Yesterday economists and the rest of the country let out a collective groan when the quarterly GDP numbers came out. The economy grew by a sad 1.8 percent in the last quarter. In the quarter before that, growth was at a healthy 3.1 percent. So what happened? Have we hit just a small bump in the road on the road to recovery, or is this a sign of a possible reversal?
In 2008, the government offered an $85 billion bailout to American International Group Inc., one of the world's largest insurance companies, in order to prevent its collapse. When AIG accepted the bailout, it waived its right to sue banks over most of the mortgage securities that it had acquired. But, it did not give up its right to pursue legal action regarding $40 billion of mortgage bonds it purchased directly from banks. In an exclusive story for The New York Times, finance reporter Louise Story explains how AIG is now going after hedge funds and banks to try to recover billions in losses related to mortgage securities that caused the financial collapse in 2008.
Two years ago, big cleaning product companies like Clorox (greenWorks) and Arm&Hammer (Arm&Hammer Essentials) introduced new ecologically-sound lines to their repertoire, on the heels of high sales by niche market competitors like Seventh Generation and Ecover. But although sales soared initially, the companies have taken a hit in the past year. A number of them are reducing their green product lines or dropping them altogether. Are consumers more concerned with their pocket books than with the planet? Or was "greenwashing" just a fad?
Population growth is highest in areas that have one of two things going for them: sunshine and people with college degrees. That’s according to a study co-authored by Harvard economics professor Edward L. Glaeser. Finance and Wall Street reporter for The New York Times Louise Story has been thinking about how the state of our economy may change American migration patterns. If people can’t move because they can’t sell their houses, and migration creates economic growth, what happens?
Standard & Poor's announced Monday that they have downgraded the United States' credit outlook from “stable” to “negative” for the first time since they began issuing those ratings in 1989. The new rating has been interpreted by many as a direct warning to the U.S. government to come up with an agreement on the debt ceiling and the federal budget — as quickly as possible. David Wyss, Chief economist at Standard & Poor’s, New York, and Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for our partner The New York Times, explain what the rating really means, and what the U.S. can do about it.
During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, 800 bank officials ended up in jail over misconduct that led to the crisis. So why hasn’t a single bank executive been charged with any crime in the 2008 financial crisis? Louise Story, Wall Street and Finance Reporter for The New York Times lays out the lapses in regulation that led up to the crisis and also may now be responsible for the lack of evidence to try bank executives. Why did the FBI, the Justice Department and the SEC all chose to scale back their investigations into questionable banking practices?
Many of the big banks received huge bailouts from the government during the great recession. If they faced a crisis again, what would stop them from expecting another bailout the next time around? That question has led one Fed official, Thomas Hoenig, president of the Kansas City Fed, to raise the issue of whether big banks should be reclassified as government sponsored entities, kind of like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
If JP Morgan loses a current class action suit, big banks may have to take more responsibility for informing their clients when a deal or a financial instrument raises red flags. New documents have surfaced in a class-action suit a group of pension funds is leading against JP Morgan. They show that during the financial crisis, JP Morgan executives realized a certain investment entity called Sigma was going under. They hedged their own bets, but didn't let their clients — the group of pension funds now suing — know of the danger. If JP Morgan loses this case, big banks may be obliged to intervene in such matters. Louise Story, whose piece on the suit was just published in The New York Times, tells us more.
Wednesday, the price of gold hit an all-time high, costing buyers over $1450 per ounce. Part of the reason for the rise in price is a fear of inflation, uncertainty about the situation in the Middle East, and the weakness of the U.S. dollar and the Euro. But another factor driving up the price of gold maybe its biggest buyers: India and China. Why is the price of gold so high, and who is buying? We learn more about gold and the current commodities market from Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for The New York Times.
During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve got a lot of flack for handing out big bailouts to major banks like Citibank and JP Morgan Chase, which were deemed "too big to fail." But it turns out that many more banks received funds through the Federal Reserve Bank's so-called “discount window” policy, including investment banks and foreign banks. The names of those banks were released last week, after the Supreme Court ruled in February that under the Freedom of Information Act, the Fed had to make the names and amounts known.
