Posts Tagged ‘Bonds

12
Aug
10

Fed Effort to Aid Recovery Fails to Calm Investors

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Fed Effort to Aid Recovery Fails to Calm Investors

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More worried about the recovery, the U.S. Federal Reserve has taken a small step to bolster the U.S. economy.

Wrapping up a one-day meeting, the Fed said it will use money from its investments in mortgage securities to buy government debt on a small scale. That could help nudge down long-term rates on mortgages and corporate debt, but wouldn’t have a dramatic impact on stimulating economic growth, economists say.

Perhaps more importantly, the largely symbolic action sends a signal that the Fed sees the recovery weakening and that it stands ready to take more aggressive action, if needed, to keep it on track.

Delivering a more downbeat assessment, the Fed now believes economic growth will be ‘more modest’ than it had anticipated at its late June meeting.

The Fed, citing ‘subdued’ inflation, said it would keep its target for a key interest rate at zero to 0.25 percent for an ‘extended period’.
Investors reacted positively to the statement. Stocks that were down sharply before the announcement made up some lost ground. The Dow Jones industrial average, down about 100 points just before the Fed decision, was down about 40 a short time later. However, the market was likely to fluctuate, as it usually does while investors pore over the Fed’s statement.

Treasury prices rose slightly as investors were pleased by the Fed’s plan to buy government debt, which would reduce the amount of Treasury securities in the market. The yield on the Treasury’s 10-year note, which moves in the opposite direction from its price, fell to 2.77 percent from 2.82 percent just before the announcement.

Economists doubt the Fed can turn around the economy on its own. Some believe additional help from Congress is needed. Others are sceptical that easier credit or even more government aid will persuade Americans to shop more and hire more. Yet others think some jobs – like in construction – will never return to pre-recession levels, as the economy makes a structural shift.
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03
Aug
10

BP Agrees to Sell Colombian Business to Ecopetrol and Talisman

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BP Agrees to Sell Colombian Business to Ecopetrol and Talisman

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

British oil giant BP says it will sell its Colombian business for a total of $1.9 billion.

The divestment is part of BP’s recently announced plans to sell off up to $30 billion of assets, as it struggles with the soaring cost of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

‘BP today announced that it has agreed to sell its oil and gas exploration, production and transportation business in Colombia to a consortium of Ecopetrol, Colombia’s national oil company (51 percent), and Talisman of Canada (49 percent),’ it said in a statement.
‘The two companies will pay BP a total of 1.9 billion dollars in cash… for 100 percent of the shares in BP Exploration Company (Colombia) Limited (BPXC), the wholly-owned BP subsidiary company that holds BP’s oil and gas exploration, production and transportation interests in Colombia.’

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory and other approvals, is expected to complete by the end of 2010.

News of the sell-off comes one week after BP’s vilified chief executive Tony Hayward resigned in the wake of a record second-quarter loss of $16.9 billion – the biggest quarterly loss in British corporate history.

Hayward will step down in October and hand over the reigns to American executive Bob Dudley.
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• Source(s): BP PLC
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23
Jul
10

Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

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Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

Friday, July 23, 2010

••• The world’s top mobile phone maker Nokia has reported a 40 percent plunge in second-quarter net profit to 227 million euros ($290 million) but maintained its earnings forecast for its key devices and services unit.

The Finnish company had slashed its second-quarter and full-year forecasts for its key devices and services unit last month, citing fierce competition.

From April to June, Nokia posted a net profit of 227 million euros ($290 million), down 40 percent from 380 million euros ($485.46 million) for the same quarter a year earlier.
Analyst expected a profit drop of 30 percent, according to estimates published in the Finnish press.

Nokia said its net sales were up 1.0 percent on a year-to-year basis to 10.0 billion euros ($2.77 billion), and that the sales in its devices and services unit were up 3.0 percent on a year-to-year basis, but down 2.0 year-to-year in constant currency.

Shares in company, which had recently plunged to their lowest level in 12 years, were up 1.43 percent to 7.09 euros on a Helsinki Stock Exchange up 0.9 percent shortly after the announcement.
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20
Jul
10

Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

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Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and co-defendant in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the bank defrauded investors, on Monday asked the court to dismiss the case filed against him by the U.S. Regulators.

Tourre, whose emails about a collateralized debt obligation were at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC’s complaint, denied that he made any materially misleading statements or omissions, or behaved wrongly in connection to complex mortgage-linked securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York Tourre “specifically denies he made any materially misleading statements or omissions or otherwise engaged in any actionable or wrongful conduct” stemming from the CDO known as Abacus.
Tourre also argued that neither he nor his employer had a “duty to disclose any allegedly omitted information” in the marketing and sale of the CDO.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the investment bank that it did not reveal that one of its clients, Paulson & Co, played a significant role in the selection of securities contained in the Abacus mortgage portfolio and which was later sold to investors.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the securities in that mortgage portfolio – Abacus – lost more than $1 billion.
Goldman said it was a “mistake” to state that the loans contained in the CDO had been selected by a third party without mentioning the role of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund that bet against the security.

