February 12, 2012

Bits Bucket for February 12, 2012

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 05:54:51

Wasn’t it just a few short years ago when it was different in Seattle?

Originally published February 11, 2012 at 8:05 PM
February 11, 2012 at 8:39 PM
Empty, foreclosed houses burden cities, neighborhoods

Abandoned or bank-owned houses pose growing problems for neighbors and officials in Washington cities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis.

By Sanjay Bhatt

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Neighbor John “J.D.” Wilson peers into the vacant house next door in Covington that had been left in disarray by squatters in the fall. Authorities were unable to step in for weeks because of due-process protections intended to help distressed homeowners.

On a Monday morning last October, Covington police knocked on the door of a house in foreclosure. They got no response.

Inside, police counted five teenage squatters, two wanted on outstanding warrants. They found broken furniture, stained carpets and rotting garbage. Upstairs there were many empty bottles of cough syrup that police say the squatters drank to get high.

“It was an absolute pigsty,” Police Chief Kevin Klason said about the house in Covington’s Crofton Hills development. “They were still using the toilet even though it would not flush.”

The house, now owned by mortgage giant Freddie Mac, is part of a vast inventory of foreclosures in South King County.

The growing number of distressed or abandoned homes in such areas is a burden — often invisible — for neighbors, municipalities and taxpayers.

Foreclosure sales helped drive the median home price in Covington down 18 percent last year to $230,250, making houses more affordable to new buyers but hammering the value of other homeowners’ investments.

Previously the fastest-growing city in King County, Covington fell hard when the bubble burst. Its monthly building-permit revenue plunged from a peak of $6 million in 2007 to $715,000 in 2009.

Now, about one in every 48 residential parcels in Covington is owned by a financial institution, the highest rate in King County and more than three times the average, according to an analysis by the Assessor’s Office. Rates are also high around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and near the Pierce County line.

The rash of foreclosures has cash-strapped city officials struggling with safety and legal issues of abandoned homes. Homeowners associations that handle landscaping and other amenities sometimes face bankruptcy as owners of houses or condos in foreclosure stop paying dues.

And taxpayers, directly and indirectly, end up paying: Municipalities raise tax rates to make up for lower property values. In homes that revert to government-backed mortgage entities such as Freddie Mac, these institutions cover the cost of replacing missing appliances and maintaining the residences until they’re sold.

The foreclosure process routinely takes a year to 18 months to complete, experts say. During that period, code-enforcement officers can’t enter an abandoned property without the owner’s consent, unless the structure poses an imminent danger to public health or safety.

Code-enforcement officers say they struggle to find someone to take responsibility for the property in a chain of players that includes the foreclosure trustee, the mortgage servicer and, in many cases, a field-inspection firm.

“It’s risen to be one of our top issues statewide,” said Everett code-enforcement supervisor Kevin Fagerstrom, who hears the grumbling from his peers as a board member of a state association of code-enforcement officers.

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 08:40:47

And taxpayers, directly and indirectly, end up paying: Municipalities raise tax rates to make up for lower property values. In homes that revert to government-backed mortgage entities such as Freddie Mac, these institutions cover the cost of replacing missing appliances and maintaining the residences until they’re sold.

Thank you, Obama voters. Thank you, McCain voters. Your vote for crony capitalism and its Republicrat enablers means taxpayers have been saddled with $2.3 trillion in toxic mortgages so far, with Ben Bernanke signaling the Fed’s next intervention into the marketplace will be to transfer even more toxic mortgages off the books of his bankster accomplices and onto the backs of future taxpayers.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 09:31:13

“…these institutions cover the cost of replacing missing appliances and maintaining the residences until they’re sold.”

Are any Splenda purchases involved with the costs of maintaining these residences?

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 09:42:08

Wasn’t it just a few short years ago when it was different in Seattle?

The surprising thing about the Seattle area is that the bubble was still inflating despite the collapse in the sun belt two years earlier.

Comment by DaveBro in SonomaCo
2012-02-12 11:22:07

Wasn’t it just a few short years ago when it was different in Seattle?

To be fair, Covington is not Seattle. Covington is the Inland Empire of Seattle, I’m thinking. As my friend, who lives in Seattle, would say: “That’s hillbilly country.” :-D

Still, the reversal of fortune in the metro Seattle housing market is remarkable. Had to happen sometime!

Comment by GrizzlyBear
2012-02-12 12:50:59

There is no distinction between the two insofar as the real estate bubble is concerned.

Comment by skroodle
2012-02-12 13:24:45

According to Rick on Pawn Stars there is a 5 story city building next door that was built to house the Las Vegas building permit and associated folks.

Its empty now.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 05:58:54

“…lying to courts and end-running the law…”

Where’s Polly when you need her to weigh in?

Fair Game
The Deal Is Done, but Hold the Applause
Published: February 11, 2012

FIVE big banks finally reached a deal with government authorities last week over dubious mortgage practices and foreclosure abuses.

After months of talks, Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo agreed to pay a total of $5 billion in cash to try to remedy this fiasco. They will also help homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages by reducing the principal on their loans by a combined $17 billion over the next three years.

Borrowers who qualify will get $3 billion in refinancing arrangements. Those who were improperly foreclosed on will get a combined $1.5 billion. That probably nets out to less than $2,000 a person.

The banks crowed that this settlement would help the economy and the reputation of the mortgage industry. Michael J. Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, characterized the deal as “a very important step toward restoring confidence in mortgage servicing and stability in the housing market.”

But it’s hard to imagine that this one settlement will be enough to restore trust in loan servicers. Given what we know about their questionable practices — how they larded improper fees on struggling homeowners, for example, and forced people to buy home insurance at three times market rates — restoring confidence in these firms will take some doing.

There’s no doubt that the banks are happy with this deal. You would be, too, if your bill for lying to courts and end-running the law came to less than $2,000 per loan file.

Comment by mikeinbend
2012-02-12 08:07:09

I thought I read that all Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans were exempt from the improper foreclosure relief. I know someone who seemed to qualify perfectly for HAMP; only to be denied because upon applying the servicer, BOFA, kept losing the paperwork; even stuff sent certified mail, and repeatedly at that.

But this loan, and now the house, is owned by Freddie Mac, no matter how many times he sent his paperwork in only to be “lost” by BofA. Seems like Hamper would be a more apt description of the program, as it was a waste of time and effort for many that thought they qualified. But I assume he will have no recourse under this settlement. Anyone know if this assumption is correct?

Comment by skroodle
2012-02-12 13:28:29

Wasn’t Ally Financial the former GMAC taken private by hedge funder extraordinaire Blackstone group?

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:06:37

I woke up early this morning thinking about some foreclosure settlement arithmetic. If we take the Fed’s estimated $7 t ($7 X 10^12) in U.S. home equity losses at face value, and the mortgage settlement is for $25 bn ($25 X 10^9), then the magnitude of home equity losses exceed the magnitude of the settlement by a factor of ($7000 X 10^9)/($25 X 10^9) = 280.

