Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Monday, May 21, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/21/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar this drizzly Monday: Nasdaq, higher ed, and the economic benefits of a rocking music scene.

"Nasdaq’s Facebook Problem," by Jenny Strasburg, Jacob Bunge and Gina Chon (Wall Street Journal). I know, I know — we’re all sick of Facebook. But Nasdaq still has some explaining to do re: the embarrassing technical difficulties that held up Friday trading. The exchange may reimburse investors who lost money on glitchy trades. Still, Nasdaq says it’s not to blame for the stock’s lackluster performance. (As of this posting, shares have fallen below their $38 issue price.)

"Mitt Romney Could Best Obama in Fundraising," by Chris Cillizza (Washington Post). Both Romney and Obama raised around $40 million in April, meaning Romney’s campaign funds could eclipse the president’s. You know what they say: Money is power!

"The Battleground," by Alec MacGillis (New Republic). Fun fact: No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. This year, that critical swing state could also determine who’s in power on the Hill.

"College Graduates Enjoy Best Job Market in Years," by Michael Diamond (USA Today). Finally, some good news for grads! The unemployment rate is down, hiring is up, and college job fairs saw an attendance surge this spring. (To which this 2011 grad says — aren’t you lucky.)

"How Competition is Killing Higher Education," by Mark Taylor (Bloomberg). College rankings are meant to help students find the school that’s right for them. (We make some great college rankings ourselves.) But Taylor, a department chairman at Columbia and the author of a book on college reform, argues that universities big and small are trying hard to game the system — and ultimately, that it’s students who lose out.

"Jumping Through Hoops," by Michael Joseph Gross (Vanity Fair). Among the bills London must foot to host the 2012 Olympic Games: 40,000 hotel rooms, 250 miles of Olympic-dedicated traffic lanes, and 500 air-conditioned limousines (plus uniformed chauffeurs!). The price tag will top $14.5 billion, leading some to question whether it’s all worth it.

"How Apple and Microsoft Armed 4,000 Patent Warheads," by Robert McMillan (Wired). A team of engineers in Ottawa takes apart routers, smartphones and other consumer electronics, looking for proof of patent infringement. It sounds like a pretty fun job. Unfortunately, it could also stifle innovation and entrepreneurship elsewhere. 

"CEO Pay Moves with Corporate Results," by Scott Thurm (Wall Street Journal). That’s a shift from 2010, when CEO pay and share prices were not closely correlated.

"When a Music Scene Leads to a Boom," by Michael Seman (Atlantic Cities). A handful of good bands and a big-time music festival have changed the economic tune in Denton, Texas.

And in other news: headphones are the new office walls and no one really has any idea if coffee is good or bad for you.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/8/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. Today: Lehman emails, flash crashes, and tax reforms we won’t drink to.

"Lehman E-Mails Show Wall Street Arrogance Led to the Fall," by William Cohan (Bloomberg). A recently released email cache from failed investment firm Lehman Brothers gives an unsavory glimpse into the thinking that led to the financial crisis. Your friendly curator doesn’t know if she’s more surprised by the “arrogance,” in Cohan’s words, or the fact that grown men sometimes write like this: “Absolutely, will and skill always win, and that be us!!!!”

"Obesity Could Affect 42% of Americans By 2030," by Nanci Hellmich (USA Today). More than a third of the U.S. population is more than 30 pounds overweight, and that number will climb six percentage points in the next 20 years. Kenneth Thorpe, a professor of health policy, alludes to the big economic consequences: “Obesity is one of the biggest contributors for why healthcare spending has been going up over the past 20 years.”

"The Structural Revolution," by David Brooks (New York Times). We’re not divided on the economy question, Brooks argues — cyclicalists and structuralists are debating different questions entirely. 

"Flash-Crash Story Looks More Like a Fairy Tale," by Mark Buchanan (Bloomberg). Two years after the May 2010 flash crash, we still don’t understand what caused it, which means “something similar — or worse — could happen again.” (Tangentially related reading: Three professors pitch a new regulatory agency that could authoritatively analyze financial crises.)

