A TOUGH WEEK FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA
President Obama was met by strong language from China’s chief banking regulator hours before he arrived in China. Chief regulator Liu Mingkang said a weak dollar, low interest rates, and other actions have “led to massive speculation". He was saying, in effect, that the U.S. carry trade (a process in which the U.S. Dollar is borrowed and then sold to purchase assets such as commodities, stocks, and real estate) is creating asset bubbles around the world.
He pointed out that many countries are experiencing a rise in real estate prices due partly to the low interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere which encourages speculation.
It is true that speculative economic activity has continued in some countries unabated while the U.S., Europe, and Japan have experienced big recessions. In the faster growing countries, there is no denying that prices are rising for investment assets.
MANY ARE ASKING “WHEN WILL THE CHINESE RENMINBI SEE A RAPID RISE IN PRICE?”
China, which up until last summer had let its currency rise versus the U.S. Dollar by a few percent per year, will have to allow their currency rise more rapidly to keep inflation at bay. Over the years, we have observed that the Chinese are gradualists and will only let their currency rise when inflation starts to bite. We see them letting the Renminbi’s value rise more rapidly when Chinese inflation reaches 5%. This will probably occur in late 2010.
U.S. ECONOMY-A BAD CALL
We have been too pessimistic on the outlook for the U.S. economy.
Although we anticipated and correctly called the direction of the U.S. economy, we were too pessimistic about the duration and depth of the correction. We now believe that the U.S. economic correction has probably seen its lows. Over the next year, we expect to see slow growth from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The economic growth will be slow compared to what we expect from China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
REWARDING THOSE THAT CONTRIBUTED TO THE CRISIS!
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Home Builders (You Heard That Right) Get a Gift
November 14, 2009
By Gretchen Morgenson
ON Nov. 6, President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 into law, extending unemployment benefits by 20 weeks and renewing the first-time homebuyer tax credit until next April.
But tucked inside the law was another prize: a tax break that lets big companies offset losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against profits booked as far back as 2004. The tax cuts will generate corporate refunds or relief worth about $33 billion, according to an administration estimate.
Before the bill became law, the so-called look-back on losses was limited to small businesses and could be used to counterbalance just two years of profits. Now the profit offset goes back five years, and the law allows big companies to take advantage of it, too. The only companies that can’t participate are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and any institution that took money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Among the biggest beneficiaries are home builders, analysts say. Once again, at the front of the government assistance line, stand some of the very companies that contributed mightily to the credit crisis by building and financing too many homes.
This is getting to be a habit: companies that participated on the upside and are now reaping rewards from the taxpayers on the downside. The banks that underwrote so many dubious loans, for example, received government aid to get them lending again. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the result.
One can make an argument that throwing money at the banking system is necessary if we are to jump-start the economy. And banks need a bigger capital cushion to protect against future losses.
But dropping helicopter money on the home builders — the folks who massively overbuilt in community after community — seems decidedly less urgent (unless you are one of these companies, of course). Given that the supply of housing far outstrips demand, it is unlikely that these companies will use these tax breaks to hire workers (unless they go into a completely new line of business).
“I AM surprised that home builders are getting hundreds of millions of dollars given that many have very strong balance sheets,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive at Zelman & Associates, a research firm. “We question the public policy decision to gift home builders with capital that many will not use to create jobs, since they admit that job growth will be dependent not on capital, but on improving demand.”
When Mr. Obama signed the law, his administration said the tax break would help “struggling businesses.” But as Ms. Zelman pointed out, many large home builders are sitting atop mountains of cash. Pulte Homes, which will receive refunds exceeding $450 million under the new law, has $1.5 billion in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet, according to its most recent financial statement.
Hovnanian Enterprises is another big beneficiary of the tax break. It anticipates a refund of $250 million to $275 million next year. It had $550 million in cash in its most recent quarter.
Smaller recipients include Standard Pacific, which is poised to reap cash refunds of $80 million under the new tax break. According to its most recent financial filing, Standard Pacific held $523 million in cash and cash equivalents.
Finally, Beazer Homes told investors that it expects to receive a refund of $50 million. The company reported cash and equivalents of $557 million at the end of September.
