Monday, October 31, 2011

Tuesday November 1 Housing and Economic stories



California voters approved Proposition 13 to rein in property taxes that had doubled in 10 years. More than three decades later, that rebellion has mortgaged the state’s future, saddling it with the nation’s highest debt and lowest credit rating. The measure led to reductions that dropped per-student school spending from seventh to 29th nationally, prompted cities to pursue sprawling retail development to compensate for lost revenue, and pushed the state into budget gridlock, including a $705 million revenue shortfall announced Oct. 10, by requiring two-thirds approval for any tax increase. “Proposition 13 set up an unfair and dysfunctional two- tiered system of property taxes,” said Kevin Starr, a history professor at the University of Southern California and the author of a series of books on the state. “It choked off a source of revenue, and the lack of that revenue has brought California to the edge.”

Are Wall Street Protesters Capable Of Starting A Run On A Too Big To Fail Bank? - ( We hear the cries each day, “the movement is growing”, “this is unstoppable” etc… Some pundits and participants within the OWS movement have even called for the average American to take their money out of big banks and move them to either a credit union or community bank. Could OWS actually cause a run on our banks? For the fun of it, let’s see how feasible this actually would be. Assumption 1: For the sake of example, let’s assume that every single OWS protester or American interested in “sticking it to the big banks” kept their deposits at Bank of America and had ~$5,000 in the bank. After all, these would be the “slighted” customers who are now paying fees for using a debit card. Let’s assume, to be generous, that one million people would participate in this movement.

Bankers Balk at EU Push for Bigger Greek Losses - ( Josef Ackermann, the head of Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) and chief lobbyist for the world’s largest financial firms, has pressed European leaders for months to devise a strategy to stamp out the sovereign debt crisis. Now that European Union officials are moving toward an agreement that may include bigger losses on Greek debt holdings and the forced recapitalization of lenders, the Deutsche Bank chief executive officer and Washington-based Institute of International Finance he chairs are pushing back. He travels to Brussels this week for talks with policy makers. Forcing lenders to boost capital would be counterproductive, and getting investors to accept larger losses on Greek holdings difficult, Ackermann said on Oct. 13. Opposition from banks may hamper efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy to present a breakthrough at an Oct. 23 summit of euro leaders in combating the crisis, which has driven Greece toward default, roiled global markets and dented confidence in the survival of the 17- nation currency.

Germany Shoots Down ‘Dreams’ of Early End to Europe Sovereign-Debt Crisis - ( Germany said European Union leaders won’t provide the complete fix to the euro-area debt crisis that global policy makers are pushing for at an Oct. 23 summit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that “dreams that are taking hold again now that with this package everything will be solved and everything will be over on Monday won’t be able to be fulfilled,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said at a briefing in Berlin today. The search for an end to the crisis “surely extends well into next year.” Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers concluded weekend talks in Paris endorsing parts of Europe’s emerging plan to avoid a Greek default, bolster banks and curb contagion. Providing a week to act, they set the Oct. 23 meeting of European leaders in Brussels as the deadline.

THE MONEY PIT: The Real Reason Harrisburg Pennsylvania Went Bankrupt - ( Basically, it was one disastrous political decision after another. Harrisburg’s situation, however, is not typical of government borrowers in the municipal bond market. Of course, the only way to make this point clear is to go into detail about how Harrisburg landed itself in financial distress. So let me tell you a story. (My fascination with project finance is endless, so you might want to get comfortable.) The vast majority of Harrisburg’s bonded indebtedness stems from improvements made to the city’s trash incinerator plant. According to the Patriot-News, Harrisburg’s local newspaper (a lot of the information in this post is derived from their excellent coverage), the incinerator plant has been a major source of financial trouble for the city since it opened in the early 1970s, yet city officials have demonstrated an inexplicable devotion to throwing money at the project. (This story is, in fact, one long lesson in not allowing sunk costs to influence decision-making. Not everyone pays attention in economics, apparently.)


