Monthly Archives: February 2012
Moscow (CNN) — A plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been foiled, Russia’s state-run Channel One TV reported Monday, less than a week before presidential elections that Putin is expected to win.
Citing unnamed sources, the report said a group of plotters was arrested in the Ukrainian city of Odessa in early January and, after weeks of questioning, confessed to planning to kill the Russian leader.
The TV report included what it said was a confession by Adam Osmayev, a fixer associated with the two men who were seized in Odessa.
“Our final goal was to come to Moscow and try to organize an attempt on Prime Minister Putin,” Osmayev said.
Putin promises military spending He said the plan involved using military-grade land mines to blow up vehicles.
Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama holds double digit leads over the top two GOP presidential candidates, according to a new national survey.
A Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll released Monday indicates Obama topping former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 53% to 43% in a hypothetical general election matchup, with the president leading former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania 53% to 42%.
Matched up against a generic GOP opponent in the general election (an unnamed candidate who has not suffered negative attacks during the primary process), Obama has a five-point advantage (50%-45%), up from a dead heat back in November. It’s also telling that the president is at or above 50% in all three general election matchups.
A new national poll from USA Today/Gallup tells a different story. According to the survey, which was also released Monday, Obama and Romney are deadlocked at 47% in a hypothetical matchup, with Santorum holding a 49%-46% margin over the president.
Shocking, I know, but maybe we’ve just stumbled onto the real reason why that section of the world is such a gargantuan pile of shit.
KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide car bomber rammed his vehicle into the gates of a NATO base and airport in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, triggering a blast that killed nine Afghans, officials said. The Taliban claimed the attack was revenge for U.S. troops burning copies of the Koran.
The bombing in the city of Jalalabad follows six days of deadly protests in the country over the disposal of Korans and other Islamic texts in a burn pit last week at a U.S. military base north of Kabul.
American officials have called the disposal of the books a mistake and have issued a series of apologies. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged calm, calling on his countrymen not to allow insurgents to capitalize on their indignation to spark violence.
About 40 people have been killed in protests and related attacks since the incident became known this past Tuesday, including four U.S. soldiers. NATO, France, Britain and the U.S. have pulled their advisers from Afghan ministries out of concern that the anti-foreigner anger might erupt again.
Gas prices in the U.S. are nearing the freak-out point–the level at which Americans go from grumbling about getting gouged to actually reducing their gas consumption and demanding that their elected representatives start doing something to help.
And the Republican Presidential candidates have jumped all over that, suggesting that today’s high prices are Barack Obama and the Democrats’ fault.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is trying to preempt the criticism, saying that there’s “no silver bullet” that is going to knock gas prices back down to $2 a gallon.
And there is almost certainly no silver bullet that is going to do that, short of a global economic depression.
Gas prices are rising, in part, because oil prices are rising, and oil prices are rising because of steady changes in supply and demand.
With the growth of China, India, and other developing markets, the demand for oil is outstripping new supply, so there’s nowhere for prices to go but up.
Obviously, new sources of supply will help, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll take gas prices back down to the level that most Americans consider reasonable. Even analysts who think that today’s oil and gas prices are inflated by speculation now put the “fair price” of a barrel of oil at $75-$80, as compared to $20 a barrel a decade ago.
So, who’s to blame and what should be done?
Well, one entity that is to blame is the one doing everything it can to put the blame on someone else–the U.S. government. In the 40 years since the first oil crisis, in the early 1970s, Congress has done nothing to develop a comprehensive U.S. energy policy, one that would develop not only additional sources of oil but also leverage natural gas and renewable energy.
LONDON/NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – The trial to decide who should pay for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been delayed by a week, to allow BP Plc to try to cut a deal with tens of thousands of businesses and individuals affected by the disaster.
Less than 24 hours before the case was set to start in a New Orleans federal court, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier pushed back the date to March 5 from February 27.
The delay allows further talks between BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC), which represents condominium owners, fishermen, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others who say their livelihoods were damaged by the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent oil spill.
Eleven people were killed, and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the mile-deep Macondo oil well, in by far the worst offshore U.S. oil spill.
“BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill,” BP said in a statement.
The London-based oil company said there was no assurance that the talks would lead to a settlement.
By now it’s no secret that Silver has wildly outperformed the major indexes and it’s fully-precious big brother, Gold, so far in 2012. The question, naturally, is whether or not it’s too late to get on board.
In the attached clip Jon Najarian and I discuss how the “smart money” is playing silver and what it means for individual investors trading in the pits or at home via the wildly popular iShares Silver Trust etf (SLV).
