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Oct 28, 2010

MarketWatch: Personal Finance Daily.- Contribution limits on 401(k)s wont rise in 2011

MarketWatch
Personal Finance Daily
OCTOBER 28, 2010

Thursday's Personal Finance stories

By MarketWatch



   
Don't miss these top stories:
Low inflation can bring low prices at the store, sure, but it also means no Social Security benefit hike for recipients, two years running now, plus no increase in the contribution limit for 401(k) and other retirement-plan savers. See related story on costs rise even though Social Security doesn't.

The IRS announced Thursday that the maximum amount workers can contribute to 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) plans will remain unchanged in 2011, at $16,500. Same goes for the catch-up contribution limit people aged 50 and over: unchanged at $5,500.

Of course, plenty of people aren't able to save anywhere near the maximum annual amount, which equals $1,375 a month for the younger folks, and some have argued that those people who can afford to save the maximum are perhaps not in dire need of additional retirement-savings tax breaks. But that's a story for another day.

If you're contributing to a traditional IRA and you take advantage of the tax deduction for doing so, and you are also participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the IRS said Thursday, that tax deduction is phased out for single filers and head-of-household filers with modified adjusted gross income between $56,000 and $66,000 — those dollar amounts are unchanged from this year.

But the income phase-out increased for married couples. Here's what the IRS said in its statement: "For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the income phase-out range is $90,000 to $110,000, up from $89,000 to $109,000. For an IRA contributor who is not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is an active participant, the deduction is phased out if the couple's income is between $169,000 and $179,000, up from $167,000 and $177,000."

The income phase-out if you want to contribute to a Roth IRA will rise to $169,000 to $179,000 for married couples, up from $167,000 to $177,000 this year. And that phase-out range rose for singles and heads of household, too. It's now $107,000 to $122,000, up from $105,000 to $120,000. And, if you're married filing separately and an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.

Meanwhile, the income limit for claiming the saver's credit also rises in 2011, to $56,500 for married couples filing jointly, up from $55,500 in 2010; $42,375 for heads of household, up from $41,625; and $28,250 for single filers and married individuals filing separately, up from $27,750.

Phew. You'd think it could all be a little simpler. If only.

Andrea Coombes , Personal Finance editor

Calif. Chamber of Commerce fights pot proposition

A California ballot initiative that would legalize adults' recreational use of small amounts of marijuana is raising questions about its potential impact on workplaces in the Golden State should the measure pass on Nov. 2.
Read more on Calif. Chamber of Commerce fights pot proposition.


RETIREMENT

Warning: Retirement Disaster Ahead

Don't let the rally in the stock and bond markets fool you. Many Americans are still hurtling towards a retirement disaster. Few realize it. Even many of those running the big pension funds don't know.
Read more on retirement disaster ahead.


REAL ESTATE

Rate on 30-year mortgages up second straight week

Interest rates on fixed-rate mortgages ticked up this week, but 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages hit their lowest levels since 2005, Freddie Mac said Thursday.
Read more on rate on 30-year mortgages up second straight week.


ECONOMY & POLITICS

Wall St. banking on GOP to ease new rules

Wall Street has shifted its financial contributions away from Democrats in this election cycle and into the coffers of Republicans with two goals in mind: to ease tougher new regulations on the financial industry and prod some priorities beyond the Capitol Hill gridlock.
Read more on Wall St. banking on GOP to ease new rules.


Commentary: Report from a parallel political universe

Here's a liberal's version of a parallel universe. President Barack Obama's surprise announcement that he would address the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday instead of appearing on a comedy show came as a welcome surprise to those of us disappointed in the president.
Read more on report from a parallel political universe.


Military contractors may sing tea-party blues

A resurgence of Republican control in Congress is typically good news for the Pentagon. That might not be the case, however, if the tight-fisted tea party has its way.
Read more on military contractors may sing tea-party blues,


THE JOB MARKET

Jobless claims drop 21,000 to 434,000

The number of people who filed new claims for unemployment benefits fell 21,000 to 434,000 in the latest week, marking the third straight decline and the lowest level since early July, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.
Read more on jobless claims drop 21,000 to 434,000.


