Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wednesday June 1 Housing and Economic stories



Disability-Claim Judge Has Trouble Saying 'No' - (online.wsj.com) Americans seeking Social Security disability benefits will often appeal to one of 1,500 judges who help administer the program, where the odds of winning are slightly better than even. Unless, that is, they come in front of David B. Daugherty. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the administrative law judge, who sits in the impoverished intersection of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, decided 1,284 cases and awarded benefits in all but four. For the first six months of fiscal 2011, Mr. Daugherty approved payments in every one of his 729 decisions, according to the Social Security Administration. The judge has maintained his near-perfect record despite years of complaints from other judges and staff members. They say he awards benefits too generously and takes cases from other judges without their permission. Staffers in the Huntington office say he hears a disproportionate number of cases filed by one area attorney. Mr. Daugherty has been known to hold hearings for as many as 20 of this lawyer's clients spaced 15 minutes apart.

Munich Re unit says the company-paid prostitute party was "killer fun" - (www.businessinsider.com) Munich Re had to fire executives who were responsible for hosting a company-sponsored sex party. Now, photos and details of the party are public in the German Handelsblatt paper. A unit of the Dusseldorf, Germany-based insurance company invited 100 of its top performers to enjoy 20 pre-paid prostitutes at a party in Budapest, Hungary in 2007. The company later bragged about the party in their magazine, HMI Profil. It was "killer fun," the magazine wrote, according to Der Speigel's translation.

Row within Europe over Greece - (www.ft.com) The European Central Bank has criticised proposals for a possible restructuring of Greek sovereign debts, laying bare a behind-the-scenes row between ECB technocrats and European Union politicians over Greece’s debt crisis. The ECB officials warned that any move to delay repayments would be a dangerous distraction from Athens’ economic and fiscal reform plans. This month Jean-Claude Trichet, ECB president, walked out of a meeting hosted by Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister. According to people familiar with events at the meeting, Mr Trichet was angry at talk of a so-called “soft” restructuring that could involve an extension of Greek debt maturities. After a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, Mr Juncker said a soft restructuring of Greek debt would be an option once Athens had taken further steps to bring its public finances under control.

Japan Falls Into Recession After Economy Shrinks 3.7% - (www.bloomberg.com) Japan’s economy shrank more than estimated in the first quarter after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disrupted production and prompted consumers to cut back spending, sending the nation to its third recession in a decade. Gross domestic product contracted an annualized 3.7 percent in the three months through March, following a revised 3 percent drop in the previous quarter, the Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo. The median forecast of 23 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 1.9 percent drop. The March disaster hit an economy already weighed down by years of deflation and subdued consumer spending, and slashed profits at companies including Toyota Motor Corp. as factories were shut.

Greek Government Bonds Fall on Reprofiling; Spanish, German Debt Declines - (www.bloomberg.com) Greek 10-year bonds slumped for a fourth day on concern that a potential extension of the nation’s bond maturities would deter the European Central Bank from accepting the debt as collateral. The spread, or yield difference, between benchmark Greek debt and German bunds widened for a fourth day. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet told finance ministers this week that, shouldGreece be given more time to repay debt, the central bank would revoke a special arrangement under which Greek debt is accepted as collateral, Financial Times Deutschland, citing unidentified officials. Spanish bonds fell as the nation sold less bonds than the maximum target. German bunds dropped as stock gains eroded demand for the safest assets. “This further underlines the clear divisions within euro- area officialdom as regards how to deal with Greece’s debt funk,” said Richard McGuire, a senior fixed-income strategist at Rabobank International. “A refusal to accept Greek debt as collateral would result in an unsustainable bout of illiquidity in the Greek banking sector. The mixed messages underpin the risk of further peripheral tension as the market frets over this apparent policy disarray.”


