Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What We’re Reading, 6/5/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our agendas this morning: emergency conference calls, Wall Street’s best-paid CEO, and the economics of starting a donut empire.

"G7 Hold Emergency Eurozone Talks," by Quentin Pell, Peter Spiegel, Guy Dinmore and Mure Dickie (Financial Times). Your friendly curator has never known a conference call to help with much of anything, but finance ministers from the G7 countries convened via phone line today to discuss the European crisis. By all accounts, little came of it. (Surprise!) The same cannot be said of talks between German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso — Merkel announced in a press conference that Germany will at last allow some wiggle room in pooling European debt. The Central Bank is also dreaming up ways to draw Europe closer together.

"Europe’s Fade Becomes a Drag on Sales for U.S. Companies," by Nathaniel Popper (New York Times). No one buys Mac Books and Chevys when the proverbial sky is falling down. That, unfortunately, can also impact U.S. companies and their investors: Cisco, Dell, Netapp and a number of other U.S. firms have already reported a drop in European sales.

"Lower Oil Price Offers U.S. Consumers Hope," by Gregory Meyer and Robin Harding (Financial Times). “Hope” is a word we don’t often see in financial headlines — but oil prices are down 17% in the past month, and that could give both consumers and the overall economy a boost.

"Bitter Wisconsin Recall Race in Voters’ Hands," by Bob Secter (Chicago Tribune). It’s showdown day in Wisconsin, arguably the most polarized state in the country. If you’re not up on the brutal recall election, AP has an FAQ.

"Wall Street CEO Pay Rises 20% with KKR’s Kravis No. 1," by Laura Marcinek and Nikolaj Gammeltoft (Businessweek). Henry Roberts Kravis made $30 million last year — which is, for perspective, about 1/26th the value of the entire Tumblrverse. CEOs saw a 20% pay raise overall, down from 26% in 2010. Ah, how the other half lives!

"How Bank of America Execs Hid Losses — In Their Own Words," by Cora Currier (ProPublica). Shareholders filed suit against Bank of America on Sunday, demanding to know if executives lied about the bank’s losses before it acquired Merrill Lynch in 2008. Lots of skeletons are shaking out, and ProPublica has kindly gathered them up.

"The Last Days of MF Global," by Peter Elkind and Doris Burke (Fortune). MF Global suffered the eighth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history … and we couldn’t even put a ranking on the broker’s infamy.

"Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie," by Michael Lewis (Princeton.edu). Alright, we’re veering from finance a bit — but renowned economics writer Michael Lewis will the commencement speech at Princeton today, and his remarks are really worth reading. A sample: “The ‘Moneyball’ story has practical implications. If you use better data, you can find better values; there are always market inefficiencies to exploit, and so on. But it has a broader and less practical message: don’t be deceived by life’s outcomes.”

And in other news: Apple phones will soon lose Google maps, beautiful people really do have it all, and you too can start a donut empire.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What We’re Reading, 6/1/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our minds as we wrap up the short week: Job numbers, the long-term unemployed, and George H.W. Bush’s questionable taste in socks.

"U.S. Added 69,000 Jobs in May; Jobless Rate at 8.2%," by Shaila Dewan (New York Times). The new jobs numbers are out, and they’re far worse than anyone expected. The unemployment rate is up very narrowly, from 8.1%, new jobs fell to 69,000, and The Labor Department revised its April jobs number down, from a measly 115,000 to a measlier 77,000. Analysts suspect all these ups and downs could have more to do with number-crunching flukes and euro fears than with the actual U.S. economy. In either case, it will take many years to close the jobs gap. Perspective: Euro-zone unemployment just hit 11%!

"Back to Work" (Businessweek). We rarely recommend photo stories, but Businessweek’s latest cover package is a must-view: The magazine sent photographers to follow 17 long-term unemployed people, from lawyers to poker dealers, as they return to work. 

"For Many Teens, Summer Jobs May Be Thing of the Past," by April Fehling (NPR). Your friendly curator wishes she had the “it’s the economy” excuse when her mother made her get a summer job at the ripe age of 14. In either case, kids these days might not have a choice: Teen employment is expected to hit a new post-World War II low. Last year it was 29.6%, down from more than 50% in 2001.

"U.S. Steps Up Pressure on Europe to Resolve Euro Crisis," by David Jolly (New York Times). Circling around from one crisis to another, President Obama renewed pressure on German, French and Italian leaders to get their respective economic acts together. He’s not the only one. In Greece, multinational companies are changing contracts and moving cash reserves to prepare for the worst. In Brussels, the European Central Bank pushed for a joint guarantee on bank deposits. Sounds like these guys could use a long weekend.

"Anatole Kaletsky on A New Capitalism" (The Browser). Anatole Kaletsky (econ consultant, Times columnist, all-around pro commentator) goes long on the context and history of Europe’s economic crisis. If you’re looking for some light summer reading, he also suggests five books on modern capitalism. Beach reads, if you will! 