INVESTING

A treat for markets, a trick for the rest of us

The most telling moments of the Buttonwood Gathering — a conference sponsored by The Economist to bring together some of the greatest, and some of the once-powerful, authorities on economics and finance — were predictably unscripted.
Read more on a treat for markets, a trick for the rest of us.


Beyond TIPS: ways to play inflation

The Federal Reserve next week is expected to announce another round of asset buying to juice the economy and prevent deflation. Investors on Monday showed confidence that the Fed will succeed: For the first time ever, an inflation-protected Treasury note was auctioned with a negative yield—meaning it will have a positive return only if consumer prices rise more than half a percentage point.
Read more on beyond TIPS: ways to play inflation.


CAREERS

Engineering, Computer-Science Pay More Than Liberal Arts

The starting pay of certain liberal arts majors generally clocks in well below that of graduates in engineering fields, according to a Wall Street Journal study.
Read more on engineering, computer science pay more than liberal arts.

CNBC Evening Brief: Financial Reform Gridlock Seen After Midterm Elections in US


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RTTNews: Evening market Wrap.-Stocks Close Mixed As Markets Await Midterm Elections, Fed QE - U.S. Commentary .

Evening Market Wrap Thu Oct 28 17:01 2010

Commentary

Oct 28, 2010 Stocks Close Mixed As Markets Await Midterm Elections, Fed QE - U.S. Commentary Stocks ended on a mixed note Thursday after being unable to sustain any clear direction over the course of the day ahead of next week's midterm elections and the Federal Reserve's anticipated announcement regarding further stimulus. The lack of conviction came despite an unanticipated decline in jobless claims to a three-month low. Full Article

Economic News

Oct 28, 2010 U.S. Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Dip To 3-Month Low First-time claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly saw a modest decrease in the week ended October 23rd, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday, with jobless claims falling to a three-month low. The report showed that initial jobless claims fell to 434,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 455,000. The decrease surprised economists, who had expected claims to edge up to 458,000 from the 452,000 originally reported for the previous week. Full Article

Corporate News

Oct 28, 2010 Eastman Kodak Q3 Loss ShrinksImaging technology products maker Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) Thursday reported a narrower loss for the third quarter on improved profit margins and continued operational improvements, despite a marginal fall in revenues. The company reported a loss from continuing operations of $43 million or $0.16 per share for the quarter, which narrowed from $111 million or $0.41 per share loss reported in the year-ago period. In the second quarter, loss from continuing operations was $167 million or $0.62 per share. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Fortune Brands Q3 Profit Down; Confirms OutlookFortune Brands Inc. (FO), a manufacturer of distilled spirits, home products and golf equipment, Thursday reported a decline in third-quarter profit, impacted by restructuring costs and a loss from the sale of brands and related assets. Adjusted earnings per share also were lower than the prior-year quarter and came in below Street view. However, the company confirmed its earnings forecast for fiscal 2010. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 PotashCorp Q3 Profit Soars, Tops View; Lifts ForecastCanadian fertilizer maker Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT, POT.TO), which is an acquisition target for mining giant BHP Billiton (BHP, BLT.L, BHP.AX, BBL), Thursday reported a surge in third-quarter profit, driven by strong demand for potash, phosphate and nitrogen products amid strengthening market conditions. Both earnings per share and sales came in above Wall Street analysts' estimates. The company also lifted its earnings outlook for fiscal 2010. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Dow Chemical Q3 Adj Profit Tops ViewDow Chemical Co. (DOW) reported Thursday a decline in third-quarter net profit, mainly due to charges and the absence of prior year's sales gains. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share more than doubled from last year and surpassed market projections, with double-digit sales growth across all geographic areas and operating segments. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Syniverse To Be Taken Private By Carlyle In $2.6 Bln. DealWireless voice and data service provider Syniverse Holdings Inc. (SVR), said Thursday it has agreed to be taken private by global alternative asset manager The Carlyle Group for about $2.6 billion in cash. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011, subject to customary closing conditions. Following the news, the company's shares gained more than 28% in the intra-day trading. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Stryker To Buy Boston Scientific's Neurovascular Unit For $1.5 Bln.Michigan-based surgical equipment provider Stryker Corp. (SYK) said Thursday that it has agreed to acquire the assets of the neurovascular division of Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) in an all cash transaction for $1.5 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 AutoNation Q3 Profit FallsAutomotive retailer AutoNation, Inc. (AN) Thursday reported a lower profit for the third quarter, as costs increased, despite a rise in sales. Earnings per share rose from the prior year, yet missed Wall Street estimates. The company's third-quarter net income slipped to $56.9 million from $65 million last year. Earnings per share were $0.38, up from $0.36 in the prior year on lower share count. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Motorola Q3 Profit SoarsMobile phone maker Motorola, Inc. (MOT) reported Thursday a profit for the third quarter that climbed from last year, reflecting continued strong sales of smartphones. The company introduced 22 smartphones in 2010. The company shipped 9.1 million handsets in the quarter, including 3.8 million smartphones that operate on Google Inc.'s Android software and compete with Apple's system. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Exxon Mobil Q3 Profit Surges, Tops EstimatesExxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported Thursday a strong growth in profit for the third quarter, above market projections, mainly driven by higher crude oil and natural gas realizations, improved refining margins, and solid chemical results. Full Article

