As faith in bank bailouts dims, losses set to deepen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The nightmare scenario for U.S. economic authorities is here: confidence in their ability to rescue the country from a housing-led financial panic is now at its lowest level since the crisis began.

This means losses for investors, already totaling nearly half a trillion dollars, could mount even further over the next few months, with implications for business investment and the overall health of the economy.

“You see a massive potential for financial meltdown on a global scale,” said T.J. Marta, fixed-income strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, testified before Congress this week on the country’s precarious financial state. They were met with unusually fierce questions from lawmakers on the feasibility of a plan to provide extra funding for mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (FNM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Freddie Mac (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Read moreAs faith in bank bailouts dims, losses set to deepen

Jim Rogers: Fannie Plan a `Disaster’; Goldman Says Sell

The U.S. economy is in a recession, possibly the worst since World War II, Rogers said.

“They’re ruining what has been one of the greatest economies in the world,” Rogers said. Bernanke and Paulson “are bailing out their friends on Wall Street but there are 300 million Americans that are going to have to pay for this.”

July 14 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department’s plan to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is an “unmitigated disaster” and the largest U.S. mortgage lenders are “basically insolvent,” according to investor Jim Rogers.

Taxpayers will be saddled with debt if Congress approves U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s request for the authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rogers said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Rogers is betting that Fannie Mae shares will keep tumbling.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst Daniel Zimmerman said the mortgage finance companies’ shares may fall another 35 percent and lowered his share-price estimate for Fannie Mae to $7 from $18 and for Freddie Mac to $5 from $17. Freddie Mac fell 64 cents, or 8.3 percent, to $7.11 in New York Stock Exchange trading, while Fannie Mae fell 52 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $9.73.

“I don’t know where these guys get the audacity to take our money, taxpayer money, and buy stock in Fannie Mae,” Rogers, 65, said in an interview from Singapore. “So we’re going to bail out everybody else in the world. And it ruins the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and it makes the dollar more vulnerable and it increases inflation.”

The chairman of Rogers Holdings, who in April 2006 correctly predicted oil would reach $100 a barrel and gold $1,000 an ounce, also said the commodities bull market has a “long way to go” and advised buying agricultural commodities.

`Solvency Crisis’

Read moreJim Rogers: Fannie Plan a `Disaster’; Goldman Says Sell

Banks’ credit crisis solutions have echoes of 1929 Depression

As banks look to shore up their balance sheets in the wake of the credit squeeze, Philip Aldrick asks whether it is all short-term trickery


Investors gather in New York’s financial district after the stock market crash of 1929, which heralded the onset of the Great Depression

‘We are in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s,” warns the eminent financier George Soros in his latest book, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets. It’s a rather extreme view, but the man who broke the Bank of England is not alone in his dark funk. At a recent event, one banker laced Soros’s sentiment with a little gallows humour, ruefully predicting “10 years of depression followed by a world war”.

Comparisons with the great crash of 1929 are inevitable and the parallels manifold. Then it was an over-inflated stock market that burst before wider economic malaise ushered in the Great Depression.

This time, in the words of Intermediate Capital managing director Tom Attwood, sub-prime was merely “a catalyst” for the inevitable pricking of the credit market bubble as “disciplines were bypassed in favour of loan book growth at almost any cost”. Again the talk is of recession, certainly in the US and possibly in the UK.

Perhaps the most intriguing parallel, though, is the crude attempt at self-preservation made by the investment trusts in 1929 and the banks now.

In the great crash, investment trusts with vast cross-holdings in each other tried to stem their collapse by buying up their own stock in what the economist JK Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, described as an act of “fiscal self-immolation”. At the time, “support of the stock of one’s own company seemed a bold, imaginative and effective course,” Galbraith wrote, but ultimately the trusts were just “swindling themselves”.

Modern economists have compared the trusts’ actions with what the banks are now doing. “They seem to be just papering over the cracks,” says Brendan Brown, chief economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

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George Soros: rocketing oil price is a bubble

Speculators are largely responsible for driving crude prices to their peaks in recent weeks and the record oil price now looks like a bubble, George Soros has warned.

The billionaire investor’s comments came only days after the oil price soared to a record high of $135 a barrel amid speculation that crude could soon be catapulted towards the $200 mark.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Soros said that although the weak dollar, ebbing Middle Eastern supply and record Chinese demand could explain some of the increase in energy prices, the crude oil market had been significantly affected by speculation.

Telegraph TV: George Soros on oil prices
Telegraph TV: George Soros on oil prices

“Speculation… is increasingly affecting the price,” he said. “The price has this parabolic shape which is characteristic of bubbles,” he said.

