WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2012
Growth in Manufacturing Is Highest in Almost a Year (New York Times)
By The Associated Press
Manufacturing grew last month at the fastest rate in 10 months, suggesting that the economy is healthier than recent data had indicated.
New orders, production and a measure of hiring all rose. The April survey from the Institute for Supply Management was a hopeful sign ahead of Friday’s monthly jobs report and helped the Dow Jones industrial average end the day at its highest level in more than four years.
The institute, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Tuesday that its index of manufacturing activity reached 54.8 in April, the highest level since June. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
The increase surprised analysts, who had predicted a decline after several regional reports showed manufacturing growth weakened last month. The gain led investors to shift money out of bonds and into stocks.
The manufacturing index is closely watched in part because it is the first major economic report for each month. April’s big gain followed a series of weaker reports in recent weeks that showed hiring slowed, applications for unemployment benefits rose and factory output dropped.
2012: Year of the wild economy (Politico)
By Ben White
Don’t like the economy we have? Just wait a day and you’ll get a new one.
One day, gross domestic product is a growing at a dismal 2.2 percent rate. The next day, manufacturing is at a 10-month high. Jobless claims are up again. That’s not good. But maybe it’s just a quirk of the warm winter?
Another bad sign: The S&P 500 just posted its first monthly drop since last year. But wait. The Dow is at a four-year high.
Welcome to the 2012 economy, a frustrating maze of conflicting — even confounding — data highly subject to partisan spin and defiant of all attempts to fit into a clean narrative.
Over the next six months, some clear direction may still emerge and tilt the needle of the presidential election in one direction or the other. But it’s just as likely that the discordant notes of an uneven recovery will provide the background music for a campaign that is equally hard to call and subject to almost daily shifts in conventional wisdom.
Schapiro Urged to Back Off Money-Fund Plan (Wall Street Journal)
By Jessica Holzer and Andrew Ackerman
Opposition to a Securities and Exchange Industry plan to tighten regulations on the U.S. money-market fund industry is intensifying, driving even some supporters to concede that a revamp isn’t likely to advance.
The mutual-fund industry is enlisting former mayors and state treasurers now serving in Congress to fight proposed changes to money-market fund rules, a strategy that could rally large numbers of lawmakers against the plan.
Industry lobbyists have persuaded 33 Republican and Democratic lawmakers who served in state or local government to sign a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro warning against her plan to shore up the $2.6 trillion money-market mutual-fund industry.
The letter from the Investment Company Institute raises concerns that her proposals “would alter the fundamental structure” of money-market funds and drive investors to “other less-regulated products,” thereby dampening the demand for certain debt securities local governments use to fund infrastructure projects, according to a final draft seen by Dow Jones Newswires.
States and towns often issue certain tax-exempt, short-term notes to finance the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. Money-market funds are key purchasers of this debt.
By Sam Baker
House Republicans put the healthcare focus back on employers Tuesday, arguing that President Obama’s healthcare law will prompt big businesses to quit offering health coverage.
A report from the Ways and Means Committee surveyed healthcare costs for 71 companies in the Fortune 100 and concluded that they could save nearly $30 billion by dropping their healthcare plans. Republicans say new benefit mandates in the Affordable Care Act will raise the cost of healthcare and businesses will quit offering coverage, choosing instead to send their employees into the exchanges.
Companies that don’t offer coverage will have to pay a fine for every employer in an exchange, but those penalties will be less expensive than healthcare benefits.
Democrats argued that employers have always had the opportunity to save money by dropping their health plans.
By David Morgan
U.S. community health centers that cater to the poor and uninsured saw their patients’ ranks swell by nearly 18 percent from 2008 to 2011 as job loss left more Americans without health insurance, the Obama administration said on Tuesday.
A report released by the White House said 20 million Americans now receive healthcare services through 8,500 community health centers, up from 17 million four years ago.
The administration said health centers were able to accommodate larger numbers of patients because of funding provided by President Barack Obama’s embattled healthcare reform law and the administration’s earlier economic stimulus package.
The report, the latest in a series of government releases aimed at underscoring the value of healthcare reform, surfaced as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberates about the future of the law known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
A better case for Keystone XL (Washington Post)
By Editorial Board
The case for ultimately approving the Keystone XL pipeline — always strong — has grown stronger.
A key environmentalist argument against Keystone XL has been that the project would encourage the extraction of bitumen, a particularly dirty oil-like substance, from the “oil sands” in Alberta. If activists could “shut in” Canadian bitumen, limiting the ability of oil companies to sell the product, they argued, perhaps petroleum firms wouldn’t be able to fully develop the oil sands.
That hope always was unrealistic, and a recent announcement from Kinder Morgan, another pipeline company, illustrates why. The firm wants to nearly triple the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and Vancouver — a route from the oil sands to the world market — enabling it to carry even more product than the Keystone XL would. From there, much of it would probably head to Asia. Because the pipeline exists, expanding it may not face the same regulatory hurdles — particularly opposition from native groups — that other proposals to run new pipelines to Canada’s west coast have encountered.
Magnets Reimagined as School Choice Option (Education Week)
By Nora Fleming
Once considered a solution to desegregate racially divided districts, magnet schools today have been forced to evolve, given legal barriers that bar using race to determine school enrollment and increasing pressure to provide more public school choices.
In a post-desegregation era, many large districts like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore County, have maintained high numbers of magnet schools, even amid the economic downturn, and others are using magnets as a strategy to meet new goals around improving school quality.
The changing definitions and demands have left the purpose and future of magnet schools in flux, according to magnet school advocates and researchers, particularly as the charter school movement continues to gather steam on national and state levels.
At Least Six Killed in Kabul Attack (Wall Street Journal)
By Dion Nissenbaum
Taliban insurgents early Wednesday attacked a fortified compound that houses thousands of Westerners in Kabul, killing at least six people only hours after President Barack Obama declared a “new chapter” for the country during a surprise visit to Afghanistan.
Using mortars, machine guns, hand grenades, suicide vests and a car bomb, at least four insurgents stormed the main gate of the compound on the outskirts of Kabul, according to Afghan and Western officials.
At least six people, including one foreign guard at the compound and an Afghan student, were killed during the attack, according to Afghan police.
Taliban insurgents armed with mortars, machine guns, grenades and suicide vests killed at least six people Wednesday in an attack on a fortified Kabul compound that’s home to hundreds of Westerners.
Afghan special police forces, aided by Norwegian military personnel, rushed to the scene and ended the attack after more than three hours, killing at least one of the insurgents.
The Taliban claimed responsibility and said it dispatched the militants to send a message to Mr. Obama, who made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan late Tuesday to sign a 10-year partnership deal with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Read the President’s Remarks from Afghanistan here.