Currency Alerts

Oct 28, 2010 Dollar Back On The Ropes As Relief Rally Peters OutThe greenback failed to follow through on a recent relief rally Thursday, losing ground amid speculation that it needs to fall further in order to generate the Federal Reserve's targeted inflation levels. With the Fed expected to reveal a second asset purchase plan next week, the dollar has not been able to sustain any upside momentum in recent weeks, and remains near its lowest level in a year versus a basket of a major counterparts. Full Article

Energy

Oct 28, 2010 Oil Edges Up Above $82 On Weak Dollar, Better US Jobs Data Oil prices edged higher Thursday amid a weaker dollar and better-than-expected data from the US labor market. December crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange added $0.24 to $82.18 a barrel. The price of oil has struggled for direction in the recent days, after rising to a five-month high above $84 earlier this month. Full Article

Political News

Oct 28, 2010 Poll Shows Crist Narrows Rubio's Lead In Florida Senate RaceRepublican Marco Rubio is holding on to a lead in the three-way Florida Senate race, according to the results of a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday, although Florida Governor Charlie Crist has gained some ground less than a week before the election. The poll showed that 42 percent of likely Florida voters support Rubio compared to 35 percent that support Crist, who is running as an independent. Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., receives just 15 percent support. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 Polls Indicate Voters Want Obama And GOP To CompromiseWith Republicans likely to at the very least narrow Democrats' majorities in Congress and possibly even take control of both houses in next week's midterm elections, many expect Washington D.C. to be in gridlock for the next two years of President Barack Obama's administration. However, recent polls suggest that voters want Obama and members of Congress from both parties to compromise in order to address the issues that continue to impact the nation. Full Article
Oct 28, 2010 White House Touts Small Business Lending Following Bill PassageSmall Business Administration head Karen Mills Thursday sought to highlight successful increases in small business lending in the wake of a jobs bill that U.S. President Barack Obama signed last month. Writing on the White House's blog, Mills said that the Small Business Jobs Act had allowed the SBA to make more than $3 billion in loans to more than 5,000 businesses across the country in just the last month. Full Article

F & F I N : NFA orders monetary sanction of $320,000 against New York forex firm IKON Global Markets.




Financial & Forex Info News ( F & F I N ) : Reuters Daily Investor Update.



