Friday, March 23, 2012

Canadian Real Estate Craziness

Using a bunch of local firefighters are props behind him, F stood outside a firehall near Ottawa and tried to quell the global angst this pathetic blog had created. “I would like to see the (housing) market correct itself,” the elfin deity said. Regarding calls by the banks to murder the 30-year mortgage, and by academics to dump the 5% down payment, the finance minister said this was ‘a bit much,’ since banks are the ones who determine risk.

“We have bank executives in Canada saying ’You know, really the rules on insured mortgages should be tightened up’. They must forget that they are actually the ones that issue the mortgages — it’s their market, it’s not my market.”

Ah, if only that were true.

By every measure, Canada’s exceeded the orgiastic housing excess that preceded the American real estate implosion, including the government’s key role in making shelter unaffordable for the average family.

A greater proportion of our economy’s now dependent on building, selling and financing real estate than was ever the case in the US…

And look at this. The amount of exposure Canadians have to houses has exploded… (more)

Peter Schiff – Gold, Oil & The Fed’s Greatest Fear

from King World News:

With continued volatility in gold, silver, oil and stocks, today King World News interviewed Peter Schiff, CEO of Europacific Capital. Schiff told KWN it’s inflation that is causing the move in stocks. He also discussed gold and the mining shares, but first, here is what Schiff had to say about oil and the situation in Iran: “I hope we don’t get involved in Iran. Anytime we get more involved in the Middle-East we create more problems. Maybe the administration is looking for something to blame the high oil price on, rather than admit it’s excess money printing causing the problem.”

Read More @

Kiss those low mortgage rates goodbye

It may be time to kiss record-low mortgage rates goodbye. They jumped this week, as investors bought into the notion that the economy in the United States is strengthening and the situation in Europe has stabilized.

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 14 basis points this week, to 4.29 percent, according to the national survey of large lenders. A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point. The mortgages in this week's survey had an average total of 0.42 discount and origination points. One year ago, the mortgage index was 4.96 percent; four weeks ago, it was 4.16 percent.

The benchmark 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose 10 basis points, to 3.48 percent. The benchmark 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose 10 basis points, to 3.24 percent. This is the highest level the 30-year fixed rate has reached in five months. It was 4.33 percent on Oct. 26.

Weekly national mortgage survey

Results of's March 21, 2012, weekly national survey of large lenders and the effect on monthly payments for a $165,000 loan:

30-year fixed15-year fixed5-year ARM
This week's rate:4.29%3.48%3.24%
Change from last week:+0.14+0.1+0.1
Monthly payment:$815.57$1,177.94$717.19
Change from last week:+$13.50+$8.08+$9.02

The optimism among investors may wear off, but it's unlikely rates will return to the bottom, says Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans.

"I think we may have seen the absolutely lows," he says. "Europe was really driving us lower as people worried about Greece defaulting. That was causing lots of money to pile into bonds. But the concern of a European collapse is abating."

Recent economic growth in the United States also has helped pushed rates up, he says.

Is the economy really strengthening?

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, says investors' perception will ebb and flow, but he expects the economy will continue to gain traction.

"The very warm winter weather is giving the recent economic data a brighter hue, and there will be some softer numbers this spring as the weather becomes more seasonal. But more fundamentally, the economy is entering into a self-sustaining expansion," he says.

Most of the recent economic data, including the jobs report, indicate a positive sign. However, it "doesn't mean the economy is out of the woods by any means," says Brett Sinnott, director of secondary marketing at CMG Mortgage in San Ramon, Calif.

Nearly 13 million people remain unemployed. "I think the optimism will be short-lived," Sinnott says. "But I don't think we're going back to (yields of 1.7 percent) on the 10-year Treasury note."

The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained below or close to 2 percent when rates reached the bottom. This was one of the forces pushing rates down. This week, the yield reached a five-month high of 2.38 percent. It fell slightly when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reminded investors the global financial situation is better but far from rosy.

