News from around the web: 2009-08-28
Since the government gave banks relief on mark-to-market accounting and the "stress tests" helped engineer a big round of capital-raising last spring, the financial sector has been on a tear. Now a major debate is occurring over whether the sector remains attractively valued or is living on borrowed time. On the optimistic side of the ledger, famed hedge fund manager John Paulson is upping his stake in … financials. On the other hand, regulators loosened restrictions on private equity firms’ ability to buy failed banks, a nod to the drain on the FDIC’s insurance fund given the failures of the past year – and more expected to come.
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I think this is a fair response to my contention that Bernanke will be effective at pushing for new regulation of the banking industry. Thinking about it more, it’s probably true that it is based more on hope than on evidence
There is non-stop chatter about China’s challenge in transitioning from being an investment-led economy to a consumer-driven one, and commensurate consequences for the global economy… The following figure helps immensely, with the yawning gap between China and most other developed economies around the world in terms of private spending as a percentage of GDP. Remarkable stuff.
"David Wessel’s new account of the Great Crisis, In Fed We Trust, has many merits: it is timely, well written, and informative. The protagonists—Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson, and Timothy Geithner—were faced in September 2008 with a supreme challenge. Wessel gives us, without judgment, a narrative of what they did. As history, this is first-draft stuff, but it’s as good a first draft as one could hope for, less than a year after the events it describes."
Hedge fund manager John Paulson, who bet against financial companies after foreseeing the credit crisis, has been buying Citigroup Inc (C.N) shares over the past few weeks, the New York Post reported, citing sources. Paulson bought around a 2 percent stake in Citigroup, a source told the paper. An investor with a 5 percent or higher stake in a company would have to make a disclosure with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Sources told the paper Paulson believes Citigroup’s assets are undervalued.
As the French and German economies return to positive growth, official figures published on Thursday show that Spanish GDP contracted a worse-than-expected 1.1 per cent in the second quarter as domestic investment and consumption continued to fall. This represents a 4.2 per cent year-on-year GDP contraction – the worst since 1970.
"Last summer, Lawrence Ford jumped into the fast-growing market for so-called reverse mortgages. The retired auto mechanic and horse trainer used the money he received to pay off his existing $70,000 mortgage and "piddled away" the remaining $24,000 on things like restaurant meals for his four girlfriends, he says.Or so Mr. Ford thought. Last month, the owner of the Orlando, Fla., title company that handled his loan admitted to stealing more than $1 million from several reverse-mortgage holders, including Mr. Ford. "
This is why markets are rising: "Borrowing in dollars has become cheaper than borrowing in Japanese yen for the first time in 16 years, a sign that fear in the credit markets, which drove borrowing costs sharply higher, has eased significantly. Japanese interest rates have long been at rock-bottom levels, making it far cheaper to borrow in yen than any other currency. The Federal Reserve reduced U.S.short-term rates to near-zero months ago. But private lenders, worried that borrowers couldn’t pay back loans, still charged far higher rates than normal."