Supermarkets go high-tech to combat shoplifters


Cheese theft is on the rise, but razor blades, confectionary and oysters are still the top shoplifting targets. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Supermarkets are introducing electronic tags on items popular with shoplifters and other thieves.

The Source Tagging Alliance, set up by leading retailers, is encouraging suppliers to use radio frequency identification (RFID) and source tagging on grocery product packaging at the point of manufacture.

Read moreSupermarkets go high-tech to combat shoplifters

UK: Housing sales sink to worst for 30 years

· Estate agents average one deal a week as prices fall
· Rics calls for tax-free cash help for first-time buyers

The government is being urged to act swiftly to help drag the ailing property industry up off its knees as housing sales slow to their worst level in three decades and prices continue to decline.

Read moreUK: Housing sales sink to worst for 30 years

Lehman Brothers in urgent talks on capital injection

The Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers is this weekend locked in talks with a group of foreign government-backed investment funds in an effort to secure billions of dollars in new equity capital.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Lehman has intensified talks in recent days with Korea Development Bank, the South Korean ­government-backed lender, about a capital injection of as much as $6bn (£3.3bn). KDB has drafted in bankers from the heavyweight advisory boutique Perella Weinberg to provide counsel on the talks, which could be concluded this week.

Read moreLehman Brothers in urgent talks on capital injection

ECB May Keep Rates at 7-Year High as Recession Looms

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — The European Central Bank will probably keep interest rates at a seven-year high this week, and may even threaten to raise them, at the risk of prolonging the economic slump.

All but one of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predict the Frankfurt-based central bank will leave the benchmark rate at 4.25 percent on Sept. 4 and only five expect a cut this year, even after the region’s economy contracted in the second quarter.

Read moreECB May Keep Rates at 7-Year High as Recession Looms

Lehmans puts another 1,500 jobs on the block

Lehman Brothers is planning to axe up to 1,500 more jobs, as part of its desperate struggle to reduce costs, raise money and rebuild its battered balance sheet.

The job losses, which are still being planned by executives at the company’s New York head office, are expected to be spread among its 26,000-strong global workforce, including at its European headquarters in London, where it employs more than 4,500 people.

Rumours of the cuts began circulating internally at Lehman late on Thursday, adding to the gloom at the company, which is engaged in a fire sale of assets in order to replace billions of dollars lost on mortgage investments since the credit crisis began.

Read moreLehmans puts another 1,500 jobs on the block

Millions more face big energy price increases

· Up to 34% rise as last two big suppliers get into line
· Government urged to act as more face fuel poverty


Photograph: Steve Taylor/Getty Images

This summer’s misery for energy consumers reached a climax yesterday when the last two of the big six suppliers raised prices for millions of household customers.

ScottishPower, which has just over 5 million customers, said gas bills would rise by 34% from the beginning of next month, and electricity by 9%. Npower said it was putting up gas prices by 26% and electricity by 14% for its 6.6 million customers with immediate effect.

Read moreMillions more face big energy price increases

Gustav May Hit Gulf Platforms Harder Than Katrina

Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) — Hurricane Gustav threatens to hurt U.S. oil and natural-gas production and refining more severely than hurricanes Katrina and Rita did three years ago.

Gustav, downgraded to a Category 3 storm by the National Hurricane Center in Miami this morning, may strengthen to Category 4 later today and will make landfall as a “major” hurricane. The storm shut three-quarters of oil output in the region and refineries operated by Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refiner, ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. There will be a special trading session today at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“This storm will prove to be a worst-case scenario for the production region,” Jim Rouiller, senior energy meteorologist for Planalytics.com, said yesterday in an e-mailed message. “This storm will be more dangerous than Katrina.”

Read moreGustav May Hit Gulf Platforms Harder Than Katrina

Darling: UK facing worst economic crisis in 60 years


Alistair Darling is under pressure to come up with solutions to the crisis

The UK is facing its worst economic crisis in 60 years, Chancellor Alistair Darling has admitted.

