Monday, April 28, 2008

Buffett Expects Troubling Longer Recession

Start planning people! Cut down on your debt and tighten your budgets!

Warren Buffett, the world's richest person, said on Monday the U.S. economy is in a recession that will be more severe than most people expect. Buffett made his comments on CNBC television after his Berkshire Hathaway Inc agreed to invest $6.5 billion in the takeover of chewing gum maker Wm Wrigley Jr Co (WWY.N) by Mars Inc in a $23 billion transaction.

"This is not a field of specialty for me, but my general feeling is that the recession will be longer and deeper than most people think," Buffett said. "This will not be short and shallow. I think consumers are feeling gas and food prices ," he added, "and not feeling they've got a lot of money for other things."

He was not immediately available for further comment. Known for his frugality, the 77yr old Buffett has lived in the same 10 room Omaha, Nebraska, house for a half century, despite being worth an estimated $62 billion. On Wednesday, the US Commerce Department is expected to say how fast the economy grew in the first quarter. Economists on average have projected that gross domestic product grew at an annualized 0.2% rate in the quarter.

Two quarters of declining GDP is a traditional indicator of recession. That last happened in 2001. Economists expect the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday to cut a key lending rate for a seventh time beginning last September.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oil to go higher still?

With oil at a record of $117 a barrel, calls for a demand response and a supply response, but for now there is little to stop prices heading still higher, the deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency said. "We need both a demand response and a supply response," said William Ramsay on arrival in Rome for talks between energy producers and consumers. I certainly hope we'll start to get a demand response ... that's greater efficiencies and all those things we have talked about."

The Paris based IEA, which represents the interests of consumer countries, does not give formal price predictions, but asked whether he saw oil getting even more expensive, Ramsay said: "There's not much to get in the way."

A sustained bull run has been driven by factors including strong demand and chronic underinvestment that has left a very limited margin of error in the event of supply disruption.

"If there were greater (spare) capacity, it would reduce the anxiety, so if something happens in Nigeria, say, it would not make a difference (to the oil market)."

Nigeria's oil output has been disrupted by recurrent attacks and on Friday rebels said they had sabotaged a major pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell, forcing the company to shut in what it described as a small amount of production. Many other oil producing countries have their "own set of issues," Ramsay said, and international oil companies and the IEA have argued they need to allow greater access to their reserves, so oil majors can help to develop them. Emboldened by high oil prices, oil producers, already reluctant to allow the international community in, have tended instead to make terms for foreign operators ever tougher.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Who Let This Guy off the Peanut Farm? Carter likely to meet with Hamas

83 year old former President Jimmy Carter said in remarks to air on Sunday that his upcoming visit to the Middle East would include a meeting in Syria with leaders of the militant group Hamas. "I've not confirmed our itinerary yet for the Syrian visit, but it's likely that I will be meeting with the Hamas leaders," Carter said, according to a transcript of his interview on ABC News' "This Week."

The Bush administration and close ally Israel oppose the meeting, which would take place during Carter's nine day trip to the Middle East that begins on Sunday. US policy has been to isolate Hamas, which seized control of Gaza last June, and to bolster pro Western President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules the West Bank and is in US sponsored talks with the Israelis.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who sought Carter's counsel on his own previous Arab-Israeli peacemaking efforts ahead of a US hosted Middle East conference in Annapolis last November, called Hamas a "terrorist organization" on Friday.

"I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that, if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process," said Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. I think someone should be meeting with Hamas to see what we can do to encourage them to be cooperative."

Carter, who served one term as president from 1977 to 1981, would be one of the most prominent Americans to meet with the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal.

"We'll be meeting with the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, the Saudi Arabians, and with the whole gamut of people who might have to play a crucial role in any future peace agreement that involves the Middle East," Carter said of his trip.

The 83 yr old former president has a long history of being involved in the Middle East. In 1978 he succeeded in negotiating the Camp David Accords that paved the way for peace between Israel and Egypt, but he has increasingly taken positions critical of Israel.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Farmer cutting his belongings in half for ex-wife Literally!

A Serb farmer used a grinding machine to cut in half his farm tools and machines to comply with a court ruling that he must share all his property with his ex-wife, local media reported on Thursday. Branko Zivkov, 76, told Belgrade daily Kurir he had been ready to give his wife Vukadinka her equal share of everything earned during their 45-year marriage, but was furious at being asked to give away half his farming equipment.

Instead, he bought a grinder and cut in two all his tools, including large items such as cattle scales, a harrow and a sowing machine.

"I still haven't decided how to split the cow," he told the newspaper. "She should just say what she wants -- the part with the horns or the part with the tail."