Euro zone eyes yet another "comprehensive strategy" - (

Default Swaps Plunge From Record as Slowdown Spurs Haven Bid: Japan Credit - (

Funds Flow Out of Euro as Central Bankers Prefer Yen, Pound - (

IMF Powers Resist Talk Of Rescuing Euro Zone - (

Deadline Sets Stage for Crucial Euro Week - (

China Growth May Top 9% as Slump Poses Risk - (

Insight: Running Chinese finance, a different kind of banker - (

Veterans’ unemployment outpaces civilian rate - (

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Monday October 31 Housing and Economic stories


Fannie and Freddie, Still the Socialites - ( THE mortgage business is moribund. New loans are down. New foreclosures are up. But why let a little sorry news get in the way of a good party? Last week, almost 3,000 people descended on the Hyatt Regency in Chicago for the 98th annual convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association. The price of admission: about $1,000 a head. But for that grand, you got to hear the band Chicago play hits from the ’70s. And David Axelrod and Jeb Bush give speeches. And experts discuss things like demographics, the politics of housing and the future of the mortgage industry, according to a flier for the event. “Gather the information you need to help your business and our industry drive change,” the pitch went. The city of Chicago was no doubt grateful for the conventioneers’ dollars. Besides, Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows something about this industry: he used to be a director at the mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Nothing wrong with a bit of schmoozing. But it might seem jarring that Freddie, which was rescued by Washington and today exists at the pleasure of taxpayers, paid $80,000 to become a “platinum” sponsor of this shindig. Fannie Mae, that other ward of the state, paid $60,000 to become a “gold” sponsor.

Investor threat to second Greek bail-out - ( The lead negotiator for private holders of Greek debt has said that investors are unwilling to accept greater losses on their bonds than the 21 per cent agreed in July, jeopardising eurozone plans to finalise a second Greek bail-out by the end of next week. Charles Dallara, managing director of the Institute of International Finance, criticised European leaders on Friday for failing to allow the July deal to proceed. He said any greater losses imposed on Greek bondholders could prompt investors to sell the sovereign debt of other eurozone countries, destabilising the single currency. “We do not see that a compelling case has been made to reopen the deal,” Mr Dallara told the FT. “A deal is a deal.”

German private banks call Greece bankrupt: magazine - ( Germany's private banks called for euro zone policymakers to finally accept that Greece is insolvent and also pressed for rules that would force lenders to set aside capital on their balance sheets for government bonds, a magazine reported. "Greece is not able to pay back its current debts even over the course of generations," said Andreas Schmitz, the head of German bank lobbying group BdB, in an interview with the WirtschaftsWoche. Schmitz called for a change in Basel III regulations, which spell out the amount of capital reserves that banks must set aside for so-called risk-weighted assets. Under the current Basel II rules and EU guidelines, all euro zone sovereign debt can be assigned zero risk, which has provided a strong incentive for banks to buy and hold government bonds. "The current situation shows that zero (risk weighting) accounting doesn't accurately reflect reality," Schmitz said. "Politicians are not tackling this issue, since it concerns them," he added, explaining that this exemption has helped sovereign borrowers market their debt to banks.

U.S. budget gap widens, tops $1 trillion for third year - ( The U.S. budget gap widened slightly in fiscal 2011, staying above $1 trillion for a third straight year and providing fodder for a political battle over taxes and spending ahead of next year's presidential election. The Treasury Department report on Friday comes just over two months after an epic showdown over the nation's debt ceiling that pushed the United States close to a debt default and led to a downgrade of America's prized AAA credit rating. The shortfall in September, the final month of the fiscal year, widened to $64.57 billion compared to the same month a year earlier, although it came in at a few billion dollars less than economists had projected. The annual deficit was $1.299 trillion, up from 1.294 trillion in fiscal 2010.

Now If You Ditch Your State Taxes, You'll Lose Your California Driver's License - ( California Gov. Jerry Brown is sick of celebrities flaking out on their state tax returns. Brown signed a bill on Oct. 4 requiring the motor vehicle department to suspend the driver's licenses of its worst delinquents, many of whom you already know, reports the Journal. Now they'll be publicly outed: "The California driver's license suspensions will affect the state's top 1,000 tax debtors, whose names will be published online in two lists of 500 each. One list will be drawn from the income-tax rolls, with those on the second drawn from sales and other tax rolls. The new law expands an existing program by doubling the number of names on the published lists and adding the license suspensions."


