Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 345,000 in May, about half the average monthly decline for the prior 6 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The unemployment rate continued to rise, increasing from 8.9 to 9.4 percent.
Ahead of the 8:30 a.m. report, according to Reuters, Dow futures were up 54 points, while S&P and NASDAQ futures were up 5 and 5.75 points, respectively (the time-stamp is 9:22, but the narrative is clearly pre-8:30).
Just after the market opened, I received this CNNMoney e-mail:
With the federal government issuing massive amounts of debt and the Federal Reserve purchasing it in the name of keeping interest rates down, questions have arisen about impact on the U.S. dollar.
On June 2, CNBC's "Power Lunch," aired a clip of the network's chief economics reporter, Steve Liesman interviewing Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. Geithner claimed the Federal Reserve wasn't monetizing the debt the government was accruing. Following that clip, CNBC's Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor reporter Rick Santelli, famous for inspiring the anti-tax-and-spending tea parties, questioned Geithner's denial of debt monetization.
"Well, you know the first part of that question was economists are worried about quantitative easing - are we monetizing?" Santelli said. "And his answer was no, we have a strong independent central bank. Now the latter may be true but it certainly isn't an answer to the question and I put forth, and I'd like feedback everybody - that quantitative easing can't exist without the monetization process. We issue debt; we print the money to buy it. That is monetizing. I can't believe that was his answer."
The media have lamented use of the word fascism when it has been used to describe moves by the Bush and Obama administrations and the private sector economy.
But when examined from a purely political and economic point-of-view, that is what's going on now according to Thomas Sowell, Stanford University's Hoover Institute Senior Fellow and author of "The Housing Boom and Bust." Sowell appeared on Glenn Beck's May 27 program and was asked if the United States was still a capitalist country.
"Oh, heavens, partially," Sowell replied. "We're not a socialist country, because the socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. But, the fascists believe that the government should have private ownership and the politicians should tell people how to run the businesses. So that's the route we seem to be going."
Is there another shakeup imminent at CNBC? Since the economy has been on the rocks, NBC Universal's financial network has been in the spotlight - political tug-of-war and all. This time, another one of the network's star on-air personalities, Jeff Macke, could be out.
Roubini, often called Dr. Doom and known for crazy parties, predicted back in 2005 the speculative housing bubble would be the eventual undoing of the economy - and he was correct. However, as Jeff Macke, founder and president of Macke Asset Management and panelist on "Fast Money" explained May 11, being two years early with that prediction wasn't something to hang your hat on.
"Let me give you a little hint on trading," Macke said. "If you're two years early on any idea, what you are mostly is dead. You're a professor, as opposed to a trader. And if we still have time to talk after the five-minute butt kissing we gave the guy, I'll tell you what - he hasn't made anyone a cent. Until he does, as far as I'm concerned, it's a nice opinion but it's not making me money."
It's a whole new wrinkle on the old joke about accountants (when asked what 2 + 2 is, he or she replies, "What do you want it to be?").
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the reported results of the financial institution stress tests were negotiated:
Banks Won Concessions on Tests Fed Cut Billions Off Some Initial Capital-Shortfall Estimates; Tempers Flare at Wells
The Federal Reserve significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of intense bargaining.
The overall reaction to the stress tests, announced Thursday, has been generally positive. But the haggling between the government and the banks shows the sometimes-tense nature of the negotiations that occurred before the final results were made public.
It's also clear that the negotiations were over clearly non-trivial amounts:
CNBC's Steve Liesman has always gone after tea party inspiration and network floor reporter Rick Santelli for his views, but this time it was Santelli playing offense.
The CNBC "Power Lunch" crew was discussing Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) CEO Ken Lewis and disclosure of details surrounding his bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch May 5. Santelli accused Liesman, CNBC's senior economics reporter of saying "dumb things" and acting like Nixon, when he suggested there could be a compelling reason for Lewis was not forthcoming about the acquisition.
"Ask the question in a more compelling way which is - I want you to save the world and not disclose," Liesman said.
