Sectors

There was precious little good news in the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for October. Employment rose by 80,000, less than economists expected, and much less than the 250,000 needed to begin to bring down the unemployment rate significantly.

Back in August, when Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time in history, from AAA to AA+, the Obama administration was disgruntled and fearful of how such a move would impact economic growth. Once the initial shock of the maneuver passed, however, Washington returned to its business-as-usual mentality. Now, however, it seems that this period will be short-lived, as another downgrade is expected.

Citigroup has agreed to pay $285 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was starting to collapse. The Securities and Exchange Commission brought forth the civil action against Citigroup, claiming that investors who bought into the deal (which involved, essentially, stuffing portfolios with risky mortgage — related investments, selling it to unsuspecting customers, and then betting against those investments) had been defrauded. The transaction involved a one-billion dollar portfolio of mortgage-related investments, many of which were handpicked for the portfolio by Citigroup without telling investors of its role or that it had made bets that the investments would fall in value. The SEC says that as investors lost millions, Citigroup made $160 million in fees and profits.

With all the talk of budget cuts in Washington, the average American could be forgiven for thinking that federal spending is, in fact, being reduced. Certainly the chattering classes are pushing the notion hard, arguing that the dawning age of austerity is responsible for the nation’s slow-to-nonexistent economic recovery.

For the so-called “old media,” it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Last week the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press released a survey whose results indicate that 43 percent of Americans now claim to get most of their news from Internet sources.

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