As the market holds its breath, waiting for the U.S. taxpayer -- since when did we have any money? Riding to the rescue, minuscule signs of economic recovery continue to surface. Today: Hedge funds get back on the plus side, Nate Silver applies his magical mind to the economy, and rock and roll appears to be one sector that is unperturbed by the roiling economy.
*The Black Keys, a two-man band from Akron, packed Terminal 5 to the rafters on Friday and Saturday, and beer sales were unimaginably brisk. [Brooklyn Vegan]
*First came the news last week that Citadel snapped its losses at a mere six months. Now we hear that the entire hedge-fund industry eked out a 0.4 percent gain in January. Kudos to Dan Loeb of Third Point Capital, which is believed to have had a pretty hellish 2008 along with, well, just about everybody, for clearing 2.1 percent. [Bloomberg]
*Alan Patricof, the legendary venture capitalist who runs Greycroft Partners (and was instrumental in sustaining New York magazine in its early days), says the venture-capital industry, along with every other industry, must reduce its expectations, but he's bullish on the state of innovation in the U.S.: "Entrepreneurs in this country," he says, "are stronger than ever." [DealBook/NYT]
*Okay, so this isn't economic news, but if fewer Americans are dying in auto accidents, wouldn't you say that bodes well for our future as a society? [WSJ]
*You think the U.S. stock market had a tough 2008? It had nothing on the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping rates, which plunged 94 percent. That's right, 94 percent. That's what happens when people stop wanting to buy things, and the price of pretty much every imaginable commodity — grain, steel, oil, coal — evaporated. But here's the good news. The Baltic Dry index is picking itself off the mat. Slowly, tentatively; nothing to get too terribly excited about. But prices are gently rising again, suggesting the world might once again be a normal place, if not by tomorrow. [Dry Ships]
*Our beloved Nate Silver, whose political number-crunching we became addicted to during the political campaign, has turned his big brain to the economy, and offers us a modest cause for hope in a piece on the markets for Esquire. "In fact, perhaps our recent bias has led us to conclude that the situation today is worse than it actually is. Housing prices are significantly off their peaks, for instance, but have still increased by roughly 20 percent ... And we remain wealthier now than we were at almost any other point in the past ... If the good times are never as good as they seem, neither, perhaps, are the bad ones so bad." We'll take it. [Esquire]
*When a dude who publishes something called the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report suddenly busts out with a stock tip, we listen. Marc Faber, a vicious hater of the U.S. economy and all it represents, sees strength in tech giants Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle. "In a crisis like we have now the weak competitors don't have the money to carry out R&D, whereas the strong competitors have that money," said Faber. "When the crisis comes to an end, the strong competitors emerge in a relatively stronger position." [Bloomberg]