Posts Tagged ‘global economic downturn’

As automakers dropped their latest batch of awful sales numbers on the market on Tuesday, reinforcing the gloom spreading across the economy, the troubles confronting American workers seemed to intensify.

Plummeting home prices have in recent months eliminated jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, from bankers and real estate agents to construction workers and furniture manufacturers. Tighter lending standards imposed by banks in the wake of huge mortgage losses have made it hard for many Americans to secure credit — the lifeblood of expansion in recent years — crimping the appetite of consumers, whose spending amounts to 70 percent of the economy.

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Shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest providers of funding for U.S. home mortgages, closed at their lowest levels since 1992 on concern the companies need to raise more capital amid larger-than-expected losses. Corporate “federal agency” debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by the companies also plummeted relative to government debt as investors thinned positions, analysts said

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As the first anniversary of the credit crisis approaches, it’s clear that a major part of the problem was a spectacular failure of information, with complex asset-backed securities turning out to be far riskier than anyone thought. But as sophisticated as we consider ourselves, this is just a contemporary example of what might be called the Problem of the Oblong Dice.

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A Reuters report today highlights organizations that are cutting back the number of days employees are required to physically show up at work because of soaring gas prices. Even employees who are required to be on-site in order to work, such as janitors, are being cut down to four-day workweeks to save gas. White collar workers, of course, are being allowed, encouraged or forced to stay home once a week or more often and telecommute.

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The perfect storm that has swept oil prices to $132 a barrel may subside over the coming months as rising crude supply from unexpected corners of the world finally comes on stream, just as the global economic downturn begins to bite.

The forces behind the meteoric price rise this spring are slowly receding. Nigeria has boosted output by 200,000 barrels a day (BPD) this month, making up most of the shortfall caused by rebel attacks on pipelines in April.

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