Finance news. My opinion.

September 1, 2014

For sale: Century-old cards of Ty Cobb, Cy Young

Filed under: marketing, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 5:59 pm

BIDDEFORD, Maine (AP) — A baseball fan took up smoking a century ago and with it acquired another habit: holding onto little cards that bore the faces of baseball’s earliest greats.

Now, the trove of more than 1,400 tobacco cards featuring a slew of Hall of Famers like Cy Young and Ty Cobb — the legacy of a teenage smoker whose family hung onto a collection that dates to 1909 — is going up for auction.

The cards will be sold by a Maine auction house that is becoming known for selling rare memorabilia, Saco River Auction Co. in Biddeford.

Troy Thibodeau, the company’s manager and auctioneer, said the collection of cards dating from 1909 to 1911 — an era when the Yankees were the Highlanders, the Dodgers were the Superbas and the Braves were the Doves — belongs to the grandchildren of a Brooklyn, New York-born man who began smoking when he was 19.

“Every time he got a card, he threw it in a box,” Thibodeau said.

The collection has been dubbed the “Portland trove” because some of the collector’s descendants ended up in Maine’s largest city. The family doesn’t want to be identified, Thibodeau said.

Due to be auctioned individually and in small lots starting in January, the collection includes about 10 cards depicting Young and a dozen depicting Cobb, along with other Hall of Famers like Chief Bender, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.

Smaller than modern baseball cards, these cards known as “T206″ cards to collectors feature color lithographs on the front and a tobacco advertisement on the back.

“They’re not like your normal baseball card where there’s a stock piece of photography that’s printed on millions and millions of cards. These are truly pieces of art. They’re colorful, they’re bright, they’re folky, they’re Americana,” Thibodeau said.

The collector preferred a cigarette brand from Havana called El Principe De Gales. But there are cards featuring logos from other cigarette brands of the era like American Beauty, Sweet Caporal, Sovereign and Piedmont.

Such a large collection is unusual but not unprecedented. Large collections come up for sale every year or two, collectors say. Part of what makes this one special is that the cards are in great shape.

Scott Hileman from New Jersey-based SportsCard Guaranty, who graded the cards, said they’re all among the type of cards used to market brands that were part of American Tobacco Co. for three years, from 1909 to 1911. He described the trove as “incredible.”

Missing are two of the rarest cards: Those depicting pitcher Eddie Plank and shortstop Honus Wagner. The priciest baseball card ever sold was a 1909 Honus Wagner, which went for $2.8 million.

Nonetheless, the collection is valuable with the potential for some of the single cards to reach into five figures, Thibodeau said.

Saco River is making a name for itself despite being a small auction house.

Last year, a collector from Massachusetts paid $92,000 for an 1865 baseball card depicting the Brooklyn Atlantics amateur baseball club. In 2012, the auction house sold a rare 1888 card of Hall of Famer Michael “King” Kelly for $72,000.

“If you love baseball, this is the beginning of it. This is where stars were made and heroes were born. It’s history,” Thibodeau said.

___

Online:

http://www.sacoriverauction.com/

Source

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August 29, 2014

Contracts to buy U.S. homes rise in hopeful sign

Filed under: Uncategorized, news — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:27 pm

WASHINGTON • More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in July, a sign that buying has improved as mortgage rates have slipped, the number of listings has risen and the rate of price increases has slowed.

The National Association of Realtors says its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.3 percent to 105.9 last month. Still, the index remains 2.1 percent below its level a year ago.

The pressures that caused home sales to stall last year have started to ease. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has dropped to 4 short term personal loans.1 percent, a 52-week low. Prices are no longer rising at double-digit annual rates, thereby helping to improve affordability.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a contract and a completed sale.

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August 27, 2014

SEC adopts rules requiring broader disclosure for loan-backed securities

Filed under: money, uk — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 9:27 pm

WASHINGTON • Financial firms that sell securities backed by loans, like the kind that fueled the 2008 financial crisis, will have to give investors details on borrowers’ credit record and income under action taken Wednesday by federal regulators.

The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted the rules for securities linked to mortgages and auto loans on a 5-0 vote.