I don’t mean to propose making those who lost money on the housing bubble’s collapse whole on their home equity losses; merely pointing out that the foreclosure settlement proceeds only stack up to 1/280 (0.36%) of the magnitude of supposed housing losses.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:09:10

Connecticut is among hardest hit by mortgage foreclosures
By Lee Howard
Publication: The Day
Published 02/12/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 02/11/2012 11:33 PM

Tim Cook — The Day
Diane Farrar sits at her home in Groton last month with a folder of papers relating to the foreclosure she is facing.

One in 11 homeowners from region is behind on their house payments

Groton - Diane Farrar never thought she’d lose her two-bedroom home on Country Club Road that she’s lived in for 13 years.

But that day has come and gone, and now she’s busy packing, one of more than 10 million homeowners affected by the nationwide foreclosure crisis in the past four years.

Statistics from the property-data company CoreLogic show Connecticut in December of last year ranked number seven nationally among all states in the percentage of houses that were on the market because of a foreclosure. Jeff Gentes, managing attorney for foreclosure prevention at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center in New Haven, said one out of every 11 homeowners in the Norwich-New London area is 90 days or more behind on his or her mortgage payments.

“I think I’m a victim of the whole mortgage crisis,” the 49-year-old Farrar said. “I really do believe that because I have equity in my house they’re coming after me.”

Officials with her lender, McCue Mortgage, based in New Britain, said they couldn’t discuss specifics of the Farrar case because of privacy laws. But Kate McCue, an executive vice president for the company, said the firm works hard to help people avoid foreclosures and it doesn’t treat homeowners with equity any different from people whose properties are worth less than what they owe on a mortgage.

“One of the greatest challenges are people who don’t respond,” McCue said. “Talk to your servicer - don’t hide from them. Open your mail and tell them what’s going on.”

McCue said homeowners need to understand that late mortgage payments are more damaging to a person’s credit rating than late credit card payments.

“Paying your mortgage first should be your No. 1 priority,” she said.

Farrar, a former housing specialist for the Navy who says she was laid off after taking a medical leave to help care for her dying mother, is still fighting the sale of her home, arguing it didn’t fetch a high enough price.

But she’s resigned to leaving in the next few weeks and has started selling off belongings in anticipation of moving to Florida to be near her sister.

“She did the right thing,” said neighbor and friend Laura Bradley of Round Hill Road. “She put the house on the market, but it didn’t sell.”

Comment by Diogenes (Tampa, Fl)
2012-02-12 09:47:47

Let’s review how “fantasy” works in the minds of many “homeowners”:

“Diane Farrar never thought she’d lose her two-bedroom home on Country Club Road that she’s lived in for 13 years.”
Paying a mortgage for 13 years? Gee, must have substantial equity. Assumes a purchase in about 1999. Prices were low, down payments moderate.

“I think I’m a victim of the whole mortgage crisis,” the 49-year-old Farrar said. “I really do believe that because I have equity in my house they’re coming after me.”

Yes, we must assume she has a good equity position. So what’s really happened? If she was having income problems, resulting in drawing down of her savings, then she should probably take a loan or just sell the house.
“She did the right thing,” said neighbor and friend Laura Bradley of Round Hill Road. “She put the house on the market, but it didn’t sell.”

So what’s the real story here??? Obviously the asking price was much too high if it didn’t sell. People are still buying houses at 2003 prices.
She got hers 4 or 5 years earlier and has supposedly been making payments for those 13 years. OR NOT??
I suspect a CASH-OUT REFI in the works here. Where did the “equity” go? New granite countertops? A trip to China? New clothes?
I don’t believe she couldn’t sell the house for more than she owed, unless there were some Cash Withdrawals during the “ownership” period. As usual, the media story leaves out the real story. She spent her house and probably hasn’t made any payments in the past year or 2.

Comment by Lisa
2012-02-12 10:39:36

“I don’t believe she couldn’t sell the house for more than she owed, unless there were some Cash Withdrawals during the “ownership” period. As usual, the media story leaves out the real story. She spent her house and probably hasn’t made any payments in the past year or 2.”

The cash-out refi bubble-madness is the proverbial 3rd rail. No one wants to admit the extent to which this propped up consumer spending while food, gas, housing, education, health insurance, etc. costs were increasing much faster than incomes. Debt does not equal wealth, but the easy access to all that credit made a lot of people feel wealthy, for some reason I’ll never understand.

Comment by skroodle
2012-02-12 13:33:02

Too many people see debt as wealth.

Wealth is what you see: fancy car, big house, nice clothes, fun vacations.

Debt is what you don’t see.

But now that all the money has been spent and the houses foreclosed.

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 12:46:35

“I really do believe that because I have equity in my house they’re coming after me.”

Her victimhood brings to mind how all those women ruined Herman Cain’s presidential bid just because he was a businessman.

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 14:32:31

Time to use Jesse’s race card?
http://tinyurl.com/35vpl2j (jpg)

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:12:18

How are investors supposed to make money cashing out of their myriad investment homes when foreclosures keep screwing up the comps?

Foreclosed homes force regular sales to compete with dropping home prices

Two homes were for sale in A Pocono Country Place on Wednesday. Left, the home is listed for $150,000, while its foreclosed counterpart of nearly identical size and layout, right, is listed at $54,900.Keith R. Stevenson/Pocono Record
Pocono Record Writer
February 12, 2012

Nearly one out of every three homes sold in Monroe County last year were either foreclosures or short sales.

Together, they sunk the average selling price of Pocono homes by more than 11 percent.

And things were not any rosier in the new year: Prices last month fell even further, by an another $1,500.

Foreclosures are glutting the market with bargain-priced homes as banks seek to rid themselves of large inventories of properties they repossessed.

The sub-prime mortgage crisis, where lenders made loans to high-risk borrowers at a premium, was at the root of the glut. It flooded the market with foreclosed homes as ordinarily unqualified borrowers found they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

That, along with an economic slowdown, in part fueled by the housing crash, added to the stockpile of foreclosures on the market.

Foreclosures sell for less because of both their lack of maintenance and a rush by the bank to dispose of these unwanted assets.

Impact on prices

Home sales were up by 1 percent in Monroe County last year, and down 4 percent in Pike. Yet sales of foreclosures were up 2 percent in Monroe and 18 percent in Pike.

But distressed sales brought down the values of Pocono homes substantially last year.

The average Monroe County foreclosed home sold for $86,477 less than the average non-foreclosed home during 2011. In Pike, the difference was even greater — $94,912.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:20:27

Muggy — I would just keep sitting on my hands if I were you, pal.

The States With the Most Homes in Foreclosure
Posted: February 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Five major U.S. banks accused of foreclosure abuses have agreed to a $26 billion settlement with the government, the largest payout from banks arising from the financial crisis. The amount, which will include aid from banks in the form of loan forgiveness and refinancing, is intended to help homeowners avoid mortgage default and foreclosure. Most economists believe this is a step in the right direction, albeit only a small one.

Homeowners in at least 49 states represented in the agreement will benefit, though some states have more homes in trouble than others. California, one the hardest-hit states in the foreclosure crisis, will reportedly receive mortgage relief of up to $18 billion. Based on Corelogic’s national foreclosure report released yesterday, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest foreclosure rates.

Many of the states with the highest foreclosure rates experienced the worst of the housing crisis. However, analysis by 24/7 reveals that the primary driver of higher foreclosure rates is a lengthy foreclosure process.

