Expressions of joy were muted on Wall Street at Friday's release of the latest report from the Conference Board (CB) showing its Leading Economic Index (LEI) jumping 0.9 percent in October, following just a 0.1 percent gain in September. Economic analysts had a field day trying to read the CB’s tea leaves heading into the Christmas holidays and the new year.
A year ago Dagong Global Credit Rating reduced its rating on the sovereign debt of the United States from AA to A+. In August it dropped it another notch to A. In an interview on Saturday the agency’s chairman, Guan Jianzhong, said it is nearly inevitable that the agency will further reduce its rating of U.S. sovereign debt: "We are continuing to monitor this closely. First of all we need to look at this year’s economic growth [in the US] and then predict next year’s trends. If in the year 2012 the overall projections are not very good, meaning that the sources of payment – and liabilities – are bad and cannot be changed, or change for the worse, then we will lower the rating once again."
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s news conference on November 2 included the admission that the Fed is depending on hope and patience to see if its continuing strategies of Operation Twist and zero interest rates will grow the economy out of recession. In his session with reporters, Bernanke defended Fed actions in the face of increasing criticism from both the left and the right.
With the announcement from Gallup that the unemployment rate had dropped precipitously in early October to 8.3 percent came the disclaimer that they could be wrong. Chief Economist Dennis Jacobe wrote that “the sharp drop in Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment rates may partly result from seasonal factors. Halloween has become the third-largest sales season for many retailers, who are likely increasing their staffing accordingly. In addition, some stores may have been minimally staffed and are beginning early to add employees for the holidays.” But it also “means it could be something of an aberration that will dissipate during the weeks ahead ... but for now, this job market improvement appears real.”
Writing for the New York Times, Andrew Sorkin was puzzled that he couldn’t find any evidence that Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, had given away any part of his significant $8.3 billion personal wealth. What he did find is that when Jobs returned to his old company in 1997, he canceled Apple’s philanthropic programs and they have remained dormant ever since.
Standard and Poor’s was blunt in its assessment of America’s deteriorating financial condition when it announced Friday night that it was cutting its credit rating on United States’ Treasury securities from AAA to the second-tier AA+, with a negative outlook.
Moody’s announcement on Tuesday that it would retain its AAA rating of U.S. government sovereign debt as a result of the debt-limit agreement came with a warning: The government must rein in spending or risk a downgrade anyway. The deal “virtually eliminated the risk of [a] default,” but the agency warned that “Should the new mechanism put in place by the Budget Control Act prove ineffective, this could affect the rating negatively.” Moody’s added that it wanted to see the United States lower its debt-to-GDP ratio, now approaching 100 percent, to around 73 percent by 2015, and then gradually move the ratio lower.
The compromise bill that emerged Sunday night from behind closed doors is being loudly trumpeted in an attempt to persuade recalcitrant conservatives in both houses to vote for something — anything — in time to avoid the August 2 deadline.
Claiming that granting a “tax holiday” for her company (and other large multinationals) would be beneficial to the United States, Oracle President Safra Catz said that such a holiday would allow earnings sitting in idle accounts abroad to be “repatriated” and freed up for better use here in the United States. “It’s an absolute no-brainer,” she said. If the money flows back to the United States, “it will create jobs.” If it stays where it is, it will wind up “funding everybody else’s economies and banks.”