Posts Tagged ‘Recession

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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21
Jul
10

Obama signs historic finance reform bill

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Obama signs historic finance reform bill
Historic financial overhaul signed to law by Obama

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping reform of the U.S. finance industry since the 1930s, promising U.S. taxpayers would no longer get the bill for Wall Street excess.

The legislation, which some Republicans have pledged to repeal, introduces new consumer protections, checks the power of big banks and cracks down on deceptive practices by credit card firms.

“Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more tax-funded bailouts,” Obama promised.

Seeking to restore public confidence in his economic leadership as unemployment flirts with double digits, Obama said the bill would repair the fractures and abuses of which the financial meltdown was born.

“It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington,” said Obama, before adding the legacy-boosting law to his huge health care reform passed earlier this year.

“These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said, before signing the new law, passed by Congress last week.

“These protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people – not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses.”

The financial reform bill finally squeezed through Congress with just a handful of Republican votes, as the opposition party continued with its policy of trying to block Obama’s ambitious reform program at all costs.

Republican leaders on Wednesday condemned the new law, saying it would crimp growth, and handcuff the might of America’s financial titans.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Obama of trying to convince “sceptical Americans that he is doing everything he can to lower unemployment.”

“President Obama has signed into law a 2300 page behemoth that will saddle the business community with innumerable unintended consequences, tighter credit, and countless job-killing regulations,” Steele said.

Obama, facing record low approval ratings in some polls, hopes the financial reforms will eventually become popular, but much of the bill, like the health care bill, is so complicated that it will not come into force for months.

For instance, it will be up to a year before a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set up to protect American consumers from hidden fees and deceptive lending practices when they get a new mortgage or credit card.

It could be 18 months before new regulations emerge to stop banks from engaging in impermissible proprietary trading and investment in hedge funds – under the Volcker rule, named after former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

In a bid to highlight the help the bill will grant to the middle classes, Obama was joined at the signing ceremony by several Americans who suffered unfair treatment at the hands of credit card firms and banks.

The legislation closes loopholes in regulations and requires greater transparency and accountability for hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders, as well as arcane financial instruments called derivatives.

The measure has drawn praise but also skepticism from economists and analysts.

The bill “addresses a number of key weaknesses in the U.S. financial regulatory structure that led to the financial meltdown in 2008 and early 2009,” said Brian Bethune at IHS Global Insight.

But Diane Swonk at Mesirow Financial warned that much of the impact is not known.

“We will have more regulators overseeing – but not necessarily averting – risk, and with a bill so large and undefined, we are likely to get more, in terms of unintended than intended consequences, going forward,” she said.

The law is likely to generate heated debate ahead of congressional elections in November as Republicans call for its reversal.

House Republican leader John Boehner said recently the law “ought to be repealed” and replaced with “common-sense things that we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system.”
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• Source(s): The White House
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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

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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15
May
10

Weekly Address: Wall Street Reform & Main Street

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Weekly Address: Wall Street Reform & Main Street

President Obama “Wall Street Reform Will Bring Greater Security to Folks on Main Street”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama discussed how reforming Wall Street will strengthen Main Street. The reform bill moving through Congress will empower and protect American families with the strongest consumer financial protections in history, level the playing field for community banks by making sure all lenders are subject to tough oversight, and strengthen small businesses by curbing excessive risk taking on Wall Street, which will help protect credit for our small businesses. As the economy recovers in the short term, we need to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity for the long term. This bill helps to do just that.

On Thursday, I paid a visit to a small business in Buffalo, New York, a town that’s been hard hit in recent decades. I heard from folks about the struggles they’ve been facing for longer than they care to remember. And I talked with them about what my administration is doing to help our families, our small businesses, and our economy rebound from this recession.

Jumpstarting job creation in the private sector and fostering a climate that encourages businesses to hire again is vitally important – and I’ll continue working hard to make sure that happens. But my responsibility as President isn’t just to help our economy rebound from this recession – it’s to make sure an economic crisis like the one that helped trigger this recession never happens again.

That’s what Wall Street reform will help us do. In recent weeks, there’s been a lot of back and forth about the reform bill currently making its way through Congress. There’s been a lot of discussion about technical aspects of the bill, and a lot of heated – and frankly, sometimes misleading – rhetoric coming from opponents of reform.

