The Morning Meeting: Economy Sinks, Government & Citi, Leaving Iraq, Elie Wiesel’s Madoff Money, Newspaper Mess, Spring Break Warning, & Ford’s Hiring!

By Thomas Nagorski

Feb 27, 2009 11:33am

As if so often the case these days, we begin this morning with a number:

6.2 percent.

That’s the revised figure for the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the last quarter of 2008. The number represents the worst quarterly drop in 26 years. There are all sorts of reasons for this; as our business unit puts it, "Businesses spent less stocking their warehouses, we exported less to foreign markets hit by the global decline, and consumers didn’t spend as much on small-ticket items as originally thought."

The other big financial new: the government’s stake in Citigroup will spike, to roughly 36 percent, in an exchange for a fresh infusion of capital. Citi’s stock is getting hammered in early trading. Also, an odd and sad twist to the Bernard Madoff scandal today: It turns out that Nobel Prize winner and Nazi death camp survivor Elie Wiesel says he bought into the Madoff mystique, and lost everything. And — judging from all your comments to yesterday’s Question of the Day — there are some very strong opinions and arguments out there about the President’s budget.

Other — non-financial — news today: the Obama Administration’s plans for a drawdown in Iraq — pleasing Republicans more than Democrats; the end of a miserable week for newspapers — The Rocky Mountain News, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, and the New Haven Register are all in the news, and all for bad reasons; the State Department warns students against Spring Break travel to Mexico, in a reflection of growing concerns about drug-cartel violence there; Ford actually hires some workers in Cleveland; North Koreans get cell phones; Jews get an apology from a controversial bishop; and we’ll have our Person of the Week on the broadcast tonight.

Stay tuned…

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