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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rosy Scenarios

Items of Interest:

Wall Street Journal:
Employers Hold Off on Hiring -- Companies across the economy are holding off on hiring even as the profit outlook improves, amid economic uncertainty and their own success at raising productivity in rough waters.

Hiring always lags behind in economic recoveries, but the outlook this time is worse, many economists say. Most forecasters now expect a prolonged period of high unemployment, even though the government is expected to report next week that the economy grew in the third quarter, after four quarters of contraction. That is sure to frustrate the jobless and could be a problem for the Obama administration...

Even if the job market started spitting out jobs as fast as it did during the 1990s boom, adding 2.15 million private-sector jobs a year, the U.S. wouldn't get back to a 5% unemployment rate until late 2017...

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CNN Money:
Foreclosures: 'Worst three months of all time' -- Despite signs of broader economic recovery, number of foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter - a sign the plague is still spreading.

Despite concerted government-led and lender-supported efforts to prevent foreclosures, the number of filings hit a record high in the third quarter, according to a report issued Thursday.

"They were the worst three months of all time," said Rick Sharga, spokesman for RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed homes.

During that time, 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter -- whether a default notice, auction notice or bank repossession, the RealtyTrac report said. That means one in every 136 U.S. homes were in foreclosure, which is a 5% increase from the second quarter and a 23% jump over the third quarter of 2008...
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Housing Wire:
2.7m Distressed Properties in Market Pipeline: RBS -- Recent months of “nascent” housing recovery remain overshadowed by the delinquency pipeline that threatens to put as many as 2.7m distressed sales on the market, according to weekly commentary on US economics by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) economists.

Single-family housing starts jumped 38% from February to July, while new home sales jumped by 28% from March to July and existing home sales rose 15% over the same time frame, RBS said. The heavy use of the first-time homebuyer tax credit in summer ahead of its November 30th deadline may have contributed to the rise in sales...
related:

John Mckinnon / WSJ: Home-Buyer Credit Is Focus of Inquiry --

The Internal Revenue Service is examining more than 100,000 suspicious claims for the first-time home-buyer tax break ...
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ProPublica.org:
Four Banks in Govt’s ‘Healthy Bank’ Bailout Struggle to Survive -- The government has doled out billions to 687 banks over the past year through a program meant to bolster already “healthy” banks. But an increasing number of those are troubled. Four banks in particular are foundering, including one that has acknowledged its executives cooked its books...
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Frank Rich / NY Times:
Goldman Can Spare You a Dime -- Even as we wait for Congress and its inquiry to produce results, the cultural toxins revealed by our economic crisis remain unaddressed by the leaders in the private and public sectors who might make a difference now. Blankfein may be giving $200 million to “education,” but Goldman is back to business as usual: making money by high-risk gambling, with all the advantages that the best connections, cheap loans from the Fed and high-speed trading algorithms can bring. As the Reuters columnist Rolfe Winkler wrote last week, “Main Street still owns much of the risk while Wall Street gets all of the profit.”

The idea of investing in the real economy — the one that might create jobs for Americans — remains outrĂ© in this culture. Credit to small businesses remains tight. The holy capitalist grail is still the speculative buying and selling of companies and the concoction of ever more esoteric financial “instruments.” The tragic tale of Simmons Bedding recently told in The Times is a role model. This successful 133-year-old manufacturing enterprise was flipped seven times in two decades by private equity firms. Investors made more than $750 million in profits even as the pile-up of debt pushed Simmons into bankruptcy, costing a quarter of its loyal workers their jobs so far...
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Calvin Trillin / NY Times:
Wall Street Smarts -- “IF you really want to know why the financial system nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008, I can tell you in one simple sentence.”

The statement came from a man sitting three or four stools away from me in a sparsely populated Midtown bar...

“O.K.,” I said. “Let’s hear it.”

“The financial system nearly collapsed,” he said, “because smart guys had started working on Wall Street.” He took a sip of his martini, and stared straight at the row of bottles behind the bar, as if the conversation was now over.

“But weren’t there smart guys on Wall Street in the first place?” I asked...
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Technology Review:
Natural Gas Changes the Energy Map -- Vast amounts of the clean-burning fossil fuel have been discovered in shale deposits, setting off a gas rush. But how it will affect our energy use is still uncertain.

This formation is the edge of vast deposits of black shale that stretch under tens of millions of acres below western New York, much of western and northern Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. The oldest and deepest layer is called the Marcellus shale, and if geologists like Lash are correct, it holds enough natural gas to help change the way the United States uses energy for decades to come.

Experts now believe that the country has far more natural gas at its disposal than anyone thought three or four years ago. The revised estimates are largely due to advanced drilling techniques that make it economically feasible to extract the fuel from shale ...

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Calculated Risk

Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis

Paul Krugman - NY Times

The Big Picture - Barry Ritholtz

naked capitalism - Yves Smith

Pragmatic Capitalism

Washington's Blog

Safe Haven

Paper Economy

The Daily Reckoning - Australia