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Jul 14, 2011

The Economist | Politics This Week: Highlights New Coverage From 9th. - 15th July 2011

The Economist Politics This Week

Highlights from The Economist online's Politics this week
» The British press: An empire at bay
» The Turkish government: The lofty Mr Erdogan
» Lexington: Dicing with debt and the future
» Bombings in Mumbai: Terror, again
» Assassination in southern Afghanistan: A roguish operator
» Pakistan and America: In a sulk
» Pushing for a carbon tax in Australia: An expensive gamble
» Political affray in Malaysia: Taken to the cleaners

» Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation withdrew its controversial bid to take full control of BSkyB, Britain's biggest satellite-television broadcaster. This followed Mr Murdoch's abrupt closure of the News of the World, a tabloid whose journalistic malpractice has damaged his company. Amid further rumours and revelations, David Cameron came under more pressure for having once employed the journalist who is central to the allegations as his communications director. See article
» As many as 129 people were feared to have drowned when an overcrowded tourist boat capsized and sank on Russia's Volga river.
» Deputies belonging to Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party agreed to take their parliamentary oaths, ending a two-week dispute. But 36 deputies backed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party continued to boycott parliament over the imprisonment of five colleagues. See article
» The defence minister and military chief of Cyprus resigned after an explosion at a naval base that killed 13 people, including the head of the navy. Hundreds of protesters attempted to storm the presidential palace, accusing the authorities of negligence.

Marvellous Mauricio Click Here!
» Mauricio Macri won the first round of the mayoral election in Buenos Aires with 47% of the vote. The conservative incumbent is the clear favourite to beat Daniel Filmus, the chosen candidate of Cristina Fernández, Argentina's president, in a run-off on July 31st.
» Facundo Cabral, an Argentine folk singer, was shot dead two days after giving a performance in Guatemala. Local authorities say that his promoter was the target of the attack. Two suspects have been detained.
» Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that soldiers charged with human-rights abuses should be tried in civilian rather than military courts. Pressure groups argue that the military justice system is ineffective and promotes impunity. Hundreds of abuse complaints have been filed since the army was deployed to fight drug gangs in 2006.
» Miners at Chile's state-owned copper giant, Codelco, went on strike to protest against job cuts and an overhaul of benefits. Their union warned that the changes are the first steps towards privatisation.

Talking the talk
» Negotiations rumbled on between the White House and Congress on raising America's federal-debt ceiling. As the discussions became increasingly acrimonious, credit-rating agencies reiterated warnings that they are prepared to downgrade American debt if the impasse remains. See article
» Texas caused a diplomatic furore by executing Humberto Leal Garcìa, a Mexican national convicted of murdering a 16-year-old girl. The International Court of Justice has ruled that foreign nationals must be granted access to consular advice when arrested, which Garcìa was denied. Mexico condemned his execution. García had lived in America since the age of two.
» Leon Panetta paid his first visit as American defence secretary to Afghanistan and Iraq. In Baghdad the former CIA boss urged the Iraqi government to choose whether it wants a contingent of American troops to stay in the country after the end of the year, when the United States is due to withdraw its forces.

Terror returns
» Indian cities were put on high alert after three bombs exploded in Mumbai during the rush hour, killing at least 17 people and injuring scores more. It was the worst terrorist incident in India's financial capital since a co-ordinated attack by gunmen in 2008. See article
» Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, reshuffled his cabinet but left his most senior ministers in place. His flashy former environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, moved to rural affairs.
» Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half-brother to the president of Afghanistan and the pre-eminent power-broker in Kandahar, was assassinated at his residence by a trusted lieutenant. His death leaves a void at the centre of one of the country's most restive provinces. See article
» America announced that it is to suspend $800m from the security funding it gives to Pakistan, which includes money to root out the Taliban along the Afghan border. Relations between America and Pakistan have become ever more strained since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May. Pakistan has kicked out American military advisers—and says it may now withdraw forces from the borderlands. See article
» Australia's government unveiled plans for a carbon tax to take effect in July 2012, which would charge A$23 ($25) per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted by each of the country's heaviest polluters. The previous government collapsed because of its failure to pass a climate-change bill. Resistance to the new tax is widespread. See article
» At least 20,000 people marched through Kuala Lumpur, in the biggest demonstration in Malaysia's capital for years. The protesters were demanding electoral reforms; many were arrested. See article
» Three Catholic bishops went missing in China, days before they were due to appear at a state-sanctioned ordination ceremony. Their disappearance comes amid heightened tension between China's government and the Vatican.