The commissioners also imposed new conflict-of-interest rules on the agencies that rate the debt of companies, governments and issues of securities. That vote split 3-2 along party lines, with the two Republican commissioners opposing adoption of the rules.

Home mortgages bundled into securities and sold on Wall Street soured after the housing bubble burst in 2007, losing billions in value. The vast sales of risky securities ignited the crisis that plunged the economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression and brought a taxpayer bailout of banks.

In requiring sellers of the securities to provide information on borrowers’ credit and income, the aim is to enable investors to better assess the risks of the loans underlying the securities.

“These reforms will make a real difference to investors and to our financial markets,” SEC Chair Mary Jo White said before the vote.

A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that U.S. auto loans jumped to the highest level in eight years this spring, fueled by a big increase in lending to risky borrowers. The Fed also said that loans to borrowers with weak credit, known as subprime loans, continue to make up a smaller proportion of total auto loans than before the recession.

Still, the rapid increase in subprime auto lending has raised concerns among federal regulators in recent months that it could set off a wave of defaults such as occurred in the mortgage market collapse. Because auto loans are packaged into securities, an increase in auto loan defaults could be amplified.

The new rules on so-called asset-backed securities and credit rating agencies were called for under the sweeping financial overhaul law enacted in 2010 in response to the financial meltdown. The rules take effect in 60 days.

A number of big banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, have been accused by the government of abuses in sales of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the crisis. Together, they have paid hundreds of millions in penalties to settle civil charges brought by the SEC, which accused them of deceiving investors about the quality of the securities they sold.

In recent months, the Justice Department and state regulators have reached multibillion-dollar civil settlements over mortgage securities with JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup.

The new rules require credit rating agencies to report to the SEC on their financial safeguards to ensure that their ratings are determined through a fair process. The agencies’ sales people will be barred from participating in the ratings process. And agencies will have to review and potentially revise their ratings in cases where an employee was later hired by a company he or she rated.

The rating agencies are key financial gatekeepers. Their ratings can affect a company’s ability to raise or borrow money and also can influence how much investors pay for securities. Critics say the agencies have a built-in conflict of interest because they are paid by the same companies they rate. The three big agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — were widely criticized for giving low-risk ratings to the risky mortgage securities being sold ahead of the crisis, as they reaped lucrative fees. Investigations by a Senate panel and a congressionally appointed independent commission found that the three agencies contributed to the crisis by awarding high ratings to securities based on subprime mortgages.

The three big agencies together account for nearly 95 percent of the ratings market. Several other smaller rating agencies are officially recognized by the SEC.

A key problem is that companies choose which firms rate them and then pay for those ratings, critics say. It’s like having a pitcher choose the umpire for a baseball game, they contend, and it puts pressure on the agencies to award better ratings in order to secure repeat business.

Critics say a better solution would be to create a government board that randomly assigns agencies to rate companies. Congress debated that idea, but ultimately decided not to direct regulators to adopt such rules. Instead, lawmakers asked the SEC to study the idea.

Source

August 18, 2014

London Home Asking Prices Plunge Most in More Than Six Years - Bloomberg

Filed under: debt, loans — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:27 am

London home sellers cut asking prices by the most in more than six years this month, adding to signs that the property market in the U.K. capital is coming off the boil.

London values fell 5.9 percent from the previous month to an average 552,783 pounds ($922,300), the biggest drop since December 2007, property website Rightmove Plc said today. Nationally, prices declined 2.9 percent, a record for an August.

While property demand usually weakens during the summer, Rightmove said the slump this year was steeper than it expected. Tougher new mortgage rules introduced by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, as well as anticipation of higher interest rates, are putting pressure on the market after a surge in values raised concerns that a bubble may develop.

August 13, 2014

Singapore

Filed under: marketing, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 am

Singapore

August 11, 2014

Mayors’ report tracks growing wage gap, but sees St. Louis as ‘balanced’

Filed under: finance, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 3:43 pm

The income gap between the rich Americans and middle and low-income households continues to widen, according to a new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, released this morning.

From 1975 to 2012, the highest-earning 20 percent of households saw their share of income rise from 43.6 percent to 51 percent, the report finds. Most of this gains was seen among those in the highest 5 percent of income.

In 2012, low-income households saw their share drop to 3.2 percent while the high earners saw their share jump to 51 percent. 