Some of the home builders poised to receive tax refunds have even more cash today than they did last year. D.R. Horton, for example, has $1.966 billion in cash, up 45 percent from September 2008 levels. And some are healthy enough to have retired significant amounts of debt from their balance sheets this year. Pulte has bought back $1.93 billion in debt in 2009.
So what do these companies plan to do with their refunds?
Ken Campbell, the chief executive of Standard Pacific, said the money would allow his company to continue buying land. “Will we build more houses or will there be more people employed in the first quarter? Probably not,” he said. “Will employment accelerate when the market starts to grow? It will.”
Caryn Klebba, a spokeswoman for Pulte Homes, said in a statement that the company planned to use the funds it receives “to support its current operations and, when market conditions improve, fund future growth and expansion.”
In other words, job creation does not seem imminent, notwithstanding the claims of the administration or those in Congress who supported the giveaway.
Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, has conducted a lonely fight against the tax break all year.
“Some have said this is like a bridge loan to these companies,” Mr. Doggett said in an interview. “Well if it’s a loan, it is like a no-doc loan, because the recipients provide no indication that they will create jobs or do anything other than keep the money. I just feel it is a total windfall.”
Unfortunately, this seems to be another example of an age-old phenomenon: Good Things Come to Those With Lobbying Power.
Securing this tax break was a top priority for home builders, lobbying records show. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that through Oct. 26 of this year, home builders paid $6 million to their lobbyists. Last year, the industry spent $8.2 million lobbying.
Much of this year’s lobbying expenditures were focused on arguing for the tax loss carry-forward, documents show.
Among individual companies, Lennar spent $240,000 lobbying while companies affiliated with Hovnanian Enterprises spent $222,000. Pulte Homes spent $210,000 this year.
That’s some return on investment. After spending its $210,000, Pulte will receive $450 million in refunds. And Hovnanian, after spending its $222,000, will get as much as $275 million.
Meanwhile, the bag that we taxpayers are left holding gets bigger and bigger.
THE problem here is that this public policy decision was made with little to no input from the public. Sure, tax rebates like these give a lifeline to companies that were about to sink beneath the waves, but would it be so terrible if some builders that lost their heads during the housing mania ceased to exist? It is not as if a housing shortage will result or that more jobs will be lost if these companies don’t receive these tax breaks.
Pretending to promote job creation, the government is dispensing cash to companies that either do not need it or need it precisely because they didn’t run their businesses prudently. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?
IRAN HAS PROBLEMS, BUT THE AYATOLLAHS WILL NOT GIVE UP. THEY MUST STAND AND FIGHT, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO PLACE TO GO.
After all, who will take them? Will Saudi Arabia to the South? Will Russia and Turkey to the North? Will Iraq to the West? Will Pakistan to the East?
The truth is very few places on earth would welcome them. A new generation of Ayatollahs is rising. They have yet to gain enough influence, power, and money to be satisfied, so they will continue to do what they must to stay in charge as long as they can. The following article points out what they are doing to stay in power.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Revolutionary Guard Tightens Security Grip
Intelligence Agency Replaced by New Organization Reporting to Khamenei; Fallout From Massive Street Protests Over Election
By: Marc Champion
BRUSSELS — Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard has sidelined the country’s intelligence ministry, forming a new organization that reports directly to the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Interviews with Iranian analysts and opposition figures, along with recent government announcements, depict a shift under way since Iran’s clerical regime was shaken by the massive street protests that followed disputed presidential elections in June.
The loyalty of the intelligence and security services became a major concern for hard-liners running the regime, analysts say. The changes could have the effect of formalizing the tough and sometimes brutal approach taken with dissidents and protesters in the months since the election.
Some of the intelligence takeover has been publicized. Ayatollah Khamenei announced recently that the Revolutionary Guard’s small existing intelligence unit would be elevated to become a much larger official organization. State media named Hassan Taeb, previously commander of the Basij volunteer paramilitary organization, as the head of the new intelligence operation.
To read full article please visit http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125797782460044139.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
As expected, oil, gold and foreign stocks continue to move up, but we are not ready to sell. We continue to hold and look for higher prices in coming weeks and months. Our favorite investments remain oil and oil shares, gold and gold shares, stocks in faster growing countries, export stocks in developed countries, and currencies that can appreciate versus the U.S. dollar.
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