Walk like an Egyptian
» Thousands of Egyptians marched in central Cairo to demand the removal of the ruling military council and to call for faster political reform. Meanwhile, 700 police officers implicated in the killing of protesters in January and February were sacked.
» The American and French ambassadors in Syria visited the embattled city of Hama to protest against an ongoing government crackdown. In response, mobs attacked their embassies in Damascus.
» Israel's parliament passed a law that would punish any Israeli person or organisation advocating a boycott of goods from Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Israeli human-rights groups say the law undermines freedom of speech.
» South Sudan celebrated, as it became independent from Sudan on July 9th. The United Nations soon admitted the country as its 193rd member.


Pandora shares fall 6% as Spotify launches in U.S: MarketWatch - Market Pulse


By Rex Crum 

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Pandora Media Inc. P -4.74% shares fell $1.05, or nearly 6%, to $16.88 Thursday. The online music-streaming company's stock retreated on the same day that Spotify, a popular music service in Europe, launched Thursday in the U.S. Earlier this week, Pandora said it reached 100 million registered users, and that it had 36 million active monthly users of its service. Spotify, which launched two years ago, has about 10 million registered users of its service, and 1.6 million paid subscribers. Pandora's shares have fluctuated wildly since the Oakland, Calif.-based company went public in June at $16 a share.

Reuters - Deals Today

Integrated energy company ConocoPhillips said it would split its businesses into two stand-alone, publicly traded corporations by spinning off its refining and marketing business.

Borders Group's buyout deal with private equity firm Najafi Companies collapsed, raising the possibility that the bankrupt bookseller could be forced to liquidate its remaining stores and go out of business.

L-3 Communications, which faces breakup pressure from an activist investor, is expected to divest some low-end services assets but does not plan a broader portfolio restructuring such as a breakup, people familiar with the situation said.

“A group led by Joshua Harris, a co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, announced late on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement to buy the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team from the sports company Comcast-Spectacor,” reports DealBook.
ConocoPhillips to split into two; shares surge
NEW YORK (Reuters) - ConocoPhillips will split itself into two by spinning off its refining arm, the third-largest U.S. oil company said on Thursday, sending its shares up more than 7 percent. | Full Article

Borders loses Najafi deal, may face liquidation
July 14, 2011 10:30 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Borders Group Inc's deal with buyout firm Najafi Companies to emerge from bankruptcy has collapsed, raising the odds that the second largest U.S. bookstore chain could be forced out of business. | Full Article
Williams trumps Energy Transfer bid for Southern Union
July 14, 2011 10:33 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Williams Cos Inc raised its offer to buy Southern Union by nearly 13 percent to $5.5 billion on Thursday, striking the latest blow in a bidding war with Energy Transfer Equity LP over the pipeline operator. | Full Article

Economist Intelligence Unit - Access China - China's leapfrogging inland cities.