"The recent reduction in financial stresses in Europe is a welcome development for the United States, given the important trade and financial linkages connecting our economies," he said in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing Wednesday. "However, Europe's financial and economic situation remains difficult, and it is critical that the European leaders follow through on their policy commitments to ensure a lasting stabilization."

A report on sales of previously owned homes also reminded investors of a still-fragile housing market. Sales declined 0.9 percent to a 4.59 million annual rate in February, compared to January, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. While this was the best winter for home sales since the recession, a decline in home sales is never a positive sign.

How does it affect borrowers?

Mortgage experts say they don't expect the recent increase to affect borrowers' ability to qualify for or afford a mortgage. Rates remain extremely low, especially for those who still have mortgages with rates higher than 5 percent and want to refinance.

But the higher rates have a psychological effect on borrowers, who want to wait for the best possible rate. As rates increased last week, the volume of mortgage applications decreased 7.4 percent compared to the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"It's like when you miss the 25 percent off sale and you want to wait for the next sale," says Ed Conarchy, a mortgage planner at Cherry Creek Mortgage in Gurnee, Ill.

Should you wait? Probably not, say these mortgage experts.

"Years from now, you'll hear stories of how you could get a 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.5 percent," Walters says.

5 Skills Everyone Needs to Have on a Resume

If your resume feels a little thin or you can't seem to fill up the Skills & Expertise section of your LinkedIn profile, then it's time to do something about it. There are countless free educational tools on the Web that make it easier than ever to teach yourself valuable skills that will help to create a robust resume.

Your resume is more than a summary of your past experience. It's a tool that can help propel your career growth--that is, if you highlight skills, language, and the context of the job you want, rather than regurgitating your past experience.

Consider boosting your skills in the following:

1. Excel

Many job-seekers list Excel as one of their skills, even if they only have a mastery of the basics. Set aside some time this evening or weekend to learn some new features.

Excel is valuable because it offers some essential ways to analyze a lot of info in the least amount of time. Go beyond the basics of formulas and equations and learn about features like Excel's PivotCharts, custom functions, Visual Basics for Applications, and more. Search for free tutorials online; you'll be bombarded with resources and videos.

2. Web Development (Java, HTML, SQL)

Many experts agree that having knowledge of computer languages is particularly appealing to today's employers. Learning Web development isn't just applicable for IT professionals. Whether you're a new business grad or a seasoned professional looking to brush up on the latest in-demand skills, learning the basics may make you more relevant.

All you have to do is start. Free tutorials from, Code Academy, and other coding resources will give you step-by-step instructions on the basics.

3. Adobe Creative Suite

Practicing creative web tools is a great way to develop some basic graphic design skills. Adobe is very widely used for just this--so if you can get your hands on the software, then you can choose your favorite application and begin learning.

The suite includes various creative applications, including InDesign, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver--all programs that companies rely on to create engaging Web designs and layouts. You never know when you might be able to lend a hand in a new project that requires proficiency in using one of these apps.

Start now by taking advantage of Adobe's How-To Channel, which hosts videos for beginners.

4. Foreign Language

Learning a new language can open up a lot of doors for you as a professional. In fact, becoming fluent in a second language could even offer you the opportunity to work in another country.

The most popular language-learning courses are effective, but they can also be costly. Instead, teach yourself at home by taking advantage of a free online course. In fact, free online courses are growing in popularity. Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the University of California, Berkeley are some colleges that are sharing courses online.

If, for instance, you decide to learn Mandarin, check out MIT's OpenCourseWare. You'll find course material, audio demonstrations, study groups, and more for beginning to intermediate levels of Mandarin.

5. Google Analytics

Web 2.0 is centered on Google. The ability to track and analyze how Google ranks and organizes information can be invaluable both personally and professionally. Google Analytics can help job-seekers manage their online presence (LinkedIn profile, Twitter, personal website, etc.) to enhance their marketability to potential employers. To start, type "Google Analytics IQ Online Course" in Google and watch one of the training videos.

The CFTC has already done all it can about silver — and everything else


Dear Friend of GATA and Gold (and Silver):

Drawing on data collected by Nanex, Zero Hedge tonight calls attention to some high-frequency trading done yesterday to smash the price of silver down:

Some steadfast friends of GATA keep sending notes about such stuff to members of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the hope that the commission’s 3-year-old (or is it 4 now?) supposed investigation of the silver market will report evidence of manipulation, and we hate to discourage them. But the delay of the investigation signifies plainly enough that the CFTC knows that what is going on in silver (and gold) is essentially a U.S. government operation implemented through a de-facto U.S. government agency, JPMorganChase & Co., and the commission just can’t do anything about it. Not just gold and silver price suppression but commodity price suppression generally long has been U.S. government policy.

Read More @

How To Invest If You're Broke

What's the biggest problem that people with lower incomes have with investing? The old saying that it takes money to make money is true, and for those living paycheck to paycheck, there often isn't enough money left over to put towards investing. When you need the money now, thinking about IRAs and the stock market might be so far down your priority list, that you find all of these financial experts a little bit out of touch.

However, the fact remains that if you don't put money away for later years, you will face a catastrophic situation. Someday, you won't be able to work and social security won't be enough to live on, assuming the fund is around in 20 or 30 years. So what can you do? We've put together a few ideas for those people who don't see any available funds for investing.

You Need Money
First, we have to solve this problem of limited funds and the advice isn't new or revolutionary. Something in your life has to go, but it doesn't have to be a big life change. How often do you go to Starbucks for your morning coffee? How often do you go to the nearest fast food restaurant for lunch, and how many times have you hit the bar to blow off a little steam after a hard day at work?

What if you cut out even half of those expenses each month, netting you an extra $50 per month? At the end of a year, you would have $600 to invest. Over 20 years that $600 could become more than $22,000, if you saved that same $600 each year. $600 may not seem like much to get started, but anything is better than nothing, and there are places to put that $600 to that will make a big difference.

DRIPS, or dividend reinvestment plans, allow you to invest small amounts of money into dividend-paying stock, by purchasing directly from the company. Companies like GE, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Home Depot and Johnson & Johnson are just a few of the companies that allow you to make regular purchases of very small amounts of stock, and reinvest the dividends. This can add up to a big investment over time and, as you gain a larger balance, you may consider diverting some of these funds into other investments.

ETFs, or exchange traded funds, are financial products that track the performance of a certain sector of the investment market. You can buy as little as one share of an ETF through a broker, and some of these ETFs track the performance of the total stock market, the bond market and many others. Many ETFs also pay a dividend, making a purchase in a fund like the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) an instantly diversified portfolio that also pays a dividend.

Target Date Funds
Target date funds, as the name implies, target your retirement date by changing the percentage of stocks and bonds to assure that your money remains safe as you approach retirement age. Some of these funds require a minimum of $1,000, but they may serve as great products for investors who don't want to manage their portfolio on their own. Use caution when picking a target date fund because of the high fees that some funds charge.

Don't Forget the 401(k)
If you have a 401(k) that will match your contributions, invest there first. Since your company is giving you free money to invest, you should always fund your 401(k) before outside investments.

The Bottom Line
Some of these strategies may require the help of a financial advisor, but most people, if they're willing to give up a few small luxuries, can find small amounts of money to invest into their retirement.

Chart of the Day - Fastenal Company (FAST)

The "Chart of the Day" is Fastenal Company (FAST), which showed up on Wednesday's Barchart "All Time High" list. Fastenal on Wednesday posted a new all-time high of $54.24 and closed up 2.02%. TrendSpotter has been Long since Oct 21 at $35.51. Fastenal was last featured on "Chart of the Day" as of the October 28, 2011 close at $38.62. In recent news on the stock, BNY Mellon on Jan 30 reported a 5.14% passive stake in Fastenal. Fastenal on Jan 18 reported in-line Q4 EPS of 30 cents and said it expects margins to "snap back" in Q1. The company said it sees top-line sales growth in the "high teens" for 2012, "if not better." Fastenal Company, with a market cap of $15 billion, sells industrial and construction supplies.