Florida property insurance rate hikes coming - (www.orlandosentinel.com) Warren Kurtzman was elated when Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed legislation last month that would have made it easier for insurers to raise property insurance premiums. That's why it came as a shock when his insurer, HomeWise Insurance, informed Kurtzman two weeks later that the premium on his Delray Beach condominium unit is increasing by 42 percent – from $609 to $864 – this year. "I thought [the veto] was the greatest thing in the world," Kurtzman said, "and all of the sudden, I get this [notice] and I almost choked!" Despite Crist's veto, and four relatively quiet hurricane seasons, thousands of Florida residents are experiencing similar rate hikes this year. The reason: The veto doesn't end rate increases – regulators can continue approving or rejecting rate hikes. They've ordered some insurers to lower rates, rejected some rate hikes but have approved the vast majority.
Secret gold swap has spooked the market - (www.telegraph.co.uk) It takes a lot to spook the solid old gold market. But when it emerged last week that one or more banks had lent 380 tonnes of gold to the Bank of International Settlements in return for foreign currencies, there was widespread surprise and confusion. The news that a mystery bank has just pawned the family jewels gave traders a jolt – nervous about the sudden transfer of almost 20pc of the world's annual gold production and the possibility of a sell-off. In a tiny footnote in its annual report, the bank disclosed its unusually large holding of gold, compared with nothing the year before. The disclosure was a large factor in the correction of the gold price this week, which fell below $1,200 for the first time in more than a month. Concerns hinged on whether the BIS could potentially sell on this vast cache of bullion in the event of a default, flooding the market with liquidity. It appears to have raised $14bn for whoever's been doing the swapping – small fry on the currency markets, but serious liquidity in the gold market.
Politicians became addicted to real estate market - (www.newgeography.com) It worked for 10 years or so. The values of homes and other properties went up, and so did the city’s revenue. Developers paid fees to build residential and commercial units, buyers paid higher property taxes in the rising market, homeowners borrowed against their houses and spent freely, paying sales taxes along the way. All of the action sent streams of revenue to various levels of government, and much of the money found its way to the city’s coffers. Local politicians used the money to take care of donors with favorable deals, satisfy labor unions by expanding payrolls and paychecks for city employees, and provide basic services to enough voters to maintain the status quo. Now the revenue streams have dwindled, and there’s not enough for our politicians to finance their old scheme. There have been many reactions to our city’s challenges, but not much in the way of ideas. Our politicians have jumped from budget projection to budget projection, cutting here, threatening to cut there. Outside City Hall is a different story, as the populace begins to sense that this is all reaction with no basic idea. Whatever happened last week means nothing this week because the next budget report could prompt any sort of reaction from the politicians. There are no guiding principles or declared values—no ideas—for our city. This became clear to me when I realized that our City Councilmembers and our mayor used to send out all sorts of press releases back in the days of the real estate boom. There were notices that some project had been completed or another had just started. They almost always involved the expenditure of city funds, and went on about the politician who flipped whatever switches made the money flow. Now the money has dried up, and press releases are few and far between.
Credit scores sink to new lows - (www.latimes.com) Battered by unemployment and tighter lending standards, the credit scores of millions of Americans are sinking to new lows. About 25.5% of consumers — or 43.4 million people — had credit scores below 600 in April, according to FICO Inc. Historically, only about 15% of consumers — or 25.5 million — have had scores below that level, FICO said. Those in the middle of the spectrum have also declined. Moderate credit scores, between 650 and 699, fell to 11.9% from a historical average of 15%. Consumers with low credit scores will have increased difficulty obtaining credit cards and other loans, said Christian deRitis, director of credit analytics at Moody's Analytics. "Until the labor market turns around, people will remain unable to pay bills," DeRitis said. "Lowered consumption will only add extra friction to the economy."
Perfect Storm for Louisiana's Economy - (finance.yahoo.com) In the blink of an eye, the economic focus in Louisiana has shifted from recession recovery to avoiding actual and potential job losses piling up at a staggering rate. And there's very little that the state can do: The tally is due to the Obama administration decisions affecting petroleum, defense and space -- all coming together in a perfect storm. Last Tuesday, Northrop Grumman Corp., faced with tighter Pentagon spending and Obama administration priorities aimed at Afghanistan and away from the Navy, said it would shut its Avondale shipyard -- the state's largest industrial employer with about 5,000 workers -- in early 2013 after two military ships are finished. Another source of misery is the deepwater petroleum drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico. The six-month "pause" that the Obama administration insists on could kill the drilling business off the Louisiana coast for years, industry and government officials warn. Of the 33 deepwater rigs in the Gulf when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, two found new long-term homes in Egypt and off the coast of Africa within a week -- just as the industry promised would happen. Louisiana State University economist James Richardson said a six-month moratorium could slash 18,000 to 20,000 jobs. With that prediction, consider that the entire state, at the lowest point of the post-2008 economic meltdown, had lost about 49,000 jobs.
Is it time to storm the Bastille again? - (www.theautomaticearth.blogspot.com)
Bank Tax, We Hardly Knew Ye - (www.miller-mccune.com)
In South Florida, pace of repossession jumps 83 percent - (www.miamiherald.com)
N. Carolina foreclosure rate has nearly doubled in past year - (www.starnewsonline.com)