Posts Tagged ‘Market

12
Aug
10

Recovery still distant as GM turns a corner

NEWS
Recovery still distant as GM turns a corner
General Motors profits move past $1 billion

Thursday, August 12, 2010

••• General Motors said on Thursday its profits hit $1.3 billion in the second quarter, as the car company prepared to break free of U.S. government ownership by relisting on the stock exchange.

‘I am pleased with our progress on achieving our business objectives,’ said chief financial officer Chris Liddell, announcing the second consecutive quarter of growth.

The company erased a loss of $13 billion in the same period last year, as sales and revenues increased.

The firm saw stronger sales in North America in the quarter, even as sales in Europe floundered and market share around the world sank.

GM captured 15.4 percent of the U.S. market for cars versus 17.5 percent in the second quarter of last year, but elsewhere faired poorly.

GM’s executives have said that a public offering will come soon, a process that will help the U.S. government unwind its majority stake in the firm.

The U.S. Treasury Department still owns 61 percent of GM, which received $50 billion of U.S. government financing for its bankruptcy restructuring that led to mass layoffs, plant closures and billions of dollars in debt wiped out.

GM’s drive for an IPO will be boosted by news that the firm’s revenues swelled to $33 billion in the second quarter, a third more than the same period last year.

GM as well as its U.S. competitors Ford and Chrysler were hard hit by the recession which struck the United States in December 2007, caused by a home mortgage meltdown.

Of the so-called Detroit Three car makers, Ford was the only one to avoid bankruptcy, managing to stay afloat thanks to massive loans it had obtained prior to the credit crunch and because it moved more quickly to revitalise its product portfolio.
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04
Aug
10

News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

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News Corp. Posts $875 Million Profit as Ad Sales Rise

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Media and entertainment giant News Corp. reported, Wednesday, that it has swung to profit in the fiscal fourth quarter on the back of strong performance from its television networks division which posted impressive ad sales.

News Corp. said its net profit in June quarter was $875 million or $0.33 per share as against loss of $203 million or $0.08 per share in the year ago period.

The company said its revenue moved up 5.7 percent to $8.11 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected News Corp. to report profit of $0.20 per share on revenue on $7.87 billion.

However, operating profit, or sales minus the cost of goods sold and administrative expenses, slipped 1.7 percent year-on-year in June quarter to $932 million from $948 million.

The media conglomerate said its earnings were driven by strong performance put up by its television networks division, which accounted for more than half of its operating income.

Profits at domestic channels surged by 30 percent while international channels improved 40 percent. Overall, operating profit at cable television networks division, which include channels such as Fox News Channel and FX, surged 31 percent to $563 million on the back of advertising revenue which jumped 11 percent. The division also saw double-digit growth in revenue from fees paid by cable, satellite and fiber video providers.

Operating profit at News Corp.’s broadcast television division also surged 13 percent to $113 million on improved ad sales offsetting higher programming expenses at the company’s national broadcast network – Fox Broadcasting.

The group’s filmed entertainment division also did well but could not beat third quarter performance. Operating income in June quarter dropped 32 percent year-on-year to $137 million. In March quarter, profit stood at $497 million. At the time of announcing third quarter earnings, News Corp. had warned that one should not expect stellar performance from this division in the fourth quarter, largely due to an expected year-over-year decline in the film business due to the timing of releases.

The newspapers and information services division, which include the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and Dow Jones, also reported 20 percent surge in profit to $115 million on higher ad revenue, though it was below Street estimates.

The company’s digital media division, which include social networking site MySpace, however, disappointed, reporting an operating loss of $174 million in the June quarter on lower search and advertising revenue. News Corp. said MySpace is set for a “major overhaul.”

News Corp.’s satellite TV division also disappointed, reporting a 37 percent slide in operating income to $97 million on the back of continued weakness at Sky Italia.