Last week, in a settlement, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges brought in by the SEC. This is reportedly the largest ever for a financial institution and is less than the $1 billion fraud that the Commission alleged.

Tourre, who is the only Goldman Sachs executive named as a defendant in the SEC’s fraud lawsuit, has yet to settle with the regulator. Goldman also agreed to co-operate with the SEC in its case against Tourre.

Goldman Sachs declined $0.49 or 0.34 percent and closed Monday’s regular trading at $145.68. After hours, Goldman Sachs declined further $1.68 or 1.15 percent and traded at $144.00
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19
Jun
10

Stocks end higher for second week

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Stocks end higher for second week

Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. stocks ended the week more than two per cent higher amid optimism over the global economic recovery, but as Wall Street braced for a volatile week with a heavy dose of U.S. economic data.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 2.3 percent over the week to end Friday at 10,450.64 as traders digested a week of mixed economic data. Some stability in debt-stricken Europe buoyed confidence.

The tech-rich Nasdaq index climbed three per cent to 2,309.80 and the broad-market SP 500 index gained 2.4 percent at 1,117.51.

Trade was notably slower than the roller coaster session of previous weeks, analysts said.

‘Whether the slower action is the result of market participants taking a breather following the volatile activity over the last two months or the beginning of a summer lull remains to be seen,’ said analysts at Briefing.com.

One notable exception was New York-listed shares in British oil giant BP, which were hit hard following the company’s massive oil spill in the gulf and as its credit rating was slashed by top rating agencies.

BP’s shares fell 6.5 percent for the week, after trading close to 52-week lows in the middle of the week.

The focus of next week’s trade is sure to be a meeting of the Federal Reserve’s policy-making body on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Fed board is expected to vote to keep interest rates unchanged at virtually zero per cent as the economy continues to be dogged by unemployment concerns.

While no interest rate changes were expected, ‘the status of the extra measures the Fed has taken to address liquidity and the cost of capital will continue to be monitored,’ analysts at Charles Schwab Co said.

And other data will be scrutinised.

In the coming week, the market will grapple with existing home sales for May that are expected to show a jump as well as new home sales for the same month that many believe would slump.

The government will provide a final revision of the 2010 first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth, which is expected to remain unchanged at 3.0 percent.

‘All of those data releases have the potential to move the markets,’ analysts at Briefing.com cautioned clients in a note.

Traders are expected to remain cautious even though stocks climbed nearly all of last week.

The stock market is expected to ‘continue to drift going into second quarter earnings season (July), moving up and down in tandem with the movement of the euro and headline news coming out of Europe and the Gulf of Mexico,’ said Frederic Dickson, chief market strategist with DA Davidson Co.
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12
Jun
10

BP Woes Spill into Markets

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BP Woes Spill into Markets

Saturday, June 12, 2010

BP shares rallied on Friday on bargain-hunting after recent sharp losses.

The gains came as British Prime Minister David Cameron threw his support behind a ‘financially strong’ BP in talks with its chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, while voicing frustration over the oil spill, his office said.

At the close of trade, the company’s share price soared 7.22 percent to 391.9 pence on London’s FTSE 100 shares index, which was 0.61 percent higher.

Despite the gains, the British oil giant’s share price has plunged by as much as 49 per cent, wiping tens of billions of dollars off its market value since the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22.

The accident, following a explosion that killed 11 people two days earlier, sparked an enormous oil spill from a leaking well head on the sea bed.

The disaster has seen huge amounts of oil wash up on the U.S. Gulf coastline, threatening precious wildlife and local communities, and provoking the wrath of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has demanded BP scrap its shareholder dividend.

‘We are considering all options on the dividend. But no decision has been made,’ BP chief executive Tony Hayward said on Friday.

The group is preparing to defer the payment of its next dividend, according to the BBC and The Times newspaper.

The Times, which cited people familiar with the situation, reported that the money would be held in an escrow account, held by a third party, until its liabilities from the disaster become clear.

The BBC said it understood BP was planning to suspend the dividend, with BP directors due to meet on Monday to discuss the payments.

The meeting ‘will be about when to suspend the payments, how long to suspend the payments, and what to do with the billions of dollars that would be saved and not paid to shareholders,’ BBC business editor Robert Peston said.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the stories, but stressed that the company was considering all its options.

The company’s share price was meanwhile boosted after U.S. bank Goldman Sachs issued an upbeat outlook for embattled BP.

‘BP shares now have as much upside potential as the rest of the European integrated oil sector,’ Goldman said in a research note.

The stock had plunged on Thursday, striking a low of 330 pence, as investors fretted about the financial impact of the oil spill and the possible loss of the group’s shareholder dividend.

CMC Markets analyst James Hughes described Friday’s gains as an ‘inevitable bounce after the moves of the last few days’ but warned that the share price has further to fall.

Cameron will discuss BP’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with Obama over the weekend amid fears of an anti-British backlash in the United States.