Economist Intelleigence Unit

Access China

China's leapfrogging inland cities
A number of China's inland cities are going straight for the high-end in manufacturing.  Improved infrastructure, lower wages and an abundance of skilled labour in a number of inland cities has brought them into direct competition with their wealthier coastal counterparts for investment. The trend is not just in low-end manufacturing. New facilities being set up in western and central provinces are impressive enough to make officials from Beijing or Shanghai jealous.
Typically, industrialisation is a process that begins with labour-intensive light industries such as garments manufacturing, followed by capital-intensive heavy industries and ultimately technology-intensive manufacturing. That was the path followed by China's most developed provinces—Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu all cut their teeth in the production of cheap goods such as toys, lighters, watches and clothing. Given today's trend of manufacturers seeking out lower-cost inland locations away from the expensive coastal regions, one would expect cities such as Xi'an, Chongqing and Hefei to follow a similar path.
That, however, has hardly happened. Chongqing and Anhui have climbed to fourth and sixth place (out of 31 provinces) in provincial passenger car production in 2010. Chengdu, after securing its first major investment from Intel, a US-based chipmaker, in 2004, consolidated its high-tech hub status after the firm relocated its Shanghai plant there in 2009. Xi'an became home of the world's largest private-sector solar panel research facility, set up by US-based equipment firm Applied Materials in 2009.
More zones, not less
Multinational companies have continued to move fresh funds into China despite widely reported complaints over regulatory obstacles and piracy problems. The global financial crisis reversed the investment growth trend briefly as foreign direct investment (FDI) dipped by nearly 3% in 2009, but this soon recovered the following year with an increase of 17% to US$106bn. Growth momentum has been kept up in the first four months of 2011.
The most dramatic increases in FDI, however, were recorded in the central and western provinces. Chongqing, which has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure, recorded a 58% jump in FDI to US$6.3bn (after registering a 47% increase in 2009). Its neighbour, Sichuan, saw an even more prodigious increase of 70% to US$7bn in 2010 (after a 24% increase in 2009). Other inland provinces also performed well — Henan, Anhui and Jiangxi all recorded rises in FDI of over 25%.
Access China clients can continue reading here.

China's golden era

China's gold production is set to expand over the next three years, but the increase in demand will outpace domestic production. Imports will soar, and Chinese companies will be active in making foreign acquisitions in the gold-mining industry. Although several Canadian and Australian companies are active in China's gold-mining sector, foreign investment in this area is not actively encouraged. It is more likely that Chinese companies will become increasingly important as international players.
Chinese demand is being spurred by high levels of inflation, but China's long-term plans for the internationalisation of the renminbi put a premium on increasing the state's own reserves of gold. This should underpin the market going forward. Environmentally conscious production and deep mining are potential segments of the domestic mining industry where China could accept foreign involvement. Moreover, gold-backed financial products are opening up, potentially providing opportunities for financial-services companies.
Access China clients can continue reading here.
If you are looking for analysis or data on a particular region, or have any other queries about how the Economist Intelligence Unit could help you, please get in touch with your local office by phone or email.

May 2011 business inventories were $1,514.0 billion, up 1.0% from April and up 11.6% from May 2010. Sales were $1,184.2 billion, down 0.1% from April and up 11.6% from May 2010. Financial & Forex Info | ESA

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo


May 2011

Sales. The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that the combined value of distributive trade sales and manufacturers’
shipments for May, adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences but not for price changes, was estimated at
$1,184.2 billion, down 0.1 percent (±0.1%)* from April 2011 and up 11.6 percent (±0.4%) from May 2010.
Inventories. Manufacturers’ and trade inventories, adjusted for seasonal variations but not for price changes, were
estimated at an end-of-month level of $1,514.0 billion, up 1.0 percent (±0.1%) from April 2011 and up 11.6 percent
(±0.4%) from May 2010.

For Detailed Information :

RTTNews Morning Market Briefing

Morning Market Briefing

With traders reacting positively to a slew of U.S. economic data, stocks are likely to move to the upside in early trading on Thursday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a modestly higher open, with the Dow futures up by 24 points. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Economic News
New Zealand's expanded in the first quarter of 2011 by a better-than-expected 0.8 percent, according to data published Thursday by Statistics NZ. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Singapore's gross domestic product declined by a seasonally adjusted annualized 7.8 percent in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the previous three months, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said on Thursday in an advance estimate. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

