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U.S. Credit Rating Is In Danger

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you are aware of the United States federal government has been trying to raise the debt ceiling to cover their cost of running the country. During that time, credit rating companies, Moody’s, Standard & Poors and Fitch have been debating whether or not to lower the credit rating of the U.S. from it’s current (and long time) rating of “AAA” to something else.

Congress and the Obama Administration have been wasting time of the last three months that has now left little chance of the country’s rating to stay the same. Last October, S&P wrote that they were keeping a stable outlook on the U.S. “AAA” rating on the ground of the current entitlement spending pressures wouldn’t really affect the country in any big way within the next three to five years. Then in April, S&P shocked Washington as well as Wall Street by changing their views and putting a negative outlook on the U.S. rating, saying that there was a one-in-three chance of a downgrade withing two years. It didn’t end there, last week Standard & Poors announced that there is a 50% chance that the credit rating could be downgraded within three months.

All three agencies agree that the U.S. must undertake a major deficit-reduction effort for the near term to stabilize debt levels and to preserve it’s credit rating. The reason for the quick deterioration of the agencies outlook is mainly because of the concern they have of Congress and the Administration not being able to work together. The federal government has forgotten how to work together. The political divide has grown too much to the point where the credit agencies wonder if they’ll be able to work together on other fiscal issues in the future. It doesn’t help that Congress hasn’t put forth a budget for over 800 days.

Even though Moody’s give the U.S. a little more room before they would lower the country’s rating, that’s because of the United States’s reserve currency status. S&P said that if the U.S. rating is downgraded, the country may see interest rates climb 25-50 basis points and reduce GDP by a similar amount.

For those of you who feel like I do about the stability of the country’s economic position, I’ve been increasing my position in the precious metal/commodities sector. I’m not sure if the federal government will ever do the right thing.

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Finance, Energy And Politics, Oh My

It seems that the stock market doesn’t react the way it should when important economic news is released. Over the last two months there has been negative news reports released that would normally cause the indicies to drop, but instead they have responded in the opposite manner.

The same goes for the good news that is also released. Look at how the news came out yesterday about the billions of dollars that will be paid back by ten of the major banks. You would think that the news would make investors and traders want to invest in these companies, making the price rise, well it’s wasn’t the case. As a sidebar comment, It amazes me that the money isn’t being returned to the Fed’s, instead it will be held by the Treasury Department just in case it will be needed again. My opinion is that the money will be used in the department’s slush fund and never returned to the tax payer.

The talk is out again about drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The talks should have never halted. How are we to ever take control of our economy if we are depending on foreign countries to supply us with our energy needs? Oil is abundant in the gulf and we are not taking advantage of it, but I guess it’s OK since Russia is working with Cuba to drill in the gulf. That’s real good that they are doing so, this way they can also sell oil to us and we won’t be dependent on the Middle East. If you’re not sure, that last comment was a sarcastic one. Keep an eye on the alternative energy sector for some good gains. When oil gets above $70-$80 per barrel, solar and wind energy becomes more feasible and profitable as an investment.

The politicians are not doing the job that they were sent to Washington to do. The spending in this country is way out of control and needs to be pulled back. The private sector has to take charge of their future. We can not expect the government to come to their rescue. If the company can’t make a profit, then it needs to close no matter how many people it will affect. In the long run, having the Federal government get involved will only hurt more than it would have originally.

Keep your eyes on the stock market and be ready to raise capital (cash). I expect a pull back soon enough.

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Pork Barrel Spending Stimulus Package

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The stimulus package was passed last week and Wall Street is letting Washington know that they are not happy. Since the package was passed, the DOW has dropped nearly 500 basis points, reaching a twelve year low of 7077.35 and closing at 7114 on Monday.
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The current stimulus package will cost American tax payers $778 billion. That’s after they’ve cut out all the unnecessary spending that was originally in the plan. Unfortunately, the Democrats that control the House are now in the process of passing another bill that will add up to about $410 billion in what they are calling “needed to fill the gaps that the first stimulus package left out”.
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This administration has only been in office for one month and they have already passed bills that will spend more money than the previous one did in it’s last year. Something that this administration campaigned on not doing.
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All this spending is going to have to be covered by some sort of tax increase and the one that will be hit first will be the capitol gains tax. It presently sits at 15%, but as President Obama stated on the campaign trail is that he feels that it needs to be raised to 25%-30%. If that is to happen, then expect the stock market to drop well below the 7000 mark.
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As this administration start to show their true agenda for this country, Wall Street will have no choice but to pull out their money to avoid unnecessary tax burdens.
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As for the economy, it won’t be any better. How can a company increase their profits, as well as their work force, if they become more tax burdened. If a business can not make a good profit, it will not attract stock holders. It all ties into one another.
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For the last couple of months, I’ve only been trading stocks that have taken a beaten because of the market as a whole has dropped. I don’t have the confidence in the stock market any longer and will do what I can to pull out the capitol that I have out of it. I stated before that I don’t typically short stocks and in times like this it too doesn’t sound like a great idea, but in bad economies, it’s much easier to make a profit shorting stocks than it is to go long.
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Whatever you decide to do with your trades, be aware that this economic turmoil is far from over.