BP chairman Svanberg has been summoned to meet Obama at the White House next week, as several US media reported the Swede was being lined up as a ‘fall guy’ for the disaster.

Cameron, who is visiting Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, had a ‘constructive’ telephone conversation with Svanberg, a Downing Street spokesman said.

‘The prime minister explained that he was frustrated and concerned about the environmental damage caused by the leak but made clear his view that BP is an economically important company in the UK, US and other countries,’ he said.

Cameron said: ‘It is in everyone’s interests that BP continues to be a financially strong and stable company.’

Svanberg met with finance minister George Osborne and other senior officials in Downing Street on Friday.

After the talks, the Swede told ITN television: ‘I think we have done everything we can to try to fill the well, and we have said we would do everything expected from us in cleaning up the beach, taking care of all the claims and learn from this incident and make deepsea drilling an even safer place.’
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12
Jun
10

Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

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Goldman Sachs Crime watch – SEC Launches 2nd Major Investigation

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US securities regulators are hunting for fresh dirt on Goldman Sachs Group, hoping to bolster their lawsuit against the bank and perhaps force it to settle on terms more to the regulators’ liking.

Two months ago the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Wall Street’s most powerful bank with civil fraud in connection with a subprime mortgage-linked security.

The case hinges on whether Goldman misled investors when it marketed Abacus 2007, a mortgage-linked security that turned toxic during the mortgage crisis.

Now, the SEC is also looking at other collateralized debt obligations that turned toxic, including Hudson Mezzanine Funding, a source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.

“You put a number of things together and then it becomes harder to defend against all of them,” said Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham University School of Law professor and a former federal prosecutor

“So you finally cry uncle and say, ‘Fine, I’ll settle.'”

The expanding investigation of Goldman’s CDOs comes as federal prosecutors probe some of the complex mortgage-linked transactions that Wall Street firms cobbled together and which helped spark the worst financial crisis in decades.

Even the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is getting into the act.

Reuters has learned the securities industry’s self-regulatory agency recently began its own investigation into whether Wall Street banks violated customary sales practices in hawking CDOs to institutional investors.

A document reviewed by Reuters reveals FINRA is looking into potential improprieties in the structuring of the deals and the relationship between the CDO underwriters and mortgage lenders.

Former Goldman customers also are putting pressure on the bank and its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein.

Reuters previously reported that SEC lawyers had looked at the $1 billion Timberwolf deal before filing the Abacus lawsuit in April.

The SEC’s interest in the $2 billion Hudson CDO was first reported by the Financial Times.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin, during a hearing in April of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, raised Abacus, Timberwolf and Hudson while questioning a cast of past and present Goldman employees, including Blankfein.

In a Senate floor speech in May introducing legislation to curb conflicts of interest in Wall Street deals, Levin zeroed in on Hudson Mezzanine 2006-1.

“When Goldman first sold the securities to its clients, more than 70 percent of Hudson Mezzanine had AAA ratings,” he said. “But … within 18 months Hudson was downgraded to junk status, and Goldman cashed in at the expense of its clients.”

The Hudson deal closed in November 2006 and went into liquidation in May 2008.

The myriad investigations, coupled with the Timberwolf litigation, could create a tipping point at which Blankfein and other Goldman executives decide they have no choice but to reach some sort of comprehensive settlement, according to legal experts.

“Will there be more stuff? At this point, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me,” said White.

At the least, the SEC could be looking to bolster its Abacus case, which some saw as weak. SEC commissioners voted to bring the lawsuit in a split decision.

Fordham’s McAvoy said the SEC’s strategy could be to strengthen the initial case by adding new material from other deals.

“A lot of folks don’t think the initial case is as strong as the SEC made it out to be,” McAvoy said.

Goldman shares are down more than 25 percent since the SEC filed its lawsuit on April 16. The shares were off 2.4 percent to $133.49 in Thursday morning trading.
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12
Jun
10

U.S. stocks recover from heavy losses

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U.S. stocks recover from heavy losses

Saturday, June 12, 2010

U.S. stocks have clawed back from losses to close with modest gains as reports on consumers’ outlook and retail spending sent mixed signals about the health of the economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.62 points (0.38 percent) to 10,211.15 in closing trades.

The Nasdaq index climbed 24.89 points (1.12 percent) to 2,243.60 and the broad-market SP 500 index advanced 4.76 points (0.44 percent) to a provisional 1,091.60.

Stocks initially opened lower after a disappointing May retail sales report but clawed back losses after a private survey showed a stronger-than-expected rise in consumer sentiment in June helping to allay recovery concerns.
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03
Jun
10

Stocks show small gains

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Stocks show small gains

Thursday, June 3, 2010

U.S. stocks eked out minor gains on Thursday as investors mulled mixed signals on the U.S. economic recovery ahead of a highly awaited May jobs report.

After opening with modest gains, the major indices slid lower but clawed their way back to close in positive territory.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose a scant 4.99 points (0.05 percent) to 10,254.07 at the market close, extending Wednesday’s sharp rally.