In addition to the industrial function of silver making the metal a semi-appropriate way to play an economic recovery Najarian says the metal represents, “a cheaper way to play the flood into precious metals.” Regardless of silver’s 27% run year-to-date and positioning near heavy resistance at $35 an ounce, Najarian still “likes silver a lot.”
In no small part what the TradeMonster.com co-founder is seeing are notoriously short-term thinkers in the options pits buying the $35 calls out to June, a stunningly long view for the quick-trigger set.
Also supporting the notion of options players’ bullish stance on silver, at least according to Najarian, is the trading activity in a lesser known Proshares UltraShort Silver (ZSL) –a double-inverse trading vehicle designed to move $2 higher for every $1 drop in silver.
“If you thought silver was going to break (lower) people would start buying ZSL calls,” Najarian says.
The World Bank and a Chinese think tank have a stern warning for China’s government: transition to a freer market system, or else face an economic crisis.
The “China 2030” report, released by the World Bank on Monday, recommends China enact reforms promoting a freer economy. Those reforms include a major overhaul turning China’s powerful state-owned companies into commercial enterprises.
“China could postpone reforms and risk the possibility of an economic crisis in the future — or it could implement reforms proactively. Clearly, the latter approach is preferable,” the report said.
The report is compiled by the World Bank and the Development Research Center, a research group that reports directly to China’s State Council. It encourages China to promote innovation, competition and entrepreneurship as means of economic growth, rather than allowing growth to be primarily government engineered.
The world’s second-largest economy has been rising rapidly, averaging around 10% growth a year for the last three decades. Much of that momentum has come as China’s rural population moves into the cities and as the government has funded massive infrastructure projects and retained a powerful influence over the country’s biggest companies.
State-owned companies dominate China’s banking, energy, telecom, health care and technology sectors. Overall, they account for about 40% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Andrew Szamosszegi and Cole Kyle, who have researched the topic for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Their latest report to the commission puts it bluntly: The Chinese government has not “expressed an interest in becoming a bastion of free market capitalism.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January to the highest level in nearly two years, supporting the view that the housing market is gradually coming back.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its index of sales agreements rose 2 percent last month to a reading of 97. That’s the highest reading since April 2010, the last month that buyers could qualify for a federal home-buying tax credit and the last time the reading was above 100.
A reading of 100 is considered healthy.
The Realtors’ group also released revised data for 2011. That lowered November’s initial 19-month high of 100.1 to 96.9. But contracts have been markedly up since the summer when some feared a second recession loomed.
(Reuters) – Warren Buffett resisted pressure on Monday to identify his successor as chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, saying the person who has been chosen does not even know it himself.
In his annual investor letter on Saturday, Buffett said Berkshire’s board had identified someone who will replace him as CEO when the 81-year-old investor eventually leaves the post.
But he did not identify that person in the letter, and in a CNBC interview on Monday, he rejected suggestions that he should. The public does not know who will be the next CEO of other major corporations, he said, and there is a disadvantage to having a “crown prince” in place.
“Well, we have four stocks that we have $45 billion invested in: American Express, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo and IBM. Every one of those four companies … has changed management since we bought our shares. I didn’t have the faintest idea who the successor of management would be in any of those four, but we’ve put billions and billions of billions of dollars in there,” Buffett said in an interview from the printing plant of the Omaha World-Herald, the hometown newspaper he bought late last year.
Buffett would say very little about the successor, other than that he is someone the board has had in mind for years and that the person does not know. He also said the heir apparent was likely to come from the ranks of dozens of chief executive officers at Berkshire operating companies.
One person not on the list, though, is David Sokol. Once one of Buffett’s top lieutenants, and often assumed to be his heir apparent, Sokol left Berkshire last year amid a scandal over his stock trading while at the company.
The Sokol matter largely dropped from public attention in recent months, but Buffett said Monday that he assumed there is an ongoing investigation, as Berkshire has already paid more than $1.4 million in legal bills for Sokol.
Buffett added that securities regulators had not contacted him about the matter since last summer.