The members of the Bank of Korea monetary policy board on Thursday decided to keep interest rates unchanged at the current level of 3.25 percent - in line with analyst expectations. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Eurozone inflation slowed in June as initially estimated, but hovered above the official target for the seventh straight month. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Driven in part by a strong performance in the automotive sector, U.S. retail sales unexpectedly increased in June, according to figures released by the Commerce Department on Thursday. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits showed a notable decrease in the week ended July 9th, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday, although claims remained just above the key 400,000 level. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

With energy prices showing a sharp drop in the month of June, the Labor Department released a report on Thursday showing a bigger than expected drop in producer prices for the month. At the same time, core prices rose by more than economists had anticipated. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Earnings News
Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM)Wednesday said second-quarter profit climbed year-over-year thanks primarily to an 18 percent growth in same-store sales in China-based stores. Both adjusted earnings and revenues beat the Street view. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Marriott International Inc. (MAR) reported Wednesday a 13 percent rise in second-quarter profit thanks to increased occupancies and growth in room rates. However, while earnings were on par with analysts' estimates, revenues fell short. The company also issued its third-quarter financial guidance, with an earnings estimate below analysts' consensus. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Rio Tinto plc (RIO, RIO.L, RTNTF.PK, RTPPF.PK) Thursday announced a 12 percent growth in second-quarter iron ore production, reflecting primarily the absence of severe weather events. The company's mined copper output, however, fell 24 percent due to lower grades at its Escondida and Kennecott Utah Copper mines. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Nexen Inc. (NXY, NXY.TO) said Thursday second-quarter profit went up from the prior year as a result of higher oil prices. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) announced Thursday a rise in second-quarter profit primarily due to a sharp drop in provision for credit losses and also higher net revenues. The results topped the market view. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc. (FCS) Thursday said second-quarter profit increased marginally from a year ago on a 5 percent growth in sales. Both adjusted earnings and revenues exceeded Street expectations. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
The Progressive Corp. (PGR) Thursday reported a 16 percent climb in second-quarter profit on the back of net realized gains on securities, a reversal from prior-year loss on securities, and also higher premiums. (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Corporate News
ConocoPhillips (COP) Thursday reported its Board's approval of a split and spin-off of the Refining & Marketing and Exploration & Production businesses into independent, publicly traded units. The company also said chairman and CEO Jim Mulva intends to step down following the separation, which is expected to complete in first-half 2012 (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article

Williams Companies Inc. (WMB) Thursday announced a sweetened offer price of $44 per share in cash for the acquisition of Southern Union Co. (SUG). The price represents a 10 percent premium on that offered by Energy Transfer Equity LP (ETE). (Jul 14, 2011) Full Article
Broker Ratings Changes
FBR Capital Markets Initiates Redwood Trust, Inc. (RWT) At Market Perform With $14 Price Target
(Jul 14, 2011)
FBR Capital Markets Starts Invesco Mortgage Capital Inc. (IVR) At Outperform With $24 Price Target
(Jul 14, 2011) 

Todays WS Events
Google Q2 11 Earning Conference Call At 4:30 PM ET
Google Inc.(GOOG) will host a conference call at 4:30 PM ET, July 14 2011, to discuss its Q2 11 earning results. To access the live webcast, log on at (Jul 14, 2011)
JPMorgan Chase Q2 11 Earnings Conference Call At 9:00 AM ET
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) will host a conference call at 9:00 AM ET, July 14, 2011, to discuss its Q2 11 earnings results. To access the live audio webcast, log on at To hear the live call, dial (866) 541-2724 (US) or (706) 634-7246 (International). A replay of the call can be heard by dialing (800) 642-1687 (US) or (706) 645-9291 (International) with ID 69238961. (Jul 14, 2011)
Marriott International Q2 11 Earnings Conference Call At 10:00 AM ET
Marriott International Inc. (MAR) will host a conference call at 10:00 AM ET, July 14, 2011, to discuss its Q2 11 earnings results. To access the live webcast, log on at To hear the live call, dial 706-679-3455 with ID 73075252. A replay of the call can be heard by dialing 706-645-9291 with ID 73075252. (Jul 14, 2011)
Yum! Brands Q2 11 Earning Conference Call At 9:15 AM ET
Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM) will host a conference call at 9:15 AM ET, July 14 2011, to discuss its Q2 11 earning results. To access live webcast, log on at (Jul 14, 2011) 

