The Freedom Watch Staff

News before it is news for the resistance from a trusted correspondent.

The Freedom Watch Network

U.S. Homeownership Rate Falls to 20-Year Low

“The U.S. homeownership fell to its lowest level in 20 years at the end of 2014—levels last seen when national leaders embarked on a broad push to expand homeownership in the mid-1990s. Over the past year, President Barack Obama and other administration officials have voiced alarm that lending has gone from one extreme during the bubble—too loose —to the other—too tight—in the aftermath of the bust. Officials have walked a fine line in attempting to bar a return of the reckless products and practices that allowed the bubble to inflate 10 years ago while loosening some standards elsewhere to provide broader access to homeowners without perfect credit or big down payments.” Continue reading

“A state solvency report released by the Mercatus Center has each of these five states ranked in the bottom third of the country, with their solvency described as either ‘low’ or ‘poor.’ This all raises the question of whether these governments are able to find sound investment opportunities in the first place. Recently, though, there have been calls to extend the struggling green banking system to the federal level. Mark Muro and Reed Hundt at the Brookings Institute assert that demand for green banking institutions and the types of companies they finance is so strong that the existing state-based green banks cannot muster enough capital to meet demand.” Continue reading

Obama renewing call to reauthorize Export-Import Bank

“President Barack Obama is ramping up pressure on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The obscure federal agency’s charter expired last month after lawmakers refused to reauthorize it. The bank underwrites loans to foreign companies purchasing American products, but conservatives call it corporate welfare. Obama on Wednesday plans to meet at the White House with owners of small- and medium-size businesses that have benefited from the bank. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has floated the possibility of attaching the bank’s reauthorization to a six-year highway and transit bill.” Continue reading

“After 81 years of funneling taxpayer dollars to favored companies, projects, and geopolitical outcomes under the guise of advancing some vague conception of the ‘U.S. economic interest,’ the Export-Import Bank of the United States will end its financing operations at midnight tonight. Proponents of the Bank have been regrouping and strategizing to move legislation to reauthorize the Bank at the soonest possible chance. In fact the White House is hosting a conference call for the purpose of advancing that outcome. The battle may be over but the war continues.” Continue reading

“Michael Milken, the creator of junk bonds, once remarked: ‘Liquidity is an illusion…..It’s always there when you don’t need it, and rarely there when you do’. The problems with liquidity underscore the distorting effects of central bank intervention in financial markets. Official policies in the aftermath of the financial crisis have forced excessive risk taking in search of returns. Yet regulatory changes have contributed to a reduction in trading liquidity. Over time, investors can become increasingly exposed to ever more risky financial assets that in a crisis would be difficult to trade — triggering a major collapse in prices.” Continue reading

“Recent actions and rhetoric from Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and their respective policy makers, have put their commodity sensitive currencies under pressure. In Australasia, the kiwi ($0.6592) and Aussie dollar ($0.7370) both linger within striking distance of their six-year lows. In North America, the loonie has fared no better, straddling its own six-year low, while under attack from last week’s Bank of Canada (BoC) rate cut to +0.5%. For now, dealers and investors are willing to trade as if they do not expect any short-term market reprieve for any of these commodity and interest sensitive currencies.” Continue reading

“What made the Canadian recession easy to spot was the Canadian yield curve inverted out to three years following a surprise rate cut by the Bank of Canada on January 21. It remains to be seen if the US follows. The US contracted in the first quarter, but the second quarter rebound was a bit stronger than I expected. I awarded Canada the ‘Blue Ribbon’ for the first yield curve inversion of any major country following the great financial crisis. I smell an ‘Operation Twist’ type move by the Canadian central bank to rectify this horrific ‘recession-signaling’ condition. If so, the sweet spot for banks and hedge funds to front-run the trade appears to be 5Y or 7Y notes. Some banks may already be in on it.” Continue reading

“The dollar reached its highest in nearly three months against a basket of currencies on Monday on a rise in U.S. bond yields as traders built bets the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates later this year. A plummet in gold prices to five-year lows under $1,100 an ounce also increased the appeal of the greenback, the world’s reserve currency. Last week, U.S. Fed Chair Janet Yellen testified before Congress, reiterating U.S. interest rates will go up later this year if the economy continues to expand. St. Louis Fed chief James Bullard told Fox Business network on Monday there was a higher than 50 percent chance the U.S. central bank will raise rates in September.” Continue reading

“The rout in commodities deepened with prices touching the lowest since 2002 as the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates sent gold tumbling. Raw materials are losing favor with investors as the dollar gains amid signals from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the central bank may raise rates this year on the back of an improving U.S. economy. Higher borrowing costs curb the attractiveness of commodities such as gold, which doesn’t pay interest or give returns like assets including bonds and equities. Gold futures sank to the weakest in more than five years while industrial metals, grains, Brent crude and U.S. natural gas also slid as a measure of the dollar climbed to the highest since April 13.” Continue reading

“European car-sales growth accelerated to the fastest pace in 5 1/2 years in June. The jump was the biggest since a 16 percent surge in December 2009, when governments in the region offered incentives on trade-ins of older cars to help the industry recover from the global recession. The economy of the 19 countries using the euro is in its longest stretch of growth since the 2008 worldwide credit crunch, while unemployment in the U.K. is at close to a seven-year low. The European Central Bank’s monetary stimulus measures have helped economic revival in most euro-zone countries, partly offsetting the effects of the Greek sovereign-debt crisis.” Continue reading