Central Banks Snap Up Gold in First Quarter - (www.cnbc.com)

Gold Demand Advances 11% in Quarter as Investment Drives Prices to Record - (www.bloomberg.com)

Spanish Treasury Sells Fewer Bonds Than Maximum Target as Demand Falls - (www.bloomberg.com)

Justice’s top negotiator trying to navigate the mortgage debacle and strike a deal - (www.washingtonpost.com)

Lagarde May Stake Claim as First Female IMF Chief - (www.bloomberg.com)

US investors pile into exchange-traded funds - (www.ft.com)

South Korea Tightens Limits on Holdings of Currency Derivatives at Banks - (www.bloomberg.com)

Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index Declines to 3.9 on Slowdown in Growth - (www.bloomberg.com)

Existing-Home Sales in U.S. Decrease 0.8% - (www.bloomberg.com)

Jobless Claims in U.S. Fall More Than Forecast - (www.bloomberg.com)

Fed Nears Accord on How to Exit Record Stimulus With Timing Still Unclear - (www.bloomberg.com)

Fed won’t expand easing policy, minutes show - (www.washingtonpost.com)

Senators ‘encouraged’ as Gang of Six deficit talks resume, minus Coburn - (www.washingtonpost.com)

LinkedIn Surges in First Day of Trading - (www.bloomberg.com)

Sears disappoints on weak sales in U.S., Canada - (www.reuters.com)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tuesday May 31 Housing and Economic stories



Now Democrats Are Taking On Public Unions In Massachusetts, Connecticut And Illinois - (www.businessinsider.com) 2011 is a bad year for labor. In the three months since union supporters took over the Wisconsin state capitol and ignited a national debate over public-sector unions, one thing has become clear: It's been a bad year for organized labor. The latest blow to unions comes from lawmakers in deep-blue Massachusetts, where state Senate leaders unveiled a plan today that would limit municipal workers' right to bargaining over healthcare benefits. The measure - intended to relieve struggling cities and towns from skyrocketing employee healthcare costs - is similar to a bill approved by the state House last month. Massachusetts labor officials are up in arms over the proposal. But so far, national union leaders have offered only tepid support. They have their hands full elsewhere. In Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican governors have waged a frontal assault on organized labor with bills that sharply curtail bargaining rights for public-sector workers. Democrats and union supporters are fighting tooth-and-nail to roll back the measures through recall and repeal, but success seems uncertain, at best. Across the country, unions have suffered more quiet losses, at the hands of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dan Malloy sent layoff notices to nearly 5,000 unionized state workers this month when negotiations stalled. Labor unions backed down this week, agreeing to $1.6 billion in wage and benefit cuts, as well as collective bargaining concessions. In Illinois, the Democrat-controlled state legislature passed an education bill last week that makes it easier to fire teachers and lengthen the school day without union approval. The measure was backed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both Democrats with strong ties to organized labor. Similar stories have played out in Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma and New Hampshire. At last count, bills to limit union rights were under consideration in at least 17 states.

‘Gang of Six’ on verge of collapse as Republican Sen. Coburn withdraws - (www.washingtonpost.com) Since January, six senators have engaged in difficult negotiations and made painful concessions in a politically dangerous quest for something that has long eluded Washington: a bipartisan compromise to control the nation’s mounting debt. By Tuesday evening, however, the “Gang of Six” was on the verge of collapse. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) withdrew from the bipartisan working group, saying the senators simply could not overcome the polarizing political pressure that each faces. The group’s two other Republicans said it would be hard to continue without Coburn. “The debt is still $14 trillion. It’s got to be solved in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told reporters Tuesday night. “I hope that we’ll eventually, as a Gang of Six, be able to come together on some long-term resolution of the issue. But it looks like that’s not going to happen in the short term.” Coburn’s withdrawal left Chambliss exposed, pushing him into the position as the group’s highest-profile conservative. He would be responsible for selling any compromise to those Republicans who think “compromise” is a dirty word.

Atop I.M.F., Contradiction and Energy - (www.nytimes.com) Artful politician that he is, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a keen sense for not just his strengths but also his potential weaknesses — though few would be quite as blunt in saying so. Considered the Socialist party’s leading candidate for president of France, Mr. Strauss-Kahn identified three threats to his aspirations in an interview with the newspaper Libération, held on April 28 but published only this week. “Money, women and my Jewishness,” he said. “Yes, I like women,” he went on. “So what?” Mr. Strauss-Kahn added, “For years they’ve been talking about photos of giant orgies, but I’ve never seen anything come out.” Today, Mr. Strauss-Kahn sits in a jail cell on Rikers Island in New York, his reputation — and any political ambitions — perhaps irreparably tarnished by his arrest on charges of attempted rape of a hotel maid in Manhattan last weekend. It is a humbling comedown for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, whose rise on the world stage has been marked by contradictions. As managing director of the International Monetary Fundin Washington since late 2007, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has returned the agency to relevance by helping engineer a $1 trillion bailout for Europe — but only after an initial humiliation when he was reprimanded for a brief affair in 2008 with a subordinate.

