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Political Economy: July 18, 2010 - July 24, 2010

Doing the math: $1.47 trillion is worth...

Beach in Bahamas: $1.47 trillion is worth 200 times Bahamas' GDP. (Norwegian Cruise Line) 1.5 times the 10-year cost of the Obama administration's health-care overhaul 18 times Goldman Sachs' market capitalization as of Friday 28 times Bill Gates' net...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 23, 2010; 6:46 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
 
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What would you do with $1.4 trillion?

The federal deficit is now projected to exceed $1.4 trillion in 2010 and 2011. There are many serious implications to explore, but we also asked our followers on Twitter how they would use that much money. Their responses have been...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 23, 2010; 5:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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European bank stress tests: "a joke"?

By Dylan Mathews Seven of the 91 European banks failed worst-case-scenario stress tests measuring how they would hold up if the continent's government debt crisis worsens. The European Union said the results should comfort those worried about the health of...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 23, 2010; 4:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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The Fed is from Mars, the ECB is from Venus

By Neil Irwin When I was in Frankfurt last month for meetings at the European Central Bank, I was shocked at times at how different the tone was compared with their counterparts at the Federal Reserve, whom I spend most...

By Neil Irwin  | July 23, 2010; 12:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Budget and fiscal policy, Federal Reserve, International Economics  
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New top regulator for Wall Street banks

Fresh from managing the government's bailout of American International Group, Sarah Dahlgren will soon be one of the most important people in the world of banking whose name you will rarely see in the news. Dahlgren will become head of bank supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Jan. 1, the bank said today. She replaces William Rutledge, who announced his intention to retire on Thursday.

By Neil Irwin  | July 23, 2010; 11:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Federal Reserve, Financial regulation  
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Morning briefing: Europe shows signs of growth, Japan worries about yen

Here's what happened overnight in Europe and Asia: * Japanese policymakers for the third straight day expressed worries about a stronger yen, which has grown 9 percent since early May. National Strategy Minister Satoshi Arai's statement that "an appreciation in...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 23, 2010; 6:50 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Economic Agenda: Friday, July 23, 2010

By Mike Shepard Some time during the day -- The European Union is scheduled to release the results of stress tests on the continent's banks. At 10 a.m.-- Obama administration pay czar Kenneth Feinberg is expected to release a report...

By Mike Shepard  | July 23, 2010; 5:17 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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What we're reading elsewhere: Warren's scholarly writings and more

In The Atlantic, Megan McArdle looks at Elizabeth Warren's scholarly writings: Does this persistent tendency to choose odd metrics that inflate the case for some left wing cause matter? If Warren worked at a think tank, you'd say, "Ah, well, that's the genre." On the other hand, you'd also tend to regard her stuff with a rather beady eye. It's unlikely to have been splashed across the headline of every newspaper in the United States. Her work gets so much attention because it comes from a Harvard professor. And this isn't Harvard-caliber material -- not even Harvard undergraduate.

By Dylan Mathews  | July 22, 2010; 2:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Warren makes the rounds in D.C. as Geithner praises her

Elizabeth Warren seems to be everywhere in Washington. On Tuesday night, Warren--a Harvard law professor who is being promoted as the leading candidate to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau--dined with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. On Wednesday, she...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 22, 2010; 12:11 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau  
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Mortgage rates hit record low, existing home sales fall

Mortgage rates fell percent to a record low on Thursday, but the declining rates haven't been enough to spark sales in a housing market struggling with high unemployment, tightened lending and rising foreclosures. This is the fourth time in five weeks that mortgage rates have fallen. The average for 30-year fixed loans was 4.56 percent, down from 4.57 percent last week., the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking the numbers in 1971. For 15-year fixed loans, the average was 4.03 percent, down 4.06 percent from last week.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 22, 2010; 11:52 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Housing  
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Jobless claims jump higher than expected

By Ariana Eunjung Cha The number of Americans filing jobless claims jumped higher than expected last week, underscoring worries about the economic recovery in the second half of the year. The Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment benefits, which...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 22, 2010; 9:09 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Unemployment  
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Morning briefing: China plans 'consumer stimulus,' upbeat economic data from Europe

Here's what happened overnight in Asia and Europe: *While experts warn that the economic outlook for Europe remains fragile because of government spending cuts, there was some good news Thursday for consumer demand. Industrial orders unexpectedly increased in May in...

By by Arianna Eunjung CHa  | July 22, 2010; 7:22 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Economic agenda: Thursday, July 22, 2010

At 8:30 a.m. -- The Labor Department releases data on weekly unemployment benefits claims. At 9:30 a.m. -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on monetary policy and the state of the...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 22, 2010; 6:12 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Bernanke says Fed would act if necessary to boost economy

The Federal Reserve would take action if necessary to keep the economic recovery on track, its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said Wednesday, even as he asserted confidence that the expansion continues. It was the first public acknowledgment by the Fed chairman that further policy steps are possible if the economic recovery continues to disappoint. It was part of a dual message he meant to convey in his semi-annual testimony on monetary policy to the Senate Banking Committee: one of cautious optimism about continued growth, and recognition that the risks the recovery will falter have risen in recent months.

By Neil Irwin  | July 21, 2010; 2:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (71)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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IMF: Europe's still in the dumps

The International Monetary Fund this morning released its latest review of the eurozone economy, a collection of 16 countries that, judging from the report's conclusions, are becoming the continent's new Brothers Grimm.

By Howard Schneider  | July 21, 2010; 1:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Government watchdogs: Obama failing to help at-risk homeowners

By Ariana Eunjung Cha The Obama administration's efforts to aid at-risk homeowners in danger of foreclosure is not working and the Treasury Department shoulders some of the blame, the three government watchdogs for the $700 billion financial bailout told a...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 21, 2010; 12:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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The last episode of the Bunning and Bernanke show?

