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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Economy Watch: October 26, 2008 - November 1, 2008

October: The Cruelest Month

Sure, the markets finished up today -- the Dow closed up 144 points, or 1.6 percent; the S&P 500 closed up 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq closed up 1.3 percent on the day. Woo-hoo! But hold on there, podner. Here...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 31, 2008; 2:24 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Bernanke: Govt. Should Stay in Mortgage Game

In a speech underway right now, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that even during the worst days of the financial meltdown, investors were still willing to buy securitizations based on mortgages that were sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 31, 2008; 2:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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A New Peek at Credit Default Swaps Market

The curtain cloaking the unregulated trading of credit derivatives will be pulled back a bit starting next week, potentially ushering in a new era of transparency for a market that government officials hope to soon police. The Depository Trust &...

By Sara Goo  |  October 31, 2008; 1:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Oct. 31, 2008

The Fed's Next Move The Economist | The Economist gives a nice explanation of the Fed's actions this week, and walks through the technical hazards of the central bank cutting rates much further. The S Word EconLog | Arnold...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 31, 2008; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Obamanomics vs. McKeynesianism

With only four days to go before the election, it's worth asking: Who would be better for Wall Street -- President McCain or President Obama? Or would Wall Street even care? This view says Obama would be bad for the...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 31, 2008; 12:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Chevron Profit Doubles

One day after ExxonMobil, the world's biggest company, posted record third-quarter profits, Chevron reported that its third-quarter profits more than doubled, thanks to oil that soared higher than $140 per barrel last summer. Chevron, the U.S.'s second-largest oil company, reported...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 31, 2008; 11:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Oct. 31, 2008

When it walks and quacks like a recession duck, it is a recession duck." — Economist Nouriel Roubini to Congress's Joint Economic Committee, Oct. 30....

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 31, 2008; 8:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Global Stocks Turn Negative

Global stocks turned negative today, despite a move by Japan's central bank to cut interest rates. The Nikkei closed down 5 percent and other indexes in Asia also fell to end another volatile week. In Europe, Barclays turned to Middle...

By Sara Goo  |  October 31, 2008; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Food, Soap Stocks Buck the Downward Trend

Colgate-Palmolive -- makers of products such as Lady Speed Stick, Ajax and Hill's pet food -- reported a 19 percent jump in third-quarter earnings today, looking like it's mysteriously sailing full speed ahead directly into the economic headwind. Yesterday, consumer...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 4:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Saving the Farms

Saving the Farms During a speech on Labor Day of 1936, Roosevelt addresses the dust bowl drought and the crisis faced by American farmers, telling the nation that all Americans must help save farms. Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 30, 2008; 4:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Mighty Hedge Funds Go Fetal

Post columnist David Ignatius has a good look today at the smarter-than-thou "alpha" hedge funds who thought they could manage risk so expertly as to make it simply vanish. Oops. Hedge funds -- typically private, open to select investors who...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 2:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Goodbye, Moto: 3,000 Layoffs at Motorola

Struggling cellphone maker Motorola today phoned in a heap of bad news: - It will cut 3,000 jobs, a move that follows a 9,000-job cut earlier this year. - It will miss its fourth-quarter earnings estimate by at least 3...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 2:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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State to Feds: Bail Out Detroit

Six governors have joined the Michigan delegation in turning up the heat on Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, pleading for an infusion of cash into the ailing U.S. auto industry. In a letter sent yesterday,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 2:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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U.S. Outspends Peers

Today's release of the third-quarter U.S. Gross Domestic Product figures gives us a good opportunity to take a close look at how much American consumers spend and how that compares to citizens of other nations. Everyone knows Americans like to...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 1:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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White House Won't Confirm Homeowner Bailout

The White House acknowledged today that the Bush administration is looking at more options for helping distressed U.S. homeowners but said the government is not close to agreement on any specific plan. White House press secretary Dana Perino said that...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 12:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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White House: Dividend Payments Okay

