February 28, 2012
By Robert Brokamp
Are you an “awfulizer”? Do you fear that something awful is around the corner, especially when it comes to your finances?
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all, given the recessions, layoffs, and market crashes of recent years. In fact, you can turn awfulizing to your advantage by making a plan for what would happen if your family’s situation changed significantly.
Call it the pessimist’s Plan B — expenses you’d cut, which relatives you’d move in with, even where you’d rendezvous in case a catastrophe prevents you from getting home. Even if you never have to put your Plan B into effect, knowing it’s there will provide you with peace of mind.
Getting from Plan A to Plan B
You already have a Plan A — you’re living it. Plan A starts with your income, which determines how much you can spend, how much you can save, and how long it will take to achieve your financial goals.
Plan B covers what you’ll do in case there’s a disruption to that income, whether from your job (if you’re still working) or your portfolio (if you’re retired).
October 5th, 2011
The Huffington Post
The number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms in September jumped to its highest in more than two years due to heavy cutbacks by the military and Bank of America, a private report on Wednesday showed.
Employers announced 115,730 planned job cuts last month, more than double August’s total of 51,114, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The figure was the highest since April 2009 when 132,590 layoffs were announced.
September’s job cuts were also much higher than the same time a year ago, tripling from the 37,151 job cuts announced in September 2010. For 2011 so far, employers have announced 479,064 cuts, up 16.5 percent from the first nine months of 2010.
“It is important to keep in mind that 80,000 cuts, or nearly 70 percent of last month’s total, came from just two organizations: Bank of America and the United States Army,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement. “Neither of these cuts is directly related to recent softness in the economy.”
Bank of America’s (BAC.N) 30,000 planned cuts stemmed from continued fallout from the U.S. housing market collapse and restructuring efforts to remake the bank into a smaller, more efficient company, Challenger said.
The 50,000 military cuts were the result of drawing down forces in two wars and cost-cutting efforts in all areas of the federal government. September’s cuts followed an announced 17,500 reduction in August, he added.
These military personnel might face tough times finding jobs with companies.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge is taking the often specialized skills and experience gained in the military and translating it to the private sector,” Challenger said.
On the hiring front, employers announced plans to add 76,551 workers in September, down from 123,076 a year ago, the firm said.
July 19th, 2011
The Economic Collapse
Can you smell it? There is blood in the water. Global financial markets are in turmoil. Banking stocks are getting slaughtered right now. European bond yields are absolutely soaring. Major corporations are announcing huge layoffs. The entire global financial system appears to be racing toward another major crisis. So could we potentially see a repeat of 2008? Sadly, when the next big financial crisis happens it might be worse than 2008. Back in the middle of 2008, the U.S. national debt was less than 10 trillion dollars. Today it is over 14 trillion dollars. Back in 2008, none of the countries in the EU were on the verge of financial collapse. Today, several of them are. This time if the global financial system starts falling apart the big governments around the world are not going to be able to do nearly as much to support it. That is why what is happening right now is so alarming. As signs of weakness spread, the short sellers and the speculators are starting to circle. They can smell the money.
Back in 2008, bank stocks led the decline. Today, that appears to be happening again. The “too big to fail” banks are getting absolutely pummeled right now. Most people don’t have much sympathy for the banksters, but if we do see a repeat of 2008 they are going to be cutting off credit and begging for massive bailouts once again, and that would not be good news for the economy.
In Europe, the EU sovereign debt crisis just seems to get worse by the day. Bond yields for the PIIGS are going haywire. The higher the yields go, the worse the crisis is going to get.
Meanwhile, as I have written about previously, a bad mood has descended on world financial markets. Pessimism is everywhere and fear is spreading. The short sellers and the speculators are eager to jump on any sign of weakness. Investors all over the globe are extremely nervous right now.
So what happens next?
Well, nobody knows for sure.
But things certainly do not look good.
The following are 18 signs that global financial markets smell blood in the water….
#1 Banks stocks are absolutely getting hammered right now. Bank of America hit a 52 week low on Monday. Bank of America shares declined 4 percent to $9.61.
#2 So far this year, Bank of America stock is down about 27 percent.
#3 Bloomberg is reporting that Bank of America may be forced to increase its capital cushion by 50 billion dollars.
#4 Shares of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are near two year lows.
#5 Shares in Citigroup fell 2.5 percent on Monday.
#6 Moody’s recently warned that it may be forced to downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
#7 Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all either considering staff cuts or are already laying workers off.
#8 The deputy European director of the International Monetary Fund says that the Greek debt crisis is “on a knife’s edge”.