FROM: REUTERS - DAILY INVESTOR UPDATE

Wall St eases ahead of Fed and elections
Microsoft profit up 51 percent, shares rise
BP and Halliburton ignored Macondo cement flaws: panel
GM to repay taxpayers $2.1 billion, prepares for IPO
Exxon, Shell profits bubble higher with oil prices
Tea Party groundswell signals challenges to Fed
Jobless claims fall to three-month low
Amid industrial profits are reasons for caution
Chrysler to invest $600 million in Illinois plant
Potash results surge but stock drops on bid fears

NYT: Afternoon Business News.-Verizon Wireless Settles Complaint Over Data Fees.


BUSINESS:

Verizon Wireless Settles Complaint Over Data Fees

By EDWARD WYATT
The company will pay $25 million to the Treasury and has agreed to pay a minimum of $52.8 million in refunds to its customers.

Google Agrees to Change Ad Policy to Settle Case

By ERIC PFANNER
In a deal in France that has global implications, Google agreed to adopt conditions when it rejects ads.
DealBook

Blackstone Posts $339 Million Quarterly Profit

By DEALBOOK
The Blackstone Group on Thursday reported a $339 million profit for its third quarter, a jump over last year as the private equity giant saw gains in most of its businesses.

Shares Wander as Wall Street Focuses on Earnings

By CHRISTINE HAUSER
Markets tried to regain lost ground late in the day amid an unexpected drop in first-time jobless filings and mixed earnings.

Positive Signs on Europe and Central Asia Recovery

By JACK EWING
A key economic sentiment indicator in Europe rose more than expected, while raised forecasts for ex-Communist countries came out.

FINANCIAL & FOREX INFO NEWS ( F & F I N ) : U.S. Markets At Close Snapshot




U.S. Markets At Close Snapshot:

Major Indexes
LastChange% Chg
DJIA*11113.95  -12.33-0.11
Nasdaq*  2507.37   4.11 0.16
S&P 500*  1183.72   1.33 0.11
DJ Total Stock Market*12403.03  4.76 0.04
Russell 2000   701.70 -3.20-0.45

Source The Wall Street Journal























 


MarketWatch: Special Financial Services.- Microsoft, McAfee results due in late session

MarketWatch
SPECIAL FINANCIAL SERVICES
 
After Hours: Microsoft, McAfee results due in late session
 
By Carla Mozee MarketWatch


Thursday evening’s trading session will feature results from Microsoft, KLA-Tencor, Expedia and more.  

Most Read Articles on the Washington Post - Afternoon Edition

Washington Post

Most Viewed Articles on washingtonpost.com

1) Just who does Jon Stewart think he is?

These days, he can claim to be many things: political satirist, pseudo-anchorman, media critic, author, successful businessman, philanthropist, Emmy Award magnet. On Monday he arrives in Washington in a new, self-anointed role: as our national voice of reason, moderation and rationality -- a unit...

2) On the Daily Show, the joke was on Obama

On Comedy Central, the joke was on President Obama Wednesday night.

3) Jon Stewart, President Obama debate on 'The Daily Show'

Chief executive sparred with chief fake-news comedian over the velocity of change Wednesday evening, separated only by a desk designed like a slice of the Capitol dome -- and by a gap in perception over the accomplishments of the Obama administration in its first 21 months.

4) Obama is a guest as Jon Stewart brings his 'Daily Show' gags to town

In search of the surest way to reach and encourage his core constituency during the midterm elections, President Obama visited "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" Wednesday night -- a show that prides itself on never taking anything seriously but still treated him with sympathetic awe.

5) Feds arrest N.Va. man in D.C. Metro bomb plot

Federal law enforcement authorities arrested a Northern Virginia man Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out terrorist bombings at stations in the Washington Metro system.

6) Tea party antics could end up burning Republicans

The tea party's volatile influence on this election year appears to be doing more harm than good for Republicans' chances in some of the closest races in the nation, in which little-known candidates who upset the establishment with primary wins are now stumbling in the campaign's final days.