Regulars at Ben Bernanke hearings on Capitol Hill know that many of his usual interlocutors on the Senate Banking Committee use recurring themes during their questioning. When the Federal Reserve chairman goes before the committee this afternoon for his semi-annual testimony on monetary policy, for example, there is a good chance that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will complain that interest rates were too low during the early part of the 2000s, and that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will push Bernanke to move more aggressively on regulating credit cards and mortgage loans. But even when senators criticize Bernanke, things remain quite civil. That's not always the case when Sen. Jim Bunning gets his turn. The Kentucky Republican tends to take a more, er, aggressive tack. But this may well be Bernanke's last time to get the Bunning treatment; the former major league pitcher is retiring, so unless Bernanke has to make another appearance before the banking committee this year, this is the end of the Jim and Ben show. One supposes that Bernanke will shed no tears.

By Neil Irwin  | July 21, 2010; 11:43 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Morning briefing: New sanctions for North Korea, international banking activity up

By Ariana Eunjung Cha Here's what happened overnight in Asia and Europe: *Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. plans new sanctions against North Korea in response to the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. The measures...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 21, 2010; 7:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Today's economic agenda

By Mike Shepard Before financial markets open -- Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and Coca Cola are scheduled to issue quarterly results. At 10 am. -- The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on compensation for victims of the Gulf Coast...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 21, 2010; 7:29 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Why Wall Street doesn't understand the Fed

By Neil Irwin For those of us who follow the Federal Reserve closely, it is sometimes shocking how poorly Wall Street seems to understand the central bank. The rumor Tuesday was that Ben Bernanke would, at his monetary policy testimony...

By Neil Irwin  | July 20, 2010; 5:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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What we're reading elsewhere: Keynes and the stimulus, registering Hamas with the BBB

By Dylan Mathews Robert Skidelsky explains Keynes' logic is advocating stimulus spending: "Keynes denied that real wages are set in the labor market. Workers bargain for money wages, and a reduction in their money incomes might leave total demand too...

By Dylan Mathews  | July 20, 2010; 2:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Unemployment rate falls across 39 states, but it's not good news

By V. Dion Haynes and Ariana Eunjung Cha The unemployment rate across 39 states and the District fell in June, but this is far from good news. Instead, it reflects renewed pessimism about the economy as employers put the brakes...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 20, 2010; 2:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (23)
 
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Question time for Mr. Bernanke

Ben Bernanke goes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for one of the most important events on the Fed calendar: the twice-a-year, Congressionally mandated monetary policy testimony, informally known as Humphrey-Hawkins, for the legislation that requires it. This is one of the key official mechanisms by which Congress -- and by extension, the American people -- hold the Fed accountable for its conduct in an area of policy that has vast sway over peoples' lives.

By Neil Irwin  | July 20, 2010; 1:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Federal Reserve  
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Home construction lower than expected in June

By Dina ElBoghdady Housing starts dropped more than expected in June for the second consecutive month, reflecting builder unease about the housing market. Construction of single family homes and apartments fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 549,000, down...

By Washington Post staff  | July 20, 2010; 9:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  U.S. Economy  
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Morning briefing: China says Google will obey censorship laws, Britain's deficit shrinks slightly

By Ariana Eunjung Cha *China said Tuesday that Google's license to operate in the country had been renewed after the company pledged to obey censorship laws. The remarks were Beijing's first comments about Google since the search giant shocked the...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 20, 2010; 6:18 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  China  
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Is Elizabeth Warren really the best pick to run the new consumer finance agency?

Liberals across the land are advocating vehemently for Elizabeth Warren to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the soon-to-be-signed financial reform bill. Warren, of course, has been the chief watchdog of the financial bailout, frequent thorn in the side of Timothy F. Geithner and other architects of said bailout, a leading scholar on the rise of--and problems caused by--America's consumer debt overload, and a pioneer of the idea of creating such an agency to begin with.

By Neil Irwin  | July 19, 2010; 9:17 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Financial regulation  
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Sen. Levin on Goldman Sachs: Whether or not anyone goes to jail is up to Justice Dept.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) reacted to the news of Goldman Sachs's settlement with the SEC in an interview with Post staff writer Zach Goldfarb: "I think it's premature to either conclude that there's not going to be any criminal action...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 19, 2010; 1:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Morning briefing: China becomes world's No. 1 energy consumer, U.S. stock-index futures climb

By Ariana Eunjung Cha *China has surpassed the United States to become the world's biggest energy consumer, according to new data from the International Energy Agency. China used 2,252 million tons of oil equivalent last year, or about 4 percent...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 19, 2010; 8:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Michael Boskin: Stimulus 'mostly a tragic waste of money'

In just over 18 months on the job, President Obama has tackled a domestic economic agenda as ambitious as any president's in half a century -- signing a record $787 billion stimulus package and pushing a far-reaching financial regulatory...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 19, 2010; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (38)
 
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Martin Neil Baily: Obama's economic policies were not pretty, but they were right

In just over 18 months on the job, President Obama has tackled a domestic economic agenda as ambitious as any president's in half a century -- signing a record $787 billion stimulus package and pushing a far-reaching financial regulatory...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 19, 2010; 8:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Week ahead: Bernanke on Capitol Hill, key housing data released

By Neil Irwin It will be a big week for Ben S. Bernanke, and the scheduled release of some key June housing data should show the effect of the end of the home buyer tax credit. Tuesday The great post-stimulus...

By Ariana Eunjung Cha  | July 18, 2010; 10:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Trade  
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