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Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Home prices heading for triple-dip

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Home prices heading for triple-dip

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The besieged housing market has even further to fall before home prices really hit rock bottom.

According to Fiserv (FISV), a financial analytics company, home values are expected to fall another 3.6% by next June, pushing them to a new low of 35% below the peak reached in early 2006 and marking a triple dip in prices.

Several factors will be working against the housing market in the upcoming months, including an increase in foreclosure activity and sustained high unemployment, explained David Stiff, Fiserv’s chief economist.

Should home values meet Fiserv’s expectations, it would make it the third (and lowest) trough for home prices since the housing bubble burst.

The first post-bubble bottom was hit in 2009, when prices fell to 31% below peak. The First-Time Homebuyer Credit helped perk prices up by mid-2010, but by the time the credit expired, prices fell again.

In the second dip, which was reached last winter, prices were down 33%before staging a mild rally that was artificially spurred as banks slowed the processing of foreclosures following the robo-signing scandal, which found that loan servicers were rapidly signing foreclosures without properly vetting them.

Now that the scandal is mostly resolved, lenders are speeding more cases through the foreclosure pipeline and back onto the market, weighing on home prices even further.

Earlier this month, RealtyTrac reported the first quarterly increase in foreclosure filings in three quarters. Even more discouraging: new default notices were up 14%.

Home prices: Check your local real estate market forecast

There’s also a “shadow inventory” of homes in foreclosure that have yet to go back onto the market.

The specter that those foreclosed homes could flood the market at any time and drive prices significantly lower is a huge concern, said Mark Dotzour, an economist for Texas AM University. “That’s the elephant in the room,” he said, noting that there are 6 million home currently in shadow inventory.

Many of the regions that will be hardest hit were already beaten up during the previous two dips.

Naples, Fla., for example, is expected to take the biggest hit of any metro area, a price drop of another 18.9% by the end of next June, according to Fiserv. Home prices in the area have already fallen 61% from the peak.

Other cities expected to be hit hard include the not-so-lucky Las Vegas, which is expected to see home prices fall another 15.9% for a total loss of 66%; Riverside, Calif., is projected to fall another 14.8% (for a total decline of 61%); Miami is expected to decline by 13.2% (total loss: 57%), and Salinas, Calif. could drop by another 13% (for a total loss of 66%).

There will be some winners, however, led by Madera, Calif. and Carson City, Nev., which will each gain 15.5%. That’s some consolation for hard-hit residents: The average home in each of these metro areas has lost more than half its value.

Other metro areas Fiserv expects to recover nicely are Yuma, Ariz. (up 9.5%), Yuba City, Calif. (9.2%) and Farmington, N.M. (8.3%).

Even after the housing market begins its comeback in mid-2012, the recovery is predicted to be modest at best. Nationwide, Fiserv is projecting that home prices will climb just 2.4% between June 2012 and June 2013.

A few individual metro areas will do better, with 31 of the 385 markets Fiserv monitors expected to pile up double-digit gains. Another 71 markets are expected to post increases of 5% or better.

I bought my dream retirement home — cheap!

Many of the markets that will record the biggest increases are vacation or retirement communities that had taken some of the biggest hits during the bust.

The biggest “winner” will be Ocala, Fla., with a 22.4% spike for the 12 months ending June 30, 2013. Ocala was one of the hardest hit communities in the U.S. over the past several years, with home prices falling some 50%.

Others anticipated gainers will be Napa, Calif., which Fiserv projects will improve by 20.9% over that same period; Panama City, Fla. (an estimated 18.2% jump) and Bremerton, Wash. and Carson City, Nev. (both expected to see home prices climb 17.9%).

Some cities will continue to fade, however. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s forecast is for a 9.2% drop through next June and another 6.7% the 12 months after that. Its neighbor, Miami, will endure 13.5% and 5.2% declines, respectively.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/EUlnxEE9-Co/index.htm

Stocks poised to open lower

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Check premarkets on CNNMoney.

Click the chart for more premarket data.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks were poised to open lower Monday, as investors react to Japan’s intervention in global currency markets and remain cautious ahead of a week chock-full of economic events.

Ahead of the opening bell Monday, Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), SP 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures retreated roughly 1%. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The Japanese government stepped in early Monday to push down the yen’s value in international currency markets. It marked the third time this year Japan’s leaders have curbed the yen’s rise. A stronger yen makes it more difficult for exporters to remain competitive.