7) Across the country, anger, frustration and fear among voters as election nears

Travel through the political battlegrounds in these final days before Election 2010, and it becomes clear how much the tenor of this recession-plagued country has changed in the two years since Barack Obama was elected president on his message of hope and change.

8) The Fix: Why Lisa Murkowski can win

1. There is a growing sense among the Republican professional political class that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is on the verge of winning a three-way race next week, a victory that would make her the first write-in candidate to be elected to the Senate since Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) in 1954.

9) Linda McMahon vs. Richard Blumenthal: Connecticut's wrestling match

That Linda McMahon is doing so well in Connecticut shows just how much the political landscape's changed.

10) Tea party's Judson Phillips defends essay attacking congressman for being Muslim

The founder of one of the country's most prominent tea party organizations said in an interview Wednesday that he stands by an Internet column in which he urged the defeat of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, because he is Muslim.

F & F I N : NFA orders $459,000 monetary sanction against New Jersey forex firm Gain Capital Group LLC.

MarketWatch: Special Financial Services

MarketWatch
  SPECIAL FINANCIAL SERVICES

Telecom Stocks: RIM drops, Motorola gains on smart-phone outlook
 
By Dan Gallagher MarketWatch


Growing demand for smart phones is not helping all handset vendors equally, as Research In Motion struggles with negative sentiment over its flagship BlackBerry family, and Motorola gets a boost from strong Android position.  

NYT: FGC BOLSA - FGC FINANCIAL MARKETS ALERT



Alert Name: FGC BOLSA - FGC FINA
October 28, 2010 Compiled: 10:21 AM

BUSINESS DAY / GLOBAL BUSINESS

Some analysts are warning that regulators must watch closely to prevent money laundering as the Islamic bond market spreads beyond the Gulf states and Malaysia.

Mineweb: Top Stories.- Vale reports ‘a stellar performance' with ‘best ever financial result'

Mineweb logo

TOP STORIES | Thursday , 28 Oct 2010                                                     

Vale reports ‘a stellar performance' with ‘best ever financial result'

Vale said it will pay total dividends of US$3 billion in 2010, the most paid in a single year, on the back of record net earnings and cash generation    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

HSBC, JP Morgan sued for conspiring to drive down silver prices

The two banks were hit with two lawsuits on Wednesday by investors who accused them of conspiring to drive down silver prices and reaping illegal profits    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

San Dimas sale, Los Filos production drop hits Goldcorp 3Q gold yield

The gold miner said gold production fell to 592,000 ounces in Q3, compared to 621,100 in the same period last year but, said will double its annual dividend to 36-cents this year.    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

First Quantum goes on the record

First Quantum says that reported statements suggesting the DRC has won the Kolwezi case, or now has a right to transfer the Kolwezi assets, "are completely without foundation".    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

Current scenario suggesting much higher gold prices in the next 12 months - Embry

The world remains in a financial bind, the likes of which it has probably never seen and those people calling for corrections or bubbles in the gold market are flat out wrong.    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

Rare earths not a bargaining tool - China

A spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information technology said the country would not use its dominance of the global rare earths supply as a bargaining tool with foreign economies    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Copper ETFs likely to face hurdles - Credit Agricole

While most analysts expect base metal ETPs to be popular concerns have been raised about whether or not such products might lead to price distortions because of the tight supplies and high storage costs    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

SA Gold miners profits hit by strong rand

The strong rand is expected to limit the benefit of strong gold prices on september quarter profits for South Africa's gold miners Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010   

Anglo American to develop long-term projects worth $50bn across a range of minerals and regions

Anglo CEO, Cynthia Carroll, told a discussion forum in Johannesburg, the group has one of the world's "greatest long-term pipeline".    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Rio's Zim unit forecasts rise in 2010 diamond output

The Global miner's Zimbabwe unit said diamond production should increase this year from the 124,000 carats produced in 2009 but didn't give an exact figure    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Canadian parliament defeats proposed mining legislation

The bill that would have increased human rights and environmental standards followed by Canadian companies overseas has been criticised for the potential to put Canadian mining companies at a disadvantage    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Norseman Gold back on track after accident setback

