Wall Street ekes out gain as caution rules before results

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Caution prevailed in the U.S. stock market on Monday, with indexes edging higher as investors kept bets to a minimum in front of earnings.


Q&A: REIT Research Head Bullish on Commercial Real Estate

TIME asks the head of a real estate investment firm to size up the prospects for commercial real estate, identify the best markets and point out the big risks. What surprised us: He’s bullish

Consumer Reports will not recommend Apple iPhone 4

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Consumer Reports said it cannot recommend Apple’s iPhone 4 to buyers after tests confirmed the device’s well-publicized reception glitches.

Don McNay: Citi Field: Baseball’s Symbol of Why You Should Move Your Money

She’s got a ticket to ride and she don’t care. ~ The Beatles

When I saw that my Cincinnati Reds were playing the New York Mets at Citi Field, I laughed. It reminded me of a visit to Enron Field in Houston.

Selling naming rights to fallen corporations can embarrass a whole city.

Then, when I looked into the Citi Field situation, my laughter turned to outrage.

Citigroup is paying $400 million ($20 million per year for 20 years) for the ego boost of having a stadium named after it.

Since Citigroup received billions in bailout money, the American taxpayers are footing the naming rights tab.

I’ve never seen evidence that owning naming rights to a stadium improves a corporation’s bottom line.

The buildings once called PSI Net Stadium, Enron Field and MCI Center all lasted longer than the companies who shelled out millions for their naming rights.

Naming rights are the case of runaway corporate ego. Big companies have shareholder money to throw around and generally have lapdog corporate boards providing “oversight.”

A motivation for corporate sponsorships is for the high-flying executives (and their lapdog directors) to sit in fancy luxury boxes.

It’s bad enough when corporate executives stick it to their stockholders. The stockholders can choose to dump the stock.

In the case of Citigroup, they stuck it to the American taxpayers. We don’t have the option of asking for our money back. Congress blew that chance in 2008.

I’m not planning on hitting a Mets game anytime soon, but if I do, I expect really good tickets.

After all, I’m a corporate sponsor.

I’m not sure what happens if all 300 million of my fellow corporate sponsor wants to sit in luxury boxes at the same time. I watched a visionary named Alan Stein successfully build a privately owned baseball park in Lexington Ky., but generally I don’t have a problem with cities and states financing stadiums.

As ESPN commentator Mike Wilbon pointed out on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday (talking about the LeBron James circus), sports teams are a source of civic pride and identity.

Teams like the Baltimore Colts suddenly become the Indianapolis Colts and teams like the Cleveland Browns become the Baltimore Ravens when they are offered better facilities, tax breaks and local government support.

Citi field is an entirely different example. Its not only the city of New York paying for it. All of America’s taxpayers, many whom will never visit New York in their lives, came up with $400 million of the money for the stadium naming rights. Citigroup would not have had $400 million to throw around unless the American people “lent” it to them.

Every time we see bailout money being spent on corporate ego boosts or bonuses like the kind that Goldman Sachs gave themselves, it kicks the American people in the face.

It reminds us that Wall Street, their lobbyists, and friends in Washington, played us for saps.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Continuing to do business with Citigroup and expecting them to appreciate what America did to bail them out is insanity.

People on Wall Street are never going to “get it.”

There is only one way to stop the insanity.

Move your money.

Arianna Huffington and others at Huffington Post started a movement that is catching on like wildfire.

Getting people to move their money from “too big to fail” banks to banks in their local community.

Community banks lend money to businesses (like mine) on Main Street. I don’t see many of them giving out multimillion dollar bonuses.

Move Your Money is more than an idea. It is now a tax deductible 501(c) foundation raising money to educate financial consumers.

I recently made a contribution to the foundation and encourage others to do the same.

You can make a donation, or learn more about Move Your Money at http://moveyourmoney.info/

I do business with five Kentucky owned community banks. None of them have baseball stadiums named after them.

Houston was able to find a sponsor to replace Enron. A city as big as New York should be able to find a sponsor that is not funded by the American taxpayers.

When you think about moving your money, think about Citi Field. And who is paying for it.

