Thursday, May 17, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/17/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radars this fine Thursday: a boatload of stuff about tomorrow’s Facebook IPO. (Plus more bad news from J.P. Morgan and Justin Bieber, the investor.)

"Facebook Insiders Boost Plans to Cash Out in IPO," by Shayndi Raice, Anupreeta Das and Lynn Cowan (Wall Street Journal). Well, this looks less than promising! Just days after Facebook raised its expected IPO price range, some of the company’s biggest investors announced plans to sell as much as half their stakes.

"Facebook: The Ultimate Dot-Com," by John Cassidy (New Yorker). The dream of the nineties is alive in Facebook, which Cassidy considers the quintessential “dot-com.” “The bursting of the bubble discredited the term ‘dot-com,’ which was understandable but, in a way, unfortunate, because the term itself had come to be the expression of an attitude that saw in online communication and online commerce boundless possibilities,” he writes. “Facebook’s I.P.O. represents a return to that mindset.”

"The Mystery of the Vanishing IPO," by Matthew Yglesias (Slate). Between 1980 and 2000, an average of 311 companies went public per year. Since 2000, that number’s dropped to 102. Blame start-up culture, Yglesias argues — it’s not what it was 15 years ago.

"J.P. Morgan’s Trading Loss Is Said to Rise at Least 50%," by Nelson Schwartz and Jessica Silver-Greenberg (New York Times). That puts the loss at $3 billion or more, for those of you who are counting. The White House reacted with a call for tougher reforms

"Experts Try to Chart Path for Exit from Currency," by Gabrielle Steinhauser (Wall Street Journal). Europe’s abuzz with rumors that Greece may drop the euro and return to a local currency. But here’s the big question: Is that legally possible? And if it is, can Greece bow out without further wrecking its economy? (Answers on both counts: Probably not.)

"What Mitt Romney Is Really Worth," by Edwin Durgy (Forbes). In short, roughly $230 million. (Perspective: That would buy 6.4 million shares of Facebook, or 19 million Etch A Sketches.)

"Ted Sarandos’ High-Stakes Gamble to Save Netflix," by Nick Summers (Newsweek). Netflix has seen plenty of drama over the last few years, as controversial decisions by CEO Reed Hastings caused customers to flee and share prices to plummet. But the company’s chief content officer plans to save Netflix with a different kind of drama — risky, big-budget, all-star original programming, of the kind you usually see on HBO.

"Google Revamps Search with Massive ‘Real World Map of Things,’" by Ryan Singel (Wired). Your friendly curator was casually Googling Game of Thrones last night when she chanced upon a strange, picture-based results page. Lo and behold, Google’s launched a new widget that it thinks will map the relationships between results — and change the way we search.

"Pinterest Raises $100 Million with $1.5 Billion Valuation," by Pui-Wing Tam (Wall Street Journal). Facebook? Old news! Picture-sharing site Pinterest raised a whopping $100 million in its latest financing round.

In other news: In Zimbabwe, a bus ticket runs about 100-trillion dollars; in the Bay Area, Facebook’s upcoming IPO packs upscale restaurants and boutiques; in Hollywood, Justin Bieber sings, dances, makes pre-teens cry … and, apparently, invests; and finally, across the Internet, caffeine addicts rejoice over research claiming that coffee might actually help us live longer. (Says mag writer Susannah Snider: “Thank goodness!”)

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/2/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Our top picks for Wednesday: Fundraising, Wall Street, and love letters from Obama.

"Obama’s Not-So-Hot Date with Wall Street," by Nicholas Confessore (New York Times). By January 2008, Obama had raised $7 million from Wall Street. Fast-forward four years, and he raised only a fraction of that amount. Confessore quotes a top Romney bundler, talking about banks: “Most of them are scared stiff of the president … including the ones on our side.”

"Money, Power and Wall Street" (Frontline). The last part of PBS’ much-feted financial documentary aired yesterday, and all four episodes are now available online. If you’re not the documentary type, the accompanying timeline of the meltdown and the live chat on stopping it are also worth checking out.

"How Elite Colleges Still Feed Wall Street’s Recruiting Machine," by Laura Newland (New York Times). Newland graduated from Duke in 2010, landed a “coveted offer” on Wall Street, and walked away from it all — a response to a culture she calls “toxic.” Her reasoning: If we want Wall Street to change, students and universities have to change first.

