October 25, 2013

Weekend Topic Suggestions

Please post topic ideas here!

RSS feed


Comment by Bluestar
2013-10-25 06:07:32

Is it time to lift the veil of anonymity on the internet? The government and most businesses already know who we are so why do we need to hide behind avatars and fake names? Let’s have a discussion about the pros and cons of coming out the shadows and the courage to stand behind your opinions and comments.

Bluestar AKA Jack Smith in Texas

Comment by Carl Morris
2013-10-25 09:25:25

Hey, I’m with you…but really, “Jack Smith”? Sorry if that is your real name, just sounds a lot like a pseudonym :-).

Comment by Bluestar
2013-10-25 10:29:49

Smith has been the most common American surname for over 100 years. The family tree says great granddad came from Georgia back in the 1880s. Hardly anybody named Smith is famous or super rich either. I guess I was doomed before I was born.

Bluestar AKA Jack Smith

Comment by Housing Analyst
2013-10-25 11:04:40

Housing Analyst AKA Bob Jones

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Carl Morris
2013-10-25 17:13:24

Aww, come on…you can can do better than that Jeff :-).

Comment by Housing Analyst
2013-10-25 17:49:40

Thanks alot you SOB. I’ll remember that.

Comment by phony scandals
2013-10-26 05:17:32

“Thanks alot you SOB. I’ll remember that.”

So will I :)

Comment by softunderbelly
2013-10-26 05:48:06

NH housing set to rise 5.7% in coming year. Discuss.


Comment by Blue Skye
2013-10-25 21:57:33

Blue Skye AKA Mac.

I do object to being target marketed. Geeze will the shelf bracket ads please go away? I’ve solved that problem. I do object to having my mail read, as if I was in prison. I object to have my radical musings be a de facto crime. I suppose at some point I will object to being struck by a drone, by those who protect and serve.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Bluestar
2013-10-26 07:04:35

It’s a radical (maybe revolutionary) idea to use your real name on the internet. We all know the the government and big business know who we are, where we live, eat, drive, watch and read. By having the courage to assert our individual identities we can collectively send a message that we are not afraid of their invasive policies, we despise them. We can stand proud and demand change.
I support a digital bill of rights and a open internet.


Bluestar AKA Jack Smith

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 07:19:28

Any predictions on when China’s ginormous real estate bubble will pop?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 07:37:09

How many U.S. cities are in similar straights to Richmond, CA?

Why Eminent Domain Can’t Save Broke Cities Like Richmond

Emily Badger
8:39 AM ET

As we’ve mentioned, the city of Richmond, California, recently took the drastic step of voting to use eminent domain to try to rescue underwater homeowners. Under the plan (the city has not yet actually executed it), Richmond would effectively seize mortgages from investors who currently hold them, paying about 80 percent of a home’s current market value. A for-profit company working with the city would then restructure the mortgages and sell them back to the current homeowners at a rate they could afford.

The very places considering eminent domain have problems too complex to be easily solved by it.

The idea has prompted all kinds of criticism (as well as populist praise) far beyond Richmond. Banks cry that they’ll have to stop giving credit to cities that show they’re willing to seize mortgages. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has wagged its finger. And law professors debate whether all of this is even legal. For outsiders less interested in the housing implications or the legal theory, the story has simply been a compelling one about a hard-luck town forced to rescue its own residents when no one else would help.

But in this raucous national debate, focus on precedent may have obscured a more basic question: If this were legal, if Richmond did succeed in doing this with hundreds of homes, would it help solve the city’s deep troubles?

Pamela Lee, a research associate with the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, argues that a constellation of problems that left Richmond so far behind during the economic recovery also mean that this eminent domain proposal wouldn’t touch the roots of the city’s distress. Richmond’s problem isn’t simply – or even primarily – that so many homeowners are underwater.

Richmond’s problem is that it has high unemployment, stagnant incomes, high poverty, high housing vacancy rates and a large share of homeowners with a crushing mortgage burden.

“I understand the desperation, and [eminent domain] is a very powerful tool that they have – that cities have – especially considering that federal strategies have been a little bit less effective than hoped for,” Lee says (with admitted understatement). “The fact is that they have a lot of problems that existed before and that are part of the reason that they were so badly affected by the crisis.”