The Fabulous Life Of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (Before He Was Arrested) - (www.businessinsider.com) Not bad for a socialist. Before he was arrested for sexually assaulting a Sofitel chambermaid, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was living the dream. He had money, power, and tons of perks came with his international status. Sadly, if he's innocent, it will be impossible for him to reclaim his amazing life. So we compiled what he'll be missing if he heads to jail.

· He's a millionaire

· He's been surrounded by beautiful women

· An entourage of important friends and allies

· etc.

ECB's Stark blasts 'vested interests' in US, UK - (www.finance.yahoo.com) The European Central Bank's chief economist said a Greek debt restructuring would be a "recipe for catastrophe" and blamed "vested interests" in Britain and the United States for fueling market pressure on the country. As Greece announced deeper cuts, Juergen Stark said Wednesday that the struggling eurozone country's "debt sustainability is insured" as long as it fully complies with its internationally monitored austerity program. Asked about the markets' hostility to Greek efforts, Stark said: "This is not the view of all market participants, to be very clear. This is a discussion triggered from London and New York. I don't know what is behind it -- vested interests, people topping their books and so on. So it's more complicated than just (saying) what markets expect." Stark made the comments during a financial conference at a resort near Athens. Greece's Socialist government was told by the European Union this week to take urgent measures to keep its austerity program on target, as part of its commitments for the euro110 billion ($156 billion) package of bailout loans it is receiving from EU countries and the International Monetary Fund. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou heeded the latest EU warning, and confirmed that additional austerity measures worth euro6 billion ($8.5 billion) for 2011 would be announced in the coming days. Greece on Tuesday vowed to slash its bloated civil service by 150,000 people by 2015 and effectively ended government jobs for life.


Fed Favors Exit Strategy of Raising Rates - (www.bloomberg.com)

Bullard Says Fed Tightening Likely to First Allow Balance Sheet to Decline - (www.bloomberg.com)

In Rust Belt, manufacturers add jobs, but factory pay isn’t what it used to be - (www.washingtonpost.com)

Sen. Tom Coburn leaves ‘Gang of Six’ - (www.washingtonpost.com)

Flooding Takes Vast Economic Toll, and It’s Hardly Done - (www.nytimes.com)

Mortgage applications up on refinancings: MBA - (www.reuters.com)

High Earners Spend Little to End Fed’s Easy Money - (www.bloomberg.com) - (www.bloomberg.com)

In Consumer Behavior, Signs of Gas Price Pinch - (www.nytimes.com)

Citigroup’s Gain on Mortgage Hedge Fund Jumps as Volcker Trading Ban Looms - (www.bloomberg.com)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Monday May 30 Housing and Economic stories



The Dirty Secret Behind Teacher Pay And Teacher Quality - (www.businessinsider.com) There is no correlation. Lost in the debate about collective bargaining rights and the related issues of pay, pensions, and health care coverage is the dialogue about a core issue. There is no clear correlation that better paid teachers produce better educated students. Click here to see grades for the top paying states for teachers > Wisconsin teachers are among the most vocal opponents of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curtail some collective bargaining rights. Though there is little doubt that good teachers improve student achievement, the evidence that well-compensated educators produce better prepared students is mixed. Wisconsin is a case in point. Wisconsin teachers fare slightly worse than the national average with starting salaries of $32,642 and a maximum with a master’s degree of $60,036. The Tax Foundation says its tax burden is the fourth worst in the U.S. and its QualityCounts rating was a C+, about average. What the state underscores is how a dysfunctional system of teacher pay rewards educators with little emphasis on merit. Throwing more money at teachers, however, is not the answer to the myriad of problems affecting the nation’s schools.