Nearly all of the states with the highest rates also have the longest foreclosure periods. The average foreclosure process for the nation is 140 days. The average foreclosure process for the eleven states with the highest foreclosure rates is 220. As a result, many homes foreclosed in 2011 in these states were actually at the end of a process that began more than a year ago. New York, one of the states with the worst foreclosure rates, has an average processing period of 445 days.

The reasons why the foreclosure processing period is longer in these states is because it usually involves the court system. Judicial foreclosures are handled by the court and usual include filing motions and seeking a final judgement from a judge. Nonjudicial foreclosures, which tend to take less time to process, are governed by state law and do not require court intervention. Nine of the 11 states with the highest foreclosure rates have a judicial-only foreclosure process.

While some of the states with high foreclosure rates have had substantial improvements in their economies, others continue to be hit hard. In Nevada and Florida, two states with the highest foreclosure rates, homes lost roughly half of their value over the past five years — and prices are still falling. Foreclosures that began several years ago and that are still active cannot be the only reason nearly 12% of Florida’s homes with mortgages were in foreclosure last year. Home prices in the state fell nearly 50% over the past five years, unemployment remains extremely high, and 17.4% of people with mortgages in the state were 90 days or more late on their mortgage payments.

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-12 10:56:34

I will, and my wife is cool with it, too (waiting).

The problem is every eff’ing landlord loves to raise the rent because we pay on time. I emailed my prop mgr. two days ago to let her know we’d like to stay — I’m guessing by the delay the owners are having a hard time deciding whether or not to sell, and/or whether or not to raise our rent. If it’s a reasonable increase (say $25) then we’ll stay, anything more and we’re out.

This is the problem where I live: all of the complexes are awful, crime-ridden and I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving my cars in the lot overnight, but SFH LLs can’t calm themselves down when they get us in there. They always… need… more… so… we leave.

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 12:03:17

I’m guessing by the delay the owners are having a hard time deciding whether or not to sell, and/or whether or not to raise our rent. If it’s a reasonable increase (say $25) then we’ll stay, anything more and we’re out.

You should act like Goldman Sachs, e.g., tell ‘em you’ll trash the place and squat until the sheriff’s eviction unless they meet your demands. :)

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 12:49:52

“The problem is every eff’ing landlord loves to raise the rent because we pay on time.”

1. Read this book (after buying it for $8.69, not for $16.00):

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In [Paperback]
Roger Fisher (Author), William L. Ury (Author), Bruce Patton (Author)
List Price: $16.00
Price: $10.01 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details
You Save: $5.99 (37%)
86 new from $8.69 51 used from $6.23

2. If necessary, get yourselves a better landlord.

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-12 12:23:13

New York, one of the states with the worst foreclosure rates, has an average processing period of 445 days.

Why yes…445 ago is just about the start of the crash with a little delay for subsequent lay-offs to happen which means in NY basically most people have not been foreclosed on. I’ve heard it blamed on court backlogs but I don’t buy it as this number gets longer and longer. Stay tuned for this foreclosure processing day count to get longer and longer.

It is a total joke. An acquaintance of mine said she looked at a short sale home. Realtor told her the seller already had their next home picked out which means loans are still being given out to these bozos. I’m not really sure where that leaves people waiting for reality to set in but you gotta wonder why the investors are still buying up paper at this point.

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-12 12:49:02

Ok, the crash was way more than 445 days ago. Basically I’m just burnt out and tired that extend and pretend seems to go on ad nauseum.

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-12 17:09:51

“Basically I’m just burnt out and tired that extend and pretend seems to go on ad nauseum.”

Me too, but like FPSS has been saying, we know this, go do something interesting.

Imagine buying tomorrow and watching 40% go poof over the next five years AND knowing it was all in the bag.

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 17:30:05

Murphy’s Law applied to post-housing bubble collapse purchases:

1) Buy now, and prices will decline another 40% over the next five years.

2) Keep renting, and five years from now you will discover that this really was the bottom, and you will never again have a better opportunity to buy.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-13 01:22:01

Keep renting, and five years from now you will discover that this really was the bottom, and you will never again have a better opportunity to buy.

The bottom will be LONG and flat. If you miss it by a couple of years, it will be no big deal. Prices are not going up anytime soon.

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 14:35:23

…but you gotta wonder why the investors are still buying up paper at this point.

Could it be those public loan guarantees?

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 06:20:43

A grim assessment of the social explosion building in Greece.


“Nothing functions. Nobody pays anybody any more and the state is not just crumbling but in complete stasis,” said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a prominent political commentator. “These guys,” he said of officials in the troika of European agencies negotiating the bailout, “should really lose their jobs. They’ve miscalculated everything. I understand on Friday the police trade union called for their arrests. Well, maybe they are right!”

With the rhetoric at such levels, and none of the sacrifices having improved the situation so far – at more than 10% last year, Greece’s budget deficit was way off target – it is easy to see why, among politicians at least, there is little stomach for more. “We don’t want to turn our country into a marginalised third world state where citizens are forced to live on slave wages,” said one MP, requesting anonymity ahead of the vote. “If we go along with these measures, that is exactly what will happen.”

A series of resignations by ministers on Friday, unwilling to support the latest measures, not only underlined the panic of the political class – in a country where MPs no longer feel safe walking in the streets – but proved how tenuous public support is for the bailout. If there is to be a social explosion, many said that it would come because Greeks had been pushed too far. The loan agreement not only will lead to job losses and more cuts in salaries and pensions but a 22% reduction in the minimum wage.

Ferment on the street is back. The clashes during last week’s second general strike are generally expected to be a prelude to something much more ominous. “There is going to be a huge social eruption,” said Apostalia Kiroudi, an unemployed jeweller shouting herself hoarse in front of parliament.

“Our politicians lied to us. They never told us the truth, and now they want to pass policies that they have no mandate to do. As that sign says over there,” she said, pointing to a friend holding a placard, “We choose to be free. Keep your money.” But that was one of the milder slogans.

Comment by WT Economist
2012-02-12 07:29:16

Note: the government debt in Greece is higher than in the U.S.

But TOTAL debts are higher in the U.S. than in Greece.

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-12 08:27:33

“But TOTAL debts are higher in the U.S. than in Greece.”

Europeans tend to be less debt crazy on a personal basis than gringos, at least until the housing mania began. I’ll bet more Greeks rent than Americans and those who own don’t take out home equity loans to buy Benzes or Beamers.

Comment by skroodle
2012-02-12 13:45:53

While the per capita income appears low compared with other countries in the Euro zone, the fact that home ownership approaches 80% allows the Greek citizens a fairly comfortable life style. It should be noted that home owners pay no direct tax for their dwellings.

They recently added a tax on electric bills to overcome the lack of property taxes.

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Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 08:45:04

For decades the Greeks installed in power, and turned a blind eye to, a corrupt political class who used creative financing (Google Goldman Sach’s role in helping Greek politicos cook the books to get into the EU) to pay for entitlements and promises the country couldn’t afford, while using their crony capitalist connections and red tape fees to loot the productive economy. Now the financial reckoning day has arrived.

Watch and learn, America. Our day is coming too, for the same reasons.