Richmond is the only city in the U.S. that has gotten this close to using eminent domain. But it is not the only city that’s considered it. To understand the commonalities among all of the municipalities that have weighed this option of last resort, Lee corralled data on 15 communities that have publicly expressed some kind of interest in using eminent domain, eight of them in California, plus Newark, Chicago, and several smaller municipalities.

Look at them all side-by-side, and it’s clear that they suffer from some systemic and shared woes that go far beyond housing.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 07:41:51

Does consumer sentiment drive stock prices?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 07:43:01

Oct. 25, 2013, 10:24 a.m. EDT
Consumer-sentiment gauge lowest in almost a year
By Ruth Mantell, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — With concerns over government-spending fights, a gauge of consumer sentiment fell this month to the lowest reading in almost a year, led by grimmer views of current and upcoming economic conditions, according to data released Friday.

The final October reading of the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer-sentiment index hit 73.2 — the lowest since December — down from a final September reading of 77.5.

“Consumers have increasingly moved toward the view that the government has become the primary obstacle to more robust economic growth,” according to the survey. “When asked to describe in their own words what they had heard about recent economic developments, the number of consumers that negatively mentioned the federal government in October was the highest in the more than half-century history of the surveys.”

U.S. stocks held onto gains after the sentiment data were released.

Comment by Carl Morris
2013-10-25 09:26:29

If it does, it must be from a narrow range of “consumers”…the kind that own a lot of stock.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 10:33:41

Not necessarily. If the kind of consumers with some discretionary income become pessimistic or fearful, they may opt to hide their spending money under the mattress instead of blowing $1000+ on Christmas booty.

Of course this sort of development may matter to the kind of consumers who own a lot of stock…

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by polly
2013-10-25 11:32:17

Lots of people in my office are saying that Christmas is either cancelled or highly restricted as far as they are concerned. There is no guarantee that we would get back pay if there is another shut down in January. They are preparing for that possibility.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 15:55:30

Your colleagues are wise.

Comment by Blue Skye
2013-10-25 22:03:13

The realization that you are non-essential in a rising sea of debt should be sobering.

Comment by Bluestar
2013-10-25 08:08:03

The stock market is just a reflection of how well off the rich are. Most Americans don’t have the spare money to play in the market anymore. Even if the stock market drops by 50% I doubt it will change their life style or cause them any personal discomfort. If your net worth is over 20 million and it gets reduced to 10 million you aren’t going to get depressed and commit suicide. It’s more likely the rich will use any downturn in the market as a reason to cut more jobs.

Jack Smith, AKA Bluestar

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 10:48:27

“The stock market is just a reflection of how well off the rich are.”

It goes beyond that. If market conditions suggest a crash is imminent, wealthy folks will sell…no matter how rich they are.

Comment by Blue Skye
2013-10-25 22:07:44

Consider that asset deflation will hit the rich hard, and that they will awaken to massive losses after a crash. For the pay-as-you-go crowd, asset deflation is a win. Well, as long as you have a job, or at least some cash.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 10:50:06

Oct. 25, 2013, 11:26 a.m. EDT
Washington is really getting on consumers’ nerves
Commentary: Government the biggest obstacle to growth, survey says
Stories You Might Like
Sen. Paul threatens to block Yellen pick: report
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Americans really don’t like what’s going on in Washington, and it’s beginning to affect how they look at the economy and their own financial dreams.

The showdown in Washington over shutting down the government and increasing the debt ceiling has kneecapped consumer sentiment, according to the monthly survey by University of Michigan and Thompson Reuters.

Thanks to the shutdown and brinkmanship over the debt ceiling, consumers now see the government as the chief obstacle in the way of economic growth. Consumers are more convinced that the shutdown and the restrictions on government spending “would slow the overall pace of economic growth over the next several months,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the UMich survey.

As a result, only 25% of households expect their incomes to grow over the next year, and most Americans expect the unemployment rate to go up, not down, over the next year. Read Rex Nutting ‘s column: The economy is bad because we shot it in the foot.

