[WBAI’s still fundraising; if you haven’t, please think of donating here, specifying Behind the News as your favorite show. Management changes at the station are the most hopeful thing that’s happened there in years. This week’s show ran only on KPFA, thus the Saturday date. Full audio of show here.] Mostly a mixed bag of economic news lately. First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell by 12,000 last week, but the count of those continuing to draw benefits, which comes with a week’s delay, rose by 75,000. This continues the pattern we’ve been seeing recently,… Read More
Green shoots…shot? Some trouble lately for the “green shoots of recovery” thesis. Early in the week, we learned that retail sales fell by an unexpectedly large 1.1% in March, or 0.9% if you leave out autos. Sales had been up modestly in recent months, after plunging sharply late last year—in fact, while Wall Street loves to look at monthly changes, the year-to-year declines were about the steepest on record. So this big decline punched a hole in hopes that the economy might be bottoming out. But since it’s virtually certain that the American economy… Read More
The Financial Times has a piece today about the Swedish bank bailout. Here’s a nice quote. You couldn’t imagine a sharper contrast with the American approach: Arne Berggren, the finance ministry official responsible for bank restructuring, is blunt about the approach he took. It was clear from the outset that the government would act as a commercial investor, demanding equity stakes in return for capital. “We were a no-bullshit investor – we were very brutal,” he says. The authorities also insisted on control. “You take command. If you put in equity, you have to… Read More
So Obama tells Geithner to do something, anything, to make sure the gov can get back the AIG bonuses. Who knows if this is real or a pose? I’m now leaning towards the latter, especially after getting this from a friend who works at a hedge fund: In the financial industry, reneging on contracts is, not quite SOP, but certainly not rare. From the company’s perspective, two things can happen. One, the employee eats the default. Free money. Two, he (more rarely, her) has a lawyer call you. At that point, you… Read More
The economic news continues to be bad, quite bad. On Thursday we learned that the number of new applications for unemployment insurance rose a sharp 36,000, and the number of people continuing to received jobless benefits rose by 114,000, also a sharp rise. While neither figure is at record levels when taken as a percentage of the labor force—by those measures, things still aren’t as bad as they were in the recessions of the mid-1970s and early 1980s—they’ve nonetheless been rising steeply and relentlessly. That rise is now very close to breaking the 1974… Read More
It was predicted in this space just two weeks ago: “Obama to coddle bankers.” Now we’ve got official confirmation of this from one of the prime coddle-ees: Citigroup. An analysis of the Treasury’s plan produced by two Citi analysts, Ryan O’Connell and Jerry Dorost, begins with this headline: New Treasury Stress Test Guidelines Do Not Appear Onerous and continues in this vein. The plan is “bank-friendly and investor-friendly.” The goal is to increase bank capital “while minimizing the amount and duration of any government’s direct ownership of common stock.” The stress tests aren’t very stresssful,… Read More
Emily Dickinson once advised: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.” Evidently the New York Times’ headline writers are taking advice from the enigmatic poet. The headline on the story on how the Obama administration will be going easy on banks and bankers getting bailout money blamed it all on the Treasury Secretary: “Geithner Said to Have Prevailed on the Bailout.” In internal administration battles, Geithner “successfully fought against” stricter rules on executive pay, and beat back the attempts to replace top maangement. Of course, to say that Geithner won these… Read More
Tomorrow will bring the unveiling of the Obama administration’s overhaul of the Henry “Hank” Paulson bank bailout, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). [Apply for funds here.] From the leaks emerging, it looks like a significant portion of the scheme will amount to this: the government will lend money to hedge funds and the like at subsidized rates to buy toxic assets from banks – and the gov will guarantee the investors against losses. Evidently, the administration thinks the toxic assets are being underpriced by the markets. If they’re right, the buyers will make… Read More
How about that for bipartisanship? All that seduction from our new president, sweetened with tax cuts and lubricated with cocktails at the White House, and still the stimulus package didn’t get a single Republican vote in the House. They won’t play bipartisan. They’re stubborn as hell and stick to their cretinous principles. You’ve got to respect them for that. It may be because they have some principles, as nutty as they can be. Meanwhile, the infrastructure component of the stimulus bill has shrunk, and is really not up to the task. According… Read More
No recovery til 2010? Obama rewards failure. Daewoo gets some free land.
More bad news – but some cultural comfort?
Even more signs of economic weakening; inspiring appointments by Mr Changiness, eh?
Stinky economy, flawed bailout.