Monday, May 12, 2008

SAR #8133

Misery raises profits.

Practice Run: FDIC closed ANB Financial (Arkansas National Bank), costing the FDIC insurance pool $214 million. Over 50% of ANB's loans are delinquent. Over 75% of the bank's loans were construction and development loans. Rotten development, this.

Toadstool: Nearly 35% of all amphibians - frogs and toads - are now threatened with extinction. They are the most endangered group of animals in the world. Dick Cheney's position on toads is not known.

Collateral Damaged: Many who've ended up vacating a house due to foreclosure are now seeing their belongings auctioned off at the Self-Store - again due to non-payment. Storage unit auctions have doubled so far this year, as have arrests for trying to turn a storage unit into a 'residential unit.'

Titanic II : There's been a surge of icebergs off Newfoundland this spring, hazarding shipping in the North Atlantic. About 600 icebergs are on the Grand Banks now, about twice last year's total. 2006 had nearly none. Global warming, melting the poles? Probably not, as any given year can have from none to over 2,000. For once, neither Exxon nor OPEC seems responsible.

Chicken/Egg: Fertilizer prices are at record levels around the globe, as farmers try to expand their crops. Phosphate fertilizers have gone from $420 a ton in 2006, to $800 a ton last year, and to over $1400 a ton this spring.

Corrected Prices: House prices have fallen 15-20% in the last three months. Relators call this " price correction", “stabilization”, “correction” and “opportunity to get your dream home”. Only if your dream home is in Mumbai or Bangalore, because this is India's real estate market, not California's.

Plastics: The USDA says next year's corn stocks are expected to drop steeply to a 13-year low. Go have a steak tonight, before it's immoral.

The Real Economy: It's all finance and it's contained, remember? Yet the states face a $26 billion shortfall next year, with deficits forecast for half the states (the other half have constitutions that mandate balanced budgets and won't that be fun). Government spending makes up about half the US economy and is responsible for building and maintaining our infrastructure, our safety and our education system.

Taxing Work: It is not, this time, just big agri-industry that is being helped by the farm bill. Poor, hardworking farmers who rely on horses to make a living get a $126 million tax break, too. Provided they farm with thoroughbreds, thanks to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from... Kentucky.

Unintended Consequences: Reductions in coal's pollution of the atmosphere, along with increasing surface temperatures in the Atlantic, are causing unprecedented drought in the Amazon rainforest. If the Amazon dries enough to burn, and it well may, it will release far more warming CO2 into the air than all that coal would have.

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