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With our investment news briefs, Money Morning provides investors with a quick overview of the most important investing news stories from all around the world.
Home Prices Record Plunge; U.S. Trade Gap Grows; Social Security Funds Running Out Early; Citigroup Lends Most TARP Money; Big Shipper Maersk Posts Loss; EU To Do Bank Stress Tests
- U.S. home prices posted their biggest drop on record during the first quarter, with the median price falling 14% to $169,000 from a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors said. Prices fell in 134 of 152 metropolitan areas, with values plunging the most in Florida and California.
- The U.S. trade deficit grew 5.5% to a smaller-than- forecast $27.6 billion, dropping for the first time in eight months. The gap widened as exports slumped to a two-year low, overwhelming shrinking imports, reflecting reduced American demand for goods made abroad. The report buoyed hopes that a record contraction in global trade flows may be easing. "It's one more indicator that things are getting worse at a lot slower pace than before," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics LLC in New York, Bloomberg reported.
- The Social Security trust fund will run out of assets in 2037, four years sooner than previously thought, a report by the fund's trustees said yesterday (Tuesday). The same report said spending on Medicare, the health insurance plan for the elderly, will reach a legal limit by 2014. Payroll tax contributions to Social Security and Medicare, the two main safety nets for American retirees and the elderly, are declining due to the recession just as the baby-boom generation begins to retire, Bloomberg reported.
- Citigroup Inc (NYSE: C) is . A committee at the bank, appointed to oversee the use of the money it received from TARP, approved $44.75 billion in lending initiatives as of March 31, according to an AP story, which appeared on the New York Times website.
- A.P. Moller-Maersk, the owner of the world's biggest container shipping business, swung to a bigger net loss than expected in the first quarter and warned that the full year might end up that way too. The company posted a net loss of $390 million for the first three months, as the dive in global trade and freight rates hit shipping and low oil prices hit its oil business even harder than expected, Reutersreported.
- Bank regulators in all 27 countries of the European Union will conduct confidential stress tests by September, stepping up scrutiny of risks after lenders absorbed more than $1 trillion of losses and writedowns in the global financial crisis, Bloomberg reported. Finance ministers and the EU's executive agency will get private reports and industry data from regulators. Results for individual banks such as Spain's Banco de Santander S.A. (ADR NYSE: STD) or Barclays Plc (ADR NYSE: BCS) won't be released.