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    Daily Digest – Jan 1

    by Davos

    Thursday, January 1, 2009, 5:24 PM

  • Americans Under 70 May Find 2008 Was Their Least Favorite Year
  • US stocks suffer worst year since Great Depression
  • Piggy banks fly off shelves in freshly frugal U.S.
  • The Wave of the Future?
  • Chief justice: Inflation outpacing pay for judges
  • Deregulator Looks Back, Unswayed
  • Mortgage ‘Cram-Downs’ Loom as Foreclosures Mount
  • Mortgage rates hit fresh 37-year low
  • Stop the Presses…
  • Government aid could save U.S. newspapers, spark debate 

Economy 

Americans Under 70 May Find 2008 Was Their Least Favorite Year 

Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) — This wasn’t just a bad year for the economy. By some measures, it was the worst year any American under age 70 has ever seen. 

The loss of jobs in the U.S. may be the biggest since the end of World War II. This year’s declines in stock and home prices haven’t been exceeded since the Great Depression. The slump in holiday spending may set a record; foreclosures already have. Credit markets seized, halting the longest expansion in consumer purchases.

Europe and Japan also sank as U.S. demand faltered, marking the first simultaneous recessions since the Second World War ended. High-flying emerging economies, such as China and India, weren’t immune, signaling the world economy is just as interconnected in bad times as in good.

"It was the year we wish it wasn’t," said Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff, a former International Monetary Fund chief economist. "The global scale and magnitude" of the financial crisis and recession "is much greater than those we’ve seen before."

US stocks suffer worst year since Great Depression 

The worst annual performance for Wall Street stocks since the Great Depression ended with a modest rally on the final day of trading as the Federal Reserve pushed ahead with its plan to buy mortgage-backed securities. 

The central bank’s plan to buy up to $500bn of mortgage bonds by the middle of 2009 helped spur a 1.4 per cent gain on the day for the S&P, which finished 2008 at 903.25.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite Index added 1.3 per cent to 8,776.39 and 1.7 per cent to 1,577.03, respectively. Volumes were thin as many traders remained away from their desks ahead of the New Year holiday.

For the year, the S&P 500 dropped 38.5 per cent, marking its worst run since a marginally higher drop of 38.6 per cent in 1937. The Dow lost 33.8 per cent, its worst annual decline since the index fell 52.7 per cent in 1931. 

Piggy banks fly off shelves in freshly frugal U.S. 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Recession-wary Americans embraced the virtues of thrift this Christmas, with stores reporting a clear rise in the popularity of piggy banks. 

"We have been selling coin banks really well," said Laura Kellner at Kikkerland Design Inc. in New York City, whose stylish chrome pig is priced at $31.

The Wave of the Future?  

A rash of bank robberies in New York has the city’s police commissioner worried that criminals have turned banks into "virtual cash machines" and some wondering whether tough economic times are fueling the trend. 

On Monday alone, robbers targeted five banks in the Big Apple, some striking in broad daylight and near famous landmarks.

Chief justice: Inflation outpacing pay for judges  

WASHINGTON (AP) – Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday that Congress should be as generous to judges as it already has been to itself, by approving an inflation-related increase in their pay. "I must renew the judiciary’s modest petition: Simply provide cost-of-living increases that have been unfairly denied," Roberts said in his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary. 

Alone among federal employees, judges will not receive a cost-of-living allowance in 2009. Members of Congress are getting a 2.8 percent boost, worth $4,700. But they refused before Christmas to give an identical increase to judges.

Federal trial judges are paid $169,300 a year. Appellate judges make more, ranging up to Roberts’ salary of $217,400. The salaries pale in comparison to what top lawyers earn in private practice. 

Deregulator Looks Back, Unswayed 

…He could be impolitic. Over the years, he has urged that food stamps be cut because "all our poor people are fat," said it was hard for him "to feel sorry" for Social Security recipients and, as the economy soured last summer, called America "a nation of whiners." 

President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in November 1999. Senator Gramm, second from left, proudly declared it "a deregulatory bill," and added, "We have learned government is not the answer."

His economic views – and seat on the Senate banking committee – quickly won him support from the nation’s major financial institutions. From 1989 to 2002, federal records show, he was the top recipient of campaign contributions from commercial banks and in the top five for donations from Wall Street. He and his staff often appeared at industry-sponsored speaking events around the country. 

Mortgage ‘Cram-Downs’ Loom as Foreclosures Mount 

Mortgage lenders who wake up Thursday with a New Year’s hangover are likely to face another headache soon: The effort to give bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite mortgages is gaining steam. 

The banking industry hoped the mortgage "cram-down" measure died when Congress removed it from the $700 billion bailout bill that passed in October. But it has been gathering momentum in Democrat-controlled Washington, as evidence emerges that current voluntary foreclosure-prevention programs are falling short.

In a cram-down, a judge modifies a loan, often reducing principal so a borrower can afford it. Lenders hate it because they have to absorb … 

Mortgage rates hit fresh 37-year low 

Housing won’t budge 

Unfortunately, the low interest rates have not spurred much of an increase in the number of new loans made to home buyers. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, nearly 83% of all mortgage applications recorded last week were to refinance existing loans rather than to buy a home, indicating that low interest rates have so far failed to free up the frozen housing market.  

Jim Cramer: Another Guy with Steady Returns? 

Surprisingly Jim is pretty open in Confessions of a Street Addict about his "legal" ways of front-running at his hedge fund. He basically had access to analysts and was able to get them to upgrade and downgrade stocks by feeding them info. after he had taken a position. His "edge" was his access to analysts and it had nothing to do with fundamental analysis or any of the other garbage he talks about on his show. He also talks about how his returns at GS were mediocre (8-10%) until his wife taught him how to get the "edge".  

Stop the Presses… 

The Internet has overtaken newspapers as a source of national and international news. That’s the axiomatic conclusion of a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that proves irrevocably what anyone with even a passing interest in the news business has known for some time now. 

Government aid could save U.S. newspapers, spark debate 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Connecticut lawmaker Frank Nicastro sees saving the local newspaper as his duty. But others think he and his colleagues are setting a worrisome precedent for government involvement in the U.S. press. 

Nicastro represents Connecticut’s 79th assembly district, which includes Bristol, a city of about 61,000 people outside Hartford, the state capital. Its paper, The Bristol Press, may fold within days, along with The Herald in nearby New Britain.

That is because publisher Journal Register, in danger of being crushed under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, says it cannot afford to keep them open anymore.

Nicastro and fellow legislators want the papers to survive, and petitioned the state government to do something about it. "The media is a vitally important part of America," he said, particularly local papers that cover news ignored by big papers and television and radio stations.

To some experts, that sounds like a bailout, a word that resurfaced this year after the U.S. government agreed to give hundreds of billions of dollars to the automobile and financial sectors.

Relying on government help raises ethical questions for the press, whose traditional role has been to operate free from government influence as it tries to hold politicians accountable to the people who elected them. Even some publishers desperate for help are wary of this route.

Providing government support can muddy that mission, said Paul Janensch, a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, and a former reporter and editor.

"You can’t expect a watchdog to bite the hand that feeds it," he said.

The state’s Department of Economic and Community Development is offering tax breaks, training funds, financing opportunities and other incentives for publishers, but not cash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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