1/30/09 News Radar

by JASON | 9:15 AM in |

Daily layoff numbers from the big guys...


Consumers are dramatically scaling back how much of their credit card balances they pay each month.

Data released this month show that the credit card payment rate — the percentage of outstanding card debt paid — fell by 2.5 percentage points to 16.1%. The drop in November, the latest month available, is among the largest on record, according to CardTrak.com, a credit card research firm.

"It's kind of shocking," says Robert McKinley, founder of CardTrak.com. "It indicates that there are fundamental changes in the way that consumers view and use credit."

The credit card payment rate is a widely watched indicator of consumers' financial health. Its plunge comes as consumers have become more reluctant — and less able — to take on debt. Revolving debt, much of it on credit cards, dipped at a 3.4% annual rate in November to $973.5 billion, after flattening in October, preliminary numbers from the Federal Reserve show.

Even with less debt, consumers are struggling to pay their card bills. The average household with at least one credit card owed $10,728 in 2008, nearly the same amount as in 2007, according to CardTrak.com.

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Japan headed for its worst postwar recession as factory production slumped an unprecedented 9.6 percent, NEC Corp. said it will cut more than 20,000 workers and Hitachi Ltd. forecast a record loss.

The December drop in output eclipsed the previous record of 8.5 percent set only a month earlier, the Trade Ministry said today in Tokyo. NEC, Japan’s biggest personal-computer maker, forecast its first loss in three years.

So much for Japan being the success model - now the big political push for nationalization is exemplified by Sweden

Jean-Claude Trichet gave a stark warning to financial markets on Thursday to stop putting pressure on banks to hold more capital, insisting that such views were exacerbating the global recession.

The president of the European Central Bank criticised the prevailing view among investors that banks should hoard funds, insisting that the view was contrary to those of the European authorities. Such ideas did nothing to contain the deepening recession, he said, and also provided non-financial companies with incentives to postpone investment.

LONDON (Reuters) - Japan sank deeper into recession with industrial output tumbling at a record pace and inflation near zero, while data was expected to show the U.S. economy contracting at its fastest rate in 26 years.

As the world global economic crisis deepened, Euro zone unemployment hit 8.0 percent in December while inflation fell to a near 10-year low of 1.1 percent, Eurostat said on Friday, heightening expectations the European Central Bank, will slash interest rates in March.

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- James “Jes” Staley, head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s investment unit, said the $4 trillion money-market fund industry is the “greatest systemic risk” to the financial system that hasn’t been adequately addressed.

“What keeps me up at night most of anything we do at JPMorgan Asset Management is the money-market fund space,” Staley said at a lunch discussion hosted today by Credit Suisse Group AG in Davos, Switzerland. “One of the things that has to come out and get a lot more attention and discussion is how do we take the systemic risk posed by money funds out of the system?”

JPMorgan Asset Management oversees about $500 billion of money-market funds, Staley said. The funds aren’t allowed to set aside capital to protect for investment losses, leaving no “margin for error” against a potential collapse, he said.

“If you’re running a money-fund and all of a sudden you think there may be a slight run or a problem in the credit markets you have to liquefy your portfolio as fast as you possibly can,” he said. “Your margin of error is zero because there’s no shock absorber or capital insurance protecting that.”

"The one reserve currency has become a danger to the world economy: that is now obvious to everybody," he said in a speech at the World Economic Forum.

It is the first time that a Russian leader has set foot in the sanctum sanctorum of global capitalism at Davos.

Mr Putin said the leading powers should ensure an "irreversible" move towards a system of multiple reserve currencies, questioning the "reliability" of the US dollar as a safe store of value. "The pride of Wall Street investment banks don't exist any more," he said.

For all his bluster, Mr Putin's bargaining power is weakening by the day. Russia's foreign reserves have fallen by 34pc since August to $396bn (£277bn) after months of capital flight and the collapse in the price of Urals crude oil to $45 a barrel. The rouble also fell to a record low yesterday after sliding for weeks in a controlled devaluation.

Mr Putin said: "We are witnessing a truly global crisis. The speed of developments beats every record, and the strategic difference from the Great Depression is that under globalisation this touches everyone. This has multiplied the destructive force. It looks exactly like the perfect storm."

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department is warning residents not to panic if they see helicopters flying around the city after dark. The department will be hosting military training in and around the city between Jan. 27 and Feb. 8. The training includes the use of military helicopters flying after dark throughout the city. Police say they want residents of New Orleans and outlying areas to know it's a training event. The activities, authorities say, have been carefully planned and are safe.

There's your "black" helicopters in action...LOL! Wonder what the training is for???

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Tata Motors Ltd., the Indian truck maker that owns Jaguar and Land Rover, posted its first quarterly loss in seven years as tighter credit and slower economic growth hurt vehicle sales and it had a foreign exchange loss.

The company had a net loss off 2.63 billion rupees ($54 million) in the quarter ended Dec. 31 from a profit of 4.99 billion rupees a year ago, Mumbai-based Tata Motors said in a statement today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts was for a net income of 142 million rupees. The loss doesn’t include financials of Jaguar and Land Rover.