It's a response that might incite laughter, as it did from conservative pundit Monica Crowley and MSNBC paleocon talker Pat Buchanan. According to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the current problems facing the country and President Barack Obama are due to capitalism.
"I give him a B+ because there's a lot of outcomes that haven't come in yet," Clift said. "But look, this isn't about the failure of government and the Republicans are on the wrong tact talking about big government. This is a failure of capitalism. He's trying to save capitalism."
On CNBC's April 24 "The Call," Santelli expressed his frustration with an overreaction by the government to solve the financial crisis when Kudlow asked him about the expansion of bailout obligations from the original TARP bailout price tag $750 billion to the $3 trillion.
"Listen - I'm glad I didn't say that, I'm glad I didn't say all that," Santelli said. "Do I disagree with it? Probably not. But, I'll take it a step farther - in the beginning, whether it was the commercial paper program, there was a need just like babies have a need for milk. But I don't need to drink a couple of gallons anymore."
It was either an effort to avoid blaming individuals for ill-advised borrowing or an effort to vilify the banking system, but a segment on the April 20 "CBS Evening News" took a very one-sided view of credit-card lending.
On a day bank stocks struggled and dragged the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) down nearly 300 points, "Evening News" scrutinized the current state of the banking system's credit-card lending. According to anchor Katie Couric, that sell-off of bank stocks occurred as a result of the realization the institutions would be forced to cover bad loans.
"Wall Street had been on a six-week winning streak, but today it suffered its worst drop in two months as investors rushed to sell bank stocks," Couric said. "[T]he sell-off came after Bank of America reported earnings of more than $2.8 billion last quarter, but that good news was offset by the word that the bank has set aside more than $13 billion to cover its losses from bad loans made in the past."
While Fox News has celebrated the Taxpayer Tea Party rallies and MSNBC has denigrated them, the impetus of the movement - CNBC and specifically Rick Santelli, its inspiration - had been conspicuously quiet about it.
"A lot of articles about these tea parties," Kernen said. "They all have your name in them, like you caused it. Are you actually attending any or are you just sort of got the idea going initially? What do you think? I mean, you're like a cultural phenomenon at this point."
She's been popping up in a lot of places lately to chime in on the economy.
This time Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington appeared on ABC's April 5 "This Week," where she voiced her disapproval of the March 30 decision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) relaxing mark-to-market accounting rules.
"This week, we saw so many concessions to the banks," Huffington said. "We saw the suspension of mark-to-market, which is absolutely tragic. Japan, by not having mark-to-market, made it much harder for them to recover."
But as Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein of First Trust Portfolios recently wrote for Forbes magazine, mark-to-market accounting reinstitution was reinstated only in recent years. The last time it was in effect - during the Great Depression - it caused many bank failures.
Although CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer has backed off his hyperbolic attacks on President Barack Obama ever since his "Daily Show" appearance, he's shown that he's not afraid to take on the Democratic-controlled Congress.
So, to give credit where credit is due, the "Mad Money" host dedicated an entire segment to the Employee Free Choice Act, aka card check and how its passage by Congress could be detrimental to Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) stock price on his April 3 program. And during the segment, Cramer used three references to Soviet/Russian communism to describe the Democrat effort pushing card check.
"Right now, in Congress - they're getting ready for what is essentially a referendum on Wal-Mart," Cramer said. "And the referendum's name is the Employee Free Choice Act, also known by slang as card check - a bill that will make it much easier for workers to form unions and much harder for employers to get in their way."
It came and went - and some might not have even noticed it - despite the seriousness of its use. On April 2, CNBC's Jim Cramer proclaimed the Depression over.
Throughout that day, the "Mad Money" host told viewers of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," CNBC's "Street Signs" and finally on his own program that the Depression was over and that we were on the verge of a bull run for the financial markets.
"We have reached the land of a thousand bull dances - phoney maroney, why? Because the market swallowed its Prozac," Cramer said on CNBC's "Mad Money" April 2. "And right now, right here on this show - I am announcing the Depression over!"
