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Archive for 2011

Public Pension Funds Seek Foreclosure Reviews

Courtesy of Leo Kolivakis

Via Pension Pulse.

Ilaina Jonas of Reuters reports, Public pension funds seek foreclosure reviews:

A coalition of seven major public pension systems, led by New York City Comptroller John Liu, has asked the boards of four of the largest U.S. banks to examine their mortgage and foreclosure practices.

 

In a letter dated January 6, the pension fund coalition urged the Audit Committees of Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Wells Fargo L& Co to launch independent examinations of their loan modification, foreclosure, and securitization policies and procedures.

 

“This will help to prevent future compliance failures and restore the confidence of shareholders, regulators, legislators and mortgage markets participants,” the coalition said in the letter.

 

Bank representatives could not be reached for immediate comment on Sunday.

On January 7, in a decision that could slow foreclosures nationwide, Massachusetts’ highest court voided the seizure of two homes by Wells Fargo & Co and US Bancorp after the banks failed to show they held the mortgages at the time they foreclosed.

 

That sent fears through the market as investors worried that decision could threaten lenders’ ability to work through hundreds of thousands of pending foreclosures.

 

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ unanimous decision upheld a lower court ruling and was among the earliest cases to address the validity of foreclosures done without proper documentation.

 

That issue, including the use of “robo-signers” who approved foreclosure documents without reviewing them, last year prompted an uproar that led lenders such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial Inc to temporarily stop seizing homes.

 

Courts in other U.S. states are considering similar cases, and all 50 state attorneys general are examining whether lenders are forcing people out of their homes improperly.

 

The pension fund coalition represents more than $430 billion in pension fund investments, including $5.7 billion invested in the four banks.

 

Liu represents the five NYC pension funds. The coalition also includes the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, the Illinois State Board of Investment, the Illinois State Universities Retirement System, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the North Carolina Retirement Systems, and the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund.

 

The coalition


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Elizabeth Warren & Bill Maher Discuss Usury And The Credit Card Bill Of Rights

Courtesy of The Daily Bail

Excellent discussion of credit-card abuse of consumers, with some historical quotes thrown in from Maher. 

Dr. Warren explains that we had usury protection in this country until 1979.





Less Than Meets The Eye In Ibanez Foreclosure Case

Courtesy of Tom Lindmark at But Then What 

Lots of doomsday scenarios floating about concerning the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in US Bank vs Ibanez. Is it all warranted?

First the bare bones. The Court’s decision upheld lower court’s finding that two foreclosures were improper as the banks involved had not proven that they owned the mortgages on the properties. To make matters just a bit more complete, both mortgages had been transferred into mortgage-backed trusts. That pretty much throws all the players who can sue into the pot.

Now the thinking among some is that this could open up the flood gates in as much as the two homeowners in this case get their houses back. Or do they?

Felix Salmon frets that homeowners in Massachusetts who have been foreclosed will begin to challenge the banks and regain their homes.

The legal craziness that this decision sets in motion is going to be huge, I’m sure. Anybody who was foreclosed on in Massachusetts should now be phoning up their lawyer and trying to find out if the foreclosure was illegal. If it was — if there was a break in the chain of title somewhere which meant that the bank didn’t own the mortgage in question — then the borrower should be able to get their deed, and their home, back from the bank. This decision is retroactive, and no one has a clue how many thousands of foreclosures it might cover.

Similarly, if you bought a Massachusetts home out of foreclosure, you should be very worried. You might not have proper title to your home, and you risk losing it to the original owner. It might be worth dusting off your title insurance: you could need it. And if you ever need to sellyour home, well, good luck with that.

Going forwards, every homeowner being foreclosed upon will as a matter of course challenge the banks to prove that they own the mortgage in question. If the bank can’t do that, then the foreclosure proceeding will be tossed out of court. This is likely to slow down foreclosures enormously, as banks ensure that all their legal ducks are in a row before they try to foreclose.

This decision won’t be appealed: the state law seems pretty cut-and-dried, every judge who’s looked at it has come to the same decision, and there’s no conceivable grounds for


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Why Is The US Taxpayer Subsidizing Facebook – And The Next Bubble?

