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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Used Cowboy Boots for Christmas as Jobs Recovery Slows

Katie Smith plans to spend $200 less on holiday gifts this year because of concerns that weak U.S. job growth will hurt her husband’s home-remodeling business.

“We’ve scaled back,” said the 51-year-old project manager for Wake Forest University’s medical school as she perused cowboy boots for her 12-year-old daughter at a Salvation Army thrift store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her family plans to spend about $1,000 on gifts, down from $1,200 last year.

With U.S. economic growth trailing the Federal Reserve’s projections, shoppers have plenty of reasons to hoard their dollars this holiday season. This week the government said employers added 45,000 fewer jobs in September than August. The news came with consumers already absorbing the implications of stagnant wages, a cooling housing market and the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate.

Retailers from Macy’s Inc. (M) and Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) missed second-quarter sales estimates and cut their forecasts. To lure shoppers who have been shifting their dollars away from apparel and other general merchandise to cars and home-related products, chains are planning to introduce discounts early in the season.



Surging Bloodshed Undercut Iraq’s Oil-Fueled Economy

By Nicole Gaouette and Caroline Alexander - Oct 24, 2013

Surging sectarian bloodshed in Iraq and an escalating regional war are undercutting one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and undermining U.S. aspirations for making Iraq a model for Middle East democracy.

Two years after U.S. forces withdrew, almost-daily bombings and suicide attacks scar weddings, funerals and cafes, as al-Qaeda-linked groups attack Shiite targets. The assaults have killed more than 5,000 people this year, levels that haven’t been seen since 2008 and almost double 2010’s toll, according to the United Nations.

“It’s striking how different the outlook for Iraq is today than what it was as late as June, when the question was who would make room for growing Iraqi production in the marketplace,” said Daniel Yergin, author of “The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World.” “Everyone is bringing down their forecast in light of what’s actually happening on the ground.”

“It’s hard for companies to operate in Iraq,” Yergin, vice chairman of Englewood, Colorado-based research company IHS Inc. (IHS), said in a phone interview. “The cost of operating there is higher because the cost of assuring security adds significantly to the overall costs.”

Syria Spillover

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who leads a Shiite-dominated government, blames Sunnis for the violence. Larger forces are at work, with spillover from neighboring Syria, where the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad is a magnet for Sunni extremists funded by Gulf nations intent on reversing Shiite Iran’s influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.



US Gasoline Prices On Pace To Hit 3-Year Low By End Of 2013

By Barbara Powell, Bloomberg
Posted Oct. 23, 2013, at 5:04 p.m.

HOUSTON — Gasoline pump prices are poised to drop to the lowest since February 2011 by New Year’s Eve as supplies increase more than demand, providing a lift for consumers in an economy struggling to recover from the deepest recession since the 1930s.

Retail prices will probably sink to an average $3.15 a gallon by Dec. 31 from $3.344, said Michael Green, a spokesman in Washington for AAA, the nation’s largest motoring organization.

The highest seasonal inventories in three years are set to rise as plants return from scheduled maintenance. Refining capacity in the fourth quarter will be 410,000 barrels a day higher than last year while demand climbs 10,000 barrels, the Energy Information Administration estimated Oct. 8.

U.S. refiners are making the most gasoline ever for this time of year, having expanded to take advantage of ample domestic and Canadian crude. U.S. oil production grew in September to the highest level since May 1989 as advances in drilling techniques boosted output from shale formations. The U.S. met 87 percent of its own energy needs in the first six months of 2013, on pace to be the highest annual rate since 1986.

“We’re in a longer-term downtrend with retail gasoline prices because of reduced demand, increasing U.S. production of oil as well as increased refining capacity for gasoline,” Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago, said in a telephone interview.



BofA Said to Cut 1,300 More Mortgage Unit Jobs Amid Slowdown

By Hugh Son - Oct 24, 2013

Bank of America Corp., the second-largest U.S. lender, is cutting about 1,300 more jobs in its mortgage division as the firm adjusts to lower demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans.

Affected employees were told yesterday about the cuts, which mostly involve the Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm’s home-loan fulfillment workers, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the changes are private. Those losing jobs will receive pay through Dec. 22 and are eligible for severance packages after that, said the people.

The latest round of reductions means Bank of America will dismiss about 3,000 people involved in making home loans in the fourth quarter. In August, the company had notified its staff of about 2,100 eliminations by the end of this month, mostly in areas processing new home loans. Mortgage lenders are paring headcount as higher interest rates discourage the refinancings they relied on to fuel profits.

Demand Drops

During an earnings conference call last week, Bank of America executives warned that the job eliminations would continue. Pending mortgages at the end of the third quarter dropped 60 percent from the second quarter, indicating a steep drop in demand, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson told analysts on Oct. 16.



Goes to figure you don't need mortgages when wall street speculators are laying down cash money...

RELATED: Families Blocked by Investors From Buying U.S. Homes
Source: Bloomberg

Home purchases by institutional buyers reached a record high in September and all-cash buyers accounted for almost half of sales as investors responded to rising demand from renters.


Boston Scientific Will Cut 1,100-1,500 Jobs Through 2015

By Michelle Fay Cortez - Oct 24, 2013

Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX), the second-biggest maker of heart-rhythm aids, plans to eliminate as many as 1,500 more positions as the medical-device industry struggles with shrinking markets and development costs.

