US: $455,000 debt per household

As the Bush administration proposes backstopping mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a $300 billion line of credit and Congress contemplates another economic stimulus, the question is who will bail out the government?

“People seem to think the government has money,” said former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. “The government doesn’t have any money.”

A rare consensus has developed across the political spectrum that the government’s own fiscal affairs are precarious, with an astonishing $53 trillion in long-term liabilities, according to the Government Accountability Office.

To put that number in human terms, the debt has reached $455,000 per U.S. household. As that debt grows, the United States increasingly relies on foreigners, including China and Middle East oil producers, for financing.

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US: The Cattle Industry Is Struggling To Survive

Beef prices are likely to increase as rising food and fuel prices threaten many cattle ranches

The American beef industry is in trouble. Though the financial strain of rising fuel and food prices is being widely felt across the U.S. economy, the livestock industry, which consumes about 5 billion bushels of corn annually, is suffering more than most.

Feedlot operators, who fatten their animals on corn before sending them to a slaughterhouse, are losing $150 a head with corn prices near record levels because of demand for corn-based ethanol. In Texas, the country’s largest beef-producing state, a quarter of the once-packed feedlot space is unoccupied. Some operations are shutting their doors, and “liquidation”-the culling of herds-has become a frequent escape hatch for the seriously struggling.

Read moreUS: The Cattle Industry Is Struggling To Survive

If the price of oil doubles, food prices will at least double

At virtually every link in the nation’s food chain, the cost of oil is pushing expenses ever higher.

Retail bills for some food staples have risen at least 20 percent since 2006, and they probably will continue their upward march. A gallon of gasoline could cost $7 within the next two years, some analysts say.

“If you double the price of oil, I would assume that food would at least double, and it might be more because the cost of oil gets magnified in the food chain,” said Milt McGiffen, a vegetable specialist for the University of California cooperative extension in Riverside County.


SCOTT LINNETT / Union-Tribune Nancy Owens Renner of Ocean Beach expanded her backyard garden last winter in an effort to offset rising food and fuel prices. “I am thinking about how to maximize production in my yard,” Renner said.

By the numbers:
Price increases between May 2006 and May of this year:
53% – Eggs
25% – Bread
25% – Rice
19% – Milk
14% – Coffee
11%
– Chicken
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Farmers are paying more money to fill their tractors with diesel for planting and harvesting. They also spend more for fertilizer, pesticides and plastic packaging, most of which are petroleum-based.

When the food is stored and processed, it takes a huge amount of energy, which is linked to the price of fossil fuels as well.

Then, products are shipped using diesel trucks and rail cars that are far costlier to run now than in years past.

The result is bigger and bigger food bills that are causing financial hardship for millions of Americans.

Read moreIf the price of oil doubles, food prices will at least double

Status Report on the Collapse of the U.S. Economy

“But, realistically, all ordinary people can do today is try to survive, perhaps by working with friends and neighbors in planting food and living within the underground economy. At least people might not then have to starve to death, because hard as it is to believe that “it could happen here,” widespread famine in the U.S. seems a real possibility over the next several years. Nations take such risks when they allow capitalist agribusiness to destroy local agriculture.”

With the economic news of the week of July 14-the continuing crisis among mortgage lenders, the onset of bank failures, the announced downsizing of General Motors, the slide of the Dow-Jones below 11,000-we are seeing the ongoing collapse of the U.S. economy.

Even the super-rich are becoming nervous as cries for an emergency suspension of short selling ring out.

What is really taking place, however, is that the producing economy of working men and women is being crushed by the overall debt burden on households, businesses, and governments that could reach $70 trillion by 2010. The financial system, including mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is bankrupt, as the debts it is based on cannot be repaid.

Read moreStatus Report on the Collapse of the U.S. Economy

US faces global funding crisis, warns Merrill Lynch

Merrill Lynch has warned that the United States could face a foreign “financing crisis” within months as the full consequences of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage debacle spread through the world.


Draining away: The US may struggle to plug its capital gap

The country depends on Asian, Russian and Middle Eastern investors to fund much of its $700bn (£350bn) current account deficit, leaving it far more vulnerable to a collapse of confidence than Japan in the early 1990s after the Nikkei bubble burst. Britain and other Anglo-Saxon deficit states could face a similar retreat by foreign investors.

Read moreUS faces global funding crisis, warns Merrill Lynch

Saudis offer Moscow billions to break with Tehran

MOSCOW – Saudi Arabia has offered to buy Russian arms worth 2.4 billion dollars (1.5 billion euros) if Moscow stops supporting Iran, a Russian newspaper reported Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.

“The kingdom’s government advised Moscow to cease its cooperation with Tehran, and in exchange it held out the prospect of profitable contracts with Saudi Arabia,” the daily business newspaper Kommersant wrote.

The report came one day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the General Secretary of Saudi Arabia’s Security Council, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Citing sources in Russia’s defence industry, the newspaper said Saudi Arabia was ready to buy at least 100 BMP-3 combat vehicles, 150 T-90 tanks and 160 Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35 helicopters.

Read moreSaudis offer Moscow billions to break with Tehran

Five Years Late and a Trillion Dollars Short

On Tuesday, the SEC issued an emergency rule in an attempt to curb naked short selling in 19 major financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase and Company.

Read moreFive Years Late and a Trillion Dollars Short

Are “Dark Pools” Destined to be the Capital Markets’ Next Black Hole?

Related article:Big Traders Dive Into Dark Pools

We can almost hear that ominous “Jaws” theme music in the background and can see that huge dorsal fin as it slices threateningly through the water – knowing full well that the real terror is hidden beneath the water’s surface.

But this time around, it’s not a “Great White” that’s sparking our fears; it’s a well-capitalized and broadly based series of secret stock exchanges known as “Dark Pools of Liquidity,” “Dark Liquidity,” or just “Dark Pools.”

Most investors have never even heard the term – and are truly shocked to discover these “off-the-books” trading networks actually exist.

But to Wall Street insiders looking to anonymously move billions of dollars in stocks, bonds, and other investment instruments, dark pools are de rigueur – especially when you’re an institutional trader who doesn’t want to reveal your intentions or your actions to the “rest” of the market, until after the fact when the orders are “printed.”

And that makes these dark pools of capital highly problematic when it comes transparency: There is literally none in most pools and only limited visibility in others.

Dark Pools: From Trading Haven to Heavyweight

Dark Pools are electronic “crossing networks” that offer institutional investors many of the same benefits associated with making trades on the stock exchanges’ public limit order books – without tipping their hands to others, meaning publicly quoted prices aren’t affected. This is the capital markets’ version of a godsend – especially for traders who desire to move large blocks of shares without the public investors ever knowing.

Some examples of so-called crossing networks include Liquidnet Inc., Pipeline, the Posit unit of Investment Technology Group (ITG), or the SIGMA X unit of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS).

In an era in which “secret” transactions contributed to what’s shaping up to be the largest credit crisis in history, you’d think that any mechanism that allows insiders to trade in complete secrecy and with total anonymity would be scrutinized more closely than a Roger Clemens vitamin shot. But that’s not the case with Dark Pools.

Read moreAre “Dark Pools” Destined to be the Capital Markets’ Next Black Hole?