Job Growth Accelerates (WSJ)
U.S. job growth accelerated and the unemployment rate ticked lower in December, signs of strength for the labor market amid broad economic uncertainty for the new year. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 200,000 last month, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday in its monthly survey of employers. Private companies added 212,000 jobs, while the public sector—federal, state and local governments—shrank by 12,000. The unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, sank to 8.5% in December, its lowest level since February 2009. November's rate was revised up to 8.7%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a gain of 155,000 in payrolls and a jobless rate of 8.7%.
The Economy Might Save Obama After All (NYMag)
Defeating an incumbent president, historically, seems to require either a major scandal, a failed war, or a terrible economy. We have a terrible economy. But the direction seems to matter more than the level — Ronald Reagan famously cruised to reelection with a high unemployment rate because the economy bounced back from the deep but quick 1982 recession. Mitt Romney has made the state of the economy his central theme against Obama. The entire premise of his campaign is that the economy is bad because Obama's economic program has failed. If voters think the economy is improving, Romney has no ammunition left. That is still the smart play for Romney, because if the economy feels strong, he probably can't win anyway, so he needs to plan for the scenario that gives him a chance to win. A few months ago, that scenario was looking almost certain. Now it's looking far less likely.
Fitch Cuts Hungary to 'Junk' on 'Unorthodox' Policies (CNBC)
Fitch became the third ratings agency to downgrade Hungary's debt to "junk" status on Friday, invoking further deterioration in the country's fiscal and external financing and growth outlook and the government's "unorthodox" economic policies.
Soros Says EU Break-Up Would Be 'Catastrophic' (Reuters)
Germany Biggest Obstacle to Bailout-Fund Boost, Dutch Central Banker Says (Bloomberg)
European Central Bank Governing Council member Klaas Knot said Germany should support raising the European emergency fund to help end the region’s debt crisis. “The most important obstacle lies in Germany, not in the Netherlands,” Knot said in an interview on Dutch public television last night. “I think that more money is needed and we will use the time to convince our German colleagues.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted calls to ratchet up bailout funding amid warnings that the current amount isn’t enough to safeguard nations such as Italy and Spain. Germany has instead focused on budget discipline as the best means to stem the crisis now in its third year.
IRS Contacts 1 in 8 Millionaires for Extra Taxes (AP)
The IRS audited one in eight millionaires who filed taxes last year while only auditing 1 in 100 individuals earning less than $200,000 in an effort to "assure that there's equity in the system."
Grandpa the 'psychic' monkey's toughest challenge yet will be to predict GOP winner in New Hampshire primary (NYDN)
His keepers have been testing his supposedly psychic powers by having him pick the winners of tennis matches and pigskin tilts. But the Daily News is giving Grandpa his toughest challenge yet — choosing which candidate in the crowded GOP field will claim victory in the New Hampshire primary. On Monday, the day before the showdown in the Granite State, The News will have Grandpa pick a banana from a bunch. Each banana will have written on it the name of a GOP candidate — and pity all who are not the chosen banana. In the past, Grandpa has shown himself to be an ace at beating odds in sporting matches that break down to a simple flip of a coin, like his triumph in picking the Green Bay Packers to win the Super Bowl last year.
Report Says Romney Tax Plan Would Balloon US Deficit (Reuters)
U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's tax plan would cut revenues and increase the government's budget deficit, while benefiting wealthy taxpayers more than others, said a report from a non-partisan think tank released on Thursday...The new report from the Tax Policy Center scored Romney's plan on its cost and effect on taxpayers at different income levels. It estimated the plan would cut federal tax revenue by $600 billion, or 16 percent, in 2015. This estimate assumes the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year, as presently planned. If the Bush tax cuts do not expire, Romney's plan would cut revenues by $180 billion in 2015, the center said. "A Romney administration's revenue agenda would look a lot like President George W. Bush's, just more so," said Howard Gleckman, resident fellow at the center, which also has analyzed the tax plans of other Republican presidential contenders, including Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.
Private Equity Firms Forced To Evolve (WSJ)
Firms are doing fewer big deals in recent years and lately are running into difficulties selling companies they already own. With debt less available than before the financial crisis and prices for acquisitions up, returns on investments are down. As a result, private-equity bosses are focusing on midsize deals, growing existing businesses and expanding into real estate and other areas, rather than piling on debt for megadeals. The shift is crucial for investors because endowments, pension plans and other institutions have hundreds of billions of dollars tied up with private-equity funds. They are counting on scoring outsize returns, in some cases to meet substantial obligations, for example to retired workers. "It's a new era," says James Coulter, a co-founder of TPG Holdings, one of the industry's largest companies. "Fixing a company, improving operations and driving growth are more important than financial engineering."
MF Trustee Tussles With Regulators (WSJ)
Louis Freeh, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who was appointed bankruptcy trustee of MF Global Holdings Ltd., has declined to turn over some documents to investigators trying to determine what happened to an estimated $1.2 billion in missing customer funds...The conflict is among several that have erupted among various investigators looking into the collapse of MF Global. The disputes are complicating efforts to learn how the firm lost the customer funds and to return the money to its owners, say people familiar with the investigation, which has entered its third month.
When Zuckerberg Met Graham: A Facebook Love Story (WSJ)
Donald Graham spends long stretches on Facebook, sharing with 4,888 friends his interest in tattoo removal, a love of the Washington Redskins and his favorite Muppets song, "Mahna Mahna." The 66-year-old chief executive of Washington Post Co. also shares a lot more with one of those friends: Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg. The two men—separated by 39 years—have formed an unlikely relationship bridging two vastly different media worlds. Introduced through a college friend of Mr. Zuckerberg in 2005, each now serves as a mentor to the other. Mr. Zuckerberg's views on social media and news-sharing have begun to have broad influence inside the Post Co., which has a $2.9 billion market value....In 2007, as Facebook expanded, Mr. Graham recalled getting an email from Mr. Zuckerberg: "I'm a CEO now," the young tech mogul wrote, "and would like to shadow you and see what you do."
Book by ‘most lethal sniper’ in U.S. history claims 160 kills in Iraq (The Star)
Some days, Chris Kyle writes, the U.S. military credits him with killing 160 people in Iraq. Other days, it credits him with killing a bunch more people. Not that the tally matters. “The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more,” Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, writes in his new memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History...“I’m not trying to glorify myself, and if you read the book, you’ll find out that I give all the credit to all my guys. I’m not the best sniper, I’m not the best SEAL, I almost failed out of sniper school."