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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Bank lending in U.S. sees biggest annual decrease since 1940s
U.S. bank lending fell 7.5% last year, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said. The $587 billion drop marked the biggest yearly decline since the 1940s. Most of the decrease can be attributed to cutbacks by the biggest banks, said FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair. The Washington Post (24 Feb.)

U.S. consumer confidence is at lowest level in 10 months
The Conference Board said its consumer-confidence index dropped to 46 this month, compared with a revised 56.5 in January. "More than six months after the recovery started, consumer confidence is still close to a record low," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. "Without a sustained acceleration in consumption growth, this recovery will eventually fade." USA TODAY/The Associated Press (23 Feb.)

Default rate on U.S. commercial mortgages continues to rise
The default rate on commercial mortgages in the U.S. increased from 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 3.8% in the same quarter last year. Real Capital Analytics said the rate could hit 5.4% at the end of 2011. "The level of distress continues to rise irrespective of improving economic trends," said Sam Chandan, global chief economist at Real Capital. Bloomberg (24 Feb.)

SEC is poised to temporarily restrict short sales
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to approve a measure to restrict short sales on shares once they have fallen 10%, sources said. Charles Schwab, General Electric and thousands of people sent the SEC a petition urging the agency to adopt a permanent short-selling restriction. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs, Citadel Investment Group and other hedge funds expressed opposition to such curbs. Bloomberg (23 Feb.)

Analysis: Growing length of retirement fuels budget deficits
Life expectancy in the richest countries is outpacing their official retirement age. On average, people in the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development live the last 19 years of their lives in retirement. "As governments try to tackle huge structural budget deficits, one means of attack is to delay paying state pensions by gently raising the official state-retirement age," according to The Economist. However, Spain's plan to raise its retirement age to 67 sparked large, public protests. The Economist (23 Feb.)

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