"The Ph.D. Now Comes with Food Stamps," by Stacey Patton (Chronicle of Higher Education). Melissa Bruninga-Matteau has a doctorate, teaches college classes, and makes $900 a month. (That’s $10,800 a year.) She represents a disconcerting, ongoing trend both in higher education and the economy in general: Even the most well-educated sometimes can’t find jobs. 

"PG-13: Some Material May Be Appropriate for Box Office Success," by John Horn, Nicole Sperling and Steven Zeitchik (LA Times). Fun dinner party trivia: The six highest-grossing films of all time have PG-13 ratings. Film distributors have taken note — and instructed directors to edit accordingly.

"Rick Santorum Endorses Mitt Romney Over Email," by Dashiell Bennett (Atlantic Wire). The medium is the message, as they say.

And in other news: Mad Men paid $250,000 to play that Beatles song in Sunday’s episode, craft breweries in New York state no longer benefit from tax breaks (which means, unfortunately, that beer might get pricier), and winning the lottery ruined this guy’s life.

Happy reading, Tumblers!

Friday, May 4, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/4/12

Happy Friday, Tumblers! Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our agenda as the week wraps up: Job numbers, #Julia and J.P. Morgan coffee sleeves. 

"Economy Adds 115,000 Jobs in April; Unemployment Rate Drops to 8.1 Percent," by Peter Whoriskey (Washington Post). The latest jobs report is a bit of a bummer, to say the least — economic growth has slowed, and even the slight drop in unemployment has more to do with job-seekers giving up the search. For a quicker (and slightly snarky) summary, we direct you to the Billfold: “Everyone Still Needs Jobs.”

"Jobs Report Will Provide Fodder for Campaigns," by Laura Meckler and Sara Murray (Wall Street Journal). What the new numbers mean for Obama and Romney.

"Facebook Sets IPO Share Price at $28-35," by Matt Krantz (USA Today). At that price, the IPO will raise about $10.6 billion, or enough to make Facebook the fifth-largest IPO in U.S. history. The company, valued at $86 billion, is also the most valuable U.S. company to ever go public.

"More Americans Stashing Cash in Home Safes," by Charles Passy (Smart Money). Some safe manufacturers have announced sales jumps of more than 40 percent in the last few years. Writes Passy: “Experts say that many savers and investors feel a lingering sense of insecurity in their finances — a hard-to-shake fear borne out of the jolting recession and, at times, wobbly recovery — which is helping to spur the new safeguarding mentality.” 

"Conservatives Mock Obama’s ‘Julia,’" by Tim Mak (Politico). If you were anywhere near Twitter yesterday, you saw a barrage of tweets about some mysterious woman named #Julia. Said woman does not actually exist — she’s a graphic, meant to illustrate Obama’s policies — and many conservatives are not fond of her.

"This Is Why I Hate Big-Money Art Auctions," by Jerry Saltz (Vulture). New York mag’s chief art critic argues that auctions ruin art: “The bad magic here is that people can no longer see this work as a painting. Now people look at The Scream or Van Gogh’s Irises or a Picasso and see its new content: money.” 

And in other news: The Red Sox “sellout” streak is actually a sales tactic, Pepsi partnered with Michael Jackson’s estate to put his face on pop cans, and J.P. Morgan made Facebook coffee sleeves to celebrate the social network’s impending IPO.

Enjoy your Friday, Tumblers!

Monday, April 30, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/30/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re reading over our first coffee: public job loss, arguments for inflation, and a very unscientific analysis of one writer’s grocery costs. 

"Domestic Violence Rises in Sluggish Economy, Police Report," by Kevin Johnson (USA Today). Some disturbing numbers in a new report from the Police Executive Research Forum: 56% of surveyed police agencies say that the economy is contributing to more domestic violence, up from 40% two years ago.

