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Dec 11, 2013
via Counterparties

The Volcker Kludge

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The Volcker Rule is here. At 978 pages including a preamble, it’s nearly as long as any of the books in the Game of Thrones series — and possibly more complicated. The rule has been dubbed a modest win for banks, which are now apparently exhaling at the prospect of continuing market-making activities that pull in $40 billion per year in revenue. Paul Volcker, meanwhile, is “gratified to see that the rule itself is shorter than my own home insurance policy.”

Dec 6, 2013
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Wages of min

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“You can’t turn a virtual corner this week without tripping over a discussion about the US minimum wage,” Cardiff Garcia writes in a rather comprehensive round-up of the issue. You can add President Obama to Garcia’s list of people who’ve tackled this topic lately — not to mention the thousands of fast food workers who went on strike this week asking for higher wages. “There’s no solid evidence that a higher minimum wage costs jobs, and research shows it raises incomes for low-wage workers and boosts short-term economic growth,” Obama said.

Dec 5, 2013
via Data Dive

US third quarter GDP: ‘all hat and no cattle’

The US economy grew even faster than initially thought in the third quarter, but possibly not in the most helpful way. The Commerce Department released its revised estimates of third quarter growth today, and said the US economy grew at a 3.6% annual rate, up from its first estimate of 2.8%. Here’s Reuters’s chart:

Still, despite the promising headline figures there was concern that the underlying data wasn’t quite as strong. In short, much of the GDP growth came from businesses piling up goods, rather than actually selling them. “Businesses accumulated $116.5 billion worth of inventories, the largest increase since the first quarter of 1998,” Reuters reports. Dan Alpert tweeted that the report was “all hat and no cattle.”

Dec 4, 2013
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Subprime shifts gears

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Yesterday, US auto sales posted their biggest month in the last six and a half years. Ed Yardeni has a great chart on the post-crisis auto boom and notes that November’s 16.4 million units sold is a new cyclical high. The two-month sales average is 15.8 million units, Yardeni adds, up only slightly from the third quarter.

Nov 27, 2013
via Data Dive

Jobless claims fall, but so does manufacturing

Another hopeful sign for the job market: new jobless claims fell by 10,000 jobs to 316,000, according to Department of Labor data released today. Reuters’ Lucia Mukitani notes that, “the four-week moving average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, slipped 7,500 to 331,750.”

Here’s the long-term trend. While jobless claims continue to fall, the labor force is also steadily shrinking:

Nov 26, 2013
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Housing bubble redux

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In yet another positively giddy housing market report, home prices rose 13.3% in September over the same period last year, according to S&P Case-Shiller. (Here are the charts.) This, Bloomberg writes, was the biggest year-over-year home price gain since February 2006. Home building permits, meanwhile, hit their highest levels since 2008.

Nov 22, 2013
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Mortgage giant resolutions

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Last week, Bruce Berkowitz’s mutual fund firm Fairholme Capital Management proposed a plan to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which have been under government conservatorship since 2008. It’s pretty easy to see why Fairholme likes this proposal: it “would more than double the value of preferred shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Fairholme, billionaire John Paulson and other investors own”, writes Bloomberg.

Nov 21, 2013
via Data Dive

The Big 3′s SUV market visualized

Full-size trucks and SUVS are the single-largest component of the profits at General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford, auto analyst Michael Ward tells Reuters. Here’s more:

Promotion of green technologies, notably hybrid and electric vehicles, has been a signature policy of the Obama administration, which oversaw the $80 billion taxpayer-funded bailout in 2009 of General Motors and Chrysler.

Nov 20, 2013
via Counterparties

JPMorgan Chastened

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Yesterday, JPMorgan’s sprawling multibillion-dollar mortgage settlement with various government agencies was finalized. Here’s the formal agreement; JPMorgan also has a presentation on how the settlement breaks down.

Nov 19, 2013
via Data Dive

MAVEN: The NASA satellite headed on a 3,728-mile orbit above Mars

Correction: A previous version of the headline of this post mistakenly confused the distance to Mars and the distance of the orbit from which it will observe the planet. We regret the error. 

Yesterday, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, on a year-long $671 million journey to discover how the planet lost its water. Here’s a video on the mission.

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      "Ryan McCarthy is a Deputy Editor of Reuters.com and edits Counterparties.com with Felix Salmon. Previously, he was the Business Editor of the Huffington Post."
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