Mixed fortunes for Norseman Gold in the September quarter, with mining shut down temporarily at the OK shaft after a serious accident and a rise in unit costs, but countered with better gold price receipts.    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

Van Eck Global to launch rare earth ETF

The fund manager said Wednesday it is launching the US-listed rare earth and strategic metals ETF and expects it to start trading Thursday    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Collahuasi miners overwhelmingly vote to strike

In a move that could hit output at the Chilean copper deposit, workers at the mine voted to strike in a wage-offer ballot yesterday Thursday , 28 Oct 2010   

Kahn shares surge on second favourable Mongolian court ruling

Shares in the Canadian miner were up as much as 23% on the announcement that it had received another favourable ruling in its dispute over uranium mining licenses    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Gold, silver, platinum all weaken on QE speculation

Another day of weakness for gold and other precious metals on the markets on speculation that the next stage of U.S. Quantitative Easing may be smaller than previously anticipated.    Thursday , 28 Oct 2010

Rare earths: Is there is a classic bubble in the making?

Analysts are concerned about the frenzy being whipped up in the world of rare earths as investors, concerned about China's dominance, search out new supplies    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

BHP should buy back shares - Blackrock

The mining giant's biggest shareholder said Wednesday the group should buy back shares regardless of whether or not its bid for Potash Corp succeeds    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

Yesterday's Top Story: Has gold paused or peaked?

Despite the G20 meeting deciding little apart from countries paying lip service to currency stability, gold has suffered a minor setback from its peak, but is this the start of a collapse or just a pause in its upwards rise?    Wednesday , 27 Oct 2010

The Washington Post: Ezra Klein's Wonkbook.- 57% worry about mortgage; midterm might cost $4 billion; to triangulate or not to triangulate?




 Thursday, October 28, 2010
 
Wonkbook: 57% worry about mortgage; midterm might cost $4 billion; to triangulate or not to triangulate? What's amazing -- and, for the Democrats, terrifying -- isn't just that 57 percent of Americans are "somewhat" or "very" concerned about making their next mortgage payment. It's that two years ago, when the macroeconomy was in worse shape, that number was a comparatively modest 37 percent. Most Americans, in other words, have gotten more insecure over that period, at least on this metric.
There are all sorts of ways to explain this, of course. Unemployment drives foreclosures, and it's a lagging indicator. The financial crisis was driven by the expectation of this housing insecurity, not just the foreclosures that had happened in late-2007. Financial crises always take a long time to work through, and if you're a Reinhart and Reinhart fan, you know that housing crises and credit bubbles take years, not months, to work through.
But that's all cold comfort to the 57 percent of Americans who walk around with a knot in their stomach. They're hurting now. And they're about to vote.
Welcome to Wonkbook.
Top Stories

With outside groups included, this election cycle's cost could hit $4 billion, reports Dan Eggen: "There are three general tides of money swamping this year's elections, according to CRP's data: House and Senate candidates, who have reported raising $1.7 billion; the political parties, with about $1.1 billion; and outside interest groups, which have raised at least $400 million. That adds up to $3.2 billion, but the numbers are incomplete amid the frenzy of ad buys and other activity in the week before the election...Donations from Wall Street, medical and insurance firms, energy conglomerates and other corporations have shifted decisively toward Republicans over the past year because of policy disputes with Democrats and anticipation of a possible GOP takeover in Congress."
Democrats are amping up their secret campaign spending: http://wapo.st/bAq5ju
Most Americans say they worry about making mortgage or rent payments, report Ariana Eunjung Cha and Jon Cohen: "In all, 53 percent said they are 'very concerned' or 'somewhat concerned' about having the money to make their monthly payment. Worries are the most intense among those with lower incomes and among African Americans... there's now even more unease about making next month's rent or mortgage payment than there was two years ago. Back then, 37 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned about their monthly housing costs. Since that time, the economy has modestly improved."
To triangulate or not to triangulate, that is the White House's question, report Laura Meckler and Peter Wallsten: "Strategists in both parties see two options for President Barack Obama. He could seek deals on issues including trade, taxes and spending, following the model of President Bill Clinton, who after losing Congress in 1994, compromised with the GOP to overhaul welfare...Mr. Obama could also follow the model of Harry Truman, who dug in and successfully portrayed an opposition Congress as obstructionist. That would lay the foundation for a 2012 reelection campaign where the president could draw contrasts with his opponents... White House Chief of Staff Pete Rouse, in investigating the various options, is consulting with people who worked for Mr. Clinton in the mid-1990s."
Special guest interlude: Belle & Sebastian and Jenny Lewis play "Lazy Line Painter Jane".
Still to come: Sen. Kent Conrad is sticking up for TARP and the stimulus; Matthew Yglesias thinks Obama's biggest economic mistakes came in neglecting the Fed; Milton Friedman would support quantitative easing; and There Will Be Blood as a Super Nintendo game.
Economy/FinReg