Consumers’ opinion of government has hit the lowest level in the 50-year history of the survey, breaking the record set during last year’s fiscal cliff showdown, which broke the record set during the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle.

Not surprisingly, the consumer sentiment index has plunged during each of these three recent politically manufactured crises.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 09:38:29

Is Bitcoin in a bubble?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 09:39:53

3 theories why bitcoins are going through the roof again
October 24, 2013, 4:03 PM

Bitcoin is dead. Long live bitcoin.

The electronic currency was last in the headlines in early October when the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road, the mysterious online marketplace for all types of illegal drugs, was busted by the Feds. Authorities say Silk Road saw revenue of more than 9.5 million bitcoins, (around $1.9 billion at today’s prices).

Now bitcoins are going through the roof. It traded as high as $233.40 on Thursday, according to online exchange Mt. Gox and changed hands at $204.04 in recent dealings. Bitcoin’s highest ever close was on April 9 at $230.04.

Here are three theories behind the gains:

1. Bitcoin’s role as a medium of exchange in such nefarious online dealings has been flagged by some as a reason to fear the electronic currency (Never mind all the dollar bills and euro notes spent on illegal endeavors every day). So one theory that’s been touted in recent weeks is that Silk Road’s demise removed a cloud, providing some momentum for big October gains.

2. But is relief enough to explain such a huge climb? Over at Pandodaily, Michael Carney earlier this week postulated that a decision by Chinese Internet giant Baidu to start accepting payments in bitcoin for some producsts and services boosted investor confidence, dovetailing with rhetoric by Chinese officials aimed at undercutting the dollar’s global reserve status.

3. Elsewhere, there’s the Winklevoss effect. Kashmir Hill at Forbes notes buzz building around bitcoin as the next investment possibility a la Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. On Thursday, Michael Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group told a panel discussion that he and a Fortress colleague took personal positions in the crypto currency three months ago, the Financial Times reported Thursday. Fortress also looked at the idea, but decided it was too risky an investment for its own funds, the report said.

If none of those answers really satisfies, you’re not alone. Skeptics say bitcoin may once again be moving into bubble territory, driven higher by speculators and hangers-on reacting to the publicity from the Silk Road bust and other factors–an ironic development given how bitcoin advocates talk it up as a long-term alternative to unstable paper currencies.

– William L. Watts

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 18:11:38

Will the stock market keep going up forever from current record high levels, or is another correction in the offing?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 18:13:34

ft dot com
Markets’ animal spirits need taming before a hard fall
By Michael Mackenzie in New York
QE froth is great for asset prices, less so for the real world

History may not repeat itself but will it rhyme with a messy denouement for risky assets?

In the final quarter of 1999, a surfeit of central bank liquidity thanks to concerns over Y2K pumped up the technology bubble before the bottom fell out of the market the following year. Fast forward to 2014 and there is no getting away from massive central bank stimulus propelling asset prices and allowing investors to downplay fundamental factors. ……

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 18:59:36

WARNING Off topic:

How is the Obama administration’s foreign policy faring in the face of the ever-widening NSA scandal?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:04:48

Did y’all know that Angela Merkel grew up in Communist East Germany?

Here is a highly regarded movie made about Stasi surveillance over the period of communist rule. Not to suggest the U.S. is going communist or anything like that…

Top 5000
The Lives of Others (2006)
“Das Leben der Anderen” (original title)
137 min - Drama | Thriller - 23 March 2006 (Germany)
Ratings: 8.5/10 from 168,963 users Metascore: 89/100

In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:06:19

Related question: Will the lens of history regard Snowden as a traitor or a national hero?

Comment by Carl Morris
2013-10-25 19:16:10

I think if you let t go to infinity it has to be hero. Between now and then, I have no idea.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 21:03:05

Today’s “traitor” = tomorrow’s literary hero.

May we both live long enough to see this prediction play out.

(Comments wont nest below this level)
Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:26:34

German spy chiefs to travel to United States over phone-tapping scandal
By North America correspondent Michael Vincent, staff
Updated 6 minutes ago
Barack Obama meets Angela Merkel in Berlin Photo: Keep your friends close…

German intelligence chiefs will travel to Washington next week after the European nation was left fuming over revelations the US tapped chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal phone.

