Thursday, September 30, 2010

Friday October 1 Housing and Economic stories


Rep. Frank backs higher subsidies for wealthiest owners - ( Congress should extend increased loan limits on mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are set to expire at year end, the powerful chairman of the House Financial Service Committee said on Wednesday. "I hope we do do it before we adjourn" for the congressional recess ahead of the November 2 mid-term elections, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts Democrat said at a hearing on the future of housing finance. Congress raised the ceiling on the size of the loans in 2008 to help ease the credit crisis. Analysts warn the distressed housing market could take a fresh hit if they are not extended beyond December. The House of Representatives in late July voted to extend them through September 2011 as part of an annual spending bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate, however, has not passed its version of the bill and time is running out before lawmakers leave Washington to hit the campaign trail ahead of the November 2 elections.

Republican Candidate Hides Two Small Facts: He Used To Work For Goldman Sachs And Was Charged With Murder – ( Republican candidate Ilario Pantano tries to hide two small details from his biography: that he worked for Goldman Sachs and he was charged with murder. The North Carolina candidate literally clips this info from soundbites used in his ads, according to Star News Online. Pantano’s ad begins with a clip of a national NBC News reporter, Stone Phillips, talking. “Ilario Pantano, described by one superior as having more integrity, dedication and drive than any Marine he’s ever met...” the anchor says before the ad moves on. It clips off the end of the anchor’s statement that says “... now stands charged with murder.” Pantano was charged with killing two Marines in a raid, though charges were dropped. And he clips this bit about Goldman: A second news clip shows another NBC interview with Pantano, in which an anchor again describes his background: “You served in Gulf One, you got out, you got a big great job, a beautiful wife and a kid, then 9/11 happened, you com e home, your hair is shaved off, you’re ready to head back into a war zone to help America,” she says.That clip trimmed out a few words in the middle of the sentence. NBC journalist Ann Curry actually says that Pantano “got a big great job at Goldman Sachs."

Volcker Spares No One in Broad Critique - ( Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker scrapped a prepared speech he had planned to deliver at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Thursday, and instead delivered a blistering, off-the-cuff critique leveled at nearly every corner of the financial system. Standing at a lectern with his hands in his pockets, Volcker moved unsparingly from banks to regulators to business schools to the Fed to money-market funds during his luncheon speech. He praised the new financial overhaul law, but said the system remained at risk because it is subject to future “judgments” of individual regulators, who he said would be relentlessly lobbied by banks and politicians to soften the rules. “This is a plea for structural changes in markets and market regulation,” he said at one point.

Eurozone crackdown on public finances - ( Members of the eurozone would be forced to pay punitive fines if they did not keep their public finances under control, according to proposals amounting to the most sweeping changes in the European Union’s economic governance since the introduction of the single currency. The proposed legislation, to be presented on Wednesday by Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, would levy fines equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the gross domestic product of eurozone members who consistently fail to bring down their public debt levels. Other penalties could also be imposed on member states that fail to control their annual spending or fail to reform their economies to improve their competitiveness, according to people briefed on the proposals and documents seen by the Financial Times.

WSJ Reveals Secret Committee Tasked With Saving The Euro During Depths Of Financial Crisis - ( The heretofore unknown group -- dubbed "The Group That Doesn't Exist" -- comprised of sub-minister level government officials who kept their discussions top-secret, even keeping discussions hidden from their own government leaders, for fears that leaks would shake Eurozone confidence. WSJ: The task force met in the shadows of the EU's many councils and summits in Brussels, Luxembourg and other capitals, often gathering at 6 a.m. or huddling over sandwiches late at night. Participants kept colleagues in their own governments in the dark, for fear leaks would trigger rampant speculation in financial markets. Potential crisis candidates were obvious: Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, a group of deeply indebted states derisively tagged with the acronym "PIGS" by bond traders. A gap quickly opened up between Germany, attached to euro-zone rules it viewed as banning bailouts for profligate countries, and France, which wanted greater freedom for national governments to support each other as they saw fit.


