Thursday, May 31, 2012

General Economics

CNN Money | Foreclosures made up 26% of U.S. home sales in first quarter
Homes in some stage of foreclosure accounted for more than one in four home sales during the first three months of the year, according to a report released Thursday.
WSJ | Swiss Growth Stirs Currency Doubts
Switzerland's economy surged ahead in the first quarter at a time when many of its European neighbors are struggling to generate growth, fueling doubts on the sustainability of the Swiss central bank's currency floor against the euro.
USA Today | Oil below $90 a barrel, headed for biggest drop since '08
Benchmark U.S. crude has dropped nearly 16% so far in May. There are growing expectations that the world won't use as much oil this year as previously expected.
WSJ | India's Economy Grows at Slowest Pace in a Decade
India's gross domestic product grew at its slowest pace in almost a decade in the January-March period, adding weight to growing evidence the nation's economy is heading into troubled waters.
Bloomberg | U.S. 10-Year Yield Reaches Record Low for Second Day
Treasury 10-year yields fell to a record low for a second day on concern the European debt crisis is widening and as data showed the U.S. economic expansion slowed during the first quarter.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | Flexible fuel to end foreign oil dependence
The next time you go to buy a car, a fridge, shoes, a TV, boxer shorts or lipstick, what if there were only one choice - a single product in the marketplace for each category - take it or leave it?
Bloomberg | Restored Competition Will Lessen U.S. Inequality
The U.S. middle class is squeezed by the rising costs of college education and health care, and an economy that increasingly rewards only superstars. Fixing these problems requires introducing greater competition into each area.
WSJ | Slow Growth Amid Sluggish Job Gains
The U.S. economy slowed more than initially thought in the first quarter amid smaller gains in consumption and inventories, while corporate profits picked up. Separately, two measures of the labor market indicated continued sluggish job growth.
Washington Times | June can’t come soon enough
June is shaping up to be a pivotal month for American liberty. On one front, the Supreme Court is expected in June to hand down its decision on the constitutionality of Obamacare,
Politico | Politicians' gas price promises just hot air
The recent decline in gasoline prices has at least temporarily made this a less pressing issue in the presidential campaign. There is a real risk, however, that the summer driving season will again push the price to near $4 a gallon and that it will again assume center stage in the national political debate.

CATO | Disadvantaged Minority: Non-Beneficiaries of Government
I would argue that the federal government should not favor people of one particular ethnic backgrounds over others. However, I think the bigger issue here is that a Commerce determination in the affirmative would be yet another step in the direction of greater government dependency.
The American | Goldman Sachs: U.S. headed for a decade of anemic, European-level growth
From 1981-2000, the U.S. economy grew at a snappy pace of about 3.4%. Then it downshifted to 1.6%—including the Great Recession—from 2001-2010. And from 2011-2020, GS expects it to grow only a bit faster—no better, really, than Europe!
National Review | Does the SEC Die if It Stops Adding New Rules?
Always looking for new ways to spread its influence, the Securities and Exchange Commission is contemplating taking another step towards stricter regulation of America’s $2.5 trillion in money-market funds.
The American | EuroCrisis 2012: How we get from here to a global depression
The big problem from our view is Spain, partially because it is too big to fail and too big to bail out. But what makes Spain different is the massive real estate bubble and overbuilding.
Daily Capitalist | The Latest Housing Data: Still Going Down
[M]ore than 30% of borrowers, or close to 16 million homeowners, were underwater on their mortgage during the first quarter, according to Zillow. 
The American | Nancy Pelosi tells us how to grow the U.S. economy
Actually, our “entrepreneurial spirit,” as Pelosi puts it, depends on innovators a) being rewarded and respected for their efforts and b) being allowed to innovate without entrenched interests blocking their path through regulation and other means.

Health Care

CNN Money | Goodbye benefits: Employers still cutting back
Slashed health care coverage and frozen wages were the hallmark of the recession -- at least for those who held onto their jobs. Yet even though the economy has improved, many of the employee benefits that were once guarantees are starting to look like a thing of the past.
Washington Times | Obama’s health care aid to small firms disappoints
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but a health insurance tax credit for small businesses, part of President Obama’s health care law that gets strong support in public opinion polls, has turned out to be a disappointment.
National Journal | NYC Plans Super-Size Soda Ban
In an effort to combat obesity, New York City plans a widespread ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, The New York Times reports.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | ObamaCare in Reverse
One tragedy of the Affordable Care Act is that we already know what its regulations will do to insurance markets, because the states have been conducting policy experiments since the 1990s. But we also know from the states that the damage is reversible, as shown by Maine's emerging insurance turnaround.