The White House would not deny the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped the phones of 35 world leaders, as revealed by security documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Germany and Brazil are working on a UN General Assembly resolution aimed at highlighting international anger at US data snooping in other countries.

Germany is also demanding that Washington agrees to a “no spying” deal with both itself and the French government by the end of this year.

The heads of Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence services have meetings slated at the White House and NSA, which some analysts say will be a “pay off” - that the Germans will be offered more information about the NSA’s capabilities to smooth over the diplomatic damage.

Former CIA operative Robert Baer says it tapping Ms Merkel’s phone was not crucial to American security and the gambit was unnecessary.

“Yes, we did learn about them and it’s interesting and the information is often titillating, but was it crucial information? Was it worth the risk, listening into her phone? No,” he said.

“And this is what we’re seeing now - it was unnecessary. Germany was going along with everything we wanted.”

The NSA’s decision to trawl and hold onto great swathes of internet traffic is continuing to cause problems.

Allan Friedman from the Brookings Institution says it was a strategic decision made by a military organisation that failed to foresee the ramifications of it being made public.

“We know that they were concerned about the targets of their intelligence - the legitimate terrorists. They were worried if this information came out then they might lose access to gaining information about terror,” he said.

“But, apparently, inside the security community, there was never any fear of what the ripple effects would be if this ever became public.

“That, I think, was a gross failing in the intelligence community and in the executive and legislative bodies that have responsibility for oversight.”

State department spokeswoman Jen Sarki has suggested there are more revelations to come.

“We expect, we don’t know, but we certainly expect that that is something that could happen in the weeks ahead,” she said.
Activist live-tweets former spy boss’s phone conversation

There has also been an eavesdropping incident involving the man who ran the NSA and CIA under George W Bush.

Michael Hayden was talking so loudly and negatively about the Obama administration on the phone in a public train carriage that political activist Tom Matzzie decided to live-tweet the conversations.

Mr Matzzie says someone clearly tipped off Mr Hayden because he eventually confronted him.

“The first thing he said is: ‘Would you like a real interview?’ I said: ‘Well, I’m not a reporter.’ And then he said: ‘Everybody’s a reporter.’ Which I guess in the age of Twitter is true,” Mr Matzzie said.

And then he sat down right across from me and we discussed the Fourth Amendment, wire-tapping, the eavesdropping on foreign leaders, which is now a big international scandal that’s brewing, and we went through a variety of different topics.”

Mr Matzzie has been asked about Mr Hayden’s right to privacy and whether it was wrong to tweet the conversation.

He was in public. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy when you’re on the train blabbing like that,” he said.

The right thing for him to do would’ve been to stand up, walk to the end of the train to one of the more private areas and he would have, at that point, been kind of cloaking himself in a presumption and an expectation of privacy. I would have been violating his privacy at that point.”

Bizarrely at the end of the confrontation, the former spy boss posed for a photo, which Mr Mattzie tweeted.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:12:06

Are real estate ‘experts’ misconstruing plummeting interest rates due to the dismal jobs report as a promising sign for future housing demand?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:14:13

How did all the dumb shits on the planet end up in the real estate analysis business? My wife, herself not an economics ‘expert’, can see right through the risible stupidity of this line of thinking.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:16:35

“Housing starts were up 2.3 percent last month”

Before the gubmint shutdown hammered consumer confidence?

Positive signs emerge in the housing market
Housing starts were up 2.3 percent last month.
by Queena Kim
Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Slow but steady might be the best way to describe the housing market right now.

Groundbreaking on new home construction rose 2.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted; up almost 30 percent from one year ago. That was less than expected but still movement in the right direction.

“One of the things you see early on is positive expectations going forward and you’re seeing some of that in the homebuilders and house prices in many markets in many corners have turned a market,” says Ron Throupe, a real estate and construction professor at the University of Denver.

Homebuilder confidence jumped to a six-year high in September, and recoveries are underway in Northern California, New York, Pheonix and parts of Florida, just to name a few markets.

But it will likely continue to be a slow climb to a full recovery.

