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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Why Fannie and Freddie Are Not Going Away Anytime Soon


“WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) – In considering how to fix the ailing U.S. housing market, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have found a rare point of agreement: they would prefer life without failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

But even with agreement that the system is broken, it is unlikely Congress will soon tackle the mammoth task of winding down two entities that have cost taxpayers more than $150 billion since their bailout in September 2008. Fannie and Freddie now support about 60 percent of all new U.S. home loans.

Already, lawmakers have taken tentative steps to scale back Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s involvement by reducing the size of loans that they can guarantee. Republicans and Democrats have unified behind preserving affordable homeownership.

But more dramatic actions could be politically treacherous in an election year. Home buyers still rely on the government backstop in nine of 10 new mortgages, and the fragile market must be weaned slowly from its dependence on federal programs providing financial backing.

Changing the present system might prove hard for lawmakers who are wary of risking harm to the housing recovery. Some would fear alienating the deep-pocketed housing lobby and various consumer groups rallying around the issue.

“There’s not a politician out there who is willing to take the risk of proposing something with a short transition period that would potentially be blamed for cratering the housing market,” said Douglas Elliott, a Brookings Institution fellow and former investment banker.

The Obama administration will release an updated plan in coming weeks that is expected to further define its goals for the federal government’s role in the housing finance system, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The administration in February 2011 offered three big-picture options for overhauling the mortgage market.

One would be to eliminate federal involvement altogether, but most experts say this could upend the housing market.

Another option creates a system that would help some types of low-income and veteran buyers and also provides an expanded guarantee the government would offer mostly in times of financial distress.

A third would include government reinsurance for some types of mortgages, but only if lenders first purchased a guarantee from a private insurer.

The administration has not endorsed a legislative plan at this point, but continues to consider these options, according to a U.S. Treasury official….”

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Vermont Moves to End Corporate Personhood

Full report

“MONTPELIER, VT – With yesterday’s vote in the state house, Vermont is now the first state to call for an amendment to abolish the doctrine known as “Corporate Personhood” which gives corporations constitutional rights meant to protect people.

Hawaii and New Mexico have passed resolutions against the Citizens United v. FEC ruling by the Supreme Court, but the Vermont resolution goes beyond simply overturning that case and aims to remove corporations from the constitution altogether and make clear that money is not speech and that campaign spending and political contributions can be regulated by government.

Support for the resolution in the state legislature comes from a mandate set forth by Vermont’s citizens. Last month 65 town meetings passed similar resolutions, calling on the legislators in the state to stand up and urging Congress to send an amendment to the states for ratification.

“Americans of all political persuasions are tired of the big money in politics and tired of corporations running the country,” said David Cobb, spokesperson for the Move to Amend coalition, a grassroots national organization spearheading resolution efforts across the country. “We salute the good people of Vermont for standing up first to make clear that an amendment that addresses this issue at its core is what’s needed now.”

While Vermont is the first state to clearly call for an end to corporate constitutional rights, this is far from the first resolution passed. Nearly half of the states have seen passage of resolutions at the local level through city and county councils, and a handful of cities have also passed measures using the initiative process. This week Salt Lake City, Utah became the latest city to join the effort when Move to Amend volunteers turned in 11,400 signatures collected in 60 days to qualify a resolution for the ballot in their town.

“Communities across the country are standing up to show their outrage and to demand that their legislators pass an amendment to overrule the Court,” stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Field Organizing Director for Move to Amend. “We recognize that an amendment is a big task, but Move to Amend’s volunteers are ready to rise to the challenge.”