The move immediately sent the dollar rising against major global currencies, and pressured commodities that are priced in dollars, such as oil and gold.

Little else is on the agenda for Monday, but the rest of the week promises a busy schedule, including a G20 meeting in France, the latest monetary policy decisions from the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, and monthly jobs data out of the United States.

After surging Thursday on news that European leaders had reached a debt agreement, U.S. stocks ended little changed Friday, as questions and doubts about the deal emerged.

Aside from humdrum trading on Friday, markets are poised to close out what has been a stellar month. The Dow is up 12% in October, while the SP 500 and Nasdaq have surged more than 13%.

MF Global’s warning bells

Companies: MF Global (MF) shares were halted in premarket trading, on pending news. Media reports indicated the brokerage is expected to file for bankruptcy.

Allstate (ALL, Fortune 500) insurance and Winn-Dixie Stores (WINN, Fortune 500) will release their quarterly results after the closing bell.

Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expect Allstate’s earnings to have dropped sharply to 13 cents per share from 83 cents a year earlier. Winn-Dixie is expected to lose 38 cents per share after losing 42 cents per share last year.

Economy: A report on manufacturing in the Chicago region is due at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Other regional surveys have recently shown solid improvement in manufacturing activity in October, but economists are expecting Monday’s report to show manufacturing activity was nearly flat in the Chicago area.

World markets: European stocks tumbled in morning trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 (UKX) fell 1.1%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany dropped 1.6% and France’s CAC 40 (CAC40) lost 1.5%.

Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) edged lower 0.2%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong shed 0.8% and Japan’s Nikkei (N225) slid 0.7%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen Monday.

Oil for December delivery fell 63 cents to $92.69 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery tumbled $23 to $1,724.30 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 2.25% from 2.31% late Friday.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/U3um4MU6tW0/index.htm

Hotels piling on hidden fees

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Hotel fees hit record high in 2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Thinking of taking a dip in the pool while on vacation? Even if you choose not to, you could get charged $40 just for having the option.

Following in the footsteps of the airlines, hotels are piling on a slew of hidden fees for services that used to be free. Now guests are getting charged for everything from access to a gym (or a pool), to early check-ins or departures to holding your luggage.

All of those fees really add up. Total fees and surcharges collected by hotels in the U.S. are projected to hit a record $1.8 billion this year, up 80% from a decade ago, according to a recent study by Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

“People that travel once or twice a year are often surprised [by hotel fees],” he said.

Guests checking into the Quality Inn Suites in Surprise, Ariz., for example, probably wouldn’t expect to see a $1.50 “Safe Warranty” fee for use of the safe already in the room. The hotel introduced that fee this summer, according to the general manager of the property.

Stashing your bags for a few hours after checking out of the Hilton in New York will cost $3.50 – that’s what’s called the “luggage holding fee.” Hungry? Think twice about grabbing a bag of pretzels from the minibar. Mini-bar restocking fees can run up to $10 at hotels like the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, in addition to the hefty price of the snack.

What to do with $1,000 now

And before you pull out your wallet to provide a tip to the bellhop for bringing up your bags or to housekeeping for making your bed, most spots have already charged you a generous gratuity for their service, just like they have done for years with room service.

It’s also increasingly common to pay $10 to $20 per day for Wi-Fi access, as well as pay a fee for making local calls or even receiving a fax. And you can expect to pony up anywhere from $15 to $50 a night if you want to bring a pet (that is, if the hotel allows pets) and $10 or more a night for a rollaway bed.

That’s on top of a host of other fees that have become standard, like reservation cancellation fees, which can be as much as the room rate, or a resort amenity fee, which can add a significant amount to your daily tab. At the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, Calif. guests are charged $60 a night for the privilege of using the gym and parking on the premises.

The pricier the hotel, often the heftier the fees, said Steven Mogck, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Midscale Brands by Carlson Hotels.

5 off-season vacation deals

For hotels, all those charges add up to nearly pure profit, Hanson said. “Most have incremental profitability of 80% to 90% or more,” he said.

The “surcharging fad” took off after September 11 and got worse throughout the recession as Americans reeled in their travel plans and hotels saw a sharp decline in revenue, explained Mogck. In addition, the rising price of food and fuel has put added pressure on most hotels’ bottom line.

