Thursday, June 28, 2012

Friday June 29 Housing and Economic stories


Bond Bubble Dismissed as Low Yields Echo Pimco’s New Normal  - (  Mohamed El-Erian knows why bond markets from the U.S. to Germany to Brazil, where yields have dropped to record lows even though debt has ballooned to more than $40 trillion worldwide, aren’t a bubble waiting to burst. “We may be in a synchronized slowdown” in global economic growth, El-Erian, who as chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co. oversees $1.77 trillion, said in a June 6 telephone interview. “We could stay here for a while.” The average yield on bonds issued by the Group of Seven nations has fallen to 1.120 percent from 3 percent in 2007, Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data show. Germany’s two-year note yield fell below zero for the first time on June 1, while Switzerland’s has been negative since April 24, meaning investors are paying for the right to lend the nation money.

·         Over the past few years, business owners report that they have, at one time or another, taken less profit (78 percent), worked more hours than usual (70 percent), and used their own money to help the business survive (69 percent).
·         54 percent of respondents say they have gone without a paycheck in order to keep the business running.
·         23 percent of owners have gone without pay for one year or more.
·         More than one-third of owners (38 percent) said their employees worked overtime without pay
·         18 percent of owners said employees either missed paychecks or had paychecks delayed.
·         Access to financing doesn’t come up in the top five most important issues among small businesses. Instead, business owners cite lack of sales and consumer confidence.

Games Realtors Play  - ( Realtors play many games, depending on the area you live in. The real estate "profession" is supposedly self regulating, but this also depends on where you live. I once dealt with a local Realtor who was on the local ethics board--she managed some houses for me, and was often months late with her payments to me, rent she had collected months before. I also sold her some houses, and she actually never paid the property taxes--when I found out, I paid the taxes, and promptly sold the mortgages to Associates Finance, who doesn't put up with things like that (I was carrying the mortgage paper). Other games: if you are a seller, you should to some extent assume that your realtor is working against you. Typically the realtor will suck up to the buyer behind your back. If you are a buyer, typically the realtor will "omit" things that may reflect badly on the house, especially to first time buyers, who are often clueless. I once sold a house that had been flooded (years before I owned it, but I did know about it). I wrote out a statement for the buyer to sign, and asked the realtor to get the buyer to sign, acknowledging that I had disclosed the prior flooding. The realtor refused to cooperate until I threatened call the real estate commission. And he was president of the state association of realtors at the time! If you must use a realtor, cover your ass at all times, never let your guard down, double check everything, and do not assume, for one second, that the realtor actually knows the law.

We Have Too Many Empty Houses - (  Video - Warren Buffett tells MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' that while signs of domestic economic recovery are underway, a recovery in the housing market will be key to robust growth. Video courtesy MSNBC. (Source: Bloomberg)

Fannie and Freddie Mistakes - ( Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: the mere mention of them arouses passionate anger in many people.  Rightly so.  These two entities, which had taxpayer guarantees, ran their businesses as if they were privately owned.  Fannie and Freddie made huge bets on the housing market.  If it had been their money and their loss, then there would be no problem.  But their mistakes took taxpayers down as well. What went wrong and what needs to happen?  Fannie Mae was born from the Great Depression in the 1930s to help bring mortgages to the ailing housing market of the time.  Fannie was a government corporation (not a private corporation) with the single mission of increasing liquidity by buying up soundly underwritten mortgages.  Because of Fannie and its government status, 30-year fixed rate mortgages became widely available.  Canada and Britain, for example, do not have long-term mortgages, or least not at low cost, because they do not have a Fannie equivalent with government guarantees.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thursday June 28 Housing and Economic stories


WARNING: Goldman Sach’s Leading Indicators Signal Steep Market Crash Ahead - ( Goldman Sachs reports their Global Economic indicators show the world has reentered a contraction and a steep stock market crash lies ahead. Goldman Sachs Global Leading Indicator (GLI) show that the global economy has entered into a contraction phase “suggest this could be a much more severe downturn” than Wall Street is currently anticipating. Notably the GLI turned negative ahead of the Internet bubble bursting at the turn of the millennium and far in advance of the Financial Meltdown of 2008. The angle at which we entered this Contraction phase is worse than angle preceding last year’s crash ahead of the Debt Ceiling crisis crash almost on par with the angle at the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000.

