Daniel Gross

Goldman's $550 Million Settlement: Its Best Trade Ever

Goldman Sachs has long been known for being a sharp trader. And the settlement announced with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday seems like a great trade. Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle charges that it had misled investors about mortgage-related products. How is this a smart trade for Goldman, its top executives, and its shareholders? Let us count the ways.

Does Anyone Care About Unemployment Anymore?

The Federal Reserve doesn't seem to care much about high unemployment. Apparently, very few other people in Washington do, either. The corporate sector has returned to rude health, with improved balance sheets and tons of cash. It has helped lead the recovery. But without paychecks for the mighty American consumer, the recovery will seem anemic.

Holding On to the Perks

As we plow through the legislation to figure out the winners and the losers of the new financial rules, it's worth pondering what Wall Street got out of the crisis. Most of the reaction, in fact, nods to it being a boon to the banks. And some of those benefits will remain intact even after the legislation passages. Here's a look at the handouts given to Wall Street.

BP—Blah Performance

President Obama's Oval Office speech about the Gulf oil spill was almost enough to make you miss President George W. Bush. Maybe not the actual presidency of George W. Bush, but at least the platonic ideal of the presidency of George W. Bush—the M.B.A. president, the chief executive as CEO.

The Politics of Parsimony

Politicians worldwide are buying votes by cutting spending. Slow-growing, highly indebted countries in Southern Europe (Spain, Italy, Portugal) see austerity as a way to avoid the fate of Greece. Others are reacting to fears of stimulus-induced inflation.

Reform Without Punishment

The Senate's passage Thursday night of far-reaching financial reform is being portrayed as a big loss for the financial sector. "No End to Banks' Capitol Punishment," reads the headline in The Wall Street Journal.

Economy: Can the Recovery Keep on Trucking?

Whether you are an economic pessimist or optimist, you have to consider all the data—not just the data you like. The problem is sussing out which data points to trust. Generally, measurements of actual activity are better than surveys about attitudes or behavior. What's more, many data series come out after the fact and are subject to revision, which makes them less reliable when it comes to gauging what's taking place right now.

Measures to Save the Greek Economy May Worsen the Problem

Thursday afternoon, the markets went on something of a joyride. Actually, it was more like a distress ride. After plummeting more than 900 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down about 3 percent. Why? It's unclear. CNBC said traders warned of a "black hole effect." A chief culprit, as Reuters pointed out, seemed to be fears of financial contagion from Greece, where residents are engaging in the ancient pastime of rioting.