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>Latest News

>more than 208 countries and territories.


First Line News – Business –
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Major Indexes Fall to 1997 Levels
Wall Street has turned the clock back to 1997. Investors unable to extinguish their worries about a recession that has no end in sight dumped stocks again Monday.

Treasury, Citigroup Debate Control
The federal government is negotiating a deal with Citigroup that may expand its ownership share to the point that it effectively nationalizes the nation’s third-largest bank.

Plan to Buy Foreclosures Meets with Criticism
Last month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development signed off on hundreds of grants to all 50 states totaling almost $4 billion. The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, as it’s known, was passed last year as part of a housing rescue plan that was regarded at the time as the most significant housing legislation in a generation. But critics have assailed the program.

Nation Faces Enormous Fiscal Obstacles
“A billion here, a billion there – pretty soon it adds up to real money,” Sen. Everett Dirksen famously observed. Mr. Dirksen, the late Republican fiscal conservative, held the Illinois Senate seat Barack Obama later occupied.

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>Latest Housing News From Wall Street Journal

>Construction is proceeding on the Charlotte tower that was to have become Wachovia’s new headquarters, shown in a rendering. The bank’s sale raises many questions.

October 16, 2008 — 9:14 a.m. EDT

Fan-Fred Targeted in Mortgage Mess

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have become prime suspects in the political debate over who caused the mortgage meltdown.

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Living the High Life

Perched on high, penthouses offer breathtaking skyline views and often provide more privacy and space than units on lower levels. See three on the market today — in Boston, New York and Miami.

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Mall Shares Slide on Retail Fears

Stocks of mall owners slid by 14% as the sharp drop in retail sales stoked fears of higher vacancy rates and declining rental rates for landlords.

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Jersey City’s Boom Is Set Back

After years of speculative building, public-relations campaigns and plenty of dreams, Jersey City, N.J., is starting to resemble New York City’s sixth borough.

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No Quick Fix for Housing Prices

The rescue plan for the U.S. financial industry doesn’t directly address the root cause of the crisis: falling home prices.

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Housing Bubble Bursts in London

The financial crisis is taking a heavy toll on London’s once-thriving property market.

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With Wachovia’s Fall, BofA Stands Alone

Charlotte office-building owners may need to brace for demand to soften and office rents to decline as this banking center’s property market feels the impact of the financial crisis.

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Corus’s Condo Crater

Corus Bankshares has taken ownership of a 765-unit development in Panama City Beach, Fla., for which it lent $146 million.

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U.K. Property Firms Retrench

Commercial-property companies in the U.K. are selling assets and putting developments on hold.

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Merrill Targets Asian Real Estate

Merrill Lynch raised $2.65 billion for an Asian real-estate fund in a sign that investors see opportunities in the region’s weakened property markets.

>Dubai Has No Housing Crisis

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DUBAI — Housing crisis? Mortgage meltdown? Credit crunch?

After spending a few hours at Cityscape, this Mideast boom-town’s annual real-estate trade show, you just might forget about the financial crisis gripping much of the rest of the world.

[In Dubai, Show Goes on for Property] AFP/Getty Images

‘People will still take family holidays,’ Nick Leibman said. ‘Dubai is still good value when you’re paying in pounds, (or) you’re paying in euros.’

The four-day event attracts the region’s biggest property developers, contractors, interior designers and investors. Never mind that many of the projects introduced here with great fanfare may never get built.

Dubai property prices have rocketed in the few years since the United Arab Emirates opened its market to foreigners. However, sky-high oil prices that have long fed the region’s economic boom are falling back. Borrowing costs have soared amid a regional credit crunch. The government has been investigating a handful of the city-state’s top real-estate and lending firms. And international and domestic investors are taking money out of the region’s once-frothy stock markets.

Still, exhibitors inside the show’s sprawling exhibition halls presented an optimistic picture.