Comment by Diogenes (Tampa, Fl)
2012-02-12 10:23:19

You will note from the commentary of the people at large, however, that it is all the fault of the politicians. They (the people) have been taking more than they are producing and that is as is should be.
We have the same problems here.
People get used to having the government print up money to provide them with housing, food, healthcare, education, and a general lifestyle of comfort and ease, expecting other people who don’t get such lavish support from government “spending” to pay for it, by LABOR.
We basically have a feudal system, based on FIAT currencies. The political classes decide who gets the money they extract in taxes or counterfeit by printing. Those not part of the government-sponsored payroll system have to carry the burden for all the others.
However, when it comes to CUTTING the government, or government spending, then comes the cries of “Draconian, evil, nasty government” for not continuing the lavish benefits we are supposed to receive. It’s a sad state of affairs. And yet, world-wide, the “central banks and central planners” have a single solution…………….more money printing and more loans, and more DEBT. Diogenes solution: KILL the FED. NOW.
We’re already Greece with funny clothes and clown hats. We may end up naked before Bernanke finishes his “quantitative easing”, i.e. FREE MONEY FOR BANKS.
Oh, and please issue a Congressional Arrest warrant for Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner as criminal conspirators who traitorously stole Citizens Tax dollars to line their pockets and the pockets of their friends.

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Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 16:25:57

Testify, Brothah D. We’re getting to the tipping point where Democrat votes-for-entitlements schemes, combined with middle class alienation from a GOP that is a craven puppet for the neo-cons and corporate cartels, means the Dems will have a stranglehold on the political power. But what happens when fiscal reality outstrips the Fed’s printing press and banker demands for “austerity” so they can recoup their bad loans and gambling debts forces the Dems to throw the Free $hit Army under the bus? That’s when the votes-for-entitlements class is going to turn into the smash-and-grab-what-we-want mob. And as usual, the dwindling minority of responsible and honest taxpayers will end up paying for it all.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:26:23

Consumer Corner
Foreclosure settlement no magic bullet for economy
Published: Feb. 12, 2012 at 4:30 AM
By MARCELLA S. KREITER, United Press International

Four bedrooms, three baths, the white picket fence — the American Dream.

It all went south in 2008 for millions of families when the housing bubble burst and interest rates soared and all those adjustable rate mortgages adjusted themselves to unaffordability. Securities based on those mortgages turned worthless practically overnight triggering the worst recession since the Great Depression and the world is still struggling to recover.

Federal and state officials announced agreement last week with the five biggest mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. (formerly GMAC) — that President Obama called a good first step toward fixing the system.

“Many companies that handled … foreclosures didn’t give people a fighting chance to hold onto their homes,” Obama said in announcing the settlement.

“In many cases, they didn’t even verify that these foreclosures were actually legitimate. Some of the people they hired to process foreclosures used fake signatures to — on fake documents to speed up the foreclosure process. Some of them didn’t read what they were signing at all. …

“Under the terms of this settlement, America’s biggest banks — banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars — will be required to right these wrongs. That means more than just paying a fee. These banks will put billions of dollars towards relief for families across the nation. They’ll provide refinancing for borrowers that are stuck in high interest rate mortgages. They’ll reduce loans for families who owe more on their homes than they’re worth. And they will deliver some measure of justice for families that have already been victims of abusive practices. …

“Now, I want to be clear. No compensation, no amount of money, no measure of justice is enough to make it right for a family who’s had their piece of the American Dream wrongly taken from them. And no action, no matter how meaningful, is going to, by itself, entirely heal the housing market. But this settlement is a start.”

It won’t do much for the millions of people who lost their homes due to faulty documents pumped out by mortgage mills. Those homeowners will get $1.5 billion — $1,500 to $2,000 each — in damages from the $25 billion settlement. A much larger chunk, $5 billion, goes to the 49 states — Oklahoma opted out — participating in the deal.

Those who are in foreclosure but have yet to be kicked out of their homes or are on the verge of defaulting fare much better. Some $10 billion has been set aside for reducing principles and refinancing to lower interest rates and $7 billion will go toward other forms of relief, including forbearance of principal for unemployed borrowers, anti-blight programs, short sales and transitional assistance, benefits for service members forced to sell their homes at a loss as a result of a Permanent Change in Station order, and other programs.

Comment by oxide
2012-02-12 09:15:20

I don’t recall interest rates “soaring.”

Comment by Montana
2012-02-12 13:58:22

Only per agreement.

Comment by Diogenes (Tampa, Fl)
2012-02-12 10:29:04

“Many companies that handled … foreclosures didn’t give people a fighting chance to hold onto their homes,” Obama said in announcing the settlement.
Pure political pandering. Obama says the most ridiculous things and the press treats it as majestic intellectualism.
Didn’t have a fighting chance, while staying comfortably in them for 2 years with no payments???

And, by the way, Barry, FORECLOSURE is the TAKING of the house when all other avenues have failed. It’s a pretty lengthy process in most places. They failed because people “bought” things they could not realistically afford and then DEFAULTED.
Get it?
Probably not. Here’s another photo-op to look like the “good guy”, defending the helpless and homeless. It’s just so obvious.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:29:54

So was the amount of home equity lost in the housing bubble collapse $7t (the Fed’s oft-cited figure) or $11t? I can’t begin to keep track anymore.

The Chicago Tribune
Mortgage settlement
February 10, 2012

The settlement with the five biggest banks and the fifty states for the benefit of homeowners is unconscionable and makes the cause sound like a nuisance suit settlement. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee report in 2011 found that about four million families had lost their homes to foreclosure and another four and a half million had slipped into foreclosure or are seriously behind in their mortgage payments. It found that nearly $11 trillion in household wealth had vanished. The settlement provides amnesty to the banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial) for their past mortgage misdeeds. The relief to the devastated homeowners is absurdly small and not helpful. A small portion, 750,000, out of the four million families who have already lost their homes to foreclosure will get a check for $2,000. Of the four and a half million now in trouble, one million homeowners may get a reduction in mortgage debt and 300,000 might be allowed to refinance at a lower rate. The limit of relief from the banks is $25 billion, which may be by direct payment of those two-thousand dollar checks, be given as refinancing credit, or even mortgage counseling. This purported settlement is so lopsided that it seems that no one was there to speak and defend the rights of the homeowners. The banks not only do not pay the $11 trillion lost but can even pay less than the alleged tiny in comparison $25 billion.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:36:17

Too bad Polly isn’t with us this weekend to school this dumb rube LA Times writer in the subtleties of law, as it applies (or doesn’t) to Wall Street investment banksters.

Mortgage settlement is great — for politicians and banks
The settlement mostly requires mortgage lenders and servicers to comply with what I would have thought was already the law, which prohibits, you know, criminal fraud.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris retains the right to pursue the banks under state fraud laws. But the settlement narrows the breadth of a promising Massachusetts investigation and may entirely shut down cases brought against BofA by the Arizona and Nevada attorneys general. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

By Michael Hiltzik
February 11, 2012

I hate a parade. And the parade of rosy self-congratulation staged last week by the creators of the $25-billion mortgage fraud settlement with five big banks is the kind of parade I really hate.

