The Republican Small Business Committee reported on November 8 that small-business optimism “remains extremely low,” and that business owners “simply are not hiring because they are pessimistic about consumer sales, the nation’s economic climate, and the amount of regulations to comply with.” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) added, "The overall mood of the nation’s job creators is still at historic lows. The [Optimism Index of the National Federation of Independent Business] shows that over the next three months, only 9 percent of small business owners plan to increase employment [while] 12 percent plan to lay off workers. These numbers are … worse than the previous two months."
Jeff Jacoby listed some of the reasons he was thankful on Thanksgiving Day in 2003, including the feast on the table, the company of his family and loved ones, the good fortunes enjoyed during the year, the privilege of being an American. But what about such common things taken for granted, like airline schedules, and movie theaters, and recipes in the paper — and the turkey?
Barring a miracle, the Supercommittee will announce Monday morning its failure at coming up with legislation to reduce the projected combined federal budget deficits over 10 years by $1.2 trillion, or $120 billion per year, starting in January 2013. Without enactment of these cuts, under the Budget Control Act the automatic option, called a sequester, will kick in, with $600 billion of the $1.22 trillion in cuts coming from defense spending. Social Security, Medicaid, and other low-income programs are exempt from the cuts, and cuts to Medicare would be modest.
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.