It's no secret the Bush administration used fear tactics to push the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) through Congress last fall. Both members of the House and the Senate have come out after the fact and disclosed the details.
However, the method the Treasury Department employed to get banks to go along with the TARP bailout breached legal boundaries to the point of "extortion," according to Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano, a former Superior Court Judge for the state of New Jersey.
Napolitano told viewers on FNC's April 1 "Studio B" that he had a conversation with a head of $250-billion bank that explained the federal government, under the threat of an audit, forced him to accept TARP funds.
Arianna Huffington, who appeared as a guest host on CNBC's March 31 "Squawk Box" has following of left-wing readers and bloggers, as the editor of the very popular Huffington Post blog. The two faced off on "Squawk Box" about how the housing crisis should be handled. Huffington asked Santelli what his thoughts were on more government assistance for underwater homeowners to prevent another round of foreclosures.
"Well, the whole country is underwater I guess," Santelli replied. "It's just a matter of where you want to point the bailout gun. I would certainly like to see some of those mortgage contracts gone through to find out where the erroneous and inaccurate and illegal contracts and separate those from the rest because I think that a lot of the information on the original mortgage contracts is not accurate and I don't think it would be very fair to put those in the same camp as other foreclosures."
One of the subplots in the soap opera known as CNBC took another turn on Monday as some of the pieces fell in place of who's doing what and why.
Last Friday, CNBC and former "Fast Money" host Dylan Ratigan parted ways officially. However, on CNBC's March 30 "Fast Money," show panelist Guy Adami, the managing director of Drakon Capital, announced Melissa Lee, a fill-in host over the past year for the popular network show, as the new caretaker of the show's "center seat," that plays the moderator role for the show.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, and nothing," Adami said. "Listen, clearly you've noticed some changes on the set, but as a show and as a network, we'd just like to wish Melissa Lee, the Emissary, all the best as she now takes the center seat on ‘Fast Money.'"
Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck has already shown he's a rating success and is leaving a mark in cable news. However, he may have pulled one of his most successful performances yet.
Beck interviewed Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on his March 30 broadcast. But, the radio and TV host took the opportunity to tell Blumenthal what he thought of his investigation into the bonuses received by American International Group (AIG) executives - whose company received federal bailout money.
"Look, you know what you have done, know what you have done?" Beck said. "You have - you are an insult to George Washington, sir. George Washington made it very clear that we are a respecter of laws, not of men. For your own political gain, you have decided to go after these people at AIG because it is a popular thing."
After General Motors (NYSE:GM) Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner was forced out by President Barack Obama, Wall Street is betting bank CEO firings will be the next shoe to drop.
CNBC's New York Stock Exchange floor reporter Bob Pisani told viewers of CNBC's March 30 "Street Signs" the market's actions, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropping as much as 300 points, are reflect, in part,that the government is going to force bank CEOs out as they did with Wagoner.
"Look, the main concern here today is Geithner's comments that some banks are going to need a lot more capital," Pisani said. "And for everybody who says why haven't they fired anymore bank CEOs yet - why hasn't the government done it, wait - they're going to."
Want a little populist outrage? There's nothing like hearing it from a multi-millionaire advertising mogul with a spot on CNBC.
Donny Deutsch, the host of "The Big Idea," a show the network has shelved, explained to viewers on the March 25 broadcast of "CNBC Reports" he wants measures put in place to keep prevent people he regards as "idiots" from making $10 million a year.
"The issue is even now, with the new asset program, basically if it works, the taxpayer's taking up all the risk," Deutsch said. "God forbid it doesn't work, taxpayers are really going to take it on the chin. And let's say we get it right and the banks are lending again and everything is fine again - what is now put in place on Wall Street to make sure idiots are not getting paid $10 million a year?"
For over six months, bankers, traders, financial institution employees, and anybody in any way associated with Wall Street have been eviscerated by the media as greedy, lying crooks.
Considering this, and how shortly after his inauguration, President Barack Obama said this isn't the time for people to be worried about profits, one has to wonder what kind of reaction the left and their media minions will have towards George Soros's declaration that he's "having a very good crisis."