Further #longreads for your weekend:

"The Amazon Effect," by Steve Wasserman (The Nation). Jeff Bezos hasn’t just changed the way you read books and watch movies — he’s also wrecked the brick-and-mortar book business and revolutionized online retail.

"Tyrone Gilliams: Ivy League Scam Artist," by Stephen Fried (Philadelphia). Ordained minister, UPenn grad and Philadelphia golden boy Tyrone Gilliams is charged with running a complex Ponzi scheme.

And in other news: Men do in fact have cooties (according to science!), Spanish banks will do anything to keep your money, and George H.W. Bush has weird taste in socks.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/22/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re talking about for Tuesday: Facebook, the cult of Glass-Steagal, and what the Greek gods would think about their country’s present woes.

"As Facebook’s Stock Struggles, Fingers Start Pointing," by Michael de la Merced, Evelyn Rusli and Susanne Craig (New York Times). Facebook’s third day of trading is off to a rough start — so rough, in fact, that investors are agitating to know who’s to blame. The most likely candidate? Morgan Stanley, the IPO’s lead banker, though Nasdaq and Facebook are also taking some heat.

"Obama Keeps Bain in His Crosshairs," by Laura Meckler (Wall Street Journal). Speaking of heat, Obama continues to attack Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, even as his allies condemn the attacks. Your friendly curator likes this tweet from Slate’s Matt Yglesias: “Bain debate is the perfect lazy pundit’s controversy, all affect with no policy content.” (We’re on the record as pro-private equity, in case you wondered.)

"Rivals Go to Lunch on J.P. Morgan’s Losses," by Gregory Zuckerman and Lisa Rappaport (Wall Street Journal). Someone’s enjoying Jamie Dimon’s downfall — and I don’t mean all the finance reporters fiendishly covering this beat. J.P. Morgan’s loss will benefit a dozen banks, including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, to the tune of $500 million or $1 billion. 

"Reinstating an Old Rule is Not a Cure for Crisis," by Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times). Call it the cult of Glass-Steagal: Thousands of people, including Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, have idolized the Depression-era law they think could have stopped the financial crisis. Sorkin’s take? “The facts — basic facts — just aren’t that convenient.”

"Once Made in China: Jobs Trickle Back to U.S. Plants," by James Hagerty (Wall Street Journal). Outsourcing — what outsourcing? A number of manufacturers are finding they can make and sell goods more cheaply in the U.S. (But don’t celebrate yet. The impact on job creation has been minimal.)

"The Cost of College," by Nicholas Lemann (New Yorker). On the economics of American higher education, where too many schools compete for students, too much money is spent on failing programs, and — according to Lemann — too little tuition is charged at top schools.

"George Romney for President, 1968," by Benjamin Wallace-Wells (New York). We’ve already dug through the candidates’ pasts, dredged up their high school dramas, and examined their tax records, which leaves only … psychoanalysis! Wallace-Wells’ long read on George Romney’s failed presidential run examines not only the elder Romney and the ‘68 campaign, but how it might have impacted Mitt.

"Go Small: Why Washington Must Give Up the Illusion of a Grand Bargain," by David Gordon and Sean West (The Atlantic). The argument for small, practical compromises over wide-sweeping meetings of the mind.

"Boomers and Millennials: Who’s Got It Worse in the Workplace?" By Matthew Philips (Businessweek). Your friendly curator doesn’t want to spoil the big surprise, but let’s put it this way — some boomers still have pensions.

And in other news (there’s a lot today!): Video game consoles account for one percent of all energy use in the U.S., some Congress members are only slightly smarter than fifth graders, Mark Zuckerberg lost $2 billion on Facebook’s second day of trading, Fortune now has a “Fantasy Executive League,” for the really nerdy among us, and the Hairpin imagines how the Greek gods would react to that country’s current crisis.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Friday, May 18, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/18/12

Happy Friday, Tumblr! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Today’s list is getting up a little late, courtesy the Facebook IPO — but since the weekend’s almost here, please cut your curator some slack.

On our radar today: Facebook, Facebook and … more Facebook! If we played the Facebook IPO drinking game, we’d all be pretty buzzed.

"Facebook Falls Near to IPO Price," by Jacob Bunge, Jenny Strasburg and Ryan Dezember (Wall Street Journal). It would have been hard for Facebook’s first day of trading to live up to the hype that proceeded it. But even by lower standards, this launch felt a little “meh” — shares opened at $42 and closed at $38.16, just a bit above their Thursday offering price. 

"For Average Investors, Long Odds on a Big Facebook Payday," by Nathaniel Popper (New York Times). The little guys who got in on Facebook probably shouldn’t expect big returns. (Hey, that’s what we said about IPOs!)