"Is Gen Y’s Live-at-Home Lifestyle Killing the Housing Market?" By J. Maureen Henderson (Forbes). In a nutshell, yes — a phenomenon that plenty of outlets have written up before. But Henderson argues that greater cultural shifts among young people might also effect the market long-term: “If the housing industry is waiting for Millennials to get back on their financial feet and take their rightful place as America’s next generation of homeowners, they might be in for a surprise,” she writes.

"Becoming Obama," by David Maraniss (Vanity Fair). The Internet is abuzz with gossip from Obama’s youth — thanks largely to an ex-girlfriend, who surfaced all kinds of letters, poems and journal entries from his twenties. Your friendly curator hopes none of her exes are ever so inclined.

"Big Maconomics: How McDonald’s Explains the World," by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). Lessons in innovation, currency valuation and marcoeconomics — courtesy everyone’s favorite late-night snack!

"IamA Nobel Prize-Winning Economist and New York Times Columnist," by Paul Krugman (Reddit). Krugman departed the Ivory Tower of his popular econ blog and treated the masses to a lengthy Reddit Q&A yesterday. Of note: His favorite “minor innovation” is the self-flushing toilet, which “has made life significantly less disgusting.” Times economic policy reporter Annie Lowrey also did a great Reddit session last month.

And in other news: Hillary Clinton shot down Jason Segel, some California college students have launched a hunger strike to protest rising costs, and some Occupy protesters planned to take their complaints all the way … to a series of Lower East Side nightclubs.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Friday, March 23, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/23/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round-up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Making the office rounds this morning: Jim Yong Kim, energy independence, and a very good day for Etch a Sketch.

"First Responder," by Kai Falkenberg (Forbes). This morning, President Obama tapped Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim to run the World Bank — a surprise pick to many, and an unknown name to some. Here, your Jim Yong Kim primer: A profile that Forbes ran last November, when Kim was just an ambitious college president with a very long resume. 

"Fannie and Freddie: Slashing Mortgages is Good Business," by Jesse Eisinger and Chris Arnold (ProPublica). Here’s more surprising news, this time on the mortgage front: Private analyses by housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac found that loan forgiveness will not only keep more homeowners in their houses — it will also save Fannie and Freddie money.

"Hello, Cruel World," by Nathaniel Penn (The New York Times Magazine). Penn tracked down 226 graduates from Drew University’s Class of 2011 and interviewed them about their job search. The results are sad and telling — only 39% have full-time jobs.

"The Case Against Google," by Mat Honan (Gizmodo). Gizmodo has an unsettling long read on your data and what Google does with it. “It needs you to reveal your location, your friends, your history, your desires, your finances; nothing short of your essence,” Honan writes.

"U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence," by Clifford Krauss and Eric Lipton (The New York Times). America produces more gas than ever, and Americans use less of it. The eventual result, if this trend continues: “Independence from foreign energy sources, a milestone that could reconfigure American foreign policy, the economy and more.” 

"The Coming ‘Hunger Games’ Short Squeeze," by Laura Mandaro (MarketWatch). Hollywood insiders expect this weekend’s Hunger Games opening to rank among the top 10 U.S. openings in history. “Hunger Games (need I say more?)!” Writes Kip reporter Neema Roshania. “It’s a positive economic indicator that movie ticket sales are up overall, though. When people are feeling thrifty they tend to stick to renting or using streaming services at home.”

And to end on a lighter note — it is Friday, after all! — Goldman Sachs is scouring its emails to see if anyone actually calls clients “muppets,” and Etch a Sketch stock surged yesterday after Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom mentioned the toy on CNN. 

What are you reading?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/20/2012

Good morning, Tumblr! Every day, we round up the favorite morning reads of the Kiplinger staff. On the list this sunny Tuesday: Budget proposals, Madoff’s prison letters, and what your hair has to do with the economy.

"The GOP Budget and America’s Future," by Paul Ryan (The Wall Street Journal). Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan released the GOP budget proposal this morning to great fanfare. He also penned this hefty WSJ editorial, which lays out the Republicans’ “new Path to Prosperity.” The Washington Post sums it up here.

"U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran," by Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker (The New York Times). We’re all following the Iran/Israel conflict, but no one more closely than Ken Bazinet, who covers politics for the Letter. “This spells out the perils of an uncertain strike against Iran’s nuclear sites and why the Pentagon isn’t sure an attack will work,” he says. “But there is still a belief that Israel could launch a strike in the next year.”

