Archive for the ‘Investing’ Category

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Around this time last month I wrote a post about the explosion of sub-prime credit for people seeking automobile loans they couldn’t afford. Here’s a link if you missed it – click here. 

They say that if you don’t learn from what happened in the past you are doomed to repeat it. And it is clear the banksters have learned nothing, mainly because the government was not man enough to teach them a lesson when they almost brought the country to its knees. Their greed was excused and rewarded, not punished in any meaningful and lasting way.

So now we have the auto loans credit explosion, which is another mini sub-prime disaster in the making. And again it is being egged on by the stupidity and greed of Wall Street who just can’t pass on the chance to reap big profits from those people silly enough to take their high interest loans.

greedy banksters

This time, however, it turns out some of the people in positions of power are beginning to recognize that this is becoming a big problem.

The regulators and prosecutors are starting to worry about the level of lending abuses. Not only that but they are also recognizing the similarities with the home loans fiasco that eventually resulted in the financial crisis.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recently fined subprime auto lender First Investors Financial Services Group Inc. $2.75 million for knowingly providing inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies for at least three years. It was a “computer error” don’t you know, and, of course, they paid the fine but without admitting any liability – perish the thought!

It should come as no surprise that First Investors Financial Services Group is owned by a prominent New York private equity firm.

And like the mortgage sub-prime fraud, the banksters and other money men are not only screwing the people who take out the loans, but once again they are re-packaging them up as “good investments” for their richer clients too.

A United States attorney in Manhattan, has already begun an investigation into whether lenders have sold questionable auto-loan investments to investors, and has sent subpoenas to General Motors Financial and Santander Consumer USA, to try to find out whether the lenders fully disclosed to investors the creditworthiness of borrowers whose loans made up the complicated securities.

sub prime loans

Last time they got away with it. Will this time be any different? You have a lot more faith in the system than me if you think it will. All that is happening so far is tokenism. They need a lot more than a slap on the wrist.

In China or Vietnam and some other locations banksters committing fraud are stood up against a wall a shot. That’s maybe a little harsh, but at the very least some serious jail time is in order.

The fact is the banksters are doing it again because they think that they can get away with it again. And if they get away with it this time, then they’ll do it yet again in the future. All the time racking up fortunes for themselves and leaving the other poor sods, who didn’t know any better than to take out their loans or buy their toxic investments, a lot poorer.

the expendables

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We had it with the real estate market. Billions of dollars being lent to people who obviously couldn’t afford it.

We saw the trouble, hardship, misery and financial woes that were caused as credit dried up, real estate prices began to tumble, and bankruptcies and foreclosures increased.

And we know the damage it did to the economy when irresponsible banks and other lenders went bust and almost brought down the entire financial system. 

Smart people would learn from such a situation.

Smart people would never contemplate doing such a thing again.

But despite what they would like to have you believe, bankers are not smart people. They’re dumb and they are greedy, a deadly combination.

bad credit 100 percent financing

As a result of the financial crisis millions of Americans (and people in other countries too) have been left with poor credit scores. Yet remarkably they are now able to easily obtain auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. Even if you are bankrupt or living only on social security, banks like Wells Fargo will lend you thousands of dollars to buy a used car.

It’s called the new sub-prime boom, because the lack of caution resembles the frenzied sub-prime mortgage market before its collapse. And it is already bringing misery to many people who have been suckered into taking out loans that they clearly could not afford.

Worse than that, these sub-prime auto loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers, with interest rates that can exceed 20 percent. And many of the loans can be at least twice the value of the second hand cars they are being used to purchase!

wall street car crash

This creates a vicious circle for some borrowers, who still owe money on a car that they are trading in when they purchase another one, meaning that the former debt is rolled over into the new loan and they end up, not just paying too much for their current car, but also continue to pay off the loan on their previous car that they don’t even have!

This is the way loan sharks operate. Eventually you end up borrowing your own money and paying them interest for the privilege!

