Tuesday, February 19, 2013

General Economics

Bloomberg | Homebuilder Confidence in U.S. Unexpectedly Fell in February
Confidence among U.S. homebuilders unexpectedly dropped in February from a more than six-year high, a sign the real-estate market will take time to accelerate.
CNN Money | 32 days of higher gas prices comes at tough time
Gas prices have risen for 32 days straight, according to AAA. That means that the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has increased more than 13% over that period to $3.73.
Bloomberg | German Investor Confidence Surges to Three-Year High: Economy
German investor confidence jumped more than economists forecast in February to the highest in almost three years, adding to signs that Europe’s largest economy is rebounding from its slump.
Market Watch | Goldman: Recession risks looks much lower now
Downside risks to the U.S. economy have diminished in recent months, with data points providing some bright spots and reducing the possibility that the economy will slip into a renewed recession, Goldman Sachs' top economist Jan Hatzius said in a note dated February 17.
Bloomberg | Energy Future Reports $1.95 Billion Quarterly Loss
Energy Future Holdings Corp., the Texas power plant owner taken private in the biggest leveraged buyout in history, reported a $1.95 billion fourth-quarter loss as lower prices forced a writedown in the value of an electricity unit.
Washington Times | Foreclosure delays: D.C., Maryland keeping homes but losing value
For homeowners in Washington, D.C., Maryland and dozens of other jurisdictions, it’s getting harder and harder to lose a home to foreclosure — even if the owner has not made any mortgage payments.
CNN Money | The wealthy haven't recovered from the Great Recession (but they're doing way better than you)
The top 1% of America's earners saw their average income rise by 11% during the economic recovery, but hold the Dom Perignon.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Times | More government control equals poorer nations
The United Kingdom, France and the United States do not have a credible plan to bring their deficits down to a level below realistic expected growth rates, which is what is needed to avoid a financial meltdown. The three governments have what they politely call a “moving target” for spending, deficits and economic growth. The moving target is one that never gets any closer.
Fortune | The U.S.'s $4.4 billion surplus with China
Halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Tanger outlet mall appeared in the distance, its towering sign beckoning like an oasis. The people on our bus started to titter with excitement. I was sitting with 52 Chinese tourists, mostly elderly retirees from Shanghai, and very few of them spoke English. But as we pulled into the mall's parking lot, they leaned up against the windows and called out familiar words: "Polo! Tommy! Reebok!"
Washington Post | Janet Yellen explains our crummy recovery in three charts
Yellen’s core question is simple: “deeper recessions are usually followed by stronger-than-average recoveries.” But “this recovery has been significantly weaker than past experience would have predicted.” Why?
Washington Post | Growing wealthy on the farm
In addition to a great football game, this year’s Super Bowl audience witnessed a memorable paean to the hardworking American farmer: a Dodge commercial featuring the recorded gravelly tones of the late Paul Harvey. Farm-state politicians were quick to exploit it: Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters he “hope[s] the people of America will wake up and appreciate the family farmers of America.”

FOX Business | Obama's Backwards Approach to the Middle Class
The problem with the media is that they get tired of stories and just want to move on. For example, take unemployment- the fact that this has been the worst recovery for jobs on record is something the media just can't get all that interested in.
Economist | A simple model of growth crises
Well, there are plenty of ways for an economy in China's position to fail. One, and this may be Mr Cowen's worry, is to squander resources needed to secure future growth. China, in other words, may be misdirecting investment in an effort to prop up growth, leading to a corresponding underinvestment in public goods needed to maintain future growth and development.

Health Care

FOX Business | Health Insurers Sell Off on Medicare Advantage Rate Proposal
Shares of major health insurers like Humana and UnitedHealth tumbled Tuesday morning in response to a new U.S. proposal to set 2014 Medicare Advantage rates at lower levels than the industry had been bracing for.
Bloomberg | Medicare Drug Costs to Be Reduced for Seniors, U.S. Says
Elderly and disabled patients enrolled in Medicare will for the first time receive an annual reduction in out-of-pocket costs for drugs, the government announced.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | The Coming Failure of 'Accountable Care'
Spurred by the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of pilot programs called Accountable Care Organizations have been launched over the past year, affecting tens of millions on Medicare and many who have commercial health insurance.


