Thursday, February 20, 2014

General Economics

Market Watch | 30-year-mortgage rate rises to 4.33%
Rising for a second week, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.33% in the week that ended Feb. 20 from 4.28% in the prior week, according to a Thursday report from federally controlled mortgage buyer Freddie Mac
FOX Business | Mid-Atlantic Manufacturing Activity Plunges in February
The Philadelphia Fed reports manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted in February with its gauge coming in at -6.3, from 9.4 in January, far below Wall Street’s estimate of 8. Readings above 0 point to expansion while those below point to contraction.
Market Watch | Philly manufacturing index takes big dive in February
Philadelphia-area manufacturers reported worsening conditions in February, a reading that contradicted an upbeat national manufacturing purchasing managers index for the month released earlier in the morning.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | Twenty Years After NAFTA, Obama Must Lead In the Toluca Two Step
Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto hosts his first North American Leaders Summit in Toluca this week. Twenty years after NAFTA took effect, the United States, Canada and Mexico share more than $1 trillion in trade along tightly integrated supply chains fueled by a dynamic sharing of ideas, research and innovation. Supporting the regional economy are more than 320 million legal border crossings each year.
WSJ | Private Capital for Public Works
The budget deal and $1.1 trillion spending bill agreed to by Congress and the White House should help our country climb out of recession. We also hope the compromise and common sense displayed by these agreements mean Washington can next tackle what's really needed to assure robust economic growth and full employment—the rebuilding of public infrastructure.
Fortune | Is the housing recovery losing steam?
The latest data suggest that the promised construction boom may not materialize.

Health Care

National Journal | The Obamacare Enrollment Crash Is Coming
After a disastrous launch, the law's backers are breathing a sigh of relief as enrollees flock to its insurance exchanges. But the totals are built on a shaky foundation, and at some point soon, the exchange enrollment figures are going to fall, perhaps by more than 1 million people.

Heritage Foundation | Obamacare Costs Money, and Some People Don't Like It
Obamacare is going to cost just about everyone—and some people don’t want to hear that. One restaurant owner in Los Angeles is making it clear that providing health benefits for his employees is something his customers help pay for.


National Journal | 6.5 Percent Unemployment No Longer a Good Target for Rate Rise, Says Fed
For over a year, the Federal Reserve has said it planned to raise its benchmark interest rate—the one that's currently near zero, and whose level ripples through interest rates across the economy—around the time that the nation's unemployment rate hit 6.5 percent, so long as inflation wasn't getting out of hand.
Bloomberg | Consumer Prices in U.S. Increased at Slower Pace in January
The cost of living in the U.S. rose at a slower pace in January, a sign inflation was restrained in early 2014.

WSJ | Fed’s Williams: High Bar for Fed to Change Tapering Trajectory
The bar is high for the Federal Reserve to change course on winding down its signature bond-buying program, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President John Williams said Wednesday.


CNN Money | 4 ways the rich will pay more this tax season
Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal and the Affordable Care Act, the top 1% of taxpayers - and many in the top 3% as well - will have to pay a bigger tax bill come April 15.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Politico | Dave Camp defies skeptics, plans tax bill next week
Defying skepticism from Republican leaders, Camp plans to release a major plan to rewrite the tax code next week, according to an email obtained by POLITICO.
Mercatus | And the Winner of the 'Worst Tax Policy' Oscar Is ...
The Academy Awards are nearly upon us, and that means long-winded acceptance speeches from actors and directors, filled with thanks for all the people who have helped them along the way. Listen closely to those speeches. Because they should really be thanking you.
Heritage Foundation | The Proper Tax Treatment of Interest
Treating interest properly in the tax code is essential to maintaining neutrality. Neutrality should be the guiding principle of tax reform. It holds that taxes should not influence—positively or negatively—the economic decisions of families, investors, entrepreneurs, or businesses. A neutral tax code is the most conducive to economic growth.


National Journal | CBO Defends Its Minimum-Wage Estimate as Democrats Fume
White House pique notwithstanding, the Congressional Budget Office is standing by its estimate of the job impact that a minimum-wage hike would create.
CNN Money | Gap raising its minimum pay to $10/hour
Gap Inc. is raising the minimum pay for 65,000 U.S. employees, winning praise from President Obama who is pushing to raise the nation's minimum wage by a similar amount.
Bloomberg | Jobless Claims in U.S. Fell Last Week as Firings Abated
Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, a sign employers are holding the line on firings even as cold weather slowed industries from manufacturing to housing.
CNBC | Real solutions to America's jobs problem
Despite the claims of significant job creation over the past five years, the reality is that far too many Americans are unemployed and underemployed. However, in typical government fashion, proposed solutions come in the form of entitlements and taxes rather than fixes for the fundamental underlying problems.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Investors | America's Shale Boom Is A Major Job Creator
Silicon Valley may get better press, but in this period of dismal employment growth it's the oft-maligned hydrocarbon sector that's creating more jobs faster.
Washington Times | Minimum wage, maximum damage
Hold on to your wallet. President Obama is calling on Congress to “give America a raise.” Mr. Obama is never so generous as when he’s spending someone else’s money, so this raise is going to cost us a bundle.
AEI | Spread the good news!
Somewhat to my surprise, Furman and Stevenson appear to have overlooked the most important, headline-grabbing news in the report. The CBO estimates that probably about 500,000, but with a reasonable likelihood even a million workers will lose their jobs in what is still a weak labor market.


CATO | Selling Federal Government Buildings
How many buildings does the federal government own? 10,000? 20,000? Actually, it is a staggering 306,000, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.