The job cuts, slated to take place through 2015, should reduce operating expenses before taxes by $150 million to $200 million, Natick, Massachusetts-based Boston Scientific said in a statement today. The move is part of the company’s plan to boost operating income margins to 25 percent from 19 percent now, Chief Executive Officer Mike Mahoney said.

Boston Scientific’s cutbacks build on a 2011 program, which was expanded in January. The move is in line with efforts by competitors including industry leader Medtronic Inc. (MDT) in response to years of weakened demand and pressure to lower prices for some of their biggest products.

“It’s indicative of an industry in transition,” Boston Scientific Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Capello on a conference call. “There is so much change going on, and organizations have to adapt.”

The cuts in the device industry mirror those occurring among drugmakers including Merck & Co. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, said earlier this month it would fire 8,500 workers, bringing its total job cuts to about 16,000, while Petach Tikva, Israel-based Teva this month announced plans to trim about 5,000 positions.



Flood Insurance Jumping Sevenfold Depresses U.S. Home Values

By Toluse Olorunnipa - Oct 24, 2013

Rangel Dockery and her husband bought a waterfront house in Florida four months ago, assuming their $2,000-a-year flood-insurance premium would remain about the same. After reading recently about a change in the federal flood program, they checked on next year’s rates and were stunned: Their bill will grow to $14,000 annually.

Now the elementary school teacher and her husband, Clint, an information technology specialist, are considering selling their two-bedroom St. Pete Beach home, probably at a loss, because she said they can’t afford the bill, and their mortgage requires flood coverage.

“It was very frustrating to finally have what we’ve worked hard for all of our life,” Rangel Dockery, 52, said. “I feel like the rules were changed in the middle of the game. And unfortunately, we can’t play by the new rules.”

Monthly premiums for more than 1 million homeowners are set to increase due to a rewrite by the U.S. Congress last year of the federal flood insurance program. As a result, home prices in flood zones around the country are declining as potential buyers balk at the premiums, said Moe Veissi, a Miami real estate agent who led the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors last year.

Federal flood insurance covers $1.3 trillion of property in all 50 states, with Florida, Texas, Louisiana, California and New Jersey making up two-thirds of all policies, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the program.



Merkel Berates Obama On Spying, Joins Parade Of 'Shocked' World Leaders

Germany’s Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from President Obama Wednesday over allegations that the United States has been monitoring not just German government communications, but her personal cellphone.

Chancellor Merkel, take a number.

Merkel is only the latest in a parade of world leaders lining up to blast the US – and in a few cases, berate Mr. Obama himself – for the reported widespread eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA) on friendly governments’ communications and those of their citizens.

In some cases, the NSA spying extended right to the offices and personal phones of some of the US’s closest allies, reports based on information leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden suggest. After Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, France’s François Hollande, and – also today – Italy’s Enrico Letta, Merkel acted after press reports claimed that the NSA spying was much broader and reached higher up than previously known.

Merkel placed her “Are you spying on me Barack?” phone call to the White House after the German news magazine Der Spiegel queried Merkel’s office about the allegations in its investigative report.



Ohio Driver Who Made Video Confession To Killing Man In DUI Crash Gets 6 Years In Prison

A man who acknowledged his confessional video would give prosecutors what they needed to put him away for a long time for a fatal wrong-way car crash was proved mostly right Wednesday when a judge sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison.

Matthew Cordle had faced up to 8 1/2 years in prison for the June crash, which followed a night of heavy drinking near downtown Columbus and killed a man. A judge gave Cordle six years instead of eight on a count of aggravated vehicular homicide but ordered he serve the full six months for driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

The drunken-driving charge "is the genesis of why we're here today," Franklin County Judge David Fais said. "Had Mr. Cordle not been driving that vehicle on that early morning under the influence, we wouldn't be here."

Cordle said before the judge announced his decision there was no such thing as a fair sentence when it came to the loss of a life.

"The true punishment is simply living, living with the knowledge that I took an innocent life," Cordle said.



GOP Mega Donor Sheldon Adelson Wants To Nuke Iran

The biggest donor to Republican Party political groups said Tuesday that the United States should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran to spur the country to end its own nuclear program.

Sheldon Anderson, the billionaire casino mogul, said on a panel at Yeshiva University in New York City that an initial blast, targeted to hit only desert area, would kill “maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever,” according to video posted on the foreign policy news website Mondoweiss.

“Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.”



Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/10/23/sheldon-adelson-nuke-iran/#ixzz2iaYtwAxY

Israel's Netanyahu Warns Kerry Against "Partial Deal" On Iran Nuclear Program

Israel's prime minister said Wednesday that the world should not accept what he called a "partial deal" to curb Iran's nuclear program - just as it is not allowing the Syrian government to keep any of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told America's chief diplomat that ongoing negotiations with Iran should insist that Tehran end all enrichment on uranium, get rid of any fissile material and close water plants and underground bunkers that he said are only necessary to build a nuclear bomb.

"I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal," Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the start of what was expected to be a daylong private meeting in Rome.

"You wisely insisted there wouldn't be a partial deal with Syria," Netanyahu said. "You were right. If (Syrian President Bashar) Assad had said, 'I'd like to keep 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability,' you would have refused - and correctly so."

Still, Netanyahu predicted that "we're very close" to striking a deal with Iran. "And I agree with you that the goal is to get it peacefully," he said.


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