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With Grocery Prices Soaring, This High-Tech Food Play Belongs on Your Shopping List

Aside from the continued sell-off in U.S. tech stocks, one of yesterday’s top financial news stories was the fact that U.S. inflation is accelerating – and at a pace that’s exceeding forecasts.

  • Featured Story

    Why a Rising Euro is Likely Despite Draghi Comments

    Currency Euro symbol

    European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned about excessive euro strength at a press conference today (Thursday) following his announcement that the ECB had left interest rates unchanged, as expected.

    In response to a reporter's question on whether there was a currency war in progress, Draghi said, "I think we should have in mind one thing: changes in the exchange rates that we see today are not really deliberate competitive devaluations. They are more the effect of macroeconomic policies that are meant to revamp the economies - for example, very low interest rates, promises to stay low for a very long time.

    "However, if these policies produce consequences on the exchange rates that do not reflect the G20 consensus, we will have to discuss this."

    Draghi said the exchange rate is not a "policy target" but is "important for growth and price stability," adding, "We certainly want to see whether the appreciation - if sustained - will alter our risk assessment as far as price stability is concerned."

    Observers blogging and tweeting from the room where the press conference was being held felt Draghi was being very careful in choosing his words and interpreted this as a sign that he was, in fact, attempting to talk down the euro or at least slow its rise against other major currencies.

    Traders immediately sold the euro against the U.S. dollar and against the Japanese yen. The euro is currently trading down about 200 pips against the U.S. dollar and is off more than 150 pips against the Japanese yen.

    There is no doubt Draghi succeeded in halting the rise of the euro, at least for today. But if the ECB is serious about putting a lid on the euro's strength, its options are limited.

    Because the ECB must take into account the laws and preferences of its constituent national central banks, it would not be easy to intervene in the foreign exchanges market - except in extreme circumstances - or to undertake a competitive expansion of the ECB balance sheet as the Fed and the Bank of Japan are doing.

    The ECB could create new credit by purchasing private-sector assets, as the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan have done, but it is unclear how the conservative Germans would react to such a plan.

    Or Draghi could just keep talking.

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  • Euro

  • Eurozone Debt Crisis: Why Cyprus Needed the Fifth Bailout U.S. stocks were rattled Monday as two more countries asked for bailout packages in the ongoing Eurozone debt crisis.

    Shortly after word came that Spain had formally requested a bailout package for its ailing banks, Cyprus chimed in and also asked for aid.

    The Mediterranean country has become the fifth Eurozone nation to hold out its hand for an international rescue. While the smallest of the bunch to seek relief, Cyprus highlights the European Union's increasingly stressed resources as it wrestles with weakening economic conditions.

    The aid request followed Fitch's downgrade Monday of the island's stressed banks to "junk" status. The credit cut means the country has lost it investment status with the trio of the largest and most influential rating agencies.

    Fitch said in a statement, "Cypriot banks will require substantial injections of capital in order to secure confidence in their financial viability."

    Cyprus, saddled with Greek private sector debt, could need as much as 10 billion euros ($12 billion) in bailout funds.

    "Classic contagion, "BBC's chief economics correspondent Hugh Pym said of Cyprus' troubles.

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  • Spain Bailout Package of $77 Billion Will Not be Enough The Spain bailout package has a steep price, but still might not be enough to save the country's banking sector.

    Spanish economy minister Luis de Guindos formally asked Eurozone partners for up to 62 billion euros ($77.4 billion) to recapitalize his country's ailing domestic banks. The financial institutions are weighed down by bad loans to property and construction companies, and by an ongoing Eurozone debt crisis.

    In a letter to the Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker, who serves as head of the 17-nation Eurozone finance ministers, Guindos explained he wanted to settle on details and conditions of the loan before the next euro group meeting on July 9.

    Juncker acknowledged receipt of the letter and said that the ministers expect to give a go-ahead to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Banking Authority to negotiate terms of the bailout.

    The request was anticipated after the results of two independent audits were released last week. Financial consultants Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger made the first step in a two-part audit of the Spanish banking system.

    Wyman found that worst-case scenario, Spain's banking sector would need a bailout package of between 51 billion euros ($63.6 billion) and 62 billion euros ($77.4 billion). Berger estimated on the lower end with 51.8 billion euros ($64.6 billion).

    The formal request for a Spain bailout has made investors more nervous, and is driving the bond yields higher, making it increasingly likely Spain will need more money to try and resolve its debt crisis.

