Ozzie Guillen wishes he'd known that people in Miami are not exactly giant fans of Fidel Castro. Here are the seven and a half things you need to know today:
Thing One: Risk Is Back: There was once a time in America when the economy was built on fluff, on consumers taking on way too much debt to pay for stuff they couldn't afford, like houses and cars. Those days sadly ended with the financial crisis. But now, thanks to the good folks in the banking industry, they're on the way back.
Banks are starting to push credit on risky borrowers again, including people who've already been burned by taking on too much credit in the very recent past, The New York Times reports: "Consumer advocates and lawyers worry that the financial institutions are again preying on the most vulnerable and least financially sophisticated borrowers, who are often willing to take out credit at any cost."
Details, details. Banks gotta eat, too, you know. And anyway, credit bubbles create jobs. Until they destroy them. But again, details. Speaking of disasters: The massive, recently bailed-out insurer American International Group is also starting to tiptoe back into its own risky business, the Wall Street Journal reports: "AIG until recently had been dismantling what was once a $24 billion real-estate portfolio packed with trophy properties around the world to help pay back U.S. government loans and keep the company afloat. ...But now AIG is beginning to make plans for fresh investments across the U.S. that will begin later this year."
Thing Two: Tsunami Warning: Indonesia and other nations on the Indian Ocean are on tsunami watch this morning after a massive 8.7 magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian coast. The threat of a tsunami doesn't look as strong as it did when the quake first hit, but memories of the horrific 2004 tsunami, and Japan's last year, are still long.
Thing Three: European Crisis Twenty-Two: Spanish Boogaloo: The funny thing is, the last financial crisis is still sort of going on, in an extended European tour, rolling through Greece, Ireland, and all the other nice countries that are lovely to visit but where you wouldn't want to balance a budget. Next up is Spain, where borrowing costs are soaring and investors are shunning banks amid an epic property bubble collapse. This, along with signs of a global slowdown and central bankers not exactly jumping to provide more stimulus, have hammered stocks on both sides of the Atlantic for the past several days, including the worst losing streak for U.S. stocks since last July-August. It looks like stocks are in for an overdue bounce-back this morning, according to Bloomberg, but this thing's not over yet.
Thing Four: DeMarco's Progress: FHFA pasha Edward DeMarco, the stinking beached whale forming an impassable blockade keeping thousands of American homeowners from helpful mortgage writedowns, allowed yesterday that maybe, just maybe, he would finally think about allowing some mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be written down, writes Ben Hallman of The Huffington Post. But he won't be happy about it! It would only save the government about $1.7 billion, after all.
Thing Five: SEC, Wrist Slapper Extraordinaire: The Securities and Exchange Commission would like you all to know that it has now taken action against more than 100 people and/or companies over their roles in the financial crisis, thank you very much. The Wall Street Journal puts this number in context, pointing out that the SEC has settled a lot of these cases out of court without getting defendants to admit wrongdoing, extracting small penalties and doling out little more than stinging wrist slaps.
Thing Six: Hey, Where'd Everybody Go? Everybody's looking for a reason why the economic recovery, if you can even call it that, has been so lame. Today, the Washington Post offers a newish explanation: demographics. The labor force is growing way more slowly than it was 20 years ago, according to recent studies, setting the stage for deeper recessions and slower recoveries.
Thing Seven: Best Bye-Bye: Struggling electronics retailer Best Buy said an unceremonious goodbye to its CEO, Brian Dunn, citing "personal conduct, unrelated to the company's operations or financial controls." It likely did not help Dunn's case that the stock is down 35 percent since he took over in 2009, Bloomberg notes, though Dunn can hardly be blamed for the fact that people prefer to buy electronics on the Interwebs these days, making Best Buys into expensive showrooms, the WSJ writes. Can't wait for the inevitable leaked details of this one.
Thing Seven And One Half: Hillary LOLZ: Given the Biblical levels of crap Hillary Clinton has endured over the years, she must have an iron-clad sense of humor, and she proves it by offering her own submissions, in person, to the guys who created the Tumblr "Texts From Hillary."
2:00 p.m. ET: Treasury Budget for March
2:00 p.m.: Fed's Beige Book for April
None to speak of.
Heard On The Tweets:
@ObsoleteDogma: Buffett largely pays capital gains on his income. Do people really doubt that his secretary pays a higher rate?
@zerohedge: What is this middle class thing Obama refers to
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.