Tuesday, July 29, 2014

General Economics

Bloomberg | Million-Dollar U.S. Housing Loans Surge to Record Level
Banks are handing out mortgages of as much as $10 million to the wealthy in record numbers while first-time homebuyers struggle to get loans.
CNN Money | Home price increases continue at slower pace
The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a closely watched measure of home values. posted a 9.3% annual increase in its May reading, down from the 10.8% rate in April. The rate of increase was as high as 13.7% in November before slowing every month since.
Bloomberg | Consumer Confidence in U.S. Jumps to Highest Since 2007
Confidence among U.S. consumers soared in July to the highest level in almost seven years as Americans grew more upbeat about the labor market and the outlook for the economy.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Investors | Mortgage Rule Shows Lenders Not Joking About 'Witch Hunt'
In a proposed new mortgage rule, the Obama administration in effect confesses it never had enough credit data to charge dozens of mortgage lenders with racial bias. It's a 573-page admission of guilt.
Washington Times | Thinking outside nanny-state box with Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is perhaps the smartest conservative in Congress. Unusual for a politician, the former vice presidential nominee actually spends time thinking about problems and coming up with solutions. He is one conservative who believes Republicans will never prosper simply by denouncing liberal solutions to societal problems, unworkable as they may be, but must in addition come up with their own.
Market Watch | U.S. productivity ... and how to improve it
The surprising drop in first-quarter productivity has set economists scrambling to figure out ways to boost it.

WSJ | Is the Private Mortgage-Bond Market Dead or Dormant?
It’s been nearly seven years since the market for so-called private-label mortgage bonds, or those that aren’t backed by government-related entities, dried up. For years, government policy makers and financiers have speculated over when those markets might meaningfully revive.

Health Care

Politico | Medicare financial outlook brightens
Medicare’s financial outlook has improved somewhat, the government said on Monday, though there was no agreement on the reasons behind the brighter forecast.


CNBC | Wall Street worries Fed's easing will 'end badly'
Wall Street isn't all that confident the Federal Reserve can end its easy money policies without a market crash, a recession or high inflation. In its July Fed Survey, CNBC asked Wall Street pros how the Fed's current policies will end and found market participants surprisingly divided.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
CNBC | The Fed in denial
The United States Federal Reserve System is one of the most powerful governmental organizations in the history of the world. America's central bank has control over the supply of dollars, and currently exerts great influence over interest rates, both for short-term and long-term borrowing.

WSJ | Grand Central: Tame Inflation Expectations a Trump Card for Fed’s Doves
Hawks on the policy committee will point to a declining jobless rate as reason to consider raising short-term interest rates in the months ahead to prevent the economy from overheating. They’ll also note that inflation has moved off its low levels near 1% from earlier this year, toward the Fed’s 2% target.


WSJ | Windstream Seeks to Cut Taxes by Forming a REIT
Windstream Corp. said it intends to spin off some of its telecommunications network assets into an independent, publicly traded real estate investment trust, a move that comes as a wave of U.S. companies look for ways to lower their tax burdens.
WSJ | Report Finds More Than 80,000 Pentagon Employees Owed Back Taxes
More than 80,000 Defense Department workers working in sensitive settings owed more than $730 million in taxes to the federal government, according to a new investigation, debts that raise new concerns about safeguards for protecting America's secrets.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Mercatus | Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rule, “Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors,”1 is intended to implement Executive Order 13658. The stated purpose of the Executive Order is to increase efficiency and cost savings in work performed by federal contractors by raising the hourly minimum wage that contractors pay their workers.2 The proposed rule establishes standards and procedures for implementing and enforcing the minimum wage protections for federal contractors required by Executive Order 13658.
Real Clear Markets | Unemployment, and the 'Skills Shortage' Myth
The jobless rate has dipped to 6.1 percent, and businesses are already complaining about a skills shortage. Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported rising complaints by small business owners about their inability to fill critical job openings.
Mercatus | Does the Minimum Wage Increase Worker Productivity?
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed a regulation establishing a higher minimum wage for federal contractors. The stated goal of the proposed rule is to increase efficiency and lower costs in work performed by federal contractors. In its justification for the rule, the DOL cites numerous studies to support its claim that higher wages are associated with higher levels of worker productivity, but the agency gets the causality reversed, among other errors of interpretation.


National Journal | The Geography of Debt in the U.S.
Five years after the Great Recession officially ended, Americans across the country are still swimming in debt. The amount and nature of that indebtedness, however, differs from state to state and region to region.
FOX Business | Treasury: Social Security Broadly Funded Until 2033
Slower growth in healthcare spending is shoring up the funding outlook for the federal Medicare program that covers the hospital bills of the elderly, trustees of the program said on Monday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Real Clear Markets | The Danger of Deficits To Our Economy
Recently the White House Office of Management and Budget released its Midsession Review, an update and review of the budget that President Obama submitted to Congress. The document extols the virtues of the administration's economic policies, noting that a combination of economic growth, discretionary budget cuts and the reversal of the Bush tax cuts has halved the federal deficit.
CATO | Keep Chopping Federal Spending
President Obama is not doing enough to rein in spending and deficits. He says the deficit has been cut in half since he came to office. But that is a cut from the giant 2009 figure of $1.4 trillion, which was so high partly because of his costly stimulus bill.

CBO | The Uncertainty of Long-Term Budget Projections
Budget projections are inherently uncertain. CBO’s projections in The 2014 Long-Term Budget Outlook generally reflect current law and estimates of future economic conditions and demographic trends (those projections are called CBO’s “extended baseline”). If future spending and tax policies differ from what is prescribed in current law, budgetary outcomes will differ from CBO’s extended baseline, as discussed in a blog post last week.