January 2009

credit_card_interestYou can’t put it off any more. You need to – drum roll please – call your credit card company. If the thought of talking to a credit card company employee over Alexander Graham Bell’s invention makes you queasy, just keep in mind that being prepared is half the battle. You can get through this and you might even – gasp – get what you want.

Know when to call…and when to keep quiet

You should call your credit card company if:

*You always pay on time but are charged a late fee after missing a payment once. In this case, you can usually get the credit card company to waive the fee, but don’t try this if your record of payments is spotty.

*You don’t recognize a payment on your credit card. Sure, it may be embarrassing to realize on the phone that you charged Aunt Ethel’s present and forgot about it, but you need to report any suspicious activity just in case you are a victim of identity theft.

*You need a limit increase, a waived transfer balance, or a lowered interest rate. You should call when you have been a cardholder for some time and have made payments on time for at least six months. If your payment track record is not great, try paying on time for at least a few months before the phone call.
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rt_obama_speech_090119_mnWith today being the day when Barack Obama will take office as the 44th President of the United States – and historically, the first  president we  have asked our global economists to give us a summary of some of the challenges the new president will have.

The 44th president of the United States will inherit some tough challenges when he is sworn into office today. But since his election victory, Barack Obama has moved swiftly to put the tools in place to promote economic growth – good news for investors in US equities.

Despite his assertion that there is “only one president at a time,” Mr Obama hit the ground running after his November election win, and has moved quickly to put the tools in place for swift action on the economy.

Last week, the Democratic Party unveiled its much-anticipated USD 825 billion stimulus plan, a package of tax cuts and public spending designed to stem the economic slide and kickstart growth. Mr Obama said the plan, which he is keen to see passed before Congress goes into recess in mid-February, aims to save or create up to 4 million jobs.

In addition, Mr Obama has successfully lobbied Congress for the release of the second half of the USD 700 billion set aside by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), avoiding a potentially messy battle in the first few weeks of his administration. Lawmakers criticised the Bush administration’s use of the first half of the funds, citing the lack of transparency and lack of conditions attached to bank aid, but Obama’s team have provided assurances that these concerns will be addressed.

The “who’s who” list of choices to fill key positions in Mr Obama’s cabinet has also generated positive marks. Among the appointments are Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy Geithner, the former president and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve, as treasury secretary. Other economic hard-hitters in the team include Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, and Paul Volcker, a former Fed chairman.

Consequences for investors
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deals-on-the-greenGolf is one of those games where business nearly equals pleasure. It’s the sport of choice for corporate czars and tycoons: Bill Gates has shanked and scuffed his way to billion-dollar deals on the golf course.

“Golf is a powerful networking tool when used properly. Top executives in many parts of the world know that once you get a potential client on to the golf course, you can learn all about them. Inevitably it leads to a business relationship. It’s a bond based on competition and rivalry… and friendship,” says Jamie Cunningham, founder of the Corporate Masters tournament and managing director of Professional Sports Group.

It’s easy to see why: top executives would be loath to clear their schedules for a five-hour meeting, but more than willing to play a game of golf. Business need not even be mentioned, until one is at the clubhouse – the 19th hole – which is when most deals are closed.

Cunningham recalls the time he worked with Mark McCormack, IMG founder and the man who invented sports marketing as we know it today. McCormack set up a golf game between top Ryder Cup golfer Bernhard Langer who was brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz and the then Japanese ambassador to Germany. That game directly resulted in upping the quota of imported Mercedes cars in Japan.

Cunningham’s own Middle East Corporate Masters tournament held in the UK is a corporate networking event par excellence. The British telecom company O2 used it as a platform to introduce their services to business leaders, with its corporate sales director closing £5 million worth of business during the event. Closer home, Leisurecorp sold significant amounts of real estate on the back of the Middle East Corporate Masters as its title sponsor.

Donald Trump once declared that some of his biggest business decisions were made on a golf course. The real estate mogul simply uses his playing companion’s on-course behaviour to decide whether he would be a worthwhile business associate.
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madoff_webA judge decided today that the accused mastermind of what is allegedly the largest Ponzi scheme in history will remain free on a $10 million bond but will continue to be under house arrest at his posh Manhattan penthouse.

U.S. prosecutors had asked that Madoff be jailed while awaiting trial on a federal fraud charge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis ruled that Madoff was not a flight risk and did not pose a threat to society.

Prosecutors had requested that his bail be revoked because Madoff had mailed more than $1 million in jewelry and heirlooms to people over the holidays and apparently had written, but not mailed, millions of dollars of checks to people.

The decision is sure to further outrage investors who have been clamoring for Madoff to be sent to jail for allegedly carrying out the largest financial fraud in history. Prosecutors said the gifts were grounds to have his bail revoked because what’s left of Madoff’s assets will have to be returned to burned investors.

According to the report, Madoff’s new bail conditions include an inventory of his personal property and searches of his mail. The judge ruled that federal prosecutors failed to prove their contention that Madoff posed risks sufficient to merit his incarceration pending trial.

The anxiously awaited decision does put further restrictions on Madoff, including forcing him to come up with a list of items at his apartment and allowing a security firm to check on the items. The security company will also be allowed to search all outgoing mail from Madoff to ensure that no property has been transferred.
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2634978188_28b59ff5eeIranian banks illegally shifted billions of dollars through American financial institutions in recent years, and authorities suspect some of the money may have been used to finance Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Some of the world’s top banks helped Iran get around international sanctions even as the rogue nation was steering its blood money into the hands of terror groups, prosecutors charged Friday.

