Gold surges to all time record high as double-dip recession fears grow
Paul Joseph Watson
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
A top investment banker has warned that the economic fallout of the sovereign debt crisis could get so nasty over the next five years that people would be wise to abandon the markets and instead buy land, barbed wire and guns.
With gold smashing through its all time record high this morning on the back of fears over a double dip recession, analysts are turning increasingly bearish on the markets. Anthony Fry, senior managing director at Evercore Partners, told CNBC that the bond markets could turn nasty over the next few months and said that the current problems created by the European debt crisis could be with us for at least five years.
“Look at the current situation. You have Greece, now you have Hungary and huge issues surrounding Spain and Portugal,” he said, warning of a “nightmare scenario” of hyper-stagflation, where inflation rises dramatically but asset prices deflate.
“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher,” said Fry.
RBS Chief Strategist Bob Janjuah echoed Fry’s sentiments, predicting that governments would inject at least $15 trillion dollars more qualitative easing into the system and that investors should get into gold to offset the depreciating value of fiat currencies.
“Over the next 6 months we will see private sector deflation pushing 10-year yields down to 2 percent,” he said. “This will see the policymakers mistakenly attempt to kick-start the economy and market with a global quantitative easing program worth between $10 and $15 trillion dollars.”
Janjuah pointed out that, while gold has dramatically risen in value over the last ten years, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones have both remained flat over the course of a decade.
Gold hit a record high of $1,251.85 dollars an ounce this morning as investors continued to flock to the precious metal as a hedge against economic turmoil and the very real possibility of a double dip recession.
With U.S. debt moving towards parity with GDP, members of Congress and leading financial experts are warning that the United States will be in the same dire situation as Greece within 7-10 years unless the federal government implements radical austerity measures.
The backlash to those austerity measures usually takes the form of rioting and violence, as we have seen unfold in Greece.
Top historians, social and financial analysts, along with police bodies are all predicting that Europe and America are set to experience a summer of rage, with social discontent building as a result of economic hardship.
“Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage,” wrote historian Simon Schama in his recent Financial Times column.
This New York Times article is much more significant than it might first appear. This is a clear indication that people are waking up in larger numbers and are realizing their state of servitude, then choosing not to accept it. Instead of beg, borrow, and steal to pay their predatory mortgage to proven criminals and cartels, people are choosing in increasing numbers to take care of themselves and their families first . . . and let the banksters be damned.
Owners Stop Paying Mortgage … And Stop Fretting About It
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life — something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.
Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.
“Instead of the house dragging us down, it’s become a life raft,” said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying the mortgage on their house here last summer. “It’s really been a blessing.”
A growing number of the people whose homes are in foreclosure are refusing to slink away in shame. They are fashioning a sort of homemade mortgage modification, one that brings their payments all the way down to zero. They use the money they save to get back on their feet or just get by.
This type of modification does not beg for a lender’s permission but is delivered as an ultimatum: Force me out if you can. Any moral qualms are overshadowed by a conviction that the banks created the crisis by snookering homeowners with loans that got them in over their heads.
“I tried to explain my situation to the lender, but they wouldn’t help,” said Mr. Pemberton’s mother, Wendy Pemberton, herself in foreclosure on a small house a few blocks away from her son’s. She stopped paying her mortgage two years ago after a bout with lung cancer. “They’re all crooks.”
Foreclosure procedures have been initiated against 1.7 million of the nation’s households. The pace of resolving these problem loans is slow and getting slower because of legal challenges, foreclosure moratoriums, government pressure to offer modifications and the inability of the lenders to cope with so many souring mortgages.
The average borrower in foreclosure has been delinquent for 438 days before actually being evicted, up from 251 days in January 2008, according to LPS Applied Analytics.
While there are no firm figures on how many households are following the Pemberton-Reboyras path of passive resistance, real estate agents and other experts say the number of overextended borrowers taking the “free rent” approach is on the rise.
There is no question, though, that for some borrowers in default, foreclosure is only a theoretical threat for a long time.
More than 650,000 households had not paid in 18 months, LPS calculated earlier this year. With 19 percent of those homes, the lender had not even begun to take action to repossess the property — double the rate of a year earlier.
In some states, including California and Texas, lenders can pursue foreclosures outside of the courts. With the lender in control, the pace can be brisk. But in Florida, New York and 19 other states, judicial foreclosure is the rule, which slows the process substantially.
In Pinellas and Pasco counties, which include St. Petersburg and the suburbs to the north, there are 34,000 open foreclosure cases, said J. Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit. Ten years ago, the average was about 4,000. “The volume is killing us,” Judge McGrady said.
Mr. Pemberton and Ms. Reboyras decided to stop paying because their business, which restores attics that have been invaded by pests, was on the verge of failing. Scrambling to get by, their credit already shot, they had little to lose.