The tech-rich Nasdaq index outperformed, up 21.96 points (0.96 percent) at 2,303.03, while the broad-market SP 500 index advanced 4.37 points (0.40 percent) to a provisional 1,102.75.

‘Investors appear cautious ahead of tomorrow’s key jobs report,’ said Scott Marcouiller at Wells Fargo Advisors.

Most analysts expected the Labor Department on Friday would report 500,000 nonfarm jobs were created last month, up from 290,000 in April, and the unemployment rate slipped a notch to 9.8 percent from 9.9 percent.
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10
May
10

Fannie Mae asks for $8.4 billion in aid

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Fannie Mae asks for $8.4 billion in aid

Monday, May 10, 2010

••• U.S. mortgage finance company Fannie Mae has again asked taxpayers for more money after reporting a first-quarter loss of more than $13 billion.

The company, which was rescued by Washington in September 2008, said it needs an additional $8.4 billion from the government to help cover mounting losses.

Fannie Mae says it lost $13.1 billion, or $2.29 per share, in the January-March period. That takes into account $1.5 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $23.2 billion, or $4.09 a share, a year ago.

The rescue of Fannie Mae and sister company Freddie Mac is turning out to be one of the most expensive aftereffects of the financial meltdown. The new request for aid will bring Fannie Mae’s total to $83.6 billion. The total bill for the duo will now be nearly $145 billion.
Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie, lifting an earlier cap of $400 billion.

Fannie and Freddie play a vital role in the U.S. mortgage market by purchasing mortgages from lenders and selling them to investors. Together the pair own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That’s about half of all mortgages.

The two companies, however, loosened their lending standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences.

With the housing market still on shaky ground, Obama administration officials say it is still too early to draft any proposals to reform the two companies or the broader housing finance system.

But Republicans argue the sweeping financial overhaul currently before Congress is incomplete without a plan for Fannie and Freddie. They propose transforming Fannie and Freddie into private companies with no government subsidies, or shutting them down completely.

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05
May
10

Freddie Mac seeks $10.6 billion in aid after 1Q loss

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Freddie Mac seeks $10.6 billion in aid after 1Q loss

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

••• Freddie Mac is asking for $10.6 billion in additional U.S. federal aid after posting a big loss in the first three months of the year.

The McLean, Virginia-based mortgage finance company has been effectively owned by the government after nearly collapsing in September 2008. The new request will bring the total tab for rescuing Freddie Mac to $61.3 billion.

But the company’s CEO Charles Haldeman said, ‘We are seeing some signs of stabilisation in the housing market, including house prices and sales in some key geographic areas’.

Freddie Mac set aside $5.4 billion to cover credit losses from bad mortgages, down from $7 billion in the final three months of last year.

Haldeman cautioned, however, that the housing market ‘remains fragile with historically high delinquency and foreclosure levels’ and high unemployment.

Created by Congress, Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae buy mortgages from lenders and package them into bonds that are resold to global investors. As the housing bubble burst, they were unable to raise enough money to stay afloat, and the government effectively nationalised them.

Since then, Uncle Sam’s share of the mortgage business has kept getting bigger. Government institutions – mainly Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration – backed nearly 97 percent of home loans in the first quarter of 2010, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance.

Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie. Freddie’s new request will bring the total taxpayer tab for both companies to about $136.5 billion.

Fannie Mae is expected to release earnings soon and may also request additional financial aid.

With the housing market still on shaky ground, Obama administration officials argue that it is still too early to draft any proposals to reform the two companies or the broader housing finance system.

But Republicans argue that the sweeping financial overhaul currently before Congress is incomplete without a plan for Fannie and Freddie. Senate Republicans propose transforming Fannie and Freddie into private companies with no government subsidies, or to shut them down completely.

‘The events of the past two years have made it clear that never again can we allow the taxpayer to be responsible for poorly managed financial entities who gambled away billions of dollars,’ Senator John McCain said in a statement. ‘The time has come to end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s taxpayer-backed slush fund and require them to operate on a level playing field.’

But Barry Zigas, director of housing policy at the Consumer Federation of America and a former Fannie Mae executive, said Obama officials are right to take their time.

‘They are providing most of the mortgage credit that’s making it possible for Americans to buy homes and refinance their mortgages,’ Zigas said. ‘They’re vital to the housing recovery that everyone is hoping is getting started.’

But the hangover from bad loans made in during the boom years still hurts.

Freddie Mac said on Wednesday it lost $8 billion, or $2.45 a share, in the January-March period. That takes into account $1.3 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $10.4 billion, or $3.18 a share, in the first quarter last year.

The company, however, cautioned that new accounting standards make it difficult to compare the most recent quarter with the year-ago period. In the first quarter of this year, Freddie Mac was forced to bring $1.5 trillion in assets and liabilities onto its balance sheet, causing the company’s net worth to plunge by $11.7 billion.

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01
May
10

Goldman Sachs under criminal investigation

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Goldman Sachs under criminal investigation

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary criminal investigation into alleged fraud at Goldman Sachs, sending shares in the Wall Street bank plunging.

