Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/16/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. In our inboxes this morning: Greek bank runs, the debt ceiling sequel, and several funny videos. (So make sure you make it to the end!)

"Greek Banks See Steady Deposits Outflow," by Kerin Hope, Robin Wigglesworth and Quentin Peel (Financial Times). Spooked by the ongoing economic turmoil and their government’s failure to form a coalition, Greeks withdrew 1.2 billion euros from banks on Monday and Tuesday. (That’s .75 percent of all deposits.) Your friendly curator is reminded of the bank run scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” although Greek bankers say there’s no panic yet.

"Why Republicans Are Flirting with Debt Limit Debacle 2.0," by Brian Beutler (Talking Points Memo). It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day around here, but the House is indeed revving up for yet another showdown on the debt ceiling. Beutler’s explainer covers the hows and whys of Speaker Boehner’s recent posturing on the issue.

"Needy States Use Housing Aid Cash to Plug Budgets," by Shaila Dewan (New York Times). February’s $25-billion mortgage settlement was a win for struggling homeowners across the country. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only ones struggling. States like California and Texas contend with huge budget gaps — and they’re diverting the mortgage funds to cover them.

"Hedge or Bet? Parsing a Trade," by Katy Burne, Aaron Lucchetti and Gregory Zuckerman (Wall Street Journal). The J.P. Morgan controversy, in a nutshell: Was the bank’s disastrous strategy designed to take risks or avoid them?

"Jamie Dimon’s Hubris Unshakable as J.P. Morgan Reelects Him to Two Top Posts," by Nomi Prins (Daily Beast). Nomi Prins clearly falls on the “take risks” side of the J.P. Morgan question. Her thesis: “A self-inflicted loss conjures up images of someone shooting himself or herself during a game of Russian roulette. Sure, the shooter might have shot the gun into his or her brain, egregiously mistaken in the belief it wouldn’t be loaded. But he or she also chose to play.”

"Blood in the Water," by Bethany McLean (Vanity Fair). While we’re talking bankers, Bethany McLean has a great piece in next month’s Vanity Fair re: Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and who could replace him if he’s forced out.

"Slowly, as Student Debt Rises, Colleges Confront Costs," by Andrew Martin (New York Times). Students aren’t the only ones facing rising college costs — colleges themselves are restructuring to contend with state aid cuts and demand for cheaper tuition. Martin quotes Lawrence Lesick, of Ohio Northern University: “We know the model is not sustainable. Schools are going to have to show the value proposition. Those that don’t aren’t going to be around.”

And in other news: Yankee Candle wants to market to men by selling scents like — we kid you not! — “Man Town,” “Riding Mower” and “2x4.” New York Times reporter Kevin Roose has assembled a collection of “sad Jamie Dimon” photos. And for the video-minded among us, here are mash-ups of Jamie Dimon railing against regulation and Mitt Romney talking about things he likes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/20/12

Happy Friday, Tumblr! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our collective radar this morning: economic forecasts, China’s demographic woes, and Earth’s trade deficit with outer space.

"Fears Rise that Economy May Falter in the Spring," by Annie Lowrey (New York Times). European bond yields are climbing, unemployment claims have risen and oil prices remain high. Does that mean the economy won’t recover as hoped?

"Nine U.S. Banks Said to Be Examined on Overdraft Fees," by Carter Dougherty and Margaret Collins (Bloomberg). Two years ago, the government passed reforms to give consumers more control over their checking accounts and the costly overdraft fees that come with them. Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and six other banks to see if the protections went far enough. 

"No Deal," by Timothy Noah (The New Republic). Virtually everyone thinks the federal tax code should be reformed — Democrats, Republicans, pundits, Tumblr curators. Everyone except Timothy Noah, that is. He writes that “the best tax reform would be … nothing.” Hm.

"China’s Achilles Heal" (The Economist). If America’s demographics scare you, China’s are on another scale entirely: A huge number of Chinese are aging into retirement, and thanks to the country’s one-child policy, no one is replacing them. That means China’s population could peak in 2026 (… but not before Shanghai grows to 27 million people).

"Two-Paycheck Couples, Working Because They Must," by E.J. Dionne Jr. (Washington Post). Dionne’s take on the so-called “mommy war” between Ann Romney and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen: It’s not about feminism or conservatism. It’s about money.

"What Does the Battle Over California’s High Speed Rail Project Mean for America?" By Carl Franzen (Talking Points Memo). California has an ambitious, $68-billion plan to become the country’s first high-speed hub. But the controversy surrounding the project means that major changes to American transportation and infrastructure could still be many years away.

And in other news: Earth (sort of) has a $374-billion trade deficit with outer space, you can pay your bills with gold and silver in Utah, and the New Yorker has dreamt up some very entertaining (if rather far-fetched) new bank security questions. A sample: “What is your favorite Will Smith golf movie? Who is your all-time favorite city comptroller?”

What are you reading?