Weekly U.S. jobless claims drop to 405,000: MarketWatch | Market Pulse - Stats of Unemployment

By Jeffry Bartash 

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - New applications for unemployment benefits fell last week by 22,000 to a seasonally adjusted 405,000, putting claims at the lowest level in three months, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch has expected new request for jobless benefits to total 420,000 in the week ended July 9. Claims in the prior week were revised up to 427,000 from an original reading of 418,000. The decline in claims would have been even steeper if not for a government shutdown in Minnesota. Minnesota said 11,500 state workers filed applications for jobless benefits last week. The average of new claims over the past four weeks, meanwhile, dropped 3,750 to 423,250. Continuing claims increased by 15,000, to 3.73 million and a total of 7.48 million people received some kind of state or federal benefit in the week ended June 25.

Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June, adjusted for seasonal Variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, up from previous month and last Year. Financial & Forex Info | ESA

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for June, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $387.8 billion, an increase of 0.1 percent (±0.5%)* from the previous month, and 8.1 percent (±0.7%) above June 2010. Total sales for the April through June 2011 period were up 7.7 percent (±0.5%) from the same period a year ago. The April to May 2011 percent change was revised from -0.2 percent (±0.5%)* to -0.1 percent (±0.2%)*.

For detailed Information: 

Why Obama walked out: The Washington Post | Ezra Klein's Wonkbook

Last night's debt-ceiling meeting did not go very well. Unlike in the Biden negotiations, where the talks were kept quiet and so the participants didn't grandstand, these negotiations have been leaking, so the participants are making speeches and mugging for the reports that they know will come out after, and in some cases, will seed themselves. But even by that baseline, Wednesday's meeting was particularly bad. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor launched into a stemwinder before the teams had even had time to look at the options papers the staffs had developed. On three separate occasions, Cantor pushed for the sort of short-term increase the administration has explicitly ruled out. Cantor's final effort to push the new plan came as the meeting was breaking up and the president was giving instruction to staff on how to prepare for the next set of talks. "Eric, don't call my bluff," the president said. "I'm going to the American people on this." Then, as the story goes, he walked out.
The breakup of the meeting, while dramatic, seems a bit less so if you know that Obama also said "I'll see you all tomorrow" before leaving the room. But, as if confirming Obama's accusation that this was all "posturing," Cantor immediately rushed to reporters to inform them of the president's dramatic exit. Nevertheless, one goal of the talks is now fulfilled. In his initial remarks announcing the White House negotiations, Obama said one goal was that "the parties will at least know where each other’s bottom lines are." Now they do.
Last night, Obama was clear with Cantor: either Republicans have to give on revenues or they have to give on their demand to match each dollar in debt-ceiling increases with a dollar in spending cuts. But there's no $2.5 trillion package -- which is the size of the debt-ceiling increase needed to get us through the next election -- that's all spending cuts.
The Republican Party, meanwhile, doesn't have a bottom line so much as it has bottom lines, some of which conflict. No revenue, of course. That demand has come through. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's debt plan has throw the dollar-for-dollar condition into question. "McConnell seems to define the necessary size of the deal closer to zero than $2.5 trillion," one Democrat with knowledge of the talks told me. You're increasingly hearing about the possibility of a split Boehner/McConnell deal, in which Boehner gets less than $2 trillion in spending cuts, which is not quite as many as he wanted, and the McConnell process is used to raise the debt ceiling beyond where the spending cuts have gone. That would, in other words, be the GOP giving on its dollar-for-dollar demand, which seems likelier to everyone involved than the party making an agreement on taxes.
Five in the morning

