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Credit Repair Scam

New Credit Id Can Mean Jail TimeIf you have filed for bankruptcy or have bad credit generally, you may be the target of a credit repair scheme called "file segregation." In this scheme, you are promised a chance to hide unfavorable credit information by establishing a new credit identity. That may sound perfect except "file segregation" is illegal and you could face fines or even a prison sentence.

Oil Prices Climb Above $60 Per Barrel

After climbing as high as $60.95 per barrel, an intraday record, the front-month August contract for crude rose 70 cents to close at $60.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the highest settlement on record at Nymex, where crude futures began trading in 1983. The previous settlement high was $59.84 a barrel, set Friday.
Adjusted for inflation, prices peaked in 1980 above $90 a barrel.
Other petroleum products followed crude's rise.
Heating oil futures, which serve as a proxy for all distilate fuels, including jet fuel and diesel, rose by more than 3 cents to $1.68 a gallon. Gasoline futures surged 2.5 cents to $1.68 a gallon.
"The psychology of the market is that once $60 is breached, then there is tendency to test how much higher it can go, or how long $60 can be sustained," said Victor Shum, petroleum analyst at Texas-headquartered energy consultants Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.
"These high prices really have not significantly dented demand, particularly in the United States market," said Shum. "U.S. refineries in the past week have been running very full at 96, 97 percent."

Google Patent is BS

So much for the democratic process, when this new algo is silencing independent news sources.

The new technology will take several new things into account, continually measuring qualitative factors like how long the news source has been in existence, the number of stories published, the credibility of the source, average story length, number of stories with bylines, the size of the organization's staff, circulation, number of global operations, number of links to stories from the source, and Web traffic to the site.

WHAT DO WE STAND TO LOOSE? It is the loss of sites such as the aforementioned from ranking, dropping them into obscurity so that they are difficult to find, read, and mull over. The filtering is taken out of the minds of the users and given into the hands of computer-generated objectivity. Many would rather that job be left to them, as Reuters and the Washington Post are easy enough to find.

its hard to not be at least a little bit worried about the underdogs, the upshoots, the legitimate news sources without thousands on staff, who haven't been around for decades and have themselves comfortably imbedded into the establishment. You have to pine just a little bit for the voices that could be potentially lost in the fight for search engine credibility.

Can Housing keep appreciating?

As frothy as the market might seem in some places, demographic trends — particularly immigration — could be one factor that keeps the house market going strong, perhaps for as long as the next decade, according to the Harvard study. New arrivals could easily top the 1990s record of 10 million over the nest 10 years, says the study. Moreover, the children of immigrants who came here during the 1980s and 1990s are getting close to the age when they'll start buying homes. Some 15% of all 11- to 20-year-olds are first-generation Americans. In total, immigrants or their children are expected to account for half of net household growth over the next 10 years, according to the study. During the past decade, immigrants accounted for one-third of household growth.


Fannie Mae Authorizes Purchase of 40 Year Mortgage Loans

Fannie will now purchase 40 year fixed-rate mortgages and 40-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages (ARMS) with initial fixed periods of three, five, seven, or ten years. Not included in the new purchase standards are biweekly mortgage products, loans secured by manufactured housing, loan to value ratios greater than 95%; and ARMS with initial fixed rate periods shorter than three years (including the popular 1-year ARM) or with any subsequent adjustment period greater or less than one year. Also on the no-fly list are negative amortization loans.

Forty-year mortgage loans are not new, they have been tried, even promoted in years past and some lenders have continued to write them in special circumstances. When test marketing began a few months ago a number of mortgage pundits soundly denounced them because of the greater interest costs over the life of the loan. Conversely, however, the much lower monthly payment may make the 40-year a good choice for homeowners who have a limited time-frame in which they will own the home or keep the loan. Regardless, with Fannie opening its part of the secondary market to them, look for mortgage companies, banks, and brokers to start strongly marketing various 40-year loan products to consumers.

Blackstone buys Wyndham for $3.2 billion

Private equity group Blackstone has agreed to buy hotel owner and franchiser Wyndham International Inc. in a deal valued at $3.24 billion, Wyndham said on Tuesday. The Dallas-based company said Blackstone will pay $1.15 per share as part of the deal, while holders of Wyndham's preferred stock will receive $72.17 per share in cash.

The hotel company completed a string of non-core asset sales this spring, an effort aimed at refinancing debt and simplifying its structure after shedding about 185 properties for $2.7 billion in recent years.

Blackstone refused to provide additional comment, and a Wyndham spokeswoman said she would call back with further details. Both companies expect the deal to close in the fourth quarter this year.

ong-term interest rates declining?

