Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Consequences

When the Average Joe thinks about what's gone wrong with the war in Iraq, he thinks mainly about two things: the number of troops killed, and the cost (though of course the latter is nebulous to most). But it's important to understand that this war affects every American in a variety of indirect ways. Here's a window on that from USA Today:
For 45 years, Robert and Lorraine Brown have lived in their ranch-style home in Florissant, Mo. One of their four children was even born there. But for the past eight months, the couple have been locked in a sleep-wrecking race to keep up with their rising mortgage bills. They've switched to cheaper phone service, cut back on groceries and sometimes put off ordering medicine.

When they refinanced their home two years ago to pay off some bills, Robert, now 78, was working as a deliveryman. But his employer went out of business last April. Now he and Lorraine, 72, a retired nurse, are both seeking work. The rate on their mortgage has jumped from 7% to 10.5%.

"We were having a hard time meeting bills at the time we refinanced. It seems once you get behind, you do desperate things to catch up, and you never do," says Lorraine, trying to hold back tears. "At the time of the loan, they tell you, 'Well, it may go up, but it's probably going to go down.' You want it to be so, so you believe it."

They feel alone, but they're not. America's five-year real estate boom was fueled partly by a tempting array of cut-rate mortgages that helped millions of Americans qualify for home or refinance loans. To afford soaring home prices, many turned to adjustable-rate and other, riskier loans with low initial payments. The homeownership rate hit a record 70%.

Now, the real estate market is cooling, interest rates are rising and tens of thousands more Americans are starting to have trouble paying their mortgages. Nearly 25% of mortgages -- 10 million -- carry adjustable interest rates. And most of them went to people with subpar credit ratings who accepted higher interest rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Last week, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the 15th time since June 2004 and signaled that at least one more increase is likely. That trend is ominous for borrowers who were seduced by adjustable-rate loans that offered interest-only payment options or teaser rates below 2% or that let the borrower pay less than the interest owed. They will face bigger payment shock once their loans reset to higher rates.
I've written in the past that I believe the Federal Reserve cannot stop raising rates as long as oil is over $60 and gold is staring at $600; if the Fed made it clear tomorrow that the "8th inning crowd" was finally about to be right after a year of being wrong, oil would shoot for $80 and higher and gold would rocket as well. Instead, the Fed will continue to understate inflation, continue to raise rates at a snail's pace to mollify foreign central banks, and---most importantly---continue to flood the financial system with liquidity to support the stock market.

But there's a problem with that, as Contrary Investor notes:
In our minds, if the Fed simply stops raising rates somewhere over the next three to four months, yet continues the excess liquidity pump, we believe very little to nothing is gained in terms of trying to stall accelerating energy and commodity prices ahead. And IF indeed this acceleration is not halted to some extent and these forces do show up in headline and core CPI as part of natural economic follow through in the quarters ahead, the Fed is going to have one big problem on its hands. They just might have to restart the rate increase cycle later in the year (assuming they pause in the interim) if CPI rates move north at the exact time that the markets have been acting to discount the demise of the rate increase cycle. If you ask us, we believe the Fed faces some very tough choices over the near term.
This is part of the "event horizon" I've posted about before. Due in large measure to the costs of Iraq, the Federal Reserve must continue to raise rates to keep foreigners---increasingly unwilling to underwrite our deficit spending and preemptive wars---from jumping ship. But as rates go higher, the crucial real estate market will continue to weaken and millions of voters like the elderly couple above will feel the pinch. That's not a good thing in a midterm election year when control of Congress is at stake and words like impeachment are getting thrown around. To ameliorate the pain of higher rates, the Fed continues to support the stock market with liquidity. But that same liquidity, of course, is why oil continues its inexorable march higher, gold sits at fresh quarter-century highs, and things we all need like food and clothing keep getting more expensive.

It's all about consequences, and the desire of the Fed and White House to avoid them. Remember, desperate statists do desperate things. Keeping in mind that geopolitical tension over Iran's nuclear program gives the Fed and White House much-needed cover for the way our fiscal and monetary policies are driving the price of oil higher---and Iran's oil represents our ability to print our way through painful consequences---what do you think happens next?

76 Comments:

Blogger eightnine2718281828mu5 said...

Which is why my long-term investments are still in natural resources, and my guess is thats where it will likely stay until 2008.

At least we won't have M3 to kick around anymore; it only served to keep inflationary expectations alive, and really, who would want that?

4/04/2006 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, prices are rising.

Stories like this one as well as all the signs at gas stations tend to form consumers' opinion about the economy far more than what the treasury secratary is saying. Or what a new one might say because people get their gas/electric bill each month and they see what's really going on.

Instead of showing concern, policy makers seem to grow more determined to keep pushing and I don't think they see the approaching cliff.

4/05/2006 1:08 AM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Wait, wait. You mean the same team that handled Katrina so well is now going to screw up the economy?

4/05/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

I don't know, C.R. what happens next? I'm not following you here. Are you saying that Americans will get cheaper oil if we conquer Iran? Wouldn't it be just the contrary?