1) Republicans are split on how to tackle the debt ceiling and President Obama walked out on Eric Cantor, report Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who offered a proposal this week that would allow President Obama to raise the federal debt limit without guaranteed spending cuts, warned that the Republican Party could 'destroy' its brand with voters if Congress allows the government to default...House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) rejected McConnell’s plan for resolving the debt stalemate, instead vowing to press ahead with the campaign to roll back government spending...Both parties resumed afternoon negotiations at the White House. Those talks ended on an angry note when Obama and Cantor disagreed over the length of the proposed debt-ceiling increase...'The president told me, 'Eric, don’t call my bluff. You know I’m going to take this to the American people,'' Cantor said. 'He then walked out.'"
2) Moody's is set to downgrade the credit rating for US debt if the debt ceiling isn't increased, reports Neil Irwin: "Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday it has put the U.S. government’s top-notch credit rating on review for a possible downgrade because of the risk that Washington will not raise the federal debt ceiling in time to avoid a default. The firm added that even a brief failure of the government to pay its bills would mean that the United States’s Aaa rating “would likely no longer be appropriate.” The announcement comes after Standard & Poor’s, another of the major credit rating agencies, has said that it would dramatically downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating if payments were missed. The U.S. has long been able to borrow money cheaply because global investors believe the government can be counted on to repay its debts."
3) If the debt ceiling is reached, Obama would have to pick and choose programs to fund, reports Zachary Goldfarb: "What happens if President Obama and Congress don’t strike a debt deal? On Aug. 3, the nation would find out, with Obama forced to make a set of extraordinarily difficult choices about what to pay or not pay. By then, the government’s savings account would be nearly empty and the president would be relying on daily tax revenue to pay the nation’s bills. There wouldn’t be enough -- in fact, there would be a $134 billion shortfall in August alone. As Obama decided what to pay, he would choose among Social Security checks, salaries for members of the military and veterans, unemployment benefits, student loans, and many other government programs, according to administration officials and an independent analysis by a former senior Treasury Department official [for] George H.W. Bush."
4) The Fed is open to launching a new round of stimulus, reports Neil Irwin: "The Federal Reserve is prepared to take new action if the recovery falters, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, raising the possibility of resuming un or tho dox methods of trying to pump money into the economy. Bernanke expects that the economy will strengthen over the remainder of the year as temporary drags such as higher fuel prices dissipate, according to his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. But he also acknowledged that there is no way to be certain, and he said that the Fed would act if its outlook proves overly optimistic. His list of possible responses included a new round of Treasury bond purchases by the Fed. Only two weeks ago, the central bank completed a $600 billion effort to support the economy along those lines."
5) Congressional Democrats back McConnell's debt limit plan, reports Felicia Sonmez: "Democratic leaders in the House and Senate responded positively Wednesday to a 'back-up plan' proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised, but would make President Obama and congressional Democrats bear the brunt of the political fallout. 'What Leader McConnell has put on the table recognizes that we must lift the debt ceiling; that we must do that,' House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters...The top House Democrat’s remarks came shortly after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that McConnell’s proposal, 'combined with ideas he and I have been discussing to force a vote on deficit reduction proposals, could go a long way toward resolving the impasse in which we find ourselves.'"
Summer james interlude: Best Coast plays "Summer Mood" live.
Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.
Still to come: The budget deficit has fallen from last year's; a CBO study suggest delivery system reforms won't cut health spending that much; seniors' groups are gearing up to oppose Social Security and Medicaid cuts; the House wants to limit the EPA's authority to regulate water quality; and a 3D printer makes a solid, working wrench.

