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Banks Loosen White Collar a Bit

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 18


Banks not quite giving away money, but survey shows they're being less strict.

According to Chicago-based Northern Trust (NTRS), business credit is getting a bit easier to grab on to. A recent Senior Loans Officer Survey shows that underwriting standards for loans are loosening up under the collar. Commercial and industrial loans to large firms were easier to come by in July than in April and an about-face from 2008 Q4’s tight-lipped discussions. The net percentage of banks that were stringent about the terms of their loans decreased from 40% in April to 30% in July. In last year’s fourth quarter, it was 80%. The cost of borrowing also dropped. (An example of a stricter parameter is increased premiums on loans). Results are based on responses from 55 domestic banks and 23 U.S. branches and agencies from foreign banks according to the Federal Reserve Board. Banks say demand for loans is still weak but fewer banks tightened their standards on prime residential real estate loans by 55% from a year ago.

Optimistic Indicators from the Business(Week) Community

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 14

We're almost two years deep into the recession. The worst economic downturn since the 1930s. More than 14 million unemployed. Trillions in market equity evaporated. Insecurity about our position in the global economy. Doubts about innovation. IT security. Education. Insurance. Manufacturing. Energy. Wall Street. Government. Whew.

With all the elements that go into growing an economy or a business, there's a lot of information to digest. As we are seeing from the health care town halls, what we take from that information doesn’t always align smoothly with the opinion of our friends, family or colleagues. Friction causes heat and that's OK. Americans have expressed an ample dose of skepticism since George Washington signed on for a second term and spurred some citizens to shout: "Monarch!"

As it was with Washington in ’93, the future of America’s economy is up for debate in ’09. BusinessWeek’s community is as good a place as any to delve into the disparate thoughts on where our economy is headed. There are the pessimists -- Sue writes, "So much for democracy. Bye bye middle class." There are the skeptics -- Dougalmac predicts "the fiscal future of the country looks questionable at best." There are the conspiracy theorists -- More Koolaid From The U.S. Labor Department (what a perfect blend of form/function) writes, "This is going to be just like 1984! The worse it gets, the more the government and the media will make you believe things have improved."

That’s a bold claim, especially in light of a nascent housing rebound, slowing job losses, increased consumption and renewed, if spotty, employer confidence. But, for Koolaid and others tired of hearing only from the media, HERE'S A SLIDE SHOW with 13 entrepreneurs and business owners from across the country that might make you think things are improving. To contribute your own thoughts -- positive, negative, lagging, leading -- comment below. You can also check out what business leaders have to say.

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More Manufacturing Shipments Hit America's Ports in July

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 13

July saw a 7% increase in the number of global manufacturers shipping to American ports according to U.S. Customs Data compiled by Panjiva, a tracker and profiler of foreign businesses. 140,000 businesses sent their goods to the states – 10,000 more than in June. The number, which may help draw a picture of America’s activity in global trade, does not account for plane or truck shipments, or the delivery of e-commerce goods like software.

International shipments to ports have been on the rise since bottoming out in February at 120,000, the lowest since Panjiva started tracking in July 2007. The New York-based company sources U.S. Customs Data for daily information on imports. Despite the increase in shipments, there's no cause for trade-deficit concerns as Mike Mandel points out. Panjiva profiles 700,000 companies across 190 countries in the attempt to provide American companies doing business abroad with background info about their partners.

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Non-Oil Trade Deficit Decreasing

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 12

On his Economics Unbound blog, BusinessWeek chief economist Mike Mandel writes about America's evaporating non-petroleum trade deficit. Check it out, and see the numbers.

High-Voltage Future for Hard-Hit Indiana Town

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 12

200121599-001.jpg By Diana Holden
Last week, Barack Obama made his second journey as president to Elkhart, (Ind.) to win support for his economic initiatives. Elkhart County, located in my home state, has a 16.8% unemployment rate because many jobs are tied to the recreational vehicle industry. Last summer’s spike in gas prices and the current recession have severely damaged the sector. RV shipments for the first half of 2009 were down 55% from 2008 according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. It can be hard to find the positives in an area that is bleeding jobs, but Jerry Conover, Director of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University in Bloomington, sees strong spots in the local economy.

During President Obama’s trip, he visited the Navistar International Corp. factory, pledging $39 million to help the company produce electric trucks. Conover thinks “green” jobs like this are a bright spot in the area’s future, especially if they can employ many of the city’s idle auto workers. In all, Obama has pledged $2.4 billion in stimulus money to create batteries and electric vehicles and much of that money is focused on Midwest states like Indiana and Michigan. Purdue University in West Lafayette will receive a $6.1 million grant to establish educational and training programs for people to design, manufacture, and maintain electric vehicles.

Conover says that other industries continue to look strong in the Midwest, such as agriculture and life sciences. A recent Indiana Business Research Center study says that 23% of new jobs in Indiana between 2001 and 2007 were life sciences jobs, including pharmaceutical research and development, medical equipment manufacturing, and biomedical engineering. “These are high-paying jobs,” Conover says. The life sciences industry accounts for a fifth of Indiana’s manufacturing output.

If Obama comes back to Elkhart in a year, Conover hopes that he finds people employed in jobs that the president helped create. “There’s a lot of interest in the Midwest in tapping into paths that look a little brighter than the ones we’ve been down,” he says. “I think that’s a cause for optimism.”

Recent Posts

Cleveland Businesses Save Money By Practicing Sustainability

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 11

By Emily Schmitt Recently, I reported on a story about Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S). The Cleveland (Ohio) nonprofit teaches its 7,000 members, mostly local entrepreneurs and small-business owners, to...

Two Optimism Indexes Show Gains; BusinessWeek/YouGov's Hits 50

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 10

A couple of optimism indexes were up recently including BusinessWeek/YouGov’s Optimism Index, which tipped 50 for the first time in its five-month history. While it dropped back down to...

A Mosaic of Optimistic Economic Indicators

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 07

Let’s start from the top and move down. Nonfarm payroll fell 247,000 last month – the loss of workers hasn’t been so small since August 2008. Unemployment, now at...

Whole Foods and New York Investment Firms Smile

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 06

This is the first week I've felt truly optimistic about the American economy. I generally am optimistic, but it's a general je ne sais quoi that is nothing to write...

Recession Ending, Canadian Economist Says

Posted by: Joe Weber on August 05

“Home sales have risen for three straight months in the U.S., led by previously hard-hit states like California and Arizona. Home prices have likely bottomed, with the Case-Shiller index posting its first monthly increase in three years. This could unleash a wave of pent-up demand for homes.”

America's Economic Recovery: The Main Event in BW's Debate Room

Posted by: Greg T. Spielberg on August 03

It’s likely we’ll debate the end date of the recession until America’s downturn has come and gone. The official designation – “recession” – is a lagging indicator anyway, declared...



BusinessWeek’s Joe Weber, Patricia O'Connell, Michelle Conlin, Frederik Balfour, Peter Coy, Greg Spielberg and Roger Crockett examine The Case for Optimism by looking past the financial turmoil and economic unrest gripping the globe to focus on the promising future that lies on the other side of this storm. We’ll chronicle the forward thinkers investing in R&D, launching promising new products, entering new markets, or implementing management and leadership.

See why BusinessWeek Editor-In-Chief Stephen J. Adler is optimistic about the economy amid the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.

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Upbeat about America's future? Join our conversation on Twitter by adding #bizoptimism to your tweets and get featured here. 

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