Mar. 19--Lenders have become so overwhelmed by the foreclosure crisis that they are starting to unload properties in bulk to investor groups at steep discounts. Investors then flip the properties for a profit without necessarily improving the home.
For example, a unit of Citigroup, the troubled financial giant, sold a foreclosure in Temecula to an Arizona investment firm for $139,000 when comparable homes in the area were selling for $240,000 to $260,000.
The firm listed the home for $249,000, received multiple offers and the property has entered escrow, said Amber Schlieder, the real estate agent who handled the listing.
The Temecula foreclosure was first listed for sale by Citigroup in May 2007 for $420,000, according to Multi-Regional Multiple Listing Service, a real estate posting site used by real estate agents.
The property was listed on the site for 19 months before selling to the investors in a bulk sale in December 2008. The lowest price it was listed for was $314,000.
"It should have been listed for less," said Craig Finlayson, a real estate agent in the area who listed the property for Citigroup. "But it would have sold for more than 139 (thousand); 139 was a giveaway price."
CR Capital was the firm that flipped the Temecula foreclosure property, an investment group based in Tucson, Ariz. Calls to CR Capital were not immediately returned.
Incompetence In Pricing
The house never sold because Citigroup had it priced way above market. That is incompetence, lack of concern, an overworked unit or a combination of the above. I vote for the latter.
In November, the government agreed to limit Citigroup’s losses on a portfolio of $301 billion of troubled assets. Last month, the government issued a similar guarantee to Bank of America covering $118 billion in troubled assets. In both cases, the companies agreed to absorb an initial increment
The Senate plans to vote next week on steep levies on employee bonuses after the House overwhelmingly approved a 90 percent tax on bonuses at American International Group Inc. and other companies receiving bailout funds.
The Senate’s proposal on companies that got federal money would place a 70 percent tax on the bonuses. Half that amount would be paid by employees, half by the companies.
The 328-93 House vote came amid a national outcry over $165 million AIG paid in bonuses last week after receiving $173 billion in bailout funds as part of the government’s efforts to stabilize credit markets. President Barack Obama said he was “stunned” by the bonuses and vowed to recoup the money. Nineteen state governments have begun probes of the AIG bonuses.
“Paying excessive bonuses to the same group of folks that helped get us into this crisis is simply unacceptable,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said in a statement. “Millions of Americans continue to struggle to get by, counting their dollars, and Congress needs to do the same.”
The House measure would cover companies receiving 75 percent of federal bailout funds, according to the Ways and Means Committee. The Senate proposal would affect a larger pool of workers and the chamber may vote on it next week, said its primary sponsor, Baucus, a Montana Democrat.
Meanwhile, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank proposed legislation late yesterday to ban payments at companies getting U.S. aid until the government is repaid.
The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution
It’s over — we’re officially, royally fucked. no empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country’s heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.
The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).
So it’s time to admit it: We’re fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we’re still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not…
In Financial Armageddon, I warned that a great deal of ugliness would come to light once the Great Unraveling was underway (from Chapter 10, "Financial"):
Newfound transparency in the wake of the unfolding financial crisis will expose a scale of fraud, corruption, and self dealing that many will find almost impossible to comprehend. Day in and day out, reports will surface about hidden losses, false accounting, inflated appraisals, sizable off-balance-sheet obligations, valuation discrepancies, unregulated offshore entities, phantom profits, insider trading, and businesses bled dry to enrich a few individuals at the expense of employees, investors, bankers, and bondholders. Other revelations will reinforce the idea that companies, governments, and individuals are in far worse shape than people had assumed only a few years earlier. Much like the child watching the royal parade in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, "The Emperor’s New Clothes,” they will be bewildered by the starkness of businesses lacking any real substance.
Yet despite all the chicanery that has been exposed so far, it looks like there is plenty more to go if the following Financial Times report, "Watchdog Fears Market ‘Ponzimonium,’" is anything to go by.
US federal regulators have warned of a “rampant Ponzimonium” as they disclosed they are investigating “hundreds” of possible scams in the aftermath of the $50bn fraud allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.
Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the US regulator, said the watchdog was “seeing more of these scams than ever before” in commodities and other futures markets.
Mr Chilton said the CFTC, which patrol commodities and financial futures markets such as derivatives on stocks and foreign exchange, was investigating “hundreds of individuals and entities, many of which were related to Ponzi scams”.
The CFTC has filed charges against 15 alleged Ponzi schemes so far this year, compared with 13 during the whole of 2008. If the rate were sustained, the regulator could end the year filling more than 60 cases, officials said.
