Thursday, October 14, 2010

Superior Gold Group - UK banks to create 1.5 billion-pound business fund

Britain's six largest banks will start a 1.5 billion-pound ($2.4 billion) fund to help smaller companies to get financing after the government threatened to curb bonuses unless firms boost lending.

HSBC Holdings Plc, Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Standard Chartered Plc and Banco Santander SA's UK unit will contribute to the fund "over a number of years," according to a report to be published on Wednesday. Executives from the banks will meet Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable on Wednesday to present the Business Growth Fund report, a person familiar with the situation said on October 5.

The move follows pressure from business lobby groups and politicians urging banks to increase lending after accepting more than 1 trillion pounds in bailouts and guarantees during the financial crisis. Osborne said last week he would block the payment of large bonuses unless banks show they are extending credit to households and companies.

"This won't touch the real needs of small businesses," said Stephen Alambritis, a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, which represents 215,000 entrepreneurs. "It is a drop in the ocean compared to what small businesses need from the banks."

The UK's largest banks may pay 7 billion pounds in bonuses to staff in the financial industry this year, the Centre for Economics & Business Research Ltd said. The banks will enable companies seeking to reorganize debts to have a "dialogue" with their lenders 12 months before the scheduled date of refinancing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - Wall Street falls as investors book gains

US stocks fell on Monday as disappointing economic data, combined with worries about euro zone debt, pushed investors away from riskier assets and sparked profit-taking after a recent rally.

Troubling economic news from Ireland , Portugal and Greece renewed concerns about the euro zone debts, hurting the euro currency and sending the safe-haven US dollar higher.

That hit commodity prices and related stocks. The S&P materials index led the decline, falling 1.7 percent.

Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, said that investors were using the renewed risk aversion to take profits after September's 9 percent run-up in the S&P 500.

"We're coming off exceptionally strong performance in the month of September, he said. "You probably have a little bit of an element of profit taking that was maybe accelerated by the disappointing data points this morning."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 104.63 points, or 0.97 percent, at 10,725.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 12.04 points, or 1.05 percent, at 1,134.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 30.73 points, or 1.30 percent, at 2,340.02.

Pending sales of previously owned US homes indicated the housing market was stabilizing at a very low level, while new orders received by US factories fell 0.5 percent in the same month.

Microsoft Corp was a drag on both the Dow and Nasdaq 100, dropping 2.3 percent to $23.83 after Goldman Sachs downgraded the software maker, citing a slow recovery in PC sales and competition from tablet computers, which do not include Windows software.

The falling US dollar pressured commodity-related stocks. Industrial materials shares fell, with US Steel Corp off 3.9 percent to $42.92 and Alcoa down 3 percent to $11.8. The Irish central bank said on Monday Ireland's economy will crawl to a virtual halt this year, while Greece forecast the economy will contract 2.6 percent next year after a 4.0 percent slump in 2010. Portuguese officials urged unity on austerity measures in the face of opposition.

The S&P 500 recently finished its best quarter in a year, although the index has been struggling to break out of the 1,130-1,150 range. The index fell back below the the 61.8 Fibonacci retracement of its April to July pullback at 1,140 and moved back towards support at 1,130, a level the index struggled against, finally climbing above it in late September. S&P 500 short-term technical indicators showed sell signals.

The benchmark index's 10-day momentum line fell below zero, indicating a short-term trend reversal, while the trend lines of the moving average convergence-divergence (MACD) indicator crossed at oversold levels. The third-quarter earnings season will begin unofficially this week with Alcoa's results on Thursday. Micron Technology Inc, PepsiCo Inc and Monsanto Co are also set to report this week.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - US banking system 'open to abuse'

One of the US's top fraud investigators is warning that America's policing of money laundering is wide open to abuse.

Eric Lewis will tell a Congressional hearing on terrorist financing that billions of dollars are slipping through the US banking system.

In a testimony ahead of the hearing on Tuesday he says that only international action can stop the laundering.

The US Committee on Financial Services is taking evidence on "trends in terrorism financing".

Mr Lewis will tell the hearing the "powerful tools" to stop the laundering of drug and terrorist money "are not being used as vigorously and consistently as they could be".

Mr Lewis was legal counsel to the liquidators of the collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce and is an adviser to liquidators running down the companies of fraudster Bernard Madoff.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Only the US possesses the resources and tools to protect the global financial system”

End Quote Eric Lewis US lawyer

He also represents the al-Gosaibi family of Saudi Arabia, which has been involved in a long-running dispute with the billionaire head of another Saudi family, Maan al-Sanea.

The Gosaibi family have alleged that Mr Sanea siphoned off billions of pounds through the US banking system in a complex fraud. Mr Sanea categorically disputes the claim.