This surge in sub-prime auto lending is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in sub-prime mortgages. There is a veritable deluge of money pouring into sub-prime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors.

And just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are now feeding the growth in sub-prime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

To quote some of the figures, auto loans to people with bad credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered sub-prime, that is, people with credit scores at or below 640. Wells Fargo, mentioned earlier, made $7.8 billion in auto loans in the second quarter of this year, up 9 percent from a year earlier, and has at least $50 billion in auto loans on its books.

greedy bankers

Even worse, as was the case with sub-prime mortgages before the financial crisis, many sub-prime auto loans are being bundled up into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds. They are all scrambling for these, which in turn creates ever-greater demand for loans, and leads to the banks issuing more and more sub-prime credit.

Unbelievably it’s the same crooks doing exactly the same thing, including using incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, so that people who had lost their jobs, or were bankrupt, or living on Social Security, could qualify for loans that they could never afford.

carbuying credit report

Admittedly, the size of the sub-prime auto loan market is only a tiny fraction of the sub-prime mortgage market at its peak, and its implosion would not have the same far-reaching consequences.

For the banks the investors silly enough to buy their bonds, that is.

But the misery is just as great for the people who are suckered into accepting credit they cannot afford.

Illegal it may not be, but immoral it certainly is.

Political leaders who sit astride high horses and purport to be working on behalf of the ordinary people should be doing something about it.

But, as I’ve said before, don’t hold your breath!

obama used car salesman

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Can’t let the month end without another Sunday Sermon.

This time a little bit of an update on the political and financial scene as I see it.

So far the Obama administration is doing great! (That was a little sarcasm in case anyone didn’t get it.)

Troops are being sent to Syria and soon we’ll get bogged down in another mess that’s none of our business and will probably take many years and many lives to get us disentangled from – leaving behind chaos and confusion and a worse situation than the one we tried to fix.

obama-milking-us-economy-dry_cow_

Meanwhile the economic crisis continues. Not that you’d notice. The sham recovery has meant that stocks have been on an upward trend, bonds have been doing well, and confidence is high.

And all because….

….well all because the Fed continues to print money and pour it into these markets.

bernanke printing money cartoon

Or at least it has been.

Then Bernanke made a statement a few days ago to “clarify” the government’s position.

Oh dear me!

He said that the government would… he thought… he hoped anyway…. assuming nothing unforeseen happened…. at least nothing major that they didn’t see coming… that they would ease off their money printing and bond buying… or at least they might… soon or maybe later… but sometime at least… well, it was being discussed…

Needless to say with that dithering statement confidence immediately melted away from the market and the DOW headed down by more than 500 points. In fact investors and brokers seemed to be selling everything, not just stocks and bonds but gold and other commodities too. Not quite panic but definite unease was clear to be seen.

The only reason it didn’t all collapse is that while the underlying message is clear, the Fed’s delay in implementing their tap turn off gives investors a little more time to make a little more money  –  they hope.

The problem with that is knowing when to sell. And that is the trick that has eluded investors from individuals to hedge fund managers since the markets began.

What Obama and Bernanke want is crystal clear. They see the folly in printing money and buying bonds at near $100 billion a month and they know they have to stop it eventually otherwise an even bigger financial catastrophe will result.

Their problem is they want to stop it without causing a massive market correction.

bernanke economic growth

And that, as Samuel Goldwin used to say, can be summed up in two words – im possible!

It will be interesting and perhaps a bit painful to watch what happens next.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Time for another Sunday Sermon, otherwise known as a rant!

 Foreclosure Notice Yellow Photo

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First it was Cyprus where the bankrupt government tried to steal money right out of people’s bank accounts. If you want to read that again click here and here.)

Then it was the turn of the greedy bureaucrats in Australia who decided to tax pensions TWICE, once when you put the money in and again when you tried to take it out! (For the original post click here.) 

