Stories by Katie Paul

  • Uneven Developments in the Foreclosure Saga

    A few words on Realtytrac's new housing and foreclosure data for this month. Interesting snippets from the press release:The report shows that one in every 374 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing inApril, shattering records throughout the land.Much of April's activity is at the initial stages of foreclosure, suggesting that many lenders are cracking down on delinquent loans that had been delayed by government-imposed and industry-embraced moratoria. [My note: we'll see how those fare when they hit the market later this summer.]The states with the highest foreclosure rates were Nevada, Florida, California, Arizona, and Idaho. Other states rounding out the top-10 list were Utah, Georgia, Illinois, Colorado and Ohio — although the foreclosure rates in Illinois, Colorado and Ohio were below the national average [emphasis mine].Remember how all politics is local? So is all housing data. Although the foreclosure crisis has wreaked its havoc far and wide, it...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Monday, May 11

    There's Something About Boise: We journalists are always on the hunt for nice, neat microcosms of broad trends and big ideas. The NYT's Peter Goodman thinks he found his in Boise, Idaho, a town that may be poised to blossom if (when...?) this whole economic recovery thing works out. For reasons known only to him, the FT's Wolfgang Munchau has apparently seen fit to compare the European Commission to a rotting fish emitting a rather unpleasant odor. I'm not sure that was quite was his colleague had in mind when she laid out the merits of studying finance through the animal kingdom. If downturns tend to produce waves of new ideas, and we have survived the free fall stage of this downturn, then it's as good a time as any to start speculating about what the next earth-shattering thing on the horizon might be. Tasty food for thought from some big names in the thinking biz. Adam Davidson got Elizabeth Warren pretty riled up during their interview last week--but...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, May 7

    Drumroll, Please: The long-awaited stress test results are out this afternoon, though we already have a pretty good idea of what they'll be. In the runup, Tim Geithner is hitting the streets for a publicity tour, stops of which you can see here and here. Also, you can play with a nifty stress test interactive here.SEC Takedown: So you thought we might see some regulatory reform come out of this financial maelstrom? Don't hold your breath, says the WSJ's David Weidner, though that's not for lack of need. He describes the commission as a "rancid" tool of the industry. The Obama team is proposing $17 billion in cuts to its awe-inspiring $3.55 trillion budget. It's a drop in the bucket relative to overall spending--but hey, so were earmarks, and that didn't stop certain members of Congress from working themselves into a tizzy about them. A favorite example of what's getting the boot: an attache for the Department of Education in Paris, who...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, May 6

    Please, Sir, May I Have Some More: The latest leak ahead of tomorrow's stress test results has Bank of America needing an extra $34 billion in bailout money. How's the government doing on those bailout coffers, you might ask? ProPublica, diligently tracking every penny, has the scoop.The Fortunes of Lowlife Grave Dancers: What's to become of ailing small banks in America's ailing small towns? The private equity kings of New York see big profits on the horizon, but the Fed is resistant to letting them completely take over the recession's biggest potential prizes.All Real Estate Is Local: New data from Zillow.com shows some bright spots amid more bad housing news. The upshot: real estate values in some metro areas are actually rising this year, but the national picture shows that the bottom will be both long and a long way off. (Chart is interesting, and worth the click).Downers from the Fed: Real Time Economics brings us doom and gloom from the Fed's...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Tuesday, May 5

    Back to the Bailouts: Bits are already starting to leak out about the results of the bank stress tests, set to be released Thursday. The early word: 10 of the 19 will need more capital, but the problems aren't as bad as some have said. The naysayers are standing by their analyses. Happy Days Are Here Again: With the flowers of May also comes the end of the Great Recession, according to two Forbes columnists.Playing the Sunshine State Bottom Game: The NYT thinks we might be seeing signs of a bottom in Sacramento's hard-hit housing market. Well, sort of. Ample wiggle room earns this one a meh. (And since I just got back from a reporting trip to the area south of there, I will have more to say on that front soon).So Much for Tree Huggers: The Mafia has moved into the green economy. It was only a matter of time.Three Cheers for Entrepreneurship: Remember the Iraq War Most Wanted playing cards? There is now a Financial Crisis Most Wanted edition, made up of 52 CEOs, politicians...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Tuesday, April 28