ISSUE GAINERS SYMBOL EXCH LAST PRICE MONEY FLOW RATIO (in millions) Google GOOG NASD 605.75 +168.3 4.07 SPDR S&P 500 SPY ARCA 136.11 +132.3 1.72 Pfizer PFE NYSE 20.99 +32.0 4.37 PwrShrs QQQ Tr Series 1 QQQ NASD 63.50 +24.4 1.79 Salesforcecom CRM NYSE 141.43 +14.8 1.49 Intel INTC NASD 26.57 +12.9 2.16 IBM IBM NYSE 196.36 +11.5 1.54 ConocoPhillips COP NYSE 76.15 +11.2 2.09 Freeport McMoran FCX NYSE 43.12 +9.9 1.59 UnitedHealth Group UNH NYSE 56.00 +9.7 2.55 Disney DIS NYSE 41.51 +9.2 2.44 Kraft Foods KFT NYSE 37.66 +9.2 3.80 Petoleo Brasil A PBR/A NYSE 28.67 +9.2 2.43 AT&T T NYSE 30.35 +9.0 1.90 Citigroup C NYSE 32.07 +8.4 1.43 Express Scripts ESRX NASD 54.63 +7.8 1.31 Merck MRK NYSE 37.96 +7.5 3.58 Berkshire Hathaway B BRK/B NYSE 78.79 +7.4 1.50 JPMorgan Chase JPM NYSE 37.95 +6.9 1.55 LinkedIn Cl A LNKD NYSE 89.59 +6.9 2.13 ISSUE DECLINERS SYMBOL EXCH LAST PRICE MONEY FLOW RATIO (in millions) Apple AAPL NASD 518.59 -42.3 0.93 Select Sector SPDR-Ind XLI ARCA 37.22 -41.7 0.10 El Paso Corp EP NYSE 27.30 -25.7 0.12 Microsoft MSFT NASD 31.16 -18.3 0.45 Brclys 1-3 Yr Trsry Bd SHY ARCA 84.42 -15.5 0.08 Broadcom BRCM NASD 35.89 -15.5 0.43 CurrencyShares AUD Tr FXA ARCA 107.09 -15.4 0.07 ExxonMobil XOM NYSE 87.13 -14.9 0.51 Procter & Gamble PG NYSE 66.60 -14.4 0.61 Hewlett-Packard HPQ NYSE 26.23 -12.3 0.48 Agrium AGU NYSE 82.94 -11.4 0.42 Coca-Cola KO NYSE 68.65 -10.9 0.33 Apache Corp APA NYSE 109.95 -10.1 0.53 BP PLC BP NYSE 47.94 -10.0 0.69 McDonald's MCD NYSE 99.97 -9.9 0.52 Chevron CVX NYSE 109.45 -9.9 0.69 General Electric GE NYSE 19.05 -9.5 0.58 iShrs Barclays TIPS Bond TIP ARCA 119.15 -9.5 0.20 Transocean RIG NYSE 52.60 -8.9 0.76 Wells Fargo WFC NYSE 30.10 -8.7 0.57Comments »
-CALLS- OPTION EXP.DATE STRIKE PRC. VOLUME LAST S/PRC. NET CHANGE GLD 3/17/12 179.0000 4529 0.7500 dn 0.0900 BP 3/17/12 46.0000 510 2.5500 up 0.4900 BAC 3/17/12 5.5000 263 2.1900 dn 0.3000 DNDN 3/2/12 14.0000 220 0.2100 dn 1.4900 RIG 3/2/12 52.5000 210 1.5000 up 0.8500 SVNT 6/16/12 3.0000 188 0.1000 dn 0.0300 PFE 3/17/12 22.0000 186 0.0500 up 0.0000 BAC 3/2/12 8.0000 160 0.0400 dn 0.0400 AMZN 3/17/12 190.0000 154 0.9500 dn 0.1700 AAPL 3/17/12 520.0000 138 11.9500 dn 1.6000 -PUTS- OPTION EXP.DATE STRIKE PRC. VOLUME LAST S/PRC. NET CHANGE BAC 3/17/12 8.0000 236 0.4600 up 0.1300 GLD 3/17/12 170.0000 118 1.8200 up 0.0500 AMGN 3/17/12 65.0000 102 0.6000 up 0.1900 NFLX 3/17/12 120.0000 100 13.6000 up 2.7000 S 5/19/12 2.5000 80 0.3300 up 0.0500 HPQ 3/17/12 25.0000 71 0.2400 up 0.0500 INTC 4/21/12 26.0000 62 0.6700 up 0.0200 DNDN 3/17/12 12.0000 61 1.0100 up 0.5800 BAC 4/21/12 6.0000 58 0.0900 up 0.0100 UNH 4/21/12 60.0000 58 5.0500 up 0.1500 -VOLUME- CALLS PUTS TOTAL 24758 15627 40385
-CALLS- OPTION EXP.DATE STRIKE PRC. VOLUME LAST S/PRC. NET CHANGE BAC 3/17/12 8.0000 4723 0.1700 dn 0.0500 PZG 9/22/12 7.5000 4000 0.1500 up 0.0200 INTC 3/2/12 27.0000 2204 0.1000 dn 0.0600 XOM 4/21/12 90.0000 1784 0.9500 up 0.0900 AAPL 3/2/12 520.0000 1608 5.7000 dn 2.0000 BAC 3/2/12 8.0000 1540 0.0500 dn 0.0400 AAPL 3/2/12 525.0000 1320 3.4500 dn 1.5500 KMI 3/17/12 30.0000 1303 3.7000 up 0.5000 GLD 3/17/12 179.0000 1283 0.7500 dn 0.0600 C 3/2/12 32.0000 1274 0.5300 dn 0.2000 -PUTS- OPTION EXP.DATE STRIKE PRC. VOLUME LAST S/PRC. NET CHANGE BAC 3/17/12 8.0000 1667 0.4400 up 0.1100 TLT 4/21/12 105.0000 1500 0.1900 dn 0.0500 BAC 4/21/12 7.0000 1034 0.2400 up 0.0500 FSLR 3/2/12 37.0000 1011 3.0500 up 0.4600 NG 3/17/12 8.0000 958 0.1500 dn 0.0500 TGT 4/21/12 52.5000 900 0.6700 up 0.0400 TGT 4/21/12 48.0000 900 0.1500 up 0.0000 GE 3/17/12 19.0000 893 0.3000 up 0.0600 FXE 3/17/12 135.0000 800 2.5000 up 0.5700 BAC 4/21/12 8.0000 766 0.6500 up 0.1100 -VOLUME- CALLS PUTS TOTAL 299223 285107 584330Comments »
