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Wal-Mart Cuts Some Workers’ Hours After Pay Raise Boosts Costs

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in the midst of spending $1 billion to raise employees’ wages and give them extra training, has been cutting the number of hours some of them work in a bid to keep costs in check.

Regional executives told store managers at the retailer’s annual holiday planning meeting this month to rein in expenses by cutting worker hours they’ve added beyond those allocated to them based on sales projections.

The request has resulted in some stores trimming hours from their schedules, asking employees to leave shifts early or telling them to take longer lunches, according to more than three dozen employees from around the U.S. The reductions started in the past several weeks, even as many stores enter the busy back-to-school shopping period.

Why the 'Bernanke Bubble' still haunts Yellen and the Fed

Fed officials are trying to ignore the recent plunge in the stock market. That will be hard to do.

The Federal Reserve is trying to have it both ways when it comes to the market. That could spell trouble.

When Ben Bernanke was the head of the Fed, he used to point to the market as evidence that that U.S. central bank’s policies were working. In late 2010, Bernanke wrote in an editorial in The Washington Post that a rise in stock prices was one of the signals that the central bank’s policies had worked “in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again.” In August 2012, Bernanke told interest rate policy makers at the influential Jackson Hole conference that the Fed’s bond purchases, so-called quantitative easing, had directly boosted stock prices. Bernanke said that was “potentially important because stock values affect both consumption and investment decisions.” And in October of the same year, he reiterated his belief that a higher stock market would boost consumer and business spending. All this talk of the stock market led critics to claim that Bernanke was purposefully blowing a bubble in the stock market.

What the US economy really needs next

When Chinese stocks took a nosedive last week, it rang economic alarm bells around the world, including in the US. But the threat to Americans' prosperity is less than you might think, says Chris Low, chief economist at broker dealer, FTN Financial, in New York.

The dreaded R-word, recession, has popped up on financial blogs and magazine headlines. Bloomberg BusinessWeek asked if the next recession will be made in China, while The Economist documented 'The Great Fall of China'.

The stock market is a pretty reliable economic barometer, after all. People thought it must be tanking for a reason. But the rally in stocks Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Friday's gentle drift sideways, offers an opportunity to take a deep breath and reassess.

Does Free Speech Offend You?

State Dept. to release 7,000 pages of emails, 150 censored

The State Department will release roughly 7,000 pages of Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails Monday, including about 150 emails that have been censored because they contain information that is now deemed classified.

Department officials said the redacted information was classified in preparation for the public release of the emails and not identified as classified at the time Clinton sent or received the messages. All the censored material in the latest group of emails is classified at the "confidential" level, not at higher "top secret" or compartmentalized levels, they said.

"It's somewhere around 150 that have been subsequently upgraded" in classification, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Still, the increasing amounts of blacked-out information from Clinton's email history as secretary of state will surely prompt additional questions about her handling of government secrets while in office and that of her most trusted advisers.

This Obamacare Co-Op Was Supposed to Make Money. Instead, It Lost Over $15 Million

A Nevada health insurance provider that received more than $65 million in taxpayer-funded loans from the federal government announced last week it is discontinuing operations at the end of the year.

The Nevada Health Co-Op will close its doors beginning Jan. 1 because of “challenging market conditions.” The co-op will be the third of the 23 consumer oriented and operated plans created under Obamacare to shutter.

“It is with deep sadness that based on challenging market conditions, the board made a painful decision to wind down operations of the Nevada co-op at the end of this year,” Stacey Hatfield, a member of the co-op’s board, said in a statement. “Rather than spending resources on next year’s uncertain market, we would rather make sure we protect our current members. This is all about providing the most affordable, effective health insurance and service possible.”

Uncle Sam’s Solar Racket——A Cesspool Of Waste And Corruption

The Department of Energy’s Inspector General revealed last week that the legendary solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra—a poster baby of the Obama stimulus—lied to the feds to get a $535 million loan guarantee before going bust in 2011. Solyndra is a cautionary tale, but the Obama Administration is still throwing caution to the sun.

The IG report, which follows a four-year investigation by the IG and FBI, describes how Solyndra engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions,” including inflating the value of corporate contracts and sales, to win a giant loan guarantee in 2009.

All evidence suggests that DOE was a willing victim. The IG notes that DOE loan officers felt “tremendous pressure” from the White House and Congress to rush through loan-guarantee applications. In their haste DOE officials failed “to ask specific questions, and require specific assurances” and overlooked major red flags.

