Seven And A Half Things To Know: Hurricane Sandy Damage Costs Mount

11/02/2012 07:38 am ET

Mark Gongloff is off the newsletter this morning, so today's 7.5 Things are brought to you by Jillian Berman.

You can help with disaster relief by donating to the Red Cross here or by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. For many more ways to help, here's our "How to Help" guide.

Thing One: Calculating The Damage: It's been four days since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, and experts are beginning to wrap their heads around the storm’s economic damages. Sandy is expected to cost the economy up to $50 billion, according to Eqecat, a firm that tracks hurricane damages. That’s more than double the company’s estimate from before the storm. And some economists are concerned that Sandy could cost the nation half a percentage point in GDP growth, according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, as communities and businesses are struggling to get back to normal, they’re coping with a gas shortage that could last for several more days, The Huffington Post’s Mark Gongloff and Janean Chun report. Even once gas becomes more readily available, it may be difficult for thirsty drivers to access it with power outages preventing gas pumps from working properly. Still, despite the crisis that’s prevented everyone, from normal New Jersey commuters to taxi drivers, from getting around, industry leaders aren't likely to take the steps necessary to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

Those living in the hardest hit areas are facing other hardships besides finding gas. About 5 million are still stuck without power, as temperatures descended into the 40s, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many with properties on the Jersey Shore have lost entire houses and are struggling with the decision of whether to rebuild, according to Reuters.

Though the overall cost of the storm to businesses, residents and the economy as a whole is still unclear, what is obvious is that the hurricane-wracked region will take a long time to recover.

Thing Two: The Most Important Jobs Report Ever: Happy jobs day! This morning we’ll find out how many jobs the U.S. economy added in October, and with the election so close that data “will be met with a deluge of political spin and hyperbolic analysis,” notes The New York Times’ Annie Lowery. Both sides will be looking to politicize the jobs report, using it to prop up their narrative, no matter the number. Employers might have added 125,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters survey of economists. That’s up from the 114,000 added in September, but not enough to slash the jobless rate, which is expected to go up to 7.9 percent, Reuters reports.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney will likely say the numbers suggest an economy that’s growing too slowly, while President Obama will say the numbers indicate that the economy is recovering from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression at a solid pace.

Still, everyone from economists to political operatives to pundits should feel lucky we’re getting the data at all. There was a period earlier this week when the Labor Department was concerned the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy would prevent the jobs report from going out.

Thing Three: Non Partisan Report Sparks Partisan Controversy: Well, this smells a little fishy. After Senate Republicans complained about the findings of a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the agency withdrew the report, The New York Times reports. The study raises questions about the notion that lowering the tax rate of the nation’s top earners would boost economic growth. The agency came to the decision in September, against the advice of its economic team. Leading Democrats are crying foul, accusing Republicans of asking the agency to pull the report because they didn’t like its findings. Republicans, for their part, won’t say whether they asked the agency to pull the report, but many objected to its wording, which included phrases like “tax cuts for the rich,” when it first came out.

Thing Four: So Much For Those Financial Crisis Lawsuits: It seems that the government’s sort of lame attempts to punish banks for their roles in the financial crisis may not be working out so well. Wells Fargo is challenging a Department of Justice lawsuit accusing the bank of making shoddy mortgage loans using a federal insurance program and knowingly lying about the quality of the loans. The bank claims that its participation in the $25 billion national mortgage settlement absolves it of liability when it comes to FHA compliance, according to Reuters. So much for that big stick.

Thing Five: Regulator Crackdown: There’s at least one regulator that’s cracking down on Wall Street, and it doesn’t oversee banking. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the oil, natural gas and electricity industries, has set its sights on the financial industry. The agency may fine Barclays $470 million over allegations the bank manipulated the California electricity market. But that’s just one of many actions the agency has taken recently; in the past two years, a FERC crackdown -- bolstered by more resources, a 2005 law and staffing changes -- has yielded 19 actions against Wall Street, according to The New York Times.

Thing Six: Tax Cheat List Controversy: In Greece, prosecutors are taking the current and former finance minister to task for not pursuing tax evader charges against the 2,000 people on a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts that was published by a Greek journalist earlier this week, the Financial Times reports. The list has been a flashpoint for controversy in Greece, with many questioning why those on the list were able to walk free, while the journalist responsible for publishing it was arrested.

Thing Seven: Billionaires For Obama: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced Thursday that he’ll be backing President Obama this election, praising Obama’s handling of the nation’s economy and foreign affairs, according to USA Today. Schultz, who waged a campaign against political gridlock in Washington, joins fellow billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in backing the president.

Thing Seven And A Half: The Blake Shelton Show: In case you missed it (and let’s be honest you probably did), country music star and reality TV show personality Blake Shelton dominated the Country Music Awards last night, picking up the entertainer of the year award as well as two others.

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Calendar Du Jour (Weather Permitting):

Economic Data:

8:30 a.m. ET: Unemployment Rate and Nonfarm Payrolls for October

10:00 a.m. ET: Factory Orders for September

Corporate Earnings:

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Hurricane Sandy

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