As an example, Mr Lewis says in his testimony that the Gosaibi case raises "fundamental concerns about the safeguards that have been put in place to prevent our banking institutions from becoming instruments of terrorist financing or fraud or other financial crimes".

Mr Lewis said the alleged fraud appeared to involve the transfer of funds "on a dizzying scale", "yet there appear to have been no questions asked", he claimed in his testimony.
Inadequate fines

He criticised Wall Street' s due diligence, saying that this "first line of defence" often failed because banks are "heavily incentivised to look the other way" when a large slice of business comes their way.

Fines imposed on banks are often too small to make an impact.

Mr Lewis said: "The bottom line is that fines are still viewed by banks as unlikely to occur, and if they do occur, they are a cost of doing business, and, until that changes, banks will not be good policemen."

He said that the global nature of fraud, in which transactions pass through many jurisdictions, meant that closer international cooperation was needed to help combat it.

However, Mr Lewis believes that only the US "possesses the resources and tools to protect the global financial system".

"If the US does not take on this responsibility, it will both undermine its own security and fail to do its part for global security interests," he said.

Another expert witness at the hearing, Victor Comras, also felt that the US must give greater focus to banks and financial institutions abroad.

Mr Comras, special counsel at the Eren Law firm and former diplomat, said that the US had made great strides in cracking down on money laundering in America.

But he said in his pre-hearing testimony: "US banks are intricately networked into an international banking system and… remain awkwardly vulnerable to getting caught up in handling terrorist group-related transactions that originate overseas."

The problem was, US banks rely heavily on the accuracy of transactional information given to them by foreign banks. But very often US banks have to take that information on trust, he said.

"It is essential that we broaden the focus of our attention, when it comes to inhibiting the financing of terrorism, to include financial institutions beyond out shores," Mr Comras said.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Superior Gold Group - US is still in recession, says Warren Buffett

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said US economy remains in recession , disputing this week's assessment by a leading arbiter of economic activity that downturn ended more than a year ago. "We're still in recession," Buffett said on Thursday. "We're not going to be out of it for a while, but we will get out."

On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research said the world's largest economy ended an 18-month recession in June 2009, but cautioned that its assessment did not mean normal activity had resumed . Buffett said he defines a recession differently from the NBER, saying it ends when real per capita GDP returns to its pre-downturn level.
President Barack Obama said that economic weakness is "still very real" for the millions of Americans who are out of work, have seen the value of their homes fall, or are mired in debt. Buffett, 80, runs Berkshire Hathaway Inc which has roughly 80 operating businesses . "A great majority" of these businesses are "coming back slowly," he said.

Berkshire's operations cover a broad swath of the economy, including the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, Dairy Queen ice cream, Geico auto insurance , and luxury jewelers such as Borsheim's . Shipments at Burlington Northern are "61% of the way back," Buffett said. "Our carpet business, our brick business, our insulation business, they're not back 61%, they are moving back."

On Tuesday, the US Federal Reserve, which has already driven short-term lending rates to near zero, said it is prepared to provide additional stimulus to avert possible deflation. "We've used up a lot of bullets," Buffett said. "And we talk about stimulus. But the truth is, we're running a federal deficit that's 9% of GDP. That is stimulative as all get out." Buffett's $45 billion net worth makes him the second-richest American, trailing only Microsoft Corp cofounder Bill Gates.


Monday, September 6, 2010 - US investors seek pay for pre-WWII German bonds

More than 80 years ago, Germany sold tens of thousands of bonds to American investors in an effort to recover financially from World War I. Later, Adolf Hitler used some of the money raised by those bonds to build the powerful Nazi war machine that would ravage Europe during World War II.

Now, half a dozen US bondholders are turning to federal courts in an effort to force Germany to make good on its promise to repay the debts, which today could be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. Action has been heating up in lawsuits filed in Miami, New York and Chicago, including a victory for investors last month when an appeals court rejected Germany's attempt to dismiss their case.

If the bondholders ultimately win, their lawyers could ask judges to seize German assets in the U.S. to repay them, a tactic that has worked in other legal disputes over money owed by foreign governments.

But if Germany prevails, the bondholders argue, it could undermine the global system through which governments raise money by issuing bonds.

``Our position is not only correct under the law, it would avoid such a potentially far-reaching precedent,'' said investor attorney Sam Dubbin of Coral Gables, Florida, who has frequently represented Holocaust survivors in Nazi-related claims.

Enrico Brandt, a spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington, said the lawsuits are baseless. Brandt said the only way bondholders can redeem the securities is to go through a validation process mandated by a 1953 international treaty and later enshrined in German law.

`` Consequently, the efforts of the plaintiffs to outmaneuver the validation procedure by suing in the United States will fail,'' Brandt said in an e-mail. ``Any bond passing the validation procedure successfully will be honored.''