"How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked the Valley," by Brad Stone and Douglas MacMillan (Businessweek). Facebook hasn’t just changed the way we use the Internet, keep up with friends and creep on old acquaintances. The social network’s unconventional business strategies may also change the way tech start-ups operate. In the words of Stone and Macmillan, “Zuckerberg and his crew have made a series of high-risk moves … that were far more daring than wearing a hoodie to an IPO roadshow.”

"Facebook’s Growth and Reach at a Glance," by Avie Schneider and Melanie Taube (NPR). The infographic gurus at NPR have come up with a fascinating look at Facebook’s financial history. Fun fact: None of the cities with the most Facebook users are in the United States. 

"Facebook IPO Makes Zuckerberg Richer Than Google Founders," by David De Jong and Devon Pendleton (Bloomberg). Mark Zuckerberg is now the 29th-richest person on Earth — a ranking that makes your friendly curator wonder who the heck cracks the top 10. The company’s other co-founders, Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin, will also become billionaires.

And in other (Facebook) news: PC Mag rounds up 10 very strange things that cost the same amount as Facebook stock and the Huffington Post has launched a “Tech Bubble Death Watch" — worth it for the jokes alone.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/19/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re discussing in the break room today: campaign debts, the ethics of Target, and the post-cubicle office.

"The Business of Ending a Presidential Campaign," by Julie Bykowicz (Businessweek). Santorum ended his campaign with $1 million in debt. Hillary Clinton still owes nearly half a million dollars on her presidential run. While candidates may fade from the public spotlight, their expenses live on long after someone else has won.

"Closing the Gender Gap," by Margaret Talbot (New Yorker). "What do women want? Didn’t Mel Gibson answer that?" Jokes magazine writer Susannah Snider (who, your friendly curator is pleased to announce, recently made the jump from mag reporter). Jokes and congratulations aside, ladies tend to lean Democratic — and the Romney campaign is struggling to determine how to reach them. 

"The Inequality Obsession, by Holman Jenkins (Wall Street Journal). Nary a day goes by when we don’t see a headline about the 1% and 99% — heck, we post a lot of them on this Tumblr. Jenkins claims it’s reached the level of cultural obsession. “I never thought about it that way,” said Kip.com’s social media guru, Amanda Lilly. “I also love the part where he asks why we’re so concerned with ‘getting even’ with the 1%, rather than improving everyone’s opportunities.”

"Mitt Romney, American Parasite," by Pete Kotz (VIllage Voice). Kotz’s colorful long read on Romney’s work at Bain Capital unearths, in his words, “everything you hate about capitalism.” (In related news, Nate Silver thinks Romney’s poor favorability ratings don’t really matter in the long run.)

"Are All Mega-Chains the Same?" By David Sirota (Salon). When Sirota asks if all chains are the same, he’s not talking about quality — we all know Trader Joe’s has better hummus than Wal-Mart. Rather, he’s curious about their effects on labor unions, small business and the local economy, the issues of so-called “ethical consumers.” 

"Insurance-Coverage Gaps for 48 Million Americans in 2011," by Louise Radnofsky (Wall Street Journal). A new study finds that one in four working-age adults suffered a gap in health insurance coverage last year. “This cuts right to the heart of universal health care,” says magazine reporter John Miley. “There are such huge numbers of people who go uninsured. The study began a year ago — it makes you wonder what things look like today.”

"Talks With Instagram Suggest a $104 Billion Valuation for Facebook," by Evelyn Rusli (New York Times). A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? $104 billion. 

And in other news: Some companies are killing cubicles to save cash, Justin Peters wonders why there aren’t more beards in politics, office drinking didn’t end in the Mad Men days, and a group in D.C. is trying to give workaholics a break — by organizing events like pie-throwing parties. (“I really like this, minus the pie in the face,” says mag writer Susannah Snider. “I prefer cake.”)

What are you reading?

Monday, April 16, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/16/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar for Monday: income inequality, the yuan, and what IRS commissioner Doug Shulman has to do with Macy Gray.

"Buffett Rule or Not, Most Rich People Already Pay," by Richard Rubin (Businessweek). Rubin runs the numbers on Obama’s “Buffett Rule,” a tax reform that Congress will vote on (and likely vote against) today. An interesting sample: “The median effective tax rate for the middle 20 percent of U.S. taxpayers is 13.3 percent, including income, payroll, and corporate taxes. The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a median rate of 29.6 percent.”

"Inequality 101: The Picket Fence and the Staircase," by John Cassidy (The New Yorker). Income inequality is hardly a new issue, but John Cassidy sure can turn a phrase.  ”No one writes and reports in a prettier way than the scribes at the New Yorker,” says Letter editor Ken Bazinet. Bottom line: “There is income disparity in this country and a deep need for tax reform.”