New Highs 29 COMPANY SYMBOL HIGH VOLUME ------- ------ ---- ------ Atlas Energy L.P.WI ATLSw 24.50 100 Bankrate RATE 25.84 53,590 BlRk MuHldg NY Qlty MHN 16.11 14,887 CommonWealth REIT Pfd E CWHpE 25.64 4,395 Cushing Royalty & Incm Fd SRF 25.08 2,900 DWS Global High Inco LBF 8.14 669 DTF Tax-Free DTF 17.10 5,065 EV National Municipal Opp EOT 21.99 8,636 Endurance Specialty 7.75% ENHpA 26.99 1,428 Endurance Spec Hldgs PfB ENHpB 26.84 4,310 Hospitality Prop Tr Pfd D HPTpD 25.46 3,501 Imperva IMPV 37.52 23,914 Lions Gate Entertainment LGF 14.46 733,974 Lorillard Inc LO 130.17 160,556 MarriottVacations VAC 23.99 105,780 Medco Health MHS 67.99 3,170,973 Nuveen CA Muni Mkt NCO 15.87 2,970 Nuveen CA Quality Income NUC 16.84 4,961 ONEOK Partners OKS 61.18 18,946 Scana 7.70%Sers A SCU 29.60 144 Sherwin-Williams SHW 101.44 136,278 Strat Htls & Resorts A BEEpA 30.39 300 TJX Cos TJX 36.45 715,300 Targa Resources TRGP 46.62 20,018 Tortoise P&Engy Infrstr TPZ 26.30 353 TransDigm Group TDG 121.48 64,026 UnitedHealth Group UNH 56.16 986,243 Virtus Glbl MultiSector VGI 20.04 300 Weis Markets WMK 44.85 48,860 New Lows 4 COMPANY SYMBOL LOW VOLUME ------- ------ ---- ------ AVG Technologies AVG 12.77 102,930 Alon Hldgs Blue Square BSI 3.63 12,206 Cellcom Israel CEL 13.65 175,867 RadioShack RSH 7.06 688,521
New Highs 26 COMPANY SYMBOL HIGH VOLUME ------- ------ ---- ------ AMC Networks A AMCX 45.80 35,586 Air Methods AIRM 92.35 9,892 Alnylam Pharm ALNY 13.75 120,468 Ameris Bancorp ABCB 11.56 68,659 Body Central BODY 29.38 21,127 Calavo Growers CVGW 29.27 63,117 ChipMOS Techs Bermuda IMOS 11.24 82,340 Clean Energy Fuels CLNE 19.00 457,372 Coronado Biosciences CNDO 8.00 25,021 DDi DDIC 11.44 18,649 Datawatch Corp DWCH 12.47 9,612 Delta Natural Gas Co DGAS 37.45 2,450 Deltek PROJ 10.97 87,016 Discovery Laboratories DSCO 3.70 567,256 Guaranty Bancorp GBNK 1.84 21,763 iPass IPAS 2.26 26,336 Mercantile Bank MBWM 13.04 2,780 Mesa Laboratories MLAB 54.13 520 OSI Systems OSIS 58.58 81,137 Orexigen Therapeutics OREX 4.15 1,420,740 TGC Inds TGE 9.63 62,756 Ubiquiti Networks UBNT 27.79 52,639 Vangrd Intermed-Trm Cp Bd VCIT 84.91 15,316 Vanguard Long-Trm Crp Bd VCLT 88.82 3,277 Vanguard Shrt-Trm Crp Bnd VCSH 79.32 24,695 VIVUS VVUS 24.83 9,067,950 New Lows 13 COMPANY SYMBOL LOW VOLUME ------- ------ ---- ------ B Communications BCOM 10.71 4,075 ChemoCentryx CCXI 10.02 4,500 Columbia Laboratories CBRX 0.64 1,598,166 CyberDefender CYDE 0.05 564,591 Digital Generation DGIT 10.21 115,408 Electronic Arts EA 16.61 841,465 iSh Barclays GNMA Bd Fd GNMA 49.96 110 iSh MSCI Emg Mkts Asia EEMA 53.44 130 Orckit Comm ORCT 0.47 30,759 Partner Comm Co PTNR 7.52 61,411 Sigma Designs SIGM 5.51 24,176 TeleNav TNAV 6.99 84,112 Telik TELK 0.12 189,270Comments »
“(New York Post) – More American households are falling back into the debt hole, this time without the safety net of home values to help bail them out, the New York Post reported Sunday.
Last year, total US consumer debt reached its highest point in a decade, according to a credit card industry observer.
“Now more than ever, families need to work at saving and paying off any outstanding debts,” said Howard Dvorkin, a certified public accountant and founder of the credit counseling service Consolidated Credit.
After a few months of reducing credit card debt levels, Dvorkin said, Americans are starting to return to their reliance on debt.
