Happy Friday folks-here's hoping you get a little extra time off with your families and loved ones. So what's going on?
THE ECONOMY-What a way to end to the week. If you can remember all the way back to the beginning of this week (AKA Monday), Mr. Market was nose-diving (the Dow had its’ biggest sell-off in over two months closing Monday at 9135.34) amid fears that the American consumer wouldn’t be cooperating with the “end of recession spending spree” investors hoped might occur in the last half of this year. So how did the Dow end the week? Pretty darn swell-The Dow Jones industrials shot up 155 points Friday, closing above 9,500 for the first time since Nov. 4, and all the big indexes finished with gains of more than 1.5 percent. Wow-so that crack in the Dow rally that we saw Monday got repaired pretty quickly. Bill Weir, filing for WORLD NEWS, tells us housing numbers sure helped the cause. Weir: “Low prices, low interest rates and soon-to-expire tax credits are finally luring home buyers to open their checkbooks. Existing home sales in July beat those in June by more than 7%, the biggest one-month jump in a decade.” Also helping-the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Weir: “Cautious optimism was the theme at an economic meeting in Jackson, Wyoming today where Fed Chief Ben Bernanke said ‘the prospects for a return to growth in the near term appear good.” From Mr. Bernanke, that sounds pretty darn optimistic…but as always there’s a caveat. Weir: “But with strained markets, and tight credit, (Bernanke) warned ‘the economic recovery is likely to be relatively slow at first, with unemployment declining only gradually.’ And that is the big buzz kill. Unemployment.” But why focus on the (less) good? Weir notes that “as people seize on good news, it can have a positive ripple effect.” As one woman explained “I think it will get better. We just have to be patient.” Patience-Weir noted that “of all the experts I talked to today, those may be the wisest words.”
THE PRESIDENT AND HEALTH CARE/ABC NEWS-WASHINGTON POST POLL-More ammunition out today that shows the Obama Administration losing the PR war on health-care reform. Kate Snow, filing for WORLD NEWS, tells us “today’s ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST poll finds fewer than half of Americans now support the proposed health care reforms. 50 percent are opposed.” And those opposed seem to be a much more committed crowd. Snow says that “only about a quarter of supporters feel strongly about that support. But 40% of opponents are strongly opposed.” What groups stand out in their opposition? Firstly, Kate Snow tells us: “Seniors. The AARP has lost 60-thousand members after voicing support for the President’s reform plans. Just 34% of seniors in our poll support the proposed reforms.” Secondly-political independents. Snow tells us “the drop in Obama’s approval rating for handling health care is led by a 17-point slide among independents.” David Muir asked George Stephanopoulos what the Obama White House would have to do to reverse this…..surprisingly the first part involves “patience”. Stephanopoulos: “First of all, they’re going to take a break to give the White House and the President a chance to recharge and they’re going to let this whole debate cool down before Labor Day.” Stephanopoulos further breaks it down to what needs to be done with the public and with the Congress. First the public-Steph: “They know that with the public they have to do a better job of convincing those who have health insurance that they’re going to be helped by the President’s plan and that they’re going to pay a price if it fails.” And Congress? Stephanopoulos: “They’re really focusing on unifying the Democrats behind a single plan.” Steph notes the problems there-“Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said there can’t be a bill without a public health insurance option”. Apparently not getting that memo was Pelosi’s #2, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who told reporters today “I’m for a public option but I’m also for passing a bill.” Interestingly, the President’s economic plan both helps and hurts him here-Stephanopoulos: “More Americans by a pretty wide margin think that the President’s overall economic plan is helping rather than hurting but weighed against that is a real concern about the deficit and real visceral anger about government (bailouts).”
HURRICANE BILL- Hurricane Bill is soaking Bermuda with heavy rain and causing flooding on the Atlantic island. It has winds near 105 mph and forecasters say it could intensify. On the eastern coast of the U.S., offshore waves of 20 feet or more are possible. And rip currents are expected at beaches. Sharyn Alfonsi, reporting tonight from Cape Cod for WORLD NEWS, noted “normally when we’re talking about hurricanes, we talk about the wind speed. Now what everybody is really focused on here now is the water, and just how dangerous the surf is going to be.” Danger is in the eye of the beholder-or at least those hoping to shred triple-headers would like you to believe that. Alfonsi says “they’ve been trying to keep people out of the water. Really the only people out there right now are the surfers. They don’t want (the surfers) out there tomorrow but just try keeping them away…this is one of those events they wait years for.”