Background on state resolution effort: The Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People partnership, which worked together on town meeting proposals, also has worked to pass the resolutions at the state legislative level. The effort includes Move to Amend; Public Citizen; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Move to Amend affiliate; Vermont Peace & Justice Center; VPIRG; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Rural Vermont; Vermont Workers Center; Common Cause Vermont; Occupy Burlington; Vermont Action for Peace; and the Safe and Green Campaign. ”


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Today’s 52 Week Highs and Lows


New Highs 4 

COMPANY                       SYMBOL      HIGH                VOLUME 
-------                       ------      ----                ------ 
Brinker Intl                  EAT         31.00            1,077,316 
Kimco Realty Dep 6  Pfd I     KIMpI       25.15                2,512 
NextEra Engy Deb. G 2072      NEEpG       25.72                3,846 
SandRidge Miss Tr II          SDR         22.05               73,897 

New Lows 51 

COMPANY                       SYMBOL      LOW                 VOLUME 
-------                       ------      ----                ------ 
Allison Transmission          ALSN        20.91               23,625 
Arch Coal                     ACI         9.08             1,180,395 
Artio Global Invs Inc         ART         3.90                 1,920 
Barrick Gold                  ABX         38.90            1,311,228 
Best Buy                      BBY         21.15              240,533 
Bill Barrett                  BBG         20.58               82,065 
BuildaBear                    BBW         4.30                 4,868 
CARBO Ceramics                CRR         84.83               55,046 
Checkpoint Sys                CKP         10.45               17,973 
Chesapeake Energy             CHK         17.03            3,117,045 
Chesapeake Engy 4.5% pfd.     CHKpD       82.15                4,022 
Cloud Peak Engy               CLD         13.82              104,417 
ConocoPhillips Wi             COPw        54.04                2,323 
DelhaizeGrp                   DEG         47.15                2,417 
Enerplus                      ERF         17.73              284,168 
Equal Energy                  EQU         3.00                15,929 
Fortuna Silver Mines          FSM         3.60                65,218 
GFI Group                     GFIG        3.11                16,078 
Gafisa                        GFA         3.93               454,385 
Gold Field ADS                GFI         12.29              430,626 
Goldcorp                      GG          40.20              498,224 
GrafTech Intl                 GTI         11.12               48,154 
Great North Iron Ore Prop     GNI         58.90                9,447 
Harmony Gold Mining           HMY         9.23               185,577 
Harris Teeter Supermrkts      HTSI        36.10               11,901 
Hecla Mining                  HL          3.97               681,249 
Hill Intl                     HIL         3.55                19,169 
Infoblox Inc                  BLOX        20.06               85,987 
Intermec Inc                  IN          5.09                74,046 
Jaguar Mining                 JAG         2.92               259,026 
KT Crp ADS                    KT          12.89               72,514 
Kinross Gold                  KGC         8.80               758,386 
McMoRan Exploration           MMR         7.88               200,124 
Modine Mfg                    MOD         7.52                10,926 
Newfield Exploration          NFX         31.86              224,389 
Newmont Mining                NEM         45.91            1,271,153 
Nokia                         NOK         3.62             4,403,516 
Nortel Inversora ADS          NTL         16.10                4,154 
No Amer Engy Ptnrs            NOA         3.90                16,784 
Nuveen Glbl Val Opp Fd        JGV         15.20                9,794 
Pampa Energia ADS             PAM         7.10                   400 
Panasonic Cp                  PC          7.64                37,511 
Promotora Info ADS B          PRIS/B      3.31                 6,350 
Promotora de Info ADS         PRIS        2.19                 5,715 
Pulse Electronics             PULS        1.95                 5,500 
Quicksilver Resources         KWK         3.74               134,269 
STR Holdings Inc.             STRI        3.77                 8,465 
SW Energy                     SWN         27.32              343,436 
Transalta Corp                TAC         16.47                8,556 
USEC Inc                      USU         0.95               133,805 
Ultra Petroleum               UPL         17.76              241,017


New Highs 8 

COMPANY                       SYMBOL      HIGH                VOLUME 
-------                       ------      ----                ------ 
Allied Motion                 AMOT        8.25                 3,075 
Ardea Biosciences             RDEA        31.64            3,240,866 
ChemoCentryx                  CCXI        17.73                3,237 
First Citizens Banc           FCZA        6.93                   500 
HF Fincl                      HFFC        12.27                  100 
LCNB                          LCNB        14.49                  375 
Monarch Fincl Hldgs           MNRK        10.00                1,290 
Splunk                        SPLK        37.24              100,211 