Online price comparison sites haven’t helped either, said Chris McGinnis, Best Western’s business travel editor. “The reason fees have gone up is because of the ability to compare rates,” he said. “You always want to have the lowest rate available online, so you won’t include certain things like parking, Wi-Fi or breakfast. The airlines have done the same thing.”

But unlike the airlines, hotel fees and surcharges are often harder for travelers to keep track of because they often vary hotel, not by brand, said Hanson.

Make your vacation dollars go farther

To avoid getting taken for a ride, look for hotels that include the amenities you care about, whether that’s breakfast, high-speed Internet or access to the gym, as part of the nightly rate, said Mogck.

If it’s unclear, Hanson suggests calling ahead to ask about what kind of charges could be tacked on to your room. Then, make a note of the reservationist’s claim and confirm again at checkout. To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/HC7imTSuz0A/index.htm

How Magellan got lost at sea

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Fidelity Magellan has faced some rough waters in the recent past. Can it ever find calmer seas?

Fidelity Magellan has faced some rough waters in the recent past. Can it ever find calmer seas?

(MONEY Magazine) — Remember when Fidelity Magellan (FMAGX) was the fund to own?

Flash back to the late ’70s and ’80s, when Peter Lynch convinced us that beating the market was as easy as investing in what you know. Lynch trounced the SP 500 (SPX) in his 13-year tenure and made Magellan a household name.

For years after Lynch left, money kept flowing in, until Magellan became the biggest mutual fund in the ’90s with $106 billion in assets. But returns grew choppy, and managers came and went. By the 2000s, investors were abandoning ship.

Today the fund holds just $17 billion, and has yet another skipper. Jeffrey Feingold, who ran the decently performing Fidelity Trend, in September replaced Harry Lange, who came aboard in 2005 after leading the decently performing Fidelity Capital Appreciation.

A Fidelity spokesman says the company believes Feingold’s experience “will result in great long-term performance.”

What to do with $50,000 now

Lange steered Magellan to losses when the SP gained 2.4% a year, but the fund ran aground for bigger reasons than the underperformance of one manager.

Consider that:

It was hard to beat the market in the long run

Lynch did it for about a decade. “But even if he stayed on, we don’t know if he would have been able to keep doing it,” says Baylor finance professor William Reichenstein. What we do know is that fewer than two in five blue-chip stock pickers have beaten the SP 500 over the past five years, partly because of higher expenses and trading costs.

The company wouldn’t shutter a giant portfolio

“Fidelity deserves a huge amount of blame,” says Russel Kinnel, head of Morningstar’s fund research. By failing to close the fund early on — because it couldn’t resist the fees it was earning at the time — Fidelity made Magellan nearly impossible to manage.

“Once a fund is over $100 billion, and you still want one guy to run it, it’s a little crazy,” Kinnel says. Companies routinely close big stock funds to new investors or at least, as is the case with American Funds, employ multiple managers, giving each more time for research.

Shareholders chased performance

By jumping on the bandwagon in the ’80s and ’90s and then fleeing in droves, investors made it harder for Magellan’s managers to outperform. When money was flowing in too quickly, they couldn’t put it all to work in their best ideas. Then, when shareholders bolted, Magellan had to sell to meet redemptions.

The fund chased performance, too

Worried about your mutual funds? Ask the Help Desk

Under Lynch, Magellan bet on smaller stocks when those were hot. In the ’90s under Jeffrey Vinik, the fund ventured into bonds before they became cool to own. Under Robert Stansky, Magellan acted like an index fund after the market began to stall.

And under Lange, it became aggressive as investors turned skittish. By continually changing direction, Fidelity boosted the chances of Magellan faltering.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/OIAenohYHfg/index.htm

Japan intervenes to weaken yen

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Yen

Click chart for more currency data.

TOKYO (CNN) — The Japanese government stepped in Monday to weaken the yen, after it climbed to a post-World War II high against the dollar.

Finance Minister Jun Assume said Japan intervened against the currency in its third intervention this year.

“Foreign exchange rates should reflect the real economy and fluctuate within the range of common sense. Otherwise it will distort the real economy,” Azumi said. “I decided it [the intervention] this morning as I cannot tolerate such appreciation.”

The yen went up to the post-war high of 75.32 per dollar early Monday. The intervention immediately sent it tumbling to 79 per dollar.

