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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Morning Report

Scott Jagow May 22, 2009
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How’s this for an economic indicator? The International Energy Agency says global electricity demand is expected to fall for the first time since 1945. The IEA’s chief economist says “This shows how deep a recession we are in.” Some other interesting things to read this morning:

The world’s best banks (Economist)
Trying to work out which banks are the world’s best is a bit like awarding the prize for prettiest war-torn village. It is a title that carries little kudos. It is also likely to prompt further shelling. Winners of industry awards in the past three years include Ken Lewis, the chief executive of Bank of America, for banker of the year (2008); Société Générale for its risk management; and Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide, a failed mortgage lender, for a “lifetime of achievement”.

On the climate-change bill (Washington Post)
“The other thing to say about it is that it is a badly flawed piece of public policy. It is so broad in its reach and complex in its details that it would be difficult to implement even in Sweden, let alone in a diverse and contentious country like the United States. It would create dozens of new government agencies with broad powers to set standards, dole out rebates and tax subsidies, and pick winning and losing technologies, even as it relies on newly created markets with newly created regulators to set prices and allocate resources… The opportunities for waste, fraud and regulatory screwup look enormous.”

Why a GM bankruptcy would be a disaster (Businessweek)
“The dislocation would cascade through the economy, not just the Midwest. GM, with its suppliers, represents a full 1% of the economy. It is the largest private-sector purchaser of information technology, so Silicon Valley will feel it; and Madison Avenue will feel the collapse of its advertising spend. Any hopes that the U.S. economy has stabilized would take a beating–there would be another sickening lurch downward.”

Do financial crises make people more socially conservative? (The New Republic)
“With the fabric of their lives threatened, Americans have tended to prefer security to freedom. Prosperity nourishes social experimentation and libertinism; a steep recession makes us want to preserve and protect family, job, and community, and to restore what we think we have lost. In so far as abortion is seen by many Americans as a threat to the sanctity of the family, opposition to abortion–or simply discomfort and displeasure at the idea of abortion–would surface during economic downturns.”

Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns (WSJ)
“The gradual fade-out of marginal malls has prompted a thriving Web culture dedicated to sharing information about dead or dying properties. Sites such as Flickr.com, Deadmalls.com and Labelscar.com are drawing traffic from mall employees, shoppers and other mall mourners who swap stories, photos and predictions about the status of centers on their way out.”

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