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  • Fed May Have An Unexpected Surprise In Mind

    My readers know that the global financial world is waiting with bated breath for tomorrow’s Fed decision on whether to start to “taper” QE purchases now or wait until next year. The Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) is holding its last policy meeting of the year today and tomorrow, and Chairman Bernanke will hold a press conference afterward.

    The latest surveys indicate that most Fed watchers believe the FOMC will wait until next year to taper, but that remains to be seen. What is actually more interesting is some language that was buried in the minutes from the October 29-30 FOMC meeting. The minutes were released on November 20.

    Within those minutes, we find that the FOMC is considering lowering or removing the interest paid to commercial banks on money they choose to leave on deposit with the Fed. The minutes reveal that at the late October policy meeting, the Committee members discussed the possibility that the FOMC might reduce or eliminate the 25 basis-points of interest the Fed pays to big banks that leave excess reserve deposits at the Fed. This is potentially very big!

    Why would the Fed do this? The minutes suggest that the FOMC believes that reducing or eliminating the interest paid to commercial banks would spur those banks to draw down those deposits and use that money to make more loans, thus stimulating the economy – and pave the way for the Fed to start its QE taper. This is extremely interesting. I’ll lay it out for you today.

    But before we get into that discussion, I’d like to analyze the latest two-year federal budget that was passed by the House last week, and may pass the Senate as early as tonight. The bipartisan budget deal was hailed as a major victory by lawmakers and the White House. But as I will explain below, the latest budget deal represents a sell-out by both political parties.

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  • Spain & Weak US Economy Dominate Markets

    Stock markets around the world have been pummeled in recent weeks amidst the growing reality that we’re in a global recession, especially in Europe. Fears that the US will also fall into recession have intensified, particularly in light of last week’s very disappointing economic reports.

    At the same time, the European debt crisis has once again raised its ugly head, this time with the spotlight on Spain. Spain’s own Prime Minister has admitted that the country is in a state of emergency, and money is gushing out of Spanish banks. Interest rates have soared once again to levels that led to the European Central Bank’s €1 trillion bailout package late last year and early this year.

    Last week, the yield on Spain’s 10-year bonds spiked to 6.7%, a whopping premium of more than 5.5% above the yield on the 10-year German bund at the time. Meanwhile, short-term rates in Germany fell to zero as new money seeks a safe haven there and in the US where 10-year Treasury-note yields fell to a post-war record low of 1.45% last Friday.

    Spain is facing a full-fledged banking crisis and knows it. Yet Spain's leaders do not want a bailout and the accompanying loss of sovereignty. They see that such bailouts in Ireland and Portugal have not gone well. Still, Spain is running out of money fast, and the country is largely shot out of the credit markets. How this plays out is uncertain, but it won't be pretty.

    Following that discussion, I will address the fact that consumer confidence is dropping like a stone in the US. This has prompted new hopes that the Fed will unleash QE3. We will know soon enough as the next Fed policy meeting is June 19-20.

    We end up today with a suggestion on my part that the current swoon in stocks is a BUYING OPPORTUNITY. No one knows where the bottom is, of course, but consider this. If the Supreme Court renders Obamacare unconstitutional later this month, and I think it will, we could see a MONSTER RALLY in stocks. The High Court's decision is scheduled to be announced on June 25. This is why I think you need to be getting back in the market now, while it's down. And I offer two excellent suggestions on just how to do that at the end.

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  • European Bank Woes & the Super Committee

    A recent study from Credit Suisse revealed some alarming information about Europe's largest banks. We already knew that Europe's largest banks are mired in so-called "sovereign debt," that owed them by the various government's of the Eurozone. The Credit Suisse study found that in addition to sovereign debt, most of Europe's largest banks still have billions in toxic assets that were acquired prior to the credit crisis in 2008. Most of these toxic assets are related to real estate/mortgages, CDOs, etc. that were bought prior to the recession and are now presumably worth far less than face value. In short, European banks have done a lousy job of cleaning up their balance sheets and writing off troubled assets.

    Following that discussion, we will revisit the so-called "Super Committee" that is trying to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. As you might expect, the committee of six Republicans and six Democrats is deadlocked as this is written, and the real deadline is next Monday, November 21 when the committee needs to present its deal to the CBO for scoring. The bottom line: I don't think the Super Committee is going to agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Read on and I will tell you why.