There certainly are some big winners in the deal, which has the approval of 49 of the 50 state attorneys general. Start with its godfathers. President Obama took to the podium a couple of hours after the deal’s announcement to declare that it will “speed relief to the hardest-hit homeowners.”

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris went before the cameras soon after that, taking credit for “a tremendous victory for California,” which has been perhaps the hardest-hit state in the foreclosure crisis.

Then there are the banks. The signatories to the deal are Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial (formerly GMAC), which handle payments on more than half the nation’s outstanding 27 million home loans and therefore have been at the center of the servicing and foreclosure abuses the settlement is supposed to end.

If you don’t listen too closely, it sounds as if they’re putting up the $25 billion. Not so. The only cold cash the banks are paying is a combined $5 billion, including $1.5 billion to compensate borrowers whose homes were foreclosed on from 2008 through the end of last year, with the rest going to the federal and state governments to pay for regulatory programs.

Most of the balance is in mortgage relief for stressed or underwater mortgage holders, including principal reductions, refinancings and other modifications.

How much of this will translate into an outlay of cash by the five banks? Not much, if any.

For one thing, even the government acknowledges that a lender typically benefits when ways are found to keep a home out of foreclosure — a lender loses an average $60,000 on every foreclosure, according to figures the federal government disclosed in connection with the settlement announcement. It’s been institutional resistance and legal entanglements, not economics, that have kept more modifications from going forward.

Many of the loans destined to be modified under the settlement aren’t even owned by the banks, but rather by investors — the banks just collect the checks.

Consequently, as mortgage expert Adam Levitin of Georgetown Law School observes, most of the settlement “is being financed on the dime of MBS [mortgage-backed securities] investors such as pension funds, 401(k) plans, insurance companies and the like — parties that did not themselves engage in any of the wrongdoing covered by the settlement.”

What about homeowners? They don’t get much, especially in relation to the scale of the housing crisis. More than 2 million owners have lost their homes to foreclosure during the last four years; this deal will provide 750,000 with a payment of $2,000 each.

Some 11 million homeowners are underwater by about $700 billion combined, or an average of nearly $65,000 each. In a transport of optimism, federal officials are projecting that this deal will help 2 million of them, to the tune of perhaps $20,000 each. By the way, loans owned by the government-sponsored firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t eligible for this relief. Since they own or control the majority of all outstanding mortgages, that’s a rather large black hole.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:40:20

If the banksters can just hold out a little longer, perhaps they can get themselves off the hook through expiration of statutes of limitations.

Editorial | The Foreclosure Settlement
Too Many Unanswered Questions, and Too Little Relief
Published: February 11, 2012

The $26 billion foreclosure settlement between the big banks and federal and state officials is a wrist slap compared with the economic damage wrought by the banks in the housing bubble and bust, and the hardships faced by the 4 million homeowners who have lost their homes and 3.3 million more who are in or close to foreclosure.

The big redeeming feature is that the deal was crafted to allow for further investigation into mortgage abuses that led to the financial meltdown. And President Obama has vowed to follow it up with an expanded inquiry that is supposed to produce broader accountability and a far larger payout. He has to make good on that promise.

At best, this round of relief will reach about two million former and current homeowners. Under the agreement, banks will grant some $10 billion worth of principal reduction, $3 billion in refinancings and $7 billion in other mortgage relief, like forbearance for unemployed borrowers, covering roughly one million borrowers in total. Another $1.5 billion will be cash payments of about $2,000 to some 750,000 borrowers who were treated unfairly in foreclosures from 2008 through 2011.

And $3.5 billion will go to state and federal governments for what has been described as resources for legal aid and other counseling for borrowers facing foreclosure. Such aid is vitally important, but it appears that the earmarked money also could be used to plug state budget holes, rather than empower homeowners in their fights against the banks. That would be a mistake.

What do banks get in exchange for the relief? The answer, in short, is a sweet deal.

The banks did not get the blanket release they originally sought from legal liability for all manner of mortgage misconduct. But the settlement still shields them from state and federal civil lawsuits for most foreclosure abuses, including the wrongful denial of loan modifications, excessive late fees that enriched the banks but could make it impossible for borrowers to catch up on late payments, and conflicts of interest that led banks to favor foreclosures over modifications. Going forward, the banks will have to adhere to tougher standards for servicing loans and executing foreclosures. But past sins in servicing and foreclosure are largely absolved.

The banks are not off the hook for criminal prosecutions related to the mortgage mess or for private lawsuits. They are also not off the hook for wrongdoing in their aggressive pooling of mortgages into securities and other practices that inflated the bubble. Thanks for the settlement’s narrower legal releases goes to New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and a handful of other state attorneys general, who refused to accept a deal that would have blocked further legal action.

Which brings us back to the question of whether a new investigation will indeed get off the ground. We are skeptical. The Obama administration squandered several months resisting Mr. Schneiderman’s insistence on a broader investigation, raising questions about its willingness to now get tough with the banks and bankers. As a practical matter, that delay has allowed some potential violations to draw closer to expiration under statutes of limitation.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:47:09

Sounds like hapless wealthy homeowners who financed McMansion purchases with now-underwater jumbo mortgages are SOL as regards low-rate refinancing.

Parts of Obama’s mortgage refinancing package will be reality
The proposals that require congressional approval have little chance, but some of the president’s ideas can be enacted administratively and could begin affecting consumers within weeks.

By Kenneth R. Harney

February 12, 2012
Reporting from Washington—

Though it was pronounced dead before arrival by opponents on Capitol Hill, President Obama’s new mortgage refinancing package contained far more than legislative proposals.

In fact, significant portions of it that have received little media coverage require no prior approval from a hyper-partisan Congress and could begin affecting consumers within weeks. Here’s a quick rundown on key segments of the housing proposals with a handicapping of their likely impact this year:

•Going nowhere: If you’ve got an underwater mortgage that isn’t owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the president’s marquee proposal to help you refinance into a 4% mortgage is not likely to be of assistance. The plan’s core concept of funding your rate cut by levying a fee on the largest banks — based on their size and the riskiness of their activities — would be a nonstarter politically even if this weren’t an election year.

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-12 06:47:30

Realtors Are Liars®

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-12 11:01:13

My realtor saw me the other day, and said, “you gotta hurry, the good stuff is going fast!”

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-12 15:08:55

Typical corrupt NAR-esque attempt to create a sense of urgency.

When will corrupt NAR get a new play book?

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 06:50:57

This comment is too precious to leave it lying, unearthed, in yesterday’s bits bucket:

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-12 00:46:36

Bulls make money. Bears make money. Pigs go feral and root up your garden….

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-12 07:02:18

All the states AG and senators and reps are out in the media today, partnered with university PhD’s in Bull$hit, explaining away the “mortgage settlement”.

Did they get their scripts directly from Dimon or Bernanke and his 12 disciples?

Were the borrowers delinquent?

Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-12 11:07:01

Click your heels together three times and repeat after me…

I can`t pay this loan.
I can`t pay this loan.
I can`t pay this loan.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 12:53:47

Be careful not to stand under falling houses while saying this.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 09:23:56

I guess the San Diego real estate market must be recovering, as all-cash infestors are snapping up homes again these days…

Real Estate »
2011 year in review: Homebuyers chase value
Photo of Written by Lily Leung
8:21 p.m., Feb. 11, 2012
Updated 8:42 p.m.

