Thursday, April 17, 2014

General Economics

CNN Money | Nearly 2 million homeowners no longer 'seriously' underwater
During the first quarter, 9.1 million, or 17%, of homeowners were seriously underwater on their home, meaning their debt exceeded the home's value by 25% or more, according to RealtyTrac. That's down from 10.9 million, or 26%, of all properties a year earlier.
FOX Business | Mid-Atlantic Manufacturing Heats Up in April
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s gauge of manufacturing activity rose to 16.6 in April from 9 in March, far surpassing Wall Street estimates for a reading of 10. Readings above 0 point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.
CNN Money | China GDP slows to 7.4% in first quarter
The world's second-largest economy grew by 7.4% in the first quarter, compared to the same period last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney had forecast slightly slower growth of 7.3%.
Market Watch | 30-year-mortgage rate falls to 4.27%
The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.27% in the week that ended April 17 from 4.34% in the prior week, according to a Thursday report from federally controlled mortgage-buyer Freddie Mac

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fortune | The real economy is finally doing better than the money economy
On Wednesday, Bank of America (BAC) announced that it had lost nearly $300 million in the first quarter. Analysts were expecting the bank to turn a profit. A year ago, it earned $1.5 billion. Meanwhile, profits at meat company Tyson Foods (TSN) are predicted to have jumped 130% in the first three months of the year. The bottom line at The Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) likely rose as well. Jarden (JAH), which bought Yankee Candle Co. last year, made $19 million in the first quarter. Last year, it lost a little over $4 million.
WSJ | Regulator Without Peer
Washington set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules consuming 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. While plenty of government employees deserve credit for this milestone, leadership matters. And by this measure President Obama has never been surpassed in the Oval Office.
Real Clear Markets | 5 Warning Signs of a New Market Crash in 2014
While stock markets around the world are near record highs, The Telegraph's John Ficenec sees ample reasons for worry. Here are 5 of his top signs that we could be in for a major market crash.

WSJ | Has Social Security Disability Enrollment Hit Plateau?
The surge in the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability benefits – up 42% since 2004 – appears to have hit a plateau, but it’s unclear if the program has actually peaked and will ever recede.

Health Care

Politico | Right outraged at Census change
Conservatives are crying foul over changes to the U.S. Census that will affect data on the effects of Obamacare, though the Census Bureau insists the changes have been a long time coming and are not political.
National Journal | Cuts to Medicare Advantage Top $1,500 Per Senior
The federal Medicare agency recently backed off a proposal to make additional cuts to Medicare Advantage—the second year in a row it has proposed and then abandoned such reductions. But the AAF analysis says the reductions mandated in the Affordable Care Act will still affect benefits for most seniors who use the program.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Health-Services Spending Jumps as Obamacare Takes Hold
Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn’t afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Mercatus | The Unfolding Fiscal Disaster Behind ACA Enrollment Figures
Earlier this month there was tremendous press attention to new data indicating that enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s health insurance exchanges had surpassed 7 million. The White House took a victory lap while much of the press, desperate to write something positive after months of reporting on website glitches and insurance plan cancellations, characterized the milestone as good political news for ACA supporters. Our national discussion, however, is missing the truly significant story here; what is unfolding before our eyes is a colossal fiscal disaster, poised to haunt legislators and taxpayers for decades to come.

Heritage Foundation | GOP Governors Hit Obama Administration on Medicare Advantage Rates
Three Republican governors yesterday blasted President Barack Obama over changes to next year’s Medicare Advantage rates, writing in a letter that the Obama administration’s recent rate announcement was “little more than political theater.”


CNN Money | Markets dig Janet Yellen's 'loose language'
The scene at the Economic Club of New York meeting today had the feel of a rock concert, but instead of T-shirts and sneakers, it was blue pin-stripes and brown wing-tips.
Bloomberg | Dollar Declines Most in a Week on Outlook for Fed
The dollar fell the most in a week against a basket of major peers on speculation the Federal Reserve will move slowly to raise interest rates as the word’s biggest economy expands.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Forbes | Monetary Policy Relief: Finally Adding Growth
The Federal Reserve is ending its policy known as quantitative easing by tapering its bond purchases and the buildup of idle bank reserves. This is already helping bank lending. The prospect of a further gradual normalization of Fed policy should lift economic growth above its devastating “new normal”–the slow GDP growth and high unemployment that have prevailed since 2008.
Investors | Fed Can Print Money, But It Can't Print Jobs
We have all been watching a long mystery with no ending: What the Federal Reserve governors are trying to do, how they intend to do it and why they imagine their efforts will work.

WSJ | Fed’s Fisher Reiterates Support for Winding Down of Bond-Buying Stimulus
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher reiterated his support Wednesday for the central bank’s effort to wind down its bond-buying stimulus program.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CATO | Tax Day
Yesterday was, of course, tax day, the day on which most Americans file their federal and state income taxes. This, it should be noted, is different from the day on which Americans finally stop working just to pay taxes, which this year falls on April 18, three days later than last year. Until then, the government collects, on average, every cent that Americans earn, so you may still have a few more days to go until you can keep the fruits of your labor.

The Nation | 7 Facts About Our Broken Tax System
We don’t have a progressive tax system. A truly progressive tax system would ask those who are the most well-off in America to contribute the largest share of their income in taxes. Our federal taxes are progressive, but when you account for state, local and sales taxes, top-line taxation rate isn’t really progressive at all.


Bloomberg | Jobless Claims in U.S. Hover Near Lowest Level Since 2007
The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance payments hovered last week near the lowest level in almost seven years, and consumer confidence improved, showing the world’s largest economy is speeding up.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Fortune | Should all interns get paid?
As we head from spring into summer, many college students are planning their vacations while those looking to get their first taste of the working world are likely hunting for internships.

Market Watch | First-quarter wage growth was strongest in more than four years
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the 2.7% growth in the first quarter was the strongest since the fourth quarter of 2009, when wages grew 2.8%. Importantly, the wage growth was faster than the 1.4% increase in seasonally adjusted consumer prices over the same period. Without adjusting for seasonality, median weekly wages were $796 in the first quarter.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Politico | Running Away From the Ryan Budget
For the fourth year in a row, the House of Representatives passed a budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and head of the House Budget Committee. Properly understood, a congressional budget sets priorities and, as we saw with Ryan’s early efforts to reform Medicare, can shift the trajectory of politics and policy. Chairman Ryan and his committee deserve credit for their efforts.
CBO | An Analysis of the President's 2015 Budget
This report by CBO presents an analysis of the proposals in the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2015, as submitted to the Congress on March 4, 2014. The analysis is based on CBO’s economic projections and estimating models (rather than the Administration’s), and it incorporates estimates of the effects of the President’s tax proposals that were prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).