Science has determined that people need to know 7.5 things per day, on average, about the world of business. You can't argue with science. Lucky for you, the Huffington Post has an email newsletter, delivered first thing every weekday morning, boiling down the day's biggest business news into the 7.5 things you absolutely need to know. And we're giving it away free, because we love you, and also science. Here you go:
Thing One: Fed To Buy Bonds Forever: The Federal Reserve seems to be living in a parallel world, one very different from the one everybody else in Washington occupies.
In the Federal Reserve's world, for example, the biggest problem right now is the fact that the U.S. economy is -- and this is about to get technical, so bear with me -- lousy. The Fed's latest pulse-pounding "beige book" report about the state of the economy found growth that was just "measured" and "modest," with consumers and the housing market holding up OK, but businesses and factories on edge, the Wall Street Journal writes. The job market is still improving tentatively, but many businesses are just hiring temporary workers, meaning it could take a very long time to get the unemployment rate down to anything close to normal.
In most of the rest of Washington, on the other hand, the gravest concern right now is finding juuust the right mix of spending cuts and tax increases to shrink the federal budget deficit in the right way, to avoid maybe shrinking it too much all at once, as might happen if we go over the fiscal slope next year. There is apparently little or no interest in doing anything about the unemployment benefits set to expire next year or the payroll-tax increase set to take effect, both of which will have immediate real consequences for millions of people.
The Fed, meanwhile, in its parallel world where caring about the economy is a thing that people do, is taking increasingly desperate measures to try to prop up economic growth and employment. Earlier this year it launched another round of bond-buying, or quantitative easing, or QE3, to try to keep interest rates low and spur more risk-taking. Its bond-buying may have the added benefit of stabilizing the financial system, writes David Wessel of the WSJ -- although it is taking a risk that, somewhere down the line, its unprecedented QE program could ultimately be destabilizing.
But that is a risk worth taking, given the perilous state of the economy, and with 12 million people unemployed. And given that President Obama and Congress are doing nothing to help, and instead are focused on seeing how they can cut the deficit without hurting the economy too much, the Fed feels it has no choice but to keep on taking that risk. The bond market, which also happens to live in the Fed's world, sees nothing but weak growth and low inflation all the way to the horizon and is helping out by keeping interest rates near record lows. Fed scribe Jon Hilsenrath of the WSJ writes that, with all this in mind, the Fed intends to keep on buying bonds right on through 2013. Thank goodness at least somebody's living in the real world.
Thing Two: Cliff Watch! Meanwhile, in the world of made-up fiscal-cliff panic: President Obama has apparently indicated some "flexibility" on that whole thing about raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, the Wall Street Journal writes. That popular platform plank on which Obama won convincing re-election is just so three weeks ago, you guys. Seriously, though, from an objective standpoint, caving in to the Republicans on this topic now, when it is the one giant piece of leverage Obama has, would be a terrible negotiating tactic and demoralizing to his supporters. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time.
Speaking of demoralizing Obama's supporters, Tim Geithner. The Treasury Secretary who for some unfathomable reason is Obama's negotiator-in-chief on the fiscal slope is meeting with Speaker of the House John Boehner and others in Congress today for all-important fiscal talks. All the while, egged on by CNBC and the Pete Peterson-financed "Fix the Debt" group that even Republicans find kind of gross and weird, according to the Washington Post, the idiot stock market will continue to yo-yo wildly on every flinch and throat-clearing from Washington, as it did yesterday. Which of course helps keep the panic alive. Rinse, repeat, lose your job.
Thing Three: Bizarro Economic Data: All that said, a few economic indicators from outside the U.S. were surprisingly upbeat this morning. Global investors think the global economy is in its best shape since 2011, according to a Bloomberg poll. Faint praise, but still. A measure of European economic sentiment this morning was better than expected. And Spanish and Italian borrowing costs are falling. So that's something.
Thing Four: BP Gets Cut Off: BP is still paying the price for its Gulf oil spill. Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency said it was suspending the company from new contracts with the U.S. government until it can prove that it really, really wants to not spill millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, or something. This could potentially hurt BP's bottom line a bit more than the $4.5 billion in criminal penalties the company agreed to pay earlier this month. But the ban is only temporary, and the Huffington Post's John Rudolf points out that BP has already gotten 50 new U.S. oil leases since the spill, so it may have enough work to keep it busy for a while.
Thing Five: The Fed Sees What You're Doing There, Foreign Banks: Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo proposed that foreign banks with business in the U.S. need to make sure their U.S. arms comply with Dodd-Frank, which could force those banks to raise a lot more capital, the Wall Street Journal writes. This will surely be unwelcome to banks like Barclays and Deutsche Bank, which have used funky corporate structures to dodge regulation here.
Thing Six: SAC, Meet SEC: The long sweep of the federal government's insider-trading dragnet has brushed up against a very big target, SAC Capital, run by reclusive, outlandishly wealthy billionaire Steven A. Cohen. The hedge fund yesterday said it had received warning from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it could soon face a civil action over insider-trading charges. This follows years of suspicion by regulators that SAC was engaged in insider trading -- years in which Cohen and his investors (but mostly Cohen) amassed billions of dollars in wealth, so win-win.
Thing Seven: Back To Work: Neither you nor I will be able to quit our jobs today, unless you happen to be one of the two freakishly lucky people who got the winning numbers in Powerball yesterday. One was in Arizona and one was in Missouri. They'll split a record-smashing $588 million jackpot ($385 million if they take the cash all at once). And then be miserable forever, supposedly.
Thing Seven And One Half: Ermahgerd, Merms! This is the only kind of year-end retrospective journalism that matters, folks: The 32 best new memes of the year, compiled by BuzzFeed. Texts From Hillary, Ecce Homo, McKayla, all your favorites.
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Calendar Du Jour:
8:30 a.m. ET: Initial Jobless Claims for the week of Nov. 24
8:30 a.m. ET: Third-Quarter GDP, second estimate
10:00 a.m. ET: Pending Home Sales for October
Heard On The Tweets:
Presenting a comprehensive list of reasons that people should care what CEOs say about the fiscal cliff: 1. ___ 2. ___ 3. ___ 4. ___. Done.
— Cardiff Garcia (@CardiffGarcia) November 28, 2012
One of my favorite moments today: joking with Paul Krugman about bankers. He quipped "Some of my best friends are bankers...no, not really."
— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) November 28, 2012
Love when media Twitters have terrible link bait questions where the answer is OBVIOUSLY no, like “Should you kill a nurse with a hammer?”
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) November 28, 2012
I just saw "inbox" used as a verb ("I'll inbox you"), and now I'd like to get off this ride please.
— Megan Greenwell (@megreenwell) November 28, 2012
NOW I understand the appeal! “@uberfacts: Mount Everest has about 200 dead bodies on it which are now landmarks on the way to the top.”
— kurt braunohler (@kurtbraunohler) November 28, 2012
If you can name 5 Kardashians but can't name 5 countries in Asia, stick a knife in an electrical socket.
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) November 28, 2012
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Alexis Kleinman.