FILE - In this April 4, 2010 file photo, a foreclosure sign sits atop a for sale sign in front of a single-family home tops the for sale sign in Denver. Barack Obama’s road to re-election is lined with lots of boarded-up homes. While the high unemployment rate dominates talk in Washington, for many 2012 voters the housing crisis may well be a more powerful manifestation of the sick economy. And, in an unfortunate twist for Obama, the housing problem is at its worst in many of the battleground states that will be decisive in determining whether the president gets another term. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

In San Diego County last year, people flocked to lower-priced properties, sellers slashed prices and cash buyers gained steam, the U-T San Diego found in a year-end analysis.

Here’s a closer look at some of the hottest and coldest areas in the county, based on numbers gathered by real estate information service DataQuick.

Want to see more? Pick up a copy of the U-T San Diego on Sunday and turn to the business section. Or see the rest of this in-depth package over the next few days.

Comment by SDJen
2012-02-12 12:51:39

San Diego listing makes me laugh.

Seller will entertain offers between $725,000 and $765,880.


Or this gem…

Refigerator, sofa and single mattress convey.

Wow, a used single mattress!

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 14:44:36

“Seller will entertain offers between $725,000 and $765,880.”

Doesn’t that actually mean the seller will maintain offers at $725,000 or less? What $765,880 has to do with it, I have not a clue.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 14:46:37

maintain entertain

(My Freudian slip is showing again…)

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 13:07:00

The perky UT-San Diego real estate writer seems to have missed some of the implications of the data which accompanies the dead tree edition version of this article. I’m much obliged to fill in some missing conclusions for her:

1. 2011 San Diego new home sales crashed in all price ranges, following the national trend. Here are the percentage changes in numbers of new homes sold in San Diego County by price range:

Under $100K -7.9%
$100K-$200K -23.6%
$200K-$300K -9.7%
$300K-$400K -3.4%
$400K-$500K -28.3%
$500K-$600K -18.0%
$600K-$800K -18.8%
Over $800K -17.6%

2. Used home sales generally only increased in the bottom price ranges; the one exception was a 0.3% increase in used homes that sold for over $800K, from 2,189 to 2,195 (6 more in 2011 than in 2010).

Here are the percentage changes from 2010 to 2011 in numbers of used homes sold by price range:

Under $100K +34.3%
$100K-$200K +16.0%
$200K-$300K +12.5%
$300K-$400K -2.2%
$400K-$500K -5.0%
$500K-$600K -15.7%
$600K-$800K -16.7%
Over $800K 0.3%

Conclusion: If you want to find a used home buyer in San Diego, price your home to sell for under $300K.

Comment by Anon In DC
2012-02-12 09:27:45

Hi. Other than a cheap settlement for the banks is the $25B deal really going to help “stablilize” the market? I think at best it will be a wash. At worse once someone sees they’ll get less help than they need / want jingle mail will increase. Someone posted the other day that checks to already forclosed “victims” will take years to send. I would guess checks definately reach people before the Nov. election.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 09:35:41

“I think at best it will be a wash.”

Pre-election Grand Political Kabuki Theatre

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 09:28:30

Sounds like the real estate market was at about the same place a year ago as it is now:

Realtors: Prices, sales fall throughout nation in Feb.
Tight credit, cash buyers and distressed homes all were factors, report says
Photo of Written by Lily Leung
10:18 a.m., March 21, 2011

Home sales fall 9.6 pct in February
Calif home prices, sales down in Feb from year ago
Northeast posts 20 pct February home sales drop
Firm: Calif median home price rises in month
Home sales fell 9.6 pct. in February

Numbers by region, February

West: Sales fell 8 percent to a rate of 1.26 million in February and fell 2.4 percent year-over-year. The median price was $190,000, about 5 percent below a year ago.

Northeast: Sales fell 7.2 percent to an annual rate of 770,000 in February and have fallen 8.3 percent from February 2010. The median price was $230,200, down 9.5 percent from a year ago.

Midwest: Sales decreased 12.2 percent in February to 1 million and are 9.0 percent lower than a year ago. The median price was $122,000, 5.4 percent below February 2010.

South: Sales declined 10 percent to an annual rate of 1.84 million in February but were unchanged from one year ago. Median price: $134,600, down 3.9 percent from a year ago.

Prices and sales of existing homes fell nationwide in February, a result of strict lending guidelines and the continued infusion of cash investors picking up distressed properties, according to the National Association of Realtors on Monday. Those two factors caused the median price for previously owned homes to sink to its lowest level in almost nine years.

The housing climate throughout the U.S. last month was similar to San Diego County’s, an area overwhelmed by short sales and foreclosures. (See the U-T’s coverage here.)

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-12 12:29:43

Northeast posts 20 pct February home sales drop

Yeah, when shadow inventory sits for 445 days on average in NY, sales are impacted. When do you think the Bernank and company will admit citizens with falling wages in an environment of inflating costs cannot buy homes w/increasing prices?

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 16:28:03

They’ll blame it on the snowstorms.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-12 09:47:27

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-11 16:17:32

Thanks FPSS fror the book recommendations, I’ve read one of them. Now I’m wanting to do some amazing things….

Blue Skye, I for one already think you are doing some pretty amazing things. The summers cruising sound like an amazing experience to me. :-)

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-12 10:24:32

With due respect, some of those “amazing things” aren’t all that….

-Dorothy Gale; the later years.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-12 18:10:16

My dear Allena, whatever do you mean?

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-13 00:17:02

Obscure Wizard of Oz reference. Sorry, was in a mood….

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Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-12 10:50:33

How to Tell If You Have Deadbeats

By jeff saturday, eHow Contributor

No one wants to think that Deadbeats may have taken up residence in their community because their presence conjures up images of filth and unsanitary conditions. However, Deadbeats can live just about anywhere under just about any conditions as long as three basic necessities are met: food, water, and free shelter. The main issue with harboring Deadbeats in your community is the diseases they carry, so understanding how to determine their presence in your community is paramount to keeping your family healthy.


Things You’ll Need

The two most common places to find Deadbeats are in Gated cmmunities and good neighborhoods. The main reason for this is that there is water available for them there. Turn off the lights, check your county records, wait 30 minutes and turn them back on. If you have Deadbeats, you will usually see them scurrying about after you turn the lights back on.

Using a flashlight and a computer, look at your neighbors, under your sink and behind your appliances and in your county records for Deadbeats. Another sign of Deadbeats infestation is the appearance of tax liens. Deadbeats like darkened areas and will spend the majority of their time hidden away from bill collecters and behind closed doors. When you begin looking for Deadbeats, start by looking at your neighbors and rental houses in good neighborhoods where Deadbeats may be collecting rent while not paying the mortgage

Using your flashlight, look for HOA liens, people who live in nice houses while crying about evil bankers, have granite kitchens and stainless appliances. Deadbeats are commonly found in areas that had large increases in house prices during the boom: Deadbeats may
appear to be normal bill paying humans, almost like someone who did not treat their home like an ATM.

