Thursday, May 24, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/24/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. On the agenda this morning: Europe’s crisis spills over, Google does evil, and the economics of all-you-can-eat buffets.

"Euro Woes Will Cross Pond," by David Wessel (Wall Street Journal). Fun fact: Greece’s economy is roughly the size of Massachusetts’. Less fun fact: If Greece drops the euro and  Europe suffers, we’ll feel a crunch in credit and imports here at home. (WSJ has also rounded up the forecasts and suggestions of several major banks; they vary in their pessimism. Deutsche Bank recommends the creation of a parallel currency called the “Geuro,” which sounds ugly, if nothing else.)

"Facebook’s IPO Debacle: Fear, Greed, Hubris …," by Heidi Moore (Guardian). If you read one more Facebook IPO autopsy, make it this clever, biting takedown from Marketplace’s Heidi Moore — she considers the failed IPO “a tale of financial chaos fit for the history books.” Why, you ask? “At nearly every junction where wisdom, care and moderation ought to have intervened, they did not.” Welp.

"Some Big Firms Got Facebook Warning," by Gina Chon, Jenny Strasburg and Anupreeta Das (Wall Street Journal). Not all investors are created equal. Before the Facebook IPO — and, more importantly, before IPOs in general — major firms score access to reports and warnings that the average investor never sees.

"Can Anything Take Down the Facebook Juggernaut?" By Steven Johnson (Wired). We’re a week late to this, but it makes especially interesting reading after all the Facebook fallout. Short answer: Yes, another service could displace Facebook. Slightly longer answer: Yes, but Johnson remains upbeat about the social network’s prospects. (Perhaps too upbeat: “… the company charges toward what will likely be the most successful public offering in the history of capitalism,” he writes.)

"As Computing Changes, Hewlett-Packard Struggles to Follow," by Quentin Hardy (New York Times). From one digital meltdown to another … the old-school stalwart HP just underwent a major restructuring, cutting 7.7% of its global workforce. (That’s a sobering 27,000 jobs.) But there’s a silver lining! HP’s shares rose sharply after the cuts. 

"Google Privacy Inquiries Get Little Cooperation," by David Streitfeld and Kevin O’Brien (New York Times). Google Street View made life easier for travelers and stalkers the world over. Unfortunately, those cute little camera cars aren’t just taking photos — they also collect data from personal, unprotected Wi-fi networks, downloading as much as 250 kilobytes of information per network. Moral of the story: Put a password on it!

"Vallejo, Calif., Once Bankrupt, is Now a Model for Cities in the Age of Austerity," by Ariana Eunhung Cha (Washington Post). You might remember Vallejo as the setting of Michael Lewis’ stark 2011 story on economic collapse in California. Well, there’s good news on that front: Four years after the city declared bankruptcy, it’s used technology, referendums and an increased sales tax to scrape its way toward solubility. Now, for the first time since 2007, “the city expects to have enough money to do such things as fill potholes, clear weeds, trim trees and repair tennis courts.” (Hey Greece, didja see this?)

"How We Got the Crash Wrong," by William Cohan (The Atlantic). Stop talking about leverage, start talking about risk.

"Writing Chapter One in Life’s Sequel," by Lindsay Cunningham (The Local). The Times’ Local project picked up a quirky, pseudonymous and rather sad new columnist. From her bio: Lindsay had “a great job, a good apartment in Fort Greene and a life in the fast lane of young Brooklyn. But then she lost her job and her boyfriend — and now she’s doing this column.”

In other news: All-you-can-eat buffets should not exist (according to econ), “extreme fear” is driving the market right now (according to CNN’s new “Fear & Greed” index), and $24 omelettes are fueling New York’s rich and powerful (according to this 27-slide “Power Breakfast” slideshow, which your friendly curator, God help her, clicked through in full.)

Happy reading, Tumblers!

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!

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!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What We’re Reading, 5/3/12

Every morning, we poll the staff and round up their favorite economic, financial and political reads of the day. What we’re reading this Thursday (besides the latest jobless claims numbers, of course): Fed rebellions, crazy couponing, and why big brother’s watching you eat.

"Boom Time for the Going-Broke Industry," by Pietra Rivoli (New York Times). Someone has to care for those old factories and warehouses when business shuts down. Your friendly curator is reminded of a quote from the Muppet Christmas Carol: “One might say that December is foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders.”

"A Rebellion at the Federal Reserve?" By Matthew O’Brien (The Atlantic). ”Rebellion” seems too strong a word — we’re talking about bankers, after all — but Chicago Federal Reserve president Charles Evans has championed a number of controversial strategies for the Fed, like more monetary stimulus and greater inflation. “Evans doesn’t look the part of a heretic,” O’Brien writes. “But in the cozy, conservative club that is central banking, he certainly qualifies.”

"The 99 Percent Wakes Up," by Joseph Stiglitz (Daily Beast). What do Wall Street campers have in common with government-toppling movements in the Middle East? If you follow Stiglitz’s argument, both resulted from youth disillusionment — and reflect some kind of major generational epiphany.

"Honey, I Got a Year’s Worth of Tuna Fish," by Amanda Fortini (New York Times). “Coupon clipping as the key to economic rebirth.” Need I say more? (Well, yes: Here’s a clip from Extreme Couponing.)

"Wall Street Doesn’t Know How to Value Private Equity Firms," by Dan Primack (Fortune). Primack’s argument: Wall Price serially misprices private equity firms, and investors stand to benefit. 

"Your Favorite Restaurant’s Secret Ingredient: Data, and Lots of It," by Joe Ray (Wired). You’ve heard of data mining on Facebook and at retail stores. Now restaurants are getting into the data game as well, tracking each sale (“down to the last malbec, martini and red quinoa pilaf”) and using the numbers to sell more stuff.

And in other news: Edvard Munch’s "The Scream" cost $119.9 million, Ann Romney’s zany bird-print shirt cost $990, and Ben Bernanke’s beard is — well, priceless.

Happy reading, Tumblers!