Sep 14

Lehman Brothers HQ in New York
Lehman Brothers HQ in New York

Global investment bank Lehman Brothers is teetering on the verge of collapse after Barclays pulled out of an 11th-hour rescue.

The departure of Barclays left US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, spearheading desperate last-ditch attempts to put in place some form of a workable rescue package.

Traders fear that the collapse of Lehman would send shockwaves around the world and spark a global sell-off of shares.

Lehman which employs 4,000 staff in London and 24,00 around the world, could be placed into liquidation as soon as Monday. The bank would be the single largest casualty of the current credit crisis and its collapse one of the biggest failures in Wall Street history.

In one of the most traumatic days in the history of Wall Street, Bank of America is reported to be on the verge of buying Merrill Lynch for $38bn.

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Jul 21

July 21 (Bloomberg) — Ben S. Bernanke and Henry Paulson are under pressure to embrace the big-government policies of America in the 1930s, or Sweden in the 1990s, to contain the conflagration engulfing the U.S. housing and financial markets.

Among the ideas: Using taxpayer money to shore up the capital of loss-ridden Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, setting up new agencies to buy and refinance mortgages in default, even taking over failing financial institutions.

The government’s current “fire-brigade approach to dealing with the fallout from the extremely weak domestic economy is eroding general confidence in the U.S. financial system,” says Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at Lexington, Massachusetts-based Global Insight. “Bold, creative, aggressive policy action is needed.”

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Apr 16
WASHINGTON — The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks — for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders.

The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.

It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.

This has proved especially true on the housing legislation, which many lawmakers and lobbyists view as one of the last opportunities before Congress grinds to a halt amid election-year politics.

In the Senate bill, the nation’s biggest home builders, some now on the verge of bankruptcy, won a provision that would let them claim millions in tax refunds by charging their current losses against the huge profits they made three or four years ago. Other struggling industries would benefit from this provision.


Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, was the main author of the Senate bill meant to help homeowners.

(The ones who will really benefit from this are, like always, the corporations.
And guess who will pay for these tax breaks in the end? – The Infinite Unknown)

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Apr 13

George Soros will not go quietly.

At the age of 77, Mr. Soros, one the world’s most successful investors and richest men, leapt out of retirement last summer to safeguard his fortune and legacy. Alarmed by the unfolding crisis in the financial markets, he once again began trading for his giant hedge fund — and won big while so many others lost.

Mr. Soros has always been a controversial figure. But he is becoming more so with a new, dire forecast for the world economy. Last week he rushed out a book, his 10th, warning that the financial pain has only just begun.

“I consider this the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime,” Mr. Soros said during an interview Monday in his office overlooking Central Park. A “superbubble” that has been swelling for a quarter of a century is finally bursting, he said.

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Apr 13

As Finance Ministers Convene Here, Multiple Crises Test Their Ability to Cope

Financial markets are tumbling. The world economy is starting to sputter. Food prices have shot up so far, so fast, that there are riots in the streets of many poor nations.

It’s a hard time to be one of the masters of the global economy.

Those leaders — finance ministers from all over the world — are gathering in Washington this weekend to sort out their reactions to the most profound global economic crises in at least a decade. The situation could reveal the limitations that international economic institutions face in dealing with the risks inherent to global capitalism.

“There’s got to be something coming out of the weekend, a way to visibly assume public responsibility for trying to limit the damage that financial markets can do to our society,” said Colin Bradford, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The pressure is on politicians this weekend to come up with an answer. . . . What is the power structure going to do about this?”

The Group of Seven finance ministers of major industrialized countries meet today, and the governing boards of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank will meet tomorrow and Sunday. Their agendas: in the case of the G-7 and IMF, countering the breakdown in financial markets; in the case of the World Bank, food inflation that threatens to drive more of the world’s poorest people into starvation. Continue reading »

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Apr 10

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee worried at their most recent meeting that housing and financial market stress could trigger a nasty slide in the economy, even as inflation pushed higher, minutes of the meeting released on Tuesday show.

“Some believed that a prolonged and severe economic downturn could not be ruled out given the further restriction of credit availability and ongoing weakness in the housing market,” minutes of the March 18 meeting said.

Fed economists presented a somber picture of short-term prospects — central bank staff now fully expect negative growth over the first six months of the year — but held out the possibility of a modest rebound later.

“The staff projection showed a contraction of real GDP in the first half of 2008 followed by a slow rise in the second half,” the report said, referring to gross domestic product, a broad measure of a country’s output of goods and services.

At the same time, Fed officials found recent inflation reports “disappointing,” noting also with concern that some indicators of inflation expectations were edging higher. Continue reading »

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