Friday, May 25, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/25/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our minds this morning: beaches, barbecues, and the impending three-day weekend. (Er — make that oil prices, Tim Cook and really rich CEOs.)

"Gas Prices Moderately Lower as Driving Season Starts," by Clifford Krauss (New York Times). Some good news to get you in the Memorial Day mood: Gas prices are modestly lower now than they were a year ago, which should make traveling easier for all you weekend road-trippers. Even better, tensions with the Middle East have relaxed, making oil prices less volatile overall. Now for the bad news!

"New Signs of Global Slowdown," by Jon Hilsenrath and Joshua Mitchell (Wall Street Journal). A number of brow-furrowing economic reports dropped this week: U.S. business spending on long-term goods is down, business sentiment in Europe declined, manufacturing around the world dropped off and several international organizations cut their 2012 growth forecasts. “A new economic threat is emerging,” Hilsenrath and Mitchell explain, “… activity is slowing in sync around the globe and not just in a few markets with their own isolated problems.”

"J.P. Morgan Gave Risk Oversight to Museum Head Who Sat on AIG Board," by Dawn Kopecki and Max Abelson (Bloomberg). The guys who oversaw risk at J.P. Morgan are about as qualified for the job as your friendly curator — which is to say, not qualified at all. Of the three, none have worked at banks or as financial risk managers. Only one has Wall Street experience, and it is 25 years (!) out of date.

"Obama Stumbles Out of Gate," by Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei (Politico). The race to the 2012 election is a long one, and things that seem to matter now could fade by November. But there’s no ignoring the fact that President Obama is off to a slow start: Between sluggish fundraising and the Bain back-and-forth, he might lose the edge that Democrats expected.

"CSI: Housing Bust," by Beth Raymer (The Atlantic). While your friendly curator doubts that Digital Risk boasts the theme music and cheesy punchlines of a primetime crime show, the company’s work is pretty intriguing. Analysts there look for evidence of bust-era fraud — as in the case of a Las Vegas man who applied for 15 mortgages in a week, or a Michigan woman who refinanced her house five times in five years (and didn’t tell her lender she didn’t have a job).

"The Choice" (The Economist). While the “Grexit” was on everyone else’s minds, The Economist dreamt up another solution to Europe’s fiscal woes: a semi-federalist “superstate,” where countries rely on each other more than they do now. (What horrible portmanteau can we devise for this? The Euperstate, perhaps?) 

"How Tim Cook is Changing Apple," by Adam Lashinsky (Fortune). Apple’s new CEO worked in an Alabama paper mill, eats in the company cafeteria, and cares far more about investors than Steve Jobs did. 

Johns Hopkins Commencement Speech,” by Tim Geithner. Treasury Secretary Geithner talked economic recovery, Barack Obama and public image to graduates at the Nitze School. An excerpt: “If you are going to make a difference, especially in public life, you need to be willing to get close to the flame. You need to be willing to take risk and feel the heat … There was no precedent and no playbook available to any of us, other than the graveyard of mistakes from other crises. But we knew we had to act.”

And in other news: Jack White could teach econ 101, the FTC has its eyes on your POM, people rob banks to pay for dentures, and the country’s highest-paid CEO made — wait for it! — $137.2 million last year.

Happy reading, Tumblers!