Around tax time, Absolute Return magazine publishes a list of Wall Street's biggest winners of the year. This year, while most of America continues to battle a financial recession and 9.5 percent of the workforce remains actively unemployed, the nation's top hedge fund managers took home staggering sums of money. Louise Story, finance reporter for our partner The New York Times tells us why and how these managers make billions each year.
General Electric is fighting back against a report by The New York Times that the company did not pay any federal taxes last year. GE called the allegations, "inaccurate," and "grossly oversimplified," and said that it did pay almost $2.7 billion in cash income taxes in 2010, and in excess of $1 billion in payroll, state and local sales and property taxes. Who's telling the truth? Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for the Times, says the $2.7 billion in taxes is a global figure, which includes other countries than the U.S. And the $1 billion in state taxes paid isn't relevant, because the Times story was about GE not paying federal taxes. She also explains that GE has been fighting back against the Times' report via Twitter. They aren't disputing the facts of the story, but trying to send out their own message.
The House of Representatives voted 218 to 109 yesterday to end one of President Obama's signature economic plans, the Home Affordable Modification Program. The program was expected to help more than 4 million homeowners keep their homes, instead of the underwhelming 600,000 it managed to help — rendering it a flop. Meanwhile, the housing market remains in trouble, with sales and prices continuing to fall. Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for The New York Times, has the latest on HAMP, and why housing is having an incredibly difficult time getting out of the dumps.
Companies are using every loophole they can find to get a tax benefit — and it turns out they are doing it well. According to The New York Times, General Electric made $14.2 billion in profit last year, $5.1 billion of which came from its operations in the United States. But it turns out that not only did G.E. not pay any money in taxes, instead raking in another $3.2 billion in tax benefits.
New home sales numbers for February are expected out today, following Monday's release of existing home sales, which fell 9.6 percent according to the National Association of Retailers. With the economy improving, this breaks the usual mold of home sales and the economy mirroring each other. Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for The New York Times is watching the housing market and the way different economists are seeing the decreased prices. Is it about housing affordability or a scary dip in the market?
Oil prices are solidly back over the $100 dollar per barrel. Political unrest in the Middle East has kept oil rising for the past months followed by concerns that Japan, the world's third largest economy and a nation that imports 60 percent of its fuel, would be reducing its oil usage, knocked oil futures back down briefly last week. But Monday, oil futures for April rose by more than $1 hitting $102.96 a barrel in trading on Wall Street.
Wednesday on The Takeaway, Wall Street and Finance reporter for The New York Times, Louise Story mentioned the existence of something called a "cat bond." How do catastrophe bonds work? Essentially, these bonds are packages of insurance risks and it's a complex market, says Louise Story. As weather events get worse and more risky, the insurance companies are wiling to pass along this risk to the investors. However, when the market get too big and the risks get too high, will we see something akin to the mortgage market bust?
The crisis in Japan has finally hit home for stock markets around the world. Investors are concerned that electronics manufacturers, who import chips from Japan could be affected by lapses in the supply chain. Two of Japan's top companies, Honda and Toyota have halted production at their Japanese plants and Detroit is highly dependent on parts from Japan. At the same time, the disaster in Japan has raised questions about the energy industry here in the United States.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has received criticism for its incompetence in catching Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and now it faces an investigation in Congress. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be calling in two key SEC players for a thorough grilling. David Becker, former general counsel for the SEC will have to answer questions regarding his involvement with Madoff as an investor, and SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro will have to answer why she allowed Becker to work on Madoff matters. Did the SEC have a conflict of interest in dealing with Madoff?
Debit card "swipe fees" were one way that banks made billions of dollars a year. These fees were paid by retailers every time you used your debit card. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Congress cut these fees significantly, to the great relief of merchants across the country. The Fed is now facing an April deadline to write the rules for the current lower fees, and banks are waging a war to try to reverse these cuts. Louise Story, Wall Street and finance reporter for The New York Times, explains how new rules could impact you as a consumer.