Auto industry looks up

June 20, 2014

Car companies are taking advantage of low interest rates and expanding their finance arms — so much so that they are nudging out the big banks, Reuters reported this week. Automakers made half of new car loans last quarter, up 37 percent from a year earlier. According to Reuters:

Spain’s uneasy crown

June 19, 2014

So much for pomp and circumstance. Spain’s new king, Felipe VI, inherited a bunch of challenges along with his crown when he was crowned as his country’s new monarch at a stripped-down ceremony today. The king took over from his father, Juan Carlos, who abdicated earlier this month in favor of his 46-year-old son. Now the new ruler has to deal with problems that include the growing Catalonia separatist movement, lingering anger over his father’s departure on a secret elephant-hunting trip at the height of the nation’s 2012 financial crisis and embezzling charges against his brother-in-law.

Inflating CPI

June 18, 2014

Inflation is finally looking up. US consumer prices rose 0.4% in May — the biggest one-month jump since February 2013 and twice what economists expected. This rise  could have implications for the Fed’s two-day policy meeting this week, though Reuters reports the expectation remains the same: the taper will continue, but an interest rate hike is still months off.

Charting global real-estate bubbles

June 17, 2014

Wonder what house prices are doing around the world? Then take a look at the International Monetary Fund’s new Global Housing Watch project, which tracks global housing booms and busts. There are quite a few markets that are more inflated than ever. This chart from Matt O’Brien at Wonkblog ranks national housing markets by how much current price-to-rent ratios — that is, how much it costs to buy vs rent a similar property — deviate from the historical average.

FIFA sponsors get involved in Qatar bribery allegations

June 16, 2014

Earlier this month, the Sunday Times published allegations that a Qatari official bribed FIFA to choose Doha for the 2022 World Cup. Since, there’s been lots of back and forth on what happens now. Qatar has denied the allegations, but there are rumors that FIFA told the United States to be ready if the organization decides to move the event (which, for the record, FIFA has denied).

Instability in Iraq

June 13, 2014

The crisis in Iraq continues to worsen. The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has taken the city of Mosul, in the Sunni-dominated northern area of the country, and are headed south. But the Iraqi Kurds, based in their own semi-autonomous region in the northeast of the country, have taken the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Reuters reports.

Beef, consolidated

June 12, 2014

Do you know where the meat in your hamburger came from? It’s sort of trick question, because even if you don’t know, it’s pretty easy to guess. Roberto Ferdman reported yesterday that the top four meat packers in the United States — Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill, and National Beef — control 75% of the nation’s beef supply. Most of that consolidation happened in the 1980s, but the big four have been slowly adding to their market share in the last decade:

Charting the billions banks have paid out over crisis-era mortgages

June 11, 2014

Another day, another potential Bank of America mortgage settlement. This time it could be up to $17 billion — the largest settlement by any bank. BofA, however, is finally putting its foot down. According to the New York Times, it doesn’t want to pay more than $12 billion.

Consumer debt spiked in April

June 10, 2014

Consumer debt is back in the US. Matt Phillips at Quartz reports that after a long period of low or negative debt since the crisis, households seem to be breaking out their credit cards again. In April, revolving consumer debt spiked above $5 billion for the first time since 2008:

Gay marriage is still in limbo in Wisconsin

June 9, 2014

The march toward legalizing gay marriage across the country continued last Friday, when a federal judge declared Wisconsin’s ban on it unconstitutional. Clerks in two counties started issuing marriage licenses on Friday, according to Reuters.