By Simon Johnson at The Baseline Scenario

Goldman Sachs is investing $450 million of its own money in Facebook, at a valuation that implies the social networking company is now worth $50 billion.  Goldman is also apparently launching a fund that will bring its own high net worth clients in as investors for Facebook.

On the face of it, this might just seem like the financial sector doing what it is supposed to – channeling funds into productive enterprise.  The SEC is apparently looking at the way private investors will be involved, but there are some more deeply unsettling factors at work here.

Remember that Goldman Sachs is now a bank holding company – a status it received in September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, in order to avoid collapse (for the details, see Andrew Ross Sorkin’s blow-by-blow account in Too Big To Fail.)  This means that it has essentially unfettered access to the Federal Reserve’s discount window, i.e., it can borrow against all kinds of assets in its portfolio, effective ensuring it has government-provided liquidity at any time.

Any financial institution with such access to such government support is likely to take on excessive risk – this is the heart of what is commonly referred to as the problem of “moral hazard.”  If you are fully insured against adverse events, you will be less careful. 

Goldman Sachs is undoubtedly too big to fail – in the sense that if it were on the brink of failure now or in the near future, it would receive extraordinary government support and its creditors (at the very least) would be fully protected. In all likelihood, under the current administration and its foreseeable successors, shareholders, executives, and traders would also receive generous help at the moment of duress. No one wants to experience another “Lehman moment.”

This means that cost of funding to Goldman Sachs is cheaper than it would be otherwise – because creditors feel that they have substantial “downside protection” from the government.  How much cheaper is a matter of some controversy, but estimates made by my co-author James Kwak (in a paper presented at a Fordham Law School conference last February) put this at around 50 basis points (0.5 percentage points), for banks with over $100 billion in total assets.

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Photo: Jr. Deputy Accountant 





The Bill Daley Problem – The Baseline Scenario

Courtesy of Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers, The Baseline Scenario

Bill Daley, President Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff, is an experienced business executive.  By all accounts, he is decisive, well-organized, and a skilled negotiator.  His appointment, combined with other elements of the White House reshuffle, provides insight into how the president understands our economy – and what is likely to happen over the next couple of years.  This is a serious problem.

This is not a critique from the left or from the right.  The Bill Daley Problem is completely bipartisan – it shows us the White House fails to understand that, at the heart of our economy, we have a huge time bomb. 

Until this week, Bill Daley was on the top operating committee at JP Morgan Chase.  His bank – along with the other largest U.S. banks – have far too little equity and far too much debt relative to that thin level of equity; this makes them highly dangerous from a social point of view.  These banks have captured the hearts and minds of top regulators and most of the political class (across the spectrum), most recently with completely specious arguments about why banks cannot be compelled to operate more safely.  Top bankers, like Mr. Daley’s former colleagues, are intent of becoming more global – despite the fact that (or perhaps because) we cannot handle the failure of massive global banks. 

The system that led to the crisis of 2008, and the recession that has so severely damaged so many Americans, encouraged excessive risk-taking by major private sector financial institutions and, yes, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other Government Sponsored Enterprises (although these were most definitely not the major drivers of the crisis – see 13 Bankers).

Today’s most dangerous government sponsored enterprises are the largest six bank holding companies: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley.  They are undoubtedly too big to fail – if they were on the brink of failure, they would be rescued by the government, in the sense that their creditors would be protected 100 percent.  The market knows this and, as a result, these large institutions can borrow more cheaply than their smaller competitors.  This lets them stay big and – amazingly – get bigger. 

In the latest available data (Q3 of 2010), the big 6


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The Silver Bears Are Back For Round Three, Explaining Two Key Recent Developments In The World Of Silver

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

Confused by the recent downdraft in the price of (paper) silver… Even more confused by what is happening with the record open interest in the metal? Have no fear. The bears are here, and explain things in their traditionally simple and sound effect-filled way.

And for those who are confused by the above, here is another explanation of what may be happening courtesy of a “letter” to Blythe (thanks John).