Fitch cuts 18 Spanish banks after sovereign downgrade - (  Fitch Ratings on Tuesday downgraded 18 Spanish banks less than a week after the agency cut the country's sovereign debt rating, underscoring the potential for lenders' assets to deteriorate further. Fitch, which already cut Santander and BBVA on Monday, cut the ratings for CaixaBank, Bankia, Banco Popular Espanol and others. "In particular, Spain is expected to remain in recession through the remainder of this year and 2013 compared to the previous expectation that the economy would benefit from a mild recovery in 2013," Fitch said in a statement. "The institutions affected by today's rating actions are purely domestic banks. Thus, their revenue generation capacity, risk profile, funding access and cost of funding are highly sensitive to the evolution of Spain's economy and its housing market."

Worry for Italy Quickly Replaces Relief for Spain - ( Concerns grew on Monday that Italy could be the next victim of Europe’s financial infection, leading nervous investors to sell Italian stocks and bonds and damping euphoria over a weekend deal to bail out Spain’s banks. Italian officials privately expressed concern that the 100 billion euros, or $125 billion, that Europe pledged to Spanish banks might not stop the troubles from spreading. Italy’s main stock index was Europe’s worst performer on Monday, a day when United States stocks were also dragged down and investors flocked yet again to the safe harbor of American and German government bonds. Even the Italian prime minister, Mario Monti, a European technocrat who came to office after the euro crisis forced out Silvio Berlusconi last November, has begun to acknowledge the dangers posed to his country’s 1.56-trillion-euro economy ($1.95 trillion).

Union Thugs Abandon Obama - ( Two new and disturbing polls just out suggest that the road to reelection is getting tougher for President Obama. In the most significant, Gallup found that union member support for the president is weaker than it was on Election Day. While Obama took 67 of the union vote, according to 2008 election night polling by Peter Hart for the AFL-CIO, Gallup discovered that just 58 percent of union members back the president now. Some 35 percent support Mitt Romney, 5 percent more than Sen. John McCain won in 2008. Gallup said the union vote is a significant block for Obama, though, “their impact on the presidential race will be limited by their size -- just about 12% of employed voters are union members.”

The Difference Between A Manager At The Post Office And A Manager At Walmart – ( What's the difference between a manager at the Post Office and a manager at Walmart?  Author and social entrepreneur Geoff Smart shared an interesting little anecdote in his new book "Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) into Government." When Smart was a graduate student, he had to observe two different leaders for a class project. He went to a Walmart and Post Office and compared the two. The first was a manager at a Post Office, and what Smart saw was a management catastrophe. He writes: "I noticed that the boss slouched in his chair with his shoulders slumped forward, and talked with a frown on his face. He pointed his finger at the other people in his meeting. The discussion he led was all about rules and compliance — the concerns of bureaucracy — for almost the entire meeting, combined with some unpleasant nagging of the workers. He talked down to them and insulted them. "The boss and the workers complained about customers and how much of a nuisance they were. There was no discussion of problems to be solved, results to be delivered, or accomplishments recently achieved. No mention of analyzing, allocating, or aligning people to achieve great results."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wednesday June 27 Housing and Economic stories


Spooky parallels between Great Depression and euro crisis - (  Recent signs of global economic weakness have caused me to muse on the comparison between the world economy now and during the 1930s. The similarities are spooky. In regard to the depth of the downturn, the comparison is very different between countries. In the US and Germany, the loss of output since 2008 of about 5-7pc hardly registers against the losses registered during the Great Depression, when output fell by 25pc. But the recession here in the UK has been greater. Contrary to the folk memory of a disastrous decade, in the 1930s the UK did relatively well. Of course, unemployment at first rose alarmingly – and this counted for far more then as living standards were lower and there was less support for the needy. Yet output here only fell by about 8pc, and it subsequently recovered rapidly. In the popular imagination, the slump of the 1930s was set off by the sharp falls in share prices in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. In fact, the direct effect of the Crash was probably not that great. More important was the international banking crisis which followed the collapse of the Austrian bank, Creditanstalt, in 1931.

Britain and Europe failing to tackle technically insolvent banks - ( Britain and Europe are failing to tackle the problem of technically insolvent banks and are trying to buy time with QE, summits, and other can-kicking measures. British banks are sitting on “£40bn of undeclared losses”. So says Pirc, the UK’s leading shareholder advisory group. What’s more, Pirc argues, the massive backlog of undisclosed bad debts is preventing our banking sector from making vital, growth-boosting loans to creditworthy businesses and households. It doesn’t surprise me that some of the UK’s leading banks are technically insolvent. What does surprise me is that it’s taken until last week for a respected professional body such as Pirc to state the obvious.