Bill Gross, managing director of Pacific Investment Management Company and the manager of the world's largest bond fund, had forecast in his widely read Investment Outlook that a range of 3 percent to 4.5 percent on 10-year Treasury notes would be seen over much of the next three to five years.

Morgan Stanley's chief economist Stephen Roach wrote, "At some point over the next year, I wouldn't be shocked to see yields on 10-year governments test 3.5 percent."

Declining long-term interest rates are pushing fixed-mortgage rates lower. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has declined by one-half of a percentage point since March 23, from 6.15 percent to 5.65 percent. In turn, the housing boom continues as strong as ever, underscored by low mortgage rates. Until those rates increase in any appreciable fashion, the Fed's concerns about low rates fueling local housing bubbles are falling on deaf ears.

property taxes are continuing their upward trend

New Jersey homeowners pay the highest property taxes in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, an evaluation based on the latest available Census Bureau figures from 2002. But you don't have to live there to have suffered a big boost in property taxes.

(Click here for the five top and bottom property tax states.)

Nationwide, property tax collections rose 7 percent in 2004, to more than $324 billion. Over the past five years, they've climbed 36.6 percent, about 6.4 percent a year.

Property tax rises are a dark side of the housing bubble.

"Unlike income, or even sales taxes, property taxes are not accurate indicators of your cash at hand," says Ahern. They can go up faster than income.

They can have especially heavy impact on seniors. Many retirees bought homes decades ago when assessed valuations were modest and taxes manageable. After home prices soared, homeowners may have larger net worths, but no more spending money to pay higher taxes on their more valuable homes.

For many wealthy California towns, a small percentage of tax on multi-million dollar homes can raise a lot of money, keeping taxes for many individuals reasonable. But for poorer communities, these limits leave local governments strapped for cash. Result: California has some of the country's lowest spending school districts, which may have contributed to a decline in education.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, California now ranks 35th in expenditures per student among the 50 states, 50th out of 51(including the District of Columbia) in computer access, and last in librarians. The test scores of fourth grade students came in 47th.

For a story about the most tax-friendly states, click here.

Some investors hope a housing bubble will burst

While many real estate investors continue to bet on the success of South Florida’s condominium boom, McCabe is putting together groups of investors ready to buy the minute the bubbly winds shift, and he says he already has dozens of investors on board and about $10 million in capital.

McCabe points to data that show Palm Beach County will see 10,000 new condo units in the next two and a half years, while Broward County will see 13,000. In Miami-Dade, 25,000 new units will be built by the end of 2007. These numbers show the hot Florida housing market will likely cool, reasons McCabe.

“We feel that there’s going to be a tremendous opportunity to buy these units when they are priced far below market value, hold on to them for a few years until the oversupply is absorbed, and then realize substantial gains when the appreciation returns in southeast Florida,” said McCabe.

McCabe’s investors have deeper pockets and longer time horizons than today’s small-time speculators, he says, and so they can afford to take a short-term hit and hold on to their properties for a long-term gain. McCabe also says he has heard from many more interested investors than he ever expected, including a number of overseas investors.

Greenspan slams hedge funds

US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said the hedge fund industry, after its "recent very rapid advance", could "temporarily shrink and many wealthy fund managers and investors could become less wealthy".

"Continuing efforts to seek above-average returns could create risks for which compensation is inadequate," he said. "Significant numbers of trading strategies are already destined to prove disappointing, a point that recent data on the distribution of hedge fund returns seem to be confirming."

Financial market participants have increasingly cast their minds back to the near collapse of highly leveraged bond arbitrage fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. Long-Term had to be rescued by a consortium of 14 Wall Street banks when the forced sale of its $US100 billion of assets threatened to disrupt the entire world financial system.

Underfunded Pensions Spikes

Lax reporting rules created by Congress, coupled with corporate America's eagerness to take advantage, have left millions of workers' and retirees' pension plans underfunded without their knowledge, senators were told Tuesday.

United Airlines may have set an unsavory example for others in the airline industry, Senate Finance Committee members were told during a hearing on Capitol Hill. After declaring bankruptcy in 2002, the airline won court approval last month to shed $9 billion in pension obligations — shifting responsibility to the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

That has contributed to a $23.3 billion deficit at the agency, which insures private pension plans, and triggered fears of another massive taxpayer bailout similar to the 1980s S&L crisis. The agency's head told senators the number of pension plans that are more than $50 million short of promised benefit levels has risen from 221 in 2000 to 1,108 in 2004. Those funds have an average of just 69 percent of promised benefits on hand.

About 34 million people — roughly 20 percent of the nation's work force — expect to receive payments from their employers through defined benefit plans.

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