Kent Conrad is leading a defense of TARP and the stimulus, reports Lori Montgomery: "Over the past week, Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, has crisscrossed the state, delivering speeches to college economics classes and lecturing skeptical editorial boards, in addition to making his pitch on national television. On Thursday morning, thousands of North Dakota newspaper subscribers awoke to a full-page ad with colorful charts and graphs about the improving economy, alongside a vigorous defense of the bailout and the equally reviled 2009 economic stimulus package. The ad describes the perilous economic conditions that prompted a terrified Congress to approve the $700 billion bailout - officially, the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP - just before the 2008 presidential election."
The administration is concerned that the foreclosure mess will hike up home prices, reports Sewell Chan: "Revelations about paperwork shortcuts and so-called robo-signed affidavits, as well as the likelihood of protracted legal battles by homeowners and inquiries by state and federal officials, will hinder foreclosure proceedings and discourage prospective buyers, a Treasury Department official said. 'Together, these two factors may exert downward pressure on overall housing prices both in the short and long run,' said the official, Phyllis R. Caldwell, chief of the homeownership preservation office at the Treasury."
Obama praised Larry Summers' tenure on The Daily Show: http://bit.ly/bhHqP0
Opponents of higher taxes for the rich are fewer, but care more, writes Larry Bartels: "The sizable minority of people who want the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers renewed seem to attach much more weight to this issue than the slim majority who want them to expire. In a statistical analysis taking separate account of prospective voters’ broader partisan attachments, those who support President Obama’s position on the tax cuts are only 6% more likely than those who are unsure about the issue to say they will vote for a Democratic House candidate. Even those who want to let all the tax cuts expire are only 9% more likely to vote Democratic. By comparison, those who want to keep the tax cuts for affluent taxpayers in place are 22% more likely to say they will vote for a Republican House candidate."
Milton Friedman would support quantitative easing, writes David Wessel: http://bit.ly/97KggH
The Obama administration is suffering because it paid the economy too little attention, writes Matthew Yglesias: "A party whose leaders realized that economic results were the most important driver of public opinion wouldn't have renominated a conservative Republican to head the Federal Reserve. Even more astoundingly, having given Ben Bernanke a second term in office, the Obama administration didn't get around to nominating anyone to fill the other vacant posts on the Federal Reserve Board until April 2010...Similarly, the extent of stimulus possible in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was famously limited by the need to gain Republican support. Given that, shouldn't someone have put reconciliation instructions into the budget resolution that would have allowed for additional stimulus to be undertaken by majority vote?"
Obama's economic agenda works for women, writes Neera Tanden: http://bit.ly/clCoxH
British austerity measures are incoherent, writes Brad DeLong: "Cameron’s government used to claim that its policies would produce a boom by bringing a visit from the Confidence Fairy that would greatly reduce long-term interest rates and cause a huge surge of private investment spending. Now it appears to have abandoned that claim in favor of the message that failure to cut will produce disaster...But if you ask the government’s supporters why there is no alternative to mammoth cuts in government spending and increases in taxes, they sound confused and incoherent. Or perhaps they are merely parroting talking points backed by little thought."
Athletics interlude: The world's most awesome sports montage clip.
Energy