#9 Moody’s has slashed Ireland’s bond rating all the way to junk status.
#10 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 20 percent, the yield on 2 year Irish bonds is now over 23 percent and the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 35 percent.
#11 Shares of Italy’s largest bank dropped by a whopping 6.4% on Monday.
#12 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Italian bonds was the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.
#13 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds was also the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.
#14 Shares of Germany’s largest bank fell by a staggering 7% on Monday and are down a total of 22% so far this month.
#15 Citigroup’s chief economist, William Buiter, says that without direct intervention by the ECB there is going to be a wave of sovereign defaults across Europe….
#16 Cisco has announced plans to axe 16 percent of its workers.
#17 Borders Group has announced that it will be liquidating all remaining assets. That means that 399 stores will be closed and 10,700 workers will lose their jobs.
#18 During times of great crisis, many investors seek safe havens for their money. On Monday, the price of gold shot past $1600 an ounce.
These are not normal financial times. The worldwide debt bubble is starting to burst and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next. Certainly we are going to continue to see financial authorities all over the world do their best to keep the system going. But as we saw in 2008, things can spiral out of control very quickly.
Just remember, back at the beginning of 2008 very few people would have ever imagined that the biggest financial institutions in America would be begging for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts by the end of that year.
When confidence disappears, the game can change very quickly. To the vast majority of economists it would have been unimaginable that the yield on 2 year Greek bonds would be over 35 percent in mid-2011.
But here we are.
The entire global financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand. It is more vulnerable today than it has been at any other time since World War II. When a couple of major dominoes fall, it is likely to set off a massive chain reaction.
The global financial system of today was not designed with safety and security in mind. It was designed for greedy people to be able to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. The banksters don’t care about the greater good of mankind. What they care about is making huge piles of cash.
There is way too much risk, way too much debt and way too much leverage in the global financial marketplace. You would have thought that 2008 should have been a major wake up call for financial authorities around the world, but very few significant changes have been made since that time.
The financial news is just going to keep getting worse. This financial system is simply unsustainable. It is fundamentally unsound. The reality is that financial bubbles cannot keep expanding forever. Eventually they must burst.
Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on banking stocks and keep a close eye on European bond yields.
Hopefully things will stabilize.
Hopefully the next wave of the financial collapse is not about to hit us.
Hopefully the entire global financial system is not on the verge of a major implosion.
But you might want to get prepared just in case.
October 8, 2010
A wave of government layoffs last month outpaced weak hiring in the private sector, pushing down the nation’s payrolls by a net total of 95,000 jobs.
The Labor Department says the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent. The jobless rate has now topped 9.5 percent for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the 1930s.
The private sector added 64,000 jobs, the weakest showing since June.
Local governments cut 76,000 jobs last month, most of them in education. That’s the largest cut by local governments in 28 years. And, 77,000 temporary census jobs ended in September.
Nearly 14.8 million people were unemployed last month. That’s almost 100,000 fewer than in August.
September 3rd, 2010
Wall Street Journal
By: Tom Barkley and Victoria McGrane
Job losses continued to mount in the U.S. economy last month, though at a more modest pace than expected, putting further pressure on policy makers to take action to spur growth and employment.
A separate report indicated the U.S. nonmanufacturing sector expanded at a much slower pace last month.
Nonfarm payrolls fell by 54,000 last month, matching the level of revised losses recorded the previous month, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday. The revision in July layoffs to 54,000 followed an original estimate of a 131,000 drop in payrolls.
The U.S. economy has shed jobs for three straight months, though the losses in August were about half the 110,000 predicted by economists in a Dow Jones Newswires survey.
The unemployment rate, calculated using a separate household survey, edged up to 9.6%, as expected, after holding at 9.5% for previous two months.
The report is likely to cause renewed debate during the long Labor Day weekend over what new steps the Federal Reserve and Congress should consider to jump-start the job market.
Last month, the Fed moved to stop any premature contraction in its balance sheet, effectively taking its foot off the brake pedal by reinvesting proceeds from any maturing mortgage securities into Treasurys.
While the central bank has held off on stepping on the gas–either by resuming asset purchases or other unconventional measures–Fed officials expressed concern during the Aug. 10 meeting about the sluggish labor market and debated potential causes.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke declared his readiness a week ago to pursue further moves if “unexpected developments” derail the economic expansion. The “painfully slow recovery” in the jobs market was a central policy concern, he said, given the risks it poses to consumer confidence and the broader economy.
President Barack Obama, who has pushed Congress to support more job-creating measures, plans to speak Monday at the Milwaukee Laborfest. In addition to a small business bill languishing on the Hill, the administration is coming up with new ideas to promote job growth.
The report Friday showed that private sector hiring wasn’t enough to offset cutbacks in job losses in the government, which continued to let go temporary workers hired for the 2010 census.
Private-sector companies added 67,000 jobs, following an upwardly revised 107,000 gain in July.
Manufacturers shed 27,000 jobs, after adding 34,000 the previous month.
Professional and business services payrolls rose 20,000. Construction, a sector of the economy that has struggled, added 19,000 jobs, as well.
Total government employment, which includes state and local jobs, fell 121,000. The declines were a result not just of the letting go of 114,000 census workers, but also job cuts by state governments facing budget pressures.
In a positive sign, the report showed 42% of unemployed Americans were out of work for more than six months in August, down from 45% in July. It becomes harder to find a job as time goes by, as skills are lost and employers may view long periods of unemployment with suspicion.
An indication of slack in the market, and thus potential inflation pressures, moved slightly higher. Average hourly earnings of all employees increased by $0.06 to $22.66 in August. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.2 hours.
August 9th, 2010
NBC New York
Surveillance video from subway stations are getting closer scrutiny recently, as transit police increase efforts to identify and arrest armed robbers and other criminals, a published report said today.
The NYPD asked transit police to pull footage from surveillance cameras some 2000 times last year — ten times more often than five years ago, the Daily News reports.
There are now 3100 cameras installed in city subway stations recording activities, officials said.
Millions of people ride the subway each day, and crime on trains and in stations is at a historically low level with an average of fewer than six felonies a day in the 468-station system, the News reported.
However, as the MTA faces a massive budget shortfall that has led to service cuts and the layoff of hundreds of station agents, some riders worry that crime could be on the rise in unattended stations.
Meantime, the MTA intends to install another 1000 cameras before the end of the year.
July 13, 2010
By: Lori Preuitt
Oakland‘s police chief is making some dire claims about what his force will and will not respond to if layoffs go as planned.
Chief Anthony Batts listed exactly 44 situations that his officers will no longer respond to and they include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism. He says if you live and Oakland and one of the above happens to you, you need to let police know on-line.
Some 80 officers were to be let go at midnight last night if a last-minute deal was not reached. That’s about ten percent of the work force.
“I came her e to build an organization, not downsize one,” said Batts, who was given the top job in October.
That deadline has been extended to 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Here’s a partial list:
- grand theftidentity theft
- false information to peace officer
- required to register as sex or arson offender
- dump waste or offensive matter
- discard appliance with lock
- loud music
- possess forged notes
- pass fictitious check
- obtain money by false voucher
- fraudulent use of access cards
- stolen license plate
- embezzlement by an employee (over $ 400)
- attempted extortion
- false personification of other
- injure telephone/ power line
- interfere with power line
- unauthorized cable tv connection
- administer/expose poison to another’s
Negotiations are going on at Oakland City Hall in the mayor’s office.
Batts said the 80 officers slated to be laid off – mostly new officers – are “pretty sad and pretty depressed,” and those feelings are shared by the Police Department as a whole.
The Oakland City Council voted June 25 to eliminate the positions to help close the city’s $32.5 million funding gap. According to the city of Oakland, each of the 776 police officers currently employed at OPD costs around $188,000 per year. Most of the officers who will be affected by the layoffs were on the streets of Oakland when Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction caused riots last Thursday.
The sticking point in negotiations appears to be job security. The city council asked OPD officers to pay nine percent of their salary toward their pensions, which would save the city about $7.8 million toward a multi-million dollar deficit. The police union agreed, as long as the city could promise no layoffs for three years. No dice, says city council president Jane Brunner.
“We wish we could offer them a three-year no layoff protection we just can’t financially. It would be irresponsible of us,” Brunner said. The city agreed to a one-year moratorium on layoffs, but it is not enough for the union.
The problem is money. In the last five years, the police budget — along with the fire department budget — have amount to 75 percent of the general fund. After years of largely sparing those departments the budget ax, now it appears there are few other places to cut.
These are the last hours of negotiation and Brunner is hopeful that the city and police will find some sort middle ground.
“It’s been very good conversation and not a whole lot of grandstanding.” Brunner said. “There’s actually real conversations. Each side understands the problem,” she said.
June 30, 2010
By Andrew Taylor
WASHINGTON – House Democrats, who are trying to pass a long-stalled war funding bill this week, have attached $10 billion to help local school districts avoid teacher layoffs when schools reopen.
The approximately $70 billion measure is anchored by President Barack Obama’s $30 billion request for the troop surge in Afghanistan and contains money for disaster aid accounts, foreign aid and disability benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
The bill’s release late Tuesday night was the surest signal yet that House leaders are committed to passing it this week, despite great resistance among many Democratic lawmakers and deepening anxiety over the Afghanistan war effort among Obama allies such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The Senate passed an almost $60 billion version of the bill last month. Successful action by the House would send the measure into negotiations aimed at producing a final measure next month for Obama’s signature.
The difficulty in passing the bill in the House is magnified by disagreement between Republicans supportive of the war — who insist the measure be “clean” of unrelated spending — and Democrats who want funding for the unpopular war to carry unrelated party priorities. Republicans are threatening to withhold support for the overall package if Democratic add-ons are included.
February 9, 2010
By Tom Blackwell
Makers of natural-health products say they are bracing for widespread layoffs and millions of dollars in losses after Canada’s pharmacy regulators issued a surprise directive recently urging druggists to stop selling unlicensed natural remedies.
The order affects thousands of herbal treatments, multi-vitamins and other products, most of them waiting for approval from Health Canada under a backlogged, five-year-old program to regulate natural-health goods.
The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) says pharmacists cannot be assured the products are safe until they are granted a government licence, and should not sell them in those circumstances. “Pharmacists are obliged to hold the health and safety of the public or patient as their first and foremost consideration,” said the association’s recently issued position statement.
Representatives of the natural health industry, however, have reacted angrily to the directive issued last month, predicting it will have little impact on patient safety, while triggering an economic “crisis” for their members.
“We are talking about job loss, we are talking about a lot of income loss, we are talking about product stuck in warehouses that cannot be sold,” Jean-Yves Dionne, a spokesman for the Canadian Health Food Association, said in an interview.
A statement issued by the association calls the directive self-serving and contrary to federal government policy.
“It has taken a sledge hammer to a finishing nail,” the group said. “It will create confusion for consumers. It is the wrong thing to do.”
NAPRA is comprised of representatives of the provincial colleges of pharmacy that regulate the profession. It is now up to the individual provinces to implement the statement. The Ontario and Quebec colleges have already done so, with Ontario pressing pharmacists to not buy or order any more of the affected products, and its neighbour pushing for druggists to also remove unlicensed product already on their shelves, Mr. Dionne said.
Pharmacies, as surprised by the directive as anyone, are caught in the middle, said Jeff Poston of the Canadian Pharmacists Association.
“One of the questions that everybody is asking in the pharmacy world is, ‘Why now?’ As far as people can determine, nothing has significantly changed.”
A spokesman for NAPRA was not available for comment.
The controversy revolves around Health Canada’s natural-health products regime, launched in 2004 to vet treatments that had been virtually unregulated before, in a new system some critics said was still too lax. As it ploughed through tens of thousands of applications for licences, the department said manufacturers could continue selling their products, so long as they had at least applied for approval.
The department has issued about 18,000 natural-health licences, while at least 10,000 products are still waiting for certification, industry representatives said. The whole process was supposed to be done by this January.
The natural-food association argues that it makes no sense for the pharmacy regulators to try to block sales of products awaiting licences, when Health Canada itself has said they can be sold pending an approval decision.
The industry is worth an estimated $1.5-billion to $2-billion a year, but many producers are small operations with sales of $1-million to $2-million annually and could be decimated by the directive, Mr. Dionne said. He cited a call he got last week from a manufacturer in Nova Scotia who sells two products — a homeopathic remedy for diabetes-related pain and a vitamin-based pill — that are waiting for approval and could be forced off the shelves.
“They are really panicking out there,” he said.
Some manufacturers could sell their products in health-food stores instead, but others rely exclusively on pharmacies, said Mr. Dionne.
Gerry Harrington of Consumer Health Products Canada, another industry group that represents natural-health producers, said his members strongly support the regulations. NAPRA may be targeting others, though, who are trying to evade any government oversight, he said.
“There is a sub-set of companies out there who have no intention of complying with the regulations, who have taken advantage of the interim approach to essentially ignore the regulations,” Mr. Harrington said. “Some companies have chosen … to lobby politically for an essentially unregulated or minimally regulated industry.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Poston said pharmacists are pressing for the regulators to lessen the disruption by phasing in the policy.
December 18, 2009
By Eric Walsh
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a $155 billion measure that seeks to create jobs and blunt the impact of the worst recession since the 1930s.
By a vote of 217 to 212, the House approved additional spending for “shovel-ready” construction projects and money to avoid layoffs of teachers, police and other public employees.
The Senate is expected to consider the measure early next year.