    More on that Freaky Swine Flu: This Reuters blogger has a good take on how past flu outbreaks affected the economy, and how this one might stack up. If you just can't get enough, they also have a full coverage page with all the latest updates, photos, and backgrounders your panicked heart could desire.Shall We Call Them Stress Quizzes?: Results of the stress tests applied to 19 banks will be published Monday, but it looks like there won't be a hopping release party. The Fed and critics alike are downplaying the tests as a series of inconclusive what-if scenarios, which wouldn't restore confidence as hoped. That has one anonymous bank exec worrying that next week "could feel...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, April 23

    Reconsidering the Reconsideration of Aid: Two recent books have put aid to Africa on trial, arguing that it often does more harm than good. The idea has become vogue in the do-gooder zeitgeist, but Johannesburg-based Greg Mills says it's not the whole story.Another One on the Up: Credit Suisse joined Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan in returning to profitability. The Swiss bank posted a quarterly profit of $1.7 billion after having lost over $5 billion last fall and shed some 5,100 jobs.World's Biggest Frenemies: Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen editorializes that China and the U.S. form a de facto G-2 and have no choice but to get along. He lays out some points of commonality where they might get the ball rolling.Polyannas vs. Cassandras: Lex wonders why the IMF insists on being such a sourpuss while politicians are doing their darndest to promote a recovery story.Don't Tread on Me: Fed up with countries like China and Japan dumping cheap imports that hinder...
  • The Consumer Is Fickle

    As promised, here's a more well-digested take on the Nielsen consumer trend report. The basics: Nielsen aggregated consumer trend data from 11 major GDP countries to come up with the key performance indicator (KPI) chart at left (tip for how to read the thing: the greener, the better). The index was weighted based on dollar sales and unit sales, but also took into account things like how often people were shopping, how much they were buying each time, to what extent they were buying generic brands, and how confident they were that the end is near (in a good way). See all those gray horizontal arrows? Nielsen VP James Russo sees them as a sign that we're either at or very close to a bottom in the recession. Consumer spending is leveling off from its massive drops--in fact, in Germany, it even rose slightly. It's not because people are suddenly buying up Porches again. Rather, they're snatching up essentials in bulk. "The big thing is that we're not seei...
  • Today in Colorful Ways to Follow the Money

    Nielson is out today with two reports on global consumer behavior, with some potentially happy news for the US. I'll post more info on their findings shortly, but I think this is a sufficiently clear, handy presentation of global stimulus dollars that it deserves a look on its own. Pretty incredible that South Africa is pumping a full 38 percent of its GDP into its economy, no? It makes our 5.5 percent look meager by comparison, alarmingly close to a trillion bucks though it may be.
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, April 22

    Banks with Chutzpah: Treasury is up for a fight on the Detroit front, after banks and other lenders came back with a meager counteroffer on canceling most of Chrysler's debt. Word on the street is that the big dogs--JP Morgan and Citi--were convinced by the little guys to be more aggressive. Apparently they didn't get the memo about not biting the hand that feeds.And the (Closest Thing We Have to a) Winner Is...: Mohamed El-Erian is very much looking forward to the release of the results from bank stress tests. He lays out five ways they ought to go down.German Toxic Waste Seeking Dump: Merkel is getting moving on a plan to take care of banks' toxic assets, which will most likely end up in a series of bad banks rather than one centralized dumping ground. Analysts expect the plan to come together by the summer. Platinum Concerns: After the polls close and celebrations die down in South Africa, the new government will inherit big troubles in the country's huge...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Tuesday, April 21

    You know it's been a bad year when the word profit sets off waves of cynicism. NPR puts it all in perspective--the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.Recession Nostalgia: Having declared the financial misery of the last two years over, the chairman of London & Oxford Capital Markets lays out all the benefits of the recession we'll miss once it's gone. Lower prices, home-grown veggies, and leisure time make the cut. Mass foreclosures are mysteriously absent...A Graying Dragon: Remember China's draconian population control measures? Not only did they spell bad news for baby girls, but also for a society that will see the elderly account for 30 percent of the population by 2050. The coming retirement avalanche puts additional weight behind efforts to expand China's social safety net.Playing Oil Hardball: OPEC leaders are making noise about cutting supply after months of weak prices, accusing consumer countries of stockpiling. That...
  • No Parody Please, We're British

    Someone at the Financial Times has caught a serious case of the sillies. The Lex column, in case you are not a regular reader (and for shame, sir!), bills itself as FT's "agenda-setting column on business and financial topics." But yesterday, dear friends, the lords of finance behind Lex were concerned not with property and commerce, but with skewering President Barack Obama in an awkwardly hysterical fake speech. Excerpts: Phew, we’ve been busy! It looks like my administration has been doing a million things at once – but I promise we’re in control. First, let’s agree blame for this meltdown lies equally with Wall Street, Washington and Main Street. But mostly Wall Street. Let me be straight: we will spend and save at the same time. My word! Whatever was in the tea at the G20 summit must have made its way over to the Southwark Bridge. Next thing you know, headlines like "New era dawns: minds blown" will start hitting the front page. Wait, ?
  • The Rest Are Rising...