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  • Stock Market Today: This Bank Stock Faces More Backlash The Greek elections did not generate any significant movement in the stock market today, which is especially bad news for one particular bank stock that's taking a lot of heat from investors.

    Greece decided not to leave the euro Sunday as the pro-bailout New Democracy party narrowly won elections tallying just over 30% of the vote. Investors had feared a win by an anti-austerity movement could lead to a breakup of the euro and possibly the European Union.

    That's all good news except stock markets opened lower Monday following the announcement.

    Maybe investors really wanted the worst to happen concerning Greece, insuring more action by the Federal Reserve when they meet later this week. QE3 is still a possibility but it seems that some are disappointed by the Greek elections, which could just be a postponement to Greece's eventual "Grexit" from the euro.

    European markets rallied following the election results, but by the time U.S. markets opened investor sentiment had become neutral. It seems that until the Fed's meeting concludes on Wednesday investors will be stuck waiting for more news out of Europe to guide them.

    One sector that has been vilified recently is financial stocks, and today's headliner is Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS).

    The Wall Street Journal this morning highlighted Morgan Stanley for its leading role in Facebook's IPO debacle.

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  • Eurozone Bailout Package: What's Next for Greece The question regarding whether or not Greece will stick with the Eurozone got at least a short-term answer after the country's elections Sunday, when the conservative, pro-bailout New Democracy party narrowly won the crucial vote.

    But Greece's trials and tribulations are far from over, and the relief is temporary. Concerns are increasing over the global cost of a Eurozone bailout package as the mounting woes in Spain and Italy persist.

    Citizens of Greece are clamoring for change, but many recognize that the election results are no quick fix. There was no cheering in Greece and global markets reacted cautiously following the vote.

    Borrowing costs across Europe rose with Spain taking the lead. The yield on Spain's 10-year bonds spiked to a euro-era high of 7.18%. A reading above 7% raises a red flag that a nation may be approaching the need for a bailout.

    Italian bonds also sold off on fears that if Spain is in need of a bailout, an Italy bailout package might not be far off. Italian bonds' 10-year yields are around 6%.

    While the Greek election results staved off a calamity, they failed to fix the wider problems facing Greece and its struggling neighbors.

    Moody's Analytics' chief economist Mark Zandi told USA Today, "We dodged a bullet, but they've got more bullets coming."

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  • Why an Italy Bailout Package is on the Way With news of the Spain bailout package still fresh, and Greece's crucial elections on Sunday, the next event in the Eurozone debt crisis is already brewing.

    An Italy bailout package is likely to be the next costly move in the spiraling contagion.

    Italy on Thursday held its first bond auction since European finance ministers came to Spain's rescue, willing to give the ailing country up to 100 billion euro ($126 billion) to shore up its beleaguered banks.

    The auction raised a heap of concerns.

    Italy's borrowing costs soared following a Treasury sale of 4.5 billion euros of debt, including 3 billion euros of its 3-year benchmark bond that yields a lofty 5.3%. That was the highest yield since December and an increase of nearly 1.4 percentage points from the last sale just a month ago.

    In addition, Fitch Ratings reported May 23 that foreign ownership of Italian debt slipped from 50% in 2008 to a current 32%.

    "I think Italy could well be a problem, because its current government isn't very good and has no legitimacy, having been imposed by the EU - and it hasn't cut spending as it needs to," said Money Morning Global Investing Strategist Martin Hutchinson. "I'd put it a few weeks away though - market's focused on Greece and Spain at present."

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  • Why the Spain Bailout Package Won't Work The pricey Spain bailout package convinced markets it could fix the Eurozone debt crisis for only a moment Monday, before reality set in that the plan was far from ideal.

    Following the announcement of a $126 billion (100 billion euro) bank rescue package, markets rose briefly. But the relief was short-lived as investors hastily refocused and remembered that the struggling Eurozone still faces a number of key obstacles.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 142.97 points, or 1.14%, to close at 12,411.23.

    Spain's bailout package was assembled swiftly as EU officials attempt to stave off suppositions about the country's sickly banks with crucial Greek elections just a few days away.

    But it falls short of resolving what the Eurozone as a whole is up against.

    Banking analysts at Societe Generale summed up in a note to clients, "The plan looks like a classic Eurozone fudge."