“We could pay the mortgage company way more than the house is worth and starve to death,” said Mr. Pemberton, 43. “Or we could pay ourselves so our business could sustain us and people who work for us over a long period of time. It may sound very horrible, but it comes down to a self-preservation thing.”
They used the $1,837 a month that they were not paying their lender to publicize A Plus Restorations, first with print ads, then local television. Word apparently got around, because the business is recovering.
The couple owe $280,000 on the house, where they live with Ms. Reboyras’s two daughters, their two dogs and a very round pet raccoon named Roxanne. The house is worth less than half that amount — which they say would be their starting point in future negotiations with their lender.
“If they took the house from us, that’s all they would end up getting for it anyway,” said Ms. Reboyras, 46.
One reason the house is worth so much less than the debt is because of the real estate crash. But the couple also refinanced at the height of the market, taking out cash to buy a truck they used as a contest prize for their hired animal trappers.
It was a stupid move by their lender, according to Mr. Pemberton. “They went outside their own guidelines on debt to income,” he said. “And when they did, they put themselves in jeopardy.”
His mother, Wendy Pemberton, who has been cutting hair at the same barber shop for 30 years, has been in default since spring 2008. Mrs. Pemberton, 68, refinanced several times during the boom but says she benefited only once, when she got enough money for a new roof. The other times, she said, unscrupulous salesmen promised her lower rates but simply charged her high fees.
Even without the burden of paying $938 a month for her decaying house, Mrs. Pemberton is having a tough time. Most of her customers are senior citizens who pay only $8 for a cut, and they are spacing out their visits.
“The longer I’m in foreclosure, the better,” she said.
In Florida, the average property spends 518 days in foreclosure, second only to New York’s 561 days. Defense attorneys stress they can keep this number high.
Both generations of Pembertons have hired a local lawyer, Mark P. Stopa. He sends out letters — 1,700 in a recent week — to Floridians who have had a foreclosure suit filed against them by a lender.
Even if you have “no defenses,” the form letter says, “you may be able to keep living in your home for weeks, months or even years without paying your mortgage.”
About 10 new clients a week sign up, according to Mr. Stopa, who says he now has 350 clients in foreclosure, each of whom pays $1,500 a year for a maximum of six hours of attorney time. “I just do as much as needs to be done to force the bank to prove its case,” Mr. Stopa said.
Many mortgages were sold by the original lender, a circumstance that homeowners’ lawyers try to exploit by asking them to prove they own the loan. In Mrs. Pemberton’s case, Mr. Stopa filed a motion to dismiss on March 17, 2009, and the case has not moved since then. He filed a similar motion in her son’s case last December.
From the lenders’ standpoint, people who stay in their homes without paying the mortgage or actively trying to work out some other solution, like selling it, are “milking the process,” said Kyle Lundstedt, managing director of Lender Processing Service’s analytics group. LPS provides technology, services and data to the mortgage industry.
These “free riders” are “the unintended and unfortunate consequence” of lenders struggling to work out a solution, Mr. Lundstedt said. “These people are playing a dangerous game. There are processes in many states to go after folks who have substantial assets postforeclosure.”
But for borrowers like Jim Tsiogas, the benefits of not paying now outweigh any worries about the future.
“I stopped paying in August 2008,” said Mr. Tsiogas, who is in foreclosure on his house and two rental properties. “I told the lady at the bank, ‘I can’t afford $2,500. I can only afford $1,300.’ ”
Mr. Tsiogas, who lives on the coast south of St. Petersburg, blames his lenders for being unwilling to help when the crash began and his properties needed shoring up.
Their attitude seems to have changed since he went into foreclosure. Now their letters say things like “we’re willing to work with you.” But Mr. Tsiogas feels little urge to respond.
“I need another year,” he said, “and I’m going to be pretty comfortable.”
Goldman Sachs Hands Clients Losses in ‘Top Trades’
By Ye Xie
May 19 (Bloomberg) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc. racked up trading profits for itself every day last quarter. Clients who followed the firm’s investment advice fared far worse.
Seven of the investment bank’s nine “recommended top trades for 2010” have been money losers for investors who adopted the New York-based firm’s advice, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from a Goldman Sachs research note sent yesterday. Clients who used the tips lost 14 percent buying the Polish zloty versus the Japanese yen, 9.4 percent buying Chinese stocks in Hong Kong and 9.8 percent trading the British pound against the New Zealand dollar.
The struggles for analysts at Goldman Sachs, which is fighting a fraud lawsuit from U.S. regulators who accuse the company of misleading investors in a mortgage-linked security, show the difficulty of predicting market movements as widening budget deficits, a fragile global economic recovery and tighter financial regulations increase volatility. Stock and currency fluctuations rose to the highest in a year this month as Europe pledged about $1 trillion to stop a debt crisis in the region.
