For the past three years, stock markets have been either placid or up. That is especially true of U.S. stocks, but global markets have largely followed suit. Bonds have been similarly subdued. Over the past two weeks, that calm has been shattered.
Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former CEO and one of the largest shareholders of the American International Group, claims that the $180-billion federal bailout of AIG in 2008 actually cost AIG shareholders tens of billions of dollars.
The gathering of delegates in New York last week for the latest and likely futile installment of climate talks at the United Nations prompted a new round of familiar questions: Why have the governments of the world so far been unable to stem climate change?
The recent news of the opening of an independent bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was greeted with surprise and delight, since a neighborhood once flush with such stores had become a retail book desert. The opening coincides with the relocation of the Bank Street Bookstore near Columbia University, leading the New York Times to declare, “Print is not dead yet — at least not on the Upper West Side.”
Five years after the worst of the financial crisis, subprime loans are creeping back, this time primarily in the form of auto loans. As U.S. auto sales have surged, credit standards have moved lower, with more than a quarter of all auto financing now classified as subprime.
This past week marked the annual gathering of bankers, financial officials, and other economic experts hosted by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. On Friday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi both spoke; in a slow week for the markets, these speeches received the bulk of the econ media’s attention, and Yellen’s remarks were heralded for days as the week’s major financial event.
Six years after the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008–2009, the best that can be said about the public mood in the United States is that people are no longer catastrophically pessimistic. Instead, they are deeply pessimistic.
n July 30, Argentina failed to make a payment on some of its outstanding sovereign debt. Which means that for the second time since 2001, Argentina has done what is increasingly rare for sovereign countries in the world today: defaulted on its debt.
ast week Citigroup finally reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over shoddy mortgage securities transactions in the years immediately before the 2008–2009 financial crisis. The bank agreed to pay $7 billion. That follows a $13 billion settlement paid last year by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and comes just as Bank of America is negotiating a settlement with the Justice Department sure to top $12 billion.
ashington politics may be considerably calmer than in recent summers (remember the crisis and credit downgrade of 2011?). But there remain simmering tensions looking only for an appropriate outlet. Over the past few weeks, the normally quiet Export-Import Bank, whose existence is likely a mystery to the vast majority of citizens, has become that outlet.
In the coming weeks, the new government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—elected with a huge mandate and parliamentary majority in May—will release its first budget. Modi campaigned on a program of radically reforming the Indian economy, and this budget—and indeed his entire economic program—is hotly anticipated.
In the past few months, stock markets around the world have continued to rally modestly while bond yields around the world have continued their quiet decline. This is not what most expected, especially after December, when the Federal Reserve began paring back its hypereasy money policy of “quantitative easing.”
Twenty-five years ago, China made a choice. Rather than embrace the demands for greater political openness emanating from the students and protesters camped in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the leadership of the Communist Party decided to crush the protests with lethal force on June 4, 1989, leading to hundreds and perhaps thousands of deaths.
Interest rates have been falling once again. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury, which acts as a global benchmark of sorts, dipped as low as 2.44 percent last week, which is well below where rates began the year—and lower than at most points throughout the 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st.* At no point between 1961 and 2011 were rates as low as they are now, and for most of that time, the yield on the 10-year was above 6 percent.
n a Reuters poll out this week, most economists say they are expecting more robust inflation this year, to the tune of 2 percent. The poll accurately reflects the plethora of emails from research firms in my inbox—a slowly building chorus predicting rising prices along with an uptick in overall economic activity.
Airbnb and the New York Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that they had reached an agreement on a months-long conflict over Airbnb hosts in the state. Under the terms of the agreement, Airbnb will hand over "anonymized" data stripped of names, email addresses, apartment numbers, and other personally identifiable information. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will have a year to weed out hosts in violation of local laws and can require Airbnb to disclose the identities of those with suspicious activity.
By a significant margin, economists are feeling optimistic about the year ahead. In a recent survey conducted by USA Today, a large majority said that they expect wages to climb this year, after five years during which there has been hardly any growth at all.
The largest company you’ve never heard of is about to become a publicly traded U.S. company. After months of heated speculation within the financial world, Alibaba filed papers to list its shares in the United States. Its possible size? Somewhere between $150 billion and $200 billion dollars.
t hasn’t been a great week for Airbnb. On Tuesday representatives of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and lawyers for the apartment sublet company Airbnb met in an Albany court. At issue is a broad subpoena issued by the New York AG last fall, demanding that Airbnb turn over information about its “hosts” (those who list their apartments) in the belief that thousands of them are in violation of the law by acting as de facto unregistered hotels. Airbnb has challenged the subpoena on the grounds that it constitutes an invasion of privacy of the thousands of people who use its service. Then, on Wednesday, the San Francisco city attorney brought suit against two local landlords, alleging that they illegally evicted residents in order to convert residential housing into short-term rentals advertised on Airbnb and similar services.
Last weekend the New York Times published its annual list of executive compensation, with Oracle’s Larry Ellison topping the charts at $78.4 million (and Disney’s Bob Iger in a distant second, at $34.3 million). Pay packages have increased by an average of 9 percent since 2012, continuing a steady and spectacular rise even as average wages in the United States and throughout much of the developed world have stagnated.
In the wake of last week’s job report, there has been a flurry of new debate about what precisely is keeping job creation in the United States so anemic.The pivotal issue is whether the challenges facing the job market are cyclical or structural. The cyclical hypothesis is that we are still suffering an employment hangover from the financial crisis and sharp recession of 2008–09, made worse by limp or insufficient government responses.
The publication this week of Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys has led to a heated debate about the role of high-frequency trading in today’s global financial markets. The most contentious spark was Lewis’ claim on 60 Minutes that the prevalence of such trading means that our markets are “rigged,” an accusation that touched a nerve and set off a furious series of discussions in the past few days.
Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen held her first press conference, where just a few brief words managed to upend the financial markets. When asked about the possible timing of raising short-term interest rates, she explained that there would be a “considerable period” between the end of the bond buying program—currently being wound down at a rate of $10 billion a month—and an increase in rates. What’s “a considerable period”? Nothing too specific, maybe “about six months.”
very month, we are greeted with trade figures released by the Census Bureau. Over the past decade in particular, those figures have taken on added weight, largely because of the reported trade deficit with China. Month after month, that figure has grown, with barely a pause. In January, the reported deficit with China was a bit under $28 billion.
The latest edition of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report is out, and it shows that, statistically speaking, the U.S. added 175,000 new jobs in February and its unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.7 percent. The insta-reaction world greeted the report as better news than expected.
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