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

Chinese Government is Top Foreign Holder of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Bonds

$376 Billion in Chinese Agency Bond Holdings Subject to Taxpayer Bailout Proposals According to FreedomWorks Analysts

WASHINGTON, Jul 11, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — As politicians call for taxpayer bailouts and a government takeover of troubled mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, FreedomWorks would like to point out that a bailout is a transfer of possibly hundreds of billions of U.S. tax dollars to sophisticated investors and governments overseas.

The top five foreign holders of Freddie and Fannie long-term debt are China, Japan, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In total foreign investors hold over $1.3 trillion in these agency bonds, according to the U.S. Treasury’s most recent “Report on Foreign Portfolio Holdings of U.S. Securities.”

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe commented, “The prospectus for every GSE bond clearly states that it is not backed by the United States government. That’s why investors holding agency bonds already receive a significant risk premium over Treasuries.”

“A bailout at this stage would be the worst possible outcome for American taxpayers and mortgage holders, who have been paying a risk premium to these foreign investors. It would change the rules of the game retroactively and would directly subsidize the risks taken by sophisticated foreign investors.”

“A bailout of GSE bondholders would be perhaps the greatest taxpayer rip-off in American history. It is bad economics and you can be sure it is terrible politics.”

SOURCE: FreedomWorks
Last update: 11:08 a.m. EDT July 11, 2008

Source: Market Watch

City Pension Funds Lose Billions

Taxpayers Could Be On the Hook

New York City officials are bracing for increased pressure on the budget as the city’s pension funds are reeling from the credit crisis and posting billions of dollars in losses. In the nine months leading up to March 31, the city’s five pension funds lost a total of nearly $5 billion, or 4.4%, according to data from the city comptroller’s office. This is a far cry from projections published as recently as last month, when budget planners assumed the pension system would post no losses.

If those losses are not recovered by the end of the fiscal year, which ends Monday, the city will have to pay out several billion dollars through 2015, with the first payment of $190 million set for 2010.

The government will have to make up the shortfall from the poor performance of the pension funds at a time when it is already suffering from tax revenue losses due to a souring economy.

“In itself, it’s manageable,” the research director for the Citizens Budget Commission, Charles Brecher, said of the pension fund losses. “The fact that it’s going to be combined with revenue shortfalls means that we’ve got serious problems.”

The Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York, which has lost 5.06% of its value in the nine months ending March 31, has been the worst performer so far this year. The New York City Employees’ Retirement System, which lost 3.98% in the same period, performed the best. Other pension funds include the New York City Police Pension Fund, the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the Board of Education Retirement System of the City of New York. Numbers for the state pension system are not yet available, a spokesman for the state comptroller said.

Read moreCity Pension Funds Lose Billions

Growing Deficits Threaten Pensions

Accounting Tactics Conceal a Crisis For Public Workers

The funds that pay pension and health benefits to police officers, teachers and millions of other public employees across the country are facing a shortfall that could soon run into trillions of dollars.

But the accounting techniques used by state and local governments to balance their pension books disguise the extent of the crisis facing these retirees and the taxpayers who may ultimately be called on to pay the freight, according to a growing number of leading financial analysts.

State governments alone have reported they are already confronting a deficit of at least $750 billion to cover the cost of the retirement benefits they have promised. But that figure likely underestimates the actual shortfall because of the range of methods they use to make their calculations, including practices that have been barred in the private sector for decades.

Read moreGrowing Deficits Threaten Pensions

Investigators: Millions in Iraq contracts never finished

WASHINGTON – Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

The audit released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, provides the latest snapshot of an uneven reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion. It also comes as several lawmakers have said they want the Iraqis to pick up more of the cost of reconstruction.

The special IG’s review of 47,321 reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars found that at least 855 contracts were terminated by U.S. officials before their completion, primarily because of unforeseen factors such as violence and excessive costs. About 112 of those agreements were ended specifically because of the contractors’ actual or anticipated poor performance.

In addition, the audit said many reconstruction projects were being described as complete or otherwise successful when they were not. In one case, the U.S. Agency for International Development contracted with Bechtel Corp. in 2004 to construct a $50 million children’s hospital in Basra, only to “essentially terminate” the project in 2006 because of monthslong delays.

Read moreInvestigators: Millions in Iraq contracts never finished

Bailing Out Banks – Congressman Ron Paul

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the Federal Reserve and the actions it has taken over the past few months. Many media pundits have been bending over backwards to praise the Fed for supposedly restoring stability to the market. This interpretation of the Fed’s actions couldn’t be further from the truth.

The current market crisis began because of Federal Reserve monetary policy during the early 2000s in which the Fed lowered the interest rate to a below-market rate. The artificially low rates led to overinvestment in housing and other malinvestments. When the first indications of market trouble began back in August of 2007, instead of holding back and allowing bad decision-makers to suffer the consequences of their actions, the Federal Reserve took aggressive, inflationary action to ensure that large Wall Street firms would not lose money. It began by lowering the discount rates, the rates of interest charged to banks who borrow directly from the Fed, and lengthening the terms of such loans. This eliminated much of the stigma from discount window borrowing and enabled troubled banks to come to the Fed directly for funding, pay only a slightly higher interest rate but also secure these loans for a period longer than just overnight.

Read moreBailing Out Banks – Congressman Ron Paul

IMF tells states to plan for the worst

Governments might have to intervene with taxpayers’ money to shore up the financial system and prevent a “downward credit spiral” from taking hold, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday.

John Lipsky, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, said: “We must keep all options on the table, including the potential use of public funds to safeguard the financial system.”

By Krishna Guha in Washington

Published: March 13 2008 02:00 | Last updated: March 13 2008 02:00

Source Financial Times