Credit crisis expands, hitting all kinds of consumer loans

WASHINGTON – The credit crisis triggered by bad home loans is spreading to other areas, forcing banks to tighten credit and probably extending the credit crisis that’s dragging down the economy well into next year, and perhaps beyond.

That means consumers are going to have an increasingly difficult time getting bank loans for car purchases, credit cards, home equity credit lines, student loans and even commercial real estate, experts say.

When financial analyst Meredith Whitney wrote in a report last October that the nation’s largest bank, Citigroup, lacked sufficient capital for the risks it had assumed, she was considered a heretic.

However, Whitney was proved correct: Citigroup pushed out its CEO, sought foreign investors and slashed its dividend. Her comments now carry added weight on Wall Street, and she has a new warning for ordinary Americans: The crisis in credit markets is far from over, and it increasingly will affect consumers.

“In fact, we believe that what lies ahead will be worse than what is behind us,” Whitney and colleagues at Oppenheimer & Co. wrote in a lengthy report last month about threats faced by big national banks, including Bank of America, Wachovia and others.

The warning is scary considering what’s already behind us in the credit crisis – the resignation or firing since last August of CEOs at almost every large commercial or investment bank; the Federal Reserve lowering its benchmark lending rate by 3.25 percentage points; a Fed-brokered deal to sell investment bank Bear Stearns; and weekly auctions of short-term loans from the Fed worth billions of dollars to keep credit markets functioning.

(Got Gold and Silver? – The Infinite Unknown)

Read moreCredit crisis expands, hitting all kinds of consumer loans

Traders predict house prices will fall by 50% in four years

· Investments based on property ‘fall off a cliff’
· Job losses hit estate agents and mortgage firms

The slide in house prices will continue for at least three years and crush the value of a home by almost 50% in real terms, according to a key index of property price futures. Indications from futures trading on long term property prices shows that the average UK home will recover its current value only in 2017.

By the end of this year prices will be down by 10% and by a further 10.5% in 2009, according to the index. Prices will keep dropping through 2010 and cut values by 23.5% when they hit rock bottom in 2011. House prices will then begin a slow climb back to current market values over a period of about six years.

If an average retail price inflation rate of 4% is included in the calculation and in addition the 8% drop in prices over the last eight months already registered by the Halifax index, the fall in values over almost four years will reach 47.5% in real terms.

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, Lord Oakeshott, said the figures revealed that property investors had little confidence in the market and were predicting steep and prolonged falls in prices.

“This government says this housing depression will be different from the early 1990s. Yes, that’s right. It will be worse.”

Read moreTraders predict house prices will fall by 50% in four years

Biotech giants demand a high price for saving the planet

Related Articles:
–  Exposed: the great GM crops myth

The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that Americans won’t ever see

At stake is no less than control of the world’s food supply.

BIODIVERSITY: Privatisation Making Seeds Themselves Infertile

Companies accused of ‘profiteering’ as they attempt to patent crop genes

Giant biotech companies are privatising the world’s protection against climate change by filing hundreds of monopoly patents on genes that help crops resist it, a new investigation has concluded.

The study – by the authoritative Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), based in Ottawa, Canada – has found that nine firms have filed at least 532 patents around the world on about 55 different genes offering protection against heat, drought and floods. If granted, the companies would be given control of crucial natural raw material needed to maintain food supplies in an increasingly hungry world.

Last week, as world leaders met in Rome to discuss the food crisis, GM companies promoted their technologies as the answer to hunger. On Thursday, Monsanto – the biggest and most controversial firm – announced a “commitment” to increase food production, partly by developing crops that need less water.

“Together we must meet the needs for increased food, fibre and energy, while preserving the environment,” said the company’s head, Hugh Grant. “These commitments represent the beginning of a journey that we will expand on and deepen in the years ahead.”

The ETC Group calls this “an opportunistic public relations strategy”, adding: “Monsanto’s business is selling patented seeds for industrial agriculture – not addressing a humanitarian food crisis.”

The report of its investigation shows that Monsanto and BASF – which last year announced a $1.5bn “collaboration” to develop new GM crops, including “ones more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as drought” – have between them filed patents for 27 of the 55 genes. Others had been filed by companies such as Bayer, Syngenta and Dow.

The reports says some of the applications are sweeping. One would cover more than 30 crops from oats to oil palms, triticale to tea, and potatoes to perennial grass – “in other words, virtually all food crops”.

It says the “corporate grab on climate-tolerant genes” means that “a handful of transnational companies are now positioned to determine who gets access to key genetic traits and what price they must pay”.

Small farmers in developing countries will be particularly hard hit by such “climate-change profiteering”. Patenting will make the crops expensive and ensure that poor farmers have to buy them every year, by prohibiting them from saving seeds from one harvest to grow for the next.

According to the report, conventional, non-GM breeding techniques are making remarkable progress in developing crops that can tolerate heat, floods and drought. A new Asian rice, due to go on the market next year, can stand being submerged for two weeks without affecting yields, while a new African one flowers early in the morning, escaping the heat of the day.

But, it says, “the patent grab is sucking up money and resources that could be spent on affordable, farmer-based strategies for survival”.

It concludes: “These patented technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds”.

But Croplife, which represents the world’s plant-science industry, retorts; “Patenting is very important. That is how we protect intellectual property and ensure we continue to bring new innovations to the marketplace.” It denies that biotechnology companies are seeking to monopolise world food supplies.

Read moreBiotech giants demand a high price for saving the planet

WA gas explosion fallout serious for iron ore, gold and base metals suppliers

The Varanus Island gas explosion and subsequent loss of around 30 percent of the state’s gas supplies is creating serious problems for the state’s massive mining industry and will affect productivity and supply for months, rather than weeks.

“Western Australia supplies about a third of the world’s iron ore, 20 percent of the gold and tens of thousands of tonnes of copper, nickel, zinc, lead and other industrial staples.”
___________________________________________________________________________________________

PERTH (Reuters) – Western Australian miners, which supply the world with metals and iron ore, fear sharp falls in productivity and lay-offs after a gas-plant explosion robbed them of power, industry and local government officials said on Sunday.

“This is very serious,” Reg Howard Smith, head of the state’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy, said after crisis talks with some of the world’s biggest resources firms, including BHP Billiton BHP..AX(BLT.L), Rio Tinto (RIO.AX)(RIO.L) and BP (BP.L).

“We’re seeing some stand-downs of staff occurring and we’re still deciding what needs to be done,” Smith told Reuters.

Western Australia lost about a third of its energy supplies last week when an explosion crippled a gas-handling plant on the tiny island of Varanus, about 100 km (62 miles) off Australia’s northwest coast. The Varanus plant, close to offshore gas fields, is operated by a unit of U.S.-based Apache Corp (APA.N).

Tim Wall, managing director of Apache’s Australian unit, said on Sunday he was sticking with an earlier estimate of “months, not weeks” before damage to the plant and associated gas pipelines was repaired and operations could restart.

Western Australia’s state government is trying to import more diesel from Asia to offset the drop in gas supplies, state premier Alan Carpenter said, noting that BP, which operates a diesel refinery in the state, was already at maximum production.

But getting diesel to remote, outback mines could take time.

“There is no wand to make this crisis disappear,” Carpenter told reporters on Sunday. “It’s one thing to get the diesel here on ships and another to where it’s needed by truck.”

Western Australia supplies about a third of the world’s iron ore, 20 percent of the gold and tens of thousands of tonnes of copper, nickel, zinc, lead and other industrial staples.

Read moreWA gas explosion fallout serious for iron ore, gold and base metals suppliers

Gold

Realated articles (Gold, Silver, M3):
Buying Opportunity For Gold And Silver
Fed’s Direct Loans to Banks Climb to Record Level
How Low Can The Dollar Go? Zero Value

What is the biggest mistake you can make with your money in 2008? Ignoring gold, silver and their related inflation hedges can lose you more money than all the other mistakes you can make put together, except for playing the roulette table in Vegas.

Once in a lifetime, there comes a chance to turn a relatively small amount of money into a fortune, and this is one of them. We are in the early stages of a massive multi-year bull market in the metals. The supply-demand situation beggars belief. This is as close to riskless as anything I have ever recommended in 31 years of publishing The Ruff Times. You can put a list of mining stocks on the wall, throw a dart at them, invest in the holes and make a lot of money, in effect creating your personal mutual fund. When the wind blows, even the turkeys fly. Of course you can make lot more money picking the sheep from the goats, and that is what the Ruff Times is for, separating the biggest winners from the holes in the ground surrounded by liars.