The White House is defending the choice to push health care reform before climate change legislation, reports Darren Samuelsohn: "'We really felt like it was a walk and talk, walk and chew gum' situation, said Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Barnes said the White House believes the country can still tackle climate change without Congress passing legislation that caps greenhouse gas emissions, noting the push for executive agencies to curb emissions, coupled with efforts at the state and local government levels...'We’ve been absolutely thinking about this at every level,' Barnes said, citing the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department programs, as well as federal grants to help local governments build more sidewalks, light rail lines and street trolleys."
The inventor of SuperSoakers is revolutionizing solar power: http://bit.ly/a7QWh6
Action on climate change could require a cultural shift analogous to the turn against smoking, reports John Broder: "Professor Hoffman likened the widespread skepticism about the reality of climate change to the gradual acceptance of the link between smoking and lung cancer and other diseases. It was only when the public accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus on the dangers of tobacco use did policy tools like the banning of indoor smoking become socially and politically possible, he said...He said that the development of a feasible, low-cost alternative energy source to fossil fuels could also change the economic and public opinion equation relatively quickly."
Nanotech could stop electronics not in use from hogging electricity: http://bit.ly/cGgdbU
There are more politically viable alternatives to a carbon tax, writes Jeffrey Sachs: "A feed-in tariff subsidizes the low-carbon energy source rather than taxing the high-carbon energy source. In our example, the government would pay a subsidy of $0.10/kilowatt-hour to the solar-power plant to make up the difference between the consumer price of $0.06 and the production cost of $0.16. The consumer price remains unchanged, but the government must somehow pay for the subsidy. Here is another way. Suppose that we levy a small tax on existing coal power plants in order to pay for the solar subsidy, and then gradually raise consumers’ electricity bills as more and more solar plants are phased in."
16 bit interlude: There Will Be Blood, the SNES game.
Domestic Policy

The FTC is backing off its privacy probe of Google, report Cecilia Kang: "The federal government has ended an inquiry into a privacy breach involving Google's Street View service, satisfied with the company's pledge to stop gathering e-mail, passwords and other information from residential WiFi networks as it rolls through neighborhoods. Wednesday's decision by the Federal Trade Commission is a sharp contrast with the reaction of regulators in Europe. The United Kingdom has launched a new investigation into Google's collection of unencrypted WiFi data, exposing the company to potential fines. Germany told Google to mark its Street View cars that take pictures of neighborhoods and homes. The Czech Republic banned Google from expanding its mapping software program."
Cuts in federal building costs could save billions: http://wapo.st/cAFFFl
College tuition is rising in tandem with Pell Grants, reports Stephanie Banchero: "The average price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year institutions is $7,605 this school year, a 7.9% increase over last year. At private nonprofit colleges and universities, the average price is $27,293, a 4.5% rise. Two-year state colleges saw a 6% rise to $2,713. But the federal government gave out $28.2 billion in Pell grants to students in the 2009-10 school year, almost $10 billion more than the previous year. Pell grant numbers for the current school year are not yet available, but are expected to rise."
Citizens United helps unions more than corporations, writes Daniel Henninger: http://bit.ly/aVfNS8
The National Archives are failing to keep government records properly, reports Lisa Rein: "Four out of five federal agencies are also at risk of illegally destroying public records, and the Archives has a huge backlog of documents that need to be preserved, the Government Accountability Office found. Two reports by Congress' watchdog arm found that many agencies do not follow proper procedures for disposing of public records as they assess whether to preserve or destroy them. And the Archives, as it preserves records electronically, has also left itself open to hackers. Among the findings of the year-long audits are that the Archives did not protect its computer networks with a strong firewall to keep out unauthorized users."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams.