2014 WSB Care-a-Thon Your support moves us closer to a future free of childhood cancers and blood disorders.

Daily News Briefing: Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Published by: Clark Barrow

Clark Barrow

DAILY BRIEFING - SUMMARY

  • UNEMPLOYMENT - The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits declined by 14,000 last week to 374,000, the lowest level in six weeks. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 388,000 from an originally reported 386,000, according to U.S. Labor Department data.
  • RENTING - Renting an apartment in the U.S. became even more expensive during the second quarter, as vacancies set a new 10-year low and rents rose at a pace not seen since before the financial crisis, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc.
  • FAST & FURIOUS - Less than one week after the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding additional information from the Justice Department regarding the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation.
  • WHITE HOUSE - President Obama will announce a World Trade Organization suit against China on Thursday during a campaign appearance in Toledo. The suit will attack duties China imposed earlier this year on U.S. auto imports. Obama and the United States argue the duties violate international trade rules.
  • IRAN - Iran declared Wednesday that it can destroy nearby U.S. military bases and strike Israel within minutes of an attack on the Islamic Republic, reflecting tensions over Iran's suspect nuclear program.
  • PAKISTAN - Pakistan’s decision to end a seven-month blockade of NATO troop supplies was a rare bright spot in relations with the United States, but disagreements over other key issues still hamper a relationship vital to stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan.
  • NORTH KOREA - The U.S. State Department is investigating the shipment of computers and other sophisticated equipment to North Korea and Iran by way of an obscure United Nations agency, despite ongoing U.N. and U.S. sanctions against both governments aimed at blocking their development of nuclear weapons.

WHAT WE KNOW

ECONOMIC NEWS
  • UNEMPLOYMENT - The number of Americans who filed requests for jobless benefits declined by 14,000 last week to 374,000, the lowest level in six weeks. Claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 388,000 from an originally reported 386,000, according to U.S. Labor Department data.
    • Continuing claims rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.31 million in the week ended June 23, the Labor Department said. Continuing claims are reported with a one-week lag. About 5.87 million people received some kind of state or federal benefit in the week ended June 16, down 20,439 from the prior week.
  • RENTING - Renting an apartment in the U.S. became even more expensive during the second quarter, as vacancies set a new 10-year low and rents rose at a pace not seen since before the financial crisis, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc.
    • The average U.S. vacancy rate of 4.7 percent was the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2001, down 0.2 percentage points from the prior quarter, according to preliminary data Reis released on Thursday.
    • Asking rents jumped to $1,091 per month, 1 percent higher than the first quarter and the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2007. Excluding special perks designed to lure tenants, like months of free rent, the average effective rent rose 1.3 percent to $1,041.
  • Thursday morning futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 27 points at 12,894.
  • Thursday morning futures on the S&P 500 added 4.1 points at 1,372.
  • Thursday morning futures on the Nasdaq 100 ticked up 7.5 points to 2,649.
COMMODITIES
  • The U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.33.
    • When President Obama was inaugurated, in January 2009, the U.S. national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.85. Average gasoline prices are currently 80 percent higher than they were when Mr. Obama became president.
  • Crude oil futures for August delivery advanced $1.04 to end at $88.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
  • Gold futures for August delivery advanced $1.00 to end the day at $1,623 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
NEWS TO WATCH
  • PROTESTORS – The Occupy Wall Street protests continue around the world, now in their 288th day.
  • FAST & FURIOUS - Less than one week after the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding additional information from the Justice Department regarding the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation.
    • On Tuesday, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary committee, sent a letter to Holder questioning who within the Justice Department knew of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum reportedly circulated one day prior to the DOJ denying allegations of sanctioned “gunwalking” to lawmakers.
    • Grassley alleges that his investigators contacted an ATF special agent on February 2, 2011, who confirmed information provided by other ATF whistleblowers. The next day, that agent produced a memo documenting this discussion, which reportedly traveled through ATF’s chain of command.
  • WHITE HOUSE - President Obama will announce a World Trade Organization suit against China on Thursday during a campaign appearance in Toledo. The suit will attack duties China imposed earlier this year on U.S. auto imports. Obama and the United States argue the duties violate international trade rules.
    • China imposed duties on U.S. autos because it argued Chrysler and General Motors vehicles were subsidized by the United States as a result of the bailout effort backed by Obama.
    • President Obama hits the road Thursday for his first 2012 campaign bus tour, an economy-focused, two-day swing through battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania. His aides hope the tour will highlight the contrast for Rust Belt voters between the incumbent Democrat and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE
  • In the morning, President Obama will depart White House and travel to Toledo, Ohio.
  • During the day, the president will hold several events in Ohio.
  • In the morning, the president will hold a "Betting on Maumee Grassroots Event" in Maumee, Ohio.
  • In the afternoon, the president will hold a "Betting on Sandusky Ice Cream Social" in Sandusky, Ohio.
  • In the evening, the president will hold a "Betting on Parma Grassroots Event" in Parma, Ohio.
  • The president will remain overnight in Ohio.