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The Stimulus Plan Doesn’t Stimulate Anything

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Well, it’s been three weeks since Obama has taken office and he’s already having a hell of a time trying to get his administration candidates approved as well as the stimulus package. To top it all off it seems that Wall Street along with Main Street have not confidence in the new President.
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The Dow had a horrible day today because of all the “politics as usual” mentality going on in Washington. The government laid out it plan for the financial bailout which basically told us nothing in regards to specifics. It seems that all that Tim Geithner told everyone was that the government will spend more than $1 trillion in private and public support, but really nothing else.
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Wall Street went on a selling spree to unload many stocks to take refuge in safer investment like gold and bonds. The DOW fell 382 points today which is over a 4.5% drop.
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The Treasury’s plan is to restore the credit markets. To work towards removing the bad assets from the bank’s books. They also state that it would help open the path for consumer and business loans. If it is anything like the first TARP plan, they know that they’re going to spend $1 trillion, but they have no clue as to how they’re going to spend it.
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All I got to say is that after last night press conference and today’s treasury announcement, they’re proving to me that this administration has no idea on how to fix this problem and take care of their lobbyist and other cronies at the same time. It’s sad to think that if they really wanted to end this nightmare of a recession, all they have to do is stop the federal spending, cut the taxes and the rest will take care of itself in a short period of time.
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Why would the government need to raise taxes if they aren’t spending as much money? If they have to cut jobs, so be it. If the corporate taxes were less along with payroll taxes, companies would be able to hire the people they would be laid off from the federal jobs that were cut to save on spending. I’m not a genius, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Go to any Ivory league college and ask an economic professor and they will tell you the same thing. The less they spend, the less they will need to raise taxes.
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As for the stock market, the DOW close at 7,888 and at this level it’s nothing but a buying opportunity for traders who are looking to a few good deals. Do your research and buy incrementally.
Happy trading.

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Is America Doomed?

What is going to happen to America? It seems that the true meaning of capitalism is being destroyed. The problem is capitalism is being destroyed by the very people who say they’re trying to preserve it. How can this be? It’s how I see it. What are your thoughts? here’s mine.

First we started with the financial sector, now it’s the American auto industry. When are the taxpayers going to see the return on their investment in these sectors? At the rate it’s going, I doubt it will ever happen in our life time.

Yes, I know that the government is saying that this will help the economy, but aren’t they the same people who put us in this mess?

In the 1990’s NAFTA was signed and many business’ went over the border to make the products that were being built here in this country. Ford and General Motors have opened factories in Canada and Mexico since NAFTA was past.

When the bill was past in 1996 to help all American buy their own home. I’m sure the politicians were aware of the fact that it would be done with taxpayer’s money through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with the help of adjustable mortgage rates. It helped people get into homes that they couldn’t even afford.

Twenty plus years ago we heard that there was going to be more energy efficient cars within ten years. How come my 2005 truck gets the same mileage as the 1985 Grand Am I owned fifteen years ago? What’s with these CAFE laws and all the other regulations that are put on the automakers when the cars haven’t really improved over the decades.

Now after all this crap that has gone on for too long, the companies that are in trouble are going to the people who caused these problems for help. All the while the American people sit in their living rooms watching mindless TV and are none the wiser. Go figure.

I know that this isn’t a political site, but in all actuality this post isn’t about politics. It’s about the way Capitalism is being destroyed by people who have their own agenda. Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same and from where I live, it doesn’t look like capitalism to me.

We need to stop bailing out these companies that don’t handle their business in a proper manner. If you can’t make the business profitable then you shouldn’t be in business.

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Auto Bailout Heats Up

Again the CEO’s of the big three automakers are back in Washington to see if they can still get an auto bailout from Congress. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are still looking for money to help keep them afloat.

What amazes me is that the three CEO’s think that if they drive down in hybrid cars (instead of their corporate jets like they did last time), that they are going to have any more of a chance to get the money to fuel their needs.

After going back to the drawing board, the companies came back to show what they’re going to do to improve the condition of the three giants. Of course it’s no longer $25 billion that will be needed to save them, this week it’s at $34 billion. Who knows where it will be when it’s all said and done.

As long as the UAW has a hold on the three companies, they will go out of business. The legacy costs are out of control. There are over 15,000 retirees that get paid $31 per hour from their pension plan for not doing anything for the company. The UAW has caused the costs of cars, truck and SUV’s to get out of control. It’s said that $2000 of of the price of every vehicle is due to legacy costs.
With obligations like that how are these companies ever going to turn a profit? There is no way for any company to be able to stay in business if the payroll cost are going up while the workforce is shrinking. How are they to keep their prices in line with their competition?

If you haven’t noticed, you don’t see any of the foreign automakers that build cars here in this country in Washington looking for a handout. It’s because the UAW has no existence in their factories and before you say that it’s not fair that those workers don’t have the right to have an union. They don’t want it, they make on average $35 per hour to work on an assembly line that the robots do most of the work. Before you say that $28-$42 per hour isn’t much for someone living in New York City, these workers are in Alabama and Tennessee, two of the poorest states in this country.

I have always bought American made cars because I believe in keeping my money in this country. It’s not that I’m against the rest of the world, it’s because I’m an American and proud of it. I will continue to buy American made cars as long as they are still American made cars. I know that no matter what happens to these three companies, there will always be cars made here in this country.
Even if the three of them were to go into bankruptcy and close their doors, someone else will buy their equipment and start to build a new automobile made here in America.

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Henry Paulson And The Recession

Henry “Hank” Paulson was the CEO of Goldman Sachs for many years. He has too many friends in the financial sector as well as on Wall Street. The man should never have been selected by President G.W. Bush, but he was and at the time everyone thought it was a great idea.
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Why was it a great idea? Because at the time the markets were recovering from the tech bubble collapse in the Stock market. He was also one of the guys who help redesign the hedge funds (another reason we have this financial meltdown) as well as pushing the idea of sub-prime mortgages. The Democrats loved him because he was full-filling the “American Dream”, getting everyone into the house they wanted, no matter what.
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It’s now come to a point that he’s out-lived his usefulness in the Treasury Department. He’s been having press conference after conference in just the last couple of weeks that shows that he doesn’t even know what to do for the economy while still trying to help his cronies within the financial sector.
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I’m counting down the days until Paulson will be out of the position. The job will now fall on Obama’s choice for Secretary of Treasury. Timothy Geithner will fill that position next month. The man has a long history with the economy and the Treasury department as well as being in charge of the New York Federal Reserve. Timothy Geithner has made a name for himself on Wall Street and some of the rallying in the markets last week was most likely due to the decision.
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Unfortunately the rally the only last so long in what is now “officially” a recession. That’s right the news was released Monday. The economic advisors and experts have now made it official. Like anyone with a half a brain couldn’t see that two months ago.
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The markets typically show the signs of a recession before it actually is made official. With that in mind, it’s nice to think that a recession is usually 8-12 months long. Looking back the markets have been showing signs of it for at least four months, which means that we can be half way through this mess already.
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As I’ve been saying for the last to months, build up some capital (40%-60% of your portfolio) and wait for the right time to buy to build a new position in the stock market. That time is just about upon us, so I say when the DOW reaches 7500 points again, start putting your money to work behind all that research that you’ve been doing.

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Citigroup

Citigroup (NYSE:C) Is now the center of attention now within the financial sector. Of course it’s expected since they too were doing what the rest of the industry has been doing for the last few years.
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Over the weekend the Federal Reserve and the Treasury department have been talking on how to stabilize the company. The discussions are still going on and not much more is being revealed. Speculation is that they are thinking of assuming some of the risky assets held by the company. As with the rest of the trouble assets that the government has taken over from the other troubled banks. Removing the assets off of Citigroup’s balance sheet will give them the chance they need to put them in a better position to do business and raise capital.
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From all the news coverage I’ve followed over the last few days, Citigroup has declined to comment.
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I was on vacation last week and while spending my time with my family, I didn’t follow any news, but to come back to find out that Citigroup lost nearly 60% of their stock value brought me back to reality real quick. Having Citigroup collapse could possibly bring the end to the entire sector. They are too intertwined within the sector.
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When you think about it, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is happening. Look what happened to Citigroup last month when they tried to acquire Wachovia (NYSE:WB). They lost the opportunity to Wells Fargo Corp (NYSE:WFC). They are no longer the big dog on the block. As a matter of fact they are probably the most vulnerable of all the financial institutions out there.
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Who knows what is to come this week. Last week the DOW lost 5% and that’s after the 500 point gain on Friday. I’m going to catch up on the thing I missed and watch the action from the sidelines.

