This A.M.: Saturn Blasted Out of GM Orbit; Wall Street Dizzy With New Alchemy; Globe Surfs Google Wave


Saturn to Close After Sale Falls Through (WSJ)

About 13,000 workers will be shit out of luck, but impact on nation's unemployment rate will be miniscule. Meanwhile, bad news in New York for jobless: "Mayor Bloomberg vows to snuff out smoking in parks, beaches." No job, no hope, and now no cigarettes. Stop, you're killing us.


Dow, Up 15%, Has Best Quarter Since '98 (WSJ)

Bubble news: "Many of the riskiest stocks" led the charge. What happens when the Fed starts to dismantle its supports propping up the whole thing? You think this is a real bull market? Story doesn't judge that, but it does paint the most rosy picture of the turbulent market: "Corporate profits have come in above reduced expectations, in large part due to cost cutting." So what happens to profits after the cost-cutting slows down, which it inevitably has to?


Google Wave Invites for Sale on eBay (WSJ)


Zuckerberg Now Worth $2 Billion, Says Forbes (Silicon Valley Insider)

Facebook CEO is the richest American who primarily wears T-shirts.


The Balance Sheet: Interview with Joseph Stiglitz (New Yorker, James Surowiecki)

Click above video or here.


Wall Street Wizardry Reworks Mortgages (WSJ)

"A new wave of financial alchemy" to "make soured securities look better." A test for regulators. Matthew Goldstein of Reuters warns, "Beware the bull market in derivatives."


Swiss Health Care Thrives Without Public Option (NYT)

Highly misleading propaganda piece against the "public option." Switzerland offers strong, immediate public subsidies of health care to its citizenry, and that could have been the story's spin just as easily as this one conjured up by the Times.


A Dealmaker Out of Time: And With Lewis, an Earlier Era on Wall Street Fades (WSJ)

"Ken Lewis was shot with his own gun." David Weidner asks: "Exactly who pulled the trigger?" (And in a nation that's running short of bullets, who was lucky enough to buy the ammo?) For speculation on the next Bank of America outlaw, see the NY Post's "He's not even cold: Top dealmakers already being eyed for Lewis job."

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This A.M.: Obama Talks the Talk on Wall Street, but a Federal Judge Walks the Walk; Execs Party in Foreclosed House, Flee Swine Flu in Private Jets

For Obama, a Chance to Reform the Street Is Fading (NYT)

The president "sternly admonished the financial industry and lawmakers to accept his proposals." Obama says Wall Street is "choosing to ignore" the "lessons of Lehman and the crisis."


Judge Rejects Settlement Over Merrill Bonuses (NYT)

Astonishing, rare, and powerful rebuke of Wall Street by federal judge Jed Rakoff that far outstrips Obama's for-public-consumption scolding — and embarrasses the president and Obama's SEC chief Mary Schapiro. WSJ's "Judge Tosses Out Bonus Deal" points out that the "unusual ruling ... casts doubts about how the [SEC] handles probes of major U.S. companies." Rakoff's ruling strengthens NY AG Andy Cuomo's attempt to file civil-fraud charges against Bank of America's CEO Ken Lewis. Meanwhile, Lewis tells Japan that "there is a potential for a rebound that beats the forecasts." He's talking about the global economy, not his own future.


No Easy Exit for U.S. As Housing's Savior (WSJ)

Housing market's only doing better because the government's propping it up.


Swine Flu Means $25,000 Chartered New York Flights for Senior Executives (Bloomberg)

"Demand for private travel during the swine flu pandemic is boosting the charter business, worth about $33 billion a year worldwide."


For France, a Joie de Vivre Index (WSJ)

"Sarkozy to Add New Indicators, Such as Well-Being, to Measure Economic Health." Clever. Based on Joseph Stiglitz's analysis.


Wells Fargo Dismisses Executive Accused of Using Foreclosed Home for Parties (WSJ)

Bank seized $12 million beach house lost amid Madoff scheme, and senior veep Cheronda Guyton used it to party like it was 1999.

