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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freddie, Fannie Failure Could Be World `Catastrophe,’ Yu Says

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) — A failure of U.S. mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be a catastrophe for the global financial system, said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to China’s central bank.

“If the U.S. government allows Fannie and Freddie to fail and international investors are not compensated adequately, the consequences will be catastrophic,” Yu said in e-mailed answers to questions yesterday. “If it is not the end of the world, it is the end of the current international financial system.”

Freddie and Fannie shares touched 20-year lows yesterday on speculation that a government bailout will leave the stocks worthless. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson won approval from the U.S. Congress last month to pump unlimited amounts of capital into the companies in an emergency.

Read moreFreddie, Fannie Failure Could Be World `Catastrophe,’ Yu Says

A Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading

Regulators had long classified a private Swiss energy conglomerate called Vitol as a trader that primarily helped industrial firms that needed oil to run their businesses.

But when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission examined Vitol’s books last month, it found that the firm was in fact more of a speculator, holding oil contracts as a profit-making investment rather than a means of lining up the actual delivery of fuel. Even more surprising to the commodities markets was the massive size of Vitol’s portfolio — at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange.

The discovery revealed how an individual financial player had gained enormous sway over the oil market without the knowledge of regulators. Other CFTC data showed that a significant amount of trading activity was concentrated in the hands of just a few speculators.

Read moreA Few Speculators Dominate Vast Market for Oil Trading

The Big Sting Two

By Bob Chapman

The plan for an economic takedown, the results of rampant market speculations, insiders picking up assets for pennies on the dollar, the coming hyperinflation, the credit crunch, collapse of the dollar carry trade, suppression of metals prices, American meddling in Georgia

Read moreThe Big Sting Two

Jim Rogers Predicts Bigger Financial Shocks

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The U.S. financial crisis has cut so deep – and the government has taken on so much debt in misguided attempts to bail out such companies as Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) – that even larger financial shocks are still to come, global investing guru Jim Rogers said in an exclusive interview with Money Morning.

Indeed, the U.S. financial debacle is now so ingrained – and a so-called “Super Crash” so likely – that most Americans alive today won’t be around by the time the last of this credit-market mess is finally cleared away – if it ever is, Rogers said.

Read moreJim Rogers Predicts Bigger Financial Shocks

Goldman Sachs analyst recommends shorting shares of Citigroup

NEW YORK (AP) — A Goldman Sachs analyst has recommended a short-selling strategy for shares of Citigroup Inc., noting the bank is still heavily exposed to the troubled mortgage and consumer credit markets.

In short-selling, an investor borrows shares of a company and sells them, betting the stock will go down. The investor then buys back the shares, repays the loan and — if the strategy worked — pockets the difference as a profit.

Read moreGoldman Sachs analyst recommends shorting shares of Citigroup

Subprime pain sweeps the world

More than 100 local councils, charities, churches, hospitals and nursing homes across Australia are sitting on a $2 billion black hole after buying subprime investments structured by Wall Street banks during the bull market but which are now potentially worthless.

Melbourne’s Metropolitan Ambulance Service and local councils are among those facing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars in the subprime meltdown because of bad debt they bought through a global investment bank.

Read moreSubprime pain sweeps the world

Spanish government cuts short holiday as economy collapses

Spain’s cabinet ministers took the unprecedented step of interrupting their summer holidays to hold an emergency meeting on the nation’s deepening economic crisis.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, sought to address the “stagnation and slowdown” of the economy when he announced a package of 24 measures designed to lessen their effect.

Spain is among the European countries that, like Britain, have been hardest hit by the kock on effects of the economic downturn and credit crunch in the United States.

Read moreSpanish government cuts short holiday as economy collapses

Merrill Lynch: Credit Crisis`Far From Over’

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) — The credit crisis is “broad, deep, and global” and “far from over” for financial companies even after they reported $500 billion in writedowns and credit losses, Merrill Lynch & Co.’s chief investment strategist said.

Read moreMerrill Lynch: Credit Crisis`Far From Over’

Wall Street banks hit by downgrades

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley were hit by a raft of analysts’ downgrades on Tuesday amid growing concerns that tough conditions in credit and equity markets will significantly reduce their profits.

The bearish comments by Wall Street analysts triggered a sell-off in banking shares that dragged the broader market lower, with the S&P 500 off 1.2 per cent.

Goldman’s shares fell 6 per cent after three analysts warned that the firm – which has outperformed rivals throughout the crisis – was experiencing a severe slowdown in its equity and investment banking businesses.

Shares in JPMorgan Chase dropped nearly 10 per cent – its biggest daily fall in six years – a day after it revealed that difficult credit markets had caused $1.5bn in writedowns in July.

Read moreWall Street banks hit by downgrades

Credit crunch misery deepens for UBS


Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

UBS has underlined its status as one of the biggest losers in the credit crunch by announcing £5.1bn of fresh writedowns and its fourth quarterly loss in a row.

The Swiss bank said this morning that it made a net loss of 358m Swiss francs (£173m) in the second quarter of this year. The loss was caused by its continuing exposure to the US housing market, and a huge outflow of funds as wealthy individuals took their money elsewhere.

The new writedowns push UBS’s total since the crisis started to $42bn, bringing it closer to Citigroup ($47bn) and Merrill Lynch ($46bn).

Read moreCredit crunch misery deepens for UBS

One Third of New Owners Owe More Than House Is Worth

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) — Almost one-third of U.S. homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to Zillow.com, an Internet provider of home valuations.

Second-quarter home prices fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier, giving 29 percent of owners negative equity, said Zillow, the Seattle-based service that offers values for more than 80 million homes. For those who bought at the 2006 peak of the housing market, 45 percent are now underwater, Zillow said.

Read moreOne Third of New Owners Owe More Than House Is Worth

Fed auctions another $25 billion to combat a serious credit squeeze

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve has auctioned another $25 billion in loans to the nation’s banks and given them more time to pay the money back in an effort to combat a serious credit squeeze.

The Fed announced Tuesday that the money would be loaned at a rate of 2.754 percent. In the latest auction, the Fed offered the loans for an extended period of 84 days, rather than the 28-day period for the previous loans.

It marked the Fed’s latest attempt to be innovative in providing the nation’s banking system with the cash it needs to combat a serious credit crisis stemming from mounting mortgage loan losses.

Read moreFed auctions another $25 billion to combat a serious credit squeeze