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News Analysis for the Investor on March 15, 2012

Sanctions choking Iran oil production

| BY Catherine McBreen


Sanctions choking Iran oil output

Iran’s oil production has fallen to a 10 year low and could drop to levels last seen during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, according to the Financial Times.  The decline is due to the sanctions over its nuclear program.  The reduction in its output could ultimately lead to political tensions within the country. Additionally, Iran has failed to invest in its oil production processes, and is likely to fall further behind.  Despite Saudi Arabia’s promises to fill in any production gaps, some unscheduled production glitches have reduced global supplies and oil prices are up 20 percent since December.

Obama discusses tapping strategic oil reserves

In a first sign that he intends to do something to fight the high price of oil, President Barack Obama discussed tapping the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday.  According to Reuters, the US has already suggested the release to the International Energy Association but fears European allies may not be supportive. The IEA does not seem supportive of the release. This would be the second release within a year from the reserve. The US tapped the reserve when the Libyan uprising began.

Pace of foreclosures increases after settlement of bank fraud claims

The agreement reached last month between several large banks and the various states attorneys has caused foreclosure rates to spike in many states.  That is because the banks that were forced to sit on various properties within the foreclosure process are now putting those properties on the market, according to the Associated Press.  In those states in which there were court supervised foreclosures, foreclosure rates have increased 2 percent from January but increased 23 percent from a year earlier.  Those states which did not have a court supervised foreclosure practice have actually seen foreclosure rates fall 5 percent.  While repossessed homes fell  last month to 63,834, down 4 percent from January, experts predict that over a million homes will be repossessed this year.  RealtyTrac projects foreclosures to rise 25 percent in 2012.  More than 6 million homeowners were behind on their mortgages at year end 2011 and 25 percent, or 11 million, are underwater, owing more than the value of their home.

World markets mixed due to cool-down in Chinese economy

World markets are mixed today primarily because China announced that it will keep in place curbs on housing prices despite complaints that the economy may worsen, according to the Associated Press.  Both Asian and European markets are mixed.  The Dow closed Wednesday up 16 points at 13,194. The NASDAQ remained above 3,000 closing at 3,040.

Does bond sell-off indicate strengthening economy?

On Tuesday afternoon the Federal Reserve gave a robust commentary on the economy.  According to the Wall Street Journal,  this caused many investors to exit the bond market and perhaps to re-enter the stock market.  Now that experts do not feel that an additional round of quantitative easing will occur, investors are feeling more comfortable with the market stability.  This caused bond market yields to rise to 2.276 percent, the highest level since October 28 but still near historic lows.

Travelers rate discount airlines and luxury hotels best for customer satisfaction

A new JD Powers survey with hundreds of thousands of surveys with consumers rated JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Virgin America at the top of the airline list. But, according to USA Today, travelers also thought highly of the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. InterContinental’s boutique style Hotel Indigo and lower price Drury Inn and Hampton Inn properties also scored well.  To score highly, more than 50 percent of customers would have to indicate they  would return and would recommend the provider to friends.

About the Author

Catherine McBreen

Catherine S. McBreen is President of Millionaire Corner.  McBreen plans and develops content for Millionaire Corner.  Catherine balances editorial content to meet the informational needs of both new and seasoned investors.  She designs special monthly surveys on topical issues affecting the economic environment.

McBreen has a B.S. in speech communications from Northwestern University and a J.D. from DePail University College of Law.  She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association.

Well-known for her expertise in the affluent and retirement arenas, McBreen is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.  She has been quoted widely by the financial media, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Research, Private Asset Management, On Wall Street, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Dow Jones Newswires and Worth.  Cathy has appeared as a guest on CNBC Closing Bell, First Business Morning News, Neal Cavuto at Fox Business News, ABC and CBS radio.

McBreen is co-author with Spectrem President George H. Walper, Jr. of the book "Get Rich, Stay Rich, Pass It On: The Wealth-Accumulation Secrets of America's Richest Families" (Portfolio, January 2008)

Catherine is the mother of four and is involved in many school and community events.