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    Student Loan Interest Rates Still Tangled Up In Congress

    Bubble

    Student debt in the United States has already surpassed the country's auto loans and consumer credit card debt. A student loan bubble looms on America's horizon, and promises dark times should it ever burst.

    And earlier this month, the student loan problem worsened.

    Federally subsidized Stafford loan interest rates doubled from 3.4% to 6.8% after Congress missed the July 1st 2013 deadline, and instead recessed for the Independence Day holiday.

    The failure sparked frustration amongst student advocates nationwide.

    However, Congress is able to retroactively "fix" the damage done by the soaring rate increase - that is, if Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement on the matter.

    So far, no dice: an emerging bipartisan Senate deal hit a stumbling block last week.

    Even though the House was able to pass its own plan in May, the Senate is still at an impasse.

    Democratic senators are avoiding the prospect of trying to "balance the budget on the backs of students."

    On the other hand, Republican senators want a plan that doesn't risk adding huge sums to the deficit.

    Here's what we've got so far:

    The tentative deal ties Stafford loan interest rates with rates on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note.

    Additionally, there would be a capped interest rate of 8.25% for undergraduates and 9.25% for all other loans.

    Republicans would get a link between the financial markets and borrowing terms through this proposal.

    Democrats would get a guarantee that interest rates would not reach 10%, their proverbial line in the sand.

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  • Debt

  • With Unchecked U.S. Spending, It's Time to Hedge Against Inflation USD inflation 2

    Uncontrolled government spending could force the Fed to monetize the government's debt, creating runaway inflation, former Federal Reserve Governor Frederic Mishkin warned in a report.

    If these circumstances were to occur, the Fed would be unable to do much, if anything, to control inflation, Mishkin said in the report, presented at a conference at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

    In that case, Mishkin and his co-authors, David Greenlaw, James Hamilton and Peter Hooper, argue that the result could be "a flight from the dollar," according to a summary of the report by noted Fed-watcher Steven K. Beckner writing for MNI.

    The report states, "Countries with high debt loads are vulnerable to an adverse feedback loop in which doubts by lenders lead to higher sovereign interest rates, which in turn make the debt problems more severe ... Countries with debt above 80% of GDP and persistent current-account deficits are vulnerable to a rapid fiscal deterioration as a result of these tipping-point dynamics."

    The authors of the report estimate U.S. net debt, excluding debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund, at about 80% of GDP in 2011, double what it was a few years before. To make matters worse, the United States runs a persistent current account deficit, which is funded by borrowing from other countries.

    This puts the U.S. in a worse spot than Japan which, although its debt is much higher as a percentage of GDP, has a large current account surplus and a high savings rate.

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  • Fiscal Cliff 2013 Will Bury Debt-Ridden U.S. Cities With fiscal cliff 2013 approaching on January 2, it is struggling U.S. cities that stand to suffer the most if Congress fails to help.

    These U.S. municipalities are already in terrible fiscal shape due to the effects of The Great Recession. Now they're facing the effects of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts of 9%, about $560 billion in total.

    Like Gramm-Rudman-Hollings from 1985 that imposed automatic spending cuts, these powerful one-two combinations will floor cities that have unwisely come to rely on federal aid.

    "Cities are going to be facing very rough waters for the next couple of years," predicted Michael Pagano, dean of the College and Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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  • Five "Extra" Moves to Make Right Now to Protect Your Financial Future I hear from countless investors around the world every week. Many of them want to know what "else" they can do to protect their financial future, especially now that the markets could get ugly (again).

    Here are a few quick thoughts:

    1) Chart your course

    A surprising number of investors tell me that things were going along just fine then - boom - one day they woke up and everything had turned into a disaster.

    If only it were that simple. The truth is digging a hole takes time and a whole lot of effort. If you're in trouble now it's because you haven't been paying attention for a while.

    Knowing what to do is only 10% of the game. The other 90% comes from having a plan.

    I don't care if it's nothing more than on the back of an envelope or a Post-it like the ones that cover my desk. It's vitally important you have one.

    Unfortunately, "Beating the S&P 500" doesn't qualify as a plan. Neither does "retiring in style." You have to plan for real-life goals.

    For some people, this may be paying for a grandchild's education. For others it might mean building up $20,000 over five years to take that once-in-a lifetime trip, accumulating $300,000 to build a vacation home, or ensuring that you have $2,000-$10,000 a month to live on 20 years from now.

