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John F. Nash Jr., Mathematician Whose Life Story Inspired ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ Dies at 86

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed in a car …


What Should a Currency Be Worth? No One Knows

Legislation that targets currency manipulation might make or break U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature Pacific trade deal. But calling out offenders for currency transgressions is far from a clear-cut exercise.

U.S. lawmakers, companies and unions are trying to use pending trade legislation to …

World Politics

Senate Democrats vote to block Obama on trade - The Washington Post

President Obama collided with his own party Tuesday when Senate Democrats stalled consideration of a trade measure that would give the administration greater authority to negotiate more freely with other countries.

The Senate vote was a sharp blow to the president’s efforts to win approval for a new …

Senate Democrats

Chicago Fed Says Natural Jobless Rate At Or Under 5%, Will Fall Further Over Time

NEW YORK—Economists at the Chicago Fed argue in a new paper the U.S. economy remains even farther from a truly hot labor market than many central bankers think.

The economy’s so-called natural unemployment rate likely lies at or below 5%, and it will go even lower over time, the analysts say in a …

Jobless Rate

Unless You Are Spock, Irrelevant Things Matter in Economic Behavior

Early in my teaching career I managed to get most of the students in my class mad at me. A midterm exam caused the problem.

I wanted the exam to sort out the stars, the average Joes and the duds, so it had to be hard and have a wide dispersion of scores. I succeeded in writing such an exam, but when …


Russia’s Beloved Borscht Reveals Reality of Inflation - WSJ

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 - WSJ

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 …

World Economy

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 Fed Is ‘Groping’ to Find the Full Employment Rate

Full employment is the point at which joblessness has fallen as low as it can go without fueling inflation pressures. It’s a point that changes over time as the economy evolves and can be hard to identify.

“It’s even more complicated than it was before,” Mr. Bernanke said in a question-and-answer …

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 Rising Dollar Is Creating Trouble for Emerging Economies

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

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


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

Cheaper oil is good for the economy—it's basically the equivalent of a tax cut. Unless it's bad for the economy, which can be the case if falling …


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 …