The government is worried that a strengthened yen will impact its economy, which relies heavily on exports. The country has only now begun to recover from the devastating aftereffects of a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“The yen’s appreciation might close down factories and I cannot tolerate it,” Azumi said.

For every 1 yen appreciation against the dollar, Toyota (TM), the car manufacturer, loses 30 billion yen ($380 million) in profits.

The stock market, however, lost the upward momentum after an initial 100-point gain as some analysts expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the intervention.

Thailand flood stalls automakers

“The question is how long will the effect of the intervention continue,” said Toshihiko Matsuno, a senior strategist of SMBC Friend Securities. “The market is looking at the past examples. If this is a one-time only, the effect would be limited. It all depends how far the government is ready to intervene. It’s a battle between the market and the government.” To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/Xv4P-GzTBHU/index.htm

MF Global files for bankruptcy protection

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

MF Global, the company led by former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, filed for bankruptcy Monday.

MF Global, the company led by former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, filed for bankruptcy Monday.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — MF Global, a trader in commodities and derivatives brought down by bad bets on Europe, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, leaving behind more than $2 billion in debt to some of Wall Street’s biggest players.

The fate of MF Global, run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, has been closely watched on Wall Street as a sign of how Europe’s sovereign debt crisis could be cause trouble for U.S. financial companies.

MF Global was among firms that were forced to take write-offs as part of last week’s deal to resolve the debt crisis in Europe.

The firm filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York.

The largest unsecured creditors owed money by MF Global are JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), with more than $1.2 billion in corporate bonds, and Deutsche Bank (DB), with $1 billion in bonds, according to court documents.

JPMorgan’s stock fell more than 3% and Deutsche Bank plunged nearly 10%.

Those two firms hold the vast majority of MF Global’s debt. An additional $10 million is divided among 45 other creditors, including American Express, (AXP, Fortune 500) KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Trading in MF Global (MF) was halted on the New York Stock Exchange prior to the filing. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York suspended MF Global from conducting business with the Fed.

Shares of MF Global fell 16% Friday to $1.20. Shares have fallen more than 85% so far this year.

MF Global had until Monday to find a buyer or file for bankruptcy. According to The Wall Street Journal, a deal to sell many of its assets to Interactive Brokers (IBKR) as part of a bankruptcy filing package has been called off.

MF Global’s warning bells

A spokeswoman for Interactive Brokers declined comment to CNNMoney as to whether the company is pursuing a post-bankruptcy deal.

For Corzine, the failure of MF Global is the latest chapter in a long career that began as a Marine Corps reservist in 1969.

From there, he moved into finance and eventually politics, then back to finance. Corzine, in addition to serving as a governor and U.S. senator from New Jersey, is a former chief executive at Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500).

He started working as a bond trader for Goldman in 1975. Five years later he was named a partner and by 1994 he was CEO, a position he held for five years.

Corzine left the corporate world for politics in 2000, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Five years later, he was elected governor of the Garden State, a position he held until early 2010.

He ran for re-election in 2009 but was defeated by Chris Christie. On March 23, 2010, he was hired as CEO at MF Global and has held the top job ever since. To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/r-qklIgQW3M/index.htm

Stocks stumble as dollar rallies

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

u.s. stocks

Click the chart for more stock market data.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks fell more than 1% Monday, as the dollar rallied following Japan’s intervention in global currency markets.

The sell-off comes on the final day of what has been the best month for the stock market in years.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 163 points, or 1.4%, the SP 500 (SPX) fell 20 points, or 1.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) dropped 34 points, or 1.2%.

The losses were broad, with nearly all 30 Dow components in the red. Financial stocks were among the big decliners in early trading, with shares of JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) all down between 3% and 6%.

The Japanese government stepped in early Monday to push down the yen’s value in international currency markets. It marked the third time this year Japan’s leaders have curbed the yen’s rise. A stronger yen makes it more difficult for exporters to remain competitive.

The move immediately sent the dollar rising against major global currencies, and pressured commodities that are priced in dollars, such as oil and gold. The dollar jumped 2.9% against the yen.

“It is no secret that unilateral intervention by a central bank is rarely effective and in the case of the Japanese, two out of the last three rounds of intervention lasted for no longer than 24 hours before the yen began to rise again,” said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at Global Forex Trading.