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The steepest decline in Mexico’s peso in 13 years blindsided everyone from UBS AG economists to Gustavo Huitron, the local marketing manager for Mercedes-Benz.

After weakening 20 percent last year, the currency fell to a record closing low of 14.2431 per dollar this week. RBS Greenwich Capital Markets in Greenwich, Connecticut, now predicts another 4.3 percent drop by June 30. The peso’s worst performance since 1995’s so-called Tequila Crisis is being driven by the U.S. recession and falling oil prices, which are cutting Mexican exports and government revenues.

Mexico is in a death spiral...keep your eye on that one!

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Admiral Michael Mullen, the most senior American military officer, said the U.S. will probably deploy close to 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to shore up deteriorating security there.

In an interview, Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also said he is hopeful that other NATO nations will contribute additional military and civilian resources this year to the fight against a resurgent Taliban. The Islamist militia, which once ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al-Qaeda, is threatening large areas of the country with mounting attacks.

The growth in drug production must be slowing...can't keep up with demand

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp.’s family of parts makers was a source of profit for Japan’s largest carmaker as their sales grew alongside demand for its vehicles. Now, their plunging revenue is inflicting added losses.

“The suppliers’ earnings are collapsing as quickly as the carmaker’s,” said Andrew Phillips, an auto analyst at KBC Securities Japan in Tokyo. “That will be reflected in Toyota’s associated income.”

The income of Russian oil enterprises began to decline in the third quarter. Rosneft’s net profit dropped by 18.6 percent to $3.5 billion. The export to foreign countries had dropped by almost 16 percent by November 2008.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the export of each ton of the Russian oil resulted in the loss of 68 dollars. The current price increased the losses to $140 from each exported ton.

The prices fall so fast that the government becomes unable to handle the situation. The Russian government decided to cut the export calculation term to one month, but the decision had not improved the situation. The January duty will be calculated on the base of $45 per barrel.

The export duty makes up about 20 percent of the budget income. The reduction of the export duty will cut budgetary income by about ten percent in January of 2009. Russia’s budget loses $2.2 billion a year when one barrel of oil becomes one dollar cheaper, experts calculated.

The average price of $30 per barrel will deprive the nation’s budget of 3.5 trillion rubles, which is comparable to the reserve fund – 3.7 trillion rubles as of December 1. Therefore, the reserve fund will be used to fund the budgetary spending.

Puts a little pressure on them to in turn put pressure on middle east problems to get the price back up. If the price declines keep up...which they will...expect to see some serious saber rattling.

Obama is holding out an olive branch to Islam: "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy," Obama is quoted as saying, adding "We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect." Coincidentally, across the board US-muslim relations are quite good. Most Middle Eastern regimes are somehow or other supported by the US. Saudi Arabia is a close ally and so are the Gulf States. Egypt's regime can only survive thanks to regular wheat shipments from the US. Arab (Muslim) bankers and businessmen have invested heavily in the US economy and have been buying plenty of bonds over the past decades.

On the other hand, Obama has announced he will step up military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the recently inaugurated US embassy in Iraq indicates the US is planning to stay indefinitely and continue to run the country like a colony or protectorate.

Again the left vs right is a facade....full speed ahead captain!

“According to Mexico’s attorney general, 6,616 people died in drug-trafficking violence in Mexico last year,” the Wall Street Journal reported this week. That’s in one year. “A high percentage of those killed were themselves criminal, but many law enforcement agents battling organized crime were also murdered. The carnage continues. For the first 22 days of this year the body count is 354″ (emphasis mine throughout). The number of deaths in 2008 was double the figure for 2007.

Repeat from yesterday I know....its that important!!!

Communist North Korea has said it is scrapping all military and political agreements signed with the South, accusing Seoul of hostile intent. South Korea's government had pushed relations "to the brink of a war", the North's cross-border relations body said on state media. Seoul expressed regret at the move, while the US called it "unhelpful". Relations have deteriorated since South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak took a harder line approach to the North.

The two Korean states are still technically at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953. The peninsula remains divided by a heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone, with thousands of troops stationed on both sides of the border.

BEIJING — The potential for a naval clash off the Korean Peninsula grew Friday after North Korea scrapped a nonaggression pact with South Korea and declared as void a western sea border, warning in shrill language that the region has "reached the brink of war."

North Korea is prone to strident outbursts to gain attention, and its actions Friday may be aimed not only at Seoul but at Washington, where it fears it won't be a diplomatic priority for the new Barack Obama administration in its early days as the Middle East seizes attention. North Korea may also seek to intimidate the South into offering more financial support.

The former commander of the USS Cole, the American war ship that was struck by a suicide boat in Yemeni waters more than eight years ago, on Thursday slammed President Barack Obama's orders to close the Guantanamo detention center and reassess the prisoners being held there.