"Traders Greet China’s New Yuan With a Yawn," by Kevin Carmichael (The Globe and Mail). China loosened controls on its currency last week, allowing its value to move a bit more with the market’s. But so far, the impact has been … underwhelming. (Kudos to the headline-writer at the Globe and Mail.)

"Declining as a Manufacturer, Japan Weighs Reinvention," by Martin Fackler (New York Times). As political discourse in the U.S. shifts toward more manufacturing, Japan — with its aging population and long-declining industrial sector — is moving away from it.

"Bank of New York Case Tests IRS Power to Halt Foreign Tax Abuses," by Megan Murphy, Vanessa Houlder and Jeff Gerth (ProPublica). Several banks used abusive tax shelters called STARS to deny the government some $1 billion in tax revenue. Now the IRS is bringing a case that could determine how the government deals with tricky corporate tax planning in the future.

Speaking of taxes, tomorrow is tax day — and to mark it, NPR asked IRS commissioner Doug Shulman for his favorite motivational jams. Fifty thousands dollars will buy you a spot in Mitt Romney’s “inaugural retreat.” (Or will it?) And to round out the reads for your Monday morning, some lawyers now score a whopping $873 an hour. Yes, your curator regrets her career choice, too.

What are you reading today?

Friday, April 13, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/13/12

Happy Friday, Tumblers! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Here’s what we have on tap for Friday.

"Student Loan Debt a Growing Threat to the Economy," by Becky Yerak (Chicago Tribune). Americans owe $870 billion in student loans — far more than auto loans and credit card loans. Could this be “America’s next mortgage-style economic crisis”?

"In Cash Push, Two Campaigns Likely to Reject Public Funds," by Nicholas Confessore (New York Times). Both Romney and Obama are on track to raise more money than ever before. 

"The Draperizing of Mitt Romney," by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman (Politico). Your friendly curator is mostly pleased that “Draper” has become a verb. Aside from that wonderful bit of pop culture wordplay, this is an important look at how Democrats are casting their GOP opponent.

"Taxed by the Boss," by David Cay Johnston (Reuters). At major corporations like Goldman Sachs, General Motors and General Electric, a portion of withheld state taxes go to the company — not the government. It’s a scheme meant to sweeten business in the state. But Johnston writes that it also typifies “corporate socialism, in which business gains are privatized and costs socialized.”

"Tax Day: 1040 Reasons You Should Know Nina Olson," by Mark Trumbull (Christian Science Monitor). An intriguingly personal look at the IRS’s taxpayer advocate, who knits, “dabbles” in textile design, and does her own tax returns (!).

And to end, as we always do, on a slightly lighter note: Businessweek says you should drink at work (editors, are you reading this?), pizza sales are up in the U.S., and a New Jersey couple sued their landlord — claiming the house is haunted.

What are you reading today?

Friday, April 6, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/6/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our iPads and in our inboxes today: the March jobs report, how Americans spend their money, and a pawn shop for millionaires.

"U.S. Added Only 120,000 Jobs in March, Report Shows," by Christine Hauser (New York Times). Without a doubt the biggest news of the day: The economy added a disappointing 120,000 jobs last month, compared with 240,000 in February. The unemployment rate’s also down narrowly, from 8.3 percent to 8.2 percent. If you’re looking for more context, check out the Wall Street Journal’s excellent live blog, which rounds up reaction and analysis. (Plus charts! We love charts.) Social media maven Amanda Lilly flags this post on unemployment myths.

"Romney Using Ethics Exception to Limit Disclosure of Bain Holdings," by Tom Hamburger (The Washington Post). Romney appeased some of his critics when he released his tax returns in February. But we still don’t know the underlying assets in his accounts at Bain Capital — and a loophole in disclosure requirements mean we probably never will. (Interesting follow-up: Obama has taken to Twitter over this story.)

"The People Vs. The IRS," by Elizabeth Dwoskin (Businessweek). The tax code is four times as long as War and Peace, and getting more complicated by the year. “For the majority of taxpayers, the IRS has become faceless, nameless, with no accountability and no liability,” says advocate Nina Olson. Dwoskin’s long read looks into why dealing with the IRS is so daunting.

"How America Spends Money: 100 Years in the Life of the Family Budget," by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). “And I thought I spent too much money on food and clothing,” says magazine writer Lisa Gerstner. “In 1900, more than half the family budget went to those two things.”

"A Look Inside a Foxconn Factory" (Marketplace). If you’re still following the fall-out from Mike Daisy’s Apple story, there’s no better place than Marketplace’s ongoing Foxconn series. Here, Rob Schmitz — the guy who outed Daisy in the first place — visits a Foxconn factory and reports on its (actual, unexaggerated) working conditions.

Finally, some Friday fare: Business Insider has this crazy infographic on how birth order impacts your money habits, and Yahoo reports on a "high-end pawn shop … for the 1%."