AFGHAN ELECTION RESULTS-Nick Schifrin notes “Independent Electoral Commission says it has counted nearly all of the presidential ballots and it will reveal preliminary results on TUESDAY.”
FLU WARNING: The swine flu is still spreading widely across the United States and the worst is yet to come in all corners of the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s officially confirmed nearly 8,000 hospitalizations and more than 500 deaths from the H1N1 strain here in the U.S. Around the world the numbers are even higher, with almost 1,800 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization says before long the regular flu season will be upon us and many countries will see swine flu cases double every three to four days for several months before the virus runs its course. The WHO says that means governments must speed up their preparations for a quick response to the expected ‘explosion’ of cases. One segment of the world population is finding it’s not immune to the swine flu, as we hear from Lara Setrakian: “The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend, a season when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims normally travel to Saudi Arabia, to Islam's all-important city of Mecca. But this year many of the faithful are staying home, mostly kept away by a sweep of swine flu in Saudi Arabia that has infected at least 2,000 people and killed 16, as of this week. The pilgrimage is required of all Muslims at least once in life, though clerics in the conservative Wahhabi Kingdom have encouraged the young, old, and chronically ill to avoid the trip this year.They may not have needed the clerical warning. News of the infections has sent a chill through the Muslim world, with governments suggesting their people stay home.” Here in the U.S., it’s back to school time. For the millions of students heading off to college, David Kerley points out: "University students are an especially vulnerable population. Not only do they go to classes together, they eat together and live together." Those students and their schools will be getting some valuable advice, according to David: “The government has issued specific recommendations for college campuses. Universities should keep sick students in their rooms…with class notes and meals delivered. Temporary housing should be used to separate sick from healthy roommates. And if sick students must go out, they should wear surgical masks…even when they want to kiss their significant other.” In the meantime, health officials say clinical trials of the new swine flu vaccines for adults have so far raised “no red flags regarding safety.” That means researchers can be confident in beginning trials for the vaccines in children. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
BUDGET DEFICITS-The word “trillion” sure has been thrown around a lot in the past year, so you can be forgiven if you’re desensitized to hearing it at this point. But Matt Jaffe’s got some figures that made me sit up and say “WOW”. Jaffe: “Next week the Obama administration will revise its 10-year cumulative budget deficit projection to around $9.1 trillion, up from its earlier projection of $7.1 trillion, an official at the Office of Management & Budget told ABC NEWS on Friday. The $2 trillion revision, first reported by Reuters, stems from new data that showed the downturn was more severe than previously known, an administration official told Reuters.
‘The new forecasts are based on new data that reflect how severe the economic downturn was in the late fall of last year and the winter of this year,’ the official told Reuters, adding that the new projections ‘are now in line with the spring and summer projections that the Congressional Budget Office put out.’
BANK FAILURES-Regulators have shut down Guaranty Financial Group Inc., a big lender felled by losses on loans to homebuilders and borrowers, in the second-largest U.S. bank failure this year. It marked the 81st failure of a U.S. bank in 2009. Charlie Herman weighs in: “With $13 billion in assets, Guaranty appears to be the 11th largest bank to fail on record (waiting for confirmation). The FDIC expects it will cost its dwindling insurance fund $3 billion. We will learn next week how much is left in that fund when the FDIC releases its latest bank survey. As the amount left in the fund shrinks, FDIC may need to access a line of credit it has with the Treasury Department should more banks like this and last week’s Colonial continue in the weeks ahead.
CUBS SOLD-The Tribune Company has reached agreement to sell the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Park to the billionaire Ricketts family of TD Ameritrade fame. Tribune said it’s selling all but 5 percent for $845 million. Chicago investment banker Tom Ricketts led the family effort. He’s a diehard Cub fan who met his wife in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. Now if the Ricketts family can just find somebody to close out those Cub leads late in the game……