The Fed meets today, and is expected to drop interest rates a further quarter of a point. Markets are expecting that to be the last cut for a while, as the Fed tries to avoid boosting inflation further, but the WSJ’s Ahead of the Tape column says investors are “a little too eager to forget the economy’s ailments,” including “cratered” consumer confidence and, of course, housing hell.
The Journal on C3 says an ex-Fed staffer slammed the central bank’s bailout of Bear Stearns, saying it is “the worst policy mistake in a generation.”
Speculators feast on food crisis
Bloomberg reports that speculators are gaining increasing influence over food supplies—and thus, prices. It says commodity funds holds half of all grain in U.S. silos now, up 29 percent in a year.
Investments in grain and livestock futures have more than doubled to about $65 billion from $25 billion in November, according to consultant AgResource Co. in Chicago.
Our Farmers Just Can’t Win Quote of the Day:
“It’s the best of times for somebody speculating on grain prices, but it’s not the best of times for farmers,” said Niemeyer, 59. “The demand for futures exceeds the demand for cash grains.”
Sounds like a bubble to us.
Chewing over the Wrigley deal
Mars and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy Wrigley creating the world’s biggest gum and candy stash, and the WSJ says the deal is a positive sign for financial markets.
It also sends two positive signals to the market: First, bankers are willing to lend, albeit to good clients. Last month, J.P. Morgan Chief Executive James Dimon encouraged clients to seek financing. “Leveraged finance is still there; give us a call,” Mr. Dimon urged.
It wasn’t just talk. Mr. Dimon himself approved an approximately $11 billion loan package to longtime client Mars to help the candy maker capture Wrigley. And, the approval wasn’t accompanied by a lot of hand-wringing; this one took the approval of only about five people and just five days to arrange, according to a person familiar with the deal.
Hey, WSJ—if we’ve learned anything in the past year it’s that nonchalance in lending isn’t really something to be applauded.
Shameless, if true
The NYT on C3 reports that a Senate subcommittee will investigate whether mortgage companies are charging abusive fees to struggling homeowners in order to help shape legislation to protect borrowers.
Among their concerns are excessive fees imposed on homeowners and actions taken to seize the homes of borrowers who are not delinquent on loans. Most foreclosures are uncontested by homeowners, who typically rely on what the lender or its representative says is owed, including fees assessed during the process.
Airfare up, planes packed
The Journal says on B1 that airline rate increases stuck in March with fares up more than 10 percent from a year earlier. That’s because planes are flying fuller than any time in history, with capacity up just 6 percent in eight years. And the paper says the industry, hammered by oil prices (not to mention a safety scandal) is hoping that the flurry of merger activity “can eliminate seats and competitors and give airlines even greater pricing power.”