CATO | How to Tell When ObamaCare Takes a Beating in the Kaiser Poll: the Headline Is about Something Else
Even when pollsters tell the public that ObamaCare is “reform,” the public still doesn’t like it.


WSJ | Euro-Zone Inflation Slows, German Data Upbeat
A steeper-than-expected fall in euro-zone inflation Thursday gave hope that the European Central Bank could soon step in to support growth in the crisis-hit region, despite a fresh spate of data from Germany showing the bloc's largest economy continues to flourish.
Bloomberg | Euro-Region Inflation Rate Declines More Than Forecast
European inflation slowed more than economists forecast this month, cooling to the least in more than a year as the economic slump showed signs of deepening.
FOX Business | EU Officials: Euro's Survival at Risk
The European Central Bank stepped up pressure on Thursday for a joint fund to guarantee bank deposits in the euro zone, saying Europe needed new tools to fight bank runs as the bloc's debt crisis drives investors to flee risk.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | Fed Board Reflects Obama's Influence
With the swearing in of a seventh Federal Reserve board member, the panel is operating at full strength for the first time since 2006, amplifying the activist stamp of President Barack Obama.


WSJ | At Core of Greek Chaos, a Reviled Tax
When the Greek government surprised homeowners in September by imposing a new national property tax, the mayor of this down-at-the-heels suburb on the western fringe of Athens sprung into action—mobilizing against it.


CNN Money | No more unemployment checks for seasonal workers
From school bus drivers to ballet dancers to lifeguards, many workers whose jobs only last for a portion of the year have traditionally been eligible for jobless benefits. But now states across the country are starting to crack down, trying to save money and rescue insolvent jobless funds.
USA Today | Unemployment rates fall in most metro areas
Unemployment rates fell in nearly all large U.S. cities in April from March, aided by summer hiring on farms and in tourist destinations.
CNN Money | May jobs report: More weak hiring expected
The economy was expected to have added 150,000 jobs last month, according to economists surveyed by CNNMoney. They project that the job report for May will show the private sector expanded payrolls by 162,000 jobs, but government shed 12,000 positions.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Long-Term Unemployment, and the Skills Erosion Myth
Whatever the direction of Friday's jobless number, it can't be stressed enough that unemployment of the kind we're suffering at the moment is a wholly unnatural phenomenon wrought by government distortion of wages and benefits, and sagging investment that results from policies in favor of a weak dollar.

The American | CBO: Obama stimulus may have cost as much as $4.1 million a job
CBO now estimates that the total impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the 2009–2019 period will amount to about $831 billion.
Political Calculations | New Jobless Claims Continue Rising
It has been several weeks since we last looked at the trend in the number of new jobless claims being filed in the U.S. each week. Our chart below shows how things stand through the initial report for 19 May 2012


CNN Money | Irish to vote on fiscal treaty
As Europe scrambles to keep up with a resurgent debt crisis, Ireland will put a key agreement on fiscal discipline to a popular vote.
WSJ | Europe Woes Ignite Selloff
Fears Spain can't save its troubled banks sparked a selloff in Spanish government bonds Wednesday and prompted a broad decline in stock markets and the euro, leaving Europe's common currency in its most precarious state in months.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | The Obama Spending Record
Every journalist not in the re-election tank has been shredding President Obama's recent claim that spending growth has been modest on his watch. But kudos in particular to the Associated Press for hitting several White House accounting gimmicks in a dispatch last week.
Heritage Foundation | The Real Cost of Public Pensions
This paper discusses how to properly calculate the cost of public defined-benefit pension benefits, compares the cost of these benefits to private-sector retirement plans, and refutes two of the most common arguments that public pension benefits are somehow modest.

National Review | Canada Cut Spending and So Should We
Chris Edwards has a good Cato Policy Report this month explaining how Canada went from a free-market economy to socialism and back.
Café Hayek | Living within your means is so inconvenient
In short, it’s a good idea to spend less than you take in. Debt leads to misery. But wiser men than Dickens and Smith argued that what is best for the individual need not be best for the nation.