Sources confirmed the U.S. attorney’s office had begun liaising with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought civil charges against Goldman two weeks ago, accusing it of misleading investors over a $1 billion derivatives deal.

Prosecutors have not yet determined whether there is evidence to bring criminal charges.

Goldman shares fell more than 9 percent on Friday to close at $145. Before the commission sued the company on April 16, its stock stood at $184.

The commission claims the bank cheated customers in a 2007 deal concerning a mortgage-backed security. Goldman allegedly failed to tell investors that U.S. hedge fund Paulson & Co was going “short” by betting that the security would decline in value. Paulson was allegedly allowed to stuff it with mortgages doomed to default. Royal Bank of Scotland backstopped the deal and was left with an $840 million liability.

The British Financial Services Authority is also investigating.

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28
Apr
10

Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

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Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Top Goldman Sachs officials have defended their conduct in the financial crisis, flatly disputing the government’s fraud allegations against the giant financial house. I did not mislead investors, insisted a trading executive at the heart of the government’s case.

But they ran into a wall of bipartisan wrath before a Senate panel investigating Goldman’s role in the financial crisis and the Securities and Exchange Commission fraud suit against it and one of its traders. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) accused Goldman on Tuesday of making risky financial bets.

About a half dozen protesters were in the committee room, dressed in prison stripes with names on signs around their necks of Fabrice Tourre, the only company official directly accused in the SEC suit, and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who was also scheduled to testify.

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27
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

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Goldman Sachs: Lloyd Blankfein Says Firm Doesn’t Need to Disclose Position

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’
French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.

He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

Goldman chief executive Lloyd Blankfein was due to appear later in the day, but in prepared testimony said there was nothing wrong with Goldman hedging its bets by holding ”short” positions that would benefit the firm if housing prices collapsed.

‘(We) didn’t have a massive short (position) against the housing market and we certainly did not bet against our clients,’ he said.

‘If our clients believe that we don’t deserve their trust, we cannot survive,’ he said. ‘We believe that we managed our risk as our shareholders and our regulators would expect.’

Blankfein also said that, ‘while profitable overall,’ Goldman lost about $1.2 billion from investments tied to the residential housing market.
In the hearing, Levin pointed to Goldman email messages he said refuted the firm’s claims.

In one November 2007 message from Blankfein, he says: ‘Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,’ which are essentially bets that the market will drop.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the U.S. housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown.

In angry exchanges before a Senate investigative committee, the storied Wall Street firm was accused of fuelling a crisis that forced thousands of Americans from their homes and continues to ravage the U.S. economy.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, assailed Goldman as representative of Wall Street’s ‘unbridled greed,’ drawing them into a raging political battle over financial reform.

The Senate was expected to vote later on Tuesday on whether to proceed with debate about the most sweeping financial reforms in a generation, a day after Republicans successfully blocked a similar move.

Against this caustic backdrop executives battled to salvage the firm’s reputation, rejecting charges – recently filed by a U.S. watchdog – that Goldman sold clients a complex financial product devised by some who bet against it.

Levin demanded to know why Goldman had been ‘trying to sell a shitty deal’ to investors, fuming that ‘as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses.’

French trader Fabrice Fabulous Fab Tourre, who is at the centre of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against the firm, was among the first to be dragged before the committee.
He denied any wrongdoing: ‘I deny – categorically – the SEC’s allegation. And I will defend myself in court against this false claim,’ said Tourre.

‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives.’

If Goldman executives hoped to get an easier ride from Republicans, they may have been disappointed. Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain was scathing.

‘I don’t know if Goldman Sachs has done anything illegal,’ he said, adding that ‘from the reading of these emails and the information that this committee has uncovered there is no doubt their behaviour was unethical and the American people will render a judgment as well as the courts.’

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26
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs and “War Profiteering”

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Goldman Sachs and “War Profiteering”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Embattled Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs has hit back at claims it used the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis to make tens of millions of dollars in profit.

The financial giant, already facing fraud charges, found itself in the middle of a new firestorm on Saturday after emails released by a U.S. Senate panel suggested Goldman executives made huge profits out of the 2007 crisis.

Goldman fired back on Sunday, accusing the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of having ‘cherry-picked just four emails from the 20 million pages of documents and emails provided to it’.

‘It is concerning that the subcommittee seems to have reached its conclusion even before holding a hearing,’ added Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag.

The emails come at a bad time for Goldmans Sachs.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced it was charging the company with fraud, accusing it of ‘defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts’ about a product based on subprime, or higher-risk mortgage-backed securities.

On Saturday, subcommittee chairman Democratic Senator Carl Levin said Goldman Sachs and other investment banks had acted as ‘self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis’.

He said the bank had bundled toxic mortgages into complex financial instruments, got credit rating agencies to label them as AAA securities, and then sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system.

In addition, Levin said, the bank often bet against the instruments it sold and rolled in profits as a result.

Van Praag said on Sunday the company had net losses of over $1.2 billion in residential mortgage-related products in 2007 and 2008.