Now in bankrupt Spain the politicians are at it, however, this time they aren’t proposing to steal some of the money in your bank account  –  oh no, this time they want to steal your entire home!

Yes, you read it right, the Spanish government has announced this past week that they want to seize homes that have been foreclosed on by banks and developers.

Not that I have any sympathy with the banksters, not by a long chalk! But theft is theft, and theft by governments is perhaps the most evil of all simply because the victims have little or no remedies available – other than pack up and go somewhere else.

se vende

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As usual the politicians and bureaucrats are trying to dress this theft up as something helpful. They say they will rent the confiscated foreclosed homes to Spanish families who will be allowed to live there rent-free for up to three years.

Sounds great, but as usual what these political morons have failed to do is think their policy through.

If they go ahead with this plan to steal homes the consequences will not be what they think.

First of all it will destroy what is left of the mortgage market in Spain because no one will want to make home loans on Spanish real estate if there is no viable foreclosure mechanism should things go wrong for the mortgagee.

Second, it will go a long way to killing off the buy-to-let sector, which is the thing that has been keeping the real estate market afloat in these financially strained times. Home sales, not just in Spain, but in many countries have been boosted considerably by cash rich investors picking up what they consider to be ‘bargain’ properties at a level that yields a decent return on their capital. Where will they get that return if the government kills the rental sector by renting out homes for free?

And third, it will also kill off the recent Spanish drive to attract foreign investors by offering residency to anyone who spends around $200,000 buying up the glut of Spanish property currently on its real estate market.   

If these things were happening in Zimbabwe or even Venezuela everyone would be calling it a disgrace. But it is happening in Europe and Australia and America. And it will get worse the more desperate the politicians and the bureaucrats become as they make the mess they created worse, not better.

Who on earth put idiots like these in charge?

It wasn’t you was it?

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Remember this post from way back towards the end of May 2012?

 Furious Flabbergasted Facebook Fools Face Frightening Falls From Fanciful Flagging Financial Flotation Farce. 

As well as being the biggest F’ing title ever seen on a WordPress blog, it drew attention to the debacle that was the much heralded launch of Facebook shares on the stock market.

facebook ipo

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Well, the fallout from what is now being called the IPOcalypse continues.

The head honcho at Nasdaq has had his CEO’s bonus slashed because of it, and rightly so.

But don’t start feeling sorry him just yet. Even with a slash he will still be taking home a $1.3m bonus, slightly north of half a million dollars lighter than it would have been, but still enough to get by on.

Oh yes, and that’s bonus on top of his $1 million salary!

Others at Nasdaq have also been penalized, including Anna Ewing, VP in charge of “technical glitches” that messed up the first day of trading. Her bonus was cut by over a quarter of a million dollars. But keep those hankies where they are, she is still left with a $574,125 bonus for the year.

Losses for angry brokers and traders from the botched IPO, on the other hand, have been estimated at around $500m. Nasdaq has approved just $62m in compensation, I suppose they needed the rest of their money to pay out the bonuses?

Like the banksters, it all begs the question of just how incompetent do you have to be in the financial industry to not just lose your bonus, but lose your job as well?

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The fallout from the attempt by the EU bureaucrats to steal money out of Cypriot bank accounts continues.

Many people have missed the significance of what has happened and the fact that sooner or later it will also affect them.

But it will, simply because the whole attempted theft in Cyprus has set down dangerous markers for the future.

First, anyone with savings of $100,000 or more is categorized as ‘rich’ and will be targeted by their bankrupt governments as fair game for confiscation of some of their savings.

Second, what happens in one part of the world will eventually happen in another. You can count on that.

Already there are signs of this in the most unlikely of places, Australia.

australia_kangaroo

Compared to most European countries and to the United States, Australia is in a relatively strong financial position. Although, like a lot of countries, it has been running at a net deficit for years, it was largely unaffected by the real estate bubbles and bankster debacles that has caused so many financial problems elsewhere.