Lien added that there is little reason for other nations to support Japan’s move, as central banks around the world are taking steps to ease their own monetary policies and stemming the yen’s rise would be “counterproductive.”

Despite Monday’s declines, markets are poised to close out a stellar month. The Dow is up 11% in October, while the SP 500 and Nasdaq have surged more than 12%. The gains put the Dow and SP 500 on course for the best monthly performance since January 1987, and since October 2002 for the Nasdaq.

Eye on Europe: Investors also continued to digest a plan of action aimed at tackling Europe’s debt crisis. After surging Thursday on news that European leaders had reached an agreement, U.S. stocks ended little changed Friday, as questions and doubts about the deal emerged.

“Last week’s news was a step in the right direction,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group. “But investors are also aware that many details of the roadmap need to be clarified and worked out.”

Those remaining questions will likely trigger increased volatility, said Paul Radeke, wealth advisor at KDV Wealth Management.

MF Global became the first high-profile victim of Europe’s crisis. Shares of MF Global (MF) were halted as the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

MF Global is just one of several Wall Street companies that could end up in trouble as banks are forced to take significant write-offs on the value of their European bonds.

Companies: Shares of Humana (HUM, Fortune 500) surged after the managed-care firm beat third-quarter earnings expectations and boosted its full-year earnings outlook.

Allstate (ALL, Fortune 500) insurance and Winn-Dixie Stores (WINN, Fortune 500) will release their quarterly results after the closing bell.

Economy: Little is on the agenda for Monday, but the rest of the week promises a busy schedule, including a G20 meeting in France, the latest monetary policy decisions from the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank, and monthly jobs data out of the United States.

Manufacturing in the Chicago region expanded in October, but at a slower pace than economists had forecast. The Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Index decreased to 58.4 points this month, from a 60.4 reading in September.

Economists were expecting the figure to come in at 58.9. Any reading above 50 indicates that the sector is expanding.

Other regional surveys have recently shown solid improvement in manufacturing activity in October.

World markets: European stocks finished sharply lower. Britain’s FTSE 100 (UKX) fell 2.8%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany dropped 3.2% and France’s CAC 40 (CAC40) lost 3.2%.

Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) edged lower 0.2%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong shed 0.8% and Japan’s Nikkei (N225) slid 0.7%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar climbed more than 1% against the euro, and surged almost 3% against the Japanese yen Monday. The greenback was flat versus the British pound.

Oil for December delivery fell $1.08 to $92.24 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery tumbled $20.90 to $1,726.30 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose, pushing the yield down to 2.21% from 2.31% late Friday.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/lPGx06tLtJQ/index.htm

Macy’s to open at midnight Thanksgiving

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Macy's will join other retailers like Toys 'R' Us, pictured here on Black Friday 2009, with thousands of shoppers lining up in Times Square just before midnight.

Macy’s will join other retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us, pictured here on Black Friday 2009, with thousands of shoppers lining up in Times Square just before midnight.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Macy’s will get a jumpstart on the Black Friday madness, opening its doors at midnight on Thanksgiving for the first time this year.

Macy’s (M, Fortune 500) is joining Black Friday stalwarts Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) and Toys ‘R’ Us, retail leaders that have opened their doors at the crack of Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving.

Target (TGT, Fortune 500) also recently announced that it will be opening its doors at midnight, for its earliest open ever.

Over the years, Black Friday has become a holiday tradition for many shoppers. On Thanksgiving, during the hours leading up to Black Friday, hundreds or even thousands of shoppers line up outside the flagship Toys ‘R’ Us store in Times Square and Wal-Mart stores around the country.

In New York City, the shoppers include a mix of locals and tourists from around the world who are hunting deals and also hoping to take part in the Black Friday culture of consumer frenzy.

Macy’s iconic flagship store is in Herald Square in Manhattan, where the nationally telecast Thanksgiving parade ends and the classic holiday film “Miracle on 34th Street” takes place. It’s an area that’s often crowded with shoppers and tourists even when it’s not the holiday season.

These Black Friday shoppers usually have specific deals in mind, and often boast about their discount purchases as they leave the stores.

7 hot toys for Black Friday

Macy’s is trying to lure customers with a list of holiday discounts, heavily promoting the Justin Bieber fragrance gift set with his first Christmas album, “Under the Mistletoe.”

