Friday, February 28, 2014

WTI Crude Trims Monthly Gain and Moves Closer to Brent

West Texas Intermediate crude fell for a second day, trimming a monthly gain. Brent swung between gains and losses in London.

Futures decreased as much as 0.5 percent in New York. Brent declined to the lowest in two weeks yesterday as gunmen occupied government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region and Russia put fighter planes on alert. WTI's Promo Codes to the European benchmark crude has narrowed this month to the smallest since October as winter storms bolstered U.S. heating-fuel use and stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, fell with the opening of a new pipeline.

"The draws that we have been seeing have been seasonal," said Jonathan Barratt, the chief executive officer of Barratt's Bulletin in Sydney. "Oil has been up at these levels because of weather events. The demand situation is weak."

WTI for April delivery fell as much as 53 cents to $101.87 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and was at $102.06 at 11 a.m. Sydney time. The contract fell 19 cents to $102.40 yesterday. The volume of all futures traded was about 46 percent below the 100-day average. Prices are up 4.7 percent this month.

Brent for April settlement was at $108.89, down 7 cents, on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a $6.83 premium to WTI. It settled yesterday at $6.56, the narrowest since October 4, and ended January at $8.91.

Cushing Stockpiles

Inventories at Cushing, the delivery point for WTI contracts, decreased by 1.08 million barrels to 34.8 million last week, the lowest since October, the Energy Information Administration reported this week. TransCanada Corp. began moving crude in January to the Texas Gulf Coast from the hub via the southern portion of its Keystone XL pipeline.

Distillate inventories, which include heating oil and diesel, expanded by 338,000 barrels last week to 113.1 million barrels, according to the EIA, the Energy Department's statistical arm. That's about 25 percent below the five-year average of 141 million.

Output from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries dropped to a two-year low. Production this month by the 12-members of OPEC fell 11,000 barrels a day to an average 29.877 million from 29.888 million in January, the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts showed. It was the least since June 2011. Last month's total was unrevised.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pratish Narayanan at

Investors Buy Delinquent Mortgages to Get Cheap Properties

<Promo Codep>Real Estate

With home prices rising, big real estate investors have discovered another source of cheap property: bad mortgages. , the second-largest single-family landlord after , Barry Sternlicht's Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust, and are stepping up acquisitions of nonperforming loans, or NPLs, to expand their holdings of homes to operate as rental properties.

Hedge funds, private equity firms, and real estate investment trusts, which have raised more than $20 billion to purchase rental homes, are buying mortgages as banks face new regulations that make it more expensive to hold soured loans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is also auctioning loans to stem losses at the financially troubled Federal Housing Administration.

The shift to buying loans comes after the pace of foreclosures slowed and house prices jumped in Atlanta, Phoenix, and other hard-hit markets where investors have made the most purchases. Average home prices in Phoenix have risen 44 percent since hitting bottom in September 2011, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Atlanta prices are up 37 percent since March 2012. Paying more for homes makes it harder for landlords to make money from rentals. "Our NPL acquisition strategy will continue to give us access to properties and healthy markets nationwide," Altisource Chairman William Erbey said on a Feb. 20 call with investors. The company bought 13,000 delinquent loans last year.

The large-scale loan purchases raise concern among housing advocates that residents may be displaced or transformed into renters of their former houses, according to Kevin Stein, associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a San Francisco-based tenant and consumer advocacy group. "They should be modifying those loans to keep the homeowner in there, but it runs counter to their business model," Stein says. "They shouldn't be in the business of buying distressed loans for the purpose of foreclosing on people."

Douglas Brien, co-chief executive officer of Starwood Waypoint, says his company plans to give delinquent residents a chance to stay put as owners or renters. "Our intent is to approach some of these folks where it just doesn't look like they're going to get caught up on their loans," he says. The company can "offer them the opportunities to stay in their homes and keep their kids in the same school."

Starwood Waypoint and its predecessor companies have paid $220 million for 1,736 nonperforming loans since 2012, according to a January presentation to investors. That's about $127,000 per distressed loan, compared with $140,000 per rental home.

Brien estimates that 30 percent to 50 percent of the NPLs will end up as rentals for the company. In other cases the borrowers will resume paying the loans after a modification, or Starwood Waypoint will sell the homes because the location or quality doesn't match its investment criteria. "We're always going to take the outcome that's most economically beneficial," he says.

About $34.7 billion in nonperforming mortgages were sold last year, up from $13.1 billion in 2012, says William David Tobin, principal of Mission Capital, a real estate loan broker. Altisource CEO Ashish Pandey predicts that more than $40 billion may be sold this year.

Homes acquired through NPLs have often gone years without maintenance as the owners struggled to pay their debts, adding to renovation costs for investors who take them over. Loans on homes subject to foreclosure filings in December were an average 920 days delinquent, up from 255 days late in January 2008, according to data provider Black Knight Financial Services. That makes them too much trouble for investors like Jon Daurio, a co-founder of Kondaur Capital, which started buying delinquent loans in 2007. "The longer the borrower is in a house that's nonperforming, the amount of deferred maintenance just grows and grows and grows," says Daurio, who left Kondaur in 2011. "For me, it's too risky."

Monday, February 24, 2014

NEX Band is a High Tech Pandora Bracelet

We got an unexpected new entry into the world of wearable technology this week at the American International Toy Fair - the charm bracelet has jumped into the digital world. It's called the NEX Band, and it's a brand new way to bring you notifications.