Blythe,

This is what I am hearing from your former traders (who made “very interesting career decisions”). Well it seem that they are on to a new scheme to corner the Comex and drive the price of silver up $10 to $15 dollars in a matter of weeks.

The strategy is as follows. We know that Comex only has 105 million ounces of silver of which only 50 million ounces are availabe for delivery. (I personally don’t believe the Comex numbers are anywhere near that high, but that is neither here nor there for now.) Well, all it would take is 10,000 contracts on the Comex to buy up all the “available silver” at the Comex and 20,000 contracts to deplete it completely. The current front month March OI is north of 78,000.

Watch the OI closely. Blythe’s former traders are advising major hedgefunds and billioniare investors to buy up as many contracts as possible as March 1 approaches and deposit the cash needed to stand for delivery for the month of March. The purpose is not necessarily to bust the Comex but to force the Comex to pay a premium (some as much as 30 percent) for cash settlement. Think about it. If a group of hedgefund gets together and bankroll $1 billion, they can buy more than 30 million ounces of silver. Of course, the contract sellers like The Morgue cant deliver the silver so a cash settlement is the only recourse. So what’s wrong with $200 million in profit on a $1 billion investment that takes less than 4 weeks total?

Guess what Blythe? Your former traders are advising everyone they know to put on this trade come the first week of February. Is this what happened in the Decemeber contracts? Is this why silver went from $22 on September 30 to $29 by December 1? How much


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The US Will More than Muddle Through

Courtesy of John Mauldin at Thoughts from the Frontline

How Did We Do on 2010? 
Russia and the Roots of World Inflation 
The US Will More than Muddle Through 
December Unemployment Better than Headline 
A Very Fluid Economy 
Cabo, LA, Winnipeg, Meet Me in Vegas, and Thailand

It is time once again to throw caution and wisdom to the wind and actually make my 11th annual forecast. I have to admit this is the most stressful letter I write each year. I do at least 5-10 times more research and thinking about this issue than any other. On a positive note, this may be one of the more optimistic forecast letters I have done in a long time. But there are some asterisks, as always. We will survey the world, trying to peer through the fog of the future. There are some very interesting side trails we will want to explore. Did you know some events in Russia could have real ramifications for inflation in China, the US, and the world? I pay attention to the background details and bring them to you. So settle back as we tour the world.

How Did We Do in 2010?

I rarely go back and read my annual forecast until the following year, and this year was no exception. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that my batting average was pretty good. You can read the first two letters of last January, which comprised the forecast, at http://www.investorsinsight.com/blogs/thoughts_from_the_frontline/archive/2010/01.aspx.

After noting my bearishness on the yen, euro, and pound (against the dollar), I wrote:

“So, where are the strong currencies going forward? The Canadian dollar is on its way to parity. I would want to own the Aussie, if I was a trader. Maybe the Swiss franc, although it is so high on a parity-value basis right now. [Note: if the Swissie was high this time last year, it is wildly overvalued now. And there is nothing the Swiss can seemingly do about it. Their central bank has lost billions trying to fight appreciation against the euro. As Dennis Gartman notes, this fighting the euro may be the all-time largest losing trade in history.]

“But the currency I want the most if I am a central banker [or an individual] is that barbaric yellow relic, gold. Just as India has recently bought 200 tons…
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Full Criminal Complaint And Affidavit In United States Of America vs Jared Lee Loughner

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

The WaPo shares the full criminal complaint with all 5 counts, as well as the affidavit by FBI special agent Tony Taylor which discloses that according to documents seized from 7741 N. Soledad Avenue in Tucson, Arizona, where Lougner resides, that there was an envelope recovered with “handwriting on the envelope stating “I planned ahead,” and “My assassination” and the name “Giffords,” along with what appears to be Loughner’s signature.” There goes the temporary insanity defense.