Spanish Bonds Drop on Concern Bailout Not Enough - (  Spanish bonds fell, pushing 10-year yields up by the most in almost a month, on concern the nation’s request for bank aid won’t be enough to stop Europe’s debt crisis from spreading. Italy’s securities declined as investors bet the country would become the next focus of Europe’s financial woes after Spain’s request for as much as 100 billion euros ($125 billion) of support. Spanish securities reversed an earlier gain on speculation investors holding them will rank behind official creditors in the queue for payment following the rescue. Portuguese bonds advanced after Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said its bailout conditions may be relaxed. “This bailout doesn’t solve the euro-region debt crisis,” said Christian Reicherter, a Frankfurt-based analyst at DZ Bank AG. “There is skepticism about whether the money is enough for the banks and whether the nation might also need help, and this will keep Spanish bonds under pressure.”

Italy Moves Into Debt-Crisis Crosshairs After Spain - ( The 100 billion-euro ($126 billion) rescue for Spain’s banks moved Italy to the front line of Europe’s debt crisis, as the country’s bonds and equities slumped on concern it may be the next to succumb. Italy’s 10-year bonds reversed early gains today in the first trading after the Spanish bailout. Their yield rose by the most in a day since Dec. 8, adding 27 basis points to 6.04 percent. Shares of UniCredit SpA (UCG), the country’s largest bank, had their steepest decline in five months. “The scrutiny of Italy is high and certainly will not dissipate after the deal with Spain,” Nicola Marinelli, who oversees $153 million at Glendevon King Asset Management in London, said in an interview. “This bailout does not mean that Italy will be under attack, but it means that investors will pay attention to every bit of information before deciding to buy or to sell Italian bonds.”

Bank bail-out won't end Spain's property nightmare - ( With Spain's property bust far from bottoming out, any capital injection being discussed by European leaders for Spain’s banks is merely a sticking plaster. Just over a year ago, Bob Diamond went to Spain. The chief executive of an international bank visiting a nearby foreign country in which it has exposure would not normally a story make. But in this instance, it was no ordinary trip. For in the penultimate week of May 2011, Diamond, only five months into the top job at Barclays, went knocking on the door of then Spanish prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tuesday June 26 Housing and Economic stories


Spain's Bailout Boost Quickly Turns to Rout - ( Investors gave a thumbs down to Spain's planned bank bailout, setting off a global market rout that puts the country and the euro zone in a dire position. Spain agreed over the weekend to accept as much as €100 billion ($125 billion) in European aid to recapitalize its banks, a plan designed to ease concern that Spain itself could be dragged down by the declining fortunes of its banks. Instead, confidence in Spain deteriorated among the constituency the country most needs to impress: the buyers of its government bonds. After a short-lived burst of strength Monday morning, Spanish bond yields reversed course and began a sharp rise. The 10-year bond was yielding 6.521%, three-tenths of a percentage point higher than at Friday's close. Bond yields rise when their prices fall; a higher yield indicates an increased perception of risk.

Fed Says U.S. Wealth Fell 38.8% in 2007-2010 on Housing - ( The median net worth of U.S. families plunged 38.8 percent from 2007 to 2010, with the biggest losses concentrated among households with the most assets tied to their homes, a Federal Reserve study shows. Median household net worth declined to $77,300 in 2010, an 18-year low, from $126,400 in 2007, the central bank said in its Survey of Consumer Finances. Mean net worth fell 14.7 percent to a nine-year low of $498,800 from $584,600, the central bank said today in Washington. “The impact has been a massive destruction of wealth all across the board,” said Lance Roberts, who oversees $500 million as chief executive officer of Streettalk Advisors LLC in Houston. “What you see is an economy that’s really very, very stressed for the bottom 60 to 70 percent of the population that’s struggling just to make ends meet.”

Exclusive: Euro zone discussed capital controls if Greek exits euro: sources - ( European finance officials have discussed limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing euro zone capital controls as a worst-case scenario should Athens decide to leave the euro. EU officials have told Reuters the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasized that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen - no one Reuters has spoken to expects Greece to leave the single currency area. But with increased political uncertainty in Greece following the inconclusive election on May 6 and ahead of a second election on June 17, there is now an increased need to have contingencies in place, the EU sources said.

