Thursday, May 24, 2012

General Economics

WSJ | Euro-Zone Economic Contraction Deepens
Concerns over the future of the euro deepened Thursday on more evidence of policy inertia and a fresh spate of dire economic data that showed some of the remaining supports for business activity in the 17-country euro zone splintering away.
Market Watch | 30-year mortgage rate hits record low of 3.78%
Mortgage rates hit record lows in the week ending May 24, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage average ticking down to 3.78% from 3.79% in the prior week, Freddie Mac said Thursday in its weekly report.
WSJ | U.K. Recession Deeper Than Expected
The U.K. economy slid even deeper into recession than previously thought in the first quarter, official statistics showed Thursday, piling additional pressure on the government to do more to spur growth.
Bloomberg | Europe Manufacturing Shrinks, German Confidence Drops
European manufacturing and services output dropped in May, German business confidence declined and Britain’s first-quarter contraction was deeper than previously estimated as the region’s economic slump worsened.
WSJ | Europe Girds for Greek Exit
European officials are stepping up contingency planning for a possible Greek exit from the euro zone, even as Europe's leaders struggled to overcome differences on how to resolve the currency bloc's crisis at a summit meeting here.
Market Watch | FDIC: Bank profits at highest level since 2007
Bank profits rose in the first quarter of 2012, reaching their highest quarterly levels since the second quarter of 2007, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s quarterly banking report, released Thursday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | J.P. Morgan’s risky business
Investment-services firm J.P. Morgan blew $2 billion on bad trades, and the total damage could rise to $5 billion. Though the Obama administration wants you to think otherwise, this is proof the market works.
WSJ | Why Oil Prices Will Keep Falling
The recent retreat in crude prices has surprised many experts, who were predicting steeply higher levels. The sanctions choking off Iranian exports and the ever-present elephant in the room—a possible shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz, where 20% of global crude traffic occurs—were pushing prices up.
NBER | Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage: Old Idea, New Evidence
When asked to name one proposition in the social sciences that is both true and non-trivial, Paul Samuelson famously replied: 'Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage'. Truth, however, in Samuelson's reply refers to the fact that Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage is mathematically correct, not that it is empirically valid.
AEI | Dodd-Frank's too-big-to-fail dystopia
With the recent publication of its final rule, the federal government's Financial Stability Oversight Council is now in position to designate certain nonbank firms as "systemically important financial institutions" (SIFIs).

Economist | Stamp duty
As many newspaper owners have found out, it is extremely hard to make money by selling something that someone else is giving away. Postal services around the world have struggled to adapt since the the arrival of e-mail, often because they are tangled up in politics.
CATO | Diversity & Choice or Regulation & Monopoly?
Parents and taxpayers should have a diverse array of choices, and a large and diverse collection of scholarship organizations is essential for achieving that.
Heritage Foundation | The California Conundrum: New, Costly High-Speed Rail vs. Massive Budget Deficit
What do $16 billion and $68.4 billion have in common, other than the fact that each of these figures dwarfs JPMorgan Chase’s recent loss? The former is how deep in the red the California state budget sits currently. The latter is the latest in a series of roller-coasting cost estimates for the state’s controversial high-speed rail (HSR) project, which is funded in part by the federal government.
Reason Foundation | States and Cities Going Private With Infrastructure Investment
As public debts grow, cities and states simultaneously face pressing needs to repair and modernize critical infrastructure assets that can't wait if citizens hope to keep goods and services moving in the economy.
Economist | Fiscal cliffs, multipliers, and the myth of central bank independence
The cryptic phrase "fiscal cliff" is creeping into news reports and economic analyses (including our own). Alongside "grexit" and "hard landing" it lurks as a mysterious and malevolent force waiting to wreak havoc on the global economy. The fiscal cliff is an American afflication.

Health Care

National Journal | Obesity A National Security Issue, Experts Agree
Improving school lunches and nutrition education are a key way to get Americans healthy enough to join the military, and a badly divided Congress might be amenable to cooperating on this one issue, obesity policy experts said said Wednesday.
NY Times | For Hospitals and Insurers, New Fervor to Cut Costs
While UCLA Health System has long prided itself on being at the forefront of treating patients like Giselle, it is now trying to lower sharply the cost of providing that care. By enrolling young patients with complex and expensive diseases in a program called a medical home, the system tries to ensure that doctors spend more time with patients and work more closely with parents to coordinate care.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Politico | Millions still uncovered with health law expansion
The health law, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will help up to 33 million Americans get coverage over the next decade. Around 26 million to 27 million will remain uncovered.


Think Markets | Krugman on Banks and Romney
Regulation advocates seem to regard the JP Morgan loss as the best thing since sliced bread. Thus Paul Krugman gleefully bawls out Mitt Romney for refusing to see it as a sign for greater government intervention.


National Journal | Pelosi Wants Tax-Cut Vote
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday calling for an extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. To the surprise of no one, the letter also says tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should expire and that revenue should be used to help pay down the deficit. 


CNN Money | HP to cut 27,000 jobs
Hewlett-Packard announced Wednesday that it is slashing 27,000 jobs in a widely expected maneuver aimed at slimming down the struggling tech giant.
FOX News | Weekly US jobless aid applications dip to 370,000
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits changed little last week, signaling modest job growth.

WSJ | Fed’s Kocherlakota: Economy Closer to Maximum Employment Than Data Suggest
A top Federal Reserve official said Wednesday that elevated inflation readings in the past two years suggest that the economy is closer to maximum employment than labor-market reports alone might suggest.


CNN Money | National debt: Will the U.S. be like Japan?
Political gridlock. High national debt. Rock-bottom bond rates. An aging population. Warnings about more downgrades.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Obama's Permanent Emergency
"Obama Spending Binge Never Happened," announces the headline of a column by's Rex Nutting, which the president's supporters have received gratefully and eagerly. The Hill reports Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, has favorably cited the column, which claims: "Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an 'inferno' of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children's future. . . . But it didn't happen."
WSJ | Greece's False Austerity
Currency traders are cheering for Greece to exit the euro. That would create currency volatility and, if other countries exit, mega-profits for traders. The cost would be much lower living standards and even bigger government—including the power to print money—for those exiting the euro.

The American | Actually, the Obama spending binge really did happen
Until Barack Obama took office in 2009, the United States had never spent more than 23.5% of GDP, with the exception of the World War II years of 1942-1946
Heritage Foundation | The Difference Between a Courageous Budget and a Dangerous One
Despite all the talk of “austerity,” little has been done to stem the tide of the United States’ ever growing debt. The little that has been cut is in area that needs it most: defense.
Tax Foundation | Like the Vikings of Old: Pillaging Minnesota’s Budget
This week in Minnesota politics has been instructive in what kinds of projects warrant state money and attention.  Governor Dayton signed a bill approving the construction of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings which he boasted would create thousands of jobs and would not use "a single dollar of General Fund tax revenues".
The American | Upon further review … yup, Obama is a big spender
As I point out in my original post, if Obama wins another term, spending—according to his own budget—would never drop below 22.3% of GDP. If that forecast is right, spending during Obama’s eight years in office would average 23.6% of GDP. That average is higher than any single previous non-war year in American history.