All of this has helped obscure what reform would actually mean for you, the American people. So, I just wanted to take a few minutes to talk about why every American has a stake in Wall Street reform.

First and foremost, you have a stake in it if you’ve ever been treated unfairly by a credit card company, misled by pages and pages of fine print, or ended up paying fees and penalties you’d never heard of before. And you have a stake in it if you’ve ever tried to take out a home loan, a car loan, or a student loan, and been targeted by the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.

The Wall Street reform bill in Congress represents the strongest consumer financial protections in history. You’ll be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make the choices that are best for you. We’ll help stop predatory practices, and curb unscrupulous lenders, helping secure your family’s financial future.

That’s why families have a stake in it. And our community banks also have a stake in reform. These are banks we count on to provide the capital that lets our small businesses hire and grow.

The way the system is currently set up, these banks are at a disadvantage because while they are often playing by the rules, many of their less scrupulous competitors are not. So, what reform will do is help level the playing field by making sure all our lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight. That’s good news for our community banks, which is why we’ve received letters from some of these banks in support of reform.

What’s true for our community banks is also true for small businessmen and women like the ones I met in Buffalo. These small businesses were some of the worst victims of the excessive risk-taking on Wall Street that led to this crisis. Their credit dried up. They had to let people go. Some even shut their doors altogether. And unless we put in place real safeguards, we could see it happen all over again.

That’s why Wall Street reform is so important. With reform, we’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this crisis into the light of day. We’ll prevent banks from taking on so much risk that they could collapse and threaten our whole economy. And we’ll give shareholders more of a say on pay to help change the perverse incentives that encouraged reckless risk-taking in the first place. Put simply, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street.

The stories I heard in Buffalo this week were a reminder that, despite the progress we’ve made, we need to keep working hard, so we can build on that progress and rebound from this recession in the short-term. But even as we do, we also need to lay a new foundation for growth and shared prosperity over the long-term.

Next week, we have a chance to help lay a cornerstone in that foundation. The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could. But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.

• Source(s): The White House
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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

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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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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01
Apr
10

March jobs jump could lift Obama

NEWS
March jobs jump could lift Obama

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The economy is expected to have added hundreds of thousands of jobs in March, bolstering the Obama’s administration’s arguments that the $787 billion stimulus package is working.

Private forecasts on the unemployment report to be released on Friday predict as many as 200,000 jobs will have been created in March.

Economist Mark Zandi, who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 campaign and Democrats during the crafting of the stimulus, projects that 175,000 jobs will have been created.

Zandi’s estimate is that 100,000 of those jobs were created by the Census Bureau, which is hiring hundreds of thousands of workers to go door to door to get people to fill out their censuses.

Another 50,000 jobs are a bounce-back from February, when Zandi and other economists believe harsh winter storms contributed to lower-than-expected hiring. The economy shed 36,000 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Either way, the numbers will provide a jolt of good economic news for President Barack Obama, who is already enjoying the fruits of Democrats’ healthcare victory.

If the economy did add 175,000 jobs, it would be the most jobs created since March 2007, when the economy added 239,000 jobs.

Democrats nervous about the fall elections want to push the storyline that their efforts with the stimulus helped stave off a new Great Depression, and that an economy that lost nearly 3.7 million jobs in the months immediately following Obama’s election is now moving forward.

The March figures would boost that narrative, but there are several clouds on the horizon.

It’s unclear whether the 9.7 percent unemployment rate will drop at all, even with the positive job numbers.

Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute says the rate could stay at 9.7 percent or even jump to 9.8 percent. The reason is workers who gave up looking for jobs are now coming back to the workforce.

Also, the help from Census hiring is a temporary boost at best. Most Census workers will only be employed for a matter of months.

That means it could be a cruel summer for Obama and Democrats when the Census Bureau begins cutting jobs this summer. Job figures could look great in March, April and May only to look terrible in June, July and August, Shierholz said.

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday projected a small improvement in the labor market. It recorded a drop in the gap between jobs available and jobs that are hard to get.

The ratio of 41.4 percent is the best reading of that statistic since August 2008, Goldman said in the report, but is still indicative of a fragile labor market.

Zandi said job growth won’t be strong enough until late in 2010 or early in 2011 to bring down unemployment significantly.

“A lack of credit for small businesses and still-weak business confidence will slow the job-market recovery,” he said.
• Source(s): Mark Zandi, Chief Economist – Moody’s Analytics, Inc.
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