It’s time to send them a message. Move Your Money.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

You can read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at www.mcnay.com

McNay has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

Read more: Howard Kurtz, Kentucky Guardianship Administrators, Community Banks, Bailouts, Citi Field, MCI Center, Cincinnati, donmcnay.com, Baltimore Colts, Ticket to Ride, Balitmore Ravens, Alan Stein, Goldman Sachs, Enron Field, Reliable Sources, Mike Wilbon, Move Your Money Campaign, Houston, American College, Wall Street, Stadium Financing, Lottery Winners, Lexington, McNay Settlement Group, Msfs, moveyourmoney.info, Baseball, Chfc, Enron, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Reds, Move Your Money, Don McNay, Lexington Legends, Congress, New York Mets, New York City, What to Do When You Win the Lottery, Clu, Indianapolis Colts, Cnn, Wall Street Bailouts, Verizon Center, Espn, LeBron James, Vanderbilt University, PSI Net, The Beatles, Million Dollar Round Table, Son of a Son of a Gambler, Eastern Kentucky University, Banks, Arianna Huffington, Personal Finance, Cssc, Huffington Post, Kentucky Community Banks, Too Big to Fail, Citigroup, Mlb, All Star Game, Sports, MLB All Star Game, Business News

HuffPost TV: Ryan Grim Discusses Governors’ Discontent With Washington On MSNBC (VIDEO)

Huffington Post political reporter Ryan Grim went on MSNBC this afternoon to discuss the National Governors Association meeting this past weekend and governors’ discontent with Washington’s inability to provide enough federal aid to states.

Grim explained that 30 of the 50 states have already made their budgets expecting to get a certain amount of money in the form of federal aid, but that congress has been unable to pass an extension of the aid program, leaving the states facing huge deficits.

“It’s a power struggle between the state officials and the federal officials,” Grim said. “The state officials say, ‘Oh, look at Washington, spending out of control, they’re insane, we need to throw all the bums out of Washington,’ and then at the same time they say, ‘Hey, how bout a couple billion to help me plug my gap.'”

WATCH:

Read more: Fmap, Video, Congress, Msnbc, Federal Aid, Washington D.C., Economy, National Governors Association, National Governors Meeting, Governors, Ryan Grim, Politics News

Lynn Parramore: Exclusive Interview: Elizabeth Warren Says Big Banks Must Stop Blocking Reform

Senate Democrats are making the final push on financial reform this week, but will big banks really change the way they do business? Or will we still be pawns in a game rigged in their favor? I caught up with Elizabeth Warren to talk about the need to reform Wall Street culture, the pernicious influence of bank lobbies, and the debt-fueled threat to America’s middle class.

Lynn Parramore: Has the financial crisis changed the culture of Wall Street?

Elizabeth Warren: I would have expected the financial crisis to sweep through Wall Street like a hundred-year flood — wiping out old business practices and changing the ecology profoundly. So far, the financial services industry has seemed to treat the crisis like a little rainfall — inconvenient, but no significant changes needed. The real question moving forward is how the industry will respond to Wall Street reform and growing public anger. Will it react to all the new cops on the beat just by hiring more lobbyists? Will it continue to spend $1.4 million a day to beat back anything that could mean more accountability and oversight? Or will the financial services industry finally begin to rethink its business models, lobbying approach, and attitude toward the public?

LP: Have unregulated financial products slowed our economic recovery?

EW: Let me put it differently: meaningful rules in the consumer credit market can accelerate economic recovery, I really believe that. Rules would increase consumer confidence and, more importantly, weed out all the tricks and traps that sap families of billions of dollars annually. Today, the big banks churn out page after page of incomprehensible fine print to obscure the cost and risks of checking accounts, credit cards, mortgages and other financial products. The result is that consumers can’t make direct product comparisons, markets aren’t competitive, and costs are higher. If the playing field is leveled and the broken market fixed, a lot more money will stay in the pockets of millions of hard-working families. That’s real stimulus — money to families, without increasing our national debt.

LP: Why is marketplace safety so much harder for people to accept than safety in other realms?