The TRUTH About How Housing Has Destroyed This Recovery - (

Merkel Says Won’t Accept U.S. Balking at Finance Transaction Tax - (

Europeans Struggle Toward Debt Solution - (

Wall Street Protests Spread to Asia-Pacific Region - (

China Will Keep Yuan ‘Basically Stable,’ Premier Wen Says - (

G-20 Said to Press Europe to Deliver Solution to Debt Crisis Within Days - (

G20 to ensure banks adequately capitalized - (

G-20 finance leaders gather in Paris in crisis mode as Europe’s economy teeters - (

US-UK rule out wider IMF powers - (

G-20 Seeks Broader Solution for Europe Debt Crisis - (

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sunday October 30 Housing and Economic stories


Portugal Plans Deeper Cuts in Moment of ‘National Emergency’ - ( Portugal plans to deepen budget cuts next year as it faces a moment of “national emergency,” Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said. “Next year the adjustment will have to be much deeper,” Passos Coelho said last night in a speech broadcast by television station RTP following a cabinet meeting to discuss the 2012 budget proposal. To meet its budget goals, Portugal has to do more than it initially planned, he said. The overrun in carrying out the 2011 budget, relative to the financial aid program’s forecast, exceeds 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion), the prime minister said. Passos Coelho is cutting spending and raising taxes to meet the terms of a 78 billion-euro aid plan from the European Union and theInternational Monetary Fund. The government has already announced a one-time income-tax surcharge to help cover the budget shortfall this year.

Texas Faces Billions in Water Costs as Drought Imperils Economy - ( Allan Ritter pushed a bill to make 25 million Texans pay an extra $3.25 a year to help provide water for decades. Then, with a record drought devastating farms and ranches, the state representative’s party leaders waded in. “We couldn’t get the votes,” said the Republican from Nederland who heads the Natural Resources Committee in the House of Representatives. Lawmakers who run the chamber sought to oblige Governor Rick Perry’s pledge not to boost taxes instead. “You couldn’t get the votes in the House to raise revenue for anything last session,” Ritter said. Since 1996, when lawmakers mandated statewide water planning, Texans haven’t agreed on how to pay for needed work. This year, as crops withered and cattle went to early slaughter, pressure rose for action to protect the economy and sustain a surging population. Perry called on citizens to pray for rain six months after the drought began. On Nov. 8, voters will decide on letting the state carry as much as $6 billion in water-related debt.

Greece’s Bondholders Brace for Bigger Losses to Solve Crisis: Euro Credit - ( Greek bondholders are preparing to lose as much as 60 percent of their investments as European leaders try to impose a solution that reduces the nation’s debt burden by enough to end the debt crisis. “Everyone is coming to the conclusion that a much deeper restructuring is needed to make Greece in any way sustainable,” said Emiel van den Heiligenberg, chief investment officer of global balanced solutions at BNP Investment Partners in London, which oversees about $742 billion. “If the stock of debt doesn’t diminish, then the problems are going to be bigger and bigger and Greece will require rescue package after rescue package.”

Lehman Catastrophic Moment Invoked as EU Seeks Crisis Solution- ( “Cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk” lie ahead for the world economy unless Europe resolves its festering debt crisis, Timothy F. Geithner told global finance chiefs on the morning of Sept. 24. The U.S. Treasury secretary spoke from experience and lessons learned. Three years ago, he was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and working to shore up a financial system in the chaos following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEHMQ) His warning last month at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington was the third in three weekends after he jetted to conferences in France and Poland to appeal directly to Europe’s policy makers for action. After New York-based Lehman filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008, financial institutions lost or wrote off almost $1 trillion; the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 40 percent in six months; and the world slumped into the deepest recession since World War II.


China Lending Shrinks as Wen Wrestles Inflation - (

India’s Inflation Exceeds 9% for 10th Month, Increasing Pressure on Rates - (

Euro-Region Inflation Quickens on Energy Costs - (

Transport strikes hit Greek capital - (

U.S. Import Prices Unexpectedly Rose on Petroleum, Metals- (

Retail Sales Rise 1.1% in September, Beating Forecasts - (

Fed Pays Lip Service to Beef to Skirt Ridicule - (

Kocherlakota: Recent easing hurts Fed credibility - (

Many economic sectors don’t have much more room to fall - (

G20 strains cast shadow over meeting - (

Fitch downgrades UBS, puts other banks on review - (

Friday, October 28, 2011

Saturday October 29 Housing and Economic stories


Everyone Is Missing The 'Quiet Crash' In Mortgage Bonds – ( On CNBC just now, DoubleLine Capital bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach says this is a "bear-market rally" in stocks right now, and that everyone is missing the quiet story: The big crash in mortgage credit. Actually he called it a "quiet crash," something that's persisted even as other forms of credit and assets have rallied in recent days. Specifically, he referred to the PrimeX index, a synthetic index of mortgage bonds that are specifically NOT subprime, which has been been tanking lately. For a good overview of what PrimeEx is, see FT Alphaville's Tracy Alloway here, or click on the image. Generally, Gundlach remains bearish, and says to short risk amid this latest bout of euphoria. The next 5 points in credit will be down, not up, and you know it's a bear market rally, because the rally feels so good.