The following shocking revelation was reported Wednesday by Britain's Daily Mail in an article astoundingly titled "'I'm Having a Very Good Crisis,' says Soros as Hedge Fund Managers Make Billions Off Recession":
Talk about unintended consequences. All this populist anger ginned up by congressional Democrats, the media and the Obama administration is going to hinder the Treasury Department's strategy to rescue the banking system.
Paul Krugman, the liberal New York Times columnist and winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics explained to Bloomberg News on March 24 that this is just what is happening.
According to Krugman, the backlash caused by bailed-out American International Group (AIG) compensation debacle and efforts by Congress to limit other expenditures - private jets, office redecorations, salaries, etc. - is causing otherwise healthy financial institutions to shy away from accepting and keeping Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money from the federal government.
Perhaps this post could be headlined "CNBC Continues to Atone for Its Outspoken Obama Criticism."
As if announcing Democratic National Committee chairman and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as a "CNBC contributor" weren't enough, CNBC has invited the editor in chief of one of the its biggest critics to guest co-host one of CNBC's most popular shows.
Originally reported in a status update from Arianna Huffington's Facebook page on March 24, and later confirmed by Huffington herself in an e-mail with the Media Research Center, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post will co-host CNBC's "Squawk Box" on March 31.
Could this be another case of a chastened CNBC succumbing to criticism from the left to improve its image?
Just a day after CNBC named former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean a CNBC contributor, an uncharacteristically soft-spoken CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, appeared on NBC's March 24 "Today" along with CNBC "Squawk on the Street" co-host and "Street Signs" host Erin Burnett. In a tone similar to the apologetic one he had earlier this month on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," he complimented President Barack Obama's rhetoric toward high executive compensation.
"We have to put the shareholders somewhere in the equation," Cramer said. "When these CEOs make so much money, it hurts the shareholders. We have to be pro-shareholder. The president has become pro-shareholder."
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Harry Smith talked to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about Monday’s stock market rally and wondered: "What was the reaction at the White House yesterday when the stock market closed?...There's been a lot of heat, though, aimed at the White House, aimed at the Treasury Secretary. Was there some degree of vindication?"
Gibbs claimed that the administration does not pay attention to daily stock numbers, but Smith replied: "You have to admit, it's a pretty good day, though, when the stock market goes up 500 points and the AIG executives, at least more than a dozen of them, say ‘we're going to give our money back.’" After Smith’s pressing, Gibbs admitted: "Well, look, Harry. I'll take 500 points and that kind of news any day of the week."
An earlier report by Bloomberg TV anchor Deirdre Bolton credited the White House banking plan for the stock surge: "...yesterday the Dow soared to 6.5%, that was the biggest gain since October. The Obama administration finally giving some -- Wall Street some details on how the bad banks' assets can be treated. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner put together a plan that some say is the best of both worlds to deal with toxic assets."
When Jon Stewart eviscerated Jim Cramer for not doing a better job of warning Americans about the looming financial crisis, the "Mad Money" host should have brought videos and transcripts of some of his highly-publicized rants in order to thoroughly disprove the comedian's premise.
In fact, as former investigative reporter turned actor and producer Dan Giffordrevealed at Big Hollywood Sunday, Cramer should have wiped the floor with Stewart and put an end to all the CNBC bashing.
For instance, the "Mad Money" host could have shared with Stewart's audience this tirade from August 2007 (video embedded right):
For the second day in a row, CNBC "Squawk on the Street" co-host Mark Haines took on a Democratic congressman over the issue that American International Group (AIG) paid out too much in bonuses for a company that received federal bailout money.
On March 19, Haines took on alleged tax cheat Charles Rangel, questioning whether or not he should be dictating tax policy while the House Ethics Committee investigates him for his tax problems. On CNBC's March 20 "Squawk on the Street," Haines took on Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif. on the issue.
Sherman contended the 90-percent tax on bonuses exceeding $250,000 that the House passed 328-93 didn't go far enough. He said a government receivership would have been the proper way to handle AIG, and not the bailout method the federal government employed.