The budget deficit is shrinking, reports Jeff Bater: "The U.S. budget deficit for the first nine months of fiscal 2011 was $970.52 billion, a figure that is smaller than the $1.29 trillion deficit for the same period in the prior fiscal year. The U.S. Treasury Department, in a monthly budget statement released Wednesday, said the budget deficit for June 2011 came in at $43.08 billion, less than June 2010, which was $68.42 billion. Despite the smaller deficit figures, the federal government still faces an Aug. 2 deadline to raise its borrowing limit and a budget deficit that is expected to top $1 trillion by Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends. The Treasury report said revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2011 totaled $1.734 trillion, while spending was $2.705 trillion."
House Democrats are whipping against a balanced budget amendment, reports Mike Lillis: "Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, announced Wednesday that he'll marshal Democratic votes against the Republicans' balanced budget amendment when GOP leaders bring it to the floor next week. The announcement is bad news for Republican supporters of the bill, who will need at least 48 Democratic supporters to reach the two-thirds majority in the House required to pass the measure...Sponsored by GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) and Joe Walsh (Ill.), the balanced budget proposal would require Congress to pass a balanced budget each fiscal year while capping federal spending at 18 percent of the GDP. Additionally, the bill would require two-thirds of Congress to hike taxes, and a three-fifths majority to increase the debt limit."
The board responsible for determining "too big to fail" institutions is delaying its first rule, report Deborah Solomon and Victoria McGrane: "Federal regulators will not complete guidance detailing how the U.S. will determine which large firms could pose a risk to the financial system in time for a Monday meeting, according to people familiar with the matter. The Financial Stability Oversight Council, a new federal body created by the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, had planned to issue the guidance Monday but it likely will be several weeks before it is complete, these people said...The designation process, which is mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, will require firms designated as systemically important to hold additional capital and be subject to heightened regulatory scrutiny."
A default would increase interest payments considerably, writes Bill Gross: "An actual default -- or even the threat of one -- might set off a chain reaction that would raise Treasury bond yields by 25 basis points (a quarter of a percentage point) or more, pushing up the cost of debt throughout American financial markets...If an extra 25 basis points becomes the new benchmark, federal interest expenses might increase by $30 billion to $40 billion annually over the ensuing years as $1.5 trillion of new debt is issued each fiscal year, complicating efforts to narrow budget deficits...A ratings downgrade or an actual default could reduce the willingness of these countries to do business in dollars, jeopardizing trade receivables and overnight letters of credit in the process."
A long, hard slog of a recovery could endanger debt reduction efforts, writes Peter Orszag: "Consider the other advanced economies that have experienced financial implosions similar to the one we had: Spain in 1977, Norway in 1987, Finland in 1991, Sweden in 1991 and Japan in 1992. The economists Carmen and Vincent Reinhart found that in all five of these countries the unemployment rate has still not fallen back to pre-crisis levels, even today. The peak was reached from three to 10 years after the meltdown...If an extended period of slow growth is more likely than the official projections suggest, we’re in for a much nastier mix of high unemployment in the near term and large budget gaps over the medium term. This is only more evidence that the right policy response is a combination of more aggressive action to bolster the job market now and much more deficit reduction enacted now to take effect in a few years."
My Bloomberg column: We've learned a lot about the White HOuse in these talks: "Take taxes. The prevailing theory has been that the Obama administration would seek the largest tax increases it could plausibly pass. Liberals are now dismayed to learn that that notion is false. Instead, the Obama administration wants to take the tax issue off the table as soon as possible; the president is willing to take much less in revenue in exchange for spending less time arguing about taxes."
Humanless factory interlude: A 3D printer produces a working wrench.
Health Care

A new CBO study suggests many potential routes to Medicare savings won't save much, reports Merrill Goozner: "A forthcoming report from the Congressional Budget Office shows that more than two dozen demonstrations projects launched by Medicare and Medicaid over the past decade have failed to stop the upward march of health care costs, CBO director Doug Elmendorf said Tuesday...Elmendorf defended CBO's projections that delivery system reforms like the accountable care organizations allowed under reform would only save a few billion dollars in the coming decade...Robert Berenson, a health analyst at the Urban Institute, admits many of the demonstrations on delivery system reforms have had mixed results. But a careful analysis of the successful elements of those demonstrations could be replicated across the country and lead to significant savings."
IPAB is a prerequisite to affordable health care, writes Judith Feder: "The Affordable Care Act does far more than extend essential health insurance coverage to tens of millions of Americans. It helps reduce the federal deficit - using measures that can slow growth in both Medicare and overall health spending. The Independent Payment Advisory Board is one such measure...But IPAB also propels the needed transformation of the nation’s entire health care payment system -- moving it from reliance on mechanisms that reward the delivery of ever more and ever more expensive services, regardless of their contribution to health, to mechanisms that reward high quality care, efficiently provided. In short, the IPAB is the backstop to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to assuring all Americans get quality care at lower cost."
Domestic Policy