"Threat from Mounting Public Job Loss Tested Obama’s Economic Strategy," by Zachary Goldfarb (Washington Post). State and local governments lost more than half a million jobs during Obama’s tenure, which hugely impacts the economy — and the Obama campaign. Goldfarb quotes Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics: “The job losses at state and local governments is the most serious weight on the job market.”

"No End in Sight," by James Surowiecki (The New Yorker). Speaking of job loss, Surowiecki has a great, wide-ranging overview on unemployment’s costs to both individuals and the economy.

"How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes," by Charles Duhigg and David Kocieniewski (New York Times). In short: They keep a small office in Reno. (And Ireland, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands … )

"The 2% Catastrophe: How One Number Explains the Miserable Economy," by Matthew O’Brien (The Atlantic). O’Brien makes an impassioned — occasionally caps-locked (!) — argument for more inflation. A sample: “The Federal Reserve is crucifying the U.S. economy on a cross of two-percent inflation.” Your friendly curator would not necessarily call the economy “miserable,” but it’s a thought-provoking read.

In other news: An Australian billionaire plans to build a second Titanic, the treasury secretary changed his signature to make it neat enough to sign on bills, we may be witnessing the birth of a fake fine wine epidemic, and a Billfold blogger says Whole Foods is cheaper than you think. Also, in case you haven’t already overdosed on coverage of last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, GQ has a colorful recap — complete with Instagrams!

Happy reading, Tumblers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What We’re Reading, 4/25/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On our radar this morning: Apple, Facebook, and slow-jamming the news.

"Apple Profit Rises 94% on Growing Global iPhone Demand," by Adam Satariano (Bloomberg). Uneasy investors who saw their Apple shares fall in recent weeks have nothing to worry about: Apple’s profit doubled last quarter, driven largely by global demand for products like iPhones and iPads. Apple has sold 35.1 million iPhones in China since January.

"Facebook’s Status Update," by Jennifer Schonberger (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance). While we’re talking tech stocks, your friendly curator would like to point you toward a killer piece on our site today. Jennifer ran the numbers on Facebook’s upcoming IPO — with mixed results. “The layup that was Facebook’s initial public offering is no longer a sure thing,” she writes. 

"Sugar Daddies," by Frank Rich (New York). Twenty-five wealthy donors (“sugar daddies,” in Frank Rich parlance) have given more than a million dollars each to the GOP and the Romney campaign. Rich writes: “empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself.” The full list of donors is here.

"Earth to Ben Bernanke," by Paul Krugman (New York Times). This excerpt from Krugman’s soon-to-be-released book, “End This Depression Now,” takes a long look at how the Fed chairman could be doing more, and better, for the U.S. economy. Worth reading for the illustration of Bernanke in a spacesuit, if nothing else. (In related news, the Wall Street Journal says the Fed is “likely to provide information but not action” in a series of statements and press conferences this afternoon.)

"Should We Return to the Gold Standard?" By John Waggoner (USA Today). Short answer: Probably not. Despite renewed interest in the gold standard, courtesy politicians like Ron Paul, it remains impractical to attach the value of the dollar to the price of gold. Copy editor Liz Whitehouse flagged this fun fact: There physically isn’t enough gold in the world to equal the economy.

"Marco Rubio Biography Says Grandfather Was Ordered Deported," by Mike Allen (Politico). An early glimpse inside Manuel Roig-Franzia’s book on Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who looks like a top pick for Mitt Romney’s VP.

And in other news: It’s apparently more difficult to become a Secret Service agent than to get into Harvard, CNNMoney has a cool interactive on the world’s largest economies, and President Obama “slow-jammed” about student debt on Jimmy Fallon last night. (A sample: “The Pell Grant is a beautiful thing, but with college getting more expensive, is it enough by itself to fulfill all our collegiate needs? Aw, Pell no!”).

What are you reading?