 





Biggest US Pension Funds Get Into Fraudclosure Fray, Demand Banks “Immediately Examine Foreclosure Practices”

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

More bad news for the BofA/Wells syndicate. After on Friday two of the biggest mortgage lenders in the world were hit with bad news out of the Massachusetts supreme court, today it is seven of the nation’s major pension funds, between them representing nearly half a trillion in capital, which are demanding that “the boards of directors of Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo immediately undertake independent examinations of the banks’ mortgage and foreclosure practices.” The coalition of pension funds called for the banks’ Audit Committees to launch independent examinations of their loan modification, foreclosure, and securitization policies and procedures. “This will help to prevent future compliance failures and restore the confidence of shareholders, regulators, legislators and mortgage markets participants,” the coalition advised in its letter. The coalition members’ insistence on immediate action reflects the urgency of their concerns over mishandled mortgages. But Jim Cramer on Friday said there was no urgency, and no reason to be concerned, and that this is nothing but a buying opportunity for the lemmings which jut got one step closer to the cliff.

Full release from New York City Comtroller John Liu

 

h/t Eric





Weekly Recap, And Upcoming Calendar – All Eyes On Europe

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

Goldma’s FX research team summarizes the events of the week that just passed and looks at the key events in the upcoming 7 days.

Week in review

Markets traded the first week of the New Year with relative optimism--most equity markets around the world ended up for the week. The focus was on the improving US cyclical recovery as ISM (both manufacturing and services) showed robust growth, further fueled by the much higher than expected ADP print mid-week, which in turn raised expectations for the US jobs report on Friday. In the end, payrolls came in weaker than expected and the sharp drop in unemployment rate contained mixed messages as well--about half of it reflecting a drop in the labor force.
 
The theme of a possibly stronger US recovery also reverberated in FX markets. CAD and MXN performed relatively well. Note also that we have revised stronger our MXN and CAD forecasts recently as well as some currencies in NJA including CNY and TWD. Elsewhere, $/JPY ended the week over 2% higher, mainly driven by the mid-week US fixed income sell-off triggered by the ADP print. EUR/$ traded heavily, now back down to almost 1.29 as concerns over European sovereign issues continue to linger.
 
Week ahead
 
US data Keeping track of the pace of US recovery will probably be the main focus of markets. The key US data releases are retail sales, industrial production and CPI, which are all out on Friday. We expect a robust retail sales print for both headline and ex-autos, after the indications from the autos and the same store sales report last week. For CPI (and PPI the day before), we expect a relatively sharp rise on a headline basis, but much more muted gains ex food and energy.
 
Eurozone periphery bond auctions As mentioned, concerns in the Eurozone continue to rumble in the background. The Portuguese and Spanish bond auctions planned for this Wednesday and Thursday respectively will be important to monitor.
 
Central bank meetings We have the ECB, BoE, Korea and Thailand central bank meetings this week. We expect a 25bps hike in Thailand, in-line with consensus. For Korea, we expect a shift to a more hawkish tone, but stopping short of a rate hike. No changes or major surprises are expected from either the ECB or BoE.
 
Monday Jan 10th
 
China trade (Dec) We expect exports growth to…
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Zero Hedge

This Is How Russia Does The (Dry) Ice Bucket Challenge

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

As The West shows its fortitude (and apparent philanthropy) with mere 32-degree Fahrenheit ice-bucket-challenges, Russian chemistry professor Yury Zhdanov goes 290-degrees better...

Nikolay Novosyolov, founder of a science popularization project, poured a bucket of liquid nitrogen, which temperature was minus 322 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 197 Celcuis), as part of the #IceBucketChallenge campaign, taking the world's social media charity craze to a whole new level.

 

Crazy...

...

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Phil's Favorites

"Eagle Cam": Aerial View of London via Video Camera Attached to an Eagle

Courtesy of Mish.

An eagle got an impressive birds-eye-view of London this week, flying over the city's most iconic landmarks using a Sony HDR-AZ1VR Action Cam attached to its back.



Link if video does not play: Action Cam Footage Shows Eagle Flying Over City of London

The BBC reports Eagle With Camera Flies Over London
An eagle with a camera attached has flown across London and offered a new perspective on some of the capital's best-known landmarks.

