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    Chicago PMI rose in July to the highest level since January, suggesting a pickup in business during the summer. MNI Indicators said the index climbed to 54.7 points in July from 49.4 in June. This is the last of the regional manufacturing gauges before the release of the national Institute for Supply Management poll on Monday.

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    The dollar added to earlier losses on Friday as a U.S. government index on employment cost rose less than forecast, paring bets the Federal Reserve may interest rates later this year. The dollar index that gauges the greenback's value against a basket of currencies was last down 0.69 percent at 96.886. The greenback reversed its earlier gains versus yen.

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    U.S. labor costs in the second quarter recorded their smallest increase in 33 years as workers earned less in commissions and bonuses, in what appeared to be a temporary wage growth setback against the backdrop of diminishing labor market slack.

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    An index that measures the price of U.S. labor decelerated sharply in the second quarter, easing fears of inflation and signaling the labor market may not be as healthy as the low unemployment rate suggests. The employment cost index barely increased, rising 0.2% in the second quarter after a 0.7% increase in the first three months of the year. The rise was an all-time low for the series going back to 1982 and was well below forecasts.

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    If economists are puzzled about the stagnant productivity in the U.S. economy, they would do well to consider how much of their time is wasted in anticipating, reading and analyzing Federal Reserve policy decisions. And that's not counting the time of professional portfolio managers, average investors and journalists who cover the Fed. After all the waiting, the Federal Open Market Committee's latest policy deliberation announced Wednesday hinged on the addition of a single...

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    The ECI has been below 3% for seven years. Economists forecast that the employment cost index, one of the most closely watched measures of labor costs, likely decelerated in the second quarter. While bad news for economic policy makers, the slowdown might be cheered by some equity investors, said Kathy Bostjancic, head of U.S. macro investor services at Oxford Economics.

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    By Anora Mahmudova and Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch. Whole Foods Market plunges after earnings miss. U.S. stocks ended Thursday's choppy session little changed after data showed the economy picked up its pace in the second quarter, leaving the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates as soon as September.

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    U.S. commonwealth trying to restructure debt. Investors are bracing for Puerto Rico to miss about $58 million in bond payments in coming days, as the U.S. commonwealth attempts to restructure $72 billion of debt. Saturday's deadline could mark the first skipped payment to bondholders since Gov.

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    IMF warning a "definitive statement", analyst says. The International Monetary Fund has warned it will not participate in a third bailout for debt-laden Greece unless debt relief is granted to the country, raising concerns the much-needed aid package could be derailed. At a meeting on Wednesday, IMF staff reportedly told the fund's board that Athens's debt burden and poor track record of implementing reforms rule out further financial help from the fund, until there is an "...

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    The U.S. Federal Reserve will not need to see balanced risks to the economy to proceed with an interest rate hike in September, according to former Fed officials and a review of central bank statements through recent turns in policy.

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    It looks like Americans might be willing to spend a bit more of the money rattling around in their pockets. The Commerce Department on Thursday reported that gross domestic product grew at 2.3% annual rate in the second quarter, which was less than economists expected. But it also came with an offsetting upward revision to first-quarter GDP, now reckoned to have grown 0.6% instead of contracting 0.2%.

