Thing One: The Fed's A Big Tease: Stripping: It seems everyone is doing it these days. Matthew McConaughey. The Octomom. Journalists, God forbid. But these amateur nudists have nothing on Ben Bernanke when it comes to the slow tease.
Don't worry: The Beard That Will Not Be Sheared is not taking off his clothes. Rather, the Federal Reserve Chairman has for months been teasingly building excitement for his own version of the big reveal, the moment when he tells us that he will crank up the central bank's money printer and buy another kajillion or so in bonds, to help the economy. That orgasmic climax will apparently now happen in mid-September, if the minutes of the latest Fed policy meeting are any guide. The Fed's latest policy announcement, on Aug. 1, offered little hint that central bankers were closer to flooding the economy with cash. The minutes tell a different story, making it clear that most policy makers are ready to act very soon, unless the economy gets a lot better quick, fast and in a hurry.
In fact, the economic data lately have been noticeably not-horrible, which had made some observers think that maybe the Fed might decide not to stimulate the economy again. But Wall Street Journal Fed scribe Jon Hilsenrath thinks the numbers haven't been good enough yet to stay the Fed's hand. Most economists seem to agree, writes The New York Times. The economy doesn't seem to be sinking into recession, as some economists had feared, but it is vulnerable to big, dumb blowups like the European debt crisis and the "fiscal cliff" looming at the end of the year. Financial markets cheered the minutes, throwing sweaty dollar bills at Bernanke, because they are hopelessly addicted to stimulus.
Bernanke's next chance to tease the crowd will be at a Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on the last day of August. That's where he could really show some hairy leg, getting markets good and jazzed for the Fed's next meeting, set for Sept. 12-13, including an always-bawdy Bernanke press conference.
Thing Two: Don't Quite Call It A Comeback: The housing market, meanwhile, continues to strangely be one of the rare bright spots in the economy. Re-sales of existing homes rose more than 2 percent between June and July and are up more than 10 percent from a year ago, according to a report yesterday from the nation's realtors. Unfortunately, still-tight bank lending standards and a weak job market are keeping the housing market from a really strong recovery, notes Kathleen Madigan of the Wall Street Journal. But forget all that: There has never been a better time you to buy a starter home in South Orange, New Jersey. Call me.
Thing Three: Power Company's Access To Power: Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a "gotcha" story about President Obama's relationship with an energy company. Not to be outdone, the rival New York Times follows today with an energy-company "gotcha" story of its own, which seems to do just a little more "getting." It suggests that Illinois energy producer Exelon benefits from a close relationship with the White House, to the extent that it starts to look a little unseemly, perhaps. That could help Mittens Romney and Paul Ryan hammer Obama on what they call his cronyism -- although Ryan really needs to work a little harder on delivering the punch line.
Thing Four: Take Our Money, Please: Speaking of being a little too cozy, the Treasury Department is letting a bunch of small banks pay back their TARP bailout money at a discount, writes Jesse Eisinger in The New York Times. The difference is, of course, being covered by you and me, the taxpayers. Hey, at least the small banks can no longer complain the Treasury Department is catering only to the Too Big To Fail set. The Treasury Department caters to all banks.
Thing Five: No New Rules: Can somebody please call Bill Maher? The Securities and Exchange Commission seems to be having trouble making new rules. SEC chair Mary Schapiro wanted to set new guidelines for money-market mutual funds, which nearly destroyed the world during the financial crisis. But the two Republican members of the SEC, along with one of the Democrats, insisted that we need much, much more time to study the costs and benefits of such new rules. So Schapiro just gave up trying, writes The New York Times. "Her decision is at least a short-term victory for the financial industry, which has sunk millions of dollars into lobbying against her plan." And so, once again, nothing ever changes.
Thing Six: Conflict Minerals On Aisle Nine: In another victory for the lobbyists that run the country, the Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart and Target could be exempted from rules that require them to label products that are made of materials taken from countries in horrific conflict, like the Congo. And yes, the SEC is involved once again, somehow: "The Securities and Exchange Commission had proposed an earlier version of the rule that would have applied to retailers carrying products sold under their own brand names, but which are typically produced by outside contractors. On Wednesday, however, the SEC voted 3-2 to adopt a final rule that would exempt companies that don't exert direct control over the manufacture of such products." Seriously, SEC, what the hell is going on over there?
Thing Seven: Hewlett-Packard, Now With More Terribleness: Computer makers took another big step toward the history museum this week, reporting quarterly results that are just getting more and more terrible. Hewlett-Packard yesterday reported the worst quarterly loss in its 73-year history, a day after Dell reported an 18 percent drop in its profit, the Wall Street Journal writes. Apparently, nobody is buying desktop computers any more.
Thing Seven And One Half: The One Habit Of Highly Successful People: According to Fast Company, the successful people out there make highly productive use of the first hour of every work day, and that is what makes them successful, maybe? I have no idea, being not at all successful, unless you count watching "Anchorman" 25 times a success. Which I do. But it is interesting to see how the other, successful, half lives, so check it out -- just not in the first hour of your work day. Stop wasting time, slacker!
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Calendar Du Jour:
8:30 a.m. ET: Initial Jobless Claims for the week of 08/18
10:00 a.m. ET: FHFA Housing Price Index for June
10:00 a.m. ET: New Home Sales for July
Heard On The Tweets:
@pdacosta: Wasn't exactly holding my breath: Merkel says no solutions should be expected from Friday meeting with Greek PM Samaras.
@teacherdude: Merkel,Hollande,Monti,Cameron,Samaras, et al.Bunch of intellectual non-entities who haven't a clue what to do next, except more of the same
@ReformedBroker: Markets rally back on release of Fed Minutes aka Fifty Shades of Accommodation $$
@zerohedge: Who cares about $1 trillion deficits. There is a meteor shower over Tampa to discuss
@TraderMichigan: We're at the end of August. The market has been rising on fumes, the macro data from most of the world is soft, and the US is ok.
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja