Subprime crisis hits governments

THE SUBPRIME mortgage crisis that pushed homeowners into foreclosure and forced the Federal Reserve to bail out investment banker Bear Stearns has also sent state and local governments across the country scrambling to refinance municipal bonds before they are hit with exorbitant interest rates.At the center of the storm are long-term variable-interest bonds known as “auction-rate securities.” Unlike traditional fixed-rate bonds, the interest rates on these securities are reset every 7, 28 or 35 days through an auction process.

Historically, the rate paid has been less than on traditional bonds, making the national $160-billion auction-rate market a reliable source of cheap financing.

But that market has collapsed in the past two months, sending interest rates climbing. As a result, California, Richmond, the Bay Area Toll Authority, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Sacramento County are among countless government agencies forced to restructure their bond debts.

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Big Traders Dive Into Dark Pools

The alternative trading systems are luring big institutional customers by offering greater privacy and lower costs. Their growth could affect big exchanges.It’s not easy being a big player in the stock market. Trading huge quantities of stock on traditional exchanges has become ever more challenging, costly, and potentially disruptive. And if other players see your moves, they can disrupt your trades. That’s led to the emergence in recent years of alternative trading systems known as dark pools. And their growth could have significant implications for big stock exchanges-and individual investors.

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Nasdaq Gives High Rollers A Market Free Of Regulation

Nasdaq is set to launch tomorrow what its executives are calling one of the most significant developments on Wall Street in decades — a private stock market for super-wealthy investors.Minimum requirement for traders: $100 million in assets.

Any private firm can list on Nasdaq’s new platform, which is called the Portal Market, and raise money by selling stock to an elite group of shareholders. These companies would remain private and not have to make public their financial statements or submit to federal regulation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate accountability law.

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Developer Sues to Win $12.3 Billion in 9/11 Attack

Larry A. Silverstein, who has won nearly $4.6 billion in insurance payments to cover his losses and help him rebuild at the World Trade Center site, is seeking $12.3 billion in damages from airlines and airport security companies for the 9/11 attack.Mr. Silverstein, the developer of ground zero, sought the damages, whose amount was not previously known, in a claim filed in 2004, that says the airlines and airport security companies failed to prevent terrorists from hijacking the planes used to destroy the buildings.

His case was consolidated last week with similar, earlier lawsuits brought by families of some victims of the attack and by other property owners. But in seeking $12.3 billion, he is by far the biggest claimant in the litigation.

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Germans Fear Meltdown of Financial System

Germany and other industrialized nations are desperately trying to brace themselves against the threat of a collapse of the global financial system. The crisis has now taken its toll on the German economy, where the weak dollar is putting jobs in jeopardy and the credit crunch is paralyzing many businesses.

trader1.jpgA trader reacts in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange.

The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, doesn’t like to see its employees working too late, and it expects even senior staff members to be headed home by 8 p.m. On weekends, employees seeking to escape the confines of their own homes are required to sign in at the front desk and are accompanied to their own desks by a security guard. Sensitive documents are kept in safes in many offices, and a portion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored behind meter-thick, reinforced concrete walls in the basement of a nearby building. In this environment, working overtime is considered a security risk.But the ordinary working day has been in disarray in recent weeks at the Bundesbank headquarters building, a gray, concrete box in Frankfurt’s Ginnheim neighborhood, where the crisis on international financial markets has many employees working late, even on weekends.

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Treasury’s Plan Would Give Fed Wide New Power

“The Fed would have the authority to go wherever in the system it thinks it needs to go for a deeper look to preserve stability,” Mr. Paulson said in the advance text of Monday’s speech. “To do this effectively, it will collect information from commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, commodity pool operators.”
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WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department will propose on Monday that Congress give the Federal Reserve broad new authority to oversee financial market stability, in effect allowing it to send SWAT teams into any corner of the industry or any institution that might pose a risk to the overall system.

The proposal is part of a sweeping blueprint to overhaul the nation’s hodgepodge of financial regulatory agencies, which many experts say failed to recognize rampant excesses in mortgage lending until after they set off what is now the worst financial calamity in decades.

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Americans fear harder times

Public’s feelings about economy are bleakest since ’73, survey indicates Americans are bracing for rising unemployment and shrinking salaries, a gloomy outlook that could translate into a serious cutback in consumer spending, the primary engine of the economy.

A survey of about 2,500 households found that Americans feel worse about the economy’s prospects than at any time since 1973, when Americans struggled with soaring oil prices and runaway inflation.

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US fears over honey bee collapse

The pollination of crops by bees is responsible for a third of the food produced in the US.

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The US bee population fell by about 30% last year

One in every three mouthfuls has been touched by their tiny feet; but our six-legged friends are in trouble.

They are getting sick and leaving their hives. Without bees, food gets more expensive – some products could disappear altogether.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) emerged last year, and by spring 2007 bees were dying in huge numbers – over the year as a whole the total bee population fell by 30%.

Some beekeepers lost closer to 90%, and the fear is it will get worse.

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