Not everybody can get a perfect 800 on the math portion of their SAT the way 12-year-old Joshua Yoon did, but everybody needs to know seven and a half things every day. Here they are:
Thing One: Groundhog Day In Greece: Trying to keep Greece in the euro zone is turning out to be about as easy as serving soup with a slotted spoon.
In elections over the weekend, austerity-fatigued Greek voters booted the ruling parties that had gone through excrutiating contortions to win new bailout money from the European Union, throwing into sudden fresh doubt Greece's ability to get that money or to remain in the euro zone at all. On Monday Greece's center-right parties failed to put a new governing coalition together, Reuters writes, so today it's up to the left to have a go at it, led by 37-year-old Alexis Tsipras. Analysts are skeptical, The New York Times writes, meaning new elections loom. So does the prospect of Greece leaving the euro zone, notes the Washington Post, which will mean at the very least more weeks of turmoil in Europe.
Somehow none of this bothered the stock market yesterday. After briefly panicking about the idea of a socialist in charge of France, Wall Street settled in to the belief, now widely held, that French president-elect Francois Hollande is a pragmatist who will not only work well with austerity fanatic Angela Merkel of Germany, but can maybe nudge Merkel's icy heart a bit toward allowing a bit more growth on the continent, the Financial Times writes. Everybody wins.
But all is still not well in Europe. Spain has abruptly reversed course and now plans to spend billions it really doesn't have to bail out its third-largest bank, the FT writes. And fresh Greek turmoil could be a problem for the global economy, particularly if it spills into Spain and elsewhere in southern Europe.
Thing Two: Facebook Frenzy: International superstar Mark Zuckerberg took Manhattan by storm yesterday, the first day of his road show to sell investors on the idea of buying a stake in his annoying web site. Wall Street analysts clambered to be the first to slap "buy" ratings on the stock, the Wall Street Journal writes, much as fans and photographers and CNBC cameras clambered for a glimpse of Zuckerberg entering the New York hotel where he gave his presentation (CNBC repeatedly showed video of him walking from his car into the building, sometimes in slow motion). All of this slobbery attention will make it much, much easier for Facebook's Wall Street sponsors to dump their Facebook shares on new suckers, er, investors, on the day of the IPO.
Thing Three: Gas Relief: Gasoline prices have fallen for five straight weeks now, the Wall Street Journal writes, a big relief for consumers. Tensions with Iran have eased a bit, as have some of the supply constraints that were pushing prices higher. The dark lining of this silver cloud is that slower economic growth is also weighing on gas prices, writes Liam Pleven of the WSJ.
Thing Four: SEC: The S Stands For Useless: The Securities and Exchange Commission is so lousy at what it does that other regulatory agencies are considering taking up the slack for it, at least in the area of keeping an eye on money-market funds, the Wall Street Journal writes. The funds were at serious risk in the financial crisis and need more oversight, but the SEC has been waffling about doing more, under pressure from the industry. It's also distracted because its employees just can't stop hunting for porn and committing sexual misconduct, apparently: Even the SEC's watchdog office, assigned to watch the watchers, is embroiled in a sex scandal, the WSJ writes. Your tax dollars at work.
Thing Five: Cashing In On AIG: The General Accounting Office, a congressional watchdog, seems to think that the U.S. government will eventually turn a profit of more than $15 billion on its massive $182 billion bailout of the insurance giant AIG, according to a report yesterday. The government is always making dubious profit-on-bailout claims, but this one comes from a more independent voice. Still, we need to read the fine print before we get too excited about it.
Thing Six: Amazon Is In Your Closet: Not content with having destroyed the book-selling industry, Amazon.com now has its sights on clothing sales, writes Stephanie Clifford of The New York Times, spending millions to gear up to sell high-fashion clothes at deep discounts: "The traditional retail world — and many major brands that want no part of Amazon — are gearing up to fight for their lives."
Thing Seven: Mixed Verdict For Google: A federal district court jury in San Francisco ruled that Google had violated Oracle copyrights in building its Android operating system, but couldn't decide if this was really that bad of a thing or not, Wired writes. As a result, Google moved for a mistrial and may ultimately get little more than a slap on the wrist.
Thing Seven And One Half: Either With Your S.H.I.E.L.D. Or On It: Look, there's only so much fiction the Pentagon can take, OK? For example, if you want to do a movie adaptation of the board game "Battleship" involving ginormous aliens, then the Pentagon will work with you. But if you want to do a movie about a team of superheroes fighting an evil Norse god and ginormous aliens and that movie includes the Pentagon taking orders from somebody else than the U.S. government, then no dice, buster. That's why the Pentagon sat out The Avengers, according to Spencer Ackerman of Wired: Because the movie showed the Pentagon taking orders from S.H.I.E.L.D. “We couldn’t reconcile the unreality of this international organization and our place in it,” the Defense Department’s Hollywood liaison, told Ackerman. “To whom did S.H.I.E.L.D. answer? Did we work for S.H.I.E.L.D.? We hit that roadblock and decided we couldn’t do anything."
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Calendar Du Jour:
After Market Close:
Heard On The Tweets:
@CourtReagan: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the Sheraton in NYC to kick off the roadshow...in a hoodie. #ThisIsHowBillionairesDress
@zerohedge: 53 million Americans are on foodstamps and/or disability, both at all time highs.
@ReformedBroker: The Greek stock market went down 7% today, which in European terms is actually up 4.3% $$
@justinwolfers: Academic economists teach Principles of Econ to a million freshman per year. If they grow up to elect morons, it's our fault. #meaculpa
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.