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The Power Shift from New York to Washington

Look out, New York, Washington is gaining on you. As the nation's most populous metro area feels Wall Street's pain, the fourth-biggest—Washington—is barely sensing the recession. Moody's (MCO) Economy.com estimates metro Washington's economy will actually grow 2.5% between mid-2008 and mid-2010 even as metro New York's shrinks 4.2%.

While President Barack Obama pointedly left Washington for Denver to sign the $787 billion stimulus package on Feb. 17, locals expect the D.C. metro area to garner an outsize share of the dollars. "Oversight alone will be tons of new jobs," says Jill Landsman, a spokeswoman for the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

Out-of-work bankers looking to ditch Gotham for D.C. will be dismayed to find that the top salary for an FDIC bank review examiner is about $180,000. But the pay can be a lot better at the Beltway consulting firms that are ramping up to assist the FDIC, Treasury Dept., and other agencies. Senior finance specialists at those firms can pull in "north of $200 an hour," says Andrew J. Reina, a practice director for risk consultant Ajilon Solutions. Accounting, law, engineering, consulting, and other firms employ tens of thousands of people in the area and continue to expand.

As for New York—bleak. Finance typically accounts for 32% of the metro region's output. Job cuts and pay limits will crimp sales of everything from condos to cars. Says Marisa Di Natale of Economy.com: "New York, we think, is going to have a pretty severe recession."

See the full text of the story: "While New York Bleeds, Washington Thrives"

Floating an Oil Bet

Oil production may be falling worldwide, but supertanker companies are seeing a rise in demand for their services. Why? Oil traders betting on the "contango" have resorted to renting the giant vessels as floating storage tanks. Contango is an industry term for the belief that oil prices will rise more in the far future than in the near term. So a trader might buy a futures contract at the March 2009 price of $34.57, along with a contract to sell the oil in March 2010 for $48.78, thereby locking in a tidy profit. But there's a catch: Traders must take possession of the oil. With onshore storage units brimming, they have been turning to supertankers. About 80 million barrels of oil—equal to about a day's global demand—are currently at sea in contango plays.

Government's Bailout Moves Bust Investor Trust

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke are going to have a hard time living this one down: A new survey finds that the government's interventions in the financial markets in 2008 made people less confident in investing in the stock market, not more. Fully 80% of the 1,000 households taking part in the late-December poll said the government's actions reduced their investing confidence. Paola Sapienza, a professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a co-designer of the survey, blames the "erratic" nature of the government's response for destroying confidence. Sapienza and Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business are launching a Financial Trust Index that will track investor trust on a quarterly basis.

What Doesn't Happen in Las Vegas

It's snake eyes for Las Vegas: With consumers on the ropes, Sin City had looked to business meetings to pick up some of the slack. But some companies are steering clear of the place rather than risk being caught footing the tab for hedonistic junkets for their clients and employees. On Feb. 9, Goldman Sachs (GS) announced it was moving a corporate event to San Francisco; Wells Fargo (WFC) canceled one of its gatherings a week earlier. Both banks have been recipients of government bailout funds. Conventions generated $8.5 billion in economic activity for the city in 2008 and support 46,000 jobs, says the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. But in December, the number of corporate meetings was down 16.7% from a year earlier. To stem the slide, Vegas plans to launch a new ad campaign targeting executives by the end of February. "Companies are moving to cities that are perceived better but are more expensive for no reason other than Las Vegas is viewed as overindulgent or frivolous," says Andrew Pascal, president of the Wynn Las Vegas casino resort. "It doesn't make business sense."


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