California Cash Crisis May Loom Even as Brown Adds $6.6 Billion to Budget - (www.bloomberg.com) California Governor Jerry Brown’s revised budget with $6.6 billion more revenue may not avert a cash crisis looming in July that may force the most-populous U.S. state to pay bills with IOUs for the first time since 2009. Brown yesterday proposed asking lawmakers to keep $9.1 billion of taxes and fees from expiring, then having a referendum to validate the extension in November or later, when a statewide ballot can be arranged. The state won’t be able to borrow cash from Wall Street in July or August with that validation vote pending unless Brown and lawmakers agree on spending cuts that would be activated if voters turn down the tax plan, Treasurer Bill Lockyer said. “My office will not be able to complete a cash-flow borrowing transaction unless the final adopted budget includes real, inescapable, quickly-implemented spending cuts that would be triggered if voters reject the taxes,” Lockyer said yesterday.

Merkel rejects Greek debt restructuring - (www.ft.com) GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes a restructuring of Greek debt, putting her at odds with her own finance minister, the German daily Bild said on Tuesday. During a discussion with students at the Sophie-Scholl school on Monday in Berlin, Dr Merkel backed aid for Greece and ruled out changes to debt repayment prgrammes for any euro zone countries before 2013, Bild said. The newspaper did not provide direct quotes by the German chancellor however. Financial markets have increasingly bet on the possibility that Greece will either extend the repayment period on its debt or decide it must reimburse less than the full amount owed. On Sunday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he could support a longer repayment period if private creditors agreed to it, something known as a voluntary restructuring.

‘Hidden’ debt raises Spain bond fears - (www.ft.com) The rapid growth of “hidden” public debt in Spain is likely to be revealed by incoming regional and local administrations to be elected on Sunday, damaging Spain’s credibility in the bond markets, according to a report. “It is clear that in some or even many regional governments the official accounts do not reflect the truth,” says the research by Freemarket Corporate Intelligence, a consulting firm run by Lorenzo Bernaldo de Quirós, an economist critical of Spain’s devolved system of government. “It also seems clear that the new administrations, if there is a change of the party in power, are not going to take on the inherited debt without clarifying the details,” the report says – an echo of complaints about prior fiscal mismanagement made by the present government of the Spanish region of Catalonia. Latest data from the Bank of Spain, calculated in accordance with European Union guidelines, show that the country’s 17 autonomous regions have nearly doubled their public debt to more than €115bn ($160bn) since 2008, while municipal and provincial debt has risen to €35bn. Central government debt stands at €488bn.

GORDON BROWN: 2008 Was Just A Trailer For The Next Big Crisis - (www.businessinsider.com) He predicts three financial crises in the next 20 years. In 2008, when we were hours away from ATMs running out of money, small businesses being unable to pay their staffs, and schools and hospitals closing down through lack of cash flow, it felt as if the crisis of the century was upon us. But if the world continues on its current path, the historians of the future will say that the great financial collapse of three years ago was simply the trailer for a succession of avoidable crises that eroded popular consent for globalization itself. Those who believe that the world has learned from the mistakes that led to the crash are mistaken: on the contrary, Prof. David Miles of the Bank of England now predicts not just one further financial crisis but three in the next two decades; and Andrew Haldane, also of the Bank of England, is already charting the volatile and unsustainable wave of speculative capital flows that are still not fully monitored and operate with no early-warning system, no global financial standards, and no consensus on capital and liquidity requirements for banks.


China Trims U.S. Bond Holdings for Fifth Month as Debt Approaches Ceiling - (www.bloomberg.com)

EU Sees Possible Greek Debt ‘Reprofiling’ - (www.bloomberg.com)

U.K. Inflation Quickens More Than Forecast - (www.bloomberg.com)

French Left in crisis talks over Strauss-Kahn case - (www.reuters.com)

Draghi Backed as Next ECB President - (www.bloomberg.com)

U.S. Housing Starts Unexpectedly Fell in April - (www.bloomberg.com)

U.S. April Industrial Production Stalls on Autos - (www.bloomberg.com)

New York Investigates Banks’ Role in Fiscal Crisis - (www.nytimes.com)

Global Food Prices Extending Gains Set to Raise Costs for Tyson, Kellogg - (www.bloomberg.com)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sunday May 29 Housing and Economic stories



