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

Economy Watch: February 22, 2009 - February 28, 2009

Buffett: 'I Did Some Dumb Things' in 2008

Warren E. Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway investment fund and holding company and possibly still the world's richest person, released his annual shareholders letter moments ago, in which he says, "during 2008 I did some dumb things in investments." "I...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 28, 2009; 8:49 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (30)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Coca-Cola, Warren Buffett, Washington Post  
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Bloomberg: Don't Raise Taxes On Rich New Yorkers

One subject that has been largely overlooked during the debate over the federal budget, which would raise taxes on the wealthy, is this: They already shoulder a large tax burden. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg did the math recently as...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 27, 2009; 6:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Mike Bloomberg, budget, taxes  
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GE Cuts Dividend to Save $9 Billion Annually

Industrial giant General Electric is cutting its dividend from 31 cents per share to 10 cents to save up to $9 billion a year. Aside from sending the talking heads on GE-owned CNBC into a frenzy, the dividend cut did...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 27, 2009; 2:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: GE, General Electric, dividend  
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Sen. Conrad: Obama Bid To Limit Mortgage-Interest Deduction May Be Killed

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the budget committee and the man charged with ushering President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget through Congress, is unhappy with a couple of the budget items. In an interview on CBNC just concluded, Conrad was...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 27, 2009; 12:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Obama, agribusiness, budget, mortgage interest deduction  
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FDIC Proposes Charging Banks New Fee To Beef Up Insurance Fund

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which insures investor deposits in banks, has proposed a one-time fee on banks totaling $27 billion. The money would go toward insuring deposits in banks that the FDIC predicts will fail between now and 2013....

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 27, 2009; 11:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: FDIC, Sheila Bair  
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Authorities Make First Arrest in Stanford Fraud Case

The first arrest coming out of the Stanford Financial Group scandal -- in which Houston investment manager R. Allen Stanford is accused of bilking clients out of $8 billion -- is not Stanford himself. Instead, it's one of his top...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 27, 2009; 11:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Allen Stanford, Bernie Madoff  
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Obama's Budget Kills Sallie Mae Stocks

Shares of student lending giant Sallie Mae plunged today after the White House proposed ending federal subsidies for student lenders, The Post's Alejandro Lazo reports. Shares for Reston-based Sallie Mae, formally known as SLM Corp., tumbled as much as 42...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 1:26 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Obama, Sallie Mae, budget  
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'Cramdown' Vote Delayed in House

The House has postponed a scheduled vote today on legislation that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to modify the mortgages of troubled homeowners, The Post's Renae Merle reports. Under the provision, a judge would be able to lower the principal...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 12:06 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: cramdown, mortgage workouts  
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Federal Budget Is Released

President Obama's budget was officially rolled out moments ago by Peter Orszag, director of the president's Office of Management and Budget. The budget creates a "national infrastructure bank," a public-private entity that is meant to speed deployment of infrastructure projects,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 11:01 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: budget, budget deficit, obama  
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White House: Unemployment to Peak at 8.1% This Year

The White House expects U.S. unemployment to peak at 8.1 percent this year (it stands now at 7.6 percent) and drop to 7.9 percent in 2010, according to budget bits coming out now. The administration sees gross domestic product returning...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 10:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Obama, budget, budget deficit  
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New Home Sales Plunge 10.2%

Sales of new homes plunged 10.2 percent in January to their weakest levels in five years, the Commerce Department said moments ago. The median price of a new home dropped 12 percent to $201,100. New home sales dropped to a...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 10:13 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: home prices, home sales  
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Markets Open Higher

Wall Street opened higher this morning despite some more dismal news on the economy, including some eye-popping losses from General Motors. In the first 15 minutes of trading, the Dow is up about 65 points, or a little less than...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 9:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Dow Jones, nasdaq, s&p 500  
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Orders for Cars, Refrigerators, Other Durable Goods Drops Steeply In Jan.

Orders for durable goods -- big-ticket items such as cars, appliances, computers, machinery and so forth -- dropped 5.2 percent in January, a bigger dip than was expected. The monthly survey of durable goods, released moments ago by the Commerce...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2009; 9:36 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Commerce Department, contraction, durable goods, recession  
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Today: Budget, Economic Data, New Home Sales

You heard it previewed by President Obama on Tuesday night. Now, it's time to pour through the details. The first federal budget released by the Obama administration comes out today, with an ETA of 11 a.m. It will outline some...