Silver Jumps to 30-Year High; Gold Rises to Record, Tops $1,300 - (

'Macro' Forces in Market Confound Stock Pickers - (

Emerging-Market Stock Inflows Rise to Seven-Week High - (

Petrobras Raises $70 Billion in World’s Largest Share Offering - (

German Business Confidence Unexpectedly Increases - (

Sales of U.S. New Homes Lower Than Forecast in August - (

Demand for U.S. Capital Goods Rebounds as Spending Holds Up - (

Data indicate fresh weakness in housing - (

California Budget ‘Framework’ Is Reached, Schwarzenegger Says - (

Blockbuster Chief Says He Will Evaluate ‘Every Single Store’ - (

As Bank Fees Rise, Maybe Services Will, Too - (

Nike China Orders Rise 25% on Basketball Sportswear - (

All Recessions and Recoveries Aren’t the Same- (

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thursday September 30 Housing and Economic stories


Ally Financial legal issue with foreclosures may affect other mortgage companies - ( Some of the nation's largest mortgage companies used a single document processor who said he signed off on foreclosures without having read the paperwork - an admission that may open the door for homeowners across the country to challenge foreclosure proceedings. The legal predicament compelled Ally Financial, the nation's fourth-largest home lender, to halt evictions of homeowners in 23 states this week. Now it appears hundreds of other companies, including mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, may also be affected because they use Ally to service their loans. As head of Ally's foreclosure document processing team, 41-year-old Jeffrey Stephan was required to review cases to make sure the proceedings were legally justified and the information was accurate. He was also required to sign the documents in the presence of a notary. In a sworn deposition, he testified that he did neither. The reason may be the sheer volume of the documents he had to hand-sign: 10,000 a month. Stephan had been at that job for five years. How the nation's foreclosure system became reliant on the tedious work of a few corporate bureaucrats is still a matter that mortgage lenders are trying to answer. While the lenders may have had legitimate cause to foreclose, the mishandling of the paperwork has given homeowners ammunition in their fight against foreclosure and has drawn the attention of state law enforcement officials.

Cash-Strapped Spain Struggles With High Cost of Power - ( On one side, angry coal miners are striking to force the government to save their jobs from a torrent of inexpensive imports. On another, the solar power industry, which was once booming, complains that it is being crippled by the mere prospect of an end to generous state subsidies. The natural gas and nuclear industries are having their own problems. Meanwhile, the shortfall accumulated since 2000 between the cost of power generation in Spain and what regulated rates bring in is expected to reach 20 billion euros, or $26.7 billion, by the end of the year — a bill the government, with its ailing public finances, can no longer afford. A new energy strategy to raise self-sufficiency at an affordable cost was to be delivered before the summer break. But the government, which is aiming to erase the tariff deficit by 2013, has not yet presented any sort of plan. Critics say that in trying to please everyone, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is pursuing conflicting goals.

Summers to Step Down - ( Lawrence Summers, the economist who helped design and secure President Barack Obama's top economic policy priorities, will return to Harvard University at the end of the year. Mr. Summers will be the third top economic official to leave the administration, following the president's first budget chief and his first Council of Economic Advisers chairman. Two people familiar with the matter said the president is considering a senior corporate executive as a successor to lead the National Economic Council, answering criticism that the Obama administration lacks private-sector experience and is aloof from corporate America. Former Xerox Corp. chief executive Anne Mulcahy quickly emerged as a leading candidate to replace Mr. Summers, though White House officials caution that no decisions have been made yet. A senior administration official confirmed that Ms. Mulcahy had dinner in Washington Friday evening with senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett. She is highly thought of within the administration, the official said, where she serves on the President's Economic Advisory Board.

Blockbuster expected to file Chapter 11: source - ( Blockbuster Inc is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy within the next few days, a source familiar with the video rental chain's plans said on Wednesday. The Dallas-based retailer said earlier this year it would close nearly 10 percent of its stores. Customers have moved away from renting films through its outlets in favor of online services such as Netflix. It is carrying some $900 million of debt, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company is working with debtholders on a plan, under which it would continue operating but shutter hundreds more stores, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. A bankruptcy filing is expected as early as Wednesday. The details were originally reported in the Wall Street Journal. Under the proposed plan, senior bondholders would convert about $630 million of debt into equity of the restructured company. The other bondholders would be wiped out, according to this source.

Star Reporter Quits Yahoo Because They Wouldn't Let Him Write About Big White House Salaries - ( Yahoo News editor Andrew Golis says star reporter John Cook is quitting to re-join Gawker because "he prefers the license Gawker gave him to add his opinions into his reporting to the scale and credibility Yahoo! News could offer." John tells AOL's Jeff Bercovici that's hogwash. He says he quit Yahoo because they censored him like crazy. Bercovici reports: In one instance, Cook was forced to bowdlerize a quotation from New York Times reporter James Risen; he was told that referring to masturbation, even euphemistically, was unacceptable. On similar grounds, he was prohibited from writing about the conservative website Free Republic hosting child pornography. Most glaringly, he was told that a proposed story on the Obama Administration raising the salary of White House staffers by 9% lacked the necessary balance; it was killed.


