Thursday, July 31, 2014

General Economics

CNN Money | BofA hit with $1.3 billion mortgage penalty
BofA hit with $1.3 billion mortgage penalty
Politico | Iowa Senate: Ethanol fuels a clash in corn country
The Iowan is touting federal support for ethanol while competing in one of 2014’s most critical Senate contests — and he’s banking on his ability to champion his state’s cause in D.C., where the corn industry’s political power has waned. While critics ranging from environmentalists to anti-subsidy fiscal conservatives have turned against ethanol, Braley is busy posing at gas stations that sell the corn-based biofuel, campaigning with farmers and pressuring EPA to protect the federal mandate that guarantees corn’s role in the U.S. fuel supply.
Bloomberg | Consumer Confidence Declines in U.S. to Lowest Since June
Confidence among U.S. consumers retreated last week to an almost two-month low as limited wage growth chipped away at perceptions about personal finances.
CNBC | US Midwest business index drops to 13-month low in July
The pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest in July sank to its slowest level since June 2013, signaling a sharp deceleration in that region's economy, a report showed on Thursday.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Market Watch | 2 new reverse mortgage rules for couples
Reverse mortgages (home loans for people 62 and older that let them convert home equity into cash) can be a useful way for homeowners to receive extra income in retirement; the loan must be repaid when the borrower dies, moves or sells the home.
Forbes | Just Your Run-Of-The-Mill Blockbuster Returns
Let’s play a word-association game. Stocks are up? Good! Stocks are down? Volatile! What’s missing is that a market that’s up a lot comes with volatility–the happy kind.
WSJ | The 2.1% Expansion
Growth for the second quarter surprised on the upside at 4%, rebounding from the minus-2.1% plunge in the first quarter. The widespread hope is that this will finally mark the long-promised leap to a faster growth plateau five years after the recession ended in June 2009. We share that hope even if we've learned to be skeptical about the expectation.
Real Clear Markets | The Hidden Gloom Underlying California's 'Boom'
Good news, in 2013, California's economy grew faster than the nation's - 2 percent vs. 1.8 percent. Many have used this as vindication that California's progressive policies, ranging from the 2012 Proposition 30 tax increases to implementation of AB 32's cap-and-trade scheme, are not hindering growth (some even suggest such policies are aiding the growth).
Mercatus | Social Security is in Crisis
The 2014 Social Security Trustees report showed a continuation of the current trend toward insolvency of both of its trust funds. As in the previous two years, the Trustees estimate that Social Security's combined retirement and disability trust funds will become exhausted in 2033, less than 20 years from now.
CATO | The Conservative Case for Immigration Reform
The debate over immigration reform, intensified by the surge of unaccompanied child migrants at the U.S.–Mexico border, has many conservatives worried. Republican strategist Lanhee Chen explained that conservative opposition to immigration reform in the United States “is a very visceral reaction to what America should be about.” According to conservative opponents of immigration reform, immigrants will change America.

Health Care

National Journal | Obamacare Website Has Cost $840 Million
The Obama administration has spent roughly $840 million on, including more than $150 million just in cost overruns for the version that failed so badly when it launched last year.


Bloomberg | Dollar Posting Best Month in More Than a Year
The dollar posted its biggest monthly gain in more than a year as unemployment claims fell to the lowest since 2006 before a jobs report forecast to show a sixth month of 200,000-plus gains.

Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
AEI | Dodd-Frank doesn't end 'too big to fail'
The Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to end investors’ perception that the largest financial firms are “too big to fail” (TBTF) and remove the risk that a large institutional failure could create financial instability unless the government protected investors from loss. Four years on, Dodd-Frank has imposed huge regulatory burdens that are sapping economic growth, but it has not ended TBTF or the possibility of taxpayer bailouts.

Market Watch | Fed statement provides fodder for hawks and doves
Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen is an equal opportunity central banker. The statement she crafted containing gifts for both hawks and doves.
WSJ | Economists React to the FOMC Statement: ‘Mixed Messages’
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would scale back its monthly bond purchases to $25 billion and offered a modestly more upbeat assessment of the inflation, jobs and the economy. Economists largely said the announcement came in as expected, but that subtle changes indicate Fed officials see general improvement in the U.S. economy.


Econ Comments & Analysis                                                                                            
Investors | Cut World's Highest Tax Rate To Curb Tax Inversions
The last several months have seen a wave of American companies merging with foreign companies, a process known as "inverting." In effect, inversion is the corporate equivalent of a renunciation of American citizenship. By some estimates, about $250 billion of these deals have been consummated since the start of the year, and another $100 billion could be finalized soon.


Bloomberg | Middle-Wage Employment Moves U.S. Past Fast-Food Jobs
Ryan Kenny has been testing chainsaws for the last seven months and getting paid for it. He’s also among a growing cadre of U.S. middle-income earners.
CNN Money | There are a lot more 50-somethings working 3 jobs
Today, 115,000 people over the age of 55 are working three jobs, according to the Department of Labor. That's a 170% increase from 43,000 in 1994, when the government began keeping these records, and a 60% increase from before the Great Recession in 2006, when there were 73,000 older workers with three jobs.
Market Watch | U.S. employment cost index posts fastest rise since 2008
An index that measures the price of U.S. labor rose in the second quarter at the fastest pace since the fall of 2008, largely because of higher retirement and health-care benefits.
Bloomberg | Jobless Claims in U.S. in Past Month Drop to Eight-Year Low
Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment insurance benefits over the past month than at any time in more than eight years, signaling employers are hanging on to workers as demand improves.

WSJ | Long-Term Unemployed Likely to Return to Job Market, Study Finds
The long-running debate about the causes of America’s high rate of long-term unemployment is far from settled. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research wades into the discussion and its findings fall squarely on the side of those who see the labor market’s woes as a product of a weak business cycle.


CNN Money | No deal: Argentina in default as talks fail
After frantic last minute talks failed to produce a deal late Wednesday, Standard & Poor's deemed the country to be in default on some of its obligations. The change in credit rating could hike Argentina's borrowing costs, and put even more pressure on the country's already-struggling economy.
WSJ | Families Borrow Less for College
In the 2013-14 academic year just ended, the typical family paid 22% of total college costs by borrowing, down from 27% in each of the preceding two school years. These families paid 42% of college costs by using income or savings from the parents and/or student, vs. 38% the year before and 40% in 2011-12, according to the Sallie Mae study, conducted by market-research company Ipsos Public Affairs.