Ten international banks including British-based Lloyds laundered “billions of dollars” for Iran through New York banks, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced Friday. The scheme helped Iran turn its dirty money into greenbacks, which it could then use to buy goods prohibited by international sanctions.

Some of the money went to fund terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and to help Iran get materials, including tungsten, for long-range missiles, sources said.

“This is one of the biggest investigations we’ve ever conducted.”

Lloyds admitted it laundered $300 million and agreed to pay a $350 million fine and open its books to investigators. If records show that the bank knew it was helping Iran break international law or foster terrorism, Lloyds could face criminal prosecution, authorities said.

None of the other nine banks was identified because they are working out similar agreements with Morgenthau’s investigators. The CIA will also review the bank records.
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2703630021_558f8c9a0b“Absolute Truth” well science maintains there is there is no such thing like that, but from the current global financial crisis it is evident that there is no absolute free market. Truth is always relative, just like freedom.

It is important to look for positive points to find a way out of the financial crisis, apart from philosophic controversy.

All countries, whether separately or collectively, are working hard to contain the crisis, or at least to reduce losses, despite the gloomy picture of the global economy and the pessimistic atmosphere blanketing the entire world.

Although it is difficult to speak about positive points while the entire world is facing such a crisis, there must be some positive aspects.

The first of these positive effects is that the financial crisis ushers in an end to the domination of the sole magnate in international financial relations, which was a major cause of the crisis.

Wall Street was the world’s most powerful investment house, just a few months ago, where investments used to pour from the East and the West. Now Wall Street means bankruptcy, and investors in fear of losing their money do their best to avoid it.

At present, there are regions in Europe and Asia, including the Gulf region, emerging as hubs of huge investments, which will bring about more stability to the world financial system. This shift is important for restructuring international relations in the post-crisis stage.
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hand-cuffsAn employee of a south Phoenix social-services agency was arrested Monday on charges of embezzling nearly $200,000 in government checks intended to fund parenting programs.

Rosalie Magana was indicted on three counts of theft and one count of fraud after authorities say she stole the checks from Friendly House in December 2006 and January 2007.

Two other women were arrested and sentenced in 2007 for depositing the checks in a credit union, but investigators were unable to link the thefts to Magana until last week.

Friendly House is a 90-year-old social-services agency in south Phoenix. It offers a range of programs, including job training, adult education, family counseling, immigration-law assistance, elder care, a charter school and a food bank.

Magana, 60, has worked in the finance department for six years, according to agency CEO Luis Ibarra. She also picked up the mail.

Three checks totaling $198,000 from the Arizona Department of Economic Security went missing in early 2007.

Magana was indicted last week. Postal inspectors arrested her at Friendly House on Monday. Bond was set at $5,000.
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scamsWith Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme foremost in many investors’ minds, how can you tell whether an investment pitch is a scam? Keeping Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme in your mind minds. “It pays to remember that if an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” Here are 10 tell-all questions to consider:

1. Does it promise “low risk and high gain?”

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s a fundamental fact or basic of investing that the higher the potential return, the greater the risk and that you may never see that return. Do not fall for investments that promise spectacular profits or “guaranteed” returns.

2. If you don’t act now will it be too late?

Why will it be too late? Any legitimate investment will be there tomorrow, and next week, and next year. Never be pressured into investing in something because tomorrow might be too late. Even if it turns out that the stock doubles tomorrow, you should feel better knowing that you were cautious and responsible with your money.

3. Does the investment tip claim to predict the future?

“It will double in three months.” Oh, yeah? And where did your broker buy his or her crystal ball? Not only is this a ridiculous promise for a broker to make, it’s illegal. Go aheaed and report this infraction to his or her sales manager. And if the matter doesn’t get satisfactory attention from a supervisor, contact the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA).

4. Do you know the background of the salesperson and his/her employer?
Any individual selling securities to the public must pass a background check, a series of examinations, and be registered with FINRA. Likewise, their employers must also be known to FINRA and the SEC. If you would like to check up on the background of your broker or brokerage firm, use FINRA’s BrokerCheck page. But remember, even if they don’t have any complaints against them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can be trusted. You could be “Scamee No. 1.”

5. Does it “guarantee” anything?
It is impossible to guarantee the performance of any investment, but if your broker is doing so he could get tossed out of the industry.
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veterans_suicideAs the growing number of foreclosures and the value of stock portfolios hit bottom, news reports from the US of the financial fallout are growing increasingly dire.

Layoffs, foreclosures, cutbacks – there are plenty of grim economic stats out there this holiday season. Here’s perhaps the grimmest one of all: Calls to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline have soared by as much as 60 per cent over the past year.

Mental health experts say the sour economy has turned what usually manifests as seasonal blues into a full-blown crisis. The fear of losing one’s job and pressures caused by a downturn in business, demotion or pension plan cutbacks can be bad for mental health and therefore increase suicide risk.

“Fear is the No. 1 emotion we’re hearing. People are feeling hopeless and helpless because of the economic crisis, and many feel that things aren’t going to get better. Now many of the calls are from people who have lost their home, or their job, or who still have a job but can’t meet the cost of living.”

A 90-year-old woman in Ohio shot herself while being served an eviction notice. A 45-year-old businessman in Los Angeles murdered five members of his family before turning the gun on himself, saying in a suicide note that he had done so because of his troubling financial situation.

While these stories put a human face on the toll the financial crisis has taken, the Director General of the World Health Organization this may only be the tip of the iceberg. As people struggle to cope with losing their homes or livelihoods, she said, “It should not come as a surprise if we continue to see more stresses, more suicides and more mental disorders.”
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