    Some good news today for anyone holding emerging markets equities: JP Morgan's chief emerging market strategist in Hong Kong is expecting stocks in the 23-country benchmark to surge a whopping 39 percent this year, according to a report he released today. He's feeling so good about prospects for the developing world, in fact, he argued that they may be better off than they were before Lehman tanked last summer. ...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, April 16

    Phew! We at the WON blog congratulate you on making it through a particularly taxing tax season.No Más: Spain's central bank chief says on any further fiscal stimulus, arguing the injections have reached a point of diminished returns. Unemployment in Spain is already at 15 percent and expected to worsen, making it the highest rate in the 27-country European Union.Monroe Doctrine, Kaput: China steps up its game in Latin America, where it is the second-biggest trading partner, a move one analyst says is possible because of the lack of attention shown during the Bush administration. That is likely to be on Obama's mind when he meets with LatAm's leaders this weekend, especially since, as we learned recently, the Chinese are not the only ones eyeing the region's markets.Foreclosure Tempest: The U.S. foreclosure floodgates opened in March as moratoriums expired. One out of every 159 households got hit with a foreclosure filing. It's not letting up anytime soon;...
  • Breakfast Buffet: Tuesday, April 14

    Want a 22,000% Rate of Return on Your Investment?: Hire a lobbyist.Down and Out in Germany: Some in the German government are thinking about setting up state-funded companies in which other firms can "park" their "redundant" workers while they ride out the recession. Read it along with this NYT analysis of the decline of Germany's automobile manufacturing industry.Dumb Wars: The FT's Clive Crook dissects the US war on drugs and concludes it is "criminally stupid." Considering that decriminalization could bring in an extra $100 billion each year, he says, it's high time someone at the White House took a serious look at overhaul.IMF Loosens Up: In an effort to remove the borrowing "stigma" that soured relations with many emerging markets, the IMF is doing away with its strict structural reform requirements. Countries in need of funds will now be able to continuing borrowing from the IMF even if they have not yet implemented all...
  • Breakfast Buffet, TGIF, April 10

    All Dug Up and Nowhere to Go: U.S. farm exports are feeling the recession's squeeze this year, a big shift for farmers who benefited from the rest of the world's perfect storm last year. While agricultural land prices in the States have remained solid (as we learned here a couple of weeks ago), the dollar's rise and world demand's slump have cut both the volume and the price of food exports--prompting worries that 45,000 jobs could be lost.Untouchable Engines of Growth: India's legions of Mushahar, or untouchables, may be the very folks keeping the country's economy from falling into the global recession pit, the WSJ says. Investments in rural states in recent years have equipped "Old India" to buoy stalling growth in new sectors like information technology and securities trade.Nukes and Terrorism, So 2008: Pentagon officials held the first-ever war game to prep for economic warfare, the Politico reports. Rather than bullets and bombs, the...
  • Seriously, Who Runs Security at the Economic Club?

    Code Pink strikes again! This time while Larry Summers is trying to talk about policy choices and deflation at the buttoned-up Economic Club of Washington, D.C. But it sounds like they run out of steam after about fifteen seconds, probably because they didn't expect to be onstage for any longer than that (reasonably enough).
  • Why the Fed Is Like an Experimental Teenager

    Besides the economic forecasts, which seem to get bleaker by the minute, the big news to come out of the Federal Open Market Committee's minutes today was that board members were divided on plans to pump money into the system by buying up mortgage and Treasury securities. (They ultimately did, by the way--more than $1 trillion of them).Paul Ashworth, an economist with Capital Economics, called it a "scatter gun" strategy; fire enough bullets and one of them will probably hit the target. "One [FOMC] member only wanted to buy mortgage-backed securities and another member only wanted to buy treasury-backed securities, so the collegial thing to do was to say, OK, we'll just buy both," he said. He then gave the plan another nickname I liked even less: the experimental teenager approach.But experimental or not, the minutes show that certain members of the board were pushing for even more purchases of long-term assets, so it wouldn't be surprising to see...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Wednesday, April 8

