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9% of working-age people on Earth were unemployed, at least as of 2012. This number represents underemployment and unemployment in non-industrialized countries, as well. Things are tough all over, it seems, and not just in the United States.
1,426 billionaires are residing on the planet at the moment, with a combined net worth of $5.4 trillion, give or take, which is greater than the nominal GDP of every country on Earth, save for Japan, China, and the United States. This group accounts for just 0.000020050618672665916% of the world's population. These billionaires are 66 years old, on average. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, is the youngest billionaire alive – just 28 years old – while investor Walter Haefner is the oldest at 101. The United States hosts the most billionaires, at 442, while China and Russia host 122 and 110, respectively. Documents leaked to The Guardian earlier this summer suggest that at least a few of these folks might be taking elaborate steps to hide their cash.
15,676.94 was the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing high on Sept. 18. That's a record. The rally, which swept across all the major indices and most asset classes, was spurred by Ben Bernanke's surprise announcement that there will be no tapering of quantitative easing (QE) in the immediate future. Analysts had expected the Fed to announce a $10 to $15 billion cutback in the $85 billion worth of monthly bond purchases. The Fed is shooting for a 0% short-term interest rate and 6.5% unemployment. How they'll get there at this rate is anyone's guess, but Keith Fitz-Gerald called out Bernanke a long time ago.
2038 is the year that the Congressional Budget Office predicts that federal debt held by the public will hit 100% of gross domestic product (GDP). Spending is projected to hit 26.2% of the GDP at that time, up from its current 21%. This comes as spending on basic government – defense, schools, criminal justice, and other programs – hits its lowest level since the Great Depression when measured against the size of the economy. One suggestion for keeping Social Security solvent is the imposition of an immediate and permanent 3.4% payroll tax increase. Nevertheless, the deficit is projected to bottom out at $378 billion by 2015 – provided this year's spending cuts and tax increases remain in place. Of course, Money Morning has been looking for a debt tipping point for a while now.
11 states in the Union have college administrators, such as deans, presidents, and department chairpersons, as their highest-paid public employees, all in the respective state university systems. The other 39 states sport sports coaches as their highest-paid public employees. 27 of these coaches oversee football programs, 11 run men's basketball programs, and one runs a women's basketball program. With all this money going into what is essentially entertainment, there's little wonder that college in the United States is a forlorn hope.
$47 represents the increase in median household income from 2011 to 2012. This is essentially flat. The harder we work, the less we make, the less we make, the harder we work… The U.S. median household income now stands at $51,324. This is the first time since 2007 that the figure has not declined. Median incomes increased significantly in Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Oregon, while Missouri and Virginia saw 2% declines in median income. All this has been keeping Bill Patalon up at night…
78 represents the number of times Congress has raised the debt ceiling since 1960. 49 of those increases occurred during Republican administration, and 29 under Democratic administrations. The United States actually hit its $16.7 trillion borrowing ceiling back in May of 2013, but Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has thus far managed to delay the day when the United States will no longer meet its payment obligations. Money Morning's Garrett Baldwin explains what will happen if a deal can't be reached this time, as both parties have vowed no negotiation.
53% represents the decline in short-selling activity in 2013. Several famous hedge fund managers, such as Bill Ackman and David Einhorn, have had their other gains neutralized or reversed from losses on $1 billion short positions. In fact, the five most shorted stocks in the world have all experienced triple-digit gains this year; the very "worst" performer on the list is up nearly 204% as of last week. For a look at the best, easiest ways to short the market, and why all the supposedly smart short-sellers lost their shirts, click here.
1.75 billion years is the earliest date that British researchers believe the Earth will become uninhabitable. Some other estimates put the, err, deadline at 3.25 billion years hence. After that time, our Sun will have enlarged to the point where Earth lies in its "hot zone," and its great oceans will begin to boil off. Talk about a housing crisis! Assuming humanity has survived all natural disasters, misadventure, and general stupidity in the interim, our descendants will want to think about shoving off at that time – assuming they haven't already. There might be a few likely candidates among the nearly 1,000 exoplanets outside of our solar system that present-day scientists have observed so far. In the short term, however, Money Morning has found seven good reasons to be optimistic about our housing situation. It will be worth sticking around to find out whether or not Bank of America, JPMorgan, and Citigroup will be even bigger and more out of control in 2 billion years.
8,133.5 metric tons constitutes the United States' gold reserves, while more than 70% of its foreign currency reserves are in gold, all as of June 2013. This makes the United States the world's largest holder of gold reserves, according to the World Gold Council. Germany, with 3,390.6 metric tons of gold, is the world's second-largest holder. The Republic of Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula, holds just 1.6 metric tons in reserve. The largest stash of privately held gold belongs to SPDR Gold Shares, which holds 1,239 metric tons of the yellow metal – slightly more than China's reserves, and significantly less than France's.