‘This demonstrates conclusively that we did not make a significant amount of money in the mortgage market,’ he said.

But the four emails released by the subcommittee suggest that the company was able to make massive profits by shorting products including residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).

In one email, Goldman Sachs chairman and chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein appeared to gloat about the strategy in an exchange with other top Goldman executives.

‘Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,’ the message said.

In another, a Goldman Sachs manager noted that the firm had bet against 32 billion dollars in mortgage-related securities that had been downgraded by credit rating agencies, causing losses for many investors.

‘Sounds like we will make some serious money,’ the manager wrote.

‘Yes, we are well positioned,’ his colleague responded.

In a third email, Goldman employees discussed securities that were underwritten and sold by the company and tied to mortgages issued by Washington Mutual Bank’s subprime lender, Long Beach Mortgage.

One employee reported the ‘wipeout’ of one Long Beach security and the ‘imminent’ collapse of another as ‘bad news’ that would cost the firm $2.5 million.

The ‘good news,’ the employee wrote, was that Goldman had bet against the very securities it had assembled and sold, meaning the failure would net the company five million dollars.

Blankfein and other current and former company personnel are scheduled to testify before the subcommittee on Tuesday.

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24
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

NEWS
Goldman Sachs e-mails show bank sought to profit from housing downturn

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In late 2007 as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.

The e-mails, released Saturday morning by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict some of Goldman’s previous statements that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.

In the e-mails, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November of 2007 that the firm indeed had lost money initially. But it later recovered from those losses by making negative bets, known as short positions, enabling it to profit as housing prices fell and homeowners defaulted on their mortgages. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, remarked on figures that showed the company had made a $51 million profit in a single day from bets that the value of mortgage-related securities would drop. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.

The messages were released Saturday ahead of a Congressional hearing on Tuesday in which seven current and former Goldman employees, including Mr. Blankfein, are expected to testify. The hearing follows a recent securities fraud complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission filed against Goldman and one of its employees, Fabrice Tourre, who will also testify on Tuesday.

Actions taken by Wall Street firms during the housing meltdown have become a major factor in the contentious debate over financial reform. The first test of the administration’s overhaul effort will come Monday when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is to call a procedural vote to try to stop a Republican filibuster.

Republicans have contended that the renewed focus on Goldman stems from Democrats’ desire to use anger at Wall Street to push through a financial reform bill.

Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and head of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the e-mail messages contrast with Goldman’s public statements about its trading results. “The 2009 Goldman Sachs annual report stated that the firm ‘did not generate enormous net revenues by betting against residential related products,’?” Mr. Levin said in a statement Saturday when his office released the documents. “These e-mails show that, in fact, Goldman made a lot of money by betting against the mortgage market.”

A Goldman spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Goldman messages connect some of the dots at a crucial moment of Goldman history. They show that in 2007, as most other banks hemorrhaged losses from plummeting mortgage holdings, Goldman prospered.

At first, Goldman openly discussed its prescience in calling the housing downfall. In the third quarter of 2007, the investment bank reported publicly that it had made big profits on its negative bet on mortgages.

But by the end of that year, the firm curtailed disclosures about its mortgage trading results. Its chief financial officer told analysts at the end of 2007 that they should not expect Goldman to reveal whether it was long or short on the housing market. By late 2008, Goldman was emphasizing its losses, rather than its profits, pointing regularly to write-downs of $1.7 billion on mortgage assets and leaving out the amount it made on its negative bets.

Goldman and other firms often take positions on both sides of an investment. Some are long, which are bets that the investment will do well, and some are shorts, which are bets the investment will do poorly. If an investor’s positions are balanced – or hedged, in industry parlance – then the combination of the longs and shorts comes out to zero.

Goldman has said that it added shorts to balance its mortgage book, not to make a directional bet that the market would collapse. But the messages released Saturday appear to show that in 2007, at least, Goldman’s short bets were eclipsing the losses on its long positions. In May 2007, for instance, Goldman workers e-mailed one another about losses on a bundle of mortgages issued by Long Beach Mortgage Securities. Though the firm lost money on those, a worker wrote, there was “good news”: “we own 10 mm in protection.” That meant Goldman had enough of a bet against the bond that, over all, it profited by $5 million.

Documents released by the Senate committee appear to indicate that in July 2007, Goldman’s daily accounting showed losses of $322 million on positive mortgage positions, but its negative bet – what Mr. Viniar called “the big short” – came in $51 million higher.

As recently as a week ago, a Goldman spokesman emphasized that the firm had tried only to hedge its mortgage holdings in 2007 and said the firm had not been net short in that market.

The firm said in its annual report this month that it did not know back then where housing was headed, a sentiment expressed by Mr. Blankfein the last time he appeared before.

“We did not know at any minute what would happen next, even though there was a lot of writing,” he told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in January.

It is not known how much money in total Goldman made on its negative housing bets. Only a handful of e-mail messages were released Saturday, and they do not reflect the complete record.

