Daily Digest 2/1 - Americans Lose Trust in Financial System, North Dakota Went Boom
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has drafted more ambitious legislation to raise nearly $200 billion for sequester replacement by closing off a variety of offshore tax shelters, ending preferential tax treatment for many private equity and hedge fund managers, and taxing the exercise of stock options more heavily.
Paul Krugman May Be the World's Last Flat Earth Economist (Arthur Robey)
Some people, like University of Chicago Finance Professor John H. Cochrane, are more pointed, noting that if Krugman were a scientist, he'd be akin to a "flat-earther," an "AIDS-HIV disbeliever" or somebody who believes the continents don't actually move.
This makes him very dangerous in the scheme of things because Dr. Krugman's solution is that "we" just haven't spent enough money...yet.
Rebecca Mairone, formerly a top official at Countrywide Financial, has been named in an amended complaint filed earlier this month by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, against Countrywide and its parent Bank of America. The suit alleges that Mairone, as chief operating officer for Countrywide's Full Spectrum Lending division in 2007, set up a program dubbed the "High Speed Swim Lane," or "HSSL," or "Hustle," to speed up the origination of mortgage loans, including increasingly shady subprime loans. The government claims the alleged Hustle ultimately cost its sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more than $1 billion in losses.
But since the bulk of these withdrawals were made at larger banks that were not covered by TAG, this explanation hardly suffices. Another more likely explanation is that Americans are simply unsettled with the current state of the financial system, and for all intents and purposes are trying to protect their own assets from insolvency. This is further reinforced by the fact that a similar run on “physical” gold escalated around the exact same time, suggesting that depositors are anticipating rocky times rapidly approaching.
Where's the Crash? (James S.)
What traders instead decided to focus on were the impressive strength of the private sector. Business investment rocketed 8.4%, while consumer spending jumped by 2.2%. It all confirms my theory that the passage of the presidential election broke the dam for private economy, and got people off their behinds once all the negativity and uncertainty was gone. Businesses suddenly began investing and hiring, while consumers stepped up consuming.
Is Germany Preparing For Future Capital Controls? (westcoastjan)
On the surface, it may seem innocuous for Germany to move some pallets of gold closer to home. Some observers note that since Russia isn't likely to be invading Germany anytime soon – one of the original reasons Germany had for storing its gold outside the country – the move is only natural and no big deal. But Germany's gold stash represents roughly 10% of the world's gold reserves, and the cost of moving it is not trivial, so we see greater import in the move.
The Hidden Prosperity Of The Poor (jdargis)
Perry and Donald Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University, elaborated on this theme in a Jan. 23 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of a Stagnant Middle Class.” The two economists contend that the “favorite progressive trope” of middle and lower class stagnation “is spectacularly wrong” – that American families today have substantially more discretionary income than ever before because the cost of basic necessities has been steadily falling as a proportion of income:
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, spending by households on many of modern life’s “basics” — food at home, automobiles, clothing and footwear, household furnishings and equipment, and housing and utilities — fell from 53% of disposable income in 1950 to 44% in 1970 to 32% today.
“Good intentions without thought make for bad laws, and I think we have a risk of that,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied rampage killers.
Reserves challenge clouds Shell’s growth ambitions (westcoastjan)
The company pledged a net $33 billion capital spending for next year, some of which will go into controversial places such as Nigeria – where a Dutch court this week found Shell’s local subsidiary partly responsible for pollution, and into the Arctic where it suffered a series of accidents last year that have raised new questions about the safety of offshore drilling.
North Dakota Went Boom (jdargis)
In the fall of 2011 in Crosby, N.D., Continental Resources, the oil company with the most acreage leased in the basin, erected a self-congratulatory granite monument celebrating its work in the so-called Bakken Formation, the Williston Basin rocks that, as Continental put it, ushered in “a new era in the American oil industry.” The number of rigs drilling new wells in North Dakota’s part of the basin reached a record 218 last May. It has now leveled off at around 200, as thousands of wells have been completed under deadline pressure to secure expiring mineral leases. Many thousands more will be spudded in the next two years as the boom moves from discovery to production and crews drill “infill” wells, complete pipelines, fortify roads, enlarge refineries and build natural-gas pumping stations and oil-loading train yards.
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