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Read Today 21 April 2014

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

  • Is Natural Gas No Better Than Coal? (Nick Cunningham,, Wall Street Cheat Sheet) We have discussed an article on this question previously. Sig Silber has advised Econintersect that the question is not so easy to answer. Although the greenhouse effect with methane is much larger than for CO2, methane degrades over time while CO2 lasts 'forever'. So not only is the question of how much methane is produced important, we also need to know how long it lasts in the atmosphere.

Today there are 14 articles discussed 'behind the wall'. The final three are about the complicated data regarding lack of intergenerational income mobility in the U.S. and how it is and is not related to race.

Please support all that we do at Global Economic Intersection with a subscription to our premium content 'behind the wall'.

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  • Investigating Family’s Wealth, China’s Leader Signals a Change (Michael Forsythe, Chris Buckley and Jonathan Ansfield, The New York Times) A top communist party official (retired) has had his family targetted by the government in connection with their vast wealth accumulated in China's energy industries. The powerful official? Zhou Yongkang, who The New York Times says was the "defacto boss of its [China's] oil industry". Hat tip to Rob Carter, who points out that (1) there has been no connection to Zhou Yongkang personally; (2) there is no word of any investigations into the family of current Chinese president Xi Jinping; and (3) also no reports of investigations into the family of former president Wen Jiabao. Both Xi and Wen have very wealthy families.
  • A pragmatic plan to free the mortgage market from Washington (John Delaney, Financial Times Opinion) Currently 90% of U.S. mortgages are government funded. Delaney suggests that this may not provide sufficient pricing control regarding risk. He suggests that the government should continue to supply the money but banking should provide underwriting and assume the risk for the first 5% of losses. The remaining 95% exposure would be covered by insurance provided jointly by the public and private sectors. However, right now it appears that underwriting standards for mortgages are slipping. See Mortgage Lenders Ease Rules for Home Buyers in Hunt for Business (Nick Timiraos and Annamaria Androitis, The Wall Street Journal). Are mortgage initiators starting to "reach for business" again?
  • $ESM14 – June E-Mini S&P (Last:1861.50) (Rick Ackerman, Rick's Picks) Rick Ackerman has contributed to GEI. Rick says that a short squeeze started today (Monday 21 April) could push a rally past the all-time high before the week is over.

Click on chart for large image at Rick's Picks.


  • Deflation in Sweden: Questions and answers (Lars E.O. Svensson) In Sweden the real level of debt is rising even when there is no new borrowing, unless debt is retired. That is the effect when an economy is deflating.


  • The trouble with China's hot property (Steve Keen, Business Spectator) Steve Keen contributes to GEI. Keen cautions that China's real estate bubble is different in relationship to the Chinese economy and also with regard to the government's capability to keep it inflated for a long time. He finds that what he observes in China's unfinished and unoccupied real estate development complexes (see picture below) is actually part of tactical planning by developers, supported by strategic planning by the government. Steve says that manufacturing production expansion in the last few years has been based on (funded by) the real estate development bubble. He suggests that China's problem ultimately will be the collapse of industrial system over-expansion hitting at the same time as the eventual real estate bubble collapse. This is quite a story and well worth reading the entire article.


  • Segregation Now (Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica) In some parts of the South and some cities in the North education is being run as if there never had been a Brown vs. the Board of Education case decided by the Supreme Court; schools today are nearly as segregated as before the 1954 SCOTUS decision. But the author maintains that in some ways and in some areas the segregation today is worse than before 1954 because it is not only along racial and ethnic lines but today has a more pronounced division by economic class than 60 years ago. Segregation in 2014 is as much or more about economic status than racial factors compared to the 1950s. It appears that there is a strong correlation between the new school segregation and the patterns of low intergenerational social mobility in the U.S. See the next two articles.
  • Why Is the American Dream Dead in the South? (Matthew O'Brien, The Atlantic) There are five factors that have been identified with lack of intergenerational income mobility and four of them do not directly involve race. The one that has been identified as the most important doesn't involve race at all. Geographic location is not one of the five major factors yet there is a great deal of geographical variation.

Click on map for larger image.

  • upward-mobility-600x390


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