HAPPENING IN THE U.S. CONGRESS

U.S. SENATE
  • The U.S. Senate is not in session today.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • The U.S. House is in session today.

FOREIGN POLICY

MIDDLE EAST
  • SYRIA - The officer commanding United Nations monitors in Syria said on Thursday that violence there has reached "unprecedented" levels, making it impossible for his unarmed observers to resume their mission, which was suspended last month.
    • But President Bashar al-Assad gave no indication that he was planning to ease the 16-month-old crackdown on his country's revolt, saying in a newspaper interview published in Turkey that he would maintain what he called "the fight against terrorism," news reports said.
    • In mid-June, the United Nations said it was suspending its observer mission in Syria mission because of the escalating violence after its monitors were routinely blocked or attacked as they sought to approach the scenes of fighting.
  • IRAN - Iran declared Wednesday that it can destroy nearby U.S. military bases and strike Israel within minutes of an attack on the Islamic Republic, reflecting tensions over Iran's suspect nuclear program.
    • The veiled threat came during a military drill that has included the firing of ballistic missiles. The elite Revolutionary Guards, conducting the war games in Iran's central desert, said that the missiles were aimed at mock-ups of foreign military bases.
    • Israel and the U.S. have hinted at the possibility of military strikes against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy do not rein in Iran's nuclear development program. The West suspects Iran may be aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.
  • IRAN - The European Union said it will hold further talks with Iran on the country's nuclear program, following a one-day technical-level meeting between the international community and Tehran in Istanbul.
    • No date has been set yet for the talks, which will be between Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, and his EU counterpart, Helga Schmid, the EU said Wednesday. An EU official said they expect a time to be agreed in the coming days.
    • At Tuesday's Istanbul talks, the two sides shared details of their proposals for resolving the nuclear standoff, "and the experts explored positions on a number of technical subjects," EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
    • The Istanbul meeting, which ran into Wednesday's early hours, had been called after high-level talks in Moscow last month between Iran and the P5+1—the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany—failed to produce a breakthrough.
ASIA
  • PAKISTAN - Pakistan’s decision to end a seven-month blockade of NATO troop supplies was a rare bright spot in relations with the United States, but disagreements over other key issues still hamper a relationship vital to stabilizing neighboring Afghanistan.
    • Even before Pakistan shut down the supply line in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 of its troops, the relationship was plagued by anger and mistrust. Islamabad was livid with the unilateral U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011 and a CIA contractor who shot to death two Pakistanis a few months earlier.
    • The deadlock over NATO supplies ended Tuesday when the United States apologized for the deaths of the Pakistani troops and Islamabad agreed to reopen the route.
  • NORTH KOREA - The U.S. State Department is investigating the shipment of computers and other sophisticated equipment to North Korea and Iran by way of an obscure United Nations agency, despite ongoing U.N. and U.S. sanctions against both governments aimed at blocking their development of nuclear weapons.
    • The broadening inquiry raises new concerns about the ways in which U.N. agencies have managed to side-step restrictions that the world body expects the rest of the world to obey in halting the spread of sensitive technologies to nuclear-ambitious pariah regimes.
    • The shipments took place in late 2011 or early 2012, and were financed through the Beijing offices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).