    Under the (Black) Sea: Italy and Russia cemented ties with a flurry of business deals yesterday, including a $4.1 billion sale involving Gazprom, Russia's national oil giant. Vladimir Putin watched over the dealings. Silvio Berlusconi was set to attend, but instead remained in earthquake-hit Italy. At a time when most European countries have cooled relations with Russia, the transaction strengthens a partnership planning to jointly construct a pipeline underneath the Black Sea.Nuclear Finances, Busted: A New York-based prosecutor has issued a 118-count indictment of the head of a Chinese firm for using front companies and aliases to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran--essentially, using the U.S. banking system to facilitate the sale of materials used to build nuclear weapons. Iran is (perhaps not incidentally), a major supplier of oil and gas to China. It could be a sticky spot for Hillary Clinton, who has been cozying up to Chinese offficials.Making the Rich Pay: The...
  • Breakfast Buffet, Monday, April 6

    Newsweek's daily serving of news and view from around the world:Obama's Budget Conundrum: Think the G20 was a big deal? Not compared to the U.S. budget debate, says FT's Clive Crook, and he's not happy with Congress. They've all but nixed the main revenue-raising idea, while ensuring the most expensive proposal--health care reform--will pass with or without Republican support. As is, a budget gap would remain ten years out.Inflation in an Emerging Market, Like the U.S.: Over at the Baseline Scenario, Simon Johnson reasons that the IMF's concerns about inflationary pressures in middle-income emerging markets could also apply for the American economy.Beating the Treasury War Drums: Banks' board members could be next to get the ax from the federal government, Tim Geithner warned in an interview with CBS on Sunday. He also described GM's restructing plan as "not quite there yet."China's Smooth Operating: Bob Samuelson says China is...
  • So That's What the Bended Knee Thing Was About...

    Let the blame games begin: Phillip Swagel, formerly the assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy under Hank Paulson, is out with a 50-page memoir on how the whole economic mess went down behind the scenes. The WSJ has very good cliff notes here, though you should absolutely check out the essay itself (here's the PDF).But there's more to that story. Wealth of Nations' own Mike Hirsh actually talked to Swagel for his column this week. In the process, he learned that Geithner's new plan for toxic legacy assets had its roots in an idea Warren Buffett proposed to Paulson back in October, backed by PIMCO's Bill Gross and Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein. But Paulson rejected the idea, instead placing his bets on fast-track capital injections as the financial world crumbled around him. Why does this matter now? Mike says the issue goes straight to the heart of a still-unresolved philosophical divide--even within the Obama administration--over just how...
  • G20 Statement Cheat Sheet

    You've probably heard by now that the G20 reached a consensus, and we bet you're probably sneaking clandestine glances at the news when your boss isn't watching. We applaud that. Because we don't want you to get caught, we've pulled out the two juiciest clauses from the plan for a quick read. Big questions for now: What about stimulus coordination? And where in the world is all of this money coming from? FT has its suspicions that the world's currency printing presses will be getting quite a workout soon. More to follow......
  • Breakfast Buffet, Thursday, April 2

    April 2, aaaaand we're back to reality. Here's Newsweek's daily serving of news and views from around the world, G20-style.Let the Games Begin!: Starting off with a mea culpa press conference wasn't enough to get Obama off the hook. Resistance to U.S. plans is coming in from all directions, but especially from a newly chummy France and Germany, who are calling for regulatory overhaul. As the WSJ put it, Obama had an easier time with former Cold War combatants than he's having with his allies. Their best bet for consensus is on tax havens. Yikes.G20's Dirty Little Secret: No, seriously, it gets worse. FT's wicked smart Gillian Tett writes that the G20 big dogs are (shock!) failing to address the crisis-causing elephant in the room: toxic assets. As she quotes one anonymous "senior global policy official" griping: "The Americans are hiding behind stimulus and the Europeans are hiding...
  • Holas, Salaams, and a Touch of Drama

     I had my eye on the second Arab-South American summit taking place in Qatar yesterday, and not just for the entertainment value (though, given the personalities involved, that sure earned it some bonus points). But since the media reports coming out of Doha were all focused on those big personalities, I decided to ask Bertrand Delgado, a senior economist at Nouriel Roubini's RGE Monitor, about what he was seeing on the econ front....