The findings, which echo those by other groups, point to a need for public policy action, the report says.

The report looks at the distribution of income in metropolitan areas. St. Louis emerged as one of the most-balanced of large metros — with a nearly equal number of households earning less than $35,000 a year as households earning more than $75,000.

Median income in the St. Louis area was about $53,000 a year in 2013 — 96th in the nation. It’s projected to grow to $60,000 in 2017, an annual rate of 3.1 percent.

Other large metros with “a very equal distribution,” according to the report: Phoenix, Riverside, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte and Providence.

The Washington, D.C. area had the highest percentage of households earnings more than $75,000 (57.5 percent) and the lowest percentage of those making less than $35,000 (17 percent).

At the other end of the spectrum, Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas had the highest percentage of low-income households (55.1 percent) and the second-lowest percentage of those making more than $75,000 (16.5 percent)

Source

August 10, 2014

Pride Parade held on Ugandan beach after court nullifies anti-gay law

Filed under: business, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 12:47 am

ENTEBBE, Uganda—Scores of Ugandan homosexuals marched through sprawling botanical gardens in the lakeside town of Entebbe on Saturday, their first pride parade since a Ugandan court invalidated a controversial anti-gay law.

Many marchers wore masks, signalling they did not want to be publicly identified in a country where homosexuals and their supporters face severe discrimination.

Although organizers had expected more than 500 people to attend the event, fewer than 200 turned up, said gay activist Moses Kimbugwe, who noted that many were afraid of possible violence following a court’s decision earlier this month to jettison an anti-gay law that had wide support among Ugandans.

“We are here to walk for those who can’t walk, who are afraid to walk,” said Kimbugwe. “We are here to celebrate our rights.”

Uganda’s constitutional court ruled last week that the anti-gay law enacted only five months ago was illegal because it was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum. Some lawmakers have pledged to try to reintroduce the same legislation when parliament emerges from a recess later this month. They said they would try to pass the same law in parliament since it had been invalidated on technical grounds and not its substance.

On Saturday, activists held up placards saying they would not give up the fight for gay rights in this conservative East African country of 36 million people payday loans. Some waved rainbow flags as they danced and frolicked on a sandy beach on the shores of Lake Victoria, about 40 kilometres from the capital, Kampala.

This was the third annual gay pride event, organizers said. The first one, in 2012, turned violent after local police tried to break it up, said Ugandan lesbian activist Jacqueline Kasha. This time they had been given assurances by the police that they could go ahead with the march, she said.

“We are a group of people who have suffered enough,” she said. “We are Ugandans who have the right to gather in a public place … and we are going to have fun.”

Some among the marchers said they had initially planned to hold the event in Kampala but were warned by police that such a move would be provocative and possibly dangerous.

Homosexuals face threats including evictions by landlords and many have fled to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, where the anti-gay sentiment is less pervasive, according to Ugandan rights activists. Many homosexuals are victims of extortionist campaigns by people who threaten to reveal their homosexuality to the police, said Kasha, the lesbian leader.

Source

August 6, 2014

Mondelez says price hikes scared off customers

Filed under: loans, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 7:03 pm

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Mondelez said price increases scared off some customers in its second quarter, and the company trimmed its sales forecast for the year.

The maker of Oreo, Cadbury and Trident on Wednesday reported lower sales that fell short of Wall Street expectations. Cost-cutting helped push up profit by 3.5 percent, however. Like many other packaged food companies, Mondelez has been slashing costs wherever it can to offset weak sales.

In a conference call, CEO Irene Rosenfeld said Mondelez raised prices to make up for rising costs for ingredients such as cocoa and dairy products. The company had expected its pricing actions to hurt sales, she said, but didn’t expect such a big impact.

“It’s been even more challenging than expected,” she said.

She mentioned negative reactions in Europe, particularly in France, where some stores decided to stop carrying products because of the higher prices. Still, she said the lost market share should be temporary because competitors will eventually have to raise prices to cover their own costs.

Mondelez International Inc., based in Deerfield, Illinois, has been under pressure to improve its performance since splitting from Kraft Foods Group in late 2012. The split was intended to give each of the companies a more focused stable of products, with Kraft taking North American supermarket staples like Jell-O and Miracle Whip.