A word of caution: all my words of advice are for the long term only. In the short term, gold and silver can do anything, go anywhere. In the last bull market of the ‘70s-‘80s gold went from $120 to $850, but there were discouraging retreats of as much as 30% several times along the way. It was attacked by speculators, central banks, and even Uncle Sam through Jimmy Carter. But gold and silver prevailed, even though chickens bailed out from time to time. I was new to the advice business back then, and even I got scared out once for a little while.

Actually, this is “déjà vu all over again,” as said the master of malapropism, Yogi Berra. It’s an eerie repeat of the 1970s, only more so. All the same factors that drove that historic 1970s bull market are back, only a lot more so; an explosion of money creation by the Federal Reserve that is so great they have even stopped publishing a monthly report on M-3, the most trustworthy measure of changes in the money supply. I guess they no longer know, or don’t want you to know, the embarrassing numbers.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Did you know that the phrase “printing press” no longer means much when it comes to money? Actually, less than five percent of the money is actually minted, printed or coined! The rest of it is in cyberspace, created at the Federal Reserve, or by commercial banks. The amount is beyond comprehension. This process is called “monetary inflation,” and that is what ultimately drives price inflation and drives gold and silver. The more money is created, the higher go the precious metals.

Read moreGold

Nine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis

Today, we stand on the brink of a longer-term problem. In the words of Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London: ‘We are sleep-walking into a crisis.’
__________________________________________________________________________________________

The phrase ‘nine meals from anarchy’ sounds more like the title of a bad Hollywood movie than any genuine threat.

But that was the expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer who was the first head of the Countryside Agency – the quango set up by Tony Blair in the days when he pretended to care about the countryside – to describe just how perilous Britain’s food supply actually is.


Crisis: Britain’s food supply is in peril

Long before many others, Cameron saw the potential of a real food crisis striking not just the poor of the Third World, but us, here in Britain, in the 21st Century.

The scenario goes like this. Imagine a sudden shutdown of oil supplies; a sudden collapse in the petrol that streams steadily through the pumps and so into the engines of the lorries which deliver our food around the country, stocking up the supermarket shelves as soon as any item runs out.

If the trucks stopped moving, we’d start to worry and we’d head out to the shops, cking up our larders. By the end of Day One, if there was still no petrol, the shelves would be looking pretty thin. Imagine, then, Day Two: your fourth, fifth and sixth meal. We’d be in a panic. Day three: still no petrol.

What then? With hunger pangs kicking in, and no notion of how long it might take for the supermarkets to restock, how long before those who hadn’t stocked up began stealing from their neighbours? Or looting what they could get their hands on?

Read moreNine meals from anarchy – how Britain is facing a very real food crisis

Tribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers

Tribune Company newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune will quickly cut costs – by printing fewer papers and employing fewer journalists – top company executives said on Thursday.

Samuel Zell, the chairman and chief executive of Tribune, and Randy Michaels, the company’s chief operating officer, revealed the cuts during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

They also said the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.

Mr. Michaels said of the changes, “This is going to happen quickly.”

Mr. Zell said, “I promise you he’s underestimating the level of aggressiveness with which we are attacking this whole challenge.”

They said the company would aim for a 50-50 split between ads and news across all the news pages (excluding classified ads and advertising supplements). Mr. Michaels said this would mean eliminating 500 pages of news a week across all of the company’s 12 papers.

“If we take, for instance, The Los Angeles Times to a 50-50 ratio, we will be eliminating about 82 pages a week,” Mr. Michaels said, leaving the smallest papers of the week at 56 news pages.

Since being taken over in an $8.2 billion deal that took the company private in December, Tribune has downsized newspapers that had already been trimmed under the previous regime. During the call and in a note from Mr. Zell to Tribune employees, the executives signaled that bigger cuts are coming.

Mr. Michaels said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.” He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.

