Archive for February 17, 2010

Reads (2-17-2010)

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Industrial capacity falls for 13th month in a row

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Pimping Weapons to the World Tom Dispatch

With an Iraqi army equipped with lots of whiz-bang-kill gadgets, this number should rise:

In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the United States was responsible for $37.8 billion in weapons sales agreements, or 68.4% of the total “trade.” Some of these agreements were long-term ones and did not result in 2008 deliveries of weapons systems, but these latest figures are a good gauge of the global appetite for weapons. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term “global arms trade” doesn’t quite cut it.

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America The Atlantic

How long can you tread water?

The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.

Even if the economy were to immediately begin producing 600,000 jobs a month—more than double the pace of the mid-to-late 1990s, when job growth was strong—it would take roughly two years to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in. The economy could add jobs that fast, or even faster—job growth is theoretically limited only by labor supply, and a lot more labor is sitting idle today than usual. But the U.S. hasn’t seen that pace of sustained employment growth in more than 30 years. And given the particulars of this recession, matching idle workers with new jobs—even once economic growth picks up—seems likely to be a particularly slow and challenging process.

When is a Fraud Not a Fraud? (Greece-Goldman Edition) Naked Capitalism

The short answer to the question in the headline is “When there are no rules.”

A headline in a current Bloomberg story illustrates the problem: “Goldman Sachs, Greece Didn’t Disclose Swap, Investors ‘Fooled’.”

“Fooled” is an unusual choice of words, particularly when applied to to presumed grown-ups like institutional investors and international overseers. Bloomberg seems to be mincing around the more obvious F-words, like “fraud” (as in defrauded) or “fleeced.”

Although there is a considerable amount of well-warranted consternation about how Goldman sold swaps to Greece that allowed it to mask how bad its deteriorating finances were from the EU budget police, there has been perilous little discussion of why the fact that this was permissible says there is something very wrong with the rules in place.

The latest twist is that Goldman managed $15 billion of debt sales for Greece after the debt-disguising swaps were in place, and (needless to say) there was no disclosure of the existence of the hidden debt (Bloomberg was able to obtain only six of ten prospectuses in question and found no mention of the swaps; it seems pretty unlikely that the others disclosed their existence). That means investors were hoodwinked. It goes without saying they would have seen Greece as a worse credit risk if they had been in full possession of the facts, and would presumably have required a higher interest rate.

Housing Starts, Vacant Units and the Unemployment Rate Calculated Risk

An optimistic view of the unemployment worst case scenario: Calculated risk blog think there is a connection between housing starts and unemployment that may signal unemployment levels off in the summer.

Calculated Risk: Housing starts and unemployment

The second graph shows single family housing starts and unemployment (inverted). (The first graph shows total housing starts) You can see both the correlation and the lag. The lag is usually about 12 to 18 months, with peak correlation at a lag of 16 months for single unit starts. The 2001 recession was a business investment led recession, and the pattern didn’t hold. This suggests unemployment might peak in Summer 2010 since housing starts bottomed in April 2009. However, since I expect the housing recovery to be sluggish, I also expect unemployment to remain high throughout 2010.

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