Yet even in Australia the government is enacting new legislation that will penalize ordinary law abiding citizens who have responsibly set aside savings for their own retirement.

The Australian government now wants to tax income over A$100,000 withdrawn from what is known there as superannuation funds – US citizens know these better as  IRAs – elsewhere as pensions funds.

Previously one of the incentives to saving money for retirement in a pension fund was that when the time came for you to withdraw the money, you could do it free of any government taxes. In fact in most countries that was THE big selling point to entice people to open and save regularly into pensions funds.

But the Australian government has now decided to change the rules. When withdrawals are made from these accounts over the magic $100,000 mark, they will be taxed at a rate of 15%. (That’s 15% at the moment, once established these rates could increase depending on how desperate the government becomes.) 

What this means is that the Australian government now wants to tax the money you put into a pension fund when you put it in, AND then tax it again when you try to bring it back out! The archetypal taxation double-whammy!

Is that unfair, or that unfair?

Like what happened in Cyprus, these latest moves in Australia could quite easily happen in your country too!

Are you ready to be robbed???

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

Gold Eagle Rev

You couldn’t exactly call yesterday “Black Friday” the way financial pundits like to do, but that traditional “safe haven”, gold, certainly lost a lot of its shine.

In fact the price of gold went into freefall, plunging the best part of $100 an ounce in a massive selling spree and ending up below the magic $1500 mark for the first time in a while.

I don’t think anyone is sure yet just what triggered the almost panic sell off on the Comex, but my gut feeling is that, once started, the computer generated trading gizmos used by the big hedge funds etc., kicked in big time and made matters go from bad to worse.

These automatic trading monsters trigger sales when a pre-chosen stop loss figure is reached, one stop loss sell off triggers the next and so on until there is a massive market plunge, as happened yesterday. The same could just as easily happen on the stock market.   

What most ordinary folks don’t realize is that the majority of traders in the financial markets are idiots. They just hang around looking at their screens and then follow whatever they see happening. It’s the herd mentality syndrome. When the big boys start to sell then the little boys follow suit and the whole thing goes from bad to worse, often without anyone really knowing who started it or why it is happening.

That seems to have been the case yesterday as there were no catastrophic economic indicators, like major inflation fears, currency collapses, etc., to trigger a significant movement one way or the other.

Whatever caused it, it is a warning to investors to be cautious. It could be a blip or the harbinger of turbulent times ahead.

Although there are many doom-and-gloom merchants with their “the end is nigh” web sites urging their followers to dump paper money, fiat currencies they call them, and stock up on gold, the truth is that gold has not been a good investment in recent months and years.

By definition the very worst a good investment should do is hold its value in line with inflation – if it doesn’t you are losing value.

For almost two years now gold has been steadily falling in value. Anyone who bought, for example, in August or September 2011 has seen their investment fall significantly in value – down by more than twenty percent in fact. You put $10,000 in, you get less than $7,900 out, and the dealers take their cut both ways.

So will the bear market for gold continue or was Friday just a glitch? Well, if you could answer that one for certain you would be able to make a lot of money.

My feeling, for what it’s worth is that the price will probably fall further. Maybe not so dramatically as yesterday, but it could easily trickle downwards to the $1200 region.

That assumes no dramatic sell offs by bankrupt governments and banks, because that is definitely a last resort measure that they would be most reluctant to take. If or when it does happen it means BIG financial trouble for everyone.

So will gold ever be a good investment again?

Warren Buffet never thought so, but it could be. Possibly a very good investment. But probably not a long term hold. Many western economies are just hanging together at the moment. The amount of debt and insolvency has to mean that at some stage the normal investment vehicles like currencies, stocks, bonds etc., will start to suffer and people will turn back to “safe havens” like gold.

IF you buy at the right time, and remember that you need to get rid of it and fast when the cycle turns again, you could do very well. But I wouldn’t jump in and buy it just yet.

Take it away Shirley….

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