Deutsche to do everything to avoid forced recapitalization: CEO - ( Germany's Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) will do all it can to avoid a forced recapitalization, its Chief Executive Josef Ackermann said on Thursday, adding the bank had enough funds of its own to prepare for a crisis. At a conference in the German capital, Ackermann also said the bank's obligation to hold Greek bonds had cost it 400 million euros this year. Germany's highest profile banker was speaking as fears grow that theeuro zone debt crisis could spill over into the banking sector.

Protesters to ‘Occupy’ London Stock Exchange - ( Protesters are preparing to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange, expanding Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that began in New York. About 4,000 people have signaled their intent to attend a peaceful demonstration that will start at noon on Oct. 15, Kai Wargalla, one of the organizers of Occupy London Stock Exchange, said in a telephone interview yesterday. The group plans to mass in Paternoster Square, close to the London offices of both Bank of America Corp. in King Edward Street and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) on Fleet Street. Occupy Wall Street rallies started last month in New York’s financial district, where people have been staying in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to protest inequality and advocate higher taxes for the wealthy. Citigroup Inc. (C) Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit, 54, said he would be happy to talk with participants, saying their sentiments are “completely understandable.”

Junk bonds priced for renewed downturn - ( Investors have become so perturbed by the uncertain economic outlook that they have fled junk bonds, leaving the $1,000bn market priced as if a deep and painful recession lies ahead. Despite some improvement in sentiment in recent weeks, US junk bond yields, which rise as prices fall, are still trading at about 9.6 per cent, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch index. This marks a complete turnround from May, when yields touched an all-time low of 6.64 per cent. Judged by the 800-900 basis point premium in recent weeks, the highest spread paid above Treasuries in two years, the market is bracing for outsized risk. Yet high yield debt is one of the most volatile of asset classes, as companies move in and out of financial health. And the market is far fitter than it was two years ago, when bond prices last suggested such deep levels of pessimism. Even so, taken at face value, the market is predicting a deep recession. Assuming that in the event of default a high yield bond holder will get a typical 40 per cent of their money back, high yield spreads now imply about an 8 per cent default rate for junk bonds, almost double the historic average.

Fitch Sends Out A Huge Warning On Banks, Threatening To Downgrade Practically All The World's Biggest Firms - ( Big noise out of Fitch this evening, as the ratings agency just threatened downgrades across the global banking system. Here's the warning announcement: More important, perhaps, than the specific ratings is the broader commentary from Fitch: Fitch Ratings-New York-13 October 2011: In conjunction with a broad assessment of the ratings for the largest banking institutions in the world, Fitch Ratings is conducting a review of the global trading and universal banks in its rating portfolio. As part of that review, Fitch has placed the Viability Ratings (VRs) of seven and the long-term Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of six global trading and universal banks on Rating Watch Negative. At the same time, Fitch has placed the short-term IDRs of four of the banks on Rating Watch Negative.


German Inflation Rises More Than Estimated - (

China Offers Loan, Tax Help to Small Companies as Wenzhou Risks Spreading - (

Berlusconi to Address Parliament After Losing Budget Vote - (

China Exports Slow on ‘Severe Challenges’ - (

South Korea Holds Rates, BOJ Members Discuss Stimulus as Global Risks Rise - (

IMF Says Europe Crisis Escalation Poses Severe Risk to Asia - (

China Puts Light on Shadow Loans - (

Initial Jobless Claims in U.S. Fell to 404,000 - (

Trade Deficit in Is U.S. Little Changed at Four-Month Low of $45.6 Billion - (

Growing Income Gap May Leave U.S. More Vulnerable to Crises - (

Fed Signals Next Move May Link Stimulus to Economic ‘Mileposts’ - (

Biggest U.S. Free-Trade Accord Since ’94 Passed - (

US foreclosure activity edged higher in 3Q - (

JPMorgan’s Third-Quarter Profit Drops on Investment-Bank Slump - (

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friday October 28 Housing and Economic stories