“This says that Goldman’s guys are only human,” said Axel Merk, who oversees $500 million as president and chief investment officer of Merk Investments LLC in Palo Alto, California. “No one is always right. There are a lot of cross currents in this market.”
Gia Moron, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.
By Timothy R. Homan
May 16 (Bloomberg) — Greece is considering taking legal action against U.S. investment banks that might have contributed to the country’s debt crisis, Prime Minister George Papandreou said.
“I wouldn’t rule out that this may be a recourse,” Papandreou said, in response to questions about the role of U.S. banks in the crisis, in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” The program, scheduled for broadcast today, was taped on May 13. Neither Papandreou nor Zakaria mentioned any banks by name.
U.S. stocks fell and the euro slumped on concern that Europe wouldn’t be able to contain the debt crisis stemming from Greece. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1.9 percent May 14, while the euro fell below $1.24 for the first time since November 2008.
Papandreou said the decision on whether to go after U.S. banks will be made after a Greek parliamentary investigation into the cause of the crisis.
“Greece will look into the past and see how things went,” Papandreou said. “There are similar investigations going on in other countries and in the United States. This is where I think, yes, the financial sector, I hear the words fraud and lack of transparency. So yes, yes, there is great responsibility here.”
By George Russell
The World Health Organization is moving full speed ahead with a controversial plan to impose billions of dollars in global consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and everyday financial transactions like paying bills online — while its spending soars and its own financial house is in disarray.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ public health arm, is moving full speed ahead with a controversial plan to impose global consumer taxes on such things as Internet activity and everyday financial transactions like paying bills online — while its spending soars and its own financial house is in disarray.
The aim of its taxing plans is to raise “tens of billions” of dollars for WHO that would be used to radically reorganize the research, development, production and distribution of medicines around the world, with greater emphasis on drugs for communicable diseases in poor countries.
The irony is that the WHO push to take a huge bite out of global consumers comes as the organization is having a management crisis of its own, juggling finances, failing to use its current resources efficiently, or keep its costs under control — and it doesn’t expect to show positive results in managing those challenges until a year from now, at the earliest.
Fox News initially reported last January on the “suite of proposals” for “new and innovative sources of funding,” prepared by a 25-member panel of medical experts, academics and health care bureaucrats, when it was presented of a meeting of WHO’s 34-member Executive Board in Geneva.
Now the proposals are headed for the four-day annual meeting of the 193-member World Health Assembly, WHO’s chief legislative organ, which begins in Geneva on May 17.
The Health Assembly, a medical version of the United Nations General Assembly, will be invited to “take note” of the experts’ report. It will then head back with that passive endorsement to another Executive Board meeting, which begins May 22, for further action. It is the Executive Board that will “give effect” to the Assembly’s decisions.
What it all means is that a major lobbying effort could soon be underway to convince rich governments in particular to begin taxing citizens or industries to finance a drastic restructuring of medical research and development on behalf of poorer ones.
The scheme would leave WHO in the middle, helping to manage a “global health research and innovation coordination and funding mechanism,” as the experts’ report calls it.
In effect, the plan amounts to a pharmaceutical version of the U.N.-sponsored climate-change deal that failed to win global approval at Copenhagen last December. If implemented as the experts suggest, it could easily involve the same kind of wealth transfers as the failed Copenhagen summit, which will send $30 billion a year to poor nations, starting this year.
The WHO strategy involves a wide variety of actions to transfer “pharmaceutical-related technology,” and its production, along with intellectual property rights, to developing countries, according to a condensed “global strategy and plan of action” also being presented to the World Health Assembly.
Regional “networks for innovation” would be cultivated across the developing world, and some regions, such as Africa, would be encouraged to develop technology to exploit “traditional medicines.”
According to the condensed plan of action being presented to the Assembly, a number of those initiatives are already well under way.
The rationale for the drastic restructuring of medical R and D, as outlined in the group of experts’ report, is the skewed nature of medical research in the developed world, which concentrates largely on non-communicable diseases, notably cancer, and scants research on malaria, tuberculosis and other communicable scourges of poor countries. It cites a 1986 study that claimed that only 5 percent of global health research and development was applied to the health problems of developing countries.
(In dissecting contemporary medical R and D, however, the expert report glosses over the historical fact that many drugs for fighting communicable diseases in developing countries are already discovered; the issue in many cases is the abysmal living and hygienic conditions that make them easily transmitted killers.)
What truly concerns the experts, however, is how to get the wealth transfers that will make the R and D transfers possible — on a permanent basis. The panel offers up a specific number of possibilities.
