Why Is the Senate Witch-Hunting ETFs?

Nov 10, 2011, 12:00 pm EDT

Few things — if any — in Washington, D.C., make sense these days.

This is the exactly the case as evidenced by the recent Senate hearings on Oct. 19, titled “Market Microstructure: Examination of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).” The purpose of the meeting was to analyze the impact of ETFs on the financial markets.

Why have financial markets been so volatile? What are the reasons and causes behind the “Flash Crash” on May 6, 2010? Does anybody know? The Senate figured it would call in some experts to get to the bottom of it, but instead of answering questions, the Senate found a good scapegoat: the U.S. exchange-traded products or ETP market, which encompasses ETFs, and has around $1 trillion in assets under management. Read 

What Election Day 2011 Means for 2012

Nov 9, 2011, 10:59 am EDT
What Election Day 2011 Means for 2012

Election Day 2011 is in the books. You may think it lacked fireworks, considering how big the prize will be in 2012, but here are some choice political headlines from yesterday’s votes across the U.S.:

    Ohio voters repealed a controversial labor law limiting union rights. Early results show a political newcomer ousted an entrenched and polarizing Republican in the Arizona state Senate, and Democrats in the swing state of Virginia saw their majority in the Commonwealth’s upper house erode. Voters in Mississippi rejected a controversial ballot measure that would have defined human life as beginning at fertilization.

These are all weighty developments. Political junkies are probably already chewing on the juicy details, and a host of other outlets will be dissecting these and other specific issues at length over the next few days as results are finalized.

But the most important thing about Tuesday’s vote is, of course, what it means for the White House race in 2012. Read 

‘Bank Transfer Day’: Winners All Around

Nov 9, 2011, 7:00 am EDT
‘Bank Transfer Day’: Winners All Around

Bank customers’ growing disdain with big institutions reached a climax this weekend that was simultaneously symbolic and tangible. “Bank Transfer Day” and “Move Your Money Day,” both falling on Nov. 5, sent accounts flying from the rosters of Wall Street giants into the open arms of smaller regional banks and not-for-profit credit unions.

But on a day that was supposed to leave big banks groaning from pain, the Wall Street firms’ collective response couldn’t be heard above the “ka-chings” of “Main Street” money drawers.

Mostly because that response was a surprisingly indifferent shrug — and maybe even a slight smirk. Read 

Obesity Taxes Won’t Work

Nov 8, 2011, 9:00 am EDT

The government didn’t make me fat, and it can’t make me thin. This sad reality is getting lost on an increasing number of local officials.

As the Tax Foundation recently noted, so-called obesity taxes are gaining popularity among cash-strapped state and local governments. This year 14 states proposed new soda taxes, and two states proposed new taxes on candy. Soda prices would have soared by as much as 264%, according to the Tax Foundation.

The problem with these taxes is that they penalize the fat and the thin equally. They also try to reduce a complicated issue like obesity to a simple exercise of picking good foods and avoiding bad foods. Unfortunately, people get fat and stay overweight for many reasons — psychological, physiological and economic — that can’t be solved by taxation alone. Read 

The Greek Circus Sends In the Clowns

Nov 3, 2011, 7:22 am EDT

Just when you thought the Greek circus was over — it isn’t! Prime Minister George Papandreou dropped a bombshell Monday when he announced that Greece would hold a referendum to approve (or disapprove) the country’s latest bailout package. The next day, a Greek lawmaker pooh-poohed the idea that the proposed referendum would actually take place, but the damage to investor confidence was already done.

Global stocks plunged Tuesday. Meanwhile, the price of a package of long-dated U.S. Treasury bonds jumped 7% earlier this week. Things stabilized Wednesday, but it’s anybody’s guess how long that will last.

Despite that notorious downgrade by Standard & Poor’s in early August, investors still view U.S. government paper as one of the world’s safest havens. Italian paper is another story: Yields on 10-year Italian government bonds surged Tuesday to 6.3%, even higher than at the peak of the panic in August. Read 

Charlie Evans: Fed’s Voice of Reason or Biggest Problem?

Nov 2, 2011, 2:00 pm EDT

There were few fireworks in the latest Federal Reserve meeting. After a Federal Open Market Committee meeting in Washington on Monday and Tuesday, the central bank left open the possibility of taking further steps to try to boost the sluggish economy … but gave no hint as to what those moves might be.

That’s not much of a surprise — as stated yesterday, it is painfully clear that the Federal Reserve and Chairman Ben Bernanke are powerless.

But it’s worth noting that amid all this, one stubborn member of the central bank — Charlie Evans, president of the Chicago Fed — continues to make a fuss. Read 

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