    You have to be specific. That way you learn to control your money before it controls you. If you need help, find a competent financial advisor immediately and ask the right questions.

    If you realize you can meet your goals by hitting singles, it makes no sense to constantly swing for the fences and risk striking out. Lower your risk and concentrate on the return of your money rather than the return on your money.

    Not only will you sleep better, but chances are your returns will be more consistent for having done so.

    2) Refinance your home (and everything else, too)

    Interest rates have fallen for more than 30 years to near zero. They are unlikely to fall much further. If anything they are likely to rise. Nobody knows exactly when or how high they will rise, but that's not the point.

    What's important to realize (and that many people have forgotten) is that the median 30-year mortgage rate is nearly 9%, or roughly 150% higher than the best rates available today. Even a minor uptick means you will lose huge amounts of purchasing power.

    Obviously you have to pay closing costs every time you refinance, but the fees can be worth it if you plan to be in your house long enough to break even.

    Here's how to run the numbers.

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  • JPM Losses Get Worse and Worse JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) cannot escape its enormous loss on a credit derivatives bet gone bad.

    The London Whale trade, as it is informally known, was originally reported as a $2 billion loss. But now The New York Times has reported the loss will total $9 billion -- and maybe more.

    But Money Morning subscribers were well aware of the possibility JP Morgan's losses would exceed $4 billion or $5 billion. Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani repeatedly said this "hedge" was really a bet, and was among the first to predict how large the losses would eventually turn out to be.

    Gilani, who hosts the radio show "On the Money!" in addition to his Money Morning duties, had this to say about JP Morgan's ill-conceived bet:

    "What it does is shine the light on what is actually happening. It's not the loss in terms of the money, it's the loss in terms of faith for [CEO] Jamie Dimon, that he has been pushing hard against the regulators... in particular to the Volcker Rule, saying there is no need for it and it and that banks have a good handle on their risk... and that we (JP Morgan) don't have a problem with it because we are just hedging."

    Just hedging? Gilani certainly doesn't think so.

    Gilani said that statement is a flat-out lie and that Dimon has basically lied to Congress in his testimonies over the past weeks.

    In the testimony before the House Financial Services Committee last week, Dimon said the London unit had "embarked on a complex strategy" that exposed the bank to greater risk even though it had intended to minimize risk.

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  • Fiscal Cliff 2013: How Investors Can Prepare Late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury wasn't referring to investors when he said, "you've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down," but he might as well have been referring to the upcoming fiscal cliff in 2013.

    The fiscal cliff is a real crisis looming at year's end. The fragile U.S. economy could face an unparalleled fiscal punch of as much as $720 billion if the scheduled changes go through as planned. They include the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire Dec. 31 and billions of dollars in programmed federal spending cuts.

    U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned that shocks from such changes will most likely cause the economy to contract, causing a recession.

    And without cooperation from Congress, there's no alternate route for the U.S. economy to take.

    Ernie Gross, Ph.D., MacAllister Chair and professor of economics at Creighton University, told Forbes, "The fiscal cliff is an almost 100% certainty."

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  • The Eurozone Bailout: Prepare for What's Next Q: What will happen in Europe?

    Greece chickens out. The G20 has its hands out and wants to have Germany's standard of living. Germany should leave the EU and preserve its economy. There is no reason it should sacrifice itself to pay for the malfeasance and incompetence of everybody else.

    Politicians will kick the can down the road while hoping rumors of future action will carry the day.

    Loading the player ... jwplayer("container").setup({ autostart: true, controlbar: "bottom", flashplayer: "http://s3.amazonaws.com/moneymappress/player.swf", file:... Read More...
  • Eurozone Debt Crisis Gets More Costly with Spain's Latest Move European finance ministers came to Spain's rescue Saturday, agreeing to lend the ailing nation's banking sector as much as $125 billion (100 billion euros) as part of the latest Band-Aid for the Eurozone debt crisis.

    Madrid said it would detail exactly how much it needs following an independent audit report in a little over a week.

    The decision to aid Spain came after a two-and-a-half-hour conference call with the finance ministers of the 17-member bloc. The substantial size was settled on to dispel any lingering doubts that the bailout wouldn't be big enough.

    But a fix for Spain's banks may not be enough to save the whole country.

    "This year is going to be a bad one, growth is going to be negative by 1.7%, and also unemployment is going to increase," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Sunday.