To reduce dependence on the economically sensitive advertisement-based revenue, News Corp. said it is beefing up its portfolio of subscription-based assets. In June, it said it has made a bid for the 61 percent stake of pay-TV operator British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSkyB) it doesn’t already own.

“The opportunity for us to expand the scale of our franchises is significant, including through taking advantage of the continual technological advances that will broaden the reach of our core content and distribution businesses,” News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said in a statement.

The company’s full-year results were more impressive.

News Corp. said its net profit in fiscal year 2010 was $2.5 billion, helped primarily by blockbuster movie “Avatar.” DVD sales of other films like “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” also bumped up its profits. In the prior year, News Corp. incurred a net loss of $3.4 billion, which included a one-time pre-tax impairment and other charges of $9.2 billion.

“These results underscore just how well positioned we are – fiscally, operationally and strategically – for further growth across all of our markets,” Murdoch said.

Shares of News Corp., which owns Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, MySpace and 20th Century Fox among other things, closed up 1.61 percent at $13.85. Following the financial results announcement, the company’s shares were up 3.25 percent in the after-market hours.
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• Source(s): News Corporation
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04
Aug
10

MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

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MasterCard 2Q profit jumps 31 percent, tops view

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

••• Anaemic consumer spending in the U.S. was offset by strong international growth to help boost MasterCard Inc’s second-quarter profit by 31 percent.

The gain topped Wall Street profit expectations, but fell short of the 38 percent leap in operating income posted by the company’s larger rival, Visa Inc., last week.

MasterCard shares slipped $1.76, to $200.70 in midday trading as the broader market sputtered.

MasterCard’s gains showed the Purchase, NY-based payment processor’s reliance on overseas use of its cards and networks. Worldwide purchasing volume rose eight per cent, while U.S. purchasing volume eked out a gain of less than 1 percent.

Worldwide, credit card use rose 10 percent, while debit card use leaped 29 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Martina Hund-Mejean said in an interview that card use was particularly strong in Latin America and Asia Pacific, which both saw double-digit growth rates.

‘Even in Europe,’ she said, alluding to the economic turmoil on the Continent in recent months. ‘We do not see any significant impact on our numbers in terms of the Europeans not spending.’

U.S. credit card use edged down 1.5 percent, continuing a two-year decline, but showing the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2008.

Debit card use edged up less than 1 percent. That reflects more frequent use of debit cards, but was held down by MasterCard’s loss of several debit card deals with banks, most notably the former Washington Mutual, which was bought by JPMorgan Chase in 2008. Hund-Mejean said US debit growth was closer to 20 percent if the banks winding down their MasterCard programs are stripped out.

U.S. spending, particularly with credit cards, picked up in April but was less robust later in the quarter, Hund-Mejean said. ‘People still feel a little careful and cautious, and I think that’s what we saw in May and June,’ she said.

Analysts noted the growth compared with a weak quarter last year. Thomas McCrohan from Janney Capital Marketssaid it is hard to read into the results to say whether they indicate any real improvement in the economy. But there was ‘nothing alarming’ in the results.

‘There’s nothing that would support a double dip’ of the recession, McCrohan said.

The number of transactions MasterCard handled was basically flat at 5.6 billion. Cross-border volume jumped 15.2 percent.

Net income rose to $458 million, or $3.49 per share, compared with $349 million, or $2.67 per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.28 billion in the 2009 second quarter. MasterCard said the revenue increase reflected the higher cross-border volumes, higher gross dollar volume of the transactions it processed and the impact of price increases of 4 percent.

Wall Street expected earnings of $3.33 per share on revenue of $1.38 billion.

Total operating expences dropped 10 percent to $648 million. The decrease was led by a drop in severance and compensation costs as a result of layoffs in 2009.

President and CEO Ajay Banga said it is too early to tell what results MasterCard will feel from the limits on debit card fees included in the financial overhaul bill signed by President Barack Obama last month.

