10/08/2012 07:57 am ET

U.S. Economy Least Ugly Dog In Ugly Dog Show: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: Least-Bad In Show: If you think the U.S. economy is lousy, you should see the rest of the world.

According to a goofily named set of indexes dreamed up by the Financial Times -- "Tiger," or Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery -- the U.S. is the best dog in the ugly-dog show of the global economy. Economic data and confidence have been sinking across the Group of 20 big industrialized and developing nations, according to the FT, with the exception of the U.S. An historical look at the Tiger indexes shows they are near their lowest levels since the Great Recession, with the whole global economic recovery "on the ropes," according to Brookings Institution economist Eswar Prasad.

The unifying, and alarming, trait across the global economy is the utter uselessness of politicians to do anything to help, according to the FT, because of political divisions or plain old stupidity. That leaves central bankers around the world to support the entire economy. They've been doing the best they can, printing money from Washington to Tokyo to keep the global economy afloat, but it's not enough, the FT warns.

President Obama, and his re-election hopes, can at least take some comfort in knowing that the U.S. economy is one of the few bright spots in the world. Bloomberg finds reason to think that the global economy will eventually be more balanced, with healthier growth than the credit-driven orgies of recent decades. Meanwhile, Friday's job report showed signs of strong business hiring, helping ease worries that the looming "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts due to arrive next year is already hurting the economy.

But the U.S. has not dodged a bullet or anything: Its economy is still sluggish and uneven, and it's importing problems from the rest of the world. That will show up in corporate earnings for the third quarter, the Wall Street Journal's Tom Lauricella writes. Wall Street analysts are forecasting a decline in earnings from the quarter before, which would be the first drop in nearly three years. The stock market has ignored these warnings so far, surging partly on the promise of more Fed stimulus. Buyer beware.

Thing Two: Week-Long Talkathon: You can hand one thing to global policy makers, though: As useless as they are, at least they continue to talk about the problem. Euro zone finance ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to officially launch their 500-billion-euro bailout fund, Reuters notes. There will be a ribbon-cutting, and then they will set up a folding table and wait for somebody to come along and request aid. Not really, but it's just about that sad. Spain is the most likely candidate, but Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is hoping he can do without a humiliating bailout, the Washington Post writes. So financial markets still wait anxiously, while depositors put pressure on Spanish banks, the Wall Street Journal writes. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is bravely paying a visit to Greece, the country she has repeatedly helped force to take painful austerity measures in exchange for bailout cash. So that shouldn't be awkward or anything.

Thing Three: Congress Helps Selves: You'd better get to your fainting couch, because this news could shock you to your core: People in Congress do not always cast votes with only the interests of their constituents and the nation in mind. Some times they cast votes to give a boost to their own or their relatives' seedy business endeavors, according to a Washington Post study.

Thing Four: Huawei Or The Highway: The House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee -- an oxymoron if ever there was one -- has determined that Chinese telecom-parts makers Huawei and ZTE are threats to national security, controlled by China's government. The companies, who desperately want to expand in the U.S., deny the charges, which will be unveiled today, only increasing tensions between the two countries in a season of politically charged rhetoric.

Thing Five: More Labor Unrest At Foxconn: For the second time in as many weeks, workers protested conditions at a Foxconn facility in China, the Financial Times writes. More than 200 workers walked off the job at a plant in Zhengzhou, one of two in China that make the iPhone 5. This dispute sounded more peaceful and orderly than the riot in Taiyuan last month, but is a sign that Chinese manufacturers are under pressure to produce more iPhone 5s, with workers bearing the brunt.

Thing Six: SEC vs. HFT: If you can't beat them, hire them: The hapless Securities and Exchange Commission, struggling to keep an eye on high-frequency trading despite its state-of-the-20th-Century-art Tandy computers, has hired a high-frequency trading firm called Tradeworx to help it learn how to use a new software system that will supposedly help it track the robot-driven trading that now dominates most of the stock market, The New York Times writes.

Thing Seven: Printing Guns Is Easy: Meanwhile, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has its own technology problem to worry about: printed guns. With 3-D printers and the right kind of plastic, people will soon be able to simply make their own guns and gun parts at home -- including assault rifles, The New York Times writes, terrifyingly.

Thing Seven And One Half: The Energy Industry's Beautiful Mind: There's a new Matt Damon movie coming out after Christmas called Promised Land, about the effects of fracking on a small town. Sounds like a real holiday crowd-pleaser. But the energy industry is naturally wetting its pants just from the sound of it, the Wall Street Journal writes, and is already gearing up a massive public-relations pushback, which could include Facebook and Twitter campaigns and "bombarding film reviewers with scientific studies." I'm already looking forward to reading what Roger Ebert and Anthony Lane have to say.

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Heard On The Tweets:

@TonyFratto: How to make #NFP predictions (CAUTION: WONKY): look at last month's #s and then guess + or - .

@jim_newell: Great work by Jack Welch making another mediocre jobs report into one so awesome that the government had to make it up

@Neil_Irwin: If offered the choice ex ante, I wonder if Obama campaign would chosen weak debate performance/strong jobs numbers or vice verse.

@mattyglesias: Stern tongue-lashing Romney delivered to the 47% inspired everyone to get off their butts and find jobs.

And you can follow me on Twitter, too: @markgongloff



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