Agnes's Feed
Dec 5, 2012
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The 1 pct find a way to stimulate themselves

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By Agnes T. Crane

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The wealthy in America are creating their own personal stimulus. Special dividends are coming thick and fast. Oracle’s Larry Ellison and the Walton family of Wal-Mart Stores are among the noteworthy beneficiaries. Payouts have potentially saved recipients billions in taxes so far. Uncle Sam might have put that to work fixing infrastructure.

Nov 29, 2012
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Infrastructural upgrade belongs in US fiscal talks

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

It won’t be long before Democrats will want to throw some form of economic stimulus into the discussions over righting America’s finances. Tactically, it could be a useful variable to add to the the negotiations with Republicans. Trouble is, most of them equate stimulus with waste. But there’s a way for the White House to square the circle by capitalizing on bipartisan disgust over the nation’s crumbling roads, collapsing bridges and insufficient sea walls. Call it the infrastructural upgrade card.

Nov 29, 2012
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Corporate America fears taxes more than recession

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President Barack Obama is seeking input from Corporate America on the so-called fiscal cliff. But whatever company honchos may be saying about the risk of recession in 2013 if tax hikes and spending cuts kick in on Jan. 1, it looks as if they actually fear higher taxes more than a downturn.

Exhibit A is the recent flurry of special dividends, including a $3 billion whopper announced on Wednesday by warehouse retailer Costco. Data group Markit says 112 firms so far this quarter have already pulled the trigger on special dividends. They include casino operator Las Vegas Sands, which will send more than $1 billion to Mitt Romney’s pal Sheldon Adelson, his wife and the trusts the billionaire controls. Markit expects 20 more firms to do something similar before the year is through.

Nov 16, 2012
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Hostess Brands is dead, long live the Twinkie

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By Agnes T. Crane
Thea author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Hostess Brands is dead, long live the Twinkie. The fluorescent yellow cream-filled cakes are a cultural touchstone for generations of Americans. As Hostess oozes through the bankruptcy process for the second time in three years, it is now opting for the nuclear option of liquidation. But the Twinkie brand’s half-life should be longer than its maker’s.

Nov 14, 2012

Fed needs to spend some time out of the spotlight

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are her own.)

By Agnes T. Crane

NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The Federal
Reserve needs to spend some time out of the spotlight. After
experimenting with massive new policy initiatives since the 2008
crisis, the hyperactive U.S. central bank has already said it
probably won’t raise rates for years. Now it’s considering
specifying levels of unemployment and inflation which could
change that. It’s a recipe for confusion.

Nov 5, 2012
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Chris Christie may soon feel Barack Obama’s pain

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Chris Christie’s budding bromance with Barack Obama may grow even stronger. New Jersey’s Republican governor, who praised the president as they surveyed superstorm devastation together last week, faces a Sandy-related revenue hit that will make it hard to balance the budget, as mandated by the state constitution. That could leave Christie stealing a page from Obama’s election playbook.

Oct 25, 2012

U.S. housing recovery not as solid as it looks

(The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are their own.)(Fixes links.)

By Daniel Indiviglio and Agnes T. Crane

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The
recovery in U.S. housing is not as solid as it looks. Prices
were up 4 percent in the six months to July, according to
Case-Shiller. But that may be built on a less than solid
foundation. That’s because cash-rich investors looking to buy
properties to rent, whether new or out of foreclosure, seem to
be driving the uptick, not regular consumers. That’s helpful,
but if investors find better opportunities before individuals
jump back in, the recovery may falter.

Oct 17, 2012
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Brian Moynihan can’t ignore Citi’s regime change

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Bank of America boss Brian Moynihan can’t ignore the regime change at cross-town rival Citigroup. His three years in the corner office is less than Vikram Pandit had, but he faces the same challenges to boost performance. BofA’s third-quarter return on equity of just 6.3 percent is a case in point. While improving, Moynihan needs to do more before he, too, clashes with his board and shareholders.
 
The results weren’t as bad as implied by the dismal $340 million headline profit reported on Wednesday. One-offs like the $1.9 billion charge for the bank’s improving credit quality and a $1.6 billion hit for litigation costs, including the settlement of the Merrill Lynch class action suit, took a big bite out of earnings.

Oct 17, 2012
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Latest attempt to find Libor victim: Main Street

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The Libor scandal is still in search of victims. Now a group of U.S. homeowners has accused 12 banks of booking illicit profit from nudging the London Interbank Offered Rate benchmark higher. Bringing Main Street into the affair could add to political pressure for tougher regulation. Even so, it’s hard to see how more than a tiny amount of harm was done.

Oct 12, 2012
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Solid quarter doesn’t bust ghost of Dimon’s whale

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

JPMorgan’s solid third quarter has put Jamie Dimon back on track. The U.S. bank’s boss had $5.7 billion of profit in the quarter to crow about – a third more than a year ago. His standing took a drubbing earlier this year after dodgy hedging transactions, known as the whale trades, cost the firm about $6 billion. Now he can breathe easier. But one good report doesn’t bust the ghost of the whale.