‘I know that everybody is eager to fully understand the impact on our business, but the truth is we just have to wait for the (Federal Reserve) to develop the regulations, and for our customers to react, before we will know the full implications both for the industry and for our company,’ he said during a conference call.

Banga noted there are a number of options for implementing the new rules, and quipped that MasterCard benefits in this case from having a smaller market share of U.S. debit than Visa.

Regardless of the new regulations, Banga said he doesn’t see the shift from cash and checks to electronic payments slowing down. He spoke enthusiastically about a number of pilot projects and overseas ventures MasterCard has to expand its network beyond card payments. Deals the company struck on mobile payments in Latin America, money transfer services in China and contactless payments in the U.S. position MasterCard for continued growth as the payments market evolves, he said.

David Parker, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, said it will be a few years before ‘electronic wallets’ are a reality, and there are some challenges in terms of customer and merchant adoption, but it is clear the market is moving in that direction.

MasterCard’s investments in this area could help it overcome its disadvantage in debit cards.

‘I think there is an opportunity there with mobile commerce,’ he said.
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22
Jul
10

Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

NEWS
Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

Oil cap in Gulf to remain despite approaching storm

Thursday, July 22, 2010

••• The U.S. government has ordered certain ships working on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back to port amid fears that a brewing storm could force a mass evacuation and derail efforts to plug BP’s runaway well.

A full-scale evacuation could delay by up to two weeks the final operation to plug BP’s runaway well, which has unleashed millions of barrels of crude on Gulf Coast shorelines in one of America’s worst ever environmental disasters.

‘Activities that are under way for storm preparedness include evacuating specialized vessels from the path of any severe weather to prevent damage and ensure that oil recovery operations can resume as soon as possible after a storm,’ a Coast Guard statement said on Thursday.

With no crews on site to monitor pressure inside the well, top U.S. official Admiral Thad Allen has warned that the cap that has prevented any toxic crude from entering the sea for the past week may have to be opened up again or even removed.

Storm warnings have been extended from the Caribbean around the Florida Keys to the Gulf Coast, but there has been no immediate order from BP or the U.S. government to suspend operations entirely and pull staff back to shore.

If the depression developing near the Bahamas, expected to become Tropical Storm Bonnie lateron Thursday, takes aim at Louisiana it will delay a so-called ‘static kill’ to seal the well with cement originally planned for this weekend.

Officials have warned it will take up to five days to get some of the biggest vessels, in particular the massive drilling platforms working on relief wells, back to port.

‘We’ve always said we need 120 hours in advance to be able to start redeploying them and then the total time off-scene would be anywhere between 10 and 14 days,’ Allen said on Wednesday.

As for what to do with the cap, this would be ‘a judgment call based on the risks,’ he said.

The first relief well was expected to intercept the damaged well as early as next week but if the storm hits that could be more like mid-August and any final operation to seal the well with cement might be delayed until September.

The storm threat was already delaying progress as work on the final casing of the relief well was suspended so a ‘storm packer’ plug could be fitted to stabilize it.

A full evacuation would be a huge blow for local residents. Tourism is in tatters and a vast swath of the Gulf has been closed to commercial and sport fishing since the BP-leased Deep water Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

As millions of barrels of crude spewed into the sea, the region was further hit by President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a moratorium on new deep sea drilling – a move fiercely opposed by local leaders and the oil industry.

Four of the world’s oil giants say they will create a $1 billion system to capture oil in case of another catastrophic spill.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Royal Dutch Shell will each contribute $250 million to create a non-profit group, the Marine Well Containment Company.

The new venture would design, build and operate a flexible system that could mobilise within 24 hours to siphon and contain 100,000 barrels of oil per day in depths of up to 1.86 miles, the companies said.

It’s main goal would be to prevent a spill as large as the one unleashed by BP’s busted Macondo well, which sits 1 mile below the surface and was estimated to have spewed up to 60,000 bpd into the sea.

The companies said the system could be up and running within 18 months.