New Lows 30 

COMPANY                       SYMBOL      LOW                 VOLUME 
-------                       ------      ----                ------ 
Apollo Grp  (Cl A)            APOL        34.42              122,679 
CEVA                          CEVA        20.55               11,728 
China TechFaith Wireless      CNTF        1.31                24,439 
Cresud SACIF y A              CRESY       9.30               108,276 
Echelon                       ELON        4.05                12,600 
Education Management          EDMC        11.90                9,500 
Electronic Arts               EA          14.58              398,781 
EnerNOC                       ENOC        6.17                26,391 
First Solar                   FSLR        19.55              836,989 
Gentex                        GNTX        20.89              154,339 
Infosys ADS                   INFY        44.82              277,876 
InterDigital                  IDCC        30.69               37,263 
James River Coal Co           JRCC        4.33               112,206 
Marchex   (Cl B)              MCHX        3.46                30,058 
Microvision                   MVIS        2.08                38,502 
NCI                           NCIT        5.58                11,126 
NVECorp                       NVEC        47.29                  974 
OPNET Techs                   OPNT        22.18                8,791 
Otelco IDS                    OTT         6.62               625,234 
Pan American Silver           PAAS        18.27              347,823 
PwrShs Gbl Gld & Prec Mtl     PSAU        35.54                  652 
PwrShrs Glbl Wind Energy      PWND        6.35                 1,200 
RF Micro Devices              RFMD        3.92               321,832 
RealPage                      RP          17.17               11,504 
Riverview Bancorp             RVSB        1.87                27,902 
STEC                          STEC        8.29                41,011 
Torm A/S                      TRMD        0.40                13,400 
Verastem                      VSTM        9.77                   329 
WebMD Health                  WBMD        22.43               53,251 
Willdan Group                 WLDN        3.10                 1,500

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Most Active Options Trades

BAC        5/19/12           9.0000        2962            0.1300      dn 0.0300 
BAC        1/19/13          10.0000        2546            0.5900      dn 0.0800 
MS         4/27/12          17.0000        2237            0.2700      dn 0.4000 
MS         4/27/12          16.0000        2152            0.8800      dn 0.6500 
XCO        5/19/12           6.0000        1844            0.3400      dn 0.1300 
BAC        4/27/12           9.0000        1803            0.0100      dn 0.0300 
ANR        4/27/12          16.0000        1569            0.2800      dn 0.3100 
AAPL       5/19/12         600.0000        1516           18.6300      dn 0.1700 
AAPL       5/19/12         665.0000        1505            4.9500      up 0.1000 
AAPL       4/27/12         570.0000        1450           23.5500      dn 0.5000 

MS         5/19/12          16.0000        3175            0.4200      up 0.1300 
SYY        5/19/12          28.0000        2015            0.4500      up 0.2000 
BX         5/19/12          13.0000        1791            0.2800      up 0.0900 
AAPL       5/19/12         500.0000        1645            5.8000      up 0.1000 
TIBX       5/19/12          31.0000        1628            0.6200      up 0.1700 
EBAY       7/21/12          36.0000        1559            0.9700      up 0.1200 
AAPL       5/19/12         495.0000        1396            5.3500      up 0.3600 
JPM        5/19/12          45.0000        1070            3.0000      up 0.4600 
INTC       5/19/12          27.0000        1058            0.4300      up 0.0400 
XOM        7/21/12          80.0000        1010            1.5500      up 0.2000 

