China ratings agency rattles cages of Western rivals – China’s homegrown credit ratings agency Dagong has made a name for itself this year by hitting out at its Western rivals, but analysts say it will be hard-pressed to win the trust of foreign investors. Since July, Dagong has given the United States and 17 other nations lower marks than they received from Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, and said the big three caused the financial crisis by failing to properly disclose risk. Chairman Guan Jianzhong, a paid adviser to China’s government, insists his agency is fully independent — and stands by his tough talk about his rivals, whose ratings affect interest rates at which states and companies can borrow. Dagong Global Credit Rating Co.’s Western competitors "neglect two fundamental principles — knowing whether the country in question has money, and if that money can generate value", Guan told AFP in an interview.

Does Unemployment Lead to Less Healthy Diets? – A new National Bureau of Economic Research  paper suggests that increases in unemployment lead to a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption, with potentially long-lived effects on workers’ health. “Among those who are predicted to be at the highest risk of unemployment, a one percentage point increase in the resident’s state unemployment rate is associated with a 2% to 4% reduction in the frequency of fruits and vegetable consumption, and an 8% reduction in the consumption of salad,” The research relies on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey in which 350,000 Americans are interviewed each year, and compares communities with different unemployment rates between 1990 and 2007, before the last recession began. “Since December of 2007,” they note, “the national unemployment rate doubled from 5% to 10% over the following two years.” The economists say this implies that the frequency of fruit and vegetable consumption would decline by between 10% and 20%, all else equal, among “the most vulnerable populations such as low-educated individuals.”

Ebb of stimulus funding could hit Texas workers hard – The federal stimulus payments that helped thousands of Texas workers ride out the recession will ebb next year, just as state legislators are likely to enact cuts that could hurt government workers and others who rely on public spending.  The Recovery Act has sent about $16.5 billion to Texas state agencies since 2009. The biggest impact has been on public education, where more than 27,000 jobs were supported by stimulus funds between July and September 2010, according to the Texas Education Agency.  Some employers are warning that a new burst of layoffs is coming because states can’t, or won’t, make up for the stimulus. Texas highway contractors are already cutting workers as new contract bids decline. And the state would cut 550 child-protective workers if the Legislature doesn’t replace $23 million in stimulus funds that has paid their wages and other expenses

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick prepares $1.5 billion in cuts to balance budget – As he considers ways to close a deficit in next year’s budget, Gov. Deval L. Patrick says that “everything is on the table,” including possible further cuts in state aid to cities and towns.  Patrick said he wouldn’t comment on whether he will propose a reduction in local aid. He said he recognizes that the financial assistance is important for maintaining municipal services and that any possible cuts would be balanced with measures to save money for cities and towns.  “At a time where total spending in the budget will be lower next year than it is in the current fiscal year, of necessity, everything is on the table,” Patrick said. Patrick is facing a shortfall of up to $2 billion in the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, largely because federal stimulus money is no longer available and huge costs such as pensions, health care for state employees and Medicaid continue to rise. Patrick said he would reduce spending in the next fiscal year by $1.5 billion to help balance the budget.

Copper Jumps to Record as China Stockpiles Drop, Demand Outpaces SuppliesCopper futures rose to a record as inventories declined in China, the world’s largest user, bolstering speculation that demand will outpace supply.  Stockpiles monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell 5.8 percent last week, the biggest drop in almost three months. As of Sept. 30, global consumption exceeded output by 436,000 metric tons this year, the International Copper Study Group said last week. That compares with a deficit of 56,000 tons in the same period last year, the group said.  “Demand is pushing new highs while supply remains reasonably tight,” said Tim Parker, who manages $7.5 billion at T. Rowe Price Group Inc.’s New Era Fund in Baltimore. “There are only days of supply in inventories, and there’s so little new copper coming into the market.”

Soybeans, Corn Advance to 28-Month Highs on Argentina’s Weather Concerns –  Soybeans and corn rose to 28-month highs as hot, dry weather threaten crops in Argentina, the world’s biggest shipper of animal feed and cooking oil made from the oilseed.  Hot, dry weather in the next 10 days will increase stress on developing soybean and corn crops in southern Argentina, especially plants already reproducing, World Weather Inc. said today in a report. A lack of rain in southern Brazil may threaten some crops, while too much precipitation may increase disease in northern fields, the private forecaster said.  “The threat of lower production in Argentina has increased buying in soybeans and tempered selling in the corn market,” . “The concern is that dryness may expand into Brazil.”


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