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MOSCOW—Every other month, retired teacher Natalya Atuchina cooks up a special pot of borscht in her home city of Omsk. A year ago, she bought the ingredients at local markets for 165 rubles ($3.20). In April, they cost nearly 247 rubles.

Ms. Atuchina’s soup is the benchmark for the “Borscht Index,” …


A Veteran of the Financial Crisis Tells China to Be Wary

About 340 pages into Henry M. Paulson’s new book on China, a sentence comes almost out of nowhere that stops readers in their tracks.

“Frankly, it’s not a question of if, but when, China’s financial system” he writes, “will face a reckoning and have to contend with a wave of credit losses and debt …


Debt Piles Up in Asia, Threatening Growth

SEOUL—Asian countries borrowed heavily to maintain growth during the financial crisis, but couldn’t break the habit even as the global economy healed. Now they are feeling the hangover.

Growth is slowing fast across the continent as consumers and businesses focus on repaying debt. Central banks have …


Tumbling Interest Rates in Europe Leaves Some Banks Owing Money on Loans to Borrowers

Tumbling interest rates in Europe have put some banks in an inconceivable position: owing money on loans to borrowers.

At least one Spanish bank, Bankinter SA, the country’s seventh-largest lender by market value, has been paying some customers interest on mortgages by deducting that amount from the …


The Real Reason Californians Can't Water Their Lawns

In response to the ongoing drought, California Governor Jerry Brown has set limits on urban water use—ordering cuts of as much as 25 percent. Cities …


Do Federal Taxes Reduce Income Inequality?

Ben Bernanke

The Real Cost of Coal

CONGRESS long ago established a basic principle governing the extraction of coal from public lands by private companies: American taxpayers should be paid fair value for it. They own the coal, after all.

Lawmakers set a royalty payment of 12.5 percent of the sale price of the coal in 1976. Forty …


U.S. Car-Making Boom? Not for Auto-Industry Workers

THREE RIVERS, Mich.—U.S. auto production is nearing all-time highs on the back of strong domestic demand and steady export increases. But American-made cars and trucks are increasingly loaded with parts imported from Mexico, China and other nations.

The U.S. imported a record $138 billion in car …


How a Strong Dollar Creates Trouble Elsewhere

In India, it is a leading electric utility, Jaiprakash Power Ventures, that having increased its debts thirtyfold in six years is now selling off facilities and negotiating with lenders to avoid a default.

In China, it is one of the country’s largest real estate developers, the Kaisa Group, …


Early Retirement in the N.F.L. and at Google, and the Paradox of Success

The news in business and sports has been filled with surprising early retirements this week. Four men stepping away from lucrative careers while in their prime show a curious paradox of success.

Patrick Pichette, the 52-year-old chief financial officer of Google, will step down once a replacement is …


Walmart’s Visible Hand

A few days ago Walmart, America’s largest employer, announced that it will raise wages for half a million workers. For many of those workers the gains will be small, but the announcement is nonetheless a very big deal, for two reasons. First, there will be spillovers: Walmart is so big that its …

Dynamic Scoring in Congress Is Defensible but Slippery

How should Congress’s economists open a can of worms? Keith Hall, the new director of the Congressional Budget Office, is likely to be grappling with that odd question very soon.

Let’s start with some background. For the last six years, Douglas Elmendorf has been the director of the C.B.O. By my …

Rising Franc Upends Daily Life in Swiss Borderlands

CAMPIONE D’ITALIA, Italy—Switzerland’s decision last month to lift the cap on the franc sent the currency flying 40% against the euro and roiled financial markets world-wide. But for Enrico Lironi, the decision hit painfully close to home.

The teacher and consultant lives in Campione d’Italia, a …


Why Cheaper Oil Doesn’t Always Lead to Economic Growth

Tumbling oil prices were supposed to boost growth in a host of major oil-importing economies. It isn’t necessarily working out that way.

Some governments have moved already to shore up their revenues by raising gasoline taxes or cutting fuel subsidies. At the same time, falling oil costs have pumped …


Bond-Buying Programs: Simple in Theory but Complex in Eurozone

FRANKFURT — The European Central Bank is widely expected to announce on Thursday that it will finally begin buying government bonds as part of a so-called quantitative easing program.

In principle, quantitative easing is simple — print money, buy bonds. The idea is to pump money into the economy, …


The Unintended Consequences of Cheap Oil

Oil prices bounce around, but energy policy is forever

Economic Lessons From Switzerland’s One-Day, 18 Percent Currency Rise

These are strange and unnerving times in global financial markets, and if Thursday’s jaw-dropping move in the Swiss currency didn’t prove it, nothing will.

It is not every day that the currency of an advanced, economically important country rises by double-digit percentages against the currencies of …


Companies Tiptoe Back Toward ‘Made in the U.S.A.’

PITTSBURGH—Thorley Industries LLC began planning several years ago to launch a baby car seat with a set of electronic controls and a potential …


Super Bowl Lodging Prices Surge in Phoenix

Hotel room rates are going to be pricey in the Phoenix area for next month’s Super Bowl, which officials say will bring 100,000 visitors to the …

Super Bowl

Closely Watched Inflation Gauge Falls to Lowest Level in 14 Years

An inflation gauge closely watched by Federal Reserve officials has fallen to the lowest level in more than 14 years, extending a decline that …


Here’s How Lack of Competition Can Hurt Consumers

Businesses are forever insisting that a little less competition won’t lead to higher prices. What’s one more merger? What’s one more barrier to entry?

A new study of the mortgage market nicely highlights just how little it can take to undermine competition to the point that it starts costing …


What a Stronger Dollar Means for the Economy

It just might be time to book that vacation in Paris you’ve been thinking about.

That is one practical conclusion to draw from a remarkable set of shifts in global currencies that started in the second half of last year and has continued in the early trading days of 2015. The seemingly inexorable …


A Big Safety Net and Strong Job Market Can Coexist. Just Ask Scandinavia.

It is a simple idea supported by both economic theory and most people’s intuition: If welfare benefits are generous and taxes high, fewer people will work. Why bother being industrious, after all, if you can get a check from the government for sitting around — and if your choice to work means that …


Oil Firms’ Predicament: Who Should Cut Output?

If the global glut of oil that has sent crude prices plunging has come largely from the U.S., why aren’t American energy companies turning off the …


Russia’s Central Bank Raises Key Rate to 17%

MOSCOW—Russia’s central bank, in a bid to stem a sharp decline of the ruble, raised its key interest rate Tuesday to 17% from 10.5%.

In a statement …


Pump Prices Prime Economy for Growth

American workers have been waiting years for a big raise. That bump is finally coming—at the gas pump.

If prices were stay at their current levels …


Falling Oil Prices Create a Central Banking Conundrum

When is good economic news a reason to worry?

When you’re a central banker fighting a slump toward deflation, or broadly falling prices, in a time that oil prices are plummeting. And that is the situation that Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, faced as he announced the …


Falling Oil Prices Spur New Bets on Global Economic Growth

Many of the world’s top policy makers are rewriting their economic forecasts for the U.S., Europe, Japan and elsewhere, betting plummeting oil prices …