ThinkFast: April 13, 2010

The Dow Jones industrial average yesterday closed above 11,000 for the first time since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008. Analysts say the milestone is a “confidence booster” and “reinforces the growing belief on Wall Street that the recovery in the economy and markets remains on track.”

In a 60-34 vote, the Senate yesterday advanced critical legislation extending critical unemployment benefits. GOP Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), and George Voinovich (OH) joined all Democrats present in voting for the bill. A final vote on the measure “could happen Tuesday, but is more likely toward the end of the week.”

The federal deficit is running significantly lower than it did last year, with the budget gap for the first half of fiscal 2010 down 8 percent over the same period a year ago,” according to senior Obama administration officials. “If the trend continues for the rest of the year, it would mean the annual deficit would be $1.3 trillion — about $300 billion less than the administration’s projection two months ago for 2010.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a radio interview yesterday that “repealing” health care reform has to be the “No. 1 priority” for Republicans. “They got everything else in the entire bureaucracy that they need to control our healthcare system … with the signing of this bill,” said Boehner.

In a meeting with President Obama yesterday, Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed “to pursue new economic sanctions against Iran, but stopped short of committing his government’s support for the additional strictures aimed at persuading Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions.” A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the U.S. and China “share the same overall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Ukraine announced yesterday that it would give up its entire stockpile of highly enriched uranium, giving President Obama “the first concrete result for a summit he convened on securing the world’s atomic material.” Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich said that most of his nation’s highly enriched uranium would be gone by the end of 2010.

Liberal activist group MoveOn has started a campaign urging Obama to choose a strong progressive to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. MoveOn says Obama should choose a justice who has “record of standing up for everyday Americans and who will oppose efforts by right-wing justices to expand the power of corporations.”

A “measure to repeal Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative,” failed to qualify for the November 2010 ballot in California. Most gay rights groups in the state did not support the ballot drive to repeal Proposition 8 this year, arguing that it was too soon to mount an effective campaign.

JP Morgan will announce its opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to help millions of troubled homeowners by reducing the principal owed on the mortgages. In testimony before Congress today, David Lowman, chief executive officer for home lending at JP Morgan, “will fight back against the program which calls for lenders and investors to decrease the outstanding debt owed on a home mortgage.”

And finally: While waiting for foreign leaders to arrive for a luncheon at his residence yesterday, Vice President Biden “told the news media waiting there for the traveling dignitaries that he’d never have anything bad to say about Dan Quayle, his often-mocked predecessor, because Quayle was responsible for the pool at the vice presidential house. ‘Gentlemen, I want to show you the Dan Quayle swimming pool,’ Biden later quipped after posing with the leaders.”

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