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Mar14-09, 01:01 AM
Astronuc's Avatar
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Stocks Soar, But Dismal Signs Remain
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Falling stock and home prices have wiped out four years of gains in Americans' net worth since the start of 2008, according to new data from the Federal Reserve. Nearly half of those losses occurred over the last three months of the year, the biggest quarterly decline since recordkeeping began in 1952.

The new data underlined just how quickly wealth created during the biggest credit bubble in history has vanished, leaving Americans without the college funds, nest eggs and other reserves they had set aside.
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Some experts said yesterday's news about foreclosure filings, which can range from default notices to bank repossessions, did not bode well.

"Our expectation was that nationally we would see a decline. So the fact that we saw an increase fell between a shock and surprise," said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, . . . .
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As the recession has deepened, consumers are also having a harder time paying off credit cards and auto loans. Commercial developers and businesses are also struggling to pay their debts. More defaults, combined with the credit crunch, are hurting corporate balance sheets.

One of the latest casualties is GE. The manufacturing and services conglomerate lost its top-notch, triple-A credit rating yesterday for the first time since 1956, largely because of troubles at its financial arm. GE Capital, which once accounted for half of GE's profits, is involved in credit card, business, real estate lending and has been hurt by rising defaults in the United States and overseas.
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Last night, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway also had its AAA credit rating cut one notch. Fitch Ratings cited problems and uncertainties facing all financial companies in its decision to cut the rating. Berkshire retains the highest rating from S&P and Moody's.
Retail sales (excluding autos) were up, but manufacturers still have more inventory to dump.