"The Secret Madoff Prison Letters," by Diana Henriques (Forbes). Madoff’s best-known biographer drops several pages of emails Madoff sent her from jail — his attempt, she says, to rewrite his history.

"Vatican Bank Image Hurt as JP Morgan Closes Account," by Philip Pullella and Lisa Jucca (Reuters). Staff writer Lisa Gerstner sent this link with a note: “Apparently the Holy See is too opaque for JP Morgan Chase, which shut down one of the Vatican’s bank accounts for lack of transparency.” We’ll leave further puns to you.

"Breaking Down the Mortgage Settlement: How Far Does $26 Billion Go?" By Cora Currier (ProPublica). ProPublica lays out the numbers from last week’s settlement over mortgage servicing abuses, with some interesting results. For instance: Only five percent of underwater mortgages will qualify for modification.

"How Do Racial Attitudes Affect Opinions About the Health Care Overhaul?" By Shankar Vedantam (Morning Edition). A new paper by Brown University researcher Michael Tessler suggests that attitudes toward race and health care policy are linked.

And to end on a light note, as we often do: Disney’s John Carter may rank among Hollywood’s biggest flops of all time, costing the studio some $200 million. In better news, beauty salon sales are up, which indicates a growing economy. 

Did we miss anything? Tweet us your links!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What We’re Reading, 3/15/2012

Making the office rounds this morning: Goldman Sachs satire, cashless living and cheesy grits. Below, a round-up of recommendations from the Kiplinger staff.

"Why I Am Leaving the Empire" (The Daily Mash). ”Greg Smith’s skewering of ex-employer Goldman Sachs yesterday was ripe for satire,” says senior editor Bob Frick. So ripe, in fact, that we’ve been reading little else. There’s also “Why I am Leaving the Knicks,” “Why I Am Applying for an Executive Director Position at Goldman Sachs,” and ”Greg Smith’s Letter to Goldman Sachs is Straight Out of Mad Men.” (That last one is less a parody and more a clever critique, says our social media specialist Amanda Lilly.) But in more serious responses …

"The Vampire Squid Spills Its Ink," by William Cohan (Financial Times). Cohan literally wrote the book on Goldman Sachs, and considers Smith’s controversial resignation an “existential moment” for the firm.

Yes, Mr. Smith, Goldman Sachs Is All About Making Money” (Bloomberg). The lede to Bloomberg’s scathing editorial: “Apparently, when Greg Smith arrived at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) almost 12 years ago, the legendary investment firm was something like the Make-A-Wish Foundation — existing only to bring light and peace and happiness to the world.” 

"The Devil Wears Pinstripes," by Heidi Moore (Marketplace). Here’s an interesting take: Moore reads Smith’s resignation less as a protest against a morally bankrupt corporate culture and more as “the objection of the underclass of younger bankers and traders stymied by a lack of career mobility.”

"Can You Enjoy a Strip Club Without Cash?" by Seth Stevenson (Slate). Web editor David Mulhbaum reminded us that Greg Smith is not the only news of the day. On Slate, Seth Stevenson’s attempting to live without cash. “It takes a turn for the amusing here,” David notes, not untruthfully.

"A Plan C for Afghanistan," by Doyle McManus (LA Times). Says political editor and Kiplinger sage Ken Bazinet: “It’s becoming clear that in a post-Bin Laden world the mission in Afghanistan is muddled. LA Times wise Washington sage Doyle McManus says it’s time for a ‘Plan C.’”

"Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail," by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone). The provocative Taibbi takes on Bank of America bail-outs, at great length.

"What Every Woman Should Tell Her Daughter About Money," by Sheryl Nash-Nance (Forbes). Says web editor Andrea Browne: “I love the fact that the financial pros featured in this piece are teaching their daughters at a young age the importance of being able to fend for themselves financially as adults.”

"Wolf Blitzer Can’t Get Enough Cheesy Grits," by David Daley (Salon). Today’s token political media story comes courtesy copy editor Liz Whitehouse, who is “tired of newscasters taking one slice of a story and blowing it up. Salon’s David Daley provides a sharp critique of a recent example.”

Did we miss anything? Tweet us your favorites!