''We shouldn't make policy decisions based on human rights and legal advocacy groups,'' retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kurt Lippold said in a telephone interview. "We should consider what is best for the American people, which is not to jeopardize those who are fighting the war on terror — or even more adversely impact the families who have already suffered loses as a result of the war."

Lippold was responding to the decision by a U.S. military judge in Guantanamo to reject a request by Pentagon lawyers to delay next week's scheduled arraignment of Abd el Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian who's charged with helping orchestrate the October 2000 suicide bombing of the Cole. The bombing killed 17 U.S. sailors.

In his ruling, the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said a delay in Nashiri's arraignment would deny the public's interest in a speedy trial. He also said nothing that took place at the arraignment would prevent the Obama administration from deciding to deal with Nashiri in a forum other than the military commission now set to hear his case.

The decision, however, stunned officials at the Department of Defense and White House, which had just begun to grapple with Obama's order to freeze the war court and empty the detention center within a year.

''The Department of Defense is currently reviewing Judge Pohl's ruling,'' said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. "We will be in compliance with the president's orders regarding Guantanamo.''

Hat's off to Judge Pohl to have the cojones to do what he feels is right!

President Obama’s executive orders closing the Guant├ínamo detention facility and outlawing torture were interpreted in some circles as closing the door on the Bush administration’s global war on terror.

But Mr. Obama – who used the word “war” in his inaugural address to describe the fight with Islamic extremists who would do America harm – is not so much ending the war on terror as he is redefining it and narrowing its focus.

The president is signaling a desire to home in on the Al Qaeda organization and its leadership, as well as on those Taliban leaders who have created a haven in Afghanistan and Pakistan from which to plot against US interests, say counterterrorism experts.

But just a day after Obama also named a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Jan 22, the US launched two missile attacks from CIA-operated unmanned drone aircraft at targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas where Al Qaeda’s top leaders are thought to enjoy refuge.

The strikes reportedly killed at least 20 people, including foreign fighters and a high-level militant.

Obama “is already making it clear he is focusing on a war on Al Qaeda instead of a broad war on terrorism,” says Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow in terrorism and South Asia studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former CIA analyst and adviser to three US administrations.

“He’s going after the organization that attacked the US on 9/11, and before and since, rather than pursuing a vague and murky war on terrorism everywhere.”

As part of that narrowing of focus, Obama is signaling that the strategy for Afghanistan – which he considers the “central front” in the war on terror – will be scaled back from the Bush administration’s aim of building a democracy to a more realistic goal of denying sanctuary to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Yep better keep those drug shipments going. That dang Al Qaeda and Taliban. Still need to get them back for 911 which of course they pulled off themselves. No help from the ISI, Saudi, CIA, etc. The good ol' Safari Club gang!

US President Barack Obama is not ruling out military strikes against Iran to stop its nuclear program, the White House said Thursday. Asked if the military option was still on the table, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "The president hasn't changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options."

Gibbs told reporters that Obama believes "we must use all elements of our national power to protect our interests as it relates to Iran," he said.

...and this differs from Bush's viewpoint how???

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday accused Iran and Syria of encouraging Hamas and other radical groups to establish a new leadership that would challenge the PLO's claim to be the "sole and legitimate" representative of the Palestinians.

The PA is an organ of the PLO.

The PA fears that the potential new leadership, which would be headed by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, would be recognized by several Islamic governments that are unhappy with President Mahmoud Abbas.

The PA is also worried because the idea of replacing the PLO is being backed by prominent Arab political analysts, newspaper editors and even veteran Fatah leader Farouk Kaddoumi.

Hundreds of middle-class people unemployed as a result of the economic crisis could end up falling through the government's social welfare net and find themselves ineligible for welfare benefits despite having paid National Insurance for their entire working life, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"Even though I paid National Insurance for the past 16 years, it doesn't seem to count for anything," former hi-tech employee Ronnie Dan, who has not had a job for the past three months, told the Post this week.

Sounds like a Social Security problem...we are next!

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With production falling, unemployment rising, consumption lower and most economic indicators showing storm ahead, Japan’s economy is reeling from the full weight of the world’s economic crisis, much more than expected anyway.

The key words are - "storm ahead".

TEHRAN (Press TV) -- The U.S. defense secretary says Iran’s close alliance with certain Latin American countries concerns him more than Russia’s recent naval maneuvers in the region.

“I’m concerned about the level of frankly subversive activity that the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America,” Robert Gates told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

A number of leftist states in the region, namely Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, have all become allies of Iran in recent years and supported the Islamic Republic’s stance in the international arena. He also accused Iran of “opening a lot of offices” in the region to meddle in the internal affairs of Latin American countries. However, Gates gave no specifics to prove his allegations about Iranian interference.

The administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush spearheaded efforts to isolate Iran over its civilian nuclear program by adopting punitive measures against the country as well as pushing for UN sanctions against Tehran.

But seven Latin American countries that are members of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) -- Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua -- held a trade fair in Tehran in December in a symbolic rejection of the sanctions imposed on Iran.