He told the Guardian newspaper that the economic downturn would be more “profound and long-lasting” than most people had feared.

Using strong language, Mr Darling acknowledged voters were angry with Labour’s handling of the economy.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said Mr Darling had “let the cat out of the bag” about the state of the economy.

Read moreDarling: UK facing worst economic crisis in 60 years

Integrity Bank Becomes 10th U.S. Failure This Year

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) — Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, Georgia, was closed by U.S. regulators today, the 10th bank to collapse this year amid a surge in soured real-estate loans stemming from the worst housing slump since the Great Depression.

Integrity Bank, with $1.1 billion in assets and $974 million in deposits, was shuttered by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Regions Financial Corp., Alabama’s biggest bank, will assume all deposits from Integrity, which was run by Integrity Bancshares Inc. The failed bank’s five offices will open on Sept. 2 as branches of Regions, the FDIC said.

Read moreIntegrity Bank Becomes 10th U.S. Failure This Year

FDIC Will Need Half A Trillon Dollars, Says Analyst

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s (FDIC) list of troubled banks has increased by 30 percent this quarter, and this jump is causing the FDIC and the banking community to prepare for tomorrow’s problems today.

The FDIC may have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to handle an expected wave of bank failures coming down the road, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It would not be surprising if this were to occur, according to Chris Whalen, managing director of Institutional Risk Analytics. In an interview with CNBC, Whalen said the FDIC needs a backstop.

“They need about a half a trillion dollars in borrowing authority, and they need a vehicle to own these banks while we triage them and sell them.”

Read moreFDIC Will Need Half A Trillon Dollars, Says Analyst

Wall Street Journal: New credit hurdle looms for banks

U.S. and European banks, already burdened by losses and concerns about their financial health, face a new challenge: paying off hundreds of billions of dollars of debt coming due.

At issue are so-called floating-rate notes – securities used heavily by banks in 2006 to borrow money. A big chunk of those notes, which typically mature in two years, will come due over the next year or so, at a time when banks are struggling to raise fresh funds. That’s forcing banks to sell assets, compete heavily for deposits and issue expensive new debt.

The crunch will begin next month, when some $95 billion in floating-rate notes mature. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. analyst Alex Roever estimates that financial institutions will have to pay off at least $787 billion in floating-rate notes and other medium-term obligations before the end of 2009. That’s about 43 percent more than they had to redeem in the previous 16 months.

The problem highlights how the pain of the credit crunch, now entering its second year, won’t end soon for banks or the broader economy. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said on Tuesday that its list of “problem” banks at risk of failure had grown to 117 at the end of June, up from 90 at the end of March. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said her agency might have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to see it through an expected wave of bank failures. She said the borrowing could be needed to handle short-term cash-flow pressure brought on by reimbursements to depositors after bank failures.

Read moreWall Street Journal: New credit hurdle looms for banks

World’s Largest Gold Refiner Runs Out of Krugerrands

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) — Rand Refinery Ltd., the world’s largest gold refinery, ran out of South African Krugerrands after an “unusually large” order from a buyer in Switzerland.

The order was for 5,000 ounces and it will take until Sept. 3 for inventories to be replenished, said Johan Botha, a spokesman for Rand Refinery in Germiston, east of Johannesburg. He declined to identify the buyer.

Coins and bars of precious metals are attracting investors as a haven against a sliding dollar and conflict between Russia and its neighbor Georgia. The U.S. Mint suspended sales of one- ounce “American Eagle” gold coins, Johnson Matthey Plc stopped taking orders for 100-ounce silver bars at its Salt Lake City refinery and Heraeus Holding GmbH has a delivery waiting list of as long as two weeks for orders of gold bars in Europe.

“A lot of people are worried about the dollar, they’re worried about inflation and now we have geopolitical risk with what’s happening in Russia,” said Mark O’Byrne, managing director of brokerage Gold and Silver Investments Ltd. in Dublin. O’Byrne said his company’s sales are up fourfold this year, heading for a record since its founding in 2003.

Read moreWorld’s Largest Gold Refiner Runs Out of Krugerrands

Rat meat in demand in Cambodia as inflation bites

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation has put other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials said on Wednesday.

With consumer price inflation at 37 percent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel (69 pence) from 1,200 riel last year.

Spicy field rat dishes with garlic thrown in have become particularly popular at a time when beef costs 20,000 riel a kg.

Read moreRat meat in demand in Cambodia as inflation bites

The United States of America is the Next Argentina

DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA SAVE YOUR TEARS FOR YOURSELF – While bankers do control the issuance of credit, they cannot control themselves. Bankers are the fatal flaw in their deviously opaque system that has substituted credit for money and debt for savings. The bankers have spread their credit-based system across the world by catering to basic human needs and ambition and greed; and while human needs can be satisfied, ambition and greed cannot-and the bankers’ least of all.

I have a bad feeling about what’s about to happen. The Great Depression is the closest that comes to mind. I, like most, was not alive during the 1930s when it happened. Nonetheless, what once was feared in private is now being discussed in public. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to make high school seem like fun.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA THE NEXT ARGENTINA

This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises by University of Maryland‘s Carmen Reinhart and Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff makes for perfect reading when flying between the US and Argentina.

There is perhaps no better analysis than Reinhart and Rogoff’s on the history of sovereign defaults; and, as such, Reinhart and Rogoff’s paper was ideal reading material when traveling between the US and Argentina , for the sovereign defaults that happened in the past to Argentina will soon be happening to the US .

Read moreThe United States of America is the Next Argentina

FDIC: 117 troubled banks, highest level since 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of troubled U.S. banks leaped to the highest level in about five years and bank profits plunged by 86 percent in the second quarter, as slumps in the housing and credit markets continued.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data released Tuesday show 117 banks and thrifts were considered to be in trouble in the second quarter, up from 90 in the prior quarter and the biggest tally since mid-2003.

Read moreFDIC: 117 troubled banks, highest level since 2003

Moscow Dismisses Economic Threats

Attempts to isolate and punish Russia for its military actions in Georgia will backfire, given Russia’s economic muscle and key role in mediating international disputes, senior Russian officials said Friday.

Top officials in President George W. Bush’s administration have said Russia’s continued military presence in Georgia could jeopardize its membership in the Group of Eight and its bid to join the World Trade Organization, among other things.

“We are a big economy today,” said Vladislav Reznik, chairman of the State Duma Financial Markets Committee. “Whether they like it or not, we have to be reckoned with.”

Yevgeny Fyodorov, chairman of the Duma’s Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship Committee, was even more blunt.

“It’s a political bluff,” he said. “It’s an absolute certainty that the Americans won’t [impose any sanctions] because they themselves would suffer.”

Read moreMoscow Dismisses Economic Threats

Backlog of US homes for sale is worst on record

The number of unsold homes on the market in the United States is at levels not seen for at least 40 years, and prices are continuing to slide, according to a disheartening new survey.

With participants throughout the financial system saying that the credit crisis cannot end until the US housing market stabilises, the monthly data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) failed to show any unequivocal improvement.

The July figures did show an increase in the number of buyers, lured by the prospect of getting a long-term bargain. However, two out of every five sales are now distressed sales – such as foreclosed homes put on the market by banks – and desperate sellers are continuing to drop their prices.

Read moreBacklog of US homes for sale is worst on record

Inflation in consumer prices is actually running at over 13%!

It was when “official government-approved” inflation figures were released that I really lost it last week, as that particular rate of inflation is now a staggering 5.6%. This is – as you can probably tell by the look of panic and terror on my face – Terrible, Terrible News (TTN).

