Jobs market gloom all-enveloping. December’s job figures are projected to narrow, reflecting the softening of the labour market and a weakening economy. National employment, in trend terms, is forecast to edge down to a 1.4% year-on-year growth in December, down from 1.6% in November, according to the Manpower-Melbourne Institute monthly employment report released today, two days before the official monthly employment numbers are released, which are expected to confirm the downward trend. The jobs market, crucial to keeping the domestic economy chugging along through a period of reduced activity, is seen slowing further in the new year, with annualised growth figures slated to dip again to 1.3% in January and to 1.1% in February, the report said. — BusinessDay

Honeymoon over for $A. The Australian dollar fell for a second day against the US currency as a deepening global slowdown and a decline in commodity prices tempered demand for higher-yielding assets. “The New Year’s optimism has well and truly worn off,” said Danica Hampton, currency strategist at Bank of New Zealand. The dollar declined to 67.94 US cents as of 10:56 a.m. in Sydney from 68.66 cents late in Asia yesterday. It reached 67.79 cents, the lowest level since December 24. The currency was at 60.81 yen from 61.80 yen after touching 60.44 yen, the weakest since Dec. 19. — Bloomberg

The Bush years: Worst economy ever. President Bush has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the US economy in decades, according to an analysis of key data, and economists across the ideological spectrum increasingly view his two terms as a time of little progress on the nation’s thorniest fiscal challenges. The number of jobs in the nation increased by about 2% during Bush’s tenure, the most tepid growth over any eight-year span since data collection began seven decades ago. Gross domestic product, a broad measure of economic output, grew at the slowest pace for a period of that length since the Truman administration. And Americans’ incomes grew more slowly than in any presidency since the 1960s, other than that of Bush’s father. — Washington Post

Economists need to take a good hard look at themselves. Economic policies in the US and most advanced economies are to a significant degree devised by economists. They also serve as policy advocates, and are regularly quoted in the business and political media and contribute regularly to op-ed pages. We have just witnessed them make a massive failure in diagnosis. Despite the fact that there was rampant evidence of trouble on various fronts – a housing bubble in many countries, rising levels of consumer debt, stagnant average worker wages, lack of corporate investment, a gaping US trade deficit, insanely low spreads for risky credits — the authorities took the “everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” posture until the wheels started coming off. And even when they did, the vast majority were constitutionally unable to call its trajectory. — N-ked Capitalism

Lloyds helps Iran stockpile weapons. The announcement late Friday that Lloyds bank has admitted to illegally transferring Iranian money into the US deserves more public attention. The deferred prosecution agreement is a victory for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office despite backroom foot-dragging from the US Treasury. And it’s further evidence of how deadly serious Iran is in seeking to buy parts for its missile and nuclear programs. — Wall Street Journal

The socialist shopper. Luxury shopping has become something of a disgraced activity of late. It doesn’t look good to splash £1,000 on a slouchy bag when your average plebian is coping with basic mortgage payments. Hence we’ve seen luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter offering to mail purchases in non-descript brown packaging instead of their usual glossy black be-ribboned bags. Meanwhile the wife of former Lehman-CEO Dick Fuld, we hear, has taken to emerging from her weekly Hermès shopping trips with her purchases discreetly stowed in brown paper bags. Very tricksy. In any case, savvy retailers are attempting to lift the stigma on spending by portraying it as something of a social contribution. — FT Alphaville

Macworld Chief says there’s life after Jobs. “I’m sure that Jobs’ health issues have led to the company considering how to structure itself so that not as much of the weight of management falls on him, but that may have happened five years ago when Jobs had cancer. Apple will keep doing what it’s been doing. It’s riding the wave of the iPhone’s success, especially when it comes to the third-party app store. There will be a new version of OS X this year, new Mac hardware, new iPods, possibly a new device somewhere between an iPod touch and a MacBook … in other words, it will be your typical Apple year in terms of products. But those announcements will be on Apple’s terms.” — AdvertisingAge

Peter Fray

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