Nine And A Half Weeks is a movie you don't really need to see, but you definitely need to know seven and a half things each day. Here they are:
Thing One: Little Troubles In Big China: Some day China will take over the world, just as we have long irrationally feared, and our children and our children's children will all have to go to work in the Kansas beryllium mines. Until that day (never), China will just be a ginormous but still-developing country with enough problems of its own to worry it about taking over the world.
For one thing, its economy has been sputtering lately, and its banking sector has a bit of a bad-debt problem, not unlike the U.S. a few years back, Bloomberg writes. This means China's economy is still way hotter than America's sputtering economy, but now slightly less hot than a new iPad (assembled in China). To fix this problem, China has been quietly relaxing some of the curbs on foreign money coming into the country, The New York Times writes. That's flirting with inflation, but China seems to be willing to take that chance. See, China has to balance the threat of higher prices, which will enrage its billions of repressed people, against the threat of high unemployment, which will also enrage those same billions of repressed people.
Meanwhile, China has to constantly dance an angry love-hate tango with its trading partner, the United States, which on Tuesday slapped some light tariffs on Chinese solar panels and warned that China needs to stop buying so much Iranian oil, tout de suite, or its banks (which have a bunch of bad debt, remember) will face sanctions.
Why should you care? After all, the longer China is distracted, the longer Biff Jr. can avoid breathing beryllium dust, right? Except that China is now a big source of global economic growth, and a slowdown there will be felt here. That worry was enough to actually cause the U.S. stock market to -- horrors! -- fall a tiny bit on Tuesday.
Thing Two: Gentle Ben: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke played professor yesterday at George Washington University, where he explained to students the reasons for the Fed's continued existence, using references to It's A Wonderful Life that nobody got. He also warned against raising interest rates too quickly, notes The Wall Street Journal, something that will spook the inflationistas, even as some economists worry Bernanke hasn't been aggressive enough in fighting unemployment. Today Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will speak before Congress about the debt crisis in Europe.
Thing Three: Drug Problems: Both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have big stories today about drugs and courts. Sadly, neither involve stoned judges. The NYT writes that patients who try to sue drug companies after being injured by generic drugs have a much harder time winning their cases than those who have been injured by brand-name drugs. The WSJ, meanwhile, writes that the Supreme Court just made it harder for drug companies to claim patent protection for personalized drug treatments. The story buries the lede, though, focusing first on how alarmed drug companies are about the decision, when the real news is that it could make testing cheaper and more widely available for patients.
Thing Four: Home Sales: A big week for housing data continues today with a report from the National Association of Realtors (the Baghdad Bob of housing) on the pace of home sales in February. Economists think sales edged a little higher last month. But Briefing.com notes that the NAR has been consistently revising their past months' sales numbers lower. In any event, sales are still far slower than you'd expect, despite supposed record housing affordability, because of "hesitant buyers and credit constraints."
Thing Five: Doubting Gasoline Data: Energy markets and analysts rely heavily on U.S. government data on the supply and demand of oil, gasoline and natural gas. But it turns out the government's numbers might be really flawed, the WSJ reports.
Thing Six: I'm Just A Bill: Two bills continue to slouch their way toward Capitol Hill to be born. One, the so-called JOBS bill, which purports to create more jerbs, but will also strip away investor protections like so much turpentine, was held up yesterday by Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Meanwhile, Reid seems to have broken a logjam for the second, the STOCK Act, which would ban insider trading by Congress, Politico reports. Hurry up and get in some last-minute insider trading before it's too late, lawmakers.
Thing Seven: Hot iPad: Apple's new iPad is hot, and not always in a good way. Consumer Reports yesterday said the iPad in testing got up to about 116 degrees fahrenheit, or 13 degrees hotter than the iPad 2, confirming online chatter about the new tablet's high temperatures. Apple responded in typically terse fashion, probably distracted by formulating its plans to charge customers for the money they save on heating bills, the Daily Mash suggests.
Thing Seven And One Half: Trading Tebow: There's a growing list of teams apparently in the hunt to sign Tim Tebow, formerly of the Denver Broncos, ESPN reports, including the New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers. Denver's John Elway is quoted as saying he'd let Tebow marry his daughter (which, eww). He just doesn't want him quarterbacking his team. The Onion reports Denver is still working the phones.
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