“The cash-strapped nation got a short-term loan from European creditors to pay more than 6 billion euros ($6.5 billion) owed to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. But for most Greeks, already buffeted by six years of recession, Monday was all about rising prices as tax hikes demanded by creditors took effect. There are few parts of the Greek economy left untouched by the steep increase in the sales tax from 13 to 23 percent. strict controls on cash flows, including a ban on check-cashing and payments abroad as well as limits on cash withdrawals, remained in effect. New rules permit the withdrawal of up to 420 euros a week.” Continue reading

“In June 2014, the government seized Ken Quran’s entire bank account—more than $150,000. This was money that Ken worked for years to earn, and that he was counting on for his retirement. Ken had no prior warning before the government seized the account. The government told him they were taking the money because he withdrew cash from the bank in amounts under $10,000.” Continue reading

“The gold price has fallen to its lowest level in more than five years as talk of a US interest rate rise has led investors to sell the precious metal. Gold closed 2.5% lower at $1,104.60 an ounce in London, having earlier fallen below $1,100 an ounce for the first time since March 2010. The gold price is now more than 40% below its August 2011 peak. The stronger US economy has led investors to expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year. The expectations have led investors to gradually sell gold – a perceived safe haven investment in times of crisis – to invest elsewhere. Other commodities have also fallen, with the price of platinum down 5% – its weakest level since the crisis.” Continue reading

“Just these top four derivatives players — B of A, Goldman, Citi and JPMorgan — control nearly $203.5 trillion, or 92% of all derivatives held in the U.S. banking system. And the largest 25 U.S. banks control 99.8%. All told, the thousands of other regional, mid-sized and small banks in this country control a meager one-fifth of one percent of the derivatives. This is an oligopoly unlike any other in the financial world — one that ties the fate of the U.S. economy to these firms’ stability far beyond anything ever witnessed in prior centuries. In contrast, Lehman Brothers was actually smaller by comparison — with ‘only’ $7.1 trillion in derivatives.” Continue reading

“China has made 2.5 trillion yuan to 3 trillion yuan ($483 billion) of funding available for government agency China Securities Finance Corp. to support the stock market, people familiar with the matter said. The funding is to offer liquidity support to brokers and to purchase stocks and mutual funds. Chinese stocks rose the most in a week as the government gains ground in efforts to stabilize a stock market that plummeted in the past month after a debt-fueled boom. The money was available from the central bank’s relending facility; credit lines with commercial banks; borrowing by CSF in the interbank market; and bonds and short-term notes sold by CSF, the people said.” Continue reading

“New documents from WikiLeaks show the National Security Agency spies on French companies as well as its government. That’s not especially surprising. What is surprising is seeing the Federal Reserve Board on the list of ‘supported elements’ for whom the NSA spied. We’ve always known the Fed had its nose in every economic nook and cranny. Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we have proof. You can view the secret document online. What you will see is a standing topic list, dating back to 2002, on which the NSA collects information for further analysis. NSA’s ‘customer’ list includes not only the Fed but also the Commerce Department, Treasury Department and U.S. Trade Representative.” Continue reading

“At Citigroup (C), we just learned that 15% have been eliminated in the past year. That leaves only 779 in North America. At Bank of America (BAC), 234 have gone the way of the dodo in the past several months. At JPMorgan Chase (JPM), 300 are being shuttered as we speak. I’m talking about one of the 21st century’s biggest endangered species: the bank branch. And chances are, you’re helping eliminate them almost every single day. When was the last time you deposited a check with an actual bank teller? Or even at an ATM? I can’t remember personally, and for a very simple reason. I bank with Chase, and the company’s smartphone app lets me do it right from my iPhone 6!” Continue reading

“While most commentators have focused on Greece’s welfare state, much of Greece’s deficit was caused by excessive military spending. Greece’s military budget remains among the largest in the European Union. Despite all the handwringing over how the phony sequestration cuts have weakened America’s defenses, the United States military budget remains larger than the combined budgets of the world’s next 15 highest spending militaries. Little, if any, of the military budget is spent defending the American people from foreign threats. Instead, the American government wastes billions of dollars on an imperial foreign policy that makes Americans less safe.” Continue reading

“A Swiss court has ruled that Credit Suisse’s decision to provide US tax authorities with information on an employee was illegal, according to the ruling made public Monday. In April 2012, the Swiss government gave 11 Swiss banks the go-ahead to accommodate a US tax evasion probe and hand over the names of thousands of their employees and consultants working with American clients. Fearful of harsh US penalties and prosecution, the banks then met Washington’s demands, handing over personal information about numerous staff members, and reportedly also making personal documents, emails and details of telephone calls available.” Continue reading

“Currently, information reports are not required on non-interest accounts, while there is a $10 threshold for reporting on interest bearing accounts. This change would be effective for the current tax year of 2015, giving banks and credit unions little time to adapt their systems for compliance. Should this provision be enacted, taxpayers will be awash in new 1099s reporting de minimis amounts of interest. In many cases, they will report less than a one dollar in earned interest per year. Additionally, this new reporting requirement will impose substantial costs on the financial services industry that far exceed the revenue that will be gained by the proposal.” Continue reading