Great Depression
About half the European continent is now technically back in recession, and when all the numbers come in it is very likely that France and Germany will be added to that list. 
Library of Economics | The Top 0.1 Percent
Paul Krugman has a post today linking to an article in the New York Times magazine about a wealthy man named Edward Conard.
WSJ | Citigroup’s Orszag: Fix the Government’s Economic Models!
In a new column, Mr. Orszag says the models used by top regulators and economic policy makers made them think the storm brewing in the U.S. economy would be another bust–as a result they either looked the other way or figured they couldn’t do anything about it.
The American | Another study undermines Obama’s income inequality alarmism
President Obama explains it all. He and many liberal economists explain the Great Recession like this: Rising income inequality and stagnant incomes for the bottom 99% pushed workers to borrow to maintain their standard of living.

Health Care

National Journal | Feds Announce Charges In $452 Million Medicare Fraud Scheme
The federal government brought charges against 107 people for alleged Medicare fraud schemes totaling approximately $452 million Wednesday.
Politico | U.S. health care spending ‘dwarfs’ that of other countries
The United States spends more on health care than 12 other industrialized countries, a new Commonwealth Fund study finds – but that doesn’t mean this country’s care is any better.
National Journal | Usual Suspects Not to Blame for High Health Costs, Report Says
The staggering $8,000 per person that the United States spends on health care can't be explained by our aging population, our overuse of doctors and hospitals, our wealth, or our rates of smoking, according to a new report.

Heritage Foundation | Side Effects: Companies Would Save Billions by Dropping Health Coverage
The House Ways and Means Committee just released a report that shows that the most successful companies would save billions of dollars if they stopped offering coverage to their employees and dumped them into the taxpayer-funded Obamacare exchanges.
FOX Business | Tax Benefits of Opening a Health Savings Account
Taxpayers looking to enjoy a more hefty medical deduction next tax season should consider opening a health savings account.
Heritage Foundation | Public Comments Overwhelmingly Oppose HHS Anti-Conscience Mandate
The federal website released the first round of public comments on the administration’s proposed anti-conscience mandate on Wednesday. The comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the measure: out of 211 comments submitted, only six, less than 3%, offered support for the mandate.


Market Watch | Draghi: ECB didn't discuss rate cut
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday said the bank's Governing Council didn't discuss a rate cut at its policy meeting in Barcelona. Speaking at his monthly news conference, Draghi said policy makers still see monetary policy as "accommodative," with nominal interest rates historically low and real interest rates at negative levels over much of the euro area.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Econ Browser | Should the Fed do more?
Johns Hopkins University Professor Larry Ball, Princeton Professor Paul Krugman, U.C. Berkeley Professor Brad DeLong, University of Oregon Professor Tim Duy and Texas State University Professor David Beckworth are among those recently arguing that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is neglecting his own earlier academic insights into what the central bank should be doing in a situation such as the United States presently finds itself. Here's what I think they're overlooking.

Minyanville | The Inflation Trade Is On: Bernanke Has Broken the Dollar Rally
Yesterday the US Dollar Index breached 78.65. The reason that is significant is because 78.65 marked the intraday low of the prior daily cycle. A penetration of that level indicates that the current daily cycle has now topped in a left translated manner and a new pattern of lower lows and lower highs has begun.


Tax Foundation | Kansas Legislators Review Tax Cut Estimates
The Kansas City Star reports that legislators are reacting cautiously to plans to cut Kansas's income tax after analysts have revised the estimated revenue loss through 2018 from $900 million to just $160 million. The change came from increasing projected sales tax growth from 3.75% a year to 4% a year.


WSJ | Hiring Data Reinforce View That Job Market Has Cooled
A gauge of private-sector hiring showed weakness in April, the latest data to suggest the labor market has cooled a bit from its healthy early-year pace.
Bloomberg | Disabled Americans Shrink Size of U.S. Labor Force
Michael White says he wishes he still could pluck the bass line to Hank Williams Jr.’s “Born to Boogie” and pay bills with money he earns himself. High unemployment -- along with ailments that he says render his fingers inoperative and make him cough up blood -- have dashed his hopes.
USA Today | Unemployment claims drop in week ended April 28
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in more than three months.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
The Nation | The Recovery Is Really Good at Creating Bad Jobs
Indicators of the economic recovery weren’t stellar this quarter: consumer and business spending seem to have slowed down, making analysts nervous. Not to mention news out of Europe that the UK and Spain have slid back into recession.


Economist | The bad, the good and the ugly
Deleveraging, history tells us (via McKinsey research) is set to be the main economic trend for years to come. But a new paper by Anat Admati and her co-authors shows (amongst lots of other things) that the term is pretty unhelpful.