The Senate subcommittee began its investigation in November 2008, but its work attracted little attention until a series of hearings in the last month. The first focused on lending practices at Washington Mutual, which collapsed in 2008, the largest bank failure in American history; another scrutinized deficiencies at several regulatory agencies, including the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

A third hearing, on Friday, centered on the role that the credit rating agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – played in the financial crisis. At the end of the hearing, Mr. Levin offered a preview of the Goldman hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Our investigation has found that investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not market makers helping clients,” Mr. Levin said, referring to testimony given by Mr. Blankfein in January. “They were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that were a major part of the 2008 crisis. They bundled toxic and dubious mortgages into complex financial instruments, got the credit-rating agencies to label them as AAA safe securities, sold them to investors, magnifying and spreading risk throughout the financial system, and all too often betting against the financial instruments that they sold, and profiting at the expense of their clients.”

The transaction at the center of the S.E.C.’s case against Goldman also came up at the hearings on Friday, when Mr. Levin discussed it with Eric Kolchinsky, a former managing director at Moody’s. The mortgage-related security was known as Abacus 2007-AC1, and while it was created by Goldman, the S.E.C. contends that the firm misled investors by not disclosing that it had allowed a hedge fund manager, John A. Paulson, to select mortgage bonds for the portfolio that would be most likely to fail. That charge is at the core of the civil suit it filed against Goldman.

Moody’s was hired by Goldman to rate the Abacus security. Mr. Levin asked Mr. Kolchinsky, who for most of 2007 oversaw the ratings of collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgages, if he had known of Mr. Paulson’s involvement in the Abacus deal.

“I did not know, and I suspect – I’m fairly sure that my staff did not know either,” Mr. Kolchinsky said.

Mr. Levin asked whether details of Mr. Paulson’s involvement were “facts that you or your staff would have wanted to know before rating Abacus.” Mr. Kolchinsky replied: “Yes, that’s something that I would have personally wanted to know.”

Mr. Kolchinsky added: “It just changes the whole dynamic of the structure, where the person who’s putting it together, choosing it, wants it to blow up.”

The Senate announced that it would convene a hearing on Goldman Sachs within a week of the S.E.C.’s fraud suit. Some members of Congress questioned whether the two investigations had been coordinated or linked.

Mr. Levin’s staff said there was no connection between the two investigations. They pointed out that the subcommittee requested the appearance of the Goldman executives and employees well before the S.E.C. filed its case.

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17
Apr
10

SEC tries to ride Goldman Sachs Group back to credibility

NEWS
SEC tries to ride Goldman Sachs Group back to credibility

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Financial shares led the stock market sharply lower after federal regulators filed civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs over its dealings in subprime mortgages.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 125 points, having been down as much as 170 points. At times, it fell below 11,000 after closing above that level on Monday for the first time in more than a year and a half.

Analysts say the market was poised to fall after a steady run of gains the past two months, and the Goldman Sachs news gave investors a reason to sell and take some profits.

“Basically it’s sell, and ask questions later,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. “A market that wants to sell off will find an excuse.”

Stocks were already lower before news of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges against the leading investment bank. Investors were disappointed after Google reported earnings that didn’t live up to forecasts.

General Electric Co. and Bank of America Corp. also reported profits that topped forecasts, but their stocks still fell. GE’s revenue came up short of expectations, while Bank of America said loan losses remain high.

The SEC charged Goldman and one of its vice presidents with failing to disclose key information to investors regarding complex mortgage-backed securities.

“It’s all a knee-jerk reaction to Goldman,” said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden & Co., referring to the market’s drop. He said the fundamentals of the market have not changed.

The charges come as the Obama administration seeks greater regulation of America’s banks and their trading of exotic securities like those involved in the Goldman case. These kinds of investments are widely seen as one of the triggers of the financial crisis that crippled the nation’s financial system in the (northern) autumn of 2008.

“Road blocks for financial regulation have taken a hit today,” said Thomas Villalta, co-portfolio manager of the Jones Villalta Opportunity Fund.

Analysts say other banks that also traded these types of securities will be closely scrutinised. That means the financial industry could continue to struggle because of uncertainty about reform and other potential investigations.

Investors looked past economic news. The Commerce Department said housing construction rose to a 16-month high in March. However, construction of single-family homes, the most important segment of the market, fell.

Economists are also concerned about continued hurdles in the housing market, like rising mortgage rates and the end this month of a homebuyer tax credit. A separate report showed consumer sentiment fell this month.

Friday’s drop comes after six straight days of gains that pushed the Dow to its highest close in more than 18 months. Stocks have been steadily rising in recent months on growing signs that the economy is recovering, albeit slowly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 127.34 points or 1.14 per cent, to 11,017.23 points.

The tech-rich Nasdaq composite slipped 33.98 points or 1.35 per cent, to 2,481.71 and the broad-market Standard Poor’s 500 index dipped 18.54 points or 1.53 per cent, to 1,193.13.

