Thursday, May 17, 2012

General Economics

Bloomberg | Consumer Comfort in U.S. Drops to Nearly a Four-Month Low
Consumer confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since the end of January as slower U.S. job growth contributed to pessimism about personal finances and spending.
WSJ | Fed Minutes Reflect Wariness About Recovery's Strength
Federal Reserve officials were worried about risks to the recovery in April when they decided to continue their easy-money policies to bolster the economy.
Washington Times | Tougher standards sought for ‘Made in America’ label
U.S. consumers may be surprised to learn many products bearing the label “Made in America” are largely built outside of the United States. The practice exploits a little-known loophole in the product-label system that one California businessman says he is determined to expose.
WSJ | Singapore Exports, GDP Surpass Estimates
Singapore's key non-oil domestic exports reverted to an expansion in April and the island nation's economy grew faster than previously estimated in the first quarter, but the government fears that a faltering global economy could derail this growth momentum.
CNN Money | Japan's economic growth nearly doubles U.S.
Japan's gross domestic product grew at nearly double the U.S. rate for the first quarter, an unexpectedly strong sign of recovery in the wake of last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Market Watch | Industrial output rebounds strongly in April
Industrial production surged in April, data that may dispel concerns about the health of the factory sector.
WSJ | Foreclosures Show No Sign of Decline
The percentage of American homeowners behind on their mortgage payments fell during the first quarter to the lowest level since the end of 2008. But the share of loans in foreclosure remains stubbornly high, according to a survey Wednesday.
CNN Money | Foreclosures fall to lowest level since 2007
Foreclosure filings in April fell for the third straight month to the lowest level since July 2007.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Banks Need More Capital, Not More Rules
The J.P. Morgan mistakes that resulted in a loss of $2 billion or more have awakened some senators to the fact that the Dodd-Frank financial-regulation legislation of 2010 did not prevent errors of judgment and investment losses. But the politicians have drawn the wrong conclusion.
Real Clear Markets | States and Cities Going Private With Infrastructure Investment
States and municipalities across the U.S. continue to grapple with the lingering effects of the Great Recession. City leaders continue to struggle with depressed revenues, and 30 states are expected to close budget deficits totaling $49 billion this year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Washington Times | America needs a competitive energy standard
Few issues capture and hold the attention of Congress and the administration as energy does, and yet an agreement on energy policy appears as distant today as it has been at any time in recent years. That’s because the policies enjoying the latest political currency abandon the attributes most cherished by voters - energy security and affordability.

The American | The 3 economic charts that could crash Obama’s reelection hopes
Well, at least we’re doing better than Europe, right? Maybe not. German first-quarter GDP came in at 2.1%, and many economists now think U.S first-quarter GDP will be revised downward below 2%.

Health Care

National Journal | Paradigm Lost?
Washington’s fretting about rising health care costs, but the rate is slowing. Meanwhile, though, access to care is getting tougher.
National Journal | Obama Admin Details Federal Exchanges
The Obama administration plans to take it easy on insurance plans hoping to participate in federal insurance exchanges in 2014, according to plans released by the Health and Human Services Department Wednesday.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Several on FOMC Said Easing May Be Needed on Faltering
The Federal Reserve signaled further monetary easing remains an option to protect the U.S. economy from the danger that lawmakers will fail to reach agreement on the budget or Europe’s debt woes worsen.
WSJ | Pledge Week at the Fed
The ire over a trading stumble at J.P. Morgan shows how little taxpayers enjoy standing behind too-big-to-fail institutions. Remarkably, the same Federal Reserve that didn't blow the whistle on J.P. Morgan's "whale" trades is planning to make more such institutions.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
The American | A Tax Increase without the Pain
In recent years, the number that has attracted significant attention is the report’s estimate of the present value of the government’s “unfunded liabilities” for the next 75 years—the present dollar value of the funding shortfall in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over that period if current policies were to remain unchanged.
Politico | Confronting the looming ‘tax-mageddon’
Unless Congress and President Barack Obama can reach agreement by the end of this year, steeply higher taxes — amounting to about half a trillion dollars annually — will slam the economy and most taxpayers, starting Jan. 1, 2013
Investors | Territorial Tax System For U.S. Would Improve Global Competitiveness
America's tax system needs an overhaul. It is too complex. Many provisions are unreliably temporary. Even rules that work as intended have been branded as loopholes.

FOX Business | Are My Social Security Benefits Taxable?
The advent of Social Security in 1935 was a response to the economic uncertainty from the Great Depression.  It was promoted as a way to provide a cash flow to retired workers.


Market Watch | U.S. jobless claims unchanged at 370,000
The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits was unchanged last week at 370,000, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.
WSJ | Portugal Unemployment Rises to 14.9%
Portugal's jobless rate jumped to 14.9% in the first quarter as the government slashed spending to narrow its budget deficit and fulfill the conditions of its €78 billion ($99.29 billion) bailout.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Job Market's Vanishing Act
In the past two years, the number of people in the U.S. who are older than 16 (and not in the military or prison) has grown by 5.4 million. The number of people working or looking for work hasn't grown at all.
Real Clear Markets | An Unemployment Crisis for Older or Younger Workers?
On Tuesday the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on how to help older workers find jobs. I was one of five witnesses at the hearing.
Politico | Congratulations, grad, you’re unemployed
The April unemployment rate decreased to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent; however, the percentage of working-age Americans in the labor force dropped to its lowest rate (63.6 percent) since 1981.

WSJ | Labor Department Error Overstates Female Job Losses
There are more women working for the postal service than the Labor Department originally thought. That has the potential to alter some much-reported numbers, but isn’t likely to change the underlying trend of the recovery.


CNN Money | Fiscal cliff: What you need to know
On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner all but promised an ugly fight over the debt ceiling this year unless GOP demands for spending cuts are met.
WSJ | Dutch Government Finalizes Austerity Package
The Dutch caretaker government has reached an agreement with opposition parties on the final details of an austerity package for 2013 that was outlined last month.
CNN Money | Federal Reserve concerned about fiscal cliff
At its last meeting in April, the central bank's top officials discussed how coming tax increases and spending cuts could weigh on the recovery, and debated whether the Fed should provide additional stimulus to spur consumer spending.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Supply-Siders’ Case for Austerity Carries No Shame
Supply-siders prefer to be known as advocates of growth. Many conservative policy makers fear they will earn the disdain of the supply-side giants, the movement’s eminences, by pushing “budget cuts” instead of “growth.”
Washington Times | Jumping off the fiscal cliff
President Obama on Wednesday found out what congressional leaders thought of his gimmicky “to-do” list. The country is headed over a fiscal cliff, and House Speaker John A. Boehner said the only list worth discussing would address the troubles that are going to hit by year’s end.

Political Calculations | The Greek Budget Identity
We're not kidding when we say that Greece's government really turned the screws on its people with its VAT in 2011. That 4% increase in the rate of taxation should have increased its revenue from the tax by more than 21%.
WSJ | Fed Now Holds Very Few Short-Dated Treasurys
Thanks to Operation Twist sales, RBC notes that the Federal Reserve is entering a period with very little holdings of short-maturity Treasurys to roll into upcoming auctions.