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Be wary of dire market forecasts

The most likely scenario is that the markets will begin to rise from here -- and that bounce is just beginning to take hold.

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Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest-paid player in the world. Now he's also a loan guarantee.

By Kim Peterson Jul 29, 2011 3:15PM
Can you use a person as collateral on a loan? That's what a struggling Spanish bank just did with soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Bankia group of savings banks needs money desperately and has asked the European Central Bank for a loan. Well, the ECB doesn't hand off cash to just anyone, so it asked for some guarantees, Presseurop reports. Bankia offered up Ronaldo and the Brazilian player Kaká, otherwise known as Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite.

Where does Bankia get the right to do this? Back when Real Madrid was recruiting the Portuguese Ronaldo, it turned to Bankia to finance the acquisition. 

Maybe President Obama should turn to Steve Jobs for help in the debt-ceiling crisis.

By Kim Peterson Jul 29, 2011 2:50PM
Apple (AAPL) appears better funded than the United States at this point.

The struggling federal government is down to an operating cash balance of $73.8 billion, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Treasury. That's not much to go on. In fact, Apple has more than that in its bank account.

In its latest earnings report, Apple had $76.2 billion in cash and marketable securities (short-term and long-term). Get Steve Jobs to the Oval Office, quick! 

Platinum’s rarity and many industrial uses could bring about solid opportunities, and investors may consider lightening up on gold in favor of select, liquid equities that track platinum.

By MoneyShow.com Jul 29, 2011 12:11PM

Platinum’s rarity and many industrial uses could bring about solid opportunities, and investors may consider lightening up on gold in favor of select, liquid equities that track platinum.

 

As gold prices have continued to make a series of new highs this year, platinum prices have languished. The platinum futures are current trading just over $1800, which is below the 2011 high of $1889. In March 2008, platinum made a high of $2308, so it is currently more than 27% below the all-time highs.

 

Of course, platinum is much more rare than gold, as the annual supply is estimated to be around 130 tons, which is just a fraction of the world’s gold production. It terms of rarity, precious metal experts have concluded that platinum is 16 times more rare than gold.

 

The majority of the world’s platinum comes from South African or Russian mines. In order to get one troy ounce of platinum, it takes ten tons of ore, which is generally mined in miserable conditions. A small amount of the world’s platinum supply comes from Canada and the US.

 

China's breakneck growth rate should continue to lift oil prices, leading to a spike in gasoline prices by year's end.

By TheStreet Staff Jul 29, 2011 11:36AM

By Andrea Tse, TheStreet

 

Oil prices should continue to rise and lead to a spike in gasoline prices before the end of the year, thanks to China's breakneck growth rate -- despite a series of interest rate hikes -- according to analysts.

 

"If China continues to expand this way, I would expect (U.S.) fuel prices to go up 20 to 30 cents a gallon by the end of the year," said A.T. Kearney's head of energy practice Vance Scott. He factored in the U.S. recovery as he discussed oil demand from the world's most voracious energy consumer, as it feeds its rapid economic growth, and the impact of this demand on U.S. gasoline prices.

 

Demand can, of course, drive up crude oil prices, which then makes gasoline more expensive.

 

As US debt negotiations go down to the wire, economic growth is stalling and markets are being stressed. Feels like the 2008 panic all over again.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Jul 29, 2011 11:23AM

With stocks sliding for the sixth day in a row, word that the economy nearly dipped back into recession in the first quarter and signs of stress already beginning to appear in the funding markets, I can't help but feel like the economy is headed for a repeat of the 2008 panic that deepened the housing bust and made what would have already been a painful recession even worse.

 

People wonder why, three years into the official recovery, unemployment is still above 9%, housing is stabilizing at best and job growth remains anemic. It's because of the policy errors in those fateful days three years ago. Those wounds -- caused by far-right Republican intransigence against President George Bush's bank bailout proposal and the free-market zealotry that allowed Lehman Bros. to fail -- did serious damage. Inter-bank lending dried up. Businesses couldn't fund normal operations. Purchases were withheld. Hiring was postponed.

 

We're still paying the price for those crass political acts today. And now, with the U.S. Treasury on the precipice of its first-ever credit default because of an unwillingness among freshmen Tea Party members in the House to compromise with Democrats or even their own party leadership threatens a repeat at a time of extreme economic vulnerability. In fact, forget 2008. There are parallels to the policy errors that prolonged the Great Depression. Here's why.

 

Treasuries, gold and cash prove popular as investors wait for signs of progress on the debt-ceiling resolution.

By TheStreet Staff Jul 29, 2011 11:14AM

By Frank Byrt, TheStreet

 

Investors are showing increasing concern over Congress's resolve to reach an accord on raising the debt ceiling by Tuesday's deadline and are showing that by selling stocks and building cash or gold positions, while others are waffling on Treasury bonds.

 

Their concerns stem from the congressional stalemate over raising the government's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Complicating matters is that as part of that, Congress and the White House also must agree to a deficit-reduction package to avoid a downgrade in the government's triple-A credit rating.

 

That sort of uncertainty creates volatility, which translates into larger price fluctuations that strike fear into some investors but create buying opportunities for others.

 

One surprising metric can help you find promising countries in which to seek stocks.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Jul 29, 2011 11:02AM

By Tim Hanson

 

If you're a global investor, it pays to pay attention to the big picture. Picking where to invest can be just as important as picking what company to invest in.

For example, Specialty Fashion Group is an Australian retailer I respect. It's earning better-than-30% returns on capital, and in better times, it posted steady operating margins and tight cash conversion cycles. Yet the company has not been able to escape Australia's weak consumer environment. The stock has fallen steadily of late, because of slowing sales and contracting margins. (Still, value investors with access to the Australian exchange may want to note that it's now trading for less than three times EBITDA, and paying a 10% dividend yield.)

I highlight SFG here because it's a quirky case. Australia, thanks to rising prices for oil, iron ore, and its other natural resource exports, appears to be doing well, posting 3.3% GDP growth in 2010 atop a surging currency. That strength, however, has come on the back of a mining boom, which has enriched just a tiny percentage of Australia's larger workforce. Strip out mining, and Australia's not doing so hot.

 

Here are the near- and long-term prospects of a stock market besieged by global tightening and debt crises.

By Jim Cramer Jul 29, 2011 9:25AM

jim cramerthe streetWhich is worse: Washington, D.C., versus business confidence or emerging markets' central bankers versus business? What happens if they combine? And what happens if you throw in a European debt crisis?

 

You get a hard patch. You get a bone-cruncher.

 

You get this market. Sure, we can get breathers, relief rallies. The kind of action we saw Thursday morning.

 

Still, we have to face some facts about short-, intermediate- and long-term problems, both temporal and structural.

 

There are short-term considerations that seem to grow by the hour: Greek default, soft default in America -- no checks sent to certain suppliers but no stoppage in Social Security and interest/principal payments -- and the debt downgrade.

 

Metal prices are so high that the uncertainties of a US default make a further advance unlikely.

By Jim J. Jubak Jul 28, 2011 6:59PM

Jim JubakThe gold and silver markets Thursday didn't have any better idea than you or I about whether a deal on the debt ceiling or a U.S. default is more likely. But after the run-up in gold prices to a new nominal record, investors are getting edgy. Any rumor of progress is an indication to sell.


As of 1:06 pm ET, gold was flat for the day and silver was down about 1.9% on news reports that the House of Representatives will vote tonight on a Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion as part of a package with $917 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.


It looks like enough Republicans are falling in line behind House Speaker John Boehner to give the bill the 218 Republican votes it needs to pass. (It's unlikely that the bill will pick up more than a handful of Democratic votes.)

 
Tags: gold

The organic grocer defies a curdled economic climate.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Jul 28, 2011 4:52PM
By Alyce Lomax

 

In a sour economy for consumer-facing companies, grocer Whole Foods Market (WFM) has managed to keep its business fresh.

 

Third-quarter net income increased 35%, to $88.5 million, or $0.50 per share. Whole Foods' total sales increased 11%, to $2.4 billion. Same-store sales surged 8.4%, an admirable increase in this day and age, and a heartening indicator of growing market share.

 

In addition, Whole Foods beat analysts' estimates for earnings of $0.47 per share. The organic grocer also increased its earnings expectations for the year to between $1.91 and $1.92 per share, compared to analysts' expectations for $1.90 per share.

 

Whole Foods' quarter looks particularly fresh in relation to many of its rivals' wilting results.

 

Banks across the country are sitting on run-down houses no one will buy. What to do with them?

By Kim Peterson Jul 28, 2011 2:58PM
Bank of America (BAC) is sitting on loads of foreclosed homes that it can't sell. Instead of holding on to them endlessly, it's starting to bulldoze some.

In other cases, the bank is simply giving them away.

The bank is donating 100 foreclosed homes in Cleveland, Bloomberg reports. It will give away as many as 100 in Detroit and 150 in Chicago and plans to add up to nine more cities by the end of the year. 

Even if a deal comes through before Tuesday, it's unlikely that the government can cooperate well enough to prevent a downgrade.

By MoneyShow.com Jul 28, 2011 2:53PM

By Howard R. Gold, editor-at-large, MoneyShow.com

It’s been a hot summer, and it’s been even hotter in Washington, D.C., where Democrats and Republicans have been burning down the House with a pitched battle over the debt ceiling, the cap that Congress puts on the national debt.

 

Usually it’s a mundane bit of legislative business barely worthy of C-Span. Congress hikes spending and then authorizes an increase in the debt ceiling to pay for it. It’s happened 78 times since 1960.

 

The retailer's commercial paper has a lower short-term yield than some T-bills.

By Kim Peterson Jul 28, 2011 2:45PM
Investors think Wal-Mart (WMT) is a safer credit bet than the U.S. government, according to ultra-short-term interest rates.

A recent report showed that Wal-Mart's commercial paper due Aug. 4 had a 0.04% yield. U.S. T-bills due the same day showed a yield of 0.16%, The Wall Street Journal reports, and a Fannie Mae discount note due Aug. 4 had a 0.06% yield. Wal-Mart's yield was even lower than that of T-bills due Aug. 11, which had a 0.1% yield.

Commercial paper is a short-term security sold by corporations to get some quick money for payroll and other purposes, and a default is extremely rare. Normally, investors like commercial paper because it gives a slightly higher yield than Treasury notes. 

Amazon strikes another streaming deal, narrowing the gap between itself and Netflix.

By TheStreet Staff Jul 28, 2011 2:32PM

By Jeanine Poggi, TheStreet

 

Amazon (AMZN) is dealing yet another blow to Netflix (NFLX), striking a deal with NBCUniversal for streaming video content.

 

This is the second deal in a week Amazon has announced, forming a similar partnership with CBS (CBS) just last week.

 

This brings Amazon's portfolio of movies and television content to about 9,000, and while this is less than half of Netflix's 20,000 or so titles, it brings Amazon Prime one step closer to competing with the movie rental giant.

 

Banking executives send a letter urging lawmakers to cut a deal and act responsibly.

By Kim Peterson Jul 28, 2011 1:51PM
So it's come to this: Even the bankers are lecturing the country on fiscal responsibility.

Wall Street chief executives have written a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress, telling them to take steps to put the country on "sound fiscal footing." Lawmakers must correct our fiscal course and inspire market confidence by paying our bills on time, the letter said.

Thanks for that bit of "do as I say, not as I do." The sheer arrogance of the letter is breathtaking, given that Wall Street's greed and recklessness helped get us to the point where we are today. Do Goldman Sachs (GS) and the rest of the Fast and the Furious even know what "sound fiscal footing" is? 

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