Friday’s announcement of more intervention in the housing mortgage market will result in a deeper, longer, and more painful delay in the inevitable decline in housing prices that are necessary to clear the market. According to the Obama administration, the “broad new initiatives” will help troubled homeowners to refinance their existing mortgages with more favorable affordable ones provided directly by the government. Part of the new program is “meant to temporarily reduce the payments of [those] borrowers who are unemployed [but are] seeking a job.” In addition, the enhancements include inducements to “encourage lenders to write down the value of loans [already] held by borrowers in modification programs.”
The culprits blamed for the failure of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008 included the company’s top executives, their accountants, their highly-leveraged loans that had started going bad, their success at hiding those bad loans by cooking the books, and their lenders demanding more and better collateral, according to Anton Valukas in his 2,200 page report released Thursday.
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke donned his professorial cap and addressed 30 undergraduate students at George Washington University on Tuesday, he claimed it was all in the interest of transparency. According to the New York Times, “The Fed is concerned that it is neither loved nor understood by many Americans, and that public anger could lead to constraints on its powers.”
One of the ways that Whirlpool Corporation celebrated its 100th anniversary last year was to file petitions against two of its main South Korean competitors for “dumping” washing machines onto the market on Black Friday. Whirlpool claimed that Samsung was selling their 3.7 cubic-foot top-loading washing machines at a wholesale price of $363.18, way below the $751.46 Whirlpool says it would cost them to make the same product. Consequently, Samsung and LG Electronics sold thousands of their washers over the Black Friday weekend, taking substantial market share away from Whirlpool.
The Republican Small Business Committee reported on November 8 that small-business optimism “remains extremely low,” and that business owners “simply are not hiring because they are pessimistic about consumer sales, the nation’s economic climate, and the amount of regulations to comply with.” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) added, "The overall mood of the nation’s job creators is still at historic lows. The [Optimism Index of the National Federation of Independent Business] shows that over the next three months, only 9 percent of small business owners plan to increase employment [while] 12 percent plan to lay off workers. These numbers are … worse than the previous two months."
Jeff Jacoby listed some of the reasons he was thankful on Thanksgiving Day in 2003, including the feast on the table, the company of his family and loved ones, the good fortunes enjoyed during the year, the privilege of being an American. But what about such common things taken for granted, like airline schedules, and movie theaters, and recipes in the paper — and the turkey?
Barring a miracle, the Supercommittee will announce Monday morning its failure at coming up with legislation to reduce the projected combined federal budget deficits over 10 years by $1.2 trillion, or $120 billion per year, starting in January 2013. Without enactment of these cuts, under the Budget Control Act the automatic option, called a sequester, will kick in, with $600 billion of the $1.22 trillion in cuts coming from defense spending. Social Security, Medicaid, and other low-income programs are exempt from the cuts, and cuts to Medicare would be modest.
Expressions of joy were muted on Wall Street at Friday's release of the latest report from the Conference Board (CB) showing its Leading Economic Index (LEI) jumping 0.9 percent in October, following just a 0.1 percent gain in September. Economic analysts had a field day trying to read the CB’s tea leaves heading into the Christmas holidays and the new year.
A year ago Dagong Global Credit Rating reduced its rating on the sovereign debt of the United States from AA to A+. In August it dropped it another notch to A. In an interview on Saturday the agency’s chairman, Guan Jianzhong, said it is nearly inevitable that the agency will further reduce its rating of U.S. sovereign debt: "We are continuing to monitor this closely. First of all we need to look at this year’s economic growth [in the US] and then predict next year’s trends. If in the year 2012 the overall projections are not very good, meaning that the sources of payment – and liabilities – are bad and cannot be changed, or change for the worse, then we will lower the rating once again."