The bracelet has room for five Mod charms, which connect over Bluetooth to your mobile device. See! It's a pandora bracelet, but for geeks. Each charm can be tied to a gaming app, social app, or anything that might give you a notification. When a notification does come in, that charm will light up. An API and an SDK for developers is being released, so you can expect more and more support for Mod charms as time goes on.

The bracelet itself is pretty refined - the charm bases can come in multiple materials, including chrome and gold, so you're definitely not getting a cheap piece of wristwear. The smoked lenses on the charms make the bracelet look like a piece of jewelry, not a high-tech gadget that stands out more than it should. It seems to strike the right balance between fashion and tech - crucial if you want to sell any piece of wearable technology.

We still have a long time to wait for the NEX Band, though - it won't become available until just before the holiday season this year.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Deal of the Day: Amzer Hybrid Case for BlackBerry Bold 9930/9900

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Friday, February 7, 2014

These card companies offer the best fraud protection

56 minutes ago

It's just something we take for granted - the company that gives us a credit card will do everything possible to prevent and detect the fraudulent use of that card. But, it seems, that's not always the case.

A new report from Javelin Strategy and Research finds that financial institutions are doing a much better job than retailers when it comes to credit card security. The researchers looked at policies and procedures in place at 24 of the country's top credit card issuers to prevent and detect fraud, as well as handle a problem when something bad happens.

"Retailers, common targets for data breach crimes, scored the lowest in prevention and among the lowest overall," said Al Pascual, the senior analyst who co-authored the report.

The three retailers reviewed in this study placed the lowest in prevention: Cabela's (29 percent), Target (22 percent) and Nordstrom (18 percent). Pascual said these scores indicate "inattention" to factors that could help lower incidents of fraud.

"To be honest, it seems like security isn't a major priority for retailer-issued cards," he told me. "When you compare that to what we see with general purpose cards, there's a very clear disparity between the two. If you have one of these store-branded cards, you should be a bit more concerned about fraud."

We contacted Cabela's, Target and Nordstrom for their response to the Javelin report.

In a statement to NBC News, Nordstrom said: "We take seriously our responsibility to protect our customers' information and work hard to provide them with personal service that addresses their specific needs and concerns when situations arise. We always pay attention to feedback we receive in this area and constantly look for ways to make improvements where necessary because this is so important to us and our customers."

Nordstrom noted that the Javelin study does not address important back-end systems that are designed to provide security, systems the retailer believes are "incredibly important and oftentimes more effective" in preventing fraud and unauthorized access to customer information.

"Without that as part of the analysis, the report does not give customers a complete picture. That said, we continue to review our processes and systems to ensure that we're doing everything we can to take care of our customers and the trust they have in us," the company said in its statement.

NBC News did not hear back from Cabela's or Target.

And the winners are...
Bank of America was Buy Cheap in class for the seventh consecutive year with an overall score of 70 percent, significantly higher than the average score of 55 percent.

B of A was rated very strong on authentication - verifying that a customer is legitimate and not an imposter. They also have a comprehensive set of alerts that are automatically activated when someone becomes a customer. These include alerts for an unusually large transaction, a transaction in a foreign location or when someone takes out a cash advance against the card.

"That's great," Pascual said. "The customer knows best if something is fraudulent and B of A is not afraid to leverage that relationship to protect the account."

Best in prevention:
Clearly, it's better for the bank and the customer to stop fraud, rather than deal with it afterwards.

USAA earned the top score with a 64 percent, up from 57 percent in 2012. USAA offers two-way alerts that notify the customer in almost real-time of suspicious activity and let the customer respond - to tell the bank if the transaction is legit.

"This is a great feature to help prevent fraudulent transactions from being completed," Pascual said. "And it gives the bank information that will let them make future decisions about your spending pattern and if something might be fraudulent."

Bank of America was a close second in the prevention category, followed by Citi, Navy Federal Credit Union and State Farm tied for fourth.

Best in detection:
Wells Fargo took this category. It's score of 83 percent is well above the industry average of 65 percent. Fifth Third Bank, First National Bank of Omaha and U.S. Bank tied for second place with a score of 80 percent. Nordstrom (77 percent) rounded out the top five.

Best in resolution:
Associated Bank and SunTrust tied for the top spot with scores of 90 percent. Both banks will reverse a fraudulent charge or provide a line of credit within 24 hours of receiving a fraud report. BB&T, Pentagon Federal Credit Union and PNC were tied at 85 percent.

If you have a problem and report it, you expect to get help right away. Don't count on it.

Less than half (42 percent) of the card issuers in the survey respond within 48 hours of fraud report. Javelin believes a delay of more than two days is unacceptable.

Credit card fraud is a massive problem. Javelin estimates that about 7.5 million Americans had their card compromised in 2012. The monetary loss from this fraud reached $8 billion. Remember, we all pay for credit card fraud, even if our card isn't misused, in the form of higher prices and higher bank fees.

A summary of Javelin's Ninth Annual Credit Card Issuers' Identity Safety Scorecard is available online for free.

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stand up paddle, slackline, ioga... Veja os dez esportes que estão bombando entre os famosos neste verão

Confira o que Grazi Massafera, Isis Velverde, Cauã Reymond, Carolina Dieckmann, fernanda lima instagram Souza, Giovanna Ewbank, Bruno Gagliasso e outros estão fazendo para manter a forma e aproveitar a estação.