And when you look at what John Williams at shadowstats.com calculates as inflation, according to the time-honored method of actually looking at real prices instead of the “qualified estimates” that are used today, you will see that annual inflation in consumer prices is actually running at over 13%! Some of the worst in American history! We’re freaking doomed!

Read moreInflation in consumer prices is actually running at over 13%!

Beijing swells dollar reserves through stealth

China has resorted to stealth intervention in the currency markets to amass US dollars, using indirect means to hold down the yuan and ease the pain for its struggling exporters as the global slowdown engulfs the economy.

A study by HSBC’s currency team in Asia has concluded that China’s central bank is in effect forcing commercial banks to build up large dollar reserves, using them as arms-length proxies in a renewed campaign of exchange rate intervention.

Beijing has raised the reserve requirement for banks five times since March, quickening the pace with two half-point rises in late June.

Read moreBeijing swells dollar reserves through stealth

Merrill, Wachovia Hit With Record Refinancing Bill

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) — Merrill Lynch & Co., Wachovia Corp., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the rest of the U.S. finance industry are about to find out how expensive credit has become.

Banks, securities firms and lenders have a record $871 billion of bonds maturing through 2009, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co., just as yields are at their most punitive compared with Treasuries. The increase in yields may cost them as much as $23 billion more in annual interest versus a year ago based on Merrill Lynch index data.

Read moreMerrill, Wachovia Hit With Record Refinancing Bill

U.S. Mint resumes gold coin orders on limited basis

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Mint said it must allocate the American Eagle bullion coins among dealers to cope with overwhelming demand as it resumed taking orders for the popular coins on Monday.

“The unprecedented demand for American Eagle gold one-ounce bullion coins necessitates our allocating these coins among the authorized purchasers on a weekly basis until we are able to meet demand,” the U.S. Mint told its authorized American Eagle dealers in a memo dated August 22.

Last week, soaring demand forced the U.S. Mint to suspend temporarily sales of the American Eagles, creating a shortage in the one-ounce version of the coins, which are also available in other weights and denominations.

Read moreU.S. Mint resumes gold coin orders on limited basis

FBI saw mortgage crisis coming

A top official warned of widening loan fraud in 2004, but the agency focused its resources elsewhere.


WASHINGTON — Long before the mortgage crisis began rocking Main Street and Wall Street, a top FBI official made a chilling, if little-noticed, prediction: The booming mortgage business, fueled by low interest rates and soaring home values, was starting to attract shady operators and billions in losses were possible.

“It has the potential to be an epidemic,” Chris Swecker, the FBI official in charge of criminal investigations, told reporters in September 2004. But, he added reassuringly, the FBI was on the case. “We think we can prevent a problem that could have as much impact as the S&L crisis,” he said.

Today, the damage from the global mortgage meltdown has more than matched that of the savings-and-loan bailouts of the 1980s and early 1990s. By some estimates, it has made that costly debacle look like chump change. But it’s also clear that the FBI failed to avert a problem it had accurately forecast.

Read moreFBI saw mortgage crisis coming

FDIC gets ready for bank failures

Regulator, insurer boosts its staff and provisions as it faces its biggest challenge in decades

ATLANTA – The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is one of those agencies with a low profile but essential role similar to plumbing or electricity – you don’t notice it until the power’s out or the basement’s flooding.

These days, the FDIC’s folks are busier with the financial equivalent of fixing burst water mains and dead power lines.

Seventy-five years after it was launched during the Great Depression, the bank regulator and insurer is facing its biggest challenge in decades. Many banks in Georgia and across the nation have been battered by the slumping economy and troubled loans to home builders, developers and homeowners.

Hundreds could fail, some industry experts predict. That could force the agency to make good on its promise to insure most customers’ checking and savings deposits up to $100,000 and some retirement accounts up to $250,000, putting pressure on its insurance fund.

Read moreFDIC gets ready for bank failures