The footage was recorded over a week by an Imperial Eagle called Darchan.

The animal has been brought to London from the French Alps by The Freedom Project to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Union for Conservation of ...



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Market Shadows

Official Moves in the Market Shadows' Virtual Portfolio

By Ilene 

I officially bought 250 shares of EZCH at $18.76 and sold 300 shares of IGT at $17.09 in Market Shadows' Virtual Portfolio yesterday (Fri. 11-21).

Click here for Thursday's post where I was thinking about buying EZCH. After further reading, I decided to add it to the virtual portfolio and to sell IGT and several other stocks, which we'll be saying goodbye to next week.

Notes

1. th...



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Chart School

The Big Four Economic Indicators: Real Retail Sales

Courtesy of Doug Short.

Note from dshort: With yesterday's release of the Consumer Price Index for October, I've updated Real Retail Sales for October.

Official recession calls are the responsibility of the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is understandably vague about the specific indicators on which they base their decisions. This committee statement is about as close as they get to identifying their method.

There is, however, a general belief that there are four big indicators that the committee weighs heavily in their cycle identification process. They are:

  • Industrial Production
  • Real Personal Income (excluding Transfer Payments)
  • Nonfarm Employment
  • Real Retail Sales
  • ...

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    All About Trends

    Mid-Day Update

    Reminder: David is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

    Click here for the full report.




    To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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    OpTrader

    Swing trading portfolio - week of November 17th, 2014

    Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

     

    This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

    We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

    Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

    To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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    Sabrient

    Sector Detector: Investors make up new rules for their new market paradigm

    Reminder: Sabrient is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

    Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

    By Scott Martindale

    Investors in U.S. equities seem to have embraced a new market paradigm in which upside spikes come more swiftly than the downside selloffs. Remember when it used to be the other way around? When fear was stronger than greed? The market is consolidating its gains off the early-October V-bottom reversal, and no one seems to be in any hurry to unload shares this time around, with the holidays rapidly approaching and all. After all, there are bright blue skies directly overhead giving hope and respite from the early freeze blanketing the country.

    In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer...



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    Stock World Weekly

    Stock World Weekly

    Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.

    The newest Stock World Weekly is ready. Click here for the this weekend's reading and sign in with your PSW user name and password. 

    Picture credit: AnnaER at Pixabay. 

    ...

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    Digital Currencies

    Ukraine Central Bank Bans Bitcoin "To Protect Citizens" From Financing Terrorism

    If you would have supposed that Ukraine had enough problems to make banning bitcoins a backburner issue, you'd have been wrong. The rationale, "to protect consumers' rights" makes little to no sense... The other one, "to keep money in the country" makes more sense. 

    Ukraine Central Bank Bans Bitcoin "To Protect Citizens" From Financing Terrorism

    Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

    The Hryvnia has collapsed to new record lows near 15/USD this morning. The Central Bank and bankers "agreed to keep UAH at 15-16/USD" but are &qu...



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    Option Review

    Yamana Gold call options sink

    Yamana Gold call options sink

    By Andrew Wilkinson at Interactive Brokers

    A four-year low for the spot price of gold has had a devastating impact on Yamana Gold (Ticker: AUY), with shares in the name down at the lowest price in six years. Some option traders were especially keen to sell premium and appear to see few signs of a lasting rebound within the next five months. The price of gold suffered again Wednesday as the dollar strengthened and stock prices advanced. The post price of gold fell to $1145 adding further pain to share prices of gold miners. Shares in Yamana Gold tumbled to $3.62 and the lowest price since 2008 as call option sellers used the April expiration contract to write premium at the $5.00 strike. That strike is now 38% above the price of the stock. Premium writers took in around 16-cents per contract o...



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    Pharmboy

    Biotechs & Bubbles

    Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

    Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely.  From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.

    First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices.  Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment.  Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer.  For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...



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    Help One Of Our Own PSW Members

    "Hello PSW Members –

    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 jennifersurovy@yahoo.com 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.

    http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-get-shadowfax-out-from-the-darkness-of-medical-bills-/126743

    Thank you for you time!




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