Sinai Says Fed’s Sept. 21 Statement Means ‘Gotta Buy Gold’- (

TIPS Five-Year Yields Turn Negative on Fed Inflation Concern - (

SEC’s Canellos Says U.S. Swaps Overhaul May Fuel Investigations - (

Gold targets $1,300 on QE2 fears - (

CMBS Revival Marks Step Toward Recovery - (

Emerging-Market Stock Index Rises to Highest Since July 2008 - (

Wen Says Structure, Not Yuan, Causes Trade Surplus - (

BOE Signals Moving Closer to More Stimulus as Growth Slows - (

China’s Wen Threatens Japan Over Jailed Boat Captain - (

Europe Industrial Orders Decline More Than Forecast - (

Chinese Business Gains Foothold in Eastern Europe - (

U.S. Home Prices Fell 3.3% in July From Year Earlier, FHFA Says - (

Central Banks Have Tough Time Finding Exit as Recovery Weakens - (

Fed statement sets table for possible action on economy in fall - (

Mortgage Applications Index in U.S. Declines for a Third Week - (

Thanksgiving holiday airfares up 10% vs. last year - (

Microsoft Sells $4.75 Billion of Bonds at Record Low Coupons - (

Stores Scramble to Accommodate Budget Shoppers - (

Homebuilding industry years away from recovery - (

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wednesday September 29 Housing and Economic stories


Man charged with renting out houses he doesn't own - ( Claiming he is backed by an obscure Florida law pertaining to abandoned and vacant property, a West Palm Beach man has attempted to take homes via adverse possession and rent them to unwitting tenants, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office investigators. Carl Heflin, 52, was arrested on similar charges in 2009. Following a July release from the Palm Beach County Jail, Heflin filed adverse possession papers on four homes, renting one on Tallahassee Drive and accepting $2,500 from a tenant to begin a three-year lease, police said. Heflin was arrested again on Tuesday on multiple charges of burglary, organized scheme to defraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. On Wednesday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx ordered Heflin held in lieu of $100,000 bail. Heflin's 17-year-old daughter, Carli, also was charged with burglary because she allegedly broke windows to get into empty homes so her father could change the locks, the Sheriff's Office report says.

When Mortgage Mediation Is a Gamble - ( NEVADA — one of the states where home prices went stratospheric during the housing mania — is now reporting some of the nation’s most horrifying foreclosure figures. Last week, RealtyTrac said that 1 in every 84 households in the state had received a foreclosure notice in August, 4.5 times the national average. To mitigate this continuing disaster, the Nevada Assembly created aforeclosure mediation program last year. Intended to help keep families in their homes, the program brings together troubled borrowers and their lenders to negotiate resolutions. The program began on July 1, 2009, and in its first year, 8,738 requests for mediation were received and 4,212 completed, according to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts. Some 668 borrowers gave up their homes and 445 were foreclosed upon in the period. “We are the only state that requires the bank to do something — they must come to the table if the homeowner elects mediation,” said Verise V. Campbell, who administers the program. “We are now touted as the No. 1 foreclosure mediation program around the country. The program is working.” During its first year, 2,590 cases — more than 60 percent of completed mediations — resulted in agreements between borrower and lender, Ms. Campbell said. But when asked how many actually wound up assisting homeowners through permanent loan modifications, she said her office did not track that figure.

Tell truth about banks, get sued (Freedom of speech?) - ( RICHARD X. BOVE is a bank analyst who likes to take what he calls “extreme positions.” He occasionally moves the stock market, which has earned him a certain amount of prestige and notoriety — but has also gotten him fired several times. One recent Tuesday morning, for instance, Mr. Bove opined from his bright-orange home office, in this town just north of Tampa, that new government rules would curb mortgage profits and, therefore, bank profits, too. It wasn’t a particularly extreme pronouncement, by Bove standards. Yet shares of Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, started to drop, and his phone lighted up. “That’s what makes the game fun, right?” he says. But for the last two years, Mr. Bove has been engaged in a lonely legal battle to retain his ability to say whatever he likes, an ordeal that he says has been anything but fun. BankAtlantic, a Florida bank, sued him, accusing him of defamation after he wrote a report about the banking industry in July 2008, just as the financial crisis was starting to boil over. The bank contended that the report falsely suggested that the institution was in trouble. The case was settled three months ago , and Mr. Bove didn’t pay a dime to BankAtlantic. Still, it was hardly a resounding victory for Mr. Bove or, for that matter, freedom of speech on Wall Street, where some say the need for independent, probing voices has never been more apparent.

