The Ticker Quick Views on Politics, Economics and Finance
It wasn't exactly an ultimatum, but it was certainly wrapped in the American flag.
AT&T Inc. Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson yesterday offered to repatriate 5,000 overseas call-center jobs once his company's $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc. went through.READ MORE
Benigno Aquino has proven to be quite adept at tightrope walking in his 14 months as Philippine president.
Scaling the heights of his family legacy -- his mother was president and his opposition-leader father was assassinated -- was the first challenge. Then came balancing the need to clean up a corrupt political system without killing the economy. Juggling infrastructure projects remains quite a feat.READ MORE
The U.S. financial system's foreclosure plumbing is backing up. That's good news for some delinquent mortgage borrowers. It's also likely to prolong the pain in the housing market.
Amid persistent problems with documentation, banks are pulling tens of thousands of loans out of the foreclosure process, putting them back into the pool of merely delinquent loans. The delinquency rate rose to 8.34 percent of all active loans in July, up from 7.78 percent in March, according to data provider LPS Applied Analytics. The foreclosure rate fell to 4.11 percent of all loans, from 4.21 percent in March.READ MORE
For the U.S., 1950 was a far more perilous moment than the present. The world was still digging its way out of the most expansive and destructive war in human history. The U.S. confronted a powerful and provocative foe sworn to its destruction and armed with fast-growing nuclear capabilities. The USSR eagerly probed the globe– Greece, Austria, Iran, Turkey, Germany, Korea – for weak points in a western alliance organized and guaranteed solely by U.S. resolve.
Instead of a crisis of debt, the U.S. faced an existential threat and a self-imposed obligation to counter communist influence and insurgencies from South America to Southeast Asia. The cost of containment would be high. A joint team of analysts from the departments of state and defense recommended an almost fourfold increase in the annual defense budget, from about $13.5 billion to as much as $50 billion.READ MORE
In a March 31 Bloomberg News op-ed, Princeton University economist Alan Krueger predicted that the unemployment rate, then at 8.9 percent, would keep falling. He was wrong -- it rose, and five months later it's still higher at 9.1 percent.READ MORE
The two men who mattered most in India last week made for an eclectic pair: Anna Hazare and Ben Bernanke.
No one can say how Hazare's anti-corruption campaign will ultimately pan out. The hunger strike staged by the self-styled Gandhian catalyzed millions to say "no more." It's now up to politicians in New Delhi to do as they've pledged and end graft.READ MORE
Japanese politicians chose a new prime minister Monday. Yoshihiko Noda wasn't who the nation's 127 million people wanted, and that may augur poorly for prospects for economic change.
Voters wanted Seiji Maehara, the former foreign minister who they hoped might be less beholden to entrenched powerbrokers in Tokyo. Instead, they may be getting the same old, same old. As finance minister, Noda has displayed none of the boldness or fresh thinking Japan so badly needs. Not even a hint, in fact.READ MORE
Anyone looking for some tangible policy prescriptions from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's opening remarks at the Kansas City Fed's Jackson Hole symposium will be sorely disappointed.
Oh, there were policy prescriptions all right -- mostly for the folks who set tax and spending policy. Bernanke recommended a "better process" for making fiscal decisions, including transparent budget goals and enforcement mechanisms. (Compared with the debt-ceiling free-for-all, anything looks like a process.)READ MORE
It was a stunning sight last night as I was driving up Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, evacuating with my family to safer ground as Hurricane Irene made its way up the east coast.
The restaurants were packed along the seven-mile drive from the little town of Beach Haven to the bridge across Manahawkin Bay that leads west to the mainland. Not one building was boarded up. I didn't see a single window all day with storm shutters on it. It was as if the place felt immune, notwithstanding the hurricane watch issued yesterday morning.READ MORE
Tiny Singapore has too much of a good thing on its hands.
Asia's sole AAA-rated economy is on the receiving end of a sudden wave of foreign capital as investors, central banks, currency reserve managers and sovereign wealth funds clamor for safety. Now that Standard & Poor's has yanked away America's top rating, investors fear downgrades are coming elsewhere, too.READ MORE
When Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple Inc.'s chief executive officer yesterday, he left the company rich in cash, innovative products and management wisdom. The company's next leaders should view those legacies as long-lasting but not eternal.