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  • Two Stocks to Buy in Uncertain Times Europe’s debt problems are hitting a breaking point, U.S. economic growth is slowing and the Dow is down about 7% in the past month – so investors want to know what to do. Money Morning Capital Waves Strategist Shah Gilani is doing just that – sharing the stocks he thinks will provide safety in these uncertain times. He joined Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.” Tuesday morning to share with host Stuart Varney two investments he has recommended to his Capital Wave Forecast subscribers. One is a solid pharmaceutical company with blockbuster drugs barreling down the pipeline and 4.8% dividend yield. The other is an alternative utility-based investment with 5.8% dividend yield. Watch this clip to learn more. Read More...
  • No Bull: Could the 10-Year Note Hit 1%? In the wake of Friday's disastrous jobs number, 10-year Treasury Note yields finally fell through the 1.5% level, trading as low 1.44% on the day.

    That plunge took many traders, talking heads and politicians by surprise.

    Our "leaders" in Washington D.C. were heard to say: "Nobody saw this coming."

    Well, that's just not true. Not one iota.

    If you've been reading Money Morning you saw this coming. So did tens of thousands of our Money Map Report subscribers.

    I've been warning that 10 year yields would drop below 2% then hit 1.5% for more than 2 years now.

    In fact, our readers had the opportunity to profit handsomely on our bond related recommendations that have earned them 30%-71% so far.

    What does this mean for you?

    First questions first...

    Now that we've busted 1.5%, the next stop is 1%.

    I can even see negative yields ahead, meaning that investors who buy Treasuries will actually be paying the government to keep their money.

    Be prepared. I'm going to show you here what to do and - yes -how you can profit from this move-- even at this stage of the global financial crisis.

    Why Bond Yields Will Continue to Fall

    First off, 10-year yields dropping to 1% means several things:

    • Bond prices go even higher. Rates and prices go in opposite directions. Therefore when you hear that yields are falling, this means that bonds are in rally mode.
    • The world is more concerned with the return of its money than the return on its money. You can take your pick why. Personally I think it comes down to two things above all else: the looming disintegration of the Eurozone and the fact that our country is $212 trillion in the hole and warming up for another infantile debt ceiling debate instead of reining in spending.
    • More stimulus. Probably in the form of a perverse worldwide effort coordinated by central bankers as part of the greatest Ponzi scheme in recorded history.
    But zero percent or negative yields - right here in the US of A?

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  • Five Ways to Make 2012 Your Best Year Ever I hear it everywhere I go. I'll start investing again...

    ...when the debt problem is fixed.

    ...when the markets pull back a little.

    ...when the EU crisis is over.

    ...when the elections are over.

    Chances are you've said some of these same things to yourself.

    Yet, waiting is exactly the wrong thing to do. Time is something you never get back.

    And when it comes to consistent investment returns, time is the one thing you always have to capitalize on - without fail.

    Besides, waiting makes it harder to get back in the game. Ask anybody who missed the S&P 500's 99.53% run up off March 2009 lows that carried things until April 2011.

    Or the 87.26% run up through July 2007 following the low set in 2003. Or the 569.25% move from November 1987 (shortly after Black Monday) through January 2000.

    No. The way I see it, the thing to do is to begin investing the moment you decide you want to. That way you pique your imagination, your motivation and your returns.

    Five Ways to Get Better Results in 2012

    Here are five tips to help you get started:

    To continue reading, please click here...


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  • Robo-Signing is the Tip of the Iceberg for the Banks What may be good news for delinquent credit card holders may also be really bad news for banks.

    It turns out the "robo-signing" of foreclosure affidavits is just the tip of the iceberg.

    In what one judge called "robo-testimony," falsely attested-to statements by bank document custodians have been submitted in courts around the country by banks trying to win judgments against delinquent credit card debtors.

    Apparently, tens of millions of credit cards issued by banks have not been accompanied by good recordkeeping, either.

    Chasing down delinquent borrowers in court requires original credit agreements and accurate payment histories to verify outstanding balances and claims.

    As it turns out, banks aren't providing them - either to the courts or to third-party debt collection companies that buy uncollected debts for pennies on the dollar.

    As a result of these shoddy practices, judgments already granted to banks could be overturned and they could be sued by state attorney generals or pursued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    The same banks could even be potentially charged by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Statutes for selling dubiously documented accounts to debt collection companies.

