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Neil Irwin
The Washington Post|washingtonpost.com

Government regulators have approved the “Volcker Rule,” which was created to prevent big banks from trading for their own benefit rather than on behalf of customers. It also bars banks from making trades merely for profit and prohibits them from owning hedge funds and private-equity funds.

Q: What is the Volcker Rule?

A: It is part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that passed in 2010 that aims to prevent giant banks from engaging in speculative trading activity.

The idea is that, while it is important for banks to support the economy by lending to consumers and businesses, when they get into the realm of making bets in exotic financial markets — known as proprietary trading — they aren’t really doing anything to support the economy. read more »


WASHINGTON — We’ll put the jobs-day caveats first because they’re bigger than usual this time: One month’s survey doesn’t tell us a whole lot about how the economy is doing, offers only a partial picture subject to major revisions, and so on and so forth.

That’s even more true than usual this month because the report was influenced by the government shutdown, both in predictable ways (federal employees who were furloughed were to count as unemployed, on a temporary layoff) and unpredictable (the survey was taken a week late).

That said, this is a good report. It eases fears that the jobs recovery had petered out or at least downshifted significantly.

On the morning of Nov. 8, the best guess of analysts was that the economy had added 138,000 jobs a month from July through October. But the October job-growth number smashed their expectations, coming in at 204,000 net new jobs (versus the 120,000 forecast). The report also revised August and September numbers up by a combined 60,000. Presto chango, the economy has added 174,000 jobs a month over that period. read more »


There is a dirty little secret about economics writing. The thing that offers the surest path to glory to front-page play for a story, to lots of Web traffic, to a pat on the back from editors is doom and gloom. When reporters can point out something that is awful, whether it is a collapsing job market or rising poverty or skyrocketing gasoline prices, the world seems a whole lot more interested in what we have to say. It’s not for nothing they call economics the dismal science.

But Americans just celebrated Thanksgiving, the day set aside each year to give thanks for what they have, to bask in the good around them. So here are the things that Americans can be grateful for in these times of economic challenge. read more »


WASHINGTON — Economic growth sped up in the summer, though not to any breakneck speed, according to a new report that reflects both the durability of the U.S. economic recovery and its sluggishness.

The Commerce Department reported Oct. 26 that the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 2 percent from July through September, up from the 1.3 percent rate posted in the second quarter and roughly in line with analysts’ forecasts. The jump was driven by gains in consumer spending, housing investment and an uptick in government spending. But the rate was dragged down, in part, by falling exports and decreasing investment in commercial buildings.

“U.S. economic growth is slow, but not slowing,” Conference Board economist Kathy Bostjancic said. read more »

Buried inside recent earning reports from restaurant chains are some lessons for where the United States is going.

What can bottomless pasta bowls and cheddar biscuits tell us about the economy? More than you might think.

Darden Restaurants, the Orlando-based company that owns the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other mid-scale restaurant chains, reported solid financial results for the quarter ended in August on earlier this week. Revenue was up almost 5 percent from a year earlier, and earnings were up 4 percent. It is not alone; other restaurant chains are also reporting solid growth.

Buried inside those numbers, and in the longer-term trends of which they are part, are some lessons for where the United States is going. The restaurant industry has been one of the bright spots of the last decade. read more »

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