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  • Eurozone Debt Crisis: Why the Next Three Months are Crucial Many people wonder how much longer the Eurozone can survive as it struggles to deal with its plaguing debt crisis.

    Well, billionaire investor George Soros has the answer.

    On Saturday, in a thorough and enlightening speech made at the Festival of Economics in Trento, Italy, Soros gave the region a deadline for resolving its debt debacle.

    "In my judgment the authorities have a three months' window during which they could still correct their mistakes and... Read More...
  • Eurozone Debt Crisis: What to Expect if Greece Dumps the Euro The only certain thing if Greece leaves the Eurozone is the uncertainty that will certainly follow.

    Unable to form a coalition government during May elections, Greece has been forced to hold a second vote on June 17.

    In the balance is the future of the Eurozone itself as a "Grexit" looms large.

    So much is riding on the outcome that U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders of the G-8 have conveyed their optimism that Greece will remain in the Eurozone when they convened for a summit on Saturday aimed at keeping Europe's economic woes from stretching around the globe.

    "All of us are absolutely committed to making sure that growth and stability and social consolidation are part of an overall package," President Obama said.

    But many other principals and economic experts are not as committed and believe a Greek exit would be the best move in the long run.

    The question is what impact its departure will have beyond its own ailing borders if Greece renounces its debt and leaves the Eurozone.

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  • The Secret System that Blew Another Hole in the Euro This may sound arcane and boring, but I promise you it's not.

    What I've learned will blow yet another hole in the already shaky euro.

    It begins with Bernd Schunemann, a law professor at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. He has sued the German Bundesbank over its participation in the Eurozone "Target-2" settlements system.

    Now I'll be the first to admit that yes, my eyes do glaze over when thinking about settlements systems-and I used to be a merchant banker.

    But looking at the details of the case I had something of a banker's moment of clarity.

    I realized that Schunemann was claiming that the settlements system had saddled German taxpayers with a potential liability of 615 billion euros, over $800 billion, in exposure to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

    After all, who would have to bail out the Bundesbank if it became insolvent?

    What's more, when you un-glaze your eyes and look closely, the risk is entirely unnecessary. It is yet another huge botch-up job by the EU bureaucrats.

    Here's what I mean...

    The Euro and the Target-2 Settlement System

    The Target-2 settlement system was introduced in 2007, as a replacement for Target (Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer System).

    The first Target was the large-scale payments system between central banks that had been introduced with the euro in 1999.

    Under the system, when a Greek makes a large euro payment to a German, his Greek bank makes a payment to the Greek central bank, which in turn makes a payment to the Bundesbank. Once it reaches the German central bank, it pays the German bank, which pays the German.

    For ordinary trade transactions, that's all fine and good. Greek exports to Germany are balanced with German exports to Greece.

    If, however, there's a big trade imbalance between the two countries, then gradually an imbalance grows up between the central banks. As it develops, the Bank of Greece ends up owing the Bundesbank more and more money.

    Even more serious is when Greek citizens rush to get their money out of Greek banks and put it in German banks. Every million euros Greek citizens remove from their banks is a million euros by which the Bundesbank increases its exposure to the Bank of Greece.

    You can see how this could be big problem-especially since that's the arrangement all around the Eurozone.

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  • France May be the Domino that Causes the Euro to Collapse Commentators are wringing their hands again, worried the troubles in Spain could cause the whole euro project to collapse.

    As a result, all eyes are now on Spanish 10-year debt yields, which went above 6% last week as the threat of euro-chaos returned.

    But it's not Spain the markets should be worried about.

    The reality is that Spain is not in too bad a shape and that a rescue would be affordable for the European Central Bank even if it was needed.

    The real tottering European domino to worry about is France.

    After all, it would be impossible for the remaining solvent members of the EU to bail out France if it began to fall.

    The larger reality is that France's fiscal position is considerably worse than Spain's.

    The country's debt-to-GDP ratio was 85% at the end of 2011, while Spain's was only 66%. What's more, France's public spending is 56% of GDP, according to the Heritage Foundation, compared to Spain's 45% of GDP.

    Spain's current government has also instituted a stiff austerity program, mostly comprised of cuts in public spending, which will reduce its deficit below France's by 2013.

    Meanwhile, France's austerity has so far consisted almost entirely of tax increases on the rich -not actual spending cuts.

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  • The Markets or the Mattress: I Know Where My Money is Going The next 1,000 points on the Dow Jones Industrial Average in either direction are going to be determined by what happens in two cities thousands of miles from our own shores...
    Athens and Berlin.