Read more: How to Tell If You Have Deadbeats | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_7744440_tell-deadbeats.html#ixzz1mBmaJuVU

Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-12 12:11:23

Top 5 To Try

How to Know if You Have a Deadbeat Problem

Does Lavender Oil Repel Deadbeats?

How to Easily Get Rid of Deadbeats

What Do Deadbeats Look Like?

How to Kill a Deadbeat Colony

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 12:02:51
Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-12 12:25:04

It was predicted on the HBB and beyond that the end game would see them eating their own. I guess we now know the resource availability is tightening.

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-12 12:11:20

Just got off the phone with 9/11 — abandoned house behind me getting burglarized.

Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-12 12:46:16

“Just got off the phone with 9/11 — abandoned house behind me getting burglarized.”

Call the Foreclosure Hot Line and yell HELP! Unless you have a gun, then invite the SOB in for cookies.

Florida Foreclosure Prevention – Hot Line 877-532-HELP.

Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/homelessness or by calling …

Comment by Montana
2012-02-12 14:05:00

“9/11″ has a remarkably different connotation from 911.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 12:55:09

Beats having a meth lab blow up next door to you.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-12 18:13:16

Muggy, you are only supposed to call 911 if it is life threatening. Of if the fast food joint forgets to give you Ketchup.

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 12:14:39


If German taxpayers expect any gratitude for their globalist political class bailing out the Greeks (actually, bailing out the banksters who foolishly lent to the Greeks), they’ve got another thing coming.

Comment by measton
2012-02-12 19:53:27

This battle transcends borders. This is central bankers vs the people. The citizens of Germany will be harvested as well. Who will suffer the most for the loss of Greek purchasing power. Who exports to Greece. Who will suffer as Greek labor becomes cheaper relative to German labor.

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 15:16:10

Here’s something different for Sunday. Enjoy!

The HP Garage - The Birthplace of Silicon Valley

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-12 16:49:16


Argentina limiting cash transactions to $230 a day to “formalize” the economy, i.e. not let a single tax dollar escape. Next they’ll do away with cash altother so they can track each and every transaction and source of income for each individual. Don’t think the IRS won’t come up with similar ideas. 1984 draws closer by the day.

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-12 16:55:48

Where Americans Most Depend on Benefits

Blow up the map to find your county. I gotta say, I never knew PA was in such a mess. So much for the Oil City Plan. If benefits stop coming for some reason things will get ugly there awfully fast.


Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 17:33:08

So much for the Oil City Plan.

This is bad news, especially given that Oil City actually is in Pennsylvania!

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 17:39:35

If benefits stop coming for some reason things will get ugly there awfully fast.

The gravy train will be the last thing to go; let it go by the boards, and the cities will be burnt to the ground.


New Mexico sure is a dead beat haven. I passed up a good six figure job there several years ago because I didn’t care to expose my family to their abundant dependency culture.

Comment by measton
2012-02-12 20:07:27

One much of what you see is where people retire, but it is interesting to note that many of the red states are most dependent on this money.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-12 20:14:37

“I never knew PA was in such a mess”

That might not be the right conclusion to draw. If you are planning to live the next 25 years on a modest fixed, best settle where the cost of living is reasonable and the deer and trout are plentiful. Oil City is at the edge of major National Forest (forest not desert) and State Park country. Sportsman’s Paradise at your door. Not to mention ByeFl with his apple trees ablossom.

Comment by measton
2012-02-12 19:48:51

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos urged calm.

“Vandalism and destruction have no place in a democracy and will not be tolerated,” Papademos told Parliament just before the vote. “I call on the public to show calm. At these crucial times, we do not have the luxury of this type of protest. I think everyone is aware of how serious the situation is.”

That’s just it Lucas, there is no democracy. You weren’t elected.

From Wikipedia
Lucas Papademos (Greek: Λουκάς Παπαδήμος, Greek pronunciation: [luˈkas papaˈðimos], Loukas Papadimos; born 11 October 1947) is a Greek economist who was appointed as Prime Minister of Greece on 11 November 2011.

Previously, he was Governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002 and Vice President of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010. He was also a visiting professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Financial Studies at the University of Frankfurt.[1]

F’n central bank take over with austerity for the masses and wealth and riches and control for the central bankers.

Comment by rms
2012-02-12 20:47:22

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos urged calm.

Time for a papal visit to quiet the barbarians, perform some graceful arm waving, dangle an orb burning incense, free passes to heaven for the obedient.

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-12 22:57:37

Except that the Greeks are Orthodox, not Catholics.

Also, I seem to recall that a Polish Pope was instrumental in toppling the Soviet Empire.

Comment by rms
2012-02-13 07:53:05

Except that the Greeks are Orthodox, not Catholics.

Good point! So who is the top Orthodox sorcerer?

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Comment by measton
2012-02-12 20:02:43

From Sammy
For decades the Greeks installed in power, and turned a blind eye to, a corrupt political class who used creative financing (Google Goldman Sach’s role in helping Greek politicos cook the books to get into the EU) to pay for entitlements and promises the country couldn’t afford, while using their crony capitalist connections and red tape fees to loot the productive economy. Now the financial reckoning day has arrived.

Politicians are pawns. They were paid in trinkets. GS and the central bankers had their eye on the real prize which was looting the entire f’n country into poverty and taking over control. I’d love to know who approached who about hiding the debt. Was it really the politicians that said oh we can’t go on interest rates will rise if we don’t do something or was it European Central banks and large WS titans like GS that came to politicians and said we’re not ready to deal with this mess (in reality the mess isn’t big enough to cause the problems we want) so we want to hide the problem (in reality so we can grow it much bigger)

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 21:46:17

How can a national leader who was appointed, not elected, claim to represent a “democratic country”?

At any rate, so long as other stock markets around the globe keep going up, I guess we shouldn’t be overly concerned about the Greek situation.

Greek lawmakers pass austerity bill as Athens burns

A protester hurls rocks at police during a violent anti-austerity demonstration in central Athens February 12, 2012. REUTERS-Yannis Behrakis

A cyclist rides past a burning building during violent protests in central Athens, February 12, 2012. REUTERS-Yannis Behrakis

A petrol bomb explodes near riot police during a huge anti-austerity demonstration in Athens’ Syntagma (Constitution) square February 12, 2012. REUTERS-Yiorgos Karahalis

By Harry Papachristou and Yannis Behrakis
ATHENS | Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:33pm EST

(Reuters) - Greece’s parliament approved a deeply unpopular austerity bill Monday to secure a second EU/IMF bailout and avoid national bankruptcy, as buildings burned across central Athens and violence spread around the country.

Cinemas, cafes, shops and banks were set ablaze in central Athens and black-masked protesters fought riot police outside parliament before lawmakers voted on the package that demands deep pay, pension and job cuts — the price of a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout needed to keep the country afloat.

State television reported the violence spread to the tourist islands of Corfu and Crete, the northern city of Thessaloniki and towns in central Greece. Police said 150 shops were looted in the capital and 34 buildings set ablaze.

Altogether 199 of the 300 lawmakers backed the bill, but 43 deputies from the two parties in the government of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the socialists and conservatives, rebelled by voting against It. They were immediately expelled by their parties.