Here's Why Facebook Is Secretly Building A Phone: It Needs To Be A Platform, Not Just A Service - ( Facebook already has over 150 million mobile users and is likely the most popular iPhone app of all time. But if Facebook is going to have as much impact on the mobile world as it has on the web, it needs to become a platform, and not just a service. And that's precisely why Facebook is working on its own mobile phone software. During my recent trip to Silicon Valley, the idea of a Facebook phone is one of the juicier, wackier rumors I heard about. But before I could dig up any details, TechCrunch's Mike Arrington has the scoop: He reports that Facebook is working on mobile phone software, with star employees Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos supposedly working on the secret project. One detail I'll add: Facebook is working off of Google's Android software, based on clues from employees and a plugged-in Silicon Valley source.

Europe Struggling With Banks Addicted To Easy Credit - ( Europe is struggling with a select group of banks that are addicted to easy credit funding from the ECB, according to the Financial Times. And now, it seems, the ECB's leadership is going to take aim at these troubled institutions and try to make them kick the habit. But it isn't exactly an easy drug to quit. These banks are, according to the FT, located in Ireland, Portugal, and Greece. Which means they are struggling with balance sheet issues that are, potentially, getting worse. The continued slow-down in these economies may prevent their weakest banks from moving off the ECB's lending facilities and back to pre-crisis facilities. What is known is that the closing of these facilities is not likely to happen until sometime in 2011. The cost may be more honesty for the troubled banks still in need, as they are outed and forced to come clean on their continuing struggles. The banks may even need further bailouts to clean up their balance sheets. This tedious bank cleanup process in Europe, with anemic growth in the immediacy, is likely to continue at a slow pace.


Lenihan Rules Out EU Aid For Ireland as $2 Billion Bond Auction Approaches - (

California MLS inventory up 25 percent since April - (
Again on Existing House Months' Supply: What's "Normal?" - (
Fed Abandoned Its Duty in Pre-Crisis Housing Bubble Posture - (

Hedge Funds Slash Bullish Natural Gas Bets to Year's Low: Energy Markets - (

Oil Trades Near Lowest in Almost Three Weeks on Economic Recovery Concerns - (

Atlas, Daewoo, KNM Group, Sun Hung Kai, TSMC: Asia Ex-Japan Equity Preview - (

New Fed Rules Are Being Questioned - (

Las Vegas Housing Market Reports 12.7% Yearly Sales Decline in August - (
House sales in Las Vegas fall in August - (
Phoenix housing market lacks supply of homebuyers - (
Global Housing Rebound Loses Momentum - (
FDIC's Bair calls for tighter lending standards to pare U.S. mortgage risk - (
Higher education overused, overpriced - (

Greenspan Should Have Seen Housing Crisis, Burry Says - (
Burry, Predictor of Mortgage Collapse, Bets on Farmland, Gold - (
Drunken, Raucous Bond Market Is About to Be Ill - (

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tuesday September 28 Housing and Economic stories


Robert Prechter: We're On The Verge Of The Biggest Bear Market In 300 Years - ( Robert Prechter at Elliott Wave International thinks we’re on the verge of the “biggest bear market in nearly 300 years”. Prechter, who believes the market moves in predictable waves, says the long-term pattern is one of dramatic upward trends with severe corrections inbetween. He provides the following chart to show the very long-term trend in stock prices. Prechter believes the current downtrend is simply the beginning of a much more dramatic move that mirrors past market declines. Based on this data the market is well overdue for a sizable correction: “Not even Major League Baseball can rival the stock market’s wealth of statistical data. And after studying the relevant data and analyzing the long-term pattern, Prechter offered this conclusion in the May issue of The Elliott Wave Theorist: “The current bear market will be the biggest in nearly 300 years.“ Yes, Britain’s “South Sea Bubble” in the early 1720s was the last time a bear market was comparable to what we may see unfolding now — it’s represented by that vertical drop which you see on the chart.”

