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About me


I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

You can contact me at irishtrojan [at] gmail.com, or donate to my "tip jar" by clicking the link below:

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Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

The Economy & Finance

Food hoarding? Oh, good.

By Brendan Loy

Although I'm stereotypically the news junkie of our household, Becky has sometimes been getting out ahead of me recently in recognizing developing major news stories, in part because her playlist of things to listen to on her iPod while feeding Loyette includes some good newsy podcasts. Anyway, she's been talking about food hoarding for some time. Now that story has appeared on my radar screen, via Drudge:

Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas.

Their pleas did not find a sympathetic audience at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where regulators said high prices are mostly the result of soaring world demand for grains combined with high fuel prices and drought-induced shortages in many countries.

The regulatory clash came amid evidence that a rash of headlines in recent weeks about food riots around the world has prompted some in the United States to stock up on staples.

Costco and other grocery stores in California reported a run on rice, which has forced them to set limits on how many sacks of rice each customer can buy. Filipinos in Canada are scooping up all the rice they can find and shipping it to relatives in the Philippines, which is suffering a severe shortage that is leaving many people hungry.

My expert analysis is that, uh, this isn't a good thing.

Incidentally, I've created a separated blog category called "The Economy & Finance." With all the bad news about those topics lately, it was time.

Job market continues to tank

By Brendan Loy

Fan-freakin'-tastic:

The U.S. economy shed 80,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate jumped to 5.1 percent, as the labor market continued to be battered by an economic slowdown.

U.S. employers have now eliminated more than 232,000 jobs in the last three months. ...

The latest employment figures, released this morning by the Labor Department, add evidence to the developing sense of an economy in recession. In addition to the March figures, the department said that even more jobs had been lost in January and February than earlier reported. Statistics for those months were revised downward by 67,000.

"Trends are awful," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist with the High Frequency Economics consulting firm. Factoring out the increase in government jobs, he noted, private employers dropped nearly 100,000 positions. Considering that as of the end of last year, businesses were adding an average of 45,000 jobs a month, "the turnaround has been very fast," he wrote in an analysis of the latest employment report. ...

The latest jobs report "shows that we're right in the middle of a recession that will probably take a while," said Carl Lantz, an analyst with Credit Suisse in New York, told the Reuters wire service. "Our expectation is that it will be a longer recession than the last two and we're just in the beginning."

I think I may need to create an "Economic News" category for the blog, since it sounds like there will be a lot more of these cheerful posts in coming months and years.

P.S. The candidates react.

Fed seeks broad market oversight power

By Brendan Loy

File this under "things that Brendan doesn't know very much about, but that sound like a pretty big deal":

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the country’s hodge-podge of regulatory agencies, which many specialists say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they triggered what is now the worst financial calamity in decades. ...

The Fed would also be given some authority over Wall Street firms but only when an investment bank’s practices posed a threat to the financial system over all.

The Wall Street Journal says passage of the plan "would likely take years and would also require major compromises from an increasingly partisan Congress," and that it "is likely to trigger messy feuds over turf at a time when confidence in government supervision is low."

Fed cuts interest rates by 80 gajillion points

By Brendan Loy

Or something like that.

Well, hey, it's pretty sweet for my student loans.

P.S. If the economy gets bad enough, will the Fed make interest rates negative, such that Citibank will have to start paying me for the privilege of holding my debt? Because that'd be awesome. :)

And here I thought Bear Stearns was a scrappy mid-major team from the WAC

By Brendan Loy

I haven't blogged anything about this J.P. Morgan-Bear Stearns business, partly because of March Madness and partly because I don't really understand it very well. But even to a economics & finance ignoramus like myself, it seems like an obviously big deal. This paragraph from the linked WSJ article struck me as particularly ominous:

The sale of Bear Stearns and Sunday night's move by the Fed to offer loans to other securities dealers mark the latest historic turns in what has become the most pervasive financial crisis in a generation. The issue is no longer whether it will yield a recession -- that seems almost certain -- but whether the concerted efforts of Wall Street and Washington can head off a recession much deeper and more prolonged than the past two, relatively mild ones.

Yippee!! [/sarcasm]

Military snubs American plane maker

By David K.

The Air Force announced today that it has chosen Northrup Grumman, which is partnering with European airplane manufacturer Airbus -- rather than Boeing -- for its new fleet of mid-air refueling planes.

We're heading into an economic recession -- oh I'm sorry, I mean slowdown -- our ballooning national debt is being financed predominantly by Chinese banks, and now the Air Force is going to be sending billions of our tax dollars to Airbus.  I'm all for international trade and cooperation, but there'd better be some significant advantages to the Grumman/Airbus offering over the Boeing offering to justify this.