  • ‘We face the most serious recession of our lifetime’
  • The comments are significant, not only because Mr Soros is the world’s most prominent hedge fund investor but also because many experts have claimed speculation is only a minor factor affecting crude prices.

    Oil prices stalled on Friday after their biggest one-day jump since the first Gulf War earlier in the week.

    At just over $130 a barrel, the price has doubled in around a year, causing misery for motorists and businesses.

    However, Mr Soros warned that the oil bubble would not burst until both the US and Britain were in recession, after which prices could fall dramatically.

    Read moreGeorge Soros: rocketing oil price is a bubble

    Wall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin

    April 28 (Bloomberg) — As farmers confront mounting costs and riots erupt from Haiti to Egypt over food, Garry Niemeyer is paying the price for Wall Street’s speculation in grain markets.

    Commodity-index funds control a record 4.51 billion bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans through Chicago Board of Trade futures, equal to half the amount held in U.S. silos on March 1. The holdings jumped 29 percent in the past year as investors bought grain contracts seeking better returns than stocks or bonds. The buying sent crop prices and volatility to records and boosted the cost for growers and processors to manage risk.

    Niemeyer, who farms 2,200 acres in Auburn, Illinois, won’t use futures to protect the value of the crop he will harvest in October. With corn at $5.9075 a bushel, up from $3.88 last year, he says the contracts are too costly and risky. Investors want corn so much that last month they paid 55 cents a bushel more than grain handlers, the biggest premium since 1999.

    Read moreWall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin

    The Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience

    Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s ‘Mr Euro’, has given the clearest warning to date that the world authorities may take action to halt the collapse of the dollar and undercut commodity speculation by hedge funds.


    Jean-Claude Juncker, who is calling for Washington to
    take steps to halt the slide of the dollar

    Momentum traders have blithely ignored last week’s accord by the G7 powers, which described “sharp fluctuations in major currencies” as a threat to economic and financial stability. The euro has surged to fresh records this week, touching $1.5982 against the dollar and £0.8098 against sterling yesterday.

    “I don’t have the impression that financial markets and other actors have correctly and entirely understood the message of the G7 meeting,” he said.

    Mr Juncker, who doubles as Luxembourg premier and chair of eurozone financiers, told the Luxembourg press that he had been invited to the White House last week just before the G7 at the urgent request of President George Bush. The two leaders discussed the dangers of rising “protectionism” in Europe. Mr Juncker warned that matters could get out of hand unless America took steps to halt the slide in the dollar.

    Read moreThe Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience

    Jim Rogers: China’s Economic Advance is All But Unstoppable

    “The only thing that worries me permanently about the China story is water.

    I’ve been around the world twice. I’ve seen many cities, societies, [and] nations that disappeared because the water disappeared. China has a huge water problem. In Northern China, they’re running out of water. They know this and they’re working on it, big time. But if they don’t solve it, or if they don’t solve it in time, then China – as you put it – has failed.

    By the way, Northern India has the same problem, only worse. Many places have it now. Water is becoming a huge problem worldwide. The same is true in the Southwestern United States. You know, you may have Arizona going to war with California. Some sections of Nevada, Colorado …they’re desperate there.

    So it’s not just China – but water’s the main thing that worries me about China.”

    (As I said: In ten years the glaciers in the Himalaya region will be gone and 50% of the worlds population will have not enough or no water at all. The governments know this and they won’t sit & wait and do nothing about it. There will be World Water Wars.
    And if China where to lose a million soldiers in a war so what. To them their soldiers have the same worth than to the US their soldiers in Iraq: They are considered as canon fodder.
    If you think that this is wrong than I recommend the movie “NO End In Sight” (2007) as a first eye-opener.
    Please read the whole article. – The Infinite Unknown)

    Read moreJim Rogers: China’s Economic Advance is All But Unstoppable

    The Face of a Prophet

    George Soros will not go quietly.

    At the age of 77, Mr. Soros, one the world’s most successful investors and richest men, leapt out of retirement last summer to safeguard his fortune and legacy. Alarmed by the unfolding crisis in the financial markets, he once again began trading for his giant hedge fund — and won big while so many others lost.

    Mr. Soros has always been a controversial figure. But he is becoming more so with a new, dire forecast for the world economy. Last week he rushed out a book, his 10th, warning that the financial pain has only just begun.

    “I consider this the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime,” Mr. Soros said during an interview Monday in his office overlooking Central Park. A “superbubble” that has been swelling for a quarter of a century is finally bursting, he said.

    Read moreThe Face of a Prophet