If an upper estimate of over four million barrels is confirmed, the BP disaster would be the biggest accidental oil spill ever.
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20
Jul
10

Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

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Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Shares of BP fell after it said the tab for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is nearing $4.05 billion while it monitors oil seeping near the ruptured well.

BP PLC’s shares lost $1.61, or 4.3 percent, at $35.49 in midday trading.

Investors remain worried about the mounting costs and whether the latest fix will hold until a relief well is in place, Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss said.

“If the well integrity is compromised, it makes the process more complicated,” he said.

The cost of dealing with the oil spill – almost $4 billion – equals about two-thirds of BP’s profit in the first three months of the year.
BP placed a cap on the well on Thursday, shutting off oil that had been gushing from it since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20 and then sank.

A seep detected in the sea floor near the well prompted new concern about whether the fix would hold.

The government is allowing BP to continue monitoring the site for new leaks, at least for now.

Key questions remain about BP’s liability, Credit Suisse analyst Kim Fustier said.

In a research note to clients on Monday, Fustier said yet to be determined is the total cost for liability and compensatory claims and how the liability costs will be distributed between BP and its partners.

If negligence is proven, another issue could be punitive damages, the analyst said.
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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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15
Jun
10

Microsoft Office 2010 goes on sale worldwide

NEWS
Microsoft Office 2010 goes on sale worldwide

Friday, June 11, 2010

••• Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday announced that the latest version of its Office software is now available for consumers worldwide.

Starting from Tuesday, consumers can purchase Microsoft Office 2010 at more than 35,000 retail stores across the globe, through online retailers or from Microsoft website.

Office 2010 can also be purchased with desktops and laptops from leading personal computer (PC) makers including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Sony, Microsoft said in a press release.

The software giant predicted that in the next year, more than 100 million PCs will ship with Office 2010 preloaded.

Microsoft said it has made considerable enhancements to Office 2010, a suite of applications including the popular Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint.

For example, improvements to Word 2010 can help users add extensive text effects and table formatting options.

Microsoft also announced that a free, Web-based version of the Office programs is becoming available to consumers.

The Office Web Apps, which includes Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that enable users to edit and share documents online, is seen as Microsoft’s answer to Google Inc.’s Web-based applications.
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• Source(s): Microsoft Corporation
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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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29
May
10

Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion

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Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion
Saturday, May 29, 2010

••• Royal Dutch Shell, the energy major, has almost doubled its reserves of shale gas with the $4.7 Billion in cash acquisition of East Resources.

East Resources owns and operates more than 2,500 producing oil and gas wells in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado and is actively exploring drilling programs in Wyoming, according to its website. It has been operating in the Marcellus Shale Area for 25 years.

Companies from India’s Reliance Industries Ltd to Japan’s Mitsui & Co are spending billions of dollars on drilling to dislodge natural gas from shale – sedimentary rock composed of mud, quartz and calcite. Shell expects its share of gas in total output to rise to 52 percent in 2012.
“They’ve seen others take material positions in U.S. gas, and this is one way they can also play a part in that business,” said Jason Kenney, head of oil and gas research at ING Commercial Banking in Edinburgh.

The acquisition is the second-biggest oil and gas deal this year, after BP Plc’s acquisition of deepwater assets from Devon Energy Corp for $7 billion in March, according to Bloomberg data.

“We are enhancing our world-wide upstream portfolio for profitable growth, through exploration and focused acquisitions, and through divestment of non-core positions,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said in a statement today.

Exxon Mobil Corp, the biggest U.S. oil company, agreed in December to buy XTO Energy Inc, the country’s largest natural gas producer, for $31 billion to gain control of shale-gas assets.
• Source(s): Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Bloomberg L.P.
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07
May
10

Stocks turn negative for 2010

NEWS
Stocks turn negative for 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

••• U.S. stocks continued to fall in early trading on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 turning negative for the year as traders preferred to stay on the sidelines after Thursday’s unprecedented market plunge.