Fmr. U.S. Commerce Secretary on China, U.S. market selloff

Economic Snapshot: August 2015

The latest economic data show a modestly expanding economy that does not work for most Americans. Gains in both economic growth and job creation are modest, while inequality is high and the rich are pulling away from the rest. The disproportionate income gains of the very wealthy are largely due to substantial capital market gains, notwithstanding the recent stock market turmoil. Those capital market gains follow from very high corporate profitability and corporations’ prioritization of spending money on shareholders through dividend payouts and share repurchases over making longer-term investments and hiring more workers. On the other end of the spectrum, communities of color, those with less education, and young workers are especially struggling in a meek economy.

The good news is that the economy is growing and federal and state governments have the resources to invest in helping those who have been left behind, as long as there is the political will to do so. Key policy steps should focus on strengthening economic growth and making sure that faster growth also translates into job gains, especially for those who are most vulnerable in this economy.

How to Protect Your Money from Financial Warfare

Financial warfare is not the warfare of the future — it is already here. It’s going to become a bigger threat as time goes on, too.

But before we explain how and why it’s important, let’s begin by analyzing this new kind of war with a definition. Financial warfare, like conventional warfare, is intended to enhance national power, diminish the power of rivals and achieve policy goals.

It is actual warfare conducted through banking and capital markets channels. It is not mere economic policy as in the case of so-called currency wars, trade wars or embargoes.

Financial warfare can serve many purposes. The 2015 U.S. financial war on Russia, for example, is intended as punishment for its support of rebellion in eastern Ukraine. It can also be used to force behavior of certain kinds.

Oil may test $30 again this year: Trader

U.S. crude rallied for a third consecutive day Monday, posting its best three-day gain in 25 years, but traders may not have seen the last of $30 oil, Anthony Grisanti, president of GRZ Energy, said.

"We went from being oversold to being overbought in a matter of three days," he told CNBC's "Closing Bell."

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate touched a 6 ½-year low of $37.75 last week before rallying higher as short sellers moved to cover positions after an initial bounce.

The October contract for U.S. crude settled 8.8 percent higher at $49.20 on Monday, fueled by government data that showed U.S. crude production declined in June and signs that OPEC may be willing to work with other producers to stabilize oil prices.

The melancholy billionaire: Minecraft creator unhappy with his sudden wealth

You might think the developer of Minecraft, who sold his video game to Microsoft for $2.5 billion, would be living the dream.

But according to a series of tweets over the weekend, Marcus "Notch" Persson is pretty unhappy with his life and his huge wealth.

Persson sold his wildly popular game a year ago. Since then he bought a 23,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills for $70 million, reportedly outbidding Beyonce and Jay Z. But even those ultra-luxury digs aren't enough to make him happy.

"The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance," he wrote at the start of series of tweets.

Religious leaders in Puerto Rico condemn austerity, ask Fed for help

Religious leaders in Puerto Rico called on Monday for the island's government and its lenders to avoid austerity measures and for the Federal Reserve to step in with assistance.

The religious leaders on the mostly Catholic island, working with Jubilee USA Network, a religious development organization in Washington, D.C., want a solution to Puerto Rico's debt crisis that invests in the island's economy, does not hurt the poor and brings about more budget transparency, according to a statement.

Puerto Rico is working to restructure $72 billion in debt, and is considering reducing expenses through measures such as cuts to healthcare and consolidating and closing schools. A working group had been slated to deliver a so-called debt adjustment plan on Sunday or Monday, but will hold off until as late as Sept. 8.

Jon Hilsenrath: Three Takeaways from the Fed Meeting

U.S. weighs sanctioning Russia as well as China in cyber attacks

The United States is considering sanctions against both Russian and Chinese individuals and companies for cyber attacks against U.S. commercial targets, several U.S. officials said on Monday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no final decision had been made on imposing sanctions, which could strain relations with Russia further and, if they came soon, cast a pall over a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.

The Washington Post first reported the Obama administration was considering sanctioning Chinese targets, possibly within the next few weeks, and said that individuals and firms from other nations could also be targeted. It did not mention Russia.

Citibank: Slowing global warming would save the economy tens of trillions of dollars

Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions (GPS), a division within Citbank (America’s third-largest bank), recently published a report looking at the economic costs and benefits of a low-carbon future.

The report considered two scenarios: “Inaction,” which involves continuing on a business-as-usual path, and Action scenario which involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix.

One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario.

What is perhaps most surprising is that looking at the potential total spend on energy over the next quarter century, on an undiscounted basis the cost of following a low carbon route at $190.2 trillion is actually cheaper than our ‘Inaction’ scenario at $192 trillion.

Gold standard, “rudderless” Fed discussed at Federal Reserve “counter-summit”

Over the weekend, the American Principles Project convened their first-ever counter-conference to the Federal Reserve’s annual meeting in Jackson, Wy., drawing thinkers and activists from around the world to discuss the ways Fed policy is harming both American economic activity and the global economy.

“The Fed is broken and it needs reform,” Congressman Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said. Garrett’s Friday afternoon discussion resonated with the crowd because, as the chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Capital Markets, he’s one of the chief legislators that deals with Federal Reserve oversight and reform.

