Tuesday, June 17, 2014

General Economics

CNN Money | More homeowners becoming landlords
Low mortgage rates and soaring rents have convinced a growing number of homeowners to hang onto their former homes and become landlords instead.
Bloomberg | Housing Starts in U.S. Beat 1 Million Pace for Second Month
Builders broke ground on 1 million U.S. homes in May, indicating the industry is picking up this quarter after a weather-induced slump to start the year.
FOX Business | Montana Company Named Small Business of the Year
On Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded landscape services firm Sanderson Stewart the 2014 DREAM Big Small Business of the Year award. The competition recognizes companies for their exceptional business practices and their community involvement.
CNN Money | U.S. economy: Not looking so good
At the start of the year, economists were optimistic. Perhaps the economy would grow 3% this year, they said, instead of the measly 2% pace it's been stuck at for the prior three years.
Bloomberg | We’re All Macroprudentialists Now as Bubble Policy Dawns
Thirty-five years ago this month, a U.K. central banker by the name of Peter Cooke was worrying about a surge in lending to developing countries.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | Is the economy really picking up? Not likely
According to the conventional wisdom, the economy is set to bounce back from its winter-induced slump. It won’t be the first time that the pundits got it wrong.
Real Clear Markets | Regulations Are Strangling the Internet Economy
Recently, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles issued a cease-and-desist order against Uber and Lyft, ride services that are simply an app away. Regulators appear unsure how to handle these companies, along with other upstarts in the sharing economy, such as Airbnb, which finds rooms for travelers online.
WSJ | How Not to Help Black Americans
Douglass and Washington didn't play down the need for the government to secure equal rights for blacks, and both were optimistic that they would get equal rights eventually. But both men also understood the limits of government benevolence. Blacks would have to ready themselves to meet the far bigger challenge of being in a position to take advantage of opportunities, once equal rights had been secured. The history of 1960s liberal social policies is largely a history of ignoring this wisdom.
Washington Times | Reducing the risk of oil price spikes
You may have noticed gasoline prices are rising. If the Middle East situation gets much worse, gasoline prices will rise even more. The good news is that we are likely to avoid long gas lines as we had in the late 1970s under President Carter, because fracking and other new technologies have lessened our dependence on foreign oil and gas. The bad news is that a major rise in oil prices could easily tilt Europe and other places back into a recession, which could kill the little growth the United States is now experiencing.
Mercatus | How the Private Sector Can Improve Public Transportation Infrastructure
As growing demands on roads, bridges, and airports increase congestion and delays, policymakers are struggling to finance needed improvements to the nation’s infrastructure. The federal government’s longtime strategy of trying to build its way out of congestion is unlikely to be a financially sustainable means of addressing the problem. But what better options exist?
US News | Getting More Bang for the Regulatory Buck
The White House Office of Management and Budget recently published a draft report to Congress in which it estimated the overall benefits and costs of federal regulations. The OMB report cautioned about taking the estimates at face value, as it pointed out the numerous problems with them. 

WSJ | Cold Weather Shrinks First-Quarter Retail Profits Despite Sales Gain
After-tax profits for U.S. retailers with more than $50 million in assets fell 11.5% in the first quarter, compared with a year earlier, even as sales grew 3.6%, a Commerce Department report said Monday.
WSJ | Did We Hit Our Innovation Peak in 1970?
Has the wave of innovation that transformed the world over the past century fizzled out? Some people think so—although how innovation is measured can be very subjective, if not downright idiosyncratic.

Health Care

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Daily Signal | HHS Mandate: Only the Beginning of Obamacare’s Conscience Problems
Any day now the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties—family-owned businesses that have gone to court to challenge a provision under Obamacare that requires them and nearly all other employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization, regardless of their religious beliefs.


Bloomberg | Consumer Prices Increasing as U.S. Housing Stabilizes
Consumer prices rose in May by the most in more than a year, showing U.S. companies are gaining some pricing power as the economy strengthens, and the homebuilding industry stabilized after a first-quarter swoon.
Bloomberg | Fed Will Raise Rates Faster Than Investors Bet, Survey Shows
The Federal Reserve will probably raise its benchmark interest rate faster than money-market investors expect, according to a majority of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

WSJ | Grand Central: Fed Taking Up Unfinished Business on Exit Strategy
The Federal Reserve has unfinished business on the agenda from its April policy meeting related to the mechanics of how it will one day unwind its easy money policies and start raising short-term interest rates. It looks like those issues will be under discussion again Tuesday when officials gather for this week’s two-day policy meeting.
Market Watch | Fed mulling exit fees on bond funds
Concerned with the possibility of a fire sale of bond funds should interest rate rise sharply, Federal Reserve officials have mulled the possibility of the need to impose exit fees on the sectors, according to a report by the Financial Times.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Bloomberg | Offshore Cash of $2 Trillion Sparks Hunt for Tax-Friendly Deals
Two tax-code quirks -- one that charges U.S. companies when they repatriate overseas earnings, the other that allows them to claim a foreign domicile without moving their senior leadership abroad -- are motivating U.S. companies to buy overseas counterparts in part to lower their bills.
WSJ | Obama's Corporate Exodus
What kind of country does this to itself? With Medtronic's planned acquisition of Covidien and the announcement that the combined company will be domiciled in Ireland, U.S. tax policy has encouraged one more business to spend its money overseas. Medtronic, famous for its high-tech cardiac and spinal devices, will pay $42.9 billion for Dublin-based Covidien, which makes surgical tools and other medical supplies.

WSJ | Japan Weighs Tax Change to Push Housewives Into Job Market
The change, part of a set of fiscal policy proposals released June 10, could impel some women to work more, helping alleviate labor shortages and increasing tax revenue. However, it would raise the burden for spouses who mostly stay at home, and some observers say the change by itself wouldn’t be enough to bring a significant number of women into the workforce.
WSJ | Deadline Could Force Grand Bargain on Internet Taxes
This week, a House committee is expected to vote to renew a longstanding federal moratorium on Internet-access taxes. The 15-year-old moratorium on Internet access taxes prevents most states and local governments from applying telecommunications excise taxes and other levies on Internet connections, of which there are about 262 million in the U.S.


WSJ | Obama to Bar Gay Discrimination By Federal Contractors
President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from hiring or firing employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, senior administration officials said Monday, in a move that could energize Democratic voters in November's midterm elections.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Washington Post | The Big Freeze on hiring
It now takes 24 working days for the average job opening to be filled. That’s the longest hiring delay since at least 2001, the first year for which numbers are available, according to a recent report from Dice Holdings based on research by Steven J. Davis, R. Jason Faberman and John C. Haltiwanger. To give you some context, when the recovery began five years ago, the average opening took about 16 days to fill.


CNN Money | The Social Security cash crunch Congress can't ignore
The trust fund for Social Security disability benefits, which is separate from the fund for retirement benefits, is on track to be insolvent -- most likely by the end of 2016 but no later than 2017.
WSJ | Accounting Changes Proposed for State, City Retiree-Benefit Plans
States and cities could be forced to report at least half a trillion dollars of additional costs on their books under proposed rules that would shine a harsher light on the growing expense of retired workers' health insurance and other benefits.

CATO | Voting Themselves Bigger Budgets
An implicit principle in a democracy is that the officials who decide how your taxes are spent represent you, the taxpayers, and not the bureaucracies that receive your taxes. But Congress violated this principle when it wrote MAP-21, the 2012 transportation law. As detailed in a proposed rule earlier this month, the law gives transit agencies in major urban areas a vote on how much of each region’s transportation dollars are spent on transit.