Bloomberg | A Valuable U.S. Export: Banking Regulations
By this point in the economic recovery, the biggest U.S. banks had expected the pressure from regulators to abate. In the aftermath of a major financial crisis, there is usually a turn toward tighter rules, and banks naturally build up their equity buffers after near-death experiences.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | G-20 moving against ‘competitive devaluation’
The Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Saturday pledged to monitor negative currency spillovers to other countries caused by monetary policies implemented for domestic purposes.
WSJ | 'Loose Talk' and Loose Money
The main message out of the Group of 20 nations meeting in Moscow on the weekend boils down to this: Countries can continue to devalue their currencies so long as they don't explicitly say they want to devalue their currencies. Markets got the message and promptly sold off the yen on Monday in anticipation of further monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
WSJ | The Coolidge Lesson on Taxes and Spending
That's the intuitive reaction to the surge of spending and budgetary challenges in Washington today. It's hard to think of another Republican with the fortitude to push back against the outlays, to make government smaller, to lower taxes. And to show that such moves can yield prosperity.
Washington Post | Will higher taxes on the rich derail California’s economic comeback?
If there’s anyplace in the country where rising tax rates should choke off an economic recovery, it’s California. On top of the federal tax hikes that kicked in last month, the state has just raised income taxes on its wealthiest residents to the highest levels in the nation, a move that conservatives warn will drive millionaires and their companies to other states, taking jobs and growth with them.
AEI | The other tax increase on saving
The long-running battle over the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts has been resolved with the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which allows some of the high-income rate cuts and related provisions to expire while permanently extending the remainder of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.


National Journal | Are 65 Percent of Employers Really Struggling to Find Workers?
According to these numbers, three-quarters of available jobs are not full-time, and more than half of the companies seeking workers can’t find candidates with sufficient skills. It's a chronic problem facing the American workforce during this period of recovery, especially among large populations of disengaged people, many of whom are minorities.
FOX Business | On the Job Hunt: Finding Career Satisfaction and Job Stability
Upcoming and recent grads may be sweating the job hunt and ready to sign on to any offer, but experts caution against making a rash decision that could impact their career and lifestyle.
Bloomberg | Immigrants With Right Skills Ride U.S. Hiring Wave: Economy
The labor market is healing faster for immigrants than for U.S.-born workers as the growing economy favors those at the low and high ends of the pay scale.

Economist | Minimum human wages
In his State of the Union speech Barack Obama warmed Democratic hearts by calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, and indexation of the wage to inflation. Predictably, an op-ed battle immediately sprang up, with half of the commentariat arguing that a higher minimum wage would simply hurt low-skill workers seeking a job (and some adding that wage subsidies would be a far better option) and the other half arguing that higher wages at the bottom of the income spectrum are long overdue.


CNN Money | Spending cuts: What you need to know
The budgets of most federal government programs and agencies will shrink on March 1.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | A Sequester Solution Both Sides Will Like
With under two weeks to go until the previously agreed-upon budget cuts called the sequester, some Republicans and virtually all Democrats in Washington, D.C. are searching for a new agreement that will avoid those budget cuts and replace them with either fewer cuts, some tax increases, or nothing at all.
Washington Times | A history of the national debt
Alexander Hamilton, America’s first secretary of the Treasury, issued the first U.S. Treasury bonds on Sept. 18, 1789. The Continental Congress had borrowed money from overseas to help finance the Revolutionary War and could not pay back its loans. It defaulted on maturing debt in 1786 and couldn’t pay the 625 soldiers of the U.S. Army in 1787. By the time the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789, the United States owed $75 million.
CNBC | Obama Debt Solutions ‘Generational Theft:’ Langone
The nation's debt as a percentage of the economy is going to cause a fiscal storm, Home Depot Founder Kenneth Langone told CNBC on Tuesday.
Mercatus | High Levels of Government Spending Become Status Quo
Government spending was a central issue in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, and it has remained an important concern in this upcoming cycle of budget negotiations on the sequester and debt ceiling.