But the outcome of Black Friday isn’t always so happy. The event has developed a reputation over the years for the mayhem that sometimes ensues when the doors open.

The way retailers handle the crowds has fallen under scrutiny since Black Friday 2008, when a Wal-Mart employee was killed by a stampeding crowd in Valley Stream, N.Y.

Since then, Walmart stores have corralled shoppers with a series of barricades as they file through the main doors.

Black Friday photos from Christmas past

For those who don’t like standing in long lines on Thanksgiving night, online shopping has gained prominence in recent years. In 2010, sales for Cyber Monday — the Monday after Thanksgiving — outperformed Black Friday.  To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/a9REdhZuWik/index.htm

Occupy Wall Street applies for trademark

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Even anarchic movements like to have some legal protections: Occupy Wall Street’s organizers have applied to trademark their movement’s name.

In an application dated October 24, the unincorporated association “Occupy Wall Street” applied for the trademark to “Occupy Wall Street.” The trademark application says the group would like to use the phrase on merchandise such as clothing and bags, in periodicals and newsletters, and on a website featuring “photographic, audio, video and prose presentations” about the Occupy movement.

The Occupy group has been screen-printing t-shirts and other items in Zuccotti Park, and plans to continue doing so once it has trademark protection, according to a representative.

But Occupy Wall Street is not the only entity to apply for the trademark to its name.

In an application with the same filing date, Arizona-based Fer-Eng Investments, LLC, applied for the same trademark. Fer-Eng’s trademark would cover many of the same kinds of clothing (“t-shirts, sweatshirts, headwear, and jackets”) and bags (backpacks, gym bags, overnight bags and “bum bags” all make the list) as would Occupy Wall Street’s, but would not cover periodicals or newsletters.

Vince Ferraro of Fer-Eng Investments said he applied for the trademark as a business proposition and is not in any way affiliated with Occupy Wall Street. Information, including domain names and trademarks, “is the chattel of the 21st century,” he said.

But Occupy Wall Street’s lawyer said he doesn’t think Ferraro will get the trademark.

“We’re confident that Occupy Wall Street will be awarded the trademark simply because they are the first and the ones using their mark,” said Samuel Cohen of the Law Offices of Wylie M. Stecklow, one of the attorneys handling Occupy Wall Street’s application.

According to the trademark office, priority is generally given to whomever applied for the trademark first. In this case, Occupy Wall Street applied for its trademark at 3:54 p.m. and Fer-Eng Investments applied for the trademark at 6:41 p.m. the same day.

In the case of two applications filed the same day, the trademark office says the application with the lowest serial number — meaning it was filed first — earns the trademark, according to Steven Berk, senior supervisory attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That would give Occupy Wall Street preference: Its serial number is 281 numbers lower than Fer-Eng’s.

There is also a pending trademark application for a variation on the name of the movement: “Occupy Wall St.”

Robert and Diane Maresca applied for that trademark after Robert had spent several days at the protest in Zuccotti Park making t-shirts for free with a permanent marker.

“I made about 20 on the second day, and then it went up to 80 by the fifth day. And then I realized it’s not very healthy to smell the fumes, so then I decided that I should get in touch with a silk-screener,” Robert Maresca said.

The minimum order was 200 shirts and the couple was concerned that they might be sued if someone else obtained the trademark, so they applied for it. Robert has said he would sell it to the Occupy Wall Street group for $1 after his costs are covered.

There’s also a wave of trademark applications for slogans related to the movement. Applications have been filed for the trademarks to “We are the 99%,” “I am the 99%” and “Occupy D.C. 2012,” among other phrases.

Merchandise with those and similar slogans is on sale all over the Internet. Self-described “entre-protester” Ray Agrizone sells t-shirts, hats and stickers emblazoned with “Occupy Wall Street” and some of the movement’s mantras on his website, TheOccupyStore.com.

Agrizone says he is not concerned about a potential lawsuit because he is using his sales to give money to the cause. He says 10% of his proceeds go to Occupy Wall Street.

“The main thing I have with this website is a tool to give a voice to the movement,” Agrizone said. “I’m not too worried about cease-and-desist letters down the line.”

There are pages of t-shirts, posters and pins in support of the movement on Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500), and a search of “Occupy Wall Street” on eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) yields roughly 5,000 results.

