2012 January 11 | timiacono.com

It’s Romney By a Mile

This report at Zillow on the value of the homes owned or rented by the remaining GOP candidates for President was just crying out for a graphic and I was happy to oblige.

Of course, there are some caveats related to the numbers above. For example, gazillionaire Mitt Romney owns a few homes in various parts of the country and the $9.6 million one listed above is about to be torn down to make room for a bigger one. Also, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been living in the Governor’s Mansion for years and the figure above is for a rental property he used a few years ago when the state residence was being renovated.

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MF Global and Montana Farmers

Wishful thinkers can hope that the MF Global bankruptcy filing and the dubious actions that followed to protect the biggest interests involved (e.g., Jon Corzine and JP Morgan) might finally lead to the dismantling of the Washington-Wall Street connection that seems to be a key component in the nation’s downward spiral in recent years.

One step in that direction originates in this part of the country where, according to this Bloomberg story, farmers are suing MF Global in an attempt to recover their money.

The lawsuit filed today by three farmers and a cattle- raising operation in Montana seeks to represent a nationwide group of commodities futures customers whose money went missing amid the $41 billion bankruptcy of MF Global, parent of the futures brokerage that is being liquidated. A trustee is looking for $1.2 billion or more in money missing from commodity customers’ accounts.

Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey, and other executives at MF Global made “knowingly false statements” to induce the plaintiffs to enter into contracts with the brokerage, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Missoula, Montana.

The executives failed to disclose to customers that their money was used to finance MF Global’s bad bets on European sovereign debt, the farmers said in the complaint.

What’s really disturbing about the whole idea of farmers suing Wall Street futures trading firms is that, more than 100 years ago,  futures markets were originally set up in the MidWest specifically for farmers and that system worked pretty well until the last decade or two when Wall Street began to really throw its money around.

Futures markets had always been a way for buyers (e.g., food manufacturers) and sellers (e.g., farmers) to lock in prices and add some predictability to their business while a relatively few number of speculators would bet on which way prices would go, adding liquidity to these markets in the process.

Now, you’ve got some well connected, ex-Goldman Sachs head who manages to run a futures trading firm into the ground and a billion dollars – some portion of it belonging to farmers all across the country – goes missing.

What a sad commentary on the direction the nation has been heading.

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Confidence in the U.S. Economy Surges

A new Gallup poll shows that, after steady improvement since the summer debt-ceiling debacle lows, confidence in the U.S. economy has steadily improved and now sits at its highest level since last May, just as gas prices near $4 a gallon were starting to bite.

An improving labor market and lower pump prices are no doubt major factors behind the recent rise that led to a surge in holiday sales as Americans renewed their decades long love affair with credit card debt (temporarily at least) as noted in this item yesterday.

While this is consistent with other measures of consumer confidence, it’s worth noting that, at -27, the latest Gallup poll readings are well below what might be considered “normal” as is the case for other gauges of  consumers’ mood that remain at “recession levels”.

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Wednesday Morning Links

ECB to Meet Amid Calls for It to Print Money – CNBC
Hedge funds lock horns with IMF on Greek debt – Reuters
EU threatens action against Hungary over deficit – BBC
Europe Banks Resist Draghi Bid to Avert Credit Crunch – Bloomberg
Europe’s Pension Threat Grows as Economy Sputters – Bloomberg
Credit Card Firms: They Don’t Just Steal From Cardholders – Taibblog
Corzine Sued by Montana Farmers Over MF Global Money – Bloomberg
The Fed’s Incredible Rate Forecasting Hubris – Forbes
Complex Systems and Catastrophic Collapse – Dollar Collapse
The 10 worst states for retirees in 2012 – MarketWatch
Iran and the West Rediscover Oil as Weapon – Spiegel
The Japan Story – Baker, CEPR

Oil dips to $101 as Iran embargo talks falter – AP
Gold toys with one-month high as demand blooms – Reuters
Doug Kass: Ten Reasons to Rally – The Street
The ‘first five days of January’ indicator – MarketWatch
Gold Is Investors’ Favorite Asset in 2012: Poll – CNBC
Chart of the Day: The Shanghai Bounce – Credit Writedowns
Not enough gold! What’s the solution? – Mineweb
US Mint Silver Sales Surge in First Few Days of 2012 – Zero Hedge
Despite recent dip, gold will provide a safe haven in 2012 – Mineweb
Charting The Price Of Gold… All The Way Back To 1265 – Zero Hedge

Will Obama break even on jobs? – CNN/Money
For those hurting most, Fed’s remedies limited – WaPo
Europe’s Crisis Is Germany’s Blessing – Spiegel
Data Show German Economy Stalling – NY Time
Europe’s Vicious Spirals – Project Syndicate
Mafia now “Italy’s No.1 bank” as crisis bites – Reuters
Calif. house price drop 7th biggest in U.S. – O.C. Register
Twelve housing themes for 2012 – MarketWatch
Bernanke Doubling Down on Housing Bet Asks Government to Help – Bloomberg
Fed Turns Over $77 Billion in Profits to the Treasury – NY Times
Fed officials signal more action may be needed – Reuters
Output Gaps and Inflation – Fed Watch

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