Here's a fun chart that illustrates why I like gold. Don't take it too seriously but do take seriously that this is exactly what happened to the US when we got embroiled in the Vietnam war and Nixon took over and the country plunged into debt and we cut taxes to the rich and dropped the gold standard. The ratio of the Dow to gold dropped from 47:1 to 2:1 but the middle of Reagan's first term. During the Clinton years, as we moved towards a budget surplus, the ratio of Dow to gold jumped from 7:1 in 1993 to 40:1 in 2002 but, since then, has dropped back to 15:1. The bottom line is: If you are worried about the markets – buy some gold. If you are worried about the dollar – buy some gold. If you are worried about terrorism – buy some gold.
I still think we should get a correction in gold back to $875 (no longer $850 as the trendline has been yanked up) but we're not hedging gold because we are worried it will hit $1,000, we are hedging because we are worried it will hit $2,000. That means that the difference between buying gold at $850 or $950 is not a big enough deal to stay completely out of it now. We would LIKE to be in the 2011 $70 calls for $20. Sadly, they are $32.25 at the moment. Here is how you can use a rolling plan to enter something high and still be happy when it's low.
We pick a target amount of gold. Say 10% of our virtual portfolio and say that's $10,000.
We scale in so we buy $2,500 at a time (roughly)
We FIRST look at what rolls cost. The roll from the $120s to the $115s is $1. Well that's silly, we'd pay that now. The roll from the $75s to the $70s is $3 so let's say we'll be happy to spend $1.50 a roll. THEREFORE we buy in at the first strike we CAN'T roll down for $1.50, which is the 2011 $100s at $19.
If we plan on spending $1.50 per $5 roll down as gold falls, it will cost us $9 ($1.50 x 6 rolls)
I really can't take all this AIG talk in the media anymore.
I'm not looking to defend the bonuses or argue the point but gee America, can we move on? We have TONS of problems that need solving yet the "finest minds" the media can assemble spend all day long on TV discussing whether or not to punish AIG workers retroactively. On top of that, turning this into a referendum on Tim Geithner after 60 days on the job is simply ridiculous.
I mentioned Friday that the real problem is Congress passing retroactive tax laws, which will do far more economic damage to this country than the 90% of $165M they are using the legislation to go after. What really cracks me up is the LACK of outrage at the 85 REPUBLICAN Congressmen who voted for the 90% clawback tax. I'm outraged at the Democrats, this is ridiculous populous pandering and if this bill actually goes through I'll be very, very disturbed about what is happening in this country. I am still hoping cooler heads do prevail.
I put in my mandatory Fox viewing time this morning (their "Cost of Freedom" block) and, if you wonder why people are still worried about the economy, all you have to do is spend a half hour listening to these talking heads ramble on for a segment and you too will be heading down to the nearest bomb shelter will all the canned food, guns and gold you can carry before the government comes to take it all away from you! What I have learned this morning from Rupert Murdoch's Fox News is that Geithner must resign now because he knew about the bonuses on March 3rd, not on March 10th as he indicated when he said "last Tuesday." I also learned that no one who voted for TARP read the bill and that that is Obama and Geithener's fault – even though they weren't in office at the time. I learned that our deficit is really $3.6Tn, not $1.7Tn and that Obama hates the handicapped.
I know all of this is true because the people who agree with these points are much louder than the people who disagree. Also, Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal agrees as well and that legitimizes the whole thing, right? My favorite part is the girl…
The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. As Tim Duy put it, there are no bad assets, only misunderstood assets. And if we get investors to understand that toxic waste is really, truly worth much more than anyone is willing to pay for it, all our problems will be solved.
To this end the plan proposes to create funds in which private investors put in a small amount of their own money, and in return get large, non-recourse loans from the taxpayer, with which to buy bad — I mean misunderstood — assets. This is supposed to lead to fair prices because the funds will engage in competitive bidding.
But it’s immediately obvious, if you think about it, that these funds will have skewed incentives. In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem. …
This plan will produce big gains for banks that didn’t actually need any help; it will, however, do little to reassure the public about banks that are seriously undercapitalized. And I fear that when the plan fails, as it almost surely will, the administration will have shot its bolt: it won’t be able to come back to Congress for a plan
According to The New York Times and the The Wall Street Journal, the Treasury Department is set to announce its plan for troubled assets early next week. It will include three components. The details aren’t clear since these are anticipatory news stories, but it will be something like this (combining bits of information from the two stories):
The FDIC will create a new entity to buy troubled loans, with the government contributing up to 80% of the capital and the remainder coming from the private sector. The Fed or the FDIC would then provide non-recourse loans* for up to 85% of the total funding (NYT), or guarantees against falling asset values (WSJ), which more or less amount to the same thing.