“It’s disturbing, because of how much more powerful the Fed is today than it has been historically,” Garrett said. “The Fed has moved away from a rules-based policy… [it] continues to affect our ship of state with a basically rudderless policy.”

Chinese journalists arrested after market crash

One in Five Employed Americans Worried About Wage Reduction

One in five employed Americans say they are worried their wages will be reduced in the near future. This is noticeably lower than the percentage of Americans who were worried about wage reductions from 2009 through 2013, amid the erratic and uneven economic times after the Great Recession.

As the unemployment rate has declined, fewer Americans are worried about various aspects of their jobs than even a few years ago -- including being laid off, but also cuts in pay, benefits or hours. Decreases in worry follow a timeline similar to that of other improving economic trends Gallup has found over the past few years, such as its Job Creation Index, the Economic Confidence Index and consumer spending. This could be a positive sign that Americans see their lives returning to the way things were in the early 2000s, although not quite all the way. Or it could be that workers now see conditions as a new reality after the Great Recession and thus not a cause for worry.

Bankrupt grocery-store chain sells stores to save jobs 20,000

Tens of thousands of local supermarket workers as well as millions of shoppers may not be very thankful this holiday season as a result of the A&P bankruptcy.

With roughly 20,000 jobs on the line at A&P, Pathmark, Food Emporium and Waldbaums across the metropolitan area, the now-bankrupt company is slated to close 25 of its 301 stores and affiliates in the New York and New Jersey region around Thanksgiving.

The grocery-store chain, owned by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), is trying to save tens of thousands of jobs by selling the rest of its stores in New York and New Jersey.

“This is about jobs, and we’re still working on getting bids for all of these stores and job offers to everyone, including the stores now scheduled to close,” said John T. Niccollai, a union leader, lawyer and a 60-year veteran of the food industry.

China's sale of U.S. debt: Safety valve or cause for concern?

Bloomberg News reports that China is selling billions of dollars of its massive inventory of U.S. Treasuries to raise dollars to buy back and stabilize the country's own currency. The move comes amid a sharp decline in Chinese stocks in recent months and rising concerns about China's slowing economic growth.

For years, China's appetite for Treasuries has helped the U.S. government cover its bills. Recently, for example, that helped fund the nearly $1 trillion recovery plan Congress implemented after the 2008 financial crisis. For its part, China uses that debt to anchor its own balance sheet and to insulate itself from global economic shocks.

Chinese demand for U.S. sovereign debt has only grown in recent years. In 2007, China held $388 billion in Treasuries, which at the time ranked the People's Republic behind Japan. But as of June, China's hoard of American debt had more than tripled to $1.271 trillion, according to the Congressional Research Service, the biggest position held by any nation and a substantial portion of the $6.175 trillion of Treasuries held overseas.

ou Might Be Able To Drink And Shop At This Chicago Target

America doesn’t just ‘need a raise,’ we need a new national norm for wage growth

As Labor Day approaches, we are likely to hear from a growing chorus of political, religious, academic, labor and business leaders who agree “America needs a raise” to reverse three decades of wage stagnation and rising income inequality.

But this consensus that something needs to be done has yet to produce a clear narrative or strategy for what to do. Getting there requires an agreement on what norms should guide wage growth, an understanding of the causes of wage stagnation and policies to address these causes in ways consistent with today’s economy and workforce.

It’s been 133 years since New York City celebrated the nation’s first Labor Day holiday in 1882 to acknowledge the role workers play in the economy. The federal government followed suit a dozen years later. As we review the suspected culprits behind wage stagnation, now is a good time to consider a new normal to ensure workers get their fair share of America’s prosperity.

Dallas Fed Disappoints

After two straight months of improvement, manufacturing activity in the Dallas region took a turn for the worse in August. While economists were expecting the headline Dallas Fed Manufacturing Index to show a slight improvement to -4.0 versus last month's level of -4.6, the actual reading was much worse than expected at -15.8 and brings the headline index of current conditions back near its recent lows. Like the current conditions index, the headline index for conditions six months from now also declined this month, falling from 18.8 down to 3.4, but still remained slightly positive.

The table below shows a breakdown of the Dallas Fed Manufacturing report by each of the index's subcomponents and shows their change relative to July. In this month's report, it is a sea of red. As far as current conditions are concerned, all but four components are in the red. That being said, the majority of components did see positive m/m changes in August. The biggest increases came in Hours Worked, Capacity Utilization, and Wages and Benefits, which is a positive indicator of labor trends in the region. On the downside, the biggest declines were in Inventories of Raw Materials and New Orders.

Tuesday 09.01.2015

NEWS to Disturb the Comfortable...

We don't tell you what to think,

but we give you something to think about.