    What's more, the risks associated with Europe's redemption, or its failure, are more concentrated now than they were before the crisis began.

    There are two reasons: a) Europe won't help itself and b) Wall Street may still have $1 trillion or more in exposure to European problems.

    What makes me crazy right now is that European chatter is what's driving the markets.

    Every sound bite from Europe is critical these days. Not because there is anything relevant in the political babbling from financial ministers tasked with fixing this mess, but rather that there is a cascade of events that could take us in either direction.

    Fix this mess and the markets will take off for a 1,000 point gain that will leave anybody who is on the sidelines hopelessly behind.

    Fail and the markets could tank.

    It certainly fits the pattern established in recent months. News leaks suggesting solutions have brought on rallies, while negative leaks have caused a ripple effect that has quickly dumped stocks into the hopper.

    Yet, it's not really the numbers that matter at the moment - even with the Fed rumored to be considering another $1 trillion stimulus and reports that the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be seeking as much as $600 billion each.

    No. The market swings we are seeing are all about confidence or, more specifically, the near complete lack thereof.

    The Mattress vs. The Markets

    A recent report from TrimTabs shows that checking and savings accounts attracted eight-times the money that stock, bond and mutual funds did from January to November 2011.

    That is a whopping $889 billion that went under "the mattresses" versus only $109 billion that went into the markets.

    In fact, CNBC is reporting that the pace of money headed for plain-Jane savings and checking accounts from September to November accelerated to nearly 13-times the average monthly flow rate of the preceding nine months from September to November.

    What's significant about this is that the money has headed for the sidelines when the markets have rallied. Usually it's the other way around. Normally money floods into the markets when they move higher.

    The other notable thing here is that, generally speaking, up days this year have had thinner volume than down days. This means that most investors just can't handle the swings. In other words, every time the markets dip, they're packing it in.

    Pessimism is the Breeding Ground of Opportunity

    Bottom line: Investors are making a gigantic mistake - especially those with a longer-term perspective.

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  • How Long Before Greece Leaves the Euro Zone? I find it ironic that a country which defrauded its way into the Euro Zone is likely to be the first country to exit the Euro Zone. Despite a raft of hasty denials by just about everyone in Brussels, it now seems all but inevitable that Greece will bail on the Euro when they default on the €110 billion bailout they received just one year ago.

    Of course, this all started on Friday when an article came out in Der Spiegel claiming that Greece was mulling an exit from the Euro due to near-daily violent protests and the apparent failure of austerity measures. An emergency meeting of European finance ministers was convened in Luxembourg in response to the report, which they all denied. Methinks they doth protest too much.

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  • U.S. & Euro Regulators Move to Curb Commodity Speculators U.S. and European Union (EU) regulators are vowing to step up scrutiny on the size and volume of commodity market bets as debate continues to rage about whether excessive speculation is driving up prices on energy, metals and agricultural products.

    In an unprecedented rush, investors have pushed a total of $121.2 billion into commodities since the beginning of 2009, according to Barclays Capital. Hedge funds, pension funds and mutual funds in the United States have boosted their positions on oil, silver, corn and wheat to record highs in 2010.

    In some commodities, the number of futures contracts outstanding now far outpaces the numbers traded in mid-2008, when commodity market prices shattered records. As a result, regulators in the United States and Europe are considering proposals on how to prevent the so-called speculators from manipulating the markets.

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  • The Dollar's Unavoidable Day of Reckoning is Here… The government is printing money 24/7 to paper over the bad debts of the housing crisis and Wall Street bailouts. We're about to enter a cycle of hyper-inflation that will devalue every dollar you own... but there is a way to profit! Find out how in this free report. Read More...
  • Ignoring Sovereign Default Damages Credibility of EU's Bank Stress Tests The European Union (EU) bank stress tests failed to account for a sovereign default, meaning results show a healthier banking sector than actually exists.

    The tests results were released Friday with seven banks failing, but analysts say many more institutions could have failed if the tests simulated a sovereign default. Testing regulators from the Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS) decided against testing securities held in lenders' banking books, where sovereign debt is held and only written down in the case of default.

    "The long awaited stress tests do not seem to have been that stressful after all," said Gary Jenkins, an analyst at Evolution Securities Ltd. "The most controversial area surrounds the treatment of the banks' sovereign debt holdings."

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