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Here are some of the numbers that are shaping the world this week… and why they matter to you:
$42 billion in net income was reported by all U.S. banks in the second quarter of 2013. This is the second consecutive earnings record posted.
34% is the increase in profit margin Wal-Mart is thought to derive from keeping employee wages at an average of $8.81 per hour. This is, in effect, a tremendous taxpayer subsidy, as full-time employees are pushed toward public assistance to make up for the shortfall. The White House estimates that underpaid Wal-Mart employees cost the taxpayers $5,815 per employee per year of employment. The "Wal-Mart Syndrome" has produced a very real drag effect on the economy, as disposable income dries up on a massive scale.
7,000% represents the increase, over the last five years, in access to emails, phone calls, and Skype conversations reported internally by the U.K.'s biggest spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters. The amount of material being analyzed and processed has increased by 3,000% over the same time. These revelations come from materials "stolen" by National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden. The GCHQ is thought to spy on Americans' private communications in order to allow the U.S. NSA to deny that they are spying on Americans. The GCHQ, the NSA, and intelligence services in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand freely share collected information with one another. With friends like these, our Bill Patalon wonders what bona fide could enemies do?
40% is, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, the percentage of America's highest-paid CEOs who eventually ended up being fired, paying fines, or accepting government bailout money. The Institute went on to say that executives for the largest companies made about 350 times as much pay as the average worker in 2012. That's an average of $7,000 per hour. On the other hand, as Money Morning tech specialist Michael Robinson has reported, there are plenty of CEOs who are conduits to investor profits.
$46,000 is the theoretical price of one ounce of gold if all U.S. debt were required to be backed by gold. $7,931 is the theoretical price of one ounce of gold if merely the entire U.S. money supply were required to be backed by gold. But gold price jumps are far from only theoretical.
90 is the number of days that Chinese developer Broad Sustainable Buildings says it will need to complete the world's tallest building, to be called Sky City – a 2,750-foot, super-tall skyscraper using their patented pre-fab process. The cost is projected to come in at $628 million. In December 2012, Broad constructed a proof-of-concept 30-story hotel, completely furnished, in just 15 days, or 360 hours. In comparison, Dubai's 2,722 Burj Khalifa, the world's current tallest building, took about 2,200 days and $1.5 billion. Some say that China is building immense ghost cities in a failed bid to boost GDP. But the truth is that China is playing a very, very long game – and the China-shorters don't want you to know.
47 days remain until October 15, 2013, when the United States is forecast to hit its "debt ceiling" and will be forced to suspend debt service unless a bargain is struck. For most of the United States' existence, the debt ceiling vote was considered a mere formality, and not raising it was rarely, if ever, considered. In recent years, politicians have shown a great willingness to walk the country up to the brink of default for political gain. The possible impact of a United States default on payments is thought to be catastrophic to the global economy. Besides, the U.S. debt may be at a tipping point already.
3.5% is the proposed sales tax sought by the city of Denver, CO, on newly legal recreational marijuana. This is on top of an existing 25% excise tax on the drug. The proposed sales tax is being put to Denver voters on a citywide ballot in November. The modest tax, if approved, is expected to bring in an additional $3.4 million in revenue for Denver, which will go toward law enforcement and public health programs. Statewide, Colorado expects, conservatively, revenue hikes of around $650 million from legal, recreational marijuana. And there's upside for investors, too.
390,000 represents the total number of repossessed homes that were kept off the REO markets in 2012. Fanny Mae owns the largest chunk of that, or 114,000 homes. Just 39,000, 10% of the total number of homes in REO inventory, were listed for sale, with the remaining 90% of inventory withheld to keep home prices from crashing. But, consumer advocacy group America's Watchdog warned that if all REO properties were suddenly released to the markets, we would see bank failures and a 20% nosedive in home prices. This would contribute to a recession. On the other hand, a continued tight housing supply could prolong the housing slump. Money MorningCapital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani called the nature of the recovery into question just the other day. Here's how it went down.
180 is the number of minutes trading on the NASDAQ was frozen late last week. Officials say the outage was triggered by a "bug" in software that caused communications problems between the ARCA exchange and the NASDAQ system. The problem led to a processor overload and eventually halted all trade on the $4.5 trillion exchange. But there's more here than a simple bug. Shah Gilani explains why you shouldn't take their explanations at face value.