Conservative Leaders Oppose Union Power Grab - ( The misleadingly named "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act" (originally H.R. 413; S. 1611, 3194). The bill would unconstitutionally abrogate all states' sovereignty, subject state and local public-safety workers to compulsory union "representation," eliminate local government control over the labor relations of their own workers, lead to a rise in labor strife, and further damage fragile state and local government economies by imposing unfunded federal mandates. The bill claims to be designed to foster public-safety employer-employee cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, the bill's sole aim is to grant union officials monopoly collective-bargaining control over all state and local public-safety workers, including police, firefighters and emergency medical service personnel who refuse to join, or who quit, a union and want to deal with their employer on an individual basis. In short, this bill would deny public-safety workers freedom of contract. Most important, this bill abrogates each state's existing and sovereign right to order the labor relations of its own and its local governments' employees in accordance with its elected officials' judgment as to that state's public interests. Today, each state is free to ban collective bargaining for its public-safety workers. The United States Supreme Court recognized that right in 1979 in Smith v. Arkansas State Highway Employees. A few states have done so.

Harry Reid's push to nationalize all cop/firemen unions - ( Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly trying to nationalize rules governing every police, fire and first responder union in the nation. Through the benignly named Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R.413) Reid wants all first responders represented by collective bargaining rules emanating from Washington D.C. Reid is pushing this monstrosity as a major sop to his union supporters who will greatly benefit from nationalized rules for police and fire unions. Unfortunately, there is a large contingent of Republicans supporting this nanny state, big government take over. Conservatives need to tell their Representatives to drop their co-sponsorship of this un-American attempt to nationalize our police and fire departments. After all, Big Labor is keen to force this bill through Congress this session. If Big Labor is hot on this one, how can any Republican in good conscience support this thing? The article lists all of the clueless Republicans who co-sponsored the bill. Unfortunately, it is too late to contact your House representatives as they have already passed this monstrosity.

Bill Gives Public Workers Clout - ( The Senate is moving closer to passing legislation that would require states to grant public-safety employees, including police, firefighters and emergency medical workers, the right to collectively bargain over hours and wages. The bill, known as the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, would mainly affect about 20 states that don't grant collective-bargaining rights statewide for public-safety workers or that prohibit such bargaining. State and municipal associations, as well as business groups, oppose it, saying it will lead to higher labor costs and taxes, at a time of budget deficits. The bill, backed by at least six Republicans in the Senate, prohibits strikes and leaves to states' discretion whether to engage in collective bargaining in several areas, including health benefits and pensions. If the legislation passes and states choose not to grant the minimum collective-bargaining rights outlined in the bill, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which oversees labor-management relations for federal employees, would step in and implement collective-bargaining rights for these workers.

Governments Go to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On - ( Hawaii Furloughs Its Children: Four-day weeks have been used by a small number of rural school districts in the United States, especially since the oil shortage of the 1970s. During the current downturn, their ranks have swelled to more than 120 districts, and more are weighing the change. But Hawaii is an extreme case. It shut schools not only in rural areas but also in high-rise neighborhoods in Honolulu. Suffering from steep declines in tourism and construction, and owing billions of dollars to a pension system that has only 68.8 percent of the money it needs to cover its promises to state workers, Hawaii instituted the furloughs even after getting $110 million in stimulus money for schools. Unlike most districts with four-day weeks, Hawaii did not lengthen the hours of its remaining school days: its 163-day school year was the shortest in the nation. Children, meanwhile, adjusted to a new reality of T.G.I.T. Getting them up for school on Mondays grew harder. Fridays were filled with trips to pools and beaches, hours of television and Wii, long stretches alone for older children, and, occasionally, successful attempts to get them to do their homework early. But if three-day-weekends in Hawaii sound appealing in theory, many children said that they wound up missing school. “I’m really not a big fan of furloughs,” said Nira Marte, a fifth grader, explaining that she missed the time with her friends and her teacher.
County Shuts Down Its Bus System: Clayton County [Georgia] decided to balance its budget by shutting down C-Tran, the bus system, stranding 8,400 daily riders. The county — hit hard by the subprime mortgage crisis and the wave of foreclosures that followed — decided it could no longer afford spending roughly $8 million a year on its bus system, which started in 2001. It hoped that some other entity — like the state — would pick up the cost.


Oregon budget stands at precarious crossroad - (

Newark mayor: No toilet paper for city offices - (

Newark council slams Mayor Booker for 'savage' proposed budget cuts - (

A City Outsources Everything. Sky Doesn’t Fall - (

San Jose councilman calls for pension reform - (
Montreal port lockout jams up Seaway - (

Ontario to appeal for public-sector wage freezes - (

Cities Rent Police, Janitors to Save Cash - (

Oakland talks break down; layoffs for 80 cops - (

Talks fail - Illinois construction strike drags on - (

Retirees may soon outnumber workers contributing to state pension system - (

Incompetent paid shill Frederic Mishkin in his own words - (