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.
TARP May Cost Taxpayers $23.7 Trillion; Economists: Recession Not Over Yet; GM Gets 3 Bids for Opel; Defaults on Commercial Real Estate Hit 20-year High; Drug Company's Stock Rises 276.81% After Successful Test; Porsche/Volkswagen Deal On Hold For Now; LEI Rises Again; AOL CEO to Revamp Advertising, Develop Community Sites
- The special inspector general for the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) said U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for as much as $23.7 trillion to bolster the economy and bail out financial companies, Bloomberg News reported. In testimony prepared for a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Neil Barofsky said the Treasury's $700 billion bank-investment program represents only a fraction of all federal bailouts to resuscitate the U.S. financial system. "TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale and complexity," he said. Costs include $6.8 trillion in Federal Reserve guarantees, $2.3 trillion in programs offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $7.4 trillion in TARP and other aid from the Treasury and $7.2 trillion in federal money for Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM), Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE), and other federal programs, he said.
- A survey of economists released yesterday (Monday) said the U.S. recession's hold on the economy appears to be easing but likely has not yet ended, Reuters reported. The National Association for Business Economics' (NABE) quarterly industry survey found that demand is stabilizing, but a small majority of the 102 respondents said their firms had not yet seen the bottom. The survey "provides new evidence that the U.S. recession is abating, but few signs of an immediate recovery," said Sara Johnson, managing director of global macroeconomics for IHS Global Insight, who helped analyze the report for the NABE. "Industry demand was still declining in the second quarter of 2009, but the breadth of decline had narrowed considerably since late 2008, raising prospects for stabilization in the second half" of the year, she said.
- General Motors Corp. (NYSE: MTLQQ) garnered three final offers for its Opel unit in Europe, with Germany's preferred bidder, Magna International Inc. (NYSE: MGA), planning to take a bigger stake from its Russian partner, Bloomberg News reported. RHJ International SA (EBR: RHJI) and Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. also submitted offers. Magna, the largest Canadian car-parts manufacturer, would buy 27.5% of Opel compared with 20% in an earlier proposal, said a GM spokesman. Germany selected Magna as preferred bidder on May 30. Detroit-based GM, seeking to salvage its European operations after emerging from bankruptcy, set today as the deadline for taking final offers for Opel, which includes the Vauxhall brand in the U.K. "The final bids will now be analyzed and compared by GM," GM Europe said in a statement.
- Mortgages on commercial property held by U.S. banks have been failing at the fastest rate in nearly 20 years, the Wall Street Journal said. Losses on loans used to finance commercial spaces would possibly reach about $30 billion by the end of 2009 at the current rate. The $30 billion estimate is based on financial reports filed by more than 8,000 banks for the first quarter, The Journal said. The commercial real-estate market, valued at about $6.7 trillion, represents 13% of the United States' gross domestic product.
- Shares of Human Genome Sciences Inc. (Nasdaq: HGSI) skyrocketed 276.81% after the Rockville, Md.-based company's Benlysta drug reduced symptoms in patients inflicted with lupus, a disease that is notoriously difficult to treat. The company tested 865 patients in a one-year study with the drug, which is co-produced with GlaxoSmithKline PLC. Leerink Swann LLC analyst Joseph Schwartz expects the drug to launch next year and , according to a report by Dow Jones Newswires. HGSI closed at $12.51 yesterday (Monday), up $9.19.
- A potential tax liability as well as growing tensions between Volkswagen AG (OTC ADR: VLKAY) and Porsche Automobil Holding put a speed bump in the way of a potential Volkswagen acquisition of Porsche's sportscar division, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Both companies unsuccessfully attempted last weekend to find a way around a tax payment that could be triggered by the sale Porsche's division. Volkswagen contested the significance of the issue, with a spokesperson telling The Journal "a transparent maneuver to torpedo a sensible business idea." Porsche is also in negotiations with Qatar to give the emirate a substantial stake in the German automaker.
- The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose slightly in June, up 0.7% following a 1.3% gain in May and a 1% rise the month before. "The recession has been losing steam since the spring, although very large job losses continue. Nevertheless, confidence is slowly rebuilding. Financial markets are less volatile. Even the housing market is stabilizing. If these trends continue, expect a slow recovery this autumn," said Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein. The LEI has improved 4.1% in the past six months.
- New AOL LLC Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong revealed his plans to overhaul the troubled Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) division's advertising and develop more localized websites in an effort to resuscitate falling revenues. The former Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) executive says sites with city guides can help fill a void of community information on the Internet, which in turn will bring in visitors and advertisers. "AOL still has a really large opportunity in front of it," Armstrong said in a July 16 interview with Bloomberg News. "It comes with a very difficult path, but if we can navigate the path and navigate what needs to be done here and do it transparently, quickly and deliberately, I think AOL can be a successful company, and that's why I came." Time Warner will spin off AOL later this year.