Top White House officials today defended allowing banks to use federal bailout funds to pay dividends to shareholders, arguing that doing so was part of the effort to revive the foundering economy. Edward P. Lazear, chairman of the Council of...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 11:54 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
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Amex to Cut 7,000 Jobs

Further evidence of the economic contraction: American Express -- the largest U.S. credit card company by purchases -- said today it will cut 7,000 jobs and take up to a $290 million charge related to the cuts in a move...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 10:51 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
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Markets Roar At Opening

Zoom! Wall Street shot out of the gates in the first 15 minutes of trading today, as the markets recouped much of their last-15-minute swoon from yesterday. The U.S. markets were nudged to a high opening this morning by an...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 30, 2008; 9:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Global Markets Rally on Fed Action

Global markets rallied this morning, cheering the Fed's interest rate cut yesterday that lowered the Federal Funds rate to one percent. The Fed's cut followed moves by other central banks to cut interest rates. The New York Times opines this...

By Sara Goo  |  October 30, 2008; 7:16 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Offhand Comment Sinks GE Stock, Maybe Market

So there Wall Street was this afternoon, humming right along toward close, riding a nice 300-point gain following the Fed's rate-cut announcement. It looked like the Dow was going to avoid its near-daily 3:50 p.m. spasm. Missed it by thatmuch!...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 5:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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P&G Nation Manages Turbulent Times

Big corporations are like nations unto themselves. This morning, Clayton Daley -- chief financial officer of consumer-product giant Procter & Gamble -- explained just how. P&G -- which makes scores of products, including Downey, Charmin, Crest, Folgers and on and...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 3:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Treasury, FDIC Crafting Plan to Rework Millions of Mortgages

Officials with the Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are crafting a plan under which the government would guarantee the mortgages of as many as 3 million homeowners now struggling to avoid foreclosure, according to three sources familiar with...

By Sara Goo  |  October 29, 2008; 3:18 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
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Dow Hates Rate Cut; Wait, No It Doesn't

Yesterday, the Dow had an 11 percent rally. This afternoon, the Dow had a mini-rally. Both were in anticipation of an expected interest rate cut from the Fed, which the markets generally like. So what happened to the Dow in...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 2:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Fed Cuts Interest Rate to 1 Percent

The Federal Reserve slashed a key interest rate to match its lowest level in decades today, as the central bank continued pulling out all possible stops to try to contain the economic fallout of the financial crisis. The Fed’s policymaking...

By Sara Goo  |  October 29, 2008; 2:38 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
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Fed Statement on Rate Cut

Here's the statement just released by the Fed in conjunction with its rate cut: "The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower its target for the federal funds rate 50 basis points to 1 percent. The pace of economic...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 2:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Fed Cuts Interest Rate to 1 Percent

The Federal Reserve just announced it is cutting its short-term interest rate by half a percentage point, lowering the rate to 1.0 percent. The move is designed to take some pressure off U.S. consumers, as much of personal credit --...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 2:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Reports: GM-Chrysler Merger Near, GM Would Run

Reuters is reporting that the merger between struggling auto giants GM and Chrysler is nearing a deal and the combined auto company would be run by GM chief executive Rick Wagoner. GM, which is running low on cash, and Chrysler,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 1:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Wall Street Feeling Giddy

The Dow has been pretty quiet throughout the day but in the past hour, the index has moved up sharply, evidently in anticipation of a Fed rate cut anticipated at about 2:15 p.m. today. With about 10 minutes to go...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 12:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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GM's Global Sales Drop 11 Percent

The bad news just keeps coming for GM. This morning the Detroit automaker said its global sales fell by 11 percent in the third quarter. No automaker is burning up the sales, but Toyota's third quarter was not quite as...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 11:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness Accepting the re-nomination of the Democratic Party in late June of 1936 in a speech in Philadelphia, Roosevelt cites life liberty and the pursuit of happiness as economic necessities as well as political...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 29, 2008; 11:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Which Crash Is This One Like?