Greeks seek better terms after Spanish rescue - ( Greece can seek a better deal from Europe for its own rescue after Spain won lenient bailout terms, the main Greek parties said on Monday, a sign that however Greece votes this week it will be headed for a showdown with Brussels. With days to go before the June 17 election which could decide Greece's future in the euro zone, the Spanish accord has been dragged into a campaign being fought largely over the harsh conditions imposed under Greece's own 130 billion euro bailout. The radical leftwing SYRIZA party, which has campaigned on a pledge to scrap the Greek bailout altogether and demand better terms, said the Spanish deal proved that the austerity imposed by international lenders had failed.

Ranks of long-term unemployed still growing - ( The national unemployment rate has fallen from its recession highs, but Americans who have been out of work for six months or more are still having trouble finding work. The numbers are staggering. The ranks of the long-term unemployed swelled last month from 5.1 million to 5.4 million, and those individuals now account for 42.8% of the unemployed. Meanwhile, the average length of time the unemployed have spent out of work has climbed steadily higher -- and older Americans have been the hardest hit. "The result is nothing short of a national emergency," economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett wrote recently in the New York Times.

Over 50, battling unemployment - ( Older workers who have been unemployed for over a year find it harder to get in the door and earn like they used to.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monday June 25 Housing and Economic stories


Spain too big for EU rescue fund as China recoils - ( As Spain edges closer to a full sovereign rescue, economists have begun to doubt whether the EU bail-out machinery can raise such large sums funds at viable cost on global capital markets. While the International Monetary Fund thinks Spanish banks require €40bn or so in fresh capital, any loan package may have to be much larger to restore shattered confidence in the country. Megan Greene from Roubini Global Economics says Spain's banks will need up to €250bn, a claim that no longer looks extreme. New troubles are emerging daily. The Bank of Spain said on Thursday that Catalunya Caixa and Novagalicia will need a total of €9bn in new state funds. JP Morgan is expecting the final package for Spain to rise above €350bn, while RBS says the rescue will "morph" into a full-blown rescue of €370bn to €450bn over time -- by far the largest in world history.

Spain downgraded again, at risk of junk status - ( Spain's sovereign debt rating was slashed three steps Thursday by credit rating agency Fitch, which warned that the nation is at risk of being downgraded into junk bond status. The nation's debt rating was cut from "A" all the way to "BBB," the lowest rating that is considered investment grade. And the new rating was given a negative outlook, meaning it at risk for further downgrades. Fitch pointed to the estimated cost of a Spanish bank bailout, which it said is likely to cost between €60 billion to €100 billion, as well as a prolonged recession that Fitch now expects to run throughout 2013. "Spain's high level of foreign indebtedness has rendered it especially vulnerable to contagion from the ongoing crisis in Greece," the agency said in the note. "The much reduced financing flexibility of the Spanish government is constraining its ability to intervene decisively in the restructuring of the banking sector and has increased the likelihood of external financial support."

Portugal props up banks with €6.6bn  - ( Portugal is to inject up to €6.65bn (£5.4bn) into three of its biggest banks to meet an EU deadline for higher capital ratios by the end of this month. Private lenders BCP and BPI will receive €3.5bn and €1.5bn in return for convertible bonds. The funding will come from a recapitalsation credit under the country's €78bn bail-out from the EU-IMF "Troika". The state-owned Caixa Geral de Depositos will receive €1.65bn under different rules. The move was expected, unlike the dramatic rescue of Bankia in Spain. Troika officials announced on Monday that Portugal's reform programme "remains on tracking amidst continuing challenges", clearing the way for the next €4.1bn tranche of rescue loans.

Young adults skip health care as debts rise - ( Millions of young adults are forgoing necessary care and treatment because of rising health care costs, a report said Friday. In fact, 41% of young adults between age 19 and 29 failed to get medical care in a recent 12-month period because of cost, according to a Commonwealth Fund survey. Among uninsured adults, the number rose to 60%. They are not filling prescriptions, skipping recommended tests or treatments, avoiding doctor visits and failing to get specialist care they need. "This reflects the high cost of medical care right now and health pl ans that may not cover people very well," said Dr. Sara Collins, vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund and chief author of the survey.

