Leading Economic Indicators 

People With Too Much Money: At Tokyo's first fish auction of 2009 in January, the upscale Kyubey restaurant and the more moderate Itamae Sushi dining chain jointly purchased a single, 280-pound bluefin tuna for the equivalent of about $104,000. Kyubey said it would cut its half into slivers priced at about $22 each, while the popular Itamae planned to offer tinier, more affordable slivers.

In Hong Kong, according to a February Wall Street Journal report, when a feng shui master speaks on the economy, investors listen closely (especially in view of the mess quantitative analysis has made of things). Alion Yeo, an expert on the Chinese system of beliefs in stars, geography and the location of objects, and whose popular finance seminars attract high-end investors, told a group of about 170 recently that 2009 would be dismal because the U.S. economy is now in the hands of a president and a secretary of the Treasury who were both born in a Year of the Ox (1961), of which 2009 is another (and which has already started frighteningly with both a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse).

Some laid-off workers may be desperate to exhibit their work skills at any available job, but February news reports highlighted two government bureaucrats who draw $250,000 a year between them yet have been prevented from doing a stitch of work for, in one case, six years, and in the other, 18 months. Randall Hinton is nominally the chief of investigations for the New York State Insurance Fund but was ostracized by his supervisors in 2002 and has taken home his $93,000 a year for zero work ever since.

U.S. Labor Department official Bob Whitmore earns $150,000 but has had no work to do since July 2007 due to a clash with his supervisors.

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