Eight days a week are not enough to show I care, but seven and a half things are all you need to know today. Here they are:
Thing One: Income Inequality Feeds Itself: There's an old saying that you've got to have money to make money. It typically means you've got to be able to blow some money in order to win big jackpots. But The New York Times today reports on a particularly pernicious aspect of the old adage, pointing out that the children of the wealthy are doing increasingly better in school than their underprivileged counterparts, increasing the chances that they will make even more money later in life. The income gap is creating its own fuel to keep growing, in other words. "Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults," writes Sabrina Tavernise. "But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects."
Thing Two: Wait, Wait, We Really Don't Like The Volcker Rule: Goldman Sachs CFO David Viniar raised some eyebrows this week when he suggested Goldman could actually make more money because of the scourge of Wall Street, the Volcker Rule, which forbids banks from taking their own money to Atlantic City and play the slots. Now Goldman is downplaying those comments, reports Politico's Ben White, who says the bank plans to unveil a 50-page screed against the rule on Monday, explaining why it murders capitalism, turns your teeth yellow and makes puppies cry.
Thing Three: Barclays Warning: Yesterday it was Credit Suisse, today it's Barclays: The banking sector's pain is international. The British bank today reported its worst quarterly results in three years and warned it might miss its target for a key profitability measure. The reason, as it was for Credit Suisse, is the ongoing euro-zone debt crisis, and not Dodd-Frank or the Volcker Rule, as Matt Taibbi discusses in his new piece, "Why Wall Street Should Stop Whining."
Thing Four: Bachus In Focus: The independent Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating whether Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, violated insider trading laws, the Washington Post reports. This comes as the House has just passed a new law gently reining in lawmakers' ability to trade on inside information. Bachus told the Post he is cooperating with the OCE.
Thing Five: Still Waiting For Greece: European stocks and US stock futures are falling this morning because of -- wait for it, this will shock you -- Greece. Yes, we're still waiting for a resolution to the latest round of never-ending Greek debt talks. Euro-zone finance ministers withheld a new loan to Greece yesterday, preferring to wait for the results of weekend votes in Greek parliament on new austerity measures, while Germany wagged a wienerschnitzel disapprovingly in Greece's direction. It seems Greece is not meeting its budget targets! That tends to happen when your economy is dead in the water, which tends to happen when you pass round after round of austerity measures, causing your populace to constantly go on strike. Rinse, repeat, default already.
Thing Six: Mind the Trade Gap: At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Commerce Department is due to report on the international trade balance in December. Economists, on average, think the trade gap widened a bit, to $48 billion, from a wider-than-expected $47.8 billion in November. A bigger trade gap sends mixed signals on growth. If we're buying more imported stuff, then that means consumers might be feeling a little friskier. But a wider trade gap also subtracts from gross domestic product, for whatever that's worth. Update: The gap was a bit wider than expected, at $48.8 billion.
Thing Seven: Consumer Temperature Read: At 10:00 a.m. ET, Reuters and the University of Michigan release their preliminary consumer sentiment reading for February. Economists think the sentiment index rose to 74 from 75 in January. But given the recent rally in the stock market and better approval ratings for President Obama's handling of the economy lately, economists might be under-estimating consumer sentiment. Anyway, what's more important is what consumers do, rather than how they feel. Update: The sentiment index actually fell, further than expected, to 72.5
Thing Seven And a Half: Charlie Bit The Interwebs: Back when J.C.R. Linklider was dreaming of an "Intergalactic Computer Network" in the 1960s and developing ARPANET, the precursor to the series of tubes that has delivered this post to your eyes, he probably could not have imagined that the most successful product of his great vision would be a video of one kid biting another kid's finger. But so it goes. The New York Times does a deep dive on the now-famous family that produced the video, which has been seen nearly 418 million times, and asks the question: What makes a video go viral?
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