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This A.M.: Warnings of Doom on Markets, Big Banks; Hannah Montana Gets Sex Change

Disney Nabs Marvel Heroes (WSJ)

The L.A. Times, in its very first paragraph of a hometown big-news story, calls Disney's conquest of Marvel's superheroes a "reinvention" — no wonder that readers are flocking away from dull daily newspapers. Much better, as usual, is the Wall Street Journal's take: "By bringing in macho types such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, the Marvel deal would expand Disney's audience, adding properties that appeal to boys from their preteen years into young adulthood. That demographic group hasn't been swept up by Disney's recent hot properties, such as High School Musical and the Jonas Brothers." Marvel becomes a Mickey Mouse operation as Disney tries to jump-start flagging DVD sales. The film industry is in deep trouble from all sorts of Web-based diversions, and the WSJ sees more consolidation in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Disney's Bob Iger sounds like a pedophile: "We view this as an opportunity to attract more boys and older kids." The Big Money's Chadwick Matlin spoofs "Exclusive Disney-Marvel Synergy Memo." Click on video above (or here) for Disney's subliminal messages.


The Systemic Threat Posed by Megabanks (Felix Salmon, Reuters)

Riffing on David Cho's scary story last weekend in the Washington Post, "Banks 'Too Big to Fail' Have Grown Even Bigger," Salmon urges that someone has to force Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and BofA "to start shrinking today."


Take the 'L' Out of LBO (Reuters, Matthew Goldstein)

"In a perfect world, we would simply ban leveraged buyouts. The vast majority of these debt-laden corporate takeovers are no less predatory and value-destroying to a company than a loan shark who charges usurious rates of interest." However, it's an imperfect world, so why not force private equity buyers "to pony up at least 50 percent of the purchase price"?


Is a Crash Impending? (Seeking Alpha, Karl Denninger)

Sounding like Jeremiah, Denninger warns that "the market is currently being levitated on literal trash."


TARP Repayments: Media Continues to Trumpet Unjustified Positive Economic Spin (Seeking Alpha, Kid Dynamite)

Puts the lie to current spin. With links. Behind all this is that sharks are using corporate welfare to churn shitty banks, and that's not going to accomplish anything but profits for individual sharks. His conclusion: "Recognize bad debt instead of continuing to pretend it will work itself out eventually. Stop funding insolvent institutions and use those funds to seed new, healthy banks instead."

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This A.M.: Toxic Assets, Staggering Foreclosures, Soaring Unemployment -- Everything Else Humming Along


New Phase of Crisis: Securities Sink Banks (WSJ)

"The U.S. banking crisis is entering a new stage, as lenders succumb to large amounts of toxic loans and securities they bought from other banks."


Souring Prime Loans Compound Mortgage Woes (WSJ)

Frightening foreclosure figures. One in eight households nationwide are in foreclosure or behind on mortgage payments. "Loans extended to borrowers with good credit are deteriorating at a faster clip" than loans to subprime borrowers. Doesn't feel like "recovery." Calculated Risk's detailed breakdown/analysis points out that Alt-A loans are included in the "prime" category, which may make the high numbers a little misleading. More on that (plus this explanation) from Reuters: "That could be skewing things since Alt-A loans by definition are less than prime and extremely loose lending standards during the boom have made them look more like subprime loans. For example, borrowers taking out an Alt-A loan could state their income rather than prove it."


Rise of the Super-Rich Hits a Sobering Wall (NYT)

John McAfee's net worth has fallen from $100 million to $4 million. Send him a sympathy card.


Burress Will Receive 2-Year Prison Sentence (NYT)

A New York millionaire, football player Plaxico Burress, who wounded no one but himself and threatened no one, gets two years in jail for his gunplay. Other New York millionaires who didn't need to pack heat to cripple millions of Americans are still on the loose on Wall Street.


Insider Selling Highlights Growing Downside Risk (TradingHelpDesk.com)

"... Company insiders are now selling stock at the highest rate in two years. This action does not guarantee a market decline but it does imply the easy money in the current bullish run has been made and downside risks, whether temporary or cyclical, have increased. ..."

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This A.M.: Jittery market, foreclosure gloom, rising unemployment, getting by on only $300K

Stocks Drop in Global Pullback; U.S. Economy Is Still Sputtering (WashPost)

Reaction from one investment strategist: ""Whether it's the facts catching up with the expectations or the expectations catching up with the facts, I'm not sure which." You can those words to the bank. WSJ speculation, Telegraph (U.K.) on fears that rally's over; Seeking Alpha's The Mole on the bear.


Foreclosures Rise With Unemployment Rate (WashPost)

"The country's growing unemployment is overtaking subprime mortgages as the main driver of foreclosures, threatening to send even higher the number of borrowers who will lose their homes and making the foreclosure crisis far more complicated to unwind." In the first quarter, prime foreclosures outnumbered subprime ones.