Spanish bailout rumors abound - ( Spain needs help to resolve a festering banking crisis and it seems increasingly likely that the nation will seek a financial rescue soon. European Union officials are eager to resolve the issue before a pivotal election in Greece, which could present another major turning point in the long-running euro crisis. Spain could make a request for financial aid this weekend, according to a report by Reuters, which cited EU and German sources. The wire service said Friday that finance officials from all 17 euro area nations will hold a conference call Saturday to discuss the rescue package. But a spokesman for Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Eurogroup of finance ministers, told CNNMoney Spain has not yet requested financial assistance and that no conference call has been scheduled.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Friday June 22 Housing and Economic stories


Spain poised to seek bailout - ( Spain could request bailout aid for its struggling domestic banks as early as Saturday during conference calls between officials from all 17 eurozone finance ministries, making Madrid the fourth member of the single currency bloc to need a rescue from EU authorities since the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis. People briefed on planning for the calls, one with senior officials and a second with finance ministers themselves, said leaders want to move preemptively in order to assuage growing market uncertainty. The decision was first reported by Reuters. There were signs on Friday that the Spanish government may back away from a formal request for aid after news of the calls was made public. Spanish media quoted deputy budget minister Fernández Currás on Friday as saying the reports were “false”.

Strike threatens to derail crucial Greek election - ( A strike announced Thursday by Greek municipal employees is threatening to derail the crucial June 17 national election, which could determine whether the debt-crippled country continues to use the euro. The POE-OTA union, which represents thousands of people who work for cities, villages and other municipalities, says its members are paid far less for doing elections-related work than other government employees. Municipal workers are a key part of the voting process, from setting up voting centers with ballot boxes, booths and ballots to handling last-minute documentation for voters.

Europe’s troubles affect wide variety of U.S. firms - ( From manufacturers in the Midwest to upscale retail shops in Manhattan, a wide variety of American companies are feeling the pinch of Europe’s economic contraction, helping to hold back recovery in the United States. Ford, the iconic U.S. car company, says that Europeans are not only buying fewer cars but also replacing fewer parts. Kraft Foods, which is behind such brands as Swedish Fish and Dentyne, says sales of candy and gum in Europe are lagging. And jeweler Tiffany & Co. saysfewer European tourists are shopping at its flagship Fifth Avenue store. Europe is suffering a financial crisis, fueled by dwindling investor confidence in the debts of such countries as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy and a beleaguered banking sector. In the United States, analysts are worried less about the financial system and more about the impact on companies outside Wall Street.

Madrid Leans on Its Troubled Banks to Buy Its Bonds - ( While the Spanish government was able to sell all the bonds it wanted to on Thursday, it mostly sold to the usual buyers: Spain’s increasingly fragile banks. And so, as Madrid tries to come up with the money to bail out its banks, its main lenders are increasingly becoming many of those same institutions. If it sounds like the most vicious of circles, it is. Economists warn that over the long term, Spain will have trouble meeting its substantial financial requirements until foreign investors return to the market as regular buyers, injecting new money into the system. Until late last year, foreign investors were doing just that. But lately, much of the foreign money has been staying away.

Capital Flight Leaves Banks In Germany Awash In Deposits - (  As Europe’s sovereign debt crisis escalates, Germany is becoming a magnet for depositors keen to stow their savings in the euro area’s safest market. Deposits in Germany rose 4.4 percent to 2.17 trillion euros ($2.73 trillion) as of April 30 from a year earlier, according to European Central Bank figures. Deposits in Spain, Greece and Ireland shrank 6.5 percent to 1.2 trillion euros in the same period, including a 16 percent drop for Greece, the data compiled by Bloomberg show. As banks in Europe’s periphery fret over lost deposits, German lenders are awash in liquidity that comes on top of more than 1 trillion euros the ECB has made available in three-year loans to banks since December to ease the flow of credit. The prospect of Greece leaving the 17-nation euro region is fueling the capital flight as parties opposed to the terms of the country’s second bailout prepare for a new ballot on June 17 after winning most of the votes in elections last month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thursday June 21 Housing and Economic stories