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  • Fed Offers Bailout of European Banks

    Last Thursday we learned that the US Federal Reserve has decided to make unlimited US dollar loans (swaps) to the European Central Bank (ECB) and directly to European money center banks that are in trouble, at least through the end of this year. And what will the Fed get in return as collateral? Eurodollars that are quickly falling in value as of late. So even as our own economy may be falling back into recession, the Fed sees fit to bail out the European banks that are sinking in sovereign debt from the likes of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

    All eyes are on tomorrow's Fed Open Market Committee policy statement. The Fed is expected to announce its so-called "Operation Twist" strategy that is intended to lower medium and long-term interest rates, which may or may not work. Some people expect the Fed to comment on its latest decision to make unlimited US dollar loans to European banks, but I will be very surprised if they mention a word about it. They're keeping it very quiet (which is another good reason to read my E-Letters and blog postings).

    Speaking of blog postings, I will write about tomorrow's Fed policy decision on my blog before the end of the day tomorrow. Go to www.GaryDHalbert.com and subscribe to read my take on the Fed's announcement.

    Following the Fed discussion, I will bring you the highlights of the latest report on US poverty from the Census Bureau. Poverty is now at an all-time high. Ditto for the number of Americans that depend on food stamps, according to the Department of Agriculture. These two reports are very troubling.

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  • Obama’s Plans to Help(?) Small Business

    IN THIS ISSUE:

    1.  Does Small Business Need a Bailout?

    2.  Obama & the Democrats to the Rescue

    3.  What’s Not to Like About TARP III?

    4.  Higher Taxes Hurt Only 3% of Small Businesses – Wrong!

    5.  President Obama’s “September Surprises” So Far

    6.  My Thoughts on the Surprising Mood of the Electorate

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  • Financial Reform or Government Takeover Revisited

    The sweeping new financial regulatory bill was signed into law last Wednesday by President Obama. It will create a huge new government bureaucracy over the next year or so including 13 brand new federal agencies employing thousands of new government workers. The heads of these agencies will be appointed (not elected) by the president. These agencies will have the power to seize any companies that they deem to have 'systemic risk' and liquidate them if they so choose. One specific agency will have the right to demand any and all information from financial companies, including your personal account information, and it will have subpoena power over any firms that don't cooperate.

    The vast new reform law does not solve the 'too-big-to-fail' problem; in fact, it institutionalizes it. Likewise, the new law does not at all address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which continue to lose billions every month. The reform law will create a new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, which will have the authority to write rules for consumer protections governing all financial institutions – banks and nonbanks – that offer consumer financial products or services. While some financial reforms are needed, this giant new bureaucracy will cost taxpayers and financial firms billions every year, and these costs will be passed down to their customers like you and me.

    There is probably nothing we can do to stop this new law and replace it with something smaller and more focused, but I wanted you to know the facts about this new bureaucracy. Suffice it to say, Big Brother just got a whole lot bigger!

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  • Is Your Local Bank in TARP Trouble?

    We can all remember the credit crisis back in late 2008 and President Bush's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Most people assumed this huge bailout program was primarily for the big Wall Street banks, but hundreds of small community banks received TARP money as well. While almost all of the big banks have paid back their TARP loans, over 600 small banks have not been able to do so.

    A new congressional study this month reveals that these 641 mostly community banks don't have the capital to repay their TARP loans, and indicates that the government will not bail them out again. According to the new report, these banks that can't repay their TARP loans will have to be merged with larger banks or go out of business.

    This dilemma reminds us that small and regional banks are overloaded with commercial real estate loans, many of which are past due on their payments, and the properties that collateralize these loans have significantly declined in value during the recession. While I have written about the commercial real estate debacle earlier this year, it is time to revisit this topic in light of the problems facing many small banks around the country.

    Last but not least, I will announce our upcoming Internet webinar with Hg Capital on August 4 at 1:00 PM Eastern time (10:00 Pacific time). Hg's founders will discuss in detail their Long/Short Government Bond program that knocked the lights out in 2009. This is a great opportunity to learn how to take advantage of the bond market, what with interest rates at the lowest point in the last 50 years. Be sure to sign up for this Internet event that is free of charge and you can listen and watch on your computer wherever you are.

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  • The Economy & the Commercial Real Estate Bust

    This week, we take a fresh look at the latest economic reports, most of which have been positive and suggest that the recession is over and the economy is rebounding. Still, I expect that economic growth will only be mild in 2010, as I discuss in this week's letter.

    Our larger topic this week is the huge problem with commercial real estate debt, which could be the next shoe to drop in the credit crisis. Commercial real estate values have plunged apprx. 39% nationwide since the recession began, and some sources believe prices could fall another 20% or so before stabilizing. This is huge, but we don't hear a lot about it, even though banks are failing at an alarming rate as a result. This is a major problem you need to be aware of, so let's get right to it.

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