 CALLS      PUTS           TOTAL 
346179    256600        602779
BAC        4/27/12          10.0000         300            0.0100      dn 0.0100 
WMT        5/19/12          60.0000         273            0.9100      dn 1.6800 
MMR        11/17/12         11.0000         229            0.7200      dn 0.1500 
BAC        4/27/12           9.0000         188            0.0200      dn 0.0200 
WMT        5/19/12          62.5000         154            0.2200      dn 0.6100 
UPS        5/19/12          77.5000         153            2.2500      dn 0.9000 
DIA        6/16/12         133.0000         151            0.9500      dn 0.6300 
BAC        4/27/12          11.0000         150            0.0100      up 0.0000 
AA         4/27/12          12.0000         150            0.0100      up 0.0000 
LVS        4/27/12          57.5000         115            1.2300      dn 0.7000 

BAC        4/27/12           6.0000         300            0.0100      up 0.0000 
AA         4/27/12           7.0000         200            0.0100      up 0.0000 
BAC        4/27/12           7.0000         150            0.0200      up 0.0100 
BAC        4/27/12           5.0000         150            0.0100      up 0.0000 
MS         5/19/12          16.0000         146            0.4200      up 0.1300 
ANR        5/19/12          13.0000         112            0.2900      up 0.1200 
SWN        5/19/12          28.0000         106            1.8200      up 0.1200 
BX         5/19/12          13.0000         105            0.2800      up 0.0900 
AA         4/27/12           8.0000         100            0.0100      dn 0.0100 
AA         4/27/12           6.0000         100            0.0200      dn 0.0100 

 CALLS      PUTS           TOTAL 
19642    23465        43107

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Doug and Jeff v. Goliath: County Clerks Sue Big Banks for Avoiding Fraudulent Mortgage Recording Fees

“Doug Welborn, state district court clerk of Baton Rouge, and Jeff L. Thigpen, register of deeds in Guilford County, North Carolina, are doing what millions of recession-weary Americans wish they could do: they are suing large banks and mortgage companies in court, alleging that their creation in 1995 of the Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, Inc., (MERS), to replace local county recording of property transfers, led to billions of dollars of fraud, victimizing not only millions of homeowners but state and local governments across the country. MERS, not coincidentally, was a key factor in the growth of the real estate bubble whose crash precipitated the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

Welborn’s action, filed in federal district court in Baton Rouge on behalf of court clerks across Louisiana, alleges that the 17 banks and mortgage companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act by controlling MERS in a scheme to cheat clerks of court of recording fees.
Historically, every time a mortgage was sold from one holder to another, it had to be recorded at the local courthouse. Welborn’s suit alleges that the banks used MERS to avoid recording fees on 10 to 12 mortgage transfers per property, each instance of non-paid fees costing local government. MERS was thus critical to the industry practice of bundling mortgages into securities that eventually were sold to investors. Although the complaint does not state a specific damage amount, attorneys for Welborn estimate statewide losses of $450 million; if proven, they could be trebled under RICO to $1.35 billion…”

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Government Math Screws Tax Payer

“Call it President Obama’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President — a political slush fund at the Health and Human Services Department.

Only this isn’t some little fund from shadowy private sources; this is taxpayer money, redirected to help Obama win another term. A massive amount of it, too — $8.3 billion. Yes, that’s billion, with a B.

Here is how it works.

The most oppressive aspects of the ObamaCare law don’t kick in until after the 2012 election, when the president will no longer be answerable to voters. More “flexibility,” he recently explained to the Russians.


But certain voters would surely notice one highly painful part of the law before then — namely, the way it guts the popular Medicare Advantage program.

For years, 12 million seniors have relied on these policies, a more market-oriented alternative to traditional Medicare, without the aggravating gaps in coverage.

But as part of its hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts, the Obama one-size-fits-all plan slashes reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage starting next year — herding many seniors back into the government-run program.

Under federal “open-enrollment” guidelines, seniors must pick their Medicare coverage program for next year by the end of this year — which means they should be finding out before Election Day.

Nothing is more politically volatile than monkeying with the health insurance of seniors, who aren’t too keen on confusing upheavals in their health care and are the most diligent voters in the land. This could make the Tea Party look like a tea party….”

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