Chief among them:
• a “digital” or “bit” tax on Internet activity, which could raise “tens of billions of U.S. dollars”;
• a 10 percent tax on international arms deals, “worth about $5 billion per annum”;
• a financial transaction tax, citing a Brazilian levy that was raising some $20 billion per year until it was canceled (for unspecified reasons);
• an airline tax that already exists in 13 countries and has raised some $1 billion.
Almost casually, the panel’s report notes that the fundraising effort would involve global changes in legal structures — and policing. As the report puts it: “Introducing a new tax or expanding an existing tax may require legal changes, nationally and internationally and ongoing regulation to ensure compliance.”
As a backup, the panel offers some less costly, voluntary alternatives, including “solidarity contributions” via mobile telephone usage, or set-asides on income taxes.
Yet another alternative: new health care contributions from countries such as China, India or Venezuela, or higher contributions from rich countries — neither idea looking likely in the current climate of international financial crisis. In the report’s words: “channeling these resources in this way can only be achieved if there is political will to do so and a convincing case is made.”
As follow-up, the experts suggest that WHO promote each and every suggested approach for new financing, along with “regulatory harmonization and integration” in the developing world, “research and development platforms in the developing world,” and new “product development partnerships” to kick-start the global medicines program.
Just as big an issue for WHO, however, may be whether it can adequately manage the money it is already getting — or trying to get — for its current planned needs.
Other budget documents intended for the World Health Assembly, and obtained by Fox News, paint a picture of an organization where:
• spiraling financial demands are beginning to outstrip the ability of member-nations to pay;
• outsized headquarters budgets, in contrast to the regional and country networks where WHO’s public health work is largely done, are rising even faster than the overall budget; and
• efforts to control onerous staff costs are just getting underway.
Those challenges are laid out in WHO’s proposed biennial budget for 2010-2011, which calls for a combination of mandatory and voluntary contributions from the world’s nations — meaning, overwhelmingly, the three dozen richest ones — of $5.4 billion — a whopping 27 percent increase over the same initial draft figure for 2008-2009.
But that increase, large as it is, will likely be far less than WHO needs before the latest biennium ends. In 2008-2009, the initial $4.23 billion draft budget was “revised” to a final $4.95 billion during the two-year period, a 17 percent increase.
Using the same inflationary measure, WHO’s spending could well climb to $6.3 billion before the end of 2011.
One of the biggest jumps would come in the spending centered on WHO’s headquarters in pricey Geneva — a 44 percent climb in its share of program budgets, from $1.18 billion to $1.7 billion, even before any future “revisions.”
WHO planners point to the shrinking value of the U.S. dollar, its budgeted currency, against the Swiss franc as a major factor, which they say has increased costs by 15 percent. But other factors include more meetings for WHO’s governing bodies and salary provisions for the top officers of the WHO Secretariat.
According to documents presented to the program, budget and administration committee of WHO’s Executive Board, headquarters costs for the organization have remained proportionately steady for years at almost 38 percent of WHO’s spending, however much that spending has grown. The ratio is striking, since WHO devotes most of its efforts to improving health care conditions in the developing world.
The organization’s stated goal is to spend only 30 percent of its program funding in Geneva, but the same planners think it is “unrealistic” to think WHO will reach that objective, even by 2013.
In foggy bureaucratic language, they declare that “a change that is too swift and radical will be disruptive to the entire function of the Organization or fail because of an insurmountable accumulation of practical problems of execution.”
Translation: the WHO bureaucracy won’t easily cooperate.
In a bid to get the head-to-tail ratio under better control, WHO’s top managers have set ceilings for headquarters hiring, but these only went into effect this year. The hiring limits will not cut the Geneva head-count but limit its further growth — “an acknowledgement,” the document says, “that staff numbers are the main driver of WHO’s expenditures.”
That combination of WHO’s sharp hikes in costs and a grim economic climate have led to another major management problem: “continued disparities between the approved budgets and the available resources.”
In other words, WHO’s member states and donors are not paying up as fast as the organization is spending the money across its many and varied priorities, leading to budgetary juggling and behind the scenes efforts to get major donor countries to ante up future contributions in advance, and cough up more voluntary funds in the future.
In its planning committee documents, the WHO bureaucracy promises to get a better grip on its finances in the near future.
Among the cost management efforts will be higher levies on voluntary donations to cover WHO staff costs — higher administrative fees, in short — along with more voluntary and “fully flexible” donations that can be used at the management’s discretion, rather than being earmarked for specific programs.
It will be another year, however, before WHO’s overseers will be able to see if its management juggling will bear adequate fruit.
All in all, that is not a confidence-building credential for an organization that is simultaneously trying to reorganize the world’s medical research, development, production and distribution system — and make the world’s consumers and taxpayers pick up most of the multibillion-dollar tab.
George Russell is executive editor of Fox News.