German push for Greek default risks EMU-wide snowball - ( Germany is pushing behind the scenes for a "hard" default in Greece with losses of up to 60pc for banks and pension funds, risking a chain-reaction across southern Europe unless credible defences are established first. Officials in Berlin told The Telegraph it is "more likely than not" that investors will suffer fresh losses on holdings of Greek debt, beyond the 21pc haircut agreed in July. The exact level will depend on findings by the EU-IMF "Troika" in Athens. "A lot has happened since July. Greece has fallen back on its commitments, so we have to assume that the 21pc cut is no longer enough," said one source. Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine that the original haircuts were "probably" too low, saying banks must have "sufficient capital" to cover greater losses if need be. Estimates near 60pc have been circulating in Berlin. The shift in German policy has ominous echoes of last year when Chancellor Angela Merkel first called for bondholder haircuts, setting off investor flight from Ireland and a fresh spasm in the EU debt crisis.

Chanos Says China Banks ‘Deteriorating’ - ( Jim Chanos, the hedge-fund manager who’s been betting that Chinese bank stocks will tumble, said a rally spurred by government purchases of the shares hasn’t changed his bearish outlook. The MSCI China Financials Index surged 6 percent today after state-run Central Huijin Investment Ltd. started buying shares in the four biggest Chinese lenders. The gauge of banks, insurers and developers had tumbled as much as 43 percent in 2011 through Oct. 4, sending its price-to-earnings ratio to a record low of 5.6 on concern that slowing economic growth will spur bad debts after a three-year credit boom. “The fact that people are even talking about the government stepping in to shore up the banks, when two months ago people thought there was nothing wrong with the Chinese banks, should tell you just how seriously this situation is deteriorating,” Chanos, founder of New York-based hedge fund Kynikos Associates, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Michael McKee today.

Wall Street Sees ‘No Exit’ From Financial Woes - ( Wall Street executives, facing demonstrators camped for a fourth week in New York’s financial district, say they’re anxious and angry for other reasons. An era of decline and disappointment for bankers may not end for years, according to interviews with more than two dozen executives and investors. Blaming government interference and persecution, they say there isn’t enough global stability, leverage or risk appetite to triumph in the current slump. “I don’t think it’s a time to make money -- this is a time to rig for survival,” said Charles Stevenson, 64, president of hedge fund Navigator Group Inc. and head of the co-op board at 740 Park Ave. The building, home to Blackstone Group LP Chairman Stephen Schwarzman and CIT Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Thain, was among those picketed by protesters yesterday. “The future is not going to be like a past we knew,” he said. “There’s no exit from this morass.”

Europe eyes buoying banks to weather debt storm - ( European banks may need more than 100 billion euros ($135 billion) to withstand the sovereign debt crisis, Ireland estimated on Saturday ahead of a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to work out how to recapitalize the lenders. The falling value of banks' holdings of government debt from Greece and other euro zone periphery states has already provoked the implosion of Belgian lender Dexia, adding urgency to the Merkel-Sarkozy talks. "There is a high risk that this crisis further escalates and broadens," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview released in advance of publication on Sunday. Germany and France have so far been split over how to strengthen shaky lenders and fight financial market contagion that may follow a possible Greek default.

State Bonds Poised to Beat U.S. Cities as Housing Hurts Taxes: Muni Credit - ( State-government bonds, which have underperformed local debt by the most in 14 months, may be poised to pull ahead as flagging property-tax revenue threatens budgets in U.S. cities and counties. That may benefit Virginia’s sale of $167 million of bonds this week. It’s the state’s first general-obligation issue since Moody’s Investors Service placed its top credit rating on review on July 19 because of dependence on federal spending. U.S. states’ revenue jumped 10 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, driven by personal-income and sales taxes, the Census Bureau said last month. It was the most since 2006 and the sixth straight gain. Property-tax collections, the main income source for localities, dropped 1 percent. “Total-return performance potential for larger, liquid state names offer better prospects, given the recent data,” James Ahn, who manages $1 billion of short- and intermediate- term municipals at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, said in a telephone interview.


UK Unemployment Rockets to 17 Year High - (

We can all see the economic black hole, but how do we stop falling into it? - (

Bond Yields Show 60% Odds of U.S. Recession - (

Slovakia rejects enhanced bail-out fund, government falls - (

Europe eyes bigger Greek losses for banks - (

Regulators release plan for Volcker Rule limits on bank trading - (

Greece Credit-Default Swaps May Pay Out If Losses Exceed 21% - (

EU banks could shrink to hit capital rules - (

As Greece Avoids a Default, Recapitalization Plans Emerge for European Banks - (