Abandoned SF mansion hits market for $25 million - ( The story is a sad one. A historic San Francisco estate has hit the market, asking $25 million. Le Petit Trianon, nestled in the heart of Presidio Heights, was built over a century ago as a replica of a Versailles mansion built for French King Louis XV around 1768. The San Francisco version is a local and national landmark, as described by this SF Chronicle article several years back, but has fallen into disrepair after current owner, Halsey Minor, purchased it for $22 million in 2007 with intentions to restore it to its grand reputation. Halsey Minor is well known in tech circles. As a founder of CNet, he made it big and went on a buying spree of real estate, art and other luxuries of the rich and famous. But, it seems the spending spree has caught up to him. Le Petit Trianon never underwent the $15 million planned restoration and this historic property is only one of many financial related issues he’s dealing with, including owing back taxes to the state. A couple of years ago, the Bay Citizen described the neglect:

Wisconsin Recall Total Disaster for Mainstream Media - ( Up in the top left, the headline read, "EXIT POLLS: RESULTS SIMILAR TO ELECTION 2 YEARS AGO, SOURCES TELL DRUDGE... '5 POINT MARGIN'... DEVELOPING... "
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scolded Drudge writing, "Republican and Democratic sources in Wisconsin told the Journal Sentinel that the numbers used by the Drudge Report are wrong. Sources said the exit polls showed that race as being much tighter than the conservative website indicated." As it turns out, Walker won by seven points. Of course, traditional media outlets aren't allowed to make predictions before polls close. So at 9 PM, over three hours after Drudge correctly called it a win with a significant margin for Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker, CNN's Wolf Blitzer led the insanity:  WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Wolf Blitzer in for Piers Morgan. He's in London with the latest on today's Diamond Jubilee celebration. But we begin with breaking news out  of Wisconsin right now where polls have just closed. The recall vote that could preview November's election. Look at this. Our exit polls show it's a 50-50 race as of this minute. These are exit polls, the polls that we conducted throughout the day, throughout the state of Wisconsin. These are preliminary exit poll results. Fifty percent for Scott Walker. He's on the left of your screen. Fifty percent for Tom Barrett, the Democrat, the mayor of Milwaukee. He is on the right. Scott Walker is the incumbent Republican governor. This is a race to recall him, to remove him from office. Based on the exit polls that we've been conducting throughout the day. Right now the exit polls show it's 50 percent for Walker, 50 percent for Barrett. Doesn't get much closer than this.

Buyers Frustrated by Low Inventory, Rising Prices - (  Active home buyers are increasingly concerned about rising prices, prompting a growing number to slow down their purchase plans, according to a new survey. The findings are from real-estate brokerage Redfin, which surveyed more than 1,200 home buyers in 18 metro areas who had toured a home since March 1. The company found that 49% of respondents believe that it’s a good time to buy a home, down from 56% last quarter. The share of buyers who think it’s a good time to sell more than doubled, to 28% of respondents. Nearly six in 10 respondents said that low inventory remained their top concern with buying right now—by far the most predominant worry of buyers. The supply of homes listed for sale nationally is down by 20% from one year ago, and markets such as Phoenix, Orlando and Oakland, Calif., have around half as many homes for sale as one year ago.

OCC Dropped The Ball On Robo-Signing Scandal, Watchdog Says - ( Federal regulators sure did drop the ball on the robo-signing scandal, according to a government watchdog. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau of the Treasury Department, failed to catch the 2008-2010 robo-signing crisis, in which banks systematically signed off on foreclosures without properly reviewing the specifics of the cases, according to a report released last week by the Treasury Department Inspector General (h/tAmerican Banker.) The OCC's examination procedures "were not sufficient in scope or application to identify significant weaknesses in national banks’ foreclosure documentation and processing functions," the report said.

Sleeping in Vermont Dumpster Shows Psychiatric Cuts'Cost - ( Katherine Gluck blurts out to the judge, “I’m guilty.” Gluck, 47, is charged on this March morning with threatening her former husband with a hammer. Police who arrested her in Burlington, Vermont, know those tired eyes and stringy blond hair. In December, Gluck was charged but not jailed or hospitalized after she slammed a dead raccoon against the front door of City Hall. Her family urged her to get help for her bipolar disorder, which usually involves getting back on medication. She refused. Now, court-appointed lawyer Sarah Reed hopes Judge Thomas Devine will send Gluck to a hospital. The odds aren’t good. Hurricane Irene wiped out the last state-operated psychiatric beds in Vermont nine months ago. Since then, private-hospital emergency rooms have been backed up with mentally ill patients -- some handcuffed to ER beds for as long as two days. Dozens of people are turned away each month without being admitted, and calls to Burlington police about mental-health issues increased 32 percent over the prior year.