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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out



(image via timesonline)

In: President Barack Obama. The stakes for the global economy are massive. This will be the new President's first major foray onto the global stage. The hopes of the country, and the world, are with the President of these United States. Whether or not Barack Obama is able to forge some kind of international cooperation on a host of grave issues between the G20 powers -- and that seems increasingly unlikely in the cases of Sarkozy, Merkel -- the markets trajectory upwards or downwards depends. From Reuters:

"'He's obviously got a lot of charisma and it's his first big meeting. And I think people tend to be very polite in these situations but there could also be a level of awkwardness there,' said Simon Johnson, a former IMF chief economist who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"One theme at the economic summit will be a view in many countries that the United States bears much of the blame for the global financial meltdown because of its lax financial regulation and the debt-fueled U.S. housing bubble."




Out: The New York Times. It is not a goodf time to be any paper, but this month it is particularly bad to work at the Gray Lady. Unless you are the ubiquitous Paul Krugman, anti-Obama. First there is the positively citric Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. piece in Vanity Fair. Then, from the salmon-colored weekly, news of cuts:

"One source tells The Observer that there are plans to eliminate the paper’s weekly travel installment, Escapes. The regionals that are published in New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester might fold as well, which is not an obvious choice: unlike City, the regionals have produced steady revenue, but if there is no more to cut there either, production and freelance costs may no longer be bearable.

"Staffers from those sections would be reassigned to new jobs, our source says.

"When the Metro standalone section was eliminated, the desk and the material it brought to the paper were supposed to be preserved; between online editions and those pages at the back of the A-section. We’re hearing that a similar plan is afoot for material that has previously been published to the Escapes, City and regional sections, but another source cautioned that that was 'a best case scenario.'"


More here.



In: Al Franken. We are not, to say the least, fans of Al Franken (Averted Gaze). But it looks like the people of Minnesota -- and now a three judge panel -- have spoken. If Norm Coleman wants to persist in his quixotic quest thus leaving Minnesota with only 50% representation in the United States Senate, then he risks nullifying a ground on which to run against Franken the next time around. From Politico:

"In its third week of deliberations, the state court on Tuesday afternoon issued a ruling ordering absentee ballots to be turned over to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office by April 6. The ballots would then by be counted in open court by April 7. In the minutes after the ruling was issued, Democrats began trumpeting the decision, saying that Coleman’s ability now to retake the lead is a tall order.

"The math really doesn’t look good for Coleman with this decision, as he would have to win an overwhelming majority of these 400 ballots to overcome Franken’s 225 vote lead, and not every one of these ballots will necessarily be opened and recounted.

"'We are obviously pleased,' said Mark Elias, chief legal counsel for Franken, in a conference call with reporters."


Frank(en)ly, we cannot understand how Coleman could lose to Franken. With the benefits of incumbency and a shitload of YouTube videos of Franken's unfunny Stuart Smalley clips, there is no reason why this jerk should have won. But won he did.

Now, step aside, Coleman, and let the clown do what he was elected to do.



(image via wallstreetfighter)

Out: "Vice Stocks." The psychology of economics takes the cold, hard edge off the nebulousness of the numbers. And one of the more interesting aspects of this is what does well, marketwise, in times of recession. Last September, Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Mintel said, "Chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol again seem relatively recession-proof. People might be cutting back or switching to store-brands, but they definitely aren't giving up their small daily indulgences." But before you invest in Nestle, you might want to read this. From BusinessWeek:

"There are several theories as to why sinful stocks haven't held up. Many companies were hurt by high debt levels while investors worried about exposure by others to troubled emerging markets.

"A key concern is the suspicion that consumers are cutting spending far more than in past slowdowns. 'The recession itself is different in its nature,' says Keith Hembre, chief economist at First American Funds. Consumers are permanently altering spending patterns amid job shrinkage and vast losses in the markets for stocks and residential real estate. 'We've had an unprecedented weakening in the household balance sheet,' he says.

"In fact, consumers are even cutting back small purchases like lottery tickets, notes Morningstar (MORN) fund analyst David Kathman. 'This recession is pretty different from the last couple that we've had,' he says."

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