April 2010 - Page 3 of 10 - Money Morning - Only the News You Can Profit From

Greece Activates Emergency Bailout, Testing Financial Strength of Eurozone Countries

Greece on Friday officially asked to tap into a $60 billion (45 billion euro) emergency aid package after months of talks, setting into motion a bailout process that will put the financial strength of Eurozone nations to the test.

Greece Prime Minister George Papandreou called his debt-stricken country's economy a "sinking ship," as borrowing costs reached 12-year highs and recent austerity measures didn't rally the market support needed to save Greece.

"This is the moment. The time that was not granted to us by the markets will be given to us by the support of the Eurozone," Papandreou said.

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Goldman Director Linked to Insider Trading on Buffett Investment

Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam Rajat may have engaged in insider trading on Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) stock by profiting from a tip from Rajat Gupta, a director at Goldman, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person it didn't identify.

The new disclosure stems from a government examination into whether Gupta gave inside information to Mr. Rajaratnam about a $5 billion investment Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) made in the Wall Street bank before it became public knowledge.

In a March 22 court filing, the government revealed more details about the information it alleges Rajaratnam received, alleging that he or "co-conspirators" traded on non-public information, including advance notice about the Buffett investment in Goldman.

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Heavy-Handed Politics Could Boost Bank Reform, Stock Prices and the Economy

Defenders of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) say the civil fraud charges the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has levied against the investment-banking giant are without foundation, and are politically timed to push President Barack Obama's bank-reform agenda.

In his Cooper Union speech to Wall Street and the American public yesterday (Thursday), President Obama took pointed aim at opponents of his bank-reform agenda by stating: "Unless your products depend on bilking people, there's little to fear from these reforms." 

Whether or not the timing of the Goldman Sachs fraud case was politically motivated, or whether or not President Obama was referring to Goldman with his "bilking" comment, one thing is for sure: The president and his administration are taking the reform fight to the Street.

At stake in this fight is the future of our capital markets, the health of the U.S. economy and the direction of the U.S. stock market.

To see how the Obama bank-reform push could perpetuate the bull market, please read on…

To see how the Obama bank-reform push could perpetuate the bull market, please read on...

Money Morning Mailbag: What's More Broken – Washington or Wall Street?

While policymakers will have taken up the debate over financial reform in the halls of Congress, Money Morning readers have been posting comments to our Money Morning Facebook page and writing in to our e-mail mailbag at mailbag@moneymappress.com with their thoughts on the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) case and the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.

A week after the Securities and Exchange Commission brought fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, President Barack Obama yesterday (Thursday) blamed the financial meltdown on both Washington and Wall Street in a speech in New York and urged Wall Street giants to stop fighting reform.

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Is There an Ulterior Motive for Bailing Out Greece?

Since back in December, when Fitch Ratings Inc. slashed its credit rating on Greece's debt to below investment grade for the first time in 10 years, there's been a mind-numbing flood of media coverage of that European country's debt crisis.

And yet, despite high-volume of high-level media coverage, none of the stories have picked up on a very basic – yet very key – fact…

The bailout being developed is as much for Germany as it is for Greece.

Let me explain …

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Bankster Gangsters: Global Commodities Grab Causes Major Bank Profits to Soar

Major bank profits are up. Way up.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) just reported that its first-quarter earnings nearly doubled to $3.46 billion, the investment-banking giant's second-most-profitable quarter since going public a decade ago.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) recently said its first-quarter earnings came in at $3.3 billion, up 55% from a year ago.

And Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) reported that its earnings for the first three months of the year rang in at $2.83 billion.

For all three of these banking giants, the first-quarter results blew past analyst expectations. Their stock prices? Approaching levels not seen since the start of the financial crisis. In fact, JPMorgan's stock is within 10% of its five-year high.

Major bank profits are zooming – despite the fact that U.S. consumers are struggling to repay loans.

So how are these guys pulling this off? Well, if you dig, you'll find that the bulk of major bank profits are coming from stronger trading revenue and other segments that are enabling the largest banks to overcome weakness in the lending area, which decades ago was the banking sector's bread-and-butter business.

If you dig deeper still, as I've done, you unearth one of the key reasons these banking behemoths are booking such massive profits. They've been moving enormous amounts of capital into one area of the market.

I'm talking about commodities.

For an inside look at how banks can reap 15-fold returns on their physical-commodities stakes, please read on…

For an inside look at how banks can reap 15-fold returns on their physical-commodities stakes, please read on...

Retailers Make a Surprising Comeback

You may be hearing a lot of bearish commentary centering on the premise that the market's advance is unsustainable because it has benefited so much from government spending.

But one big swath of the rise in stock prices has come from retailers, and it's hard to make a direct link between fiscal spending and chain store sales.

When the government pays for things like more highways and military goods, more people gain employment and then their families go out and purchase things at companies like Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE: FDO) – a position in our Strategic Advantage portfolio that is fast on the rise. But that's really a "second-derivative" concept, as the statisticians say.

Employment and wage improvements have been the big catalysts.

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IMF Proposes "Fat Cat" Taxes on Banks to Pay for Future Financial Crises

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is proposing that Group-of-20 (G20) nations levy two separate taxes on banks, including a "Fat Cat" tax on profits and compensation to pay for the costs of any bailouts resulting from future financial crises.

"Expecting taxpayers to support the [financial] sector during bad times while allowing owners, managers and/or creditors of financial institutions to enjoy the gains of good times misallocates resources and undermines long-term growth," the IMF wrote in a briefing paper for the G-20 industrialized and developing countries, obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The report proposes a tax – called the Financial Activities Tax (FAT) or "Fat Cat" tax – that would be levied against financial institution balance sheets, profits and compensation. It would be paid into a nation's treasury to help finance the broader costs of a financial crisis, The Journal reported.

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