Amid of one of the biggest activist uprisings in the U.S. in a generation, it didn’t take long for people to want to own pieces of it. To top of page

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/RMV_jN3XFeQ/index.htm

Iraq oil starting to come on strong

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm

After years of stagnant production, Iraq oil output is starting to increase.

After years of stagnant production, Iraq oil output is starting to increase.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As the last remaining U.S. troops leave Iraq, oil production from the war-torn but oil rich nation is finally starting to ramp up.

Oil production in Iraq hovered around 2 million barrels a day for much of the post-U.S. invasion period.

But over the last year production jumped 13%, going from 2.3 to 2.6 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Much of that increase has come in the last few months alone, and it’s part of the reason why many analyst expect Saudi Arabia to soon cut oil output.

In fact, some analysts say that over the next few years Iraqi oil production could really balloon. The Iraqi’s may eventually produce as much oil as the Saudis.

But an increase in Iraqi oil production raises several issues, including what impact it may have on world oil prices and how all that oil money will get divided up.

A massive amount of oil: It’s no secret that Iraq has a huge amount of oil in the ground. EIA estimates the country has the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves, and even more may lie under the unexplored western desert.

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A couple of years ago, the newly formed Iraqi government began awarding big contracts to the world’s major oil companies in an effort to boost its nascent production.

The companies they selected came from all over the world — including from all five permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council.

France’s Total (TOT), England’s BP (BP), China’s CNPC, Russia’s Lukoil and U.S.-based Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) were all picked.

Other companies include Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA), Occidental (OXY, Fortune 500), Marathon (MRO, Fortune 500), Norway’s Statoil, Angola’s Sonangol, and the oil service firms Baker Hughes (BHI, Fortune 500), Halliburton (HAL, Fortune 500) and Schlumberger (SLB).

The Iraqis were savvy in their negotiations. Normally, when firms develop oil fields the terms of the deal give companies ownership over a certain percentage of the yet-to-be-tapped oil.

But with the Iraqi deal, most firms don’t actually own any of the oil. They are instead paid a service fee on each barrel that they pump.

The return on their investment is still attractive — the energy research firm EPRINC estimated it at 15%. But it means they can’t claim as much of the oil as an asset on their balance sheets, which can hurt their stock price.

It also means that over 90% of the oil revenue the fields generate will stay in Iraq.

“The service fee is tiny compared to the revenue from this oil,” said , Amy Myers Jaffe, a fellow in energy studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. “The companies are putting up all the money and taking all the risk.”

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And in corruption-addled Iraq, the bidding process and contract terms were surprisingly transparent. Jaffe said all the contract details were posted online for anyone to see.

Over a half-dozen projects are slated to come online in 2013 as a result of these deals. That could add over 6 million barrels a day to Iraq’s production, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Added to current production, that would put Iraq at 9 million barrels per day, just shy of Saudi Arabia’s current output of 10 million barrels a day.

“The industry has been pretty surprised by how quickly they hit their targets,” said Bob Tippee, editor of the Oil and Gas Journal. “If the security holds, there’s going to be a lot of oil coming out of there.”

So where is all this oil going to go?: Some analysts see a price collapse coming thanks to both this new production and other new projects in places like offshore Brazil and the shales in the United States, but they are in the minority.

If the global economy gets back on track, much of this oil could be consumed by the developing nations.

Furthermore, the new production might do little more than offset declining production from older oil fields.

And not everyone believes the Iraq output will actually reach the levels predicted by the Oil and Gas Journal, let alone the higher levels put forth by the Iraqi government.

“It’s iffy as to whether there’ll be a significant increase in 2012,” said Jaffe, who predicts Iraq will struggle to produce even 5 million barrels a day in the next 5 to 10 years.

Divvying it up: But even 5 million barrels would be a lot of money — nearly $200 billion a year at today’s prices.

But the Iraqi’s have yet to pass a national oil law that stipulates how their different regions and ethnic factions will share that bounty.

Currently it’s being handled by various side deals that groups like the Kurds in the northern part of the country have cut with the federal government. But that model is not thought to be sustainable.

If the country wants to avoid even more corruption and the violence that often befalls oil rich nations, it needs to figure out how it will split its oil spoils in a way that doesn’t depend on back-room handshakes and cronyism.

“It needs transparent mechanisms in place,” said the Oil and Gas Journal’s Tippee. “Otherwise, they might end up like Nigeria.”  To top of page

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