By Sara Goo  |  February 26, 2009; 6:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  
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Obama Lays Out Principles Of New Financial Regulation

UPDATED WITH DETAILS OF PRINCIPLES: President Obama just outlined the type of financial regulatory environment he'd like to see when the nation emerges from the current economic crisis, following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on regulatory reform. It...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 25, 2009; 5:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Geithner, Obama, SEC, regulation  
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Bernanke: Treasury Is 'Understaffed'

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just dropped a little news in the middle of an otherwise pretty prosaic meeting of the House Financial Services committee, where he is delivering his biannual report on the economy. Responding to a question on when...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 25, 2009; 12:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve, Tim Geithner, Treasury  
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Existing Homes Sales Drop Steeply in January

Sales of existing homes dropped 5.3 percent in January, a sharper falloff than analysts expected, as potential home buyers appeared to wait to see what the government is going to do to incentivize their purchase. The figures were released moments...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 25, 2009; 10:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: home prices, home sales  
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Markets Open Lower

Stocks fell slightly out of the gate this morning, a day after investors absorbed President Obama's speech to Congress last night outlining ambitious plans to help the economy and reform the nation's health care system. In the first 15 minutes...

By Sara Goo  |  February 25, 2009; 9:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Dow Jones, Obama, nasdaq, s&p 500, stimulus plan  
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Bernanke Channels Amazon's Bezos

11:31 A.M.: UPDATED WITH BERNANKE'S HOUSE AFIRE COMMENT: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is testifying before the Senate Banking committee right now and is channeling Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. Bernanke, in his semi-annual update on the economy, responded to a...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 24, 2009; 11:38 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Amazon, Ben Bernanke, Jeff Bezos, contraction, recession  
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Feb. 24, 2009

Recipe for Disaster Wired | Felix Salmon has written a superb, and suprisingly readable, article on the mathematical models of risk that have torn Wall Street asunder. Inside the Meltdown Frontline, PBS | The companion Web site to a...

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  February 24, 2009; 11:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Neil Irwin's Must Reads  
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Consumer Confidence Hits Another Record Low

Consumer confidence in February hit another all-time low, as Americans struggled with layoffs and a recession. It's not surprising that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, testifying before Congress right now, said the economy is "in a severe contraction." The Conference Board...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 24, 2009; 10:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: consumer confidence  
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Markets Open Up Higher

Wall Street opened up across the board this morning, just like yesterday. Investors hope today does not, however, end like yesterday: a 250-point loss for the Dow, as the Dow and the S&P 500 slipped to 1997 levels. In the...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 24, 2009; 9:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Dow Jones, nasdaq, s&p 500  
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Home Prices Plunge Record 18.2 Percent

Home prices fell by a record 18.2 percent in the most recent quarter, compared to a year ago, according to new data out this morning from the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index. It was the steepest decline...

By Sara Goo  |  February 24, 2009; 9:27 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Case-Shiller, home prices  
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Today's Focus: Bernanke Testifies on Capitol Hill

This morning, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke heads to Capitol Hill to provide his semi-annual report on monetary policy. With the Fed having provided its economic projections last week, Bernanke is likely to encounter some pointed questions about the Obama administration's...

By Sara Goo  |  February 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  
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Rattner to Advise Geithner, Summers on Autos

Steve Rattner, a former New York Times reporter who became an investment banker and private-equity fund manger -- co-founding the Quadrangle Group -- is leaving the private sector to advise Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on the faltering auto industry. Rattner,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 4:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Geithner, New York Times, Quadrangle, Steven Rattner, Treasury  
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Microsoft Demands Money Back From Laid-Off Employees

2/24/09, 9:29 A.M.: UPDATED WITH MICROSOFT RECANT: Microsoft has sent a letter to some of the 1,400 workers laid off last month telling them they were mistakenly paid too much severance. And they have 14 days to give back the...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 3:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Microsoft, severance  
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Amazon's Bezos: We Should Be 'Super Optimistic' On Long-Term Economy

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, appearing moments ago on CNBC to promote his new Kindle 2, which is out today, said that Americans should be "super optimistic" on the long-term outlook for the economy. Easy for him to say: Amazon...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 12:50 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Amazon, Jeff Bezos, Kindle, recession  
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Forecast: Unemployment Could Hit 9% This Year

U.S. unemployment, now at 7.6 percent, could climb to 9 percent this year, according to 47 forecasters surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics and released today. The Ticker thought something seemed familiar about this headline -- we checked...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 11:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: NABE, unemployment  
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Luxe Home Builder Toll Will Cover Mortgages for Laid-Off Workers

Luxury home builder Toll Brothers has joined Hyundai, JetBlue and others in offering to cover the financial obligations of the growing ranks of the unemployed. Toll said this morning that if one of its buyers loses his or her job,...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 11:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Hyundai, JetBlue, Toll Brothers  
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Markets Up at Opening

Wall Street opened largely up this morning on news of a fresh federal capital injection into America's struggling big banks and possible additional aid to Citigroup, the sickest of the big banks. In the first 15 minutes of trading, the...

By Frank Ahrens  |  February 23, 2009; 9:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Dow Jones, nasdaq, s&p 500  
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This Week: Financial Summit; Banks' 'Stress Test'

Today begins a critical week for some of the nation's hobbling industries. The Obama administration today holds a financial summit where he will outline some key details of his budget plan, which includes a goal to cut the federal deficit...

By Sara Goo  |  February 23, 2009; 7:05 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  The Ticker  
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