2012 Economic Outlook: Why Things Are Better Than We Think

Years from now, when we look back at 2011, it may be remembered as one of the best worst years of the early 21st century. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with an extended period where people were more negative, yet remarkably, in the United States at least, not much actually happened. A summer debt impasse looked dramatic but in the end was resolved, and markets went up and down wildly yet ended largely where they started or better. Judged by every major economic indicator, it was the most stable period in a long while, with every sign that 2012 will be better yet. There is only one not-so-small problem: almost no one believes it.

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Jobs Report Shows Structural Unemployment Is the Real Problem

The official jobs reports released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics had something for everyone. It gave optimists hope and pessimists ammunition, and it provided ballast for President Obama and the Democrats while simultaneously providing the Republicans with more fuel for their assault on the White House. Two things are clear, however: this trend may help Obama politically, and it is unlikely to result in any meaningful change in a structural unemployment problem in America that many people now recognize but which is essentially denied by our political class.

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Economic News We’re Thankful For This Thanksgiving

As we turn to Thanksgiving, let us a pause for a moment and take a time-out from the storm of gloom that has descended across this land and so many others. If you pay even passing attention to politics, to the economy, to Wall Street, or to public sentiment, you know the mood is bleak. The litany of woes is well known—ranging from a sclerotic and debt-plagued Europe to a dysfunctional Congress to a possibly slowing China to high unemployment and widespread dissatisfaction with an economic system of uneven rewards. It is enough to make Agnewesque nattering nabobs of negativism proud.

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Ethically Challenged Congress Needs Law or Code Banning Insider Trading

Sometimes a story breaks that leads to jaw dropping even among the normally jaded. This past week, a new book by conservative muckraker Peter Schweizer and a memoir by the disgraced and convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff both shed light on the degree to which members of Congress profited from trading stocks that were directly affected by pending government policy. The insider trading ran the gamut of Republicans and Democrats and in all cases involved knowledge of pending contracts or legislation that would benefit or penalize specific industries. The amounts gained ranged from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands.

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Italy’s Troubles Are Not the Tipping Point for Global Economic Collapse

Just as the Roman Empire supplanted Greece as the center of the ancient world, so too is the rapidly escalating Italian economic crisis pushing the Greek economic crisis to the side. Italy is a much larger economy—at more than $2 trillion in annual output, it is the eighth-largest economy in the world.

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Jon Corzine, MF Global, and the Shrinking of Wall Street

As the Occupy Wall Street movement gathers momentum and money, Wall Street itself is losing both. The swift collapse and bankruptcy of trading firm MF Global is testament to that, and—while like all unhappy families it has its own peculiar story—its failure is also emblematic of the spiral of declining profits that is rendering Wall Street a shadow of what it was just a few years ago.

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Markets’ Mania Persists as Stocks Soar on News of Eurozone Deal

In yet another chapter in the manic saga of global markets, stocks soared Thursday around the world after European leaders announced yet another comprehensive plan to solve—once and for all?—the deepening sovereign-debt crisis. The outpouring of optimism was given an added boost by the release in the United States of third-quarter economic figures that indicated GDP increased 2.5 percent, and the icing on the proverbial cake was supplied by news that the Chinese government would potentially add some of its trillions in reserves to help shore up ailing European finances.

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Markets’ Mood Swings Show Volatility, Don’t Signal Financial Armageddon

Once more into the breach we go. After a strong week where markets regained some footing, Monday once again saw a sharp selloff of nearly 2 percent. These wildly volatile days have been the norm since mid-summer, and as any market maven will attest, such volatility usually means that there is more to come.

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GOP Debate Showed Irrational War on Fed by Gingrich & Other Republicans

Early in last night’s Republican primary debate, the ever-provocative, always-entertaining and occasionally astute Newt Gingrich launched a broadside against Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: “Bernanke has in secret spent hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out one group and not bailing out another group. 

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Steve Jobs Legacy: Apple Must Expand, Offer More Great Products or Fail

Steve Jobs has rightly been lauded over the past day and a half as a visionary who transformed consumer technology over the past 30 years. And Apple has been extolled as a company that embodies the vision of Steve Jobs and is uniquely poised to maintain his legacy, not simply because of the expertise and experience of CEO Tim Cook but because of the stunning loyalty of tens of millions of customers around the globe and a corporate balance sheet flush with tens of billions of dollars in cash and an enviable product pipeline.

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