U.S. stocks saw a 10 percent correction in ten minutes on Thursday, sending investors in great panic. The Dow Jones industrial average experienced its largest-ever point decline in intraday trading, plummeting almost 1,000 points before recovering to close down about 348 points.

Speculation of bad trades emerged in the market as many traders suspected a glitch in the trading of Dow component Procter & Gambles played a role in the heavy selling.

Investors preferred to stay on the sidelines after the unprecedented plunge, even after payrolls data came in better than expected, as uncertainties over European debt problems were still haunting in the market.

According to the Labor Department, non-farm payrolls expanded by 290,000 in April, the most in four years as more confident employers stepped up hiring. The unemployment rate rose from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent, mainly because 805,000 jobseekers resumed their searches for work as the economy showed more signs of recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 112.75, or 1.07 percent, to 10,407.57. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 13.14, or 1.16 percent, to 1,115.01 and the Nasdaq was down 36.41, or 1. 57 percent, to 2,283.23.
President Barack Obama says U.S. authorities are probing ‘unusual’ stock market activity which triggered a slump in the value of securities, and will act to protect investors.

Obama diverted from a statement at the White House on Friday on a sharp increase in job creation, saying he wanted to ‘speak to the unusual market activity’ that took place on Wall Street on Thursday.

‘The regulatory authorities are evaluating this closely with a concern for protecting investors and preventing this from happening again and they will make findings of their review public along with recommendations for appropriate action,’ he said.
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06
May
10

Record 998.5 point drop for Dow Jones before recovery

NEWS
Record 998.5 point drop for Dow Jones before recovery

Thursday, May 6, 2010

••• Panic selling swept U.S. markets on Thursday as the Dow Jones plunged a record of almost 1000 points before recouping more than half those losses.

It was unclear whether the sudden sell-off, the Dow’s biggest ever intra-day drop, was the result of fears over the Greek debt crisis, a mistaken trade or technical error.

The crash began shortly before 2.25 pm EDT, when in a white-knuckle 20 minutes America’s top 30 firms saw their share prices dive 998.5 points, almost nine per cent, wiping out billions in market value.

The drop eclipsed even the crashes seen when markets reopened after September 11, 2001 and in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

The Dow later recovered, closing nearly four per cent down, but spooked traders were left wondering whether a technical glitch had caused the blue-chip index to erode three months of solid gains.

Rumours swirled that a Citigroup trader had mistakenly sold 16 billion rather than 16 million stocks in Procter and Gamble shares, forcing the Dow down.

Shares in the consumer goods giant lost more than seven U.S. dollars, falling in a similar pattern to the Dow, trading at a low of $55 a share.

‘At this point, we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction,’ said company spokesman Stephen Cohen.

A spokesperson for the New York Stock Exchange said the cause was still not known.

‘We don’t know, right now we’re looking into it,’ said Christian Braakman, ‘it’s all speculation.’

But after three days in which stocks have suffered triple-digit intra-day losses because of concern about Greece’s debt crisis, it was clear that the sell-off was real for some investors.

At the close, the Dow had recovered to 10,520.32, down 347.80 (3.20 percent), while the Nasdaq was down 82.65 points (3.44 percent) at 2,319.64. The Standard Poors 500 Index was down 37.72 points (3.24 percent) to 1,128.15.

Images of rioting as the Greek parliament passed unpopular austerity measures did little to ease market panic.

The parliament approved billions of euros of spending cuts pledged in exchange for a 110 billion euros ($138.55 billion) E.U.-IMF bailout just one day after three bank workers died in a firebomb attack during a huge protest.

On Thursday, police charged to scatter hundreds of youths at the tail-end of a new protest outside parliament that drew more than 10,000 people.

In Lisbon, European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet battled to reassure financial markets that Greece’s debt crisis would not end in default, but could not prevent the euro from falling to a 14-month low against the dollar.