Treasury will create multiple new investment funds to buy troubled securities, with Treasury contributing 50% of the capital and the rest coming from the private sector. It’s not clear from the news stories, but I think it’s highly likely that these funds will also benefit from either non-recourse loans or asset guarantees.
The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) is a program under which the Fed was already planning to buy up to $1 trillion of newly-issued, asset-backed securities** (backed by car loans, credit card receivables, mortgages, etc.). The idea was to stimulate new lending in these categories. This program will be expanded to allow the Fed to buy “legacy” assets – those issued prior to the crisis. This enables the Fed to buy toxic assets off of bank balance sheets.
Instead of coming up with one plan to buy troubled assets, it looks like the government has come up with three. (As Calculated Risk said, however, ” More approaches doesn’t make a better plan” (emphasis in original).) For now, I think the concerns I expressed last month still hold. If we take as given that the government will only negotiate at arm’s length with the banks (meaning the banks can decide at what price they are willing to sell the assets), then the most important thing is for the plan to work. But…
Fears that a huge tax increase at the firms subject to the 90% bonus tax might shatter the performance of those banks were reflected in the performance of their stocks at the end of the week.
The folks at Bespoke Investment Group produced the list next door contrasting the performance over the last two days of the 20 largest non-bailout global financial firms against those that took enough bailout bucks to fall under the 90% tax penalty. The unaffected firms are primarily foreign banks, with Bank of New York Mellon being the only exception.
As shown, the non-bailout firms are down an average of 1.38%, while the 90% bonus tax firms are down an average of 14.02%. While the companies that would fall under this bonus tax rule are heading lower, their competitors are probably licking their chops for the top talent to come their way. And the government still hopes to get the taxpayers their money back.
Has there ever been a major holiday more focused on materialism than the modern American Christmas? This year, Americans are planning to spend an average of 830 dollars on Christmas gifts, which represents a jump of 110 dollars over the average of 720 dollars last year. But have our incomes gone up accordingly? Of course not.
In fact, real median household income in the United States has been experiencing a steady long-term decl...
In my article from November 17, I touched on the growing number of retailers that report shrinking traffic and disappointing sales:
Our consumer-driven economy is not getting any help from suddenly sober shopaholics. In the most recent report, the Commerce Department reported that retail sales rose by a measly 0.1% in September. And it didn’t matter whether you wear Gucci loafers or Red Wing work boots.
Since then, the retail landscape has gotten even muddier.
The Commerce Department reported that retail sales increased by a miserly +0.1% in October, be...
Holiday trading kicked into gear, although volume for the S&P managed to push into a technical accumulation day. Things are likely to remain quiet through to next week and any sharp moves at this stage have a high risk of failure.
The top performing index on the day was the Russell 2000. It managed to add another decent gain o keep the string of higher closes running. It didn't quite close above 1,200, but it may do so Friday (with the aforementioned caveat of holiday trading). Overall action in this index has been positive, and relative performance to other indices continues to improve.
Asian stocks were mixed in early trading on Wednesday as investors assessed the geopolitical risk surrounding Turkey's downing of a Russian fighter jet, while crude oil prices eased from two-week highs.
Some weeks when I write this article there is little new to talk about from the prior week. It’s always the Fed, global QE, China growth, election chatter, oil prices, etc. And then there are times like this in which there is so much happening that I don’t know where to start. Of course, the biggest market-moving news came the weekend before last when Paris was put face-to-face with the depths of human depravity and savagery. And yet the stock market responded with its best week of the year. As a result, the key issues dominating the front page and election chatter have moved from the economy and jobs to national security and a real war (rather than police ...
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I've decided to build our startup - Veritaseum, a peer-to-peer financial services platform, directly on top of the Bitcoin Blockchain. Many queried why I would voluntarily give up a lucrative advisory and consulting business to chase virtual coins in cyberspace. That's exactly why I decided to do it. That level of misunderstanding of what is essentially the second coming of the Internet gave me a fundamental advantage over those who had deeper connections, more capital and more firepower. I was the first mover advantage holder.
You see, Bitcoin is not about coins, currency or price pops. It is a massive computing net...
1) The shares of one of my largest short positions (~3%), Exact Sciences, crashed by more than 46% yesterday. Below is the article I published this morning on SeekingAlpha, explaining why I think it’s still a great short and thus shorted more yesterday. Here’s a summary:
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Draft Recommendation issued yesterday is devastating for Exact Sciences’ only product, Cologuard.
I think this is the beginning of the end for the company.
My price target for the stock a year from now is $3, so I shorted more yes...
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Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).
Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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