<Seniors' groups are pushing back hard against proposed Medicare/Social Security cuts, reports David Fahrenthold: "First, AARP tried to convey disappointment. In May, the group launched a TV ad warning that Congress might try to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of a deal to raise the national debt ceiling. 'The country can do better,' it said. Then, in June, it tried ridicule. Another TV ad hit Congress for pondering those cuts while the government spent money on such things as pickle research and experiments in which shrimp ran on treadmills. That didn’t work either. So AARP’s new tactic is more direct: veiled threats. 'Maybe we seem like an easy target' for Congress, a grandfather says in a TV ad the group launched Wednesday. 'Until you realize there are 50 million of us.'"
Defense groups are gearing up to fight cuts, reports Nathan Hodge: "Arms manufacturers are trying to fend off a new round of defense-budget cuts they fear could result from deficit-reduction talks under way in Washington. The White House and congressional leaders are deep in negotiations over lifting the federal borrowing limit. Those talks, if successful, are likely to call for trillions of dollars in government spending cuts over the next decade. Against that background, the Aerospace Industries Association, the defense industry's main trade group, has launched a push on Capitol Hill to encourage lawmakers to avoid what it sees as potentially drastic cuts in military spending...Arms suppliers are already worried about the business impact of the wind-down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Adorable children and adorable birds hanging out interlude: 5-year-old Madison and her pet sun conure.

The House voted to limit the EPA's ability to regulate water quality, reports Robin Bravender: "The House on Wednesday approved legislation to smack down the Obama administration’s water pollution policies, despite a looming veto threat from the White House. The chamber voted 239-184 to adopt a bipartisan bill that seeks to limit EPA’s authority over state water quality decisions after recent agency actions have irked lawmakers, particularly in coal states and in Florida. Backers of the bill sent a loud message that they’re not pleased with recent EPA water policies, including a January veto of a West Virginia mining permit and new nutrient pollution standards in Florida...The bill is one of several recent House efforts to limit the Obama administration’s water pollution policies, including a series of riders attached to the fiscal 2012 Interior-EPA spending bill."
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams.

Reuters - Before The Bell: Stock futures edge higher after JPMorgan results

Stock futures edge higher after JPMorgan results
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures rose on Thursday as higher profit from JPMorgan offset concern about the U.S. budget deficit talks and Europe's sovereign debt crisis. | Full Article

JPMorgan quarterly profit higher, beats estimates
July 14, 2011 07:38 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co posted higher-than-expected quarterly profit as it wrote off fewer bad mortgages and credit card loans. | Full Article
Euro zone makes fresh bid to tackle Greek crisis
July 14, 2011 06:57 AM ET
BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Euro zone countries continued to grapple with the thorny issue of involving the private sector in tackling Greece's debt pile as they prepared for a meeting to decide support for the country next week. | Full Article
Google margins and new social product in spotlight
July 14, 2011 12:42 AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc's profit margins and its newly released social networking service will be in the investor spotlight when the Internet company reports its quarterly results after Thursday's market close. | Full Article
Moody's puts U.S. ratings on review for downgrade
July 14, 2011 07:50 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States may lose its top-notch credit rating in the next few weeks if lawmakers fail to increase the country's legal borrowing limit and the government misses debt payments, Moody's Investors Service warned on Wednesday. | Full Article