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Cyberwar Threat from WikiLeaks Hackers Overblown

WikiLeaks supporters have unleashed disruptive cyber attacks on a number of Web sites to get revenge on companies disassociating from the controversial non-profit media group and its founder, Julian Assange.

Since Nov. 29 WikiLeaks has released 250,000 confidential documents detailing U.S. diplomatic interactions with other nations, prompting a number of companies to cut ties with the group – though none have claimed government pressure encouraged them to do so.

The release has caused a freedom of information debate, with some supporting the documents' release and others calling it an act of terrorism.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Soaring Gold and Silver Prices Point to Profits in Equipment & Drilling Industries

Gold yesterday (Thursday) continued a four-day rise soaring as high as $1,399.70 an ounce as the dollar fell for a second consecutive day.

"Gold is up primarily on dollar weakness and economic optimism," Adam Klopfenstein, a senior market strategist for Lind-Waldock, told Bloomberg. "This is very positive for gold on the future inflation front."

This week Money Morning Contributing Editor Peter Krauth showed why gold and silver are still headed for gains in the New Year, following a 2010 surge.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Natural Gas Prices Present New Era of Energy Investing – But U.S. Government Not Up to Speed

Last week Money Morning Contributing Writer Jack Barnes explained how the delayed rebound in natural gas prices is offering investors a key opportunity in energy investing.

Spot prices for crude oil and liquefied natural gas, or LNG, have risen disproportionately to the low price of natural gas on the U.S. market.

"Why didn't natural gas bounce like its two other energy brethren?" Barnes asked. "That's easy. Once the United States discovered an abundant supply of natural gas in its shale basins, the fear that this country would run out of this critical source of energy basically disappeared. This new supply of natural gas is changing the way the United States views energy. In the past, we expected to have to use imports to meet our energy needs. But that may not be the case going forward."

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Money Morning Mailbag: Mortgage Rates Slip But U.S. Housing Market Still Unfriendly for Some Seeking Refinancing

U.S. mortgage rates dropped to a record low this week as the U.S. Federal Reserve started its second round of quantitative easing (QE2).

The 30-year fixed loan rate fell to 4.17% from 4.24%, Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) said yesterday (Thursday). The average 15-year rate fell to 3.57% from 3.63%.

Lower rates pushed up refinancing applications by 6%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending Nov. 5. The refinancing gauge has more than doubled since the beginning of 2010.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Tobin Tax a Healthy Solution to Wall Street Greed

Last week Money Morning Contributing Editor Martin Hutchinson presented an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and members of Congress regarding passage of a Tobin tax.

The simple solution of a Tobin tax handles three of the U.S. government's biggest challenges: It resolves the controversy over expiring Bush tax cuts, helps reduce the federal budget deficit, and offers more regulation over controversial Wall Street profits.

Hutchinson said a Tobin tax – a tax on financial transactions – is the one tax increase that would not damage the already fragile U.S. economy.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Rising Global Energy Demand Is Providing Key Investor Opportunities

Energy companies reported robust third-quarter profits this week in another sign that rising global energy demand is something investors can't afford to ignore.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) reported yesterday (Thursday) its third-quarter net income rose 55% from a year earlier to $7.35 billion, or $1.44 a share – the biggest jump in six years. Royal Dutch Shell PLC (NYSE ADR: RDS.A, RDS.B) reported its third-quarter profit rose 18% from the year before, noting it's in a "delivery window for new growth," and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) said its third-quarter profit more than doubled.

"Global oil demand implications have continued to surprise to the upside," Barclays Plc (NYSE ADR: BCS) analysts wrote in an Oct. 20 note to clients.

Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald addressed the importance of energy industry investing earlier this week on a Fox Business Network appearance.

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Money Morning Mailbag: China Needs to Boost Domestic Demand to Continue Economic Recovery

China released data this week showing its economy grew 9.6% in the third quarter from a year earlier, slower than years past but still significantly ahead of other countries that are struggling to stabilize their economies.

A slight dip in growth is what China wanted. Its gross domestic product (GDP) has grown on average more than 10% annually since 2006. The country's central bank lifted rates this week by 0.25 percentage points for the first time since 2007 to further cool the risk of overheating.

While working to maintain a healthy level of growth, China now has to contend with other countries devaluing their currencies to compete against a cheap yuan that is fueling an export-driven recovery. However, the whole world can't depend on exports – somewhere along the line there must be growth in demand.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Tobin Tax the Only Solution to Problems Posed by High Frequency Trading

An episode of the television news program "60 Minutes" that aired Oct. 10 highlighted investors' fears over the growing trend of high frequency trading (HFT) run by a world of "supercomputers."

The "60 Minutes" piece prompted this letter from a reader wondering if the technological shift means it's time to readjust investment strategy.

Sunday night on "60 Minutes" they had a story about high-speed computers that are out-trading humans. Is it time to refocus on the world stage and find tangible rather than paper investments to put your money in? A partnership in a retail or manufacturing venue surely is more transparent than the stock market.


Money Morning has been examining the effects of high frequency trading for years. In August 2009 Contributing Editor Martin Hutchinson said high frequency trading systems were front-running the market.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Japan's Rising Yen Struggle Signals Need for Industrial Shift

The yen strengthened as much as 82.75 per dollar Wednesday, fueled by speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would buy more government bonds after a drop in U.S. payrolls.

The yen's rise came after the Bank of Japan tried yet again this week to devalue its currency. On Tuesday the Bank of Japan lowered the benchmark interest rate to "virtually zero," and announced a $60 billion (5 trillion yen) plan to buy government bonds – similar to the 'quantitative easing' policy employed by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

"With today's decision, the Bank of Japan paved the path for the next step," Junko Nishioka, chief economist at RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in Tokyo told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. "What will be critical will be how foreign-exchange rates move as a result," along with the impact of any additional easing by the Federal Reserve, she said.

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Money Morning Mailbag: Don't Bank on a Return to the Gold Standard

Gold prices closed above $1,300 an ounce for the third straight day yesterday (Thursday), continuing a record run that's delighted gold bugs everywhere.

The surge shows just how much confidence investors have lost in fiat money, and greater appreciation for what former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last month called the "ultimate means of payment."

Gold's price surge "is a signal that there is a problem with respect to currency markets globally," Greenspan told the Council on Foreign Relations.

Indeed, Money Morning has repeatedly warned readers about the pitfalls of paper currency. However, it's unlikely that readers hoping for a return to the gold standard will get their wish.

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