The check's in the mail

By Brendan Loy

Well, not really. Not until May, in fact. But the economic stimulus package is headed to President Bush's desk, and he will sign it.

You can view the full text of the bill in PDF form here, or in HTML form here (click the bottom link).

Senate threatens to meddle with tax rebates

By Brendan Loy

Prediction: the Senate will back down. Nobody benefits politically from headlines like "Senate May Scuttle Stimulus," particularly not when the public will feel that it has essentially already been promised $1,200 per couple. The Republicans need this to pass, because they'll be the ones primarily blamed for a recession, and they need the voters to think they tried to do something to stop it. And the Democrats need to avoid painting themselves into a corner where they're the "obstructionists" who prevented Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public from getting a $1,200 check in the mail. This is one issue where both parties in both houses will find some way to work together, in relatively short order.

Bush, Dems agree to send me money

By Brendan Loy

The White House and Congress have reached a tentative deal on an economic stimulus package:

Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed to drop increases in food stamp and unemployment benefits during a Wednesday meeting in exchange for gaining rebates of at least $300 for almost everyone earning a paycheck, including low-income earners who make too little to pay income taxes.

Families with children would receive an additional $300 per child, subject to an overall cap of perhaps $1,200, according to a senior House aide who outlined the deal on condition of anonymity in advance of formal adoption of the whole package. Rebates would go to people earning below a certain income cap, likely individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples with incomes of $150,000 or less.

People would have to have earned at least $3,000 in 2007 to receive the rebates, the officials said.

I don't know whether this is economically or fiscally sound, but I could certainly use $900. The big ugly red number on my budget spreadsheet thanks you, President Bush and Congresswoman Pelosi. :)

UPDATE: It sounds like some of the information in the original article was incorrect, or I misunderstood it, or some combination of the two. Money quote (literally):

Under the deal, nearly everyone earning a paycheck would receive at least $300 from the Internal Revenue Service. Most workers would receive rebates of $600 each, or $1,200 per couple. Families with children would receive an additional payment of $300 per child [up to a cap of $1,200, i.e., you can get credit for at most four children]. Workers who earned at least $3,000 last year -- but not enough to pay income taxes -- would be eligible for $300.

So, at least in theory, Becky and I should be in line for $1,500, not just $900. Sweet!

But, hmm... I wonder... are the earning floors for married couples calculated jointly or separately? Also, can we somehow make the IRS aware of Loyette's existence, which they normally wouldn't know about until April? :)

The article doesn't specify when the checks are to go out, except to say that it will happen "quickly."

In any event, this isn't a done deal yet:

Congressional aides cautioned that it was too early to say that a deal had been finalized, and the finishing touches will be made over the next day or so as party leaders try to get their rank and file to buy in on a deal. ...

With both sides conceding on issues important to their base, there is potential to upset the delicate bipartisan truce prevailing on Capitol Hill, which is why leaders of both parties want to quickly advance the package before partisan rancor tears down any negotiations. ...

There are indications already that the Senate — the world's most deliberative body — may slow things down when the stimulus package passes the House.

"There are reports that a deal may be close on the House side. The Senate will want to speak, as well," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We want to ensure that Congress does its utmost for the American economy and for the American people.”

P.S. The L.A. Times notes that party leaders "have set a deadline of Feb. 15 for passing the legislation."

More peachy economic news

By Brendan Loy

This is bad, no?

P.S. And this...

About that solid economic foundation...

By Brendan Loy

Biglaw layoffs -- oh, good.

(I know, I know. Weep for the poor lawyers.)

But the economy is strong, right, Mr. President?

(Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

Financial "disaster" looming?

By Brendan Loy

I don't understand all this banking mumbo-jumbo, but I don't like the sound of it:

York professor Peter Spencer, chief economist for the ITEM Club, says the global authorities have just weeks to get this right, or trigger disaster.

"The central banks are rapidly losing control. By not cutting interest rates nearly far enough or fast enough, they are allowing the money markets to dictate policy. We are long past worrying about moral hazard," he says.

"They still have another couple of months before this starts imploding. Things are very unstable and can move incredibly fast. I don't think the central banks are going to make a major policy error, but if they do, this could make 1929 look like a walk in the park," he adds.

Where's George Bailey when you need him?


Loonie passes dollar

By David K.

Today for the first time in over 30 years the Canadian dollar passed the American dollar.

Just another sign that the American economy is continuing to thrive right?

Hat tip: Daring Fireball

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