Pleas for patience from the White House also had little impact.

The White House said that reforms in Greece were ‘important’ but would take time and that the U.S. Treasury was monitoring the situation.

‘The president has heard regularly from his economic team,’ said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, adding that President Barack Obama’s top economic officials were closely communicating with their European counterparts.
• Source(s): Associated Press
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01
May
10

Goldman Sachs under criminal investigation

NEWS
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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30
Apr
10

Samsung Electronics posts record Q1, says optimistic on Q2

NEWS
Samsung Electronics posts record Q1, says optimistic on Q2

Friday, April 30, 2010

Samsung Electronics says net profit has surged in the first quarter of this year amid higher sales.

The company said on Friday that it earned 3.99 trillion won ($3.58 billion) in the three months ended March 31. It had net profit of 580 billion won ($520.26 million) the year before.

Samsung said sales in the first quarter totalled 34.64 trillion won ($31.07 billion). That was 20.8 percent higher than the 28.67 trillion won ($25.72 billion) reported a year earlier.

Samsung is the world’s largest manufacturer of computer memory chips, flat screen televisions and liquid crystal displays. It ranks No.2 in mobile phones behind Finland’s Nokia Corp.

Samsung Electronics said yesterday that it plans to significantly increase its investment in both chips and flat-screens in 2010, giving a bullish outlook for the remainder of this year.

Samsung posted a historic high operating profit of 4.41 trillion won ($3.9 billion) in the first quarter, mainly driven by the stellar performance of its chip business, which reported 1.96 trillion won in operating profits. Its operating profits are slightly higher than its earlier forecast of 4.3 trillion won ($3.88 million). Samsung’s first-quarter sales reached 3.99 trillion won, compared with its guidance of 34 trillion won.

Samsung expected its earnings to further improve in the second quarter, and said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the second half as well, expecting strong demand for memory and LCDs, and a sales increase for handsets and TVs.

Samsung is the world’s top maker of memory chips, LCD panels and LCD TVs, and the No. 2 handset vendor.

“In order to address the increased demand in the market, we are planning to substantially increase the capital expenditure from the initial guidance, which was 5.5 trillion ($4.93 billion) for memory and 3 trillion ($2.69 billion) for LCDs,” Robert Yi, Samsung’s head of investor relations, said at an earnings conference call yesterday.

Media and analysts have speculated that Samsung may expand its chip investment to more than 7.5 trillion won ($6.73 billion) and its LCD spending to 4.5 trillion won ($4.04 billion) this year.

As for the memory market, Samsung expected supply and demand to remain tight for both DRAM and NAND in the current quarter, saying that a supply increase may not be enough to catch up with robust demand.

However, Samsung’s LCD division posted a lower-than-expected operating profit of 490 billion won ($439.53 million), ceding its top position in terms of profitability to its rival LG Display. LG, the world’s No. 2 LCD maker by sales, reported first-quarter operating profit of 789.4 billion won ($708.09 million), which beat market forecasts.

Samsung said the fall was mainly caused by depreciation costs, and expected an improved profit in the current quarter.

Samsung faces an increasing threat from LG Display, which seeks to catch up not only in profit but sales, with aggressive investment plans. To cope with the challenge, Samsung may spend an additional 1.5 trillion won ($1.35 billion) in expanding its eighth-generation LCD line, on top of the already earmarked 3 trillion won ($2.69 billion), market watchers say.

Yi said that a revision of its investment may be announced before the second-quarter earnings results will be announced in July.

Samsung’s mobile operating profit beat expectations, reaching 1.1 trillion won ($986.7 million). Samsung’s telecommunications division, which includes its handset business, posted a 12 percent operating profit margin, which Samsung ascribed to a reduction in marketing costs and strong sales of mid-end and high-end devices, especially touchscreen phones and messaging phones. Samsung expects a double-digit operating margin for its handset business this year, according to Yi.

