Retailers’ troubles ripple across the nation

In the world of shopping centers, strip malls and the cities that house them, a closed Ann Taylor here or an out-of-business Circuit City there might not matter much.

But the timing and immensity of the current downturn in retail is dire, and not just for the employees who lose jobs, the company shareholders and the shoppers who no longer can buy from their favorite stores. Cities — entire regions, even — that boomed as Americans shopped till they almost dropped for more than a decade are struggling mightily because spending has almost slammed to a stop.

The resulting store closures (150,000 are expected this year), steep declines in sales taxes collected by cities and states and the plethora of empty buildings are wreaking havoc on budgets, wrecking town center plans and ruining dreams for revitalization.

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‘ Worst economic collapse ever’

U.S. Congresswoman Supports Mortgage Squatting

Merrill Lynch says rich turning to gold bars for safety

Merrill Lynch has revealed that some of its richest clients are so alarmed by the state of the financial system and signs of political instability around the world that they are now insisting on the purchase of gold bars, shunning derivatives or “paper” proxies.

Gary Dugan, the chief investment officer for the US bank, said there has been a remarkable change in sentiment. “People are genuinely worried about what the world is going to look like in 2009. It is amazing how many clients want physical gold, not ETFs,” he said, referring to exchange trade funds listed in London, New York, and other bourses.

“They are so worried they want a portable asset in their house. I never thought I would be getting calls from clients saying they want a box of krugerrands,” he said.

Merrill predicted that gold would soon blast through its all time-high of $1,030 an ounce, and would hit $1,150 by June.

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Gold Market Update

The way things look it will soon be impossible – or very difficult and expensive – to obtain physical gold and silver. The first major wave of physical buying has bought up all of the coins and small bar gold and silver available on the market, with the result that if you want any, you must pay a large premium. Right now, the second wave is underway, with astute investors forcing the Comex to deliver, which is having the effect of drawing down their warehouse stocks at a rapid rate.

As the Comex is massively leveraged and trades hundreds of times more gold and silver than it has in its possession, it is clear that immediately their warehouse stocks are completely depleted, there will be a mad scramble to buy physical gold and silver in order to meet contract obligations.

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Milwaukee neighborhoods could print own money

They may be talking funny money, but it’s not funny business.

Residents from the Milwaukee neighborhoods of Riverwest and East Side are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss printing their own money. The idea is that the local cash could be used at neighborhood stores and businesses, thus encouraging local spending. The result, supporters hope, would be a bustling local economy, even as the rest of the nation deals with a recession.

“You have all these people who have local currency, and they’re going to spend it at local stores,” said Sura Faraj, a community organizer who is helping spearhead the plan. “They can’t spend it at the Wal-Mart or the Home Depot, but they can spend it at their local hardware store or their local grocery store.”

Incentives could be used to entice consumers into using the new money. For example, perhaps they could trade $100 U.S. for $110 local, essentially netting them a 10 percent discount at participating stores.

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Obama Vs. Constitution