Mondelez took global snack brands like Oreo with greater growth potential. But the company has stumbled as an independent company. Earlier this year, it said it would join its coffee division with D.E. Master Blenders to strengthen that aspect of its business.

For the period ended June 30, Mondelez earned $622 million, or 36 cents per share. Not including one-time items, it earned 40 cents per share, which was a penny more than expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue declined 1.8 percent to $8.44 billion and was short of the $8.71 billion analysts expected.

For 2014, Mondelez now expects sales growth to be between 2 and 2.5 percent. It had previously forecast growth of 3 percent.

The company stood by its adjusted earnings per share guidance for 2014, but noted currency fluctuations are expected to have a greater impact than previously thought. It expects to earn $1.64 to $1.69 per share.

Its stock was down more than 2 percent at $35.10.

Source

August 1, 2014

Conservative government renews ad campaign promoting oilsands

Filed under: economics, marketing — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:15 pm

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is beefing up a multimillion-dollar international public relations campaign promoting the oilsands and other Canadian resources, despite research suggesting the ad blitz has been ineffective.

Advertising at subway stations in the U.S. capital region in the last year featured a variety of images such as the national flags, a green mountain with a river running through it, and a pipeline construction project. Each had a series of messages that either praised Canada’s environmental record or its oil industry.

But people in the Washington area remembered little about the ad content, apart from a message about Canada and the United States being friends and allies, according to new research, funded by the government and conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Despite these results, the Stephen Harper government has extended the contract of an international public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard, by a year, paying it about $5.7 million, including taxes, to continue managing the campaign in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The entire campaign has a budget of $22.7 million over two years.

Natural Resources Canada, the federal department that is paying for the public relations efforts, told the Star that it was “satisfied” with the ad campaign’s early results that show it “reached many with the message about the importance of the U.S.-Canada relationship, especially on energy.”

An American environmentalist, Danielle Droitsch, said the Canadian government failed to understand that the Obama administration, which released a report this week warning that delayed action on climate change would result in dire economic consequences, is concerned about the environmental impacts of the oilsands and wants action instead of advertising.

“Canada is the only foreign government blanketing Washington D.C. Metro (subway) stations and bus stops to promote a certain industry,” said Droitsch, who directs the Canada project at an American environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It’s unfortunate the Canadian federal government still seems to believe issues around tarsands will be solved by an expensive taxpayer-funded advertising campaign.”

Natural Resources Canada spokeswoman Jacinthe Perras said the campaign was “designed to raise awareness” and “ensure a fact-based dialogue” about Canada being a responsible supplier of oil and other resources.

Following an open competition, the department gave Fleishman-Hillard a contract last December worth about $1.7 million to plan the first phase of the public relations campaign.

Fleishman-Hillard didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Perras said the firm didn’t design the initial ads that ran in Washington subway stations.

Among those who said they remembered at least one of the ads in Washington, 17 per cent said they believed the main point was about Canada and the U.S. being friends and allies, according to the Ipsos Reid research, dated March 3, 2014.

Only 11 per cent believed the message was about building the Keystone XL pipeline.

The rest saw a variety of different messages about Canada’s energy. That included three per cent of respondents who believed the ads were meant to inform and educate people, and two per cent who believed the message was about improving conservation and protecting the environment.

The Ipsos Reid research, which cost $49,393, said the survey would have a margin of error of 7.5 percentage points.

Source

July 26, 2014

Embattled grocery chain weighs proposal to buy it

Filed under: house, prices — Tags: , , , — Professor @ 10:39 am

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. (AP) — Board members of the beleaguered Market Basket grocery store chain say they will “seriously consider” a proposal from its fired chief executive to buy the company as the chain faces a workers’ revolt that has paralyzed the stores.

The board issued a statement Friday after meeting to discuss the company’s future as thousands of employees protested the firing of a popular chief executive, Arthur T. Demoulas.

For more than a week, warehouse workers have refused to make deliveries to the chain’s 71 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine us fast cash. Many customers have boycotted the stores in support of the workers.

Arthur T. Demoulas was fired last month by a board controlled by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas.

The board said it will evaluate Arthur T’s offer, as well as prior offers and future offers.

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