Thursday, April 2, 2009

Quick Notes & Good Articles - April 2

After our little technical hiatus, we should be back up and running today. Google (which owns the blog service and the e-mail service) has apparently fixed all of the problems, so the feed and e-mails should be back up now.

In the interim, there have been some interesting news stories such as the repayment of TARP funds by some banks, a G20 meeting, and the mark-to-market issue. Since we have not posted anything substantial since Monday, take some time to go through the notes and the articles.

Financials Continue to Rise on Mark-to-Market Ease - Financial stocks have been rising on an expected decision from the nation's accounting board to ease guidelines and help bolster the bottom line at troubled banks. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is expected to vote Thursday to give auditors more flexibility in valuing illiquid assets that may have a long-term value and strong cash flow -- in other words, they are not distressed assets, but they can't be sold in the markets today.

ECB Cuts Rate by 0.25% to 1.25%; Not Unanimous - At a post-rate decision press conference, European Central Bank (ECB) President Jean-Claude Trichet said the decision to cut rates by a quarter-point to 1.25% wasn't unanimous, it was by "consensus." Further, at the next meeting, non-standard measures akin to quantitative easing will be discussed. He said the main refi rate of 1.25% could go lower, but said the deposit rate of 0.25% probably would not.

ConocoPhillips Refineries Running at 80% Capacity - ConocoPhillips said Thursday its total first-quarter production is expected to be approximately 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day higher than the fourth quarter. The company's exploration and production results will be impacted by losses in the U.S. lower 48 states and Canada mainly because of lower realized natural gas prices. Refining and marketing results for the first quarter are expected to be lower due to a decrease of more than 50% in worldwide marketing margins. The company said its domestic refinery utilization rate is expected to be approximately 80%, "reflecting significant planned turnaround activity in the U.S. Gulf Coast and East Coast regions."

Economic Articles

Four Small Banks Are the First to Pay Back TARP Funds - By Eric Dash - The New York Times - "Four small banks became the first to return millions of dollars of emergency aid, and more may soon follow as the industry tries to escape what it considers the onerous conditions attached to the government’s money. Signature Bank of New York said on Tuesday that it had repaid $120 million to the Treasury Department. Old National Bancorp of Indiana returned $100 million, Iberiabank of Louisiana paid back $90 million, and Bank of Marin Bancorp of Novato, Calif., repaid $28 million. All of the banks paid 5 percent interest on the money they had received."

Treasury's Very Private Asset Fund - By The Wall Street Journal - "Why write the rules to favor only a handful of bidders? - The Obama Administration insists it wants to "partner" with private investors for its new toxic-asset purchase plan. But the more details that emerge, the more it seems Treasury wants to work with only a select few companies. This is no way to conduct a bank clean-up."

Miscellaneous Articles

Reminders From Out of the Blue - By David Pogue - The New York Times - For everyone that is too busy to remember everything... "In a nutshell, Reqall is an effortless personal reminder system. You speed-dial its toll-free number and dictate whatever it is you want to remember."

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Marketwatch

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