Read moreTribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers

U.S. Media Blackout On Bilderberg 2008

The 2008 Bilderberg Meeting is now in full swing at the Westfields Marriott in Chantilly, Virginia, USA but you wouldn’t know it from the media blackout of this event by virtually all mainstream media outlets in the United States. Each year, Bilderberg hosts some of the most powerful people in North America and Europe where these individuals set and shape policies for the world. The 2008 Bilderberg Meeting is slated to run from June 5th through June 8th. Since 1954, Bilderberg has met in secrecy primarily thanks to the intentional lack of media attention paid to it. One would think that an event where over 100 of the most high profile and powerful people from North America and Europe are meeting would receive a great deal of mainstream media attention, but there is virtually none. As a result of the media blackout, only independent journalists and alternative researchers have been covering this event on a year to year basis. Due to a greater amount of attention being paid to this event, a press release on the Bilderberg Meeting was issued from a group that identified themselves as the American Friends of Bilderberg. The press release provides spin on how wonderful Bilderberg is and even provides a contact number that can be used to obtain a list of attendees. The Logan Act states that it is illegal for those holding public office in the United States to attend secret meetings like Bilderberg where policy is set. Regardless, that has not stopped people like Rick Perry from attending the 2007 Bilderberg Meeting as the sitting Texas governor. Jim Tucker, who has covered the Bilderberg meeting for over 30 years, has accurately made future predictions based upon information he has received from moles within Bilderberg. There is no doubt that policy is set at this meeting and quite frankly if you think that some of the most powerful people in the world are getting together just for laughs, you are sorely mistaken.

Below is taken directly from the press release on the Bilderberg Meeting issued by the American Friends of Bilderberg which provides positive spin for the Bilderberg Meeting.

Read moreU.S. Media Blackout On Bilderberg 2008

Bilderberg meeting attracts prominent politicians, businessmen

The 56th Bilderberg Meeting, an annual conference of influential politicians and businessmen, began Thursday in Chantilly, Virgina, according to a press release from the organization.

The Conference will end Sunday and deals mainly with a nuclear free world, cyber terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, US-EU relations, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Islam and Iran.

According to the press release, the meeting is private in order to encourage frank and open discussion.

About 140 participants will attend, of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds are from finance, industry, labor, education and communications.

An official list of the attendees can be found at Alex Jones’ Infowars.

Although it is an international forum, many prominent American officials and politicians attend the conference, including Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and Paul Wolfowitz.

James Johnson, the man tasked with selecting Barack Obama’s running mate, is also on the list to attend the conference.

InfoWars also reported that Senator Barack Obama’s office has refused to deny that the Democratic nominee attended Bilderberg last night following reports that he and Hillary Clinton were present at “an event in Northern Virginia.”

Read moreBilderberg meeting attracts prominent politicians, businessmen

Oil hits new high as Israel calls strike on Iran ‘unavoidable’

Oil prices leaped to record highs yesterday as Israel warned about Iranian nuclear sites and the dollar slumped on the biggest jump in American unemployment for 22 years.

The global crude price ended a run of lower prices earlier this week as it jumped by more than $9 a barrel to $136.79 (£69.44) – it has risen by over $14, or 10%, in just two days. The week before last saw an all-time high of $135.09 a barrel but, by Wednesday this week, prices had receded to as low as $122.

Already jittery oil markets were sent into spasms by remarks from Israel’s transport minister that an attack on Iranian nuclear sites looked “unavoidable”. Iran is a big Opec oil producer and any attack on the country would threaten oil supplies from the whole region.

Prices were also boosted by a prediction from investment bank Morgan Stanley that crude prices might reach $150 by July 4.

Earlier in the day the dollar – in which oil is priced – had fallen against the euro partly on speculation that the European Central Bank might consider raising interest rates to curb inflation.

But subsequently markets were rocked by a monthly report from the US showing that unemployment suffered its biggest monthly rise since February 1986.

Shares on Wall Street dived after the US unemployment rate unexpectedly??? jumped to 5.5%, intensifying fears that the world’s biggest economy is sliding into recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 300 points, or 2.2%, to around 12,320. In London the FTSE 100 closed the week down 1.5%, or 88 points, at 5,906.

Read moreOil hits new high as Israel calls strike on Iran ‘unavoidable’