Examples abound of landmark U.S. companies whose founders' presence dominated everyone's thinking years after leaving the stage. Walt Disney Co., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. all passed through stages where successors approached each big decision by asking: "What would Walt (or Bill and Dave, or Sam) do?"READ MORE
One of the critical judgments Warren Buffett made before investing $5 billion in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in September 2008 was that the government would do whatever was necessary to rescue the financial system. It would seem he hasn't wavered in that view, judging from today's news that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. agreed to invest $5 billion in Bank of America Corp. As was the case with the Goldman investment, Berkshire will receive preferred stock and warrants.
Shortly after the Goldman deal, Berkshire also invested $3 billion in General Electric Co. in exchange for preferred stock and warrants. Here's what Buffett said about those decisions, in a May 2010 interview with staff members from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.READ MORE
China's economy is best-known as a manufacturing hub for the rest of the world. But fresh data on worldwide personal computer shipments indicate that the Chinese consumer sector is stirring, too.
The world's largest market for personal computers isn't the U.S. anymore. According to International Data Corp., 18.5 million PCs were shipped for sale in China during the second quarter, topping the U.S.'s 17.7 million. That gives China a 22 percent share of the global PC market.READ MORE
Late Monday afternoon, after word broke on Reuters that Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., had hired Reid Weingarten, the criminal defense attorney with an especially scary list of white-collar clients, Goldman's stock plunged and the firm went into damage control mode.
Goldman issued the following statement: “As is common in such situations, Mr. Blankfein and other individuals who were expected to be interviewed in connection with the Justice Department’s inquiry into certain matters raised in the PSI report, hired counsel at the outset.” (PSI refers to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.)READ MORE
The Congressional Budget Office this morning updated its projections for the U.S. budget deficit, unemployment and economic growth. It's a lot like the weather: Partly cloudy, with a chance of storms ahead. For the deficit, the CBO now estimates the red ink will total $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, down slightly from a previous projection of $1.4 trillion.
A little better, but even so, 2011 would be the third consecutive year of deficits above the trillion-dollar mark. At 8.5 percent of GDP, the deficit would be the third-largest since 1946.READ MORE
The chapter 11 filing this week by the solar-cell manufacturer SpectraWatt Inc., coming on the heels of the bankruptcy of Evergreen Solar Inc., provides easy fodder for those who are cynical about the future of alternative energy.
SpectraWatt couldn't make a go of it despite having been gestated inside Intel Inc. and enjoying the blue-chip backing of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Evergreen, which received tens of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money and aid from its home state of Massachusetts, failed even after deciding in February to save labor costs by moving much of its operation to China. The headlines write themselves: "Obama Green Project Goes Dark."READ MORE
Nothing worries U.S. and European economic policy makers more than "Japanization." The prospect of unending malaise, deflation and waning global relevance has officials pulling out all the stops to avoid the "lost decade" scenario.
Yet such fears aren't without irony. Western economies, the U.S. in particular, couldn't become Japan if they wanted to. And there are indeed ways in which America wishes it could.READ MORE
Maybe the U.S. Treasury Department was onto something when it accused Standard & Poor's of getting its math wrong for downgrading the U.S.'s credit rating.
Check out this quote from today's press release announcing that Deven Sharma, 55, will step down as the ratings company's president next month: "It has been a privilege to serve as the president of S&P and I am proud of what we as an organization have achieved over the past four years. As McGraw-Hill continues its portfolio review, I will work closely with Terry and the leadership team to find ways to create even more shareholder value."READ MORE
Desperate for some positive economic news? Read this: Today's quarterly report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows that banks' finances are improving, the number of troubled banks is declining, bank lending is on the rise and the deposit-insurance fund is positive for the first time in two years.
The FDIC keeps a confidential list of troubled banks -- institutions at risk of collapse. The latest tally counts 865 of the country's 7,513 banks, down 23 from the first quarter of 2011 and the first decline since 2006. The main reason for the turnaround is that banks had set aside $20.9 billion less for nonperforming loans and write-offs. The drop was the largest since the recovery began.READ MORE