Squeaking by on $300,000 (WashPost)

Droll profile of one Laura Steins in ritzy NYC suburb Harrison: "[S]he's months overdue for a visit to her colorist, a telltale sign of economic distress for a woman such as Steins."


Fox News on pace for best year ever (AP)

Sailing on its swift boat with its three Gilligans — little buddies Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity — Fox has seen its viewership rise 11 percent from last year. CNN and MSNBC are down.

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This A.M.: Hollywood Gets Over on Beijing; Madoff Got Off on Hadassah Chick

Hollywood Upstages Beijing: WTO Hands China Its Biggest Defeat in Trade Battle Over Movies, Music, Books (WSJ)

Ruling "could help break open the tight controls that have crippled the ability of filmmakers, musicians, videogame designers and other artists to widely market their creations at reasonable prices." Other major trade clashes between China and U.S. are also coming to a head.


Madoff Had Affair With Ex-Hadassah Finance Chief, Her Book Says (Bloomberg)

Sheryl Weinstein, former chief financial officer at Hadassah, a major Jewish women's organization, fesses up to an affair with Bernie. She and her hubby (and Hadassah) not only lost their asses to Bernie, but she personally lost hers to him. Now we know that Bernie made at least one deposit.


Fed Starts Rollback Of Rescue Efforts (WashPost)

Great. Now how about the rest of the country? Among other woes: another month of record-high foreclosures.


Jackson Earnings Grow by Millions After Death (NYT)

When it comes to the battle of dead pop stars, Elvis has left the building, and MJ has taken the stage. In the 48 days since his death, Michael Jackson has earned $100 million in film and merchandising deals, and his handlers expect another $100 million by the end of the year. Co-executor says, "Clearly that's a new record for estates that likely will not be broken."



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Good News, Everybody! No Second Wave of Foreclosures! (First One Hasn't Yet Ended.)

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Just when things were starting to look ever so slightly better Mathew Padilla just had to go and tell us that the current wave of foreclosures isn't really receding but is expanding into "a giant wave." He ignores the pure number of foreclosures and focuses on delinquency rates.

Padilla casts big doubt on the so-called second-wave theory, which says that there's now a lull. That's an illusion, says Padilla, who writes Mortgage Insider at the O.C. Register. See his chart of 90-day delinquency rates in Orange County — looks like some sort of vicious farm implement with tines on which you could easily be impaled.

We already know that the Obama plan to prod mortgage companies into helping borrowers is off to a bad start.

More foreclosure stuff here.

Cars up, houses down: If you lose your house, at least you'll be able to sleep in a nice, new hybrid car

Stocks are up, cash-for-clunkers will stay in business — things are looking up, you say.

Except that consumer spending is up (good, they say), while personal income is down. And Obama's Making Home Affordable program? Sluggish at best. Some loan-servicers haven't modified a single damn loan.

But why should they offer refinancing to help homeowners stave off foreclosure, even if the government pays the companies to do so? Aside from illegal scams, the banks usually make more on fees when a house goes into foreclosure.

Enough about your homes. We're still waiting the collapse of the commercial real-estate market.

This a.m.: House odds get even worse in Vegas -- foreclosure filings rise 56 percent, Jacko's doc may even lose his home

In Las Vegas, not only is the house, as usual, the winner, but the people who live in houses are becoming bigger losers than ever.

The newest report on foreclosures shows that Las Vegas leads the nation: One in 13 Vegas properties was slapped with a foreclosure filing during the first six months of 2009, according to RealtyTrac figures. The national average was 1 in 84.

And now it seems that Michael Jackson's embattled personal doctor could face foreclosure on his home.

Adding to the plight of homeowners nationwide is that mortgage companies can make more profit by keeping loans delinquent instead of cutting homeowners some slack.

The fog of climate war: China pours out steel at record rate, blasts U.S. clean-energy bill; Obama tagged as 'weak'

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News from the other meltdown front, which is heating up around the globe: China's factories are really smokin' — it's headed toward a record output of steel (while S&P analysts are colder on the U.S. mining and metals industry). But Chinese officials rip the Barack Obama's clean-energy moves, still insisting that it's the developed nations, not China, that are responsible for cutting emissions.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill's global-warming deniers are fuming more than ever about that nasty cap-and-trade approach.

But the FT's Clive Crook has a pretty fresh take, calling the cap-and-trade bill a "travesty" because Barack Obama, though he says he wants to tackle climate change (and healthcare reform), is "choosing to be weak."