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Corporate Profits Finally Start To Feel Your Pain, Sort Of: Seven And A Half Things

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An unemployed man holds a cross during a Holy Week Via Crucix procession called by the Unemployed People Assembly as a protest against the the economical crisis in the Northern Spanish city of Pamplona, on April 3, 2012. Corporate profits may soon start to feel the pain of the unemployed, a little.
An unemployed man holds a cross during a Holy Week Via Crucix procession called by the Unemployed People Assembly as a protest against the the economical crisis in the Northern Spanish city of Pamplona, on April 3, 2012. Corporate profits may soon start to feel the pain of the unemployed, a little.

Though you cannot roll each one of them up and smoke them, you still need to know seven and a half things each day, and here they are:

Thing One: Strong Like Bull: One of the hallmarks of the economy the past few years has been that, unlike American humans, American companies have been making tons of money. The Wall Street Journal today, in two separate stories, points out that big ginormous companies are still making tons of money, but at what seems to be a slightly slower pace.

"Big U.S. companies have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more productive, more profitable, flush with cash and less burdened by debt," Scott Thurm writes. Yay. "This week will bring the first trickle of U.S. corporate earnings in a season that many analysts are predicting will be lackluster," Jonathan Cheng writes of first-quarter earnings season, which kicks off on Tuesday. Boo.

The net result? That you still will not have a job, but now companies are doing less great, too, which could cause the stock market to finally come down off its crack high, at least until the next fix of stimulus from Ben Bernanke. But don't worry, those companies will keep on cutting costs, so it's all cool. Take, for example, Sony, which is laying of 10,000 people, or 6 percent of its global work force.

Thing Two: No Training For You: These companies are always complaining that they can't find enough skilled workers to fill higher-tech jobs than good old burger-flipping or ditch-digging. And yet government money is running out to teach new skills to those who have been out of work for a long time , The New York Times reports. If only companies had the extra cash to do some of the training themselves! Oh, wait.

Thing Three: Ben Speaks: A slower week for economic data, following Friday's disappointing jobs report, kicks off at 7:15 p.m. ET tonight with a speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. People laughed at Gentle Ben when he suggested the Fed didn't think the job market was out of the woods yet, but nobody's laughing now. People will be reading this speech for signs of more Fed easing to come.

Thing Four: What's In The Pipeline: If you want to know why normal people don't trust the stock market any more, consider the case of Pipeline Trading Systems, as Scott Patterson and Jenny Strasburg do in the WSJ today. The "dark pool" operator promised to protect clients as they traded stocks away from public exchanges, but last fall settled claims it had traded against those clients. "That revelation... delivered a stark lesson in how today's computer-driven stock market, replete with complex algorithms, agile trading firms and obscure computerized trading platforms, has in many ways become less transparent than when most buying and selling took place in the open on the floor of an exchange," Patterson and Strasburg write.

Thing Five: JPMorgan's Voldemort: Meanwhile, a JPMorgan Chase credit-derivatives trader in London has earned himself the quaint nickname "Lord Voldemort," reports Bloomberg, because of his massive, market-moving trades. In fact, he has single-handedly highlighted the dangers of proprietary trading, in which banks make bets with their own money, Bloomberg writes. Thanks, Voldemort!

Thing Six: About Those Sovereign Bonds: Late last year and early this year, the Europan Central Bank pumped many billions of dollars in free money to European banks, in part to encourage them to buy up risky European sovereign debt. European banks did exactly that, and now everybody's worried about all the risky European sovereign debt they own, the NYT reports. Some day we'll all look back on this and laugh, as we warm our hands around our burning wallets.

Thing Seven: The Price Of Everything In China: Here's a conundrum for Chinese policy makers, and a test for the thesis in the West that nothing could ever go wrong with China's economy. Chinese growth is slowing down, meaning policy makers are looking for ways to goose the economy. Except, whoops, China this morning reported a surge in inflation, driven by food and energy prices meaning policy makers can't stimulate too much, the Financial Times reports.

Thing Seven And One Half: R.I.P. Mike Wallace: I'll never forget, about eight years ago, seeing Mike Wallace waiting to cross 57th Street in Manhattan. In his early 80s then, he was smoking and staring down the oncoming traffic with grim fury, the same look we'd all seen him give helpless interview subjects for decades. One of the greats of this or any business.

Economic Data:

7:15 p.m. ET: Ben Bernanke speaks in Atlanta

Corporate Earnings Reports:

None to speak of

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