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    President Obama has launched an ambitious technology initiative, a moonshot in the world of supercomputing that could help solve some of the world's most complex problems.The project, known as the National Strategic Computing Initiative, aims to speed up the development of an "exascale computing system" -- a supercomputer that can process a billion billion operations per second. (That's not a typo, there are two billions there.) It’s a system that is hard to fathom, but could revolutionize the way scientists measure climate change, discover new materials, and study the human brain."I think somewhere along the lines of a hundred million to a billion modern-day laptops would represent the early stages of exascale computing," said Thomas Sterling, a professor at the University of Indiana's School of Informatics and Computing and chief scientist at its Center for Research in Extreme Scale Technologies.But just what this computer would look like or exactly how long it will take to create is still unclear."The truth is that if you go back to the 1960s, the technology for a moonshot was largely known. It was largely an engineering effort, albeit one of tremendous scale," said J. Steve Binkley, the associate director of the Department of Energy's office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research. "In the case of exascale, there are a couple of areas where we still need to do active research."Binkley believes the initiative can hit the exascale target in roughly a decade, but that depends on funding and overcoming some technical challenges.And the Obama administration is doubling down. "This national response will require a cohesive, strategic effort within the Federal Government and a close collaboration between the public and private sectors," according to Obama's executive order, which was signed on Wednesday.The initiative came out of a two year inter-agency working group focused on figuring out how high powered computing could help national security, economic competitiveness and scientific achievement, Binkley said.The Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation will lead the initiative -- designing systems that could be used by even more parts of government including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.An exascale computer would allow for the government to run detailed models of some of the world's most difficult problems, simulating solutions in ways that wouldn't be possible without massive amounts of processing power. One key area for this is climate change and alternative energy sources, said Binkley. Such a system would also be valuable for dealing with massive scientific data sets, he said.But while America is the land of tech giants, such as Google and IBM, China is currently leading the supercomputing arms race.The Tianhe-2 supercomputer developed by China's National University of Defense technology is the most powerful system in the world with a peak performance of around 54.9 petaflops -- the level below exascale -- according to TOP500, a project than tracks the performance of supercomputers."We've allowed much of our technology to go overseas and be exported -- so now we have to buy back technology we've developed," said Sterling. "If we're not careful, we will lose further ground."Yet the United States is still in the race. The Titan supercomputer at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National laboratory is currently world's second most powerful. And earlier this year, the agency struck a deal with Intel (INTC) and supercomputing company Cray to deliver a system capable of 180 petaflops by 2018.But supercomputing comes with its own set of challenges, including how efficiently they operate. Some existing supercomputer systems essentially waste the vast majority of their processing power when attempting to complete tasks, said Sterling, and that wasted processing power has real world energy costs."If you scale current technology up to exascale levels, it would be up to the range of a nuclear powerplant just to run one computer," Binkley said. Addressing that problem will be one of the focuses of the initiative, he said.And even if a machine with this sort of processing power is created, there remains the challenge of getting it to do what researchers want, said Sterling. "The overwhelming challenge is how do you program these machines," he said.But the growth in processing power needed for supercomputer may be reaching its limits. The rapid development of such technology has largely followed Moore's Law -- which holds that computing power approximately doubles every two years due to the shrinking size of technology. Now, Sterling said, we are rapidly approaching a point of nanoscale technology where fundamental things like atomic granularity and the speed of light will make Moore's Law obsolete.And the government, too, acknowledges that a major change is on the horizon. Among the other goals of the initiative is to establish a "viable path forward" for the future of supercomputing in a "post-Moore's Law era" over the next 15 years.Even with the challenges posed by the end of Moore's Law, developing the exascale super computer is still largely achievable with the science we know now, Binkley said. But the next generation may require turning to other technologies, he said.That's one reason Sterling says he is excited to see the Obama administration focusing on the challenge. In a way, he said, this is more than a moonshot because "no one's even decided what the rocket is going to look like."






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    Don't think the Chinese economy is doing as well as Chinese government statistics say it is? A lot of companies seem to agree. When China reported last week that second-quarter gross domestic product was up by 7% from a year earlier--steady with the first quarter and better than the 6.8% economists anticipated--it raised more eyebrows than glasses.

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    Lower oil prices have proven to be more of a bane than a boon for the U.S. economy. But that is about to change. When the price of crude started dropping sharply last fall, most economists reckoned it would be a good thing.

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    For details of foreign central banks' holdings of U.S. marketable securities held at the Federal Reserve, see: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/Current/h41.pdf.

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    For details of the Federal Reserve's money supply report, see: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h41/current/h41.pdf. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h6/current/h6.pdf. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h3/current/h3.pdf.