Opinion

The Great Debate

Rising unemployment gravest threat to U.S. and UK

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Rising unemployment is the now the largest single threat to attempts to stabilize the banking system through recapitalization and assets swaps designed to remove toxic assets from bank balance sheets.

It is also the main impediment to restarting bank lending, renewing output growth and preventing debt-deflation becoming entrenched.

So far, the rising wave of defaults has been concentrated in the riskier portions of banks’ loan books: subprime mortgages, buy-to-let loans, and lending to private equity ventures and management to finance asset acquisitions and highly leveraged buyouts.

Defaults on prime mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and other forms of bank lending have all risen, but generally not very much, and from a very low cyclical starting point.

from Ask...:

Reaction to shocking jobless data


November's job losses were the steepest since December 1974, when 602,000 jobs were shed. Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a reduction of 340,000 jobs.

"This is a clear employment blowout. Firms are reacting as dramatically as they can to make sure they have cost structures they can survive the recession we are in," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.

One reader commenting on the site feels the job losses have not hit bottom. "I predict 30% unemployment by March of 2009. The retailers are gonna tank right after Christmas. Look for some really good deals!" wrote Smacktle.

After victory, a reality check for Obama

diana-furchtgott-roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed are her own. —

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Pity President-elect Barack Obama. Today, only three days after his historic victory as the first African-American elected president, the Labor Department announced that the economy lost 240,000 jobs from payrolls in October and that the unemployment rate rose to 6.5%. This underscores the difficulties he faces in raising taxes on “the rich” to fund new spending.

Obama must recognize that his campaign promises are impossible to implement without making the economy sicker. The economy is weak and getting weaker, probably contracting now at an annual rate of 3-4 percent.

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