With a food import ban, Russian sanctions the sanctioners

August 7, 2014

Russia banned most food imports from major Western countries on Thursday. The move was made in response to sanctions attempting to punish the country for its actions in Ukraine. Reuters Polina Devitt and Sergei Karpukhin report that the move “isolates Russian consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days.”

The spacecraft on track to catch a comet

August 6, 2014

The European spacecraft Rosetta is about to catch up with a comet. Ten years after launching, Rosetta will meet up with  67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko soon, take a trip with it around the sun, and, in November, hopefully land a probe on its surface.

Target says it will miss its mark

August 5, 2014

The corporate cost of one the largest retail data breaches in history is beginning to be quantified. On December 19, 2013 Target admitted that credit and debit card information was stolen from its U.S. customers. The company initially said 40 million shoppers were affected. Later, it said the number was in fact somewhere between 70 million and 110 million.

China’s quake death toll expected to rise

August 4, 2014

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Yunnan province in southwestern China over the weekend, killing hundreds of people. The death toll at last count was 398 people, but with thousands of buildings collapsed and recovery efforts continuing, it’s likely to rise.

July jobs report: Stagnant wages

August 1, 2014

It’s Jobs Friday! This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data for non-farm payrolls for the month of July. The economy created 209,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.2%. The headline number came in a bit under consensus (a Reuters poll of economists expected growth of 233,000), but was overall not a terrible number. The data today really preserves the status quo.

A bright spot beyond the unemployment rate

July 31, 2014

Ahead of tomorrow’s jobs report, here’s an interesting trend to consider. Unemployment in the U.S. has been dropping. That’s not new. It’s been dropping for more than four years. Not quickly, dramatically, or even very surprisingly: just a slow, steady, decent but not-quite-good-enough decline.  The New York Times’ Neil Irwin memorably said “the jobs recovery in the United States is astonishingly consistent, astonishingly resilient, and astonishingly underwhelming.”

GDP rebounds in the second quarter

July 30, 2014

Good news: the economy bounced back last quarter. In fact, after a terrible first quarter in which the economy contracted at a 2.1 percent rate, GDP rebounded to grow at a 4 percent annual rate between April and June.

Mixed news on U.S. housing

July 29, 2014

There was unexpected news in the housing market this morning: “U.S. single-family home prices fell unexpectedly in May, declining for the first time in more than two years,” Reuters’ Chuck Mikolajczak reports. Seasonally adjusted, the S&P Case Shiller index of 20 metro areas fell 0.3 percent. That is the index’s first monthly decline since January 2012.

Ebola claims more victims

July 28, 2014

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has gotten scarier. More than 670 people have died of the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now Nigeria, which on Friday confirmed that a man in Lagos had died of the deadly disease. Over the weekend, Liberia closed most border crossings into and out of the country to try to clamp down on the spread of the virus, which can kill up to 90 percent of victims (in this outbreak the fatality rate is around 60 percent).

Millennials: forever renters or just delayed homeowners?

July 25, 2014

The White House wants to help you move out of your parents’ basement. That was the message from Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, at the Zillow Housing Forum in Washington yesterday.