    While some debtors will take comfort in what they read here, investors in banks may want to question how legal issues and regulatory investigations will impact their stocks.

    To continue reading, please click here...

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  • Not Much of a Debate: Inflation is Part of the Plan Forget about lost decades. Forecasts that we'll be turning Japanese couldn't be further from the truth.

    Here's why.

    It's simple, really. Deflation is not in the interest of anybody in power, so it's very unlikely to happen.

    The U.S. Federal Reserve's policy move to target inflation last week just re-emphasizes this point.

    That's not to say deflation is a bad thing for everybody.

    For savers and those living on fixed incomes, deflation would be a very good thing indeed.

    Their income would gradually increase in real terms, and their savings would become steadily more valuable. Holders of Treasury bonds would also gain mightily from deflation.

    However, the very people who would gain from deflation are not in power.

    The People's Bank of China can't vote in the U.S. (yet!), Ron Paul is not president, and there is not an organized and powerful savers' political movement. After all, this is not Germany or Japan!

    Meanwhile, in the real world, the U.S. government is spending far more than it takes in, and its debt is rising to dangerous levels. This has been happening on a bipartisan basis since at least 2001.

    The Tea Party may have elected a Congress committed to reducing spending, but none of the battles of 2011 actually reduced spending - they just slowed the rate of growth somewhat.

    Since much of the debt is borrowed long-term at low interest rates, the best way to reduce its burden on future generations is to encourage inflation.

    Savers may lose out on the deal, but to those in Washington, the idea of inflating our way out of debt is irresistible.

    Of course, sometimes we can depend on an independent central bank to resist this temptation. But at present, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is committed to near-zero interest rates in his fight against deflation.

    Now you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to realize that, if the power structure is committed to at least moderate inflation, inflation is what you are going to get.

    In fact, it is already brewing.

    To continue reading, please click here...

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  • 2011 Budget Showdown: Don't Raise the U.S. Debt Ceiling… Sell the White House! I have to tell you that - as a former international merchant banker - I want to laugh out loud when I hear the dire predictions of how the United States will have to default if Congress doesn't raise the nation's debt ceiling.

    With a little Wall Street-style creative financing - even when the government's outstanding debt level reaches the official limit of $14.3 trillion sometime around the end of March - there's no reason why the country can't go on borrowing as if nothing has changed.

    The debt-ceiling debate is something you're going to hear a lot about. The Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget proposal is... Read More...
  • 2011 U.S. Debt Forecast: Five Simple Ways to End America's Spiraling National Debt By 2020, U.S. debt could reach 90% of the United States' annual economic output.

    That's more than $20 trillion in national debt, which would mean Americans are on the hook for more than $65,000 per person.

    Just by paying the interest on that much debt, the United States could become incapable of repairing its own roads or educating its children. The U.S. is already receiving warnings from Moody's and Standards & Poor's that its credit rating is being threatened by its debts.

    And moving into a lower credit rating bracket would give America such companions as Bangladesh, Serbia and Mozambique. I'm sure all of those are... Read More...
  • Three Ways to Profit as China Dumps Japanese Debt As a veteran trader, I have a tendency to look past the day's top headlines. That's why a recent Bloomberg News story - which stated that China sold a net total of 769.2 billion yen ($9.24 billion) worth of Japanese debt in September - really caught my eye.

    By itself, this story probably wouldn't be a big deal. But this development is the start of an important new trend in the global currency markets. And the following three factors tell me that we should be taking a close look at why China has decided to dump Japanese debt. For instance:

    • Given that the same thing happened in August, September marked the second straight month Beijing has sold more Japanese securities than it purchased.
    • This marks the reversal of a seventh-month stretch of China being a net purchaser of Japanese debt.
    • The two months of sales nearly wiped out the net surplus of 2.32 trillion yen ($27.86 billion) that China had amassed as a result of seven months of buying Japanese debt.
    • Finally, the 2.02 trillion yen ($24.26 billion) worth of Japanese debt that China sold in August was China's single-largest monthly sale of Japan government bonds since 1995, when these statistics first started being recorded.
    While there are other conceivable explanations, my take is that China is definitely unloading its yen-denominated holdings, and shifting its investments elsewhere as part of a much bigger reallocation strategy. As investors, this is a trend that we need to track - and to react to.

    Let me explain....

    To understand how to profit from this currency-market development, please read on...

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