Even with the questions of the bonds' validity, a robust market has developed with people around the globe buying and selling them in hopes they one day can be redeemed.

Bondholders claim in their lawsuits Germany has erected a nightmarish maze of bureaucratic red tape around the validation process. One key issue for many bonds is a purported Soviet Red Army plunder of thousands of bonds in 1945 from a Nazi vault as the war ended. Germany said those bonds had already been redeemed to the government, but were still improperly resold around the world. Any from that batch would therefore be invalid, the government argues.

Court documents indicate that Germany has repeatedly cited a ``list of stolen bonds'' in denying payment, but attorneys for bondholders say Germany won't share its list or allow it to face public and legal scrutiny. The validation law also requires the difficult task of proving the bond wasn't physically present in Germany on Jan. 1, 1945, not long before Germany surrendered.

``There are so many problems with the validation process that there is no real validation process,'' said Tampa attorney James Lowy, who represents a group of investors separate from those Dubbin works for.

Dubbin said documents from a German archive show most of the looted bonds were returned by the Soviets, a conclusion echoed by historians hired by lawyers in the New York case.

Germany also has claimed it is not subject to U.S. court rulings regarding its bonds, a stance rejected by federal appeals courts in Atlanta and New York. The New York court, however, dismissed one bondholder lawsuit on grounds that they did not first seek repayment through the German validation process. The bonds in that case are valued at more than $400 million.

If Germany ultimately loses in American courts and still refuses to pay the bondholders, their U.S. attorneys could ask judges to seize German assets in this country or ask German courts to enforce the judgment. Lawyers in a separate case previously seized millions of dollars in Cuban assets frozen in the U.S. to pay lawsuit damages.

Richard Buxbaum, an international law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said the U.S. government set up a fund for investors by seizing Chinese assets in a case involving unpaid bonds from pre-communist China. In the German bonds case, he said, the key for a U.S. judge will be to decide if Germany's system of authenticating the securities passes U.S. constitutional muster.

``You have to show some proof of ownership,'' Buxbaum said. ``My guess is that the American courts would apply the German law.''

Germany tried to win dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Dubbin's clients, World Holdings LLC, on grounds that the matter didn't belong in U.S. courts. But a federal judge in Miami rejected that and her decision was upheld Aug. 9 by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which took pains to point out the issue remains unsettled. Germany could still appeal the decision.

None of the bondholders suing in U.S. courts would agree to comment for this story.

The U.S. court battles are only the latest intrigue to surround the bonds, first issued by Weimar Republic in the 1920s as Germany struggled to recover from World War I, which had ended in 1918.

The bonds were sold in the U.S. from 1924 to 1930 to help Germany invest in new projects and industries and pay war reparations. One series, known as the Dawes Bonds, raised $110 million in 1920s dollars _ the equivalent of about $1.2 billion today; another series called the Young Bonds generated more than $98 million _ about a billion today.

Investors were told the German bonds were guaranteed safe. Even President Calvin Coolidge urged Americans to snap them up.

But things changed after 1933, when Hitler and the Nazis rose to power. Hitler defaulted on the bonds and ordered that none be repaid, causing them to plummet in value worldwide. Then, Germany began quietly buying them up for pennies on the dollar before World War II began in 1939, stashing thousands in bank vaults and reselling others.

The upshot was that Germany got to keep all the money raised through the bond sales, leaving investors in the cold. And Hitler was able to use a chunk of the money ``to rebuild Germany's war machine,'' according to Dubbin's lawsuit.

Dubbin and Lowy argue the issue remains relevant today. ``It's a question of accountability,'' Lowy said. ``They are saying, 'We will build things with your money but we're not going to pay you.' You think these bonds are safe. They're not.''

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Superior Gold Group - Wall Street closes with strong gains

Wall Street stocks soared on Wednesday after strong manufacturing data in the United States and China eased deep-running concerns over the state of the global economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 254.75 points (2.54 percent) to 10,269.47 in closing trades, while the broader S&P 500 index gained 30.96 points (2.95 percent) to 1,080.29 points.

The tech-rich Nasdaq composite index rose 62.81 points (2.97 percent) to 2,176.84.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Superior Gold Group - Japan tries to boost growth

Japan's central bank eased monetary policy at an emergency meeting on Monday, seeking to contain a strong yen and mollify growing political pressure to revive a faltering economy.

The move, which disappointed investors and analysts hoping for bolder action, comes as Prime Minister Naoto Kan prepares a new set of economic stimulus measures.

To boost liquidity, the central bank unveiled a new six-month low-interest loan programme to financial institutions.

Combined with an existing three-month funds-supplying operation worth 20 trillion yen ($236.4 billion), banks will now have access to a total of 30 trillion yen ($355 billion).