81% of Americans think country on ‘wrong track’

WASHINGTON – FOUR out of five Americans believe things are ‘on the wrong track’ in the United States, the gloomiest outlook in about 20 years, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll, released on Thursday, found that 81 per cent of respondents felt ‘things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track’. That was up from 69 per cent last year and 35 per cent in early 2003.

Only 4 per cent of survey respondents said the country was better off than it was five years ago, while 78 per cent said it was worse, the newspaper said.

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Bernanke Warns of Possible Recession

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday a recession is possible and policymakers are “fighting against the wind” in trying to steady a shaky economy. He would not say if further interest rate cuts are planned.

Bernanke’s testimony before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress was a more pessimistic assessment of the economy’s immediate prospects than a report he delivered earlier this year. His appearance on Capitol Hill came amid a trio of economic slumps in the housing, credit and financial areas.

“It now appears likely that gross domestic product (GDP) will not grow much, if at all, over the first half of 2008 and could even contract slightly,” Bernanke told lawmakers. GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States and is the best barometer of the United States’ economic health. Under one rule, six straight months of declining GDP, would constitute a recession.


Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington,
Wednesday, April 2, 2008, before the Joint Economic Committee.
(AP Photos/Susan Walsh)

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A $43 Trillion Dollar Market That Most People Have Never Heard Of

According to Bill Gross, a fixed income market guru, the size of the credit default swap market is “$43 trillion, more that half the size of the entire asset base of the global banking system.” If that is not scary enough he goes on to tell is that “total derivatives amount to over $500 trillion, many of them finding their way”………………….well, everywhere.

You are going to be hearing a lot more about these markets in coming weeks and months, which begs the question, why don’t most people even know what they are? And more importantly, why should we care?

Read moreA $43 Trillion Dollar Market That Most People Have Never Heard Of

Warming withers Aussie wine industry

High cost of water adds to pressure to sell, change grapes or even move

MELBOURNE – Australian grape growers reckon they are the canary in the coal mine of global warming, as a long drought forces winemakers to rethink the styles of wine they can produce and the regions they can grow in.

The three largest grape-growing regions in Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth, all depend on irrigation to survive. The high cost of water has made life tough for growers.

Some say they probably won’t survive this year’s harvest, because of the cost of keeping vines alive. Water prices have more than tripled.

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Brace for $1 Trillion Writedown of `Yertle the Turtle’ Debt

Be it ever so devalued, $1 trillion is a lot of dough.

That’s roughly on a par with the Russian economy. More than double the market value of Exxon Mobil Corp. About nine times the combined wealth of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

Yet $1 trillion is the amount of defaults and writedowns Americans will likely witness before they emerge at the far side of the bursting credit bubble, estimates Charles R. Morris in his shrewd primer, “The Trillion Dollar Meltdown.” That calculation assumes an orderly unwinding, which he doesn’t expect.

“The sad truth,” he writes, “is that subprime is just the first big boulder in an avalanche of asset writedowns that will rattle on through much of 2008.”

Expect the landslide to cascade through high-yield bonds, commercial mortgages, leveraged loans, credit cards and — the big unknown — credit-default swaps, Morris says. The notional value for those swaps, which are meant to insure bondholders against default, covered about $45 trillion in portfolios as of mid-2007, up from some $1 trillion in 2001, he writes.

Morris can’t be dismissed as a crank. A lawyer, former banker and author of 10 other books, he knows a thing or two about the complex instruments that have spread toxic debt throughout the credit system. He once ran a company that made software for creating and analyzing securitized asset pools. Yet he writes with tight clarity and blistering pace.

Read moreBrace for $1 Trillion Writedown of `Yertle the Turtle’ Debt

IMF: U.S. Economy Will Go Into Recession In 2008

The International Monetary Fund will next week forecast that the US economy will go into recession this year, a German newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an upcoming report.

The IMF believes the US will experience at least two successive quarters of negative growth — the technical definition of a recession — and will grow only half a percent over the whole of 2008, weekly Die Zeit reported.

Read moreIMF: U.S. Economy Will Go Into Recession In 2008

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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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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Investment banks are borrowing from Fed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investment banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc , Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc and Morgan Stanley are testing a new program that allows investment banks to borrow directly from the Federal Reserve, according to people at the banks.In a bid to stabilize jittery markets, the Fed said on Sunday that it would allow investment banks to borrow from its discount window using a wide range of investment-grade securities as collateral.

(Hey, hey lets spend all our money and then just ask Uncle Bernanke for a few more billions.
Come on guys lets do that. Uncle Bernanke can print a few billions for us if we are broke.
Good to have him around. Life is so good. – The Infinite Unknown
)

Read moreInvestment banks are borrowing from Fed