A Samsung executive also said during the conference call that the company aims to achieve handset sales that would exceed its initial target of 270 million units this year. Samsung also expected that Android phones would account for more than half of its smartphones this year, while models based on its proprietary Bada platform will make up one third of its total smartphone models.
Yi said Samsung was developing a tablet-like PC which would challenge Apple’s iPad, and said the new model would hit the market after the first half of this year.

Samsung’s Digital Media division, which includes its TV business, saw its operating profit increase 11 percent to 520 billion won ($466.44 million) this year. Its TV sales reached a record high of 8.4 million units in the January to March period, up by nearly 50 percent from a year ago, driven by the growth of shipments to both advanced and developing markets, the company said.

Samsung shares jumped 2.9 percent at yesterday’s close, while the broader market rose 0.8 percent.

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29
Apr
10

Google ranked world’s most valuable brand

NEWS
Google ranked world’s most valuable brand

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Google was crowned the world’s most valuable brand on Wednesday by a research firm that found technology firms dominate when it comes to how much a name is worth in today’s markets.

Google, IBM, Apple and Microsoft topped global stalwarts Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Marlboro in a Top Ten brand value list packed with seven technology companies.

Google’s brand was worth more than $114 billion, a 14 percent climb from 2009, according to the annual Millward Brown Optimor ‘BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands’ report.
U.S. technology titan IBM saw its ‘brand value’ surge 30 percent to $86 billion while the worth of Apple’s name climbed 32 percent to $83 billion, according to the report.

Factors taken into consideration in the ranking include customer loyalty and opinions regarding brands and how they influence earnings.

Microsoft ranked fourth with its brand valued at slightly more than $76 billion, just ahead of the nearly $68 billion that Coca-Cola’s brand was said to be worth.

China Mobile, General Electric, and Vodafone claimed the eighth through tenth spots respectively.

Social-networking powerhouse Facebook made it onto a separate Top Twenty technology brands list for the first time with its company name value at $5.5 billion.

Electronics powerhouse Samsung saw the largest jump in brand value, soaring 80 percent from the previous year to $11.3 billion.

‘Technology brands demonstrated their pervasiveness in our daily lives,’ Millward Brown said in a release. ‘Use of social media was a key trend across many of the successful brands.’

The overall value of the Top 100 brands rose four per cent to more than two trillion dollars, according to Millward Brown, which specialises in advertising, marketing communications, media and brand equity research.

‘This ranking has elevated the importance of building brands among some of the world’s most successful companies,’ said Millward Brown global chief executive Eileen Campbell.

‘CEOs and CFOs around the world should be asking their brand and marketing teams how they can leverage brand to both protect and grow the business.’

An investor who put their money into a Brandz portfolio five years ago would have earned a double-digit return as opposed to losing cash with a set of stocks based on the SP 500 index, according to Millward Brown.

‘In the past, many companies were quick to cut their marketing spend during a down economy,’ said Joanna Seddon, head of Millward Brown Optimor.

‘A new trend has emerged in the wake of the recession as more companies realised the importance of maintaining and even increasing budgets to support brand loyalty and engagement.’
• Source(s): Millward Brown
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28
Apr
10

Goldman’s defense? We’re misunderstood

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

Republicans block debate of finance rules reform

NEWS
Republicans block debate of finance rules reform

Monday, April 26, 2010

U.S. lawmakers on Monday failed to pass a test vote of the widely watched financial regulatory reform bill in a sharply divided Senate.

The lawmakers voted 57 – 41, falling short of the 60 votes that Democrats needed to proceed on the regulatory overhaul in the Senate. All 41 Republican senators said that they oppose the bill.

Two Democrats voted against the bill and two Republicans did not vote.

The legislation, which has become President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority after the completion of the healthcare reform, aims to reset the rules of the U.S. financial sector.

The bill, proposed by Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), would map a way to dissolve the so-called “too big to fail” firms in a bid to avoid massive taxpayer-funded “bailouts” introduced in late 2008 amid the financial crisis.