You keep saying our fiscal policy drives the price of oil but I'm not sure you're right. In the summer of 2002, the stock price of oil companies was comparatively low and if you kne that the US was definitely going to war, oil stocks were a real bargain.

My understanding was that the Saudis agreed to keep oil prices low immediately after 9/11. The price of oil only really began climbing about six weeks before the Iraq war. The Kuwaiti and Saudi stock markets were booming when the war started - no concerns there.

I've read that worldwide demand for oil has dropped but prices haven't. I think the war is being used to cover up some kind of global agreement among the big energy companies to jack up prices. A worldwide monopoly, so to speak.

I'm suspicious about the oil business in Iraq. Before the war, we let Saddam smuggle oil to Syria. Why? How do we know that no one is smuggling oil to Syria now? Who audits the Kurdish oil business?

There's certainly no shortage of natural gas in this country yet the price stays high. Why?

I once searched the WSJ archives for "Enron". Enron seemed to have business interests everywhere in the world but Russia. Enron announced one pending deal with the Russians sometime in the early '90s but apparently it never got off the ground.

At one time, Goldman Sachs owned 20% of Enron. Jon Corzine would know more about Goldman Sachs and Enron since he was chairman of Goldman Sachs for ten years during the '90s.

Around 1994, Kenneth Lay spent a lot of time in Davros, Switzerland. Doing what?

Coincidentally or not, Itera, a Russian gas company, registered with the Florida secretary of state in 1992 or 1993 as doing business in Jacksonville.

From what I have read about Itera, many people suspect that assets of Gazprom, the huge gas company owned by the Russian people, were stolen by crooked Gazprom executives and passed on to Itera.

After the fact, Price Waterhouse did a really shabby audit for the Russian government (which should have gotten Price sued up the ying yang). One major problem was that Price was auditing its own work and Price, of course, found no malfeasance at Gazprom. See Alexander's Gas and Oil archives(gasandoil.com) for background.

When I first came across Itera's website in 2002, I thought the company had to be crooked because the website was so cheesy and Itera was supposed have $3 billion in revenue. Now the website is much improved.

But no way does that little weasel, what's-his-name Makarov, own Itera all by himself. He was a front for other people who prefer to stay hidden. Me, I think Itera opened shop in the US so politically-sensitive US investors could reap the benefit of a completely unregulated foreign energy company operating in the wild west of central Europe without having to disclose an investment in a Russian company.

At one point, Itera considered going public in the US but its books were too cooked. If you look at the Itera website, you will notice that it bought a Texas energy company and began operations in southeast Illinois. I'd like to know who owned that Texas energy company and is the Illinois operation in Hastert's district.

Jon Corzine refused to disclose his financial holdings when he first ran for the senate. I thought the voters of New Jersey were wrong not to insist that Corzine provide that information. Just because someone is rich does not mean he has integrity.

Corzine is a sleazy character who thinks he can pay his way out of any problem. His wife tried to tell everyone about what a creep he really is but no one listened. The guy not only bought off a union official for $400k, he slept with her to boot. How much time did he spend whoring arond with Ken Lay?

If I had the chance, I'd flat out ask Corzine if he has a financial interest in Itera or any other Russian companies. I don't know if Corzine knows it or not but the Russian government has been investigating him extensivley and I bet the Russians have a good handle on where his money is now.

If Jon Corzine was involved in stealing Gazprom's assets, he's got a really big problem that he doesn't know he has yet. The Russians don't think they could ever get a fair shake in US courts but they are not going to let this one go. Me, I couldn't care less about Jon Corzine after he and everyone else at Goldman Sachs screwed the average American investor in the big NASDAQ swindle.

If Corzine stole Russian assets, I hope the Russians send the Russian mafia after him to break every bone in his body, cut off his balls and stuff them in his mouth. That would send a message to Wall Street that all of the crooked investment bankers could understand. If Wall Street wants to make its own rules, so can the rest of the us. Go Moscow!

BTW, the Makarovs, like the Kontogiannis family and the Cohens (linked to Alpha Hospitality - another Gargano special) have all been buying property around Ocala. I haven't check up on Itera lately but I think it's about time.

C.R., Didn't mean to ramble on but I don't think you can get a good grasp of today's energy market without a good grasp of the past. The Enron story was way underreported, imo.

For one, I think Enron overpaid Media General for Garden Paper Mill in July 2000 so as to disguise a huge campaign contribution. There's just no frigging way that white elephant was worth $76 million. It came saddled with a pension liability and environmental problems. General Media couldn't have given Garden State Paper Mill away.

Do you know if Media General has to provide advertising and billing records for all of the campaign-related business it does for each party on request? I'm not up on election law.

4/05/2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger 277fia said...

BTW, One of Enron's subsidiaries in its 2000 10-k is Bodyflash.com, Inc. a Delaware corp. listed under Enron Investment Partners.