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Capitalism

With all the talk about the state of our economy, Obama being more of a socialist-type leader and the out-of-control bailouts, one wonders what is the idea of capitalism that this country was built on.
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Wikipedia defines capitalism as,”Capitalism is an economic system and a form of society, in which resources are controlled by private power, as opposed to a state or public institution.” (to read the rest…)
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If we are to survive as a capitalist country and continue what our fore fathers started two hundred and thirty two years ago, we must stop saving companies that are not doing the right thing to make it in the market.
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The government should have never started with all this financial assistance to save companies that have been doing the wrong thing to make money. Things that could be considered morally wrong and legally questionable at best. If a board of directors want to give millions of dollars to a man that makes decisions that will eventually cause the company to lose billions of dollars, well then they get what they ask for, bankruptcy.
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The big three automakers are another set of companies that should face the music like all other smaller companies must face if they don’t do the right thing to preserve their future. Chrysler became a privately held company about a year ago. The company choose Bob (corporate raider) Nardelli to be the CEO. If you guys are not familiar with Mr. Nardelli let me give you some first hand insight.
In the six years that Nardelli was the CEO of The Home Depot he removed more associates from the floor as well as eliminating many of the employee benefits. In effect of his decisions he ruined the customer service that The Home Depot was known for and help them stand out amongst the competition. How do I know this? I worked for The Home Depot before he got there and was there after he left. As a matter of fact, they fired him to get rid of him knowing that they would still have to give him $209 million departing package.
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Let’s get back to capitalism. If this is the way the government is going to start defining the meaning of the word, well then I suggest that if you have a company the isn’t making the money that it needs to make payroll and pay your suppliers, go to Washington and ask for a bailout.
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I don’t know about you, but I go into business to make money and I have only two choices… to either make it or break it and if I break it, it’s my problem not anyone else’s.

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Hedge Funds Part Duex

Today five of the most powerful men in the hedge fund world are in Washington speaking to the Oversight committee. The were invited (told) to testify in Washington to the effect that hedge funds had in the economic crisis that is upon us now.
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George Soros Of Soros Fund Management, John Paulson of Paulson & co., Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies along with Citadel Investment Group’s founder Ken Griffin appeared in front of Committee Chairman Henry Waxman.
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Ironically they agree that there needs to be more transparency from the industry of secretive funds. They also gave different views on whether or not they contributed th the financial crisis. George Soros di say that hedge funds were part of the reason for the financial bubble. Mr Soros wrote in a statement “A deep recession is now inevitable and the possibility of a depression cannot be ruled out,” sent to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.
This is the ma who is know for betting against the British pound back in 1992 and recently backing Senator Barack Hussein Obama for President.
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The Committee wants to hear from the leaders in the hedge fund industry about the role of these funds as well as their tax status and regulation. Oddly enough when the financial and economic world was falling apart, these gentlemen made on average $1 billion last year. That is also why they were called to appear in Washington.
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“Currently, hedge funds are virtually unregulated,” Waxman said. “They are not required to report information on their holdings, their leverage, or their strategies. Regulators aren’t even certain how many hedge funds exist or how much money they control.”
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I don’t know about you but this is quite fishy. Why is it that these guys can do what they do and not have to be accountable for their actions? Yes I know that many of them are operated outside of the United States, but they trade in U.S. currency and it’s assets.
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I also know that they are not the only reason for the collapse of the financial industry. Most of that blame does have to fall on the managers of those institutions, rating agencies, investment banks as well as the people who over-extended themselves with credit.
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As to the regulations that were non-existing for the last several years. Most of that blame must be put on Congress, the Treasury Dept. and the Federal Reserve. It’s their job to keep things in order. Unfortunately, many of those politicians were re-elected. Barney Frank, Henry Dodds along with Obama who was able to deflect most of the blame during the election. We will have to wait until 2010 before we have a chance to remove some of these lazy, elected government officials.
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David Ruder, a former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission tried a few years ago to force the hedge funds to register with the agency, but failed was also present at the hearing.
“Although hedge funds have been active participants in the financial markets during the past years, they do not seem to have played a major role in the events precipitating the crisis,” Ruder told the hearing.
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The men who were summoned to the hearing today are some of the leaders in the hedge fund industry. These guys are known by playing by the rules. The bad thing is that there aren’t that many rules for them to follow. Many of the hedge funds that we’ve been hearing about going under are the less respectable ones. The ones that don’t really follow any rules and leveraged the hell out of their funds.

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