'Secret, dark debates' fan flames of eurozone turmoil - (www.telegraph.co.uk) Political union frays at the edges as tensions and resentments rise ahead of a critical meeting on Monday on the debt crisis in Greece and a bail-out for Portugal. An undercurrent of anger, suspicion and mistrust will per-meate on Monday night's critical meeting of eurozone ministers in Brussels as they grapple with a spiralling Greek debt crisis and try to seal a €78bn (£69bn) bail-out for Portugal. As if the euro's problems were not enough, seething resentments will add a new political dimension to the talks. The inclement mood was set 10 days earlier beside a gently babbling brook and old water mill that speaks of Europe's troubled past. On Friday May 6, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister and the chairman of the eurogroup of single currency members, called a secret meeting of the European Union's most powerful countries at the picturesque Chateau de Senningen on the outskirts of the tiny Duchy state. Gathered at the 18th century former paper mill, which served as an artists' retreat during the Nazi occupation, were finance ministers from Germany, France, Italy and Spain – the euro's G20 members, Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for monetary affairs. Top of the agenda was the fate of Greece, after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – on the hook for €30bn of the original €110bn rescue – demanded that the EU come up with a new strategy as the Mediterranean country continued to plunge into debt and recession.

The Dangerous Allure of Distressed Real Estate - (blogs.nytimes.com) Compare this to the mid 2000’s when everyone was a real estate investor. Back then, multifamily properties had multiple offers the day they hit the market, and being a real estate investor seem like a sure thing. After years of being scared away, more and more people started to think about real estate as an “easy” investment. Buying distressed properties might be tempting now, and it very well could be a good idea. But it is far from a sure thing. Just because something has fallen 40 to 50 percent doesn’t mean it can’t fall further or stay down for a very long time. There is, in fact, evidence that the housing market has further to fall. And investing in real estate requires skill and careful analysis, not just a kit you buy on late-night TV. I don’t have anything personal against real estate. It may be a legitimate part of your investing strategy. The problem happens when investors don’t stop to do the math. Too often, investors get sucked into the buying things they shouldn’t when they fail to add up the real costs. In the case of real estate, how much in property tax, upkeep and insurance will that “sure thing” cost you? How much time will be required, and what is that worth? Real real estate investors take the time to make sure buying an investment property will “pencil” before they buy it, and they pass on plenty of deals that won’t work. There are lots of calculators that can help, including the one here at the Times.

Greece Pressed by EU to Sell Assets - (www.bloomberg.com) European finance ministers endorsed a 78 billion-euro ($110.8 billion) bailout for Portugal as they stepped up pressure on Greece to do more to win improved aid terms. Portugal followed Greece and Ireland in seeking emergency loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, bringing to 256 billion euros the aid provided to stamp out the sovereign debt crisis. The backing for Portugal came during deliberations in Brussels today clouded by the absence of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Europe’s rich countries tied extra money for Greece to pledges that it reap more revenue at home and weighed whether to make bondholders share the pain. “Greece also has a huge privatization potential and the Greeks should help themselves before calling for more money,” Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter told reporters before a euro crisis meeting in Brussels today.

A Depressing Look At Suicide, Homelessness, And Societal Collapse In Post-Austerity Greece - (www.businessinsider.com) We talk a lot about the failure of Greek austerity around here, and the debunked idea that a country in the midst of a depression can get out of its debt hole by cutting spending. But take a step back from the failed math for a moment, and read this piece at NYT by Landon Thomas Jr. on social secay in Greece. As the economy has slowed, suicide hotlines are seeing much more activity. Former professionals are homeless, or seeking social aid, and basically everyone is still in emotion shock. Now, as you know, all of Europe is figuring out how to administer a second dose of the "medicine" which will involve more cuts. In the end, Europe will probably foist more cash on the country -- because of the banks on the hook for Greek debt -- but you have to wonder how much longer domestic politicians will put up with the failed Eurozone system, that doesn't allow for any other alternative.


Treasury to tap pensions to help fund government - (www.washingtonpost.com)

A Low Bid for Fixing a Big Mess - (www.nytimes.com)

U.S. Attorney Sends a Message to Wall Street - (www.nytimes.com)

Debt May Exceed Size of Economies This Year for Greece, Portugal, Ireland - (www.bloomberg.com)

No surprise: Consumers paying more for gas, food - (www.usatoday.com)

Looking for a bubble? Look no further than the U.S. stock market. – (finance.fortune.cnn.com)

Global stock markets hit by second commodities sell-off - (www.telegraph.co.uk)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saturday May 28 Housing and Economic stories



Treasury to tap pensions to help fund government - (www.washingtonpost.com) The Obama administration will begin to tap federal retiree programs to help fund operations after the government lost its ability Monday to borrow more money from the public, adding urgency to efforts in Washington to fashion a compromise over the debt. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has warned for months that the government would soon hit the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling — a legal limit on how much it can borrow. With that limit reached Monday, Geithner isundertaking special measures in an effort to postpone the day when he will no longer have enough funds to pay all of the government’s bills. Geithner, who has already suspended a program that helps state and local government manage their finances, will begin to borrow from retirement funds for federal workers. The measure won’t have an impact on retirees because the Treasury is legally required to reimburse the program.

