Friday evening when no one was supposed to pay attention, Google announced that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt would sell 3.2 million of his shares in 2013, after having already sold 1.8 million in 2012—suddenly dumping 53% of his Google shares, though he’d sold practically nothing from 2008 through 2011. And Google’s reasons don’t make sense.
The preannouncement came Thursday evening: PSA Peugeot Citroën, France’s largest automaker, would have a write-down of €4.7 billion. On top of a hefty operating loss. It would be colossal. An all-time record. Rumors spread immediately that PSA would need a bailout. The second in four months.
Despite optimism-mongering in the media, in certain quarters of Washington, and elsewhere, we’ve had indication after indication in the economic data that American workers have not benefited from whatever lousy progress has been made in nudging up GDP. But now we know from the horse’s mouth: they’re mired in a tough new reality that is getting worse.
Tuesday morning, the 168 remaining employees of DMI in Vaux, a tiny town near Montluçon in the Department of Allier, smack-dab in the middle of France, rigged about ten gas cylinders throughout the factory they’d been occupying and threatened to blow it up—unless their demands were met. Another day in the decline of the private sector à la Française.
The drumbeat of layoffs and plant closures has been riling up desperate workers who have little hope of finding a job elsewhere, with unemployment at 10.5%. But now the Socialist government, worried about a “radicalization” of these angry workers, has instructed police intelligence services to keep an eye on them. Not exactly one of the campaign promises.
It should have been an exciting event for Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy: a tête-à-tête with German Chancellor Merkel. Afterwards, he’d stand next to her, illuminated by her glory. He’d brag about implementing structural reforms, cleaning up banks, and moving Spain forward. She’d endorse him with her benevolent smile. Instead, it was a slugfest about corruption.
By now we should have gotten used to the odor emanating from banks—bailouts, money laundering, Libor rate-rigging, the other misdeeds. But in Europe over the last few days, it was particularly dense. “In this uncertain world, I cannot exclude anything,” said Deutsche Bank co-CEO reassuringly.
The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health just slammed Chevron with massive, record-breaking penalties related to the refinery in Richmond—the one that ended up in a fireball last August and caused 15,000 people to seek medical treatment. Purpose: to teach the mega-company an excruciatingly painful lesson. Alas….
Ugly unemployment numbers are politically inconvenient in democracies. Red-faced politicians have to come up with excuses. Elections are lost over them. So, countries use inscrutable statistical systems to make unemployment look better. But France also has an administrative tool: removing tens of thousands of people every month from the unemployment rolls for spurious reasons.
China has tried over the years to come to grips with its pandemic pollution, yet in Beijing, through a combination of factors, it reached catastrophic levels in mid-January and set another record. Result of the white-hot pace of economic growth. And of coal consumption: this year, China is set to burn more coal than the rest of the world combined!