On Sunday evening before the show, Nakheel, a Dubai- government-backed property developer, invited guests including the acting couple Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas to the pink Atlantis hotel at the tip of its man-made, palm-shaped archipelago. Read More

>Political Disconnect’s Legal Opinion of President Bush’s Proposal

>The proposed litigation gives Secretary Henry Paulson almost carte blanche authority to do whatever he wants to do to buy up commercial paper of American banks that debtors could not pay for in this Housing crisis.

Without the conditions that the limit of authority is $700 billion and the money is to be used to buy sick mortgages from companies, there are no conditions.

I’m reminded of the term cart blanche. Blanc means blanche, like a white piece of paper given from one person I call the Party of the First Part (Congress and the President) to another called Party of the Second Part.

Carte blanche authority means you have just signed your life over to me to do with it what I please. The white paper has nothing on it but a signature at the bottom for the party of the second part (Hank Paulson) to do with it whatever he feels appropriate, to “superscribe what other conditions he pleases.” Hence, except for the two conditions set down by the president about the subject matter and the amount, it is almost unconditional in terms, unlimited in authority.

Of course, that’s just the beginning. Congress will make sure their oversight ability is not destroyed–so that if something goes haywire they can shout and squeal bloody murder that the Republican Administration has raped us. That, they will do, with or without further conditions. The New York Times is already blaming President Bush for the entire mess, anyway. Despite the fact that a big part of the mess is the loose and easy money policy of the preceding administration. If you want to go to the genesis of the problem, name Robert Rubin, Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury–and also Alan Greenspan–for printing up so much new money every time we had a shock wave in the markets. Blame Barney Frank and Charlie Rangle and their ilk for screaming racial discrimination so loud in the halls of congress that the Democrats got that august group to approve less rigid requirements to buy a house so that even the poorest of the poor in Harlem, Rangle’s bailiwick, could “afford” to buy a house.

Well, as the pendulum falls, we see that wasn’t a good idea at all. It’s those very people–not all of them black–that caused this mess. The mortgage loan fall was first enabled by an “easy money dollar printing scheme of Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan, then by a Congress that wanted to look good before voters and patronize them for votes. It was President Herbert Hoover in 1928 who called for “a chicken in every pot.” But Democrats had to go one better. “Let’s extend this from a chicken to something much bigger–all on the public largesse,” they said–that is, “to house ownership despite the fact they don’t qualify for loans.” But home ownership buys a lot more votes than a chicken in a pot, so they sponsored bills that loosened bank rules and they got President Bush to go along. Little did any of them realize–or maybe they did and didn’t care–that this tomfoolery would come back and bite the rest of the American taxpayers who could afford a house and who have never defaulted on their loans. Frankly, none of them were thinking about the honest, mortgage-paying taxpayer. They never do. We own America and our lawmakers, our public servants, treat us like dirt. It is time to send all lawmakers back home and start out fresh.

Here’s the deal breaker. As mentioned in Bush’s section 4 and 5 the Secretary of the Treasury will be the only one authorized to supervise this mess and to purchase the mortgage-related issues and issue obligations. Congress, keep your greedy hands off. Congress will never give up their oversight of this, and that will be a real deal breaker, or at least an obstacle that will prevent speedy passage of the bill. Without speedy work on the part of Congress, more banks will go under, and more financial damage will be done in America, making it all-the-more expensive for us the taxpayers.

The only limitations on “financial institutions” who are eligible to play this payoff game is that banks must be domiciled in America. The law would designate these institutions as “agents of the Government.”

CALLING ALL DEMOCRATS: For once in your lives can you put details and petty turf squabbling and quarreling aside and pass something to benefit all Americans. And pass it right now?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Bush is proposing. The White House wants to solve a problem potentially as big as the 1929 stock market crash and the depression. Speed is of essence. He and his people, together with the Fed, worked very expeditiously. Now it’s the turn of Congress! The American people demand and expect no less.