Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street

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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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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23
Jul
10

Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

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Nokia Q2 profit falls 40 percent to $290 million

Friday, July 23, 2010

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

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

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

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

Shares in company, which had recently plunged to their lowest level in 12 years, were up 1.43 percent to 7.09 euros on a Helsinki Stock Exchange up 0.9 percent shortly after the announcement.
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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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26
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform

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Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform
President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asks Congress to pass historic Wall Street reform which will make the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression the law of the land. The Wall Street reform bill, which reflects 90 percent of what the President originally proposed, includes the strongest consumer financial protections in history with an independent agency to enforce them. It ensures that the trading of derivatives, which helped trigger the crisis, will be brought into the light of day, and enacts the “Volcker Rule,” which will make sure banks protected by safety nets like the FDIC cannot engage in risky trades. And, this bill will create a resolution authority to wind down firms whose collapse would threaten the entire financial system. Wall Street reform will end taxpayer funded bailouts and make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.

I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.

That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them.

Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.

Instead, we’ll make sure credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. And you’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms, and the clear and concise information you need to make the financial decisions that are best for you and your family.

Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex trades that helped trigger this crisis – trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market – finally into the light of day.

We’ll enact what’s called the Volcker Rule to make sure banks protected by a safety net like the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. We’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. Put simply, we’ll end the days of taxpayer-funded bailouts, and help make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.

Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.

But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again.

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• Source(s): The White House
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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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17
Jun
10

BP agrees $20 billion compensation for Gulf of Mexico oil spill victims

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BP agrees $20 billion compensation for Gulf of Mexico oil spill victims

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Embattled oil giant BP has frozen payments to shareholders and will offload billions of dollars in assets to cover costs from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

On the same day that the firm was dragged to the White House, where it agreed to set aside $20 billion for spill costs, executives announced a series of belt-tightening measures to save the company around $17 billion this year.

Emerging from a meeting with President Barack Obama, BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg vowed the firm would live up to all ‘legitimate responsibilities’, as executives moved to reassure investors the 101-year-old firm will not go under.

Regular payouts for shareholders will be frozen for the rest of the year, Svanberg said, saving the firm an estimated $7 billion and quelling a major source of public anger.

Top U.S. lawmakers had demanded the company cover all costs of the spill before rewarding shareholders with a dividend that usually amounts to around $2.5 billion per quarter.
‘The BP board decided we will not pay any further dividends this year,’ said a contrite Svanberg, as he apologised for the spill.

‘Words are not enough. We understand we will and we should be judged by our actions.’

Meanwhile BP chief financial officer Byron Grote told investors the company would try to offload $10 billion worth of assets this year to save costs.

Outlining a ‘deeply conservative fiscal approach’ in the face of still unknown costs of the spill, Grote said the firm would sell mainly ‘non-core’ assets.

BP must pay $5 billion into the escrow fund by the end of the year and a billion dollars each quarter for the remaining three years.

While the fund is being built, BP said it would set aside $20 billion worth of U.S. assets as collateral.

Grote said the 20 billion figure came from ‘negotiation with US government officials,’ he said.

‘Setting up this fund is merely a vehicle… if the fund is not fully utilised then BP would be able to pull out any residual funds that are in there.’
The White House meanwhile insisted that the fund’s value of $20 billion dollars was ‘neither a floor nor a ceiling on liability,’ and announced BP would also chip in an additional $100 million to help oil workers who have lost their jobs.

The account will not be used to pay fines or penalties that BP incurs.

Wall Street reacted positively to the news, with BP’s shares trading up around 1.5 per cent in New York at the close.

Analysts said BP, which has already spent some $1.6 billion battling the spill and made a profit of around $14 billion in 2009, should be strong enough to weather the storm even if it has to borrow more.

‘Regardless how the payments mechanically happen, BP has the financial strength to fund it,’ said Jason Gammel of Macquarie Research.

‘They have enough cash flow and quality assets that will allow it to fund that type of liability.’
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• Source(s): British Petroleum PLC
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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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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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15
May
10

Weekly Address: Wall Street Reform & Main Street

NEWS
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

NEWS
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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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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05
May
10

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

NEWS
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

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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29
Apr
10

Protesters enter NYC bank buildings before rally

NEWS
Protesters enter NYC bank buildings before rally

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Noisy protesters with signs took over three bank building lobbies on Thursday in a prelude to a Wall Street rally by workers and union leaders angry over lost jobs, the taxpayer-funded bailout of financial institutions and questionable lending practices by big banks.

Hours before the scheduled rally, more than 100 people entered a midtown Manhattan building housing JPMorgan Chase offices. They handed a bank executive a letter requesting a meeting with the CEO, and chanted ‘Bust up big banks!’ and ‘People power!’
A half-hour later, they were calmly escorted outside by officers, who remained expressionless as the protesters chanted, ‘The police need a raise.’

They then walked a few blocks down Park Avenue and crowded into a Wells Fargo and Wachovia building lobby. Police arrived on horseback as curious office workers watched the scene unfold from their windows.
‘We’re here today to stop the corporate greed that is ruining our neighbourhoods,’ said Andrea Goldman, 59, who’s part of a group called Alliance to Develop Power.

Sign slogans included: ‘Save Our Jobs’ and ‘Save Our Homes’.

The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Thousands of workers and union members were expected at the rally, organised by the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of North American labour unions, and an association of community groups.

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which includes many Wall Street financial institutions, declined to comment.

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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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