Asian shares and the euro gained modestly Monday, relieved by the Greek parliament’s passage of austerity measures that put the country a step closer to securing a much-needed bailout fund and avoiding a messy default.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan edged up as much as 0.3 percent on the news.

The rebellion and street violence foreshadowed the problems the Greek government faces in implementing the cuts, which include a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage — a package critics say condemns the economy to an ever-deeper downward spiral.

Papademos, a technocrat brought in to get a grip on the crisis, denounced the worst breakdown of order since 2008, when violence gripped Greece for weeks after police shot a 15-year-old schoolboy.

“Vandalism, violence and destruction have no place in a democratic country and won’t be tolerated,” he told parliament as it prepared to vote.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-12 21:48:41

Treasury yields aren’t the only thing at generational lows; look at the U.S. beef herd, for instance:

Cattle Herd Drop to 1958 Low Boosting Cost for McDonald’s, Tyson
January 30, 2012, 9:48 AM EST
By Elizabeth Campbell

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) — The cattle herd in the U.S. may be the smallest since 1958, when McDonald’s Corp. had just 79 hamburger restaurants, signaling tighter beef supplies and higher costs for companies including Tyson Foods Inc.

Ranchers held 91.24 million head of cattle as of Jan. 1, down 1.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. That would be the smallest since Dwight Eisenhower was president. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to release its herd report at 3 p.m. in Washington.

A record drought in Texas last year and rising feed costs prompted ranchers to cull herds, even as beef exports surged from the U.S., the world’s largest producer. Cattle futures are up 15 percent since the end of June, reaching a record seven times this month, and the Livestock Marketing Information Center says retail-beef prices that reached an all-time high on an annual basis in 2011 will keep rising through next year.

“The drought certainly was the game changer of 2011,” Jim Robb, the director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, a Denver-based researcher, said in a telephone interview. “Feedstuffs were record-high costs. The herd on a national basis declined.”

Cattle futures rallied to $1.29675 a pound on Jan. 25 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the highest for a most-active contract since the commodity began trading on the CME in 1964. Prices may reach $1.399, said David Kruse, the president CommStock Investments Inc., a commodity broker in Royal, Iowa.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-13 00:07:07

“However, some demand from developed nations for the import of heating oil in winter (it being severe this time) is providing support as of now.”

So we should predict the BDI to go even lower after the spring thaw, then?

Freight index crashes 66% in 2 months
Rajesh Bhayani & Shubhashish / Mumbai Feb 13, 2012, 00:24 IST

Freight rates for dry bulk cargo, as reflected by the benchmark Baltic dry bulk index, have crashed in the past two months. The index, at 1,930 on December 12, fell 66.5 per cent to 647 in early February and moved up marginally, to 695, in the past few days.

Industry leaders say the crash was due to lower demand, along with new capacity having been added in the segment recently. The crash was echoed by the wet bulk index, down 17 per cent in the past two months.

A R Ramakrishnan, MD, Essar Shipping, said, “There was an extended holiday period as Christmas was followed by Chinese holidays. That has affected demand and that too at a time demand from Europe was already low and new capacities in the segment were entering the market.”

Freight movement was affected, as this year the Chinese New Year holidays lasted longer due to the Dragon year celebrations and certain restrictions on food grain export.

Essar will not be affected by the crash much, as it has tied up most of its dry bulk vessels for the long term. But, it will hurt companies like Shipping Corporation, which has a larger fleet and some vessels for the spot market.

Vishal Ajmera, deputy manager, research, at rating agency CARE, said, “While the demand for cargo was lower, what added to that was the constant flow of vessel deliveries during 2010 and 2011. Vessel deliveries in this segment globally aggregated 13.1 million gross tonnage during 2011.”

Adverse climatic conditions in Brazil and cyclones in Australia during January also affected the flow of dry bulk commodities. The cyclones affected Australia’s iron-ore mining operations and, subsequently, the loading of ore at ports. With major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto suspending their shipments, the demand for dry bulk vessels remained affected.

Meanwhile, the Baltic tanker index was at 939 prior to the Christmas holidays and is currently at 795 — a drop of a little over 15 per cent.

According to Ajmera of CARE, “The segment is likely to remain in overcapacity in 2012 and 2013, as the order book is 17.5 per cent of the existing capacity. Vessel deliveries in the next two years will keep freight under pressure. However, some demand from developed nations for the import of heating oil in winter (it being severe this time) is providing support as of now.”

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-13 00:08:57

Feb. 12, 2012, 7:03 p.m. EST
Japan’s economy shrinks more than expected in Q4
By Michael Kitchen

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Japan’s economy shrank by more than expected in the October-December quarter, as a strong yen and collateral economic damage from flooding in Thailand took their toll. Real gross domestic product contracted by 0.6% during the quarter, the Cabinet Office reported Monday. The result was deeper than expected falls of 0.3% and 0.4% in separate economist surveys by Reuters and Dow Jones Newswires, respectively. On an annualized basis, the economy contracted 2.3% in the final quarter of 2011. In the July-September quarter, Japan’s GDP had grown by 1.4% quarter-on-quarter.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-13 00:10:52

Feb. 12, 2012, 8:53 p.m. EST
Greece votes to approve austerity measures
By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch

A protester sits in front of a police line during an anti-austerity rally Saturday outside the parliament in Athens.

SYDNEY (MarketWatch) — The Greek parliament on early Monday approved austerity measures necessary for the country to receive more outside financial assistance and head off a messy default.

Greek lawmakers approved the measures in the early hours of the morning after a debate that took place against a backdrop of violent protests in Athens, reports said.

The spending and wage cuts were approved by a 199-74 vote, with 27 lawmakers abstaining from the vote, according to the reports.

Police dodge gasoline bombs and stones as rage over a new austerity deal explodes in Athens over the weekend.

The move to ratify the country’s austerity plans into law came after euro-zone finance ministers withheld approval for €130 billion ($171.2 billion) of aid at a meeting last Thursday, saying they needed concrete signs that Greece is seriously trying to implement cost-cutting moves.

Greece has a 14.5 billion euro ($19.1 billion) bond repayment due on March 20 and requires the bailout funding in place in order to be able to make that payment and avoid a hard default.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the Eurogroup, had warned Greece late Thursday: “In short, no disbursement without implementation.”

Comment by rms
2012-02-13 07:55:36

Things are really heating-up (hehe) over there.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-13 11:19:41


Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-13 00:13:57

Feb. 13, 2012, 12:32 a.m. EST
China policy reversal slaps real-estate shares
By Chris Oliver, MarketWatch

Farmers’ shacks stand in front of a residential construction site in Hefei, China.

HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Chinese property stocks fell Monday, after reports that a city in eastern China wouldn’t proceed with planned property-loosening measures announced last week.

In an apparent policy back-peddle after Beijing weighed in on the issue, the Anhui province city of Wuhu, home to 1.5 million residents, will suspend a home subsidy plan in order to study the best way to implement the program, according to reports which cited a weekend statement on the municipality’s web site.

Credit Suisse said the policy walk-back is similar to what happened in Foshan in October, which saw officials reverse the same day it announced a plan to end home-purchase restrictions.

“We believe the stock market has severely underestimated the central government’s political will to cool the housing market significantly further,” Credit Suisse analysts said in a note Monday.

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