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How to close America’s confidence gap

February 26, 2009
Christian Science Monitor

Brian Battