Lee Fisher

Frustrated voters ready to fire Democrats

Frustrated voters ready to fire Democrats

Frustrated, discouraged and just plain mad, a lot of people who have lost jobs — or know someone who has — now want to see the names of Democrats on pink slips. And that’s jeopardizing the party’s chances in Ohio and all across the country in November’s elections. In this big swing-voting state alone, Democratic […]

Insurance rate hikes: The big rip off

To critics, a 39 percent hike in health insurance for some Californians foretells skyrocketing rates for the rest of us. Not so, says the company, arguing the increase only hits a relatively small number of people and the economy is to blame.

But the rhetoric from both sides distorts the reality.

Another bank fails: 95th this year

Regulators on Friday shut down Atlanta-based Georgian Bank, the 95th U.S. bank to fail this year as loan defaults rise in the worst financial climate in decades.

In coming months, more banks are expected to buckle under the weight of commercial real estate and other loans that go sour. Those failures could imperil the insurance fund for deposits, already at the lowest point in nearly 20 years.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over Georgian Bank, with about $2 billion in assets and $2 billion in deposits as of July 24. First Citizens Bank and Trust Co., based in Columbia, S.C., agreed to assume the assets and deposits of the failed bank. Georgian Bank’s five branches will reopen Monday as offices of First Citizens Bank.

Mortgage applications jump after rate drop

Mortgage applications jumped last week to their highest since late May as interest rates tumbled below 5 percent, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications, which includes both purchase and refinance loans, for the week ended Sept 18 increased 12.8 percent to 668.5, the highest level since the week ended May 22.

While consumers clamored for home refinancing loans, their appetite for applications to buy a home, a tentative early indicator of sales, was also robust. The overall trend bodes well for the hard-hit U.S. housing market, which has been showing signs of stabilization.

IRS extends amnesty program for tax cheats

Tax dodgers who hid assets overseas will get a few extra weeks to apply for an amnesty program that has been flooded with applications ahead of the Wednesday deadline.

The Internal Revenue Service plans to announce Monday that the deadline will be extended until Oct. 15, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

More than 3,000 Americans have applied for the program, which promises no jail time and reduced penalties for tax cheats who come forward, said the official who was not authorized to speak on the record ahead of the public announcement.

The IRS is extending the Wednesday deadline to give a rush of applicants more time to prepare their paperwork, the official said.

Low expectations for new loan program

Dial back the pie-in-the-sky projections.

Last month, the Obama administration launched a program to help homeowners with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. About 850,000 FHA borrowers are behind on their payments or in foreclosure, yet the program will assist just 45,000.

The effort targets homeowners who were ineligible for the government’s other loan modification plans. But the decision not to rescue more FHA homeowners reflects the Obama administration’s need to protect the financial health of the agency, and to set more realistic goals for helping borrowers as its other loan modification programs fall short.

Consumer worries send stocks into nosedive

World stock markets and oil prices slid Monday as worries about the consumer outlook in the U.S. reined in hopes about the pace of any global economic recovery — despite the news that Japan has climbed out of recession.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 76.23 points, or 1.6 percent at 4,637.74 while Germany’s DAX fell 95.78 points, or 1.8 percent, to 5,213.33. The CAC-40 in France was 58.69 points, or 1.7 percent, lower at 3,436.31.

Shanghai’s market led sharp declines across Asia, plummeting nearly 6 percent, and futures markets pointed to big falls later when Wall Street opens. Dow futures were 157 points, or 1.7 percent, at 9,164 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 futures fell 18.5 points, or 1.8 percent, to 987.30.

Concerns about the state of retailing in the U.S. are primarily to blame for the latest bout of jitters in the markets, which have come after a month-long rally has sent many of the world’s main stock markets to new highs for 2009.