The Post's Paul Farhi writes in today's Style section that even though the October Crash of 1929 (79 years ago today) gets all the headlines as a sort of instant-start to the Great Depression, the real hard times didn't start...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 11:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Oct. 29, 2008

Inside the Fed Meeting The New York Times | What really goes on in the meetings where the Federal Reserve sets interest rates? Former Dallas Fed president Bob McTeer takes you inside. Bursting Bubbles The Atlantic | A smart...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 29, 2008; 10:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Neil Irwin's Must Reads  
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Wall Street Quiet Until 2:15 P.M.

For a change, Wall Street opened with some restraint today, keeping its powder dry until about 2:15 p.m., when the Fed is widely expected to issue an interest-rate cut at the conclusion of its two-day meeting. Then, all heck could...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 29, 2008; 9:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Durable Goods Up, Sort Of

Durable goods orders jumped unexpectedly in September, posting a 0.8 percent increase. The number reflects sales of big ticket items and is watched as a barometer of the health of the manufacturing sector. Good news? Sort of, but the...

By Washington Post Editor  |  October 29, 2008; 8:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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How Much Will the Fed Cut?

Every Fed-watcher seems to be counting on a rate cut this afternoon. The question is: how big will the cut be and how will Wall Street respond? (Okay, that's two questions.) Yesterday's huge rally, with the Dow surging nearly 11...

By Sara Goo  |  October 29, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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History Says: Don't Trust Big One-Day Dow Gains

Yes, okay. The Dow Jones numbers look fabulous today, as the index made one of its greatest one-day percentage leaps ever. But is that alone cause for optimism? History says no. Seven of the top 10 days in Dow Jones...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 7:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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McCain: Obamanomics Have Failed Before

CNBC just aired the remainder of its interview from this morning with the Republican presidential team of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Alaska governor Sarah Palin. McCain ripped his rival's economic plans as ancient and discredited. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo asked...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 5:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
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Dow Closes With 11 Percent Gain

Wall Street put on a furious -- and, for a change, sustained -- rally today, as the Dow enjoyed its biggest one-day point climb ever. Remember that study that came out earlier today, saying consumer confidence is at its lowest...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 4:09 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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The Happiness of All

The Happiness of All On Brotherhood Day, February 23, 1936, Roosevelt addressed the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Individual happiness, he told them, was inextricably bound up in the happiness of the community. Note: Please upgrade your Flash plug-in...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 28, 2008; 3:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Dow Up More Than 400 -- Here We Go

Here comes the afternoon roller-coaster ride on Wall Street: It's nearing 3 p.m., keep your hands inside the car! The Dow has been in positive territory all day but in the past hour, it's shot up 300 points and is...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 3:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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How VW Became the World's Biggest Company -- For Five Minutes

For a brief and bizarre time earlier today, Volkswagen was the world's most valuable company. In normal times, energy titan ExxonMobil is the world's most valuable company. But these are not normal times. Thanks to a complex series of events...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 2:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Whirlpool to Drain 5,000 Jobs

The contraction continues: Michigan-based appliance-maker Whirlpool said today that it will slash about 7 percent of its global workforce by the end of next year, thanks to the ongoing credit crisis and an expected decline in demand for big-ticket items....

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 11:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
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Dow Giving Back Early Gains

As the first 90 minutes of trading today comes to a close, Wall Street has lost almost all of its early rally, possibly driven down by the historically low consumer confidence numbers just released. The Dow is barely above water,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 11:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Consumer Confidence Lowest Ever

Consumer confidence in the U.S. economy hit an all-time low in October, according to the Conference Board's closely watched index, which was released moments ago. Consumer confidence is key to the economy, as spending accounts for 70 percent of the...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 10:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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McCain: 'Disappointed' In Paulson

In a live interview just concluded on CNBC with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain said he is "disappointed" in Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson because his $700 billion Wall Street rescue/bailout plan doesn't focus first and...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 9:59 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Markets Roar Out At Opening