“People made some progress in reducing card debt earlier in the year, but in the last few months, as the stock market started to rise, they started to return to their old ways of charging things,” he explained.
In December 2011, the total consumer debt — which is the combination of non-revolving and revolving debt — rose by some 9.3 percent to $2.498 trillion, according to the latest Federal Reserve Board numbers.
Both revolving debt and non-revolving debt increased. Revolving debt, which is credit-card debt, went up by 4.1 percent. Non-revolving debt, which includes loans for cars and education, rose 11.8 percent, the central bank’s report said.
The trend — month to month, quarter to quarter and year to year — is rising steeply.
“Consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 4.5 percent, and non-revolving credit increased 9 percent in December,” the Fed wrote in a note along with the latest monthly report, which also reviewed 2011.
These numbers, Dvorkin warns, mean that many middle-class Americans are taking big risks.
In a weak economy with high unemployment, Dvorkin noted, many people with big card balances become vulnerable to financial catastrophe.
Lewis J. Altfest, a Manhattan adviser who targets professional, high-income clients, devotes part of his practice to telling the well-heeled how to cut back on credit card debt.
“It’s still a big problem. Some people want to live life to the fullest even though they are using their cards too much,” Altfest explained. He said many clients last year tried to reduce card debt. But some “are falling back into their old ways.”
Indeed, last holiday season many consumers financed Black Friday trips to the mall and Cyber Monday online buying sprees by making purchases with plastic, Dvorkin contends.
“As the bills begin to roll in, consumers may find themselves unable to pay them off. It’s good to see an increase in consumer spending, but never is it worth going into debt,” according to Dvorkin.”
Read more: New York Post
George Osborne: The U.K. Government ‘has run out of money’ and cannot afford debt-fuelled tax cuts or extra spending
“In a stark warning ahead of next month’s Budget, the Chancellor said there was little the Coalition could do to stimulate the economy.
Mr Osborne made it clear that due to the parlous state of the public finances the best hope for economic growth was to encourage businesses to flourish and hire more workers.
“The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,” the Chancellor said. “The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”
By Alan Zibel and Eric Morath Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
“Mike Konczal highlights an interesting point in the latest White House Economic Report:
The White House also looks to be on team balance sheet. See the latest Economic Report of the President(pages 110 to 114):
“The standard approach in economics has been to assume that households consume about the same fraction of the increase in their wealth each year, regardless of its source… The severity of losses experienced during the recession that began in December of 2007 in both national output and in labor markets makes these estimates appear too small…
A growing economics literature highlights the importance of household debt balances in influencing the severity of economic slumps… A series of empirical papers attempts to quantify the effect of such deleveraging on consumption (Mian and Sufi 2010; Mian, Rao, and Sufi 2011). These papers broadly suggest that the levered nature of household housing assets amplified the effect of pure wealth losses from the crash in housing prices.”