What You Need To Know: Volcker Monday, Zombie Bank Accounts and Billboard Houses
There are a million stories in the naked city, but only seven and a half things you need to know today. Here they are:
Thing One: Greece On Fire With Joy: Over the weekend, Greece finally passed the austerity measures it needed to unlock the next pot of money from the ECB, IMF and European Commission. Global financial markets are cheering, with the euro, European stocks, and US stock futures all higher Monday morning. The Greek people, meanwhile, celebrated by setting several buildings on fire, Reuters notes. This suggests that actually putting the austerity measures into action will be easier said than done, which suggests what everybody should have known all along -- that Greece will eventually be better off simply defaulting.
Thing Two: Obama Budget Football: President Obama will today deliver a budget plan for fiscal 2013 that will call for $3.8 trillion in spending and projects a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, the Washington Post reports. That deficit isn't all that much lower than the $1.4 trillion deficit in 2009, which has Republicans in a tizzy about Obama's broken promise to cut the deficit in half in his first term. True, but it was a dumb promise to begin with, what with the economy sinking like the Titanic and all.
Thing Three: Volcker Monday: Today is the deadline for public comment on the Volcker Rule, one of the most controversial bank-sector reforms of Dodd-Frank, which tells banks they can't blow all their money on scratch-off lottery tickets. Banks are naturally enraged by the rule and plan to submit multiple letters today saying it will lead to all of us pushing our belongings in grocery carts forever. One Paul Volcker, meanwhile, plans to submit a letter of his own defending the rule, writes Scott Patterson in the Wall Street Journal.
Thing Four: Meet China's Next President: Xi Jinping, China's vice president and likely future president, is due to arrive in the US on Monday for a tour that will hopefully lay the groundwork for warmer relations in the future, writes the Washington Post. Xi is a little more of a people person than current president Hu Jintao, according to the Post, and enjoys him some sweet, sweet American corn -- though he also tends to fly off the handle occasionally and say inflammatory things.
Thing Five: Economists Grumpy: Financial markets and pundits are clamoring all over themselves to declare the recovery now in full bloom, but economists who last year got burned by disappointing growth aren't so sure. "As optimism mounts that the U.S. economic recovery is at last gaining steam, it is worth remembering that things looked pretty good a year ago, too," write Ben Casselman and Phil Izzo in the Wall Street Journal.
Thing Six: Private Equity Scrutiny: After years out of the limelight, the private-equity industry is finally feeling the heat of the SEC's all-seeing (OK, some-seeing) eye, writes Peter Lattman in the New York Times. Regulators are giving the stinkeye to, among other things, how accurately private-equity firms are valuing the stuff they own. This comes at a time when Mitt Romney's past employment in private equity is already bringing unwanted attention to the industry.
Thing Seven: It's Alive! During financial crises in Japan and the US, everybody was worried about "zombie banks," institutions that should have died but were kept alive by government largesse. But at least zombie banks are big enough that you can see them coming. The thing you need to worry about, especially as you ditch your old zombie bank for a new one, is the zombie bank account, writes Catherine New of The Huffington Post. These are accounts you think you closed, but manage to claw their way up from the bottom of the lake to attack you with fresh fees.
Thing Seven And A Half: Home Sweet Billboard. Behind on your mortgage? You can simply turn your house into a giant billboard and get your mortgage paid for up to a year by marketing firm Brainiacs From Mars, Reuters reports. Sure, the neighbors will grumble, and having a garish orange-and-green house-billboard in the neighborhood won't do much for property values or necessarily comply with local zoning laws. But roughly 38,000 people have applied to turn their houses into billboards, most from California, Nevada and Florida, Reuters writes.