In the first 15 minutes of trading, Wall Street is rising strongly following a world rally overnight. Also, Treasury said the first $125 billion of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout/rescue plan will be heading out the doors this week,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 9:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Home Prices Dove Over Past Year

In the things-you-might-have-known category: Home prices dove a record 17.7 percent in the year ending in August, according to the newest data from the S&P Case-Shiller home price index. (PDF) Phoenix was the hardest-hit of all 20 cities surveyed, where...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 28, 2008; 9:39 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Global Stocks Rebound

Global stocks were lifted today by central bankers' moves to slash interest rates despite growing concern about a global recession. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng recovered its losses from Monday, gaining 14 percent, and Japan's Nikkei, which has taken...

By Sara Goo  |  October 28, 2008; 7:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Oct. 28, 2008

Republic of the Central Banker The American Prospect | Brad Delong offers an elegant history of central banking in general and the Federal Reserve and current chairman Ben Bernanke in particular. Pendulum Swings Toward Regulation The Financial Times |...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 28, 2008; 7:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Neil Irwin's Must Reads  
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Credit Risks Not Getting the Message

People with bad credit refuse to stop applying for credit cards online. Meanwhile, online credit card applications from people with good credit have dropped for the first time in five quarters. One group of people has gotten the message about...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 5:27 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Dow Hits 3:50 P.M. Cliff Again

For much of the last hour of trading today, the Dow was up a little, down a little, mostly neutral. Then, that 3:50 p.m. witching hour arrived again and the Dow fell off the table, closing down more than 200...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 4:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Should U.S. Automakers Get a Bailout?

The Big Three are in Big Trouble and may need government help to stay afloat. Here's where they stand right now: - GM, which made half -- half -- of all vehicles sold in the U.S. 45 years ago --...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 2:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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White House: Automakers Could Get Bailout Cash

The White House said today that financing companies owned by Detroit automakers could qualify for assistance under the $700 billion financial bailout package, The Post's Dan Eggen reports. "It’s possible that some of those financing arms could be a part...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 1:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Blue Christmas Seen

Standard & Poor's released its holiday spending forecast and it's dismal: The agency predicts the worst Christmas sales in 10 years. S&P predicts holiday spending will actually be down about 2 percent compared to last year. If that doesn't sound...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 12:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
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Comparing McCain/Obama Stimulus Plans

US Budget Watch, a non-partisan group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, has put together a pretty good side-by-side comparison of the economic stimulus proposals of presidential candidates Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). It also includes...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 11:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  
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Dangers of Individualism

Dangers of Individualism On August 24, 1935 FDR told a meeting of young Democrats that the virtues taught to his generation, those of unbridled individualism, have proved themselves to be inadequate, telling the youth they must be responsible for the...

By washingtonpost.com Editor  |  October 27, 2008; 10:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  FDR's Fireside Chats  
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Banks Receive Treasury Dollars

Fifteen banks have added their names to the list of institutions accepting government investments. The companies include McLean-based Capital One, which said it will take $3.55 billion from the Treasury Department. The new banks join the nine giants that initially...

By Sara Goo  |  October 27, 2008; 10:35 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Housing Values Drop As Sales Edge Up

Here's the classic good news/bad news story: New home sales were actually up in September of this year compared to last year, by 2.7 percent, an encouraging sign. Why? Because home values are continuing to plummet. Houses are cheap; people...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 10:20 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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Dow Dives at Opening, Then Noses Up

Wall Street took a nosedive at today's opening bell but appears to be pulling back on the stick a little and shallowing out its descent. In the first 15 minutes of trading, the Dow is down about 60 points. In...

By Frank Ahrens  |  October 27, 2008; 9:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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U.S. Stocks Pointing Lower

Global markets moved sharply lower this morning, on mounting concerns about a global recession to which no corner of the globe seems to be immune. Yesterday and today, it's news from the Middle East that is troubling markets. In Kuwait...

By Sara Goo  |  October 27, 2008; 7:32 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
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