EW: Think about it: cars, toys, aspirin, meat, toasters, water — nearly every product sold today has passed basic safety regulations well in advance of being marketed and sold. But consumer credit is a kind of buyer-beware, wild west. That is partly the result of history. Usury laws that existed since Biblical times, through the colonial period and into the 1980s, provided basic consumer protection. Once those laws were quietly undercut, the industry moved to a tricks-and-traps business model. The big banks would promise something for free, like credit cards or checking accounts, or for very low cost, like teaser-rate mortgages, then make their money on the back-end with fees and interest rate escalation. Most people don’t know they have been fooled until it is too late. Last year, for example, families paid a total of $24 billion on overdraft — mostly on “free” checking accounts. People can see exploding toasters, and the newspapers run plenty of headlines about lead in children’s toys. But smaller hits, day after day hitting millions of people, don’t catch the same kind of attention — even though fixing those hits will help make people much more secure over time.

LP: What are the consequences of distrust in the marketplace? How does it affect our social fabric?

EW: For three decades, the once-solid, once-secure middle class has been pulled at, hacked at, and chipped at until its very foundations have started to tremble. Families have done their best to adjust — sending both mom and dad into the workplace, cutting back flexible spending on food, clothing and appliances, and spending down their savings. When they learn that they have been tricked — a $39 fee that they shouldn’t have to pay or an escalating mortgage that will cost them their home — they start to wonder who wrote the rules that allow that to happen. Distrust spreads everywhere — to industry, to politics, to the institutions that were supposed to make us a stronger country. The costs imposed by a banking industry that makes its money tricking people go far beyond dollars.

LP: Have lenders and creditors preyed on our human weaknesses? Do they drive us to be profligate and irresponsible?

EW: Personal responsibility matters. There are no excuses for those who spend money on things they cannot afford. But it’s a whole lot harder to act responsibly when consumer credit contracts are designed to be incomprehensible, when prices are obscure and risks are hidden. I would like to see a world where families can read their credit terms and easily shop for better deals. When we get to that world, it will be a lot fairer for families to be held to every last clause they agree to.

LP: How can consumer trust be restored?

EW:
First, big banks can stop pouring so many resources into blocking meaningful reform. Families have made it clear that they are sick and tired of all the lobbying and that they think enough is enough. From the beginning, I think the Wall Street banks underestimated the furor they would provoke by acting like nothing changed and continuing to lobby just like they did before the bailouts. I also think they underestimated the good faith and trust they could have built by cutting back. Second, we need two-page credit card, mortgage, and overdraft contracts. Until the deals are clear up front, until the fine print is gone and the banks price products so people can see the true costs and risks, consumers won’t trust any lender claims. And I don’t blame them.

LP: What is the most important thing ordinary people can do to protect themselves from abusive financial practices?

EW:
Get out of debt. In a world of stagnant incomes and rising core expenses like mortgage and health care costs, that’s a lot easier said than done. The middle class is under enormous pressure. But families can stop the bleeding by reducing their reliance on debt wherever they can. They can also start fighting back by taking a hard look at whom they do business with and rethinking whether they want tricks-and-traps banks to hold their money. They can also demand that public officials take the side of families over the side of banks.

This post originally appeared at New Deal 2.0.

**Elizabeth Warren will discuss these issues and more in NY on July 16-18 at a special event sponsored by Guild Hall, in collaboration with the Roosevelt Institute. Thought leaders in the arts, the economy, and the media will gather in East Hampton for a can’t-miss symposium featuring Warren, George Soros, Van Jones, plus ND20 contributors Rob Johnson, Jeff Madrick, and Editor Lynn Parramore. RSVP today – seats are limited.

Read more: Elizabeth Warren, The Financial Fix, Financial Reform, Financial Crisis, Financial Regulation, Business News

Scott Brown Vote For Financial Reform Bill Gets Democrats Closer To 60

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts helped move sweeping financial legislation closer to passage Monday, announcing that after some misgivings he will support the regulatory overhaul after all.

Brown joins Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as two crucial Republican votes for the legislation.

Read more: Susan Collins, First Lady Fashion, Charles Grassley, Derivatives, Scott Brown, Financial Reform, Robert Byrd, Joe Manchin, Democrats, Maine, Olympia Snowe, Financial Crisis, Banks, Massachusetts, Tea Party, Wall Street, Republicans, Politics News