“I wouldn’t exactly break the champagne on that yet,” says housing analyst Dennis Yeskey. Mortgage lending hit a 16-year low and it’s harder than ever for folks to get a loan. Those lending rates, coupled with unemployment over 8 percent, wage stagnation, and other economic problems leave people cautious, he points out.

The headline number wasn’t as strong as many were hoping for, adds David Kelly Chief, global strategist for JP Morgan Funds. But if you focus on single-family housing starts, they went up by 5.5 percent. “There’s a lot more construction activity in a single-family home than in a multi-family unit,” Kelly says. “Overall, I think it’s reasonably strong.”

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:18:47

Four-month low in interest rates reached after weak jobs report
By Prashant Gopal
12:01 a.m.Oct. 25, 2013

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell to a four-month low this week after a weaker-than-expected jobs report drove investors to the safety of the government bonds that guide borrowing costs.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.13 percent the week ended Thursday from 4.28 percent, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said in a statement. The average 15-year rate declined to 3.24 percent, from 3.33 percent. Both averages are the lowest since June 20.

Mortgage rates have retreated from a two-year high in August after the Federal Reserve signaled it needed more signs of lasting improvement in the economy before scaling back a stimulus plan aimed at lowering borrowing costs. Yields for 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for home loans, dropped to a three-month low this week after a report that showed U.S. payrolls increased in September by less than economists projected.

“The weak economy is helping to keep mortgage rates from rising,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH.com, a mortgage-data firm.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:20:01

What’s up at the GSEs these days?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 19:21:28

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac eliminating pension plans starting Dec. 31
By Kimbriell Kelly, Updated: Friday, October 25, 5:15 PM

Federally backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are dropping their pension plan for employees at the end of the year at the urging of their federal oversight agency, according to a memo the companies sent to their staffs Friday morning.

Company officials had frozen pension contributions earlier this year but decided to eliminate the programs altogether. The actions are being taken at the urging of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, the memo said.

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 21:04:07

Any chance Congressional Republicans will muster the political might to put the kibosh on Yellen’s nomination?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 21:06:55

Given the political importance of the Federal Reserve Chair appointment, would it make sense to reconstitute it as an elected position?

Comment by Whac-A-Bubble™
2013-10-25 21:08:17

Senator Paul plans ‘hold’ on Yellen Fed nomination
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen addresses the 29th National Association for Business Economics Policy Conference in Washington March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
WASHINGTON | Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:49pm EDT

(Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul threatened on Friday to put a ‘hold’ on the nomination of Janet Yellen to be chair of the Federal Reserve unless he gets a vote on a bill he has sponsored to put the central bank under more scrutiny.

“As part of Senate consideration of the Janet Yellen nomination to be chair of the Federal Reserve, I will request a vote on my bipartisan Federal Reserve Transparency Act,” Paul said in a statement. “The American people deserve transparency from the Federal Reserve and the federal government as a whole.”

An aide to Paul, however, said no final decision had been made on whether to place a hold on the nomination.

If Paul did move forward, it would force Yellen’s supporters to round up 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to confirm her.

The White House was always expected to have to secure 60 votes for the nomination to clear procedural roadblocks, and Democrats have repeatedly expressed confidence in their ability to do so. The swearing-in of New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker next week will return the Senate effectively to a 55-45 Democratic majority, meaning that only five Republican votes would be needed to support Yellen.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that the paperwork for the nomination had been submitted to the Senate, paving the way for formal consideration.

“We look forward to the Senate confirming her swiftly and in a bipartisan fashion for this very important role,” he said.

A Senate Banking Committee aide separately said that some of her paperwork had been received from the White House and her hearing was expected to be scheduled for next month.

The banking panel, on which Democrats have a four-vote advantage, needs to vet the nomination before it goes before the full Senate for a final vote.

Although Yellen, currently the Fed’s vice chair, is expected to win confirmation, the process is likely to be contentious. Many Republicans have criticized the central bank’s aggressive easing of monetary policy as a dangerous courtship of inflation that also risks fueling asset bubbles.

Comment by scdave
2013-10-26 07:39:39

Many Republicans have criticized the central bank’s aggressive easing of monetary policy ??

Where were those same republicans when Greenspan was running the show ??

Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

Trackback responses to this post