The Economy Today: Feeling Beige

Economic headlines from Ohio, Indiana, and elsewhere

The Federal Reserve’s latest “beige book,” a summary of economic indicators from around the country, shows “a few more glints of hope” that the economy is stabilizing, reports The New York Times. Pessimists will still find plenty of support amid the data—including continuing weakness in the labor markets—but overall, “It tells me we’re on the cusp of a very slow and gradual recovery,” says a Wells Fargo economist.

The Times also takes a look today at why, despite federal encouragement, there have been few modifications of mortgages for strapped homeowners. The answer seems to be that mortgage lenders make a lot of their money the same way credit card companies do: through late fees. The Washington Post, which reported on the loan modification story Tuesday, is back today with a story on how delinquencies and foreclosures threaten the housing markets recent fragile gains.

A pair of stories in national papers explore how the economy continues to hammer government budgets. Less than a month after lawmakers in many states hashed out spending plans for the new fiscal year, “[a]t least 10 states already are projecting new budget gaps totaling more than $3 billion, reports The Wall Street Journal. And its not just statehouses that are feeling the pain, according to USA Today. As the number of homeowners who can’t pay their property taxes has spiked, revenues in municipal coffers have plunged.

In Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch reports the latest on the federal government’s decision not to provide a $2 billion loan guarantee for a planned uranium-enrichment plant in Piketon. The company behind the project says the decision will affect nearly 2,000 employees. But the Energy Department noted that it was boosting funding for a nuclear cleanup effort at the same site, which would help add about 1,000 jobs.

The fate of a government loan is at the center of another story in the Midwest. The startup Carbon Motors announced a plan to invest hundreds of millions to renovate a shuttered plant and produce modern police cars in Connersville, Ind.; the company says the effort could create up to 10,000 jobs in the region. A local TV station takes on optimistic take on the news, while acknowledging that it could come undone if the loan doesn’t come through. But The Indianapolis Star takes a skeptical tone, noting that executives at the company “declined to discuss financing alternatives” if the loan doesn’t come through, and that the local taxpayers could be on the hook for incentives already doled out if the effort doesn’t succeed.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.