US car loan providers move into subprime - (www.ft.com) Obviously banks and lenders have not learned much in past 3 years :-)

North American car loan providers have stepped up sharply their exposure to risky subprime buyers as economic conditions improve and lenders seek better profit margins. According to CNW, an Oregon-based market research firm, the credit score of new-car buyers reached a five-year low in early May. Buyers with scores below 670 on the widely used Fico scale – which ranges from 300 to 850 – made up 14.5 per cent of the total. Jim Landy, chief executive of California-based CarFinance Capital, a recent entrant in subprime car loans, said: “This market has been under-served and there’s growing demand.” CarFinance, backed by Perella Weinberg’s asset-based investment vehicle, expects that used vehicles will make up about 80 per cent of its business. “There is a lot of interest in the sector because the fundamentals are so strong and the market is so large”, Mr Landy added.

Money Troubles Take Personal Toll in Greece - (www.nytimes.com) His face contorted with anguish, Anargyros D. recounted how he had lost everything in the aftermath of the Greek economic collapse — the food-processing factory founded by his father 30 years ago, his house, his car, his Rolex, his pride and now, he said, his will to live. “Many times I have thought of taking my father’s car and driving it into a wall,” he said, declining to give his last name because he was reluctant to draw attention to himself under these circumstances. Hunched over and shaking, he sat last week in the spartan office of Klimaka, a social services organization here that provides help to the swelling numbers of homeless and depressed Greek professionals who have lost their jobs and their dignity. “We were the people in Greece who helped others,” he said. “Now we are asking for help.”

Arrest of IMF chief raises questions about organization‘s leadership amid European debt crisis - (www.washingtonpost.com) The sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, have cast uncertainty over global efforts to prevent Europe’s debt crisis from spinning out of control and raise questions about the future of one of the world’s most powerful financial institutions. At the Washington-based IMF, which makes emergency loans to struggling economies, Strauss-Kahn has been a muscular advocate for aiding Greece, Ireland and Portugal as they have fought to avoid insolvency. A default by a developed European economy would shock the global financial markets and endanger the nascent economic recovery in the United States. The IMF on Sunday named Strauss-Kahn’s second-in-command, former banker John Lipsky, as his replacement.

Home Builder Sentiment Stagnates in May - (www.cnbc.com) U.S. homebuilder sentiment was unchanged at low levels in May as on-going foreclosures and tight credit kept buyers reluctant to get into the market, the National Association of Home Builders said Monday. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market index held at 16, the group said in a statement. Economists polled by Reuters had expected the index to rise to 17. Readings below 50 mean more builders view market conditions as poor than favorable. The index has not been above 50 since April 2006. High gasoline prices further exacerbated consumers' anxiety, NAHB said. "Builder confidence has hardly budged over the past six months as persistent concerns regarding competition from distressed property sales, lack of production credit, inaccurate appraisals, and proposals to reduce government support of housing have continued to cloud the outlook," NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen said in a statement.


Greece to Plead for Aid in Talks Clouded by Strauss-Kahn Arrest - (www.bloomberg.com)

India Inflation Climbs More Than Estimated - (www.bloomberg.com)

Euro Crisis May Hit Eastern European Recovery - (www.bloomberg.com)

Biggest Gasoline Price Rise in Three Years in India May Fuel Inflation - (www.bloomberg.com)

Manufacturing in New York Slows More Than Estimated on Raw-Material Costs - (www.bloomberg.com)

A vocal Fed dissenter prepares to bow out - (www.washingtonpost.com)

Brown Faces Quandary Pushing Taxes as California Revenue Beats Forecasts - (www.bloomberg.com)

Second-Largest U.S. Refinery Threatened as Mississippi Floods In Louisiana - (www.bloomberg.com)