It will also tighten regulations on the giant market in derivatives – complex, privately traded instruments tied to the underlying value of a commodity and seen as vehicles for dangerous speculation.

There has been a consensus that the country must tighten regulations on Wall Street after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, which triggered the fresh round of global financial crisis and a deep recession.

But wide disagreements exist between the two parties.

Republicans say the Dodd bill will add new burden to the U.S. taxpayers and may not prevent future crisis.

President Obama said earlier this month that he urged the bill to pass the Senate in weeks. But analysts say that given the escalating political pressure, it will take longer time for the sweeping financial overhaul to complete.

Obama said on Monday he was “deeply disappointed” that Senate Republicans had blocked the test vote.

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26
Apr
10

Goldman Sachs and “War Profiteering”

NEWS
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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24
Apr
10

Apple Market Cap Bigger Than Microsoft? Not Quite Yet, It Isn’t

NEWS
Apple Market Cap Bigger Than Microsoft? Not Quite Yet, It Isn’t

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boosted by upbeat investor reaction to its strong earnings report this week, Apple on yesterday became the second largest company on the S&P 500 Index in terms of market capitalization, surpassing software giant Microsoft.
Revenge, they say, is a dish that is best served cold. And if this is true, then Apple must be pleased as punch to see itself in the second spot in the S&P 500, second only to Exxon Mobil.

While coming second is in itself notable – with the notable exception of coming first – what must be especially pleasing to Apple is the company it has replaced – Microsoft.

To understand this, you must travel back in time to 1988. In that year, Apple filed a case against Microsoft, claiming that the Windows graphical user interface (GUI) infringed upon the Mac’s “look and feel.” Of course, since Apple had itself borrowed the Mac’s look and feel by looking at products from Xerox and feeling that the GUI is a good thing, the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a GUI.

What is more humiliating than being beaten by an opponent? Running back to the same opponent for help when you are down. And Apple was forced to do this in 1997, when Steve Jobs announced that Apple would join Microsoft to release new versions of Microsoft Office for the Macintosh, and that Microsoft made a $150 million investment in non-voting Apple stock. The money made a huge difference to Apple because in 1997 Apple was in deep trouble and was facing a huge finance crunch.

Enough history. Cut to the here and now. Apple is on top and has ousted Microsoft to become the No 2 company on the S&P index. It would be wrong to say that its iPod, iPhone and iPads are selling like hot cakes – it would perhaps be better to say that hot cakes are selling like iPads.

Purists may argue that the S&P 500 represents merely float-adjusted market cap. In fact, as Marco Tabini posted on macworld.com, “Microsoft’s full market cap still outstrips Apple’s by $275 billion to $241 billion.”

True, Microsoft’s market cap is still higher, but Apple has one psychological advantage that was once enjoyed by Microsoft in the PC era – the ability to drive the direction of the market. Now, Apple decides what happens.

Want proof? The iPad now accounts for 26 per cent of all of the mobile traffic on wired.com. The site is so impressed that they are making their Flash-heavy pages iPad compatible. “We are aware of the irony that the majority of wired.com’s videos, which use an Adobe Flash-based player, don’t play on the iPad. We’re working on that, starting with our homepage,” wrote Dylan F. Tweney in an article that appeared on the site.

Many many moons ago, when Steve Jobs hired John Sculley from Pepsi, he is reputed to have asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Scully didn’t change the world. In fact, during his regime, Microsoft threatened to discontinue Office for the Mac if Apple did not licence parts of the Mac GUI for use with Windows. And those days, Microsoft got what it wanted. But it looks like iPad has just turned the tables.

• What is S&P 500?
The S&P 500 is a free-float capitalization-weighted index published since 1957 of the prices of 500 large-cap common stocks actively traded in the United States. After the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 is the most widely followed index of large-cap American stocks. It is considered a bellwether for the American economy.

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