Enron was sinking but the f**king morons had time to set up a website to sell jewelry and give tips on erotic diversions. Go to the wayback machine and type in "Bodyflash.com" and you'll see what I mean.

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The settlement company then negotiates with your creditors for a reduced and affordable amount. An efficient settlement company can reduce the payable amount to 40% - 60% of your original amount.
It is true that creditors and collection agencies often deny negotiating with consumers. They prefer to create pressure on the consumer to collect more money. If they deny coming to any agreement, contact a reputed settlement company to make it happen. There are a couple of debt settlement firms in USA that can make you debt free by working on your behalf. The settlement companies or firms have the experience and know very well how to deal with creditors and collection agencies.
http://www.Xyourdebt.com

10/02/2008 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

asbestosis​attorneys.​com
The death of English textile worker Nellie Kershaw in 1924 from pulmonary asbestosis was the first case to be described in medical literature, and the first published account of disease attributed to occupational asbestos exposure. However, her former employers (Turner Brothers Asbestos) denied that asbestosis even existed because the medical condition was not officially recognised at the time. As a result, they accepted no liability for her injuries and paid no compensation, either to Kershaw during her final illness or to her bereaved family after she had died. Even so, the findings of the inquest into her death were highly influential insofar as they led to a parliamentary enquiry by the British Government. The enquiry formally acknowledged the existence of asbestosis, recognised that it was hazardous to health and concluded that it was irrefutably linked to the prolonged inhalation of asbestos dust. Having established the existence of asbestosis on a medical and judicial basis, the report resulted in the first Asbestos Industry Regulations being published in 1931, which came into effect on 1 March 1932.
The first lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers occurred in 1929. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed against asbestos manufacturers and employers, for neglecting to implement safety measures after the link between asbestos, asbestosis and mesothelioma became known (some reports seem to place this as early as 1898 in modern times). The liability resulting from the sheer number of lawsuits and people affected has reached billions of dollars. The amounts and method of allocating compensation have been the source of many court cases, and government attempts at resolution of existing and future cases.

2/22/2011 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Large number of similar exposure units. Since insurance operates through pooling resources, the majority of
insurance
policies are provided for individual members of large classes, allowing insurers to benefit from the law of large numbers in which predicted losses are similar to the actual losses. Exceptions include Lloyd's of London, which is famous for insuring the life or health of actors, sports figures and other famous individuals. However, all exposures will have particular differences, which may lead to different premium rates health insurance
Definite loss. The loss takes place at a known time, in a known place, and from a known cause. The classic example is death of an insured person on a life insurance policy. Fire, automobile accidents, and worker injuries may all easily meet this criterion. Other types of losses may only be definite in theory. Occupational disease, for instance, may involve prolonged exposure to injurious conditions where no specific time, place or cause is identifiable. Ideally, the time, place and cause of a loss should be clear enough that a reasonable person, with sufficient information, could objectively verify all three elements.
Accidental loss. The event that constitutes the trigger of a claim should be fortuitous, or at least outside the control of the beneficiary of the insurance. The loss should be pure, in the sense that it results from an event for which there is only the opportunity for cost. Events that contain speculative elements, such as ordinary business risks or even purchasing a lottery ticket, are generally not considered insurable.
Large loss. The size of the loss must be meaningful from the perspective of the insured. health insurance
premiums need to cover both the expected cost of losses, plus the cost of issuing and administering the policy, adjusting losses, and supplying the capital needed to reasonably assure that the insurer will be able to pay claims. For small losses these latter costs may be several times the size of the expected cost of losses. There is hardly any point in paying such costs unless the protection offered has real value to a buyer.
Affordable premium. If the likelihood of an insured event is so high, or the cost of the event so large, that the resulting premium is large relative to the amount of protection offered, it is not likely that the insurance will be purchased, even if on offer. Further, as the accounting profession formally recognizes in financial accounting standards, the premium cannot be so large that there is not a reasonable chance of a significant loss to the insurer. If there is no such chance of loss, the transaction may have the form of insurance, but not the substance. (See the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board standard number 113)
Calculable loss. There are two elements that must be at least estimable, if not formally calculable: the probability of loss, and the attendant cost.
car insurance

2/26/2011 1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Police misconduct refers to inappropriate actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination. In an effort to control police misconduct, there is an accelerating trend for civilian agencies to go beyond review to engage directly in investigations and to have much greater input into disciplinary decisions. With the proliferation of mobile devices capable of recording alleged misconduct, existing eavesdropping laws in some jurisdictions are being leveraged to prosecute civilians, while in other circumstances police will illegally seize or delete evidence

5/18/2012 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized under the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in some jurisdictions.
Although many of the legal principles governing intellectual property have evolved over centuries, it was not until the 19th century that the term intellectual property began to be used, and not until the late 20th century that it became commonplace in the majority of the world. The British Statute of Anne 1710 and the Statute of Monopolies 1623 are now seen as the origins of copyright and patent law respectively

5/20/2012 4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10/07/2012 11:48 PM  

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