After mixed early trades, the SEC announcement, and its refusal to rule out further charges across the financial sector, sent shares in some of Wall Streets biggest firms deep into negative territory.

Goldman stocks were over 10 per cent down, slicing $20 off each share. They were followed by Bank of America, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, whose stocks were between three and five per cent off.

Trading had got off to a subdued start despite larger-than-forecasted increases in housing starts and building permits in March, as well as favourable earnings reports from Bank of America and General Electric.

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09
Apr
10

Dow Jones tops 11,000

NEWS
Dow Jones tops 11,000

Friday, April 9, 2010

The stock market closed at a new 18-month high Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average briefly touching 11,000 before retreating slightly.

The gains were driven by fresh signs that the economy continues to recover. Many analysts remain skeptical that the market’s gains are sustainable since they have come on relatively low volume, indicating that a large number of investors are still sitting on the sidelines.

The Dow very briefly touched 11,000 in the final five minutes of trading before ending with a gain of 70 points. It hadn’t crossed that level since Sept. 29, 2008, just as the worst phase of the financial crisis was beginning.

Stocks got a boost after reassuring statements from Greece’s finance minister and the head of the European Central Bank. Major European indexes closed higher, while the dollar fell against the euro.

Major indexes pulled back briefly after Fitch Ratings cut its view on Greece’s debt, but quickly recovered. Stocks have been fluctuating in recent days and the euro has weakened because of concerns that Greece might default on its debt.

Greece’s deepening fiscal crisis has upset other financial markets and caused concerns that other weak European countries also might default on their debt, which could cause a crisis for Europe’s shared currency.

“If (Greece) falls apart, it makes everything else there fall apart,” Chip Cobb, a senior vice president at Bryn Mawr Trust Asset Management in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “Greece is becoming a real thorn in the side.”

Rising commodity prices also helped energy and material stocks, pushing indexes higher. Commodities mostly climbed on hopes demand will jump as the economy continues to improve. Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. both rose.

The Dow Jones industrial average crept toward 11,000 throughout the day, having come within 12 points of that barrier on both Monday and Tuesday before closing lower.
While the Dow’s approach to 11,000 has been a big focus for many individual investors, a number of Wall Street analysts downplay its importance for professional money managers. The Dow has crossed the 11,000 level 34 times since first hitting it in May of 1999.

“Round numbers are always psychologically significant,” but rarely do they represent a technical milestone such as an index breaking out of a recent trading range, said Uri Landesman, head of global growth at ING Investment Management in New York.

The Dow rose 70.28, or 0.6 percent, to close at 10,997.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 7.93, or 0.7 percent, to 1,194.37. The Nasdaq composite index rose 17.24, or 0.7 percent, to 2,454.05.

The Dow’s rise Friday gives the index its sixth straight weekly gain for the first time since a stretch in March and April last year, just after market bottomed out at 12-year lows. The Dow started the day at exactly the same level it closed last week.

The Dow Jones industrial average is now up 68 percent from a 12-year low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009. It’s still down 22 percent from its October 2007 peak of 14,164.53.

A report on wholesale inventories Friday provided the latest positive sign on the economy. The Commerce Department said inventories rose 0.6 percent in February, better than the 0.4 percent forecast by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

Sales at wholesalers also rose faster than expected, gaining 0.8 percent. It was the 11th straight month of rising sales. Economists had forecast a 0.5 percent rise.

Consistently rising inventories and sales at the wholesale level mean that manufacturers are getting steady orders that should allow them to hire more workers. It also means retailers are ramping up orders as consumers return to stores after curtailing their spending during the recession.

The start of earnings reports could give the Dow the push it needs to close above 11,000 if investors see companies continuing to increase profits. Reports are expected next week from Aloca Inc., as well as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. Traders will also have plenty of economic data to digest, including March retail sales Wednesday and housing starts Friday.

Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced those that fell two to one on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 4.4 billion shares, compared with 4.8 billion shares Thursday.

Benchmark crude for May delivery pulled back from morning highs to close down 47 cents at $84.92 a barrel.

Chevron jumped $1.84, or 2.4 percent, to close at $79.50, while ExxonMobil rose 90 cents to $68.76. J.C. Penney climbed 54 cents to $31.52.

Bond prices edged up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.88 percent from 3.89 percent late Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.31, or 0.5 percent, to 702.95.

Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 1 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 1.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 jumped 1.8 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.3 percent.

• The Dow Jones industrial average closed the week up 70.28 points, or 0.6 percent, at 10,997.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 16.27, or 1.4 percent, to 1,194.37. The Nasdaq composite index rose 51.47, or 2.1 percent, to 2,454.05.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of small company stocks, rose 18.97, or 2.8 percent, for the week to 702.95.

The Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index – which measures nearly all U.S.-based companies – ended at 12,316.03, up 191.63, or 1.6 percent for the week.

The Index is up 81 percent – about $6.3 trillion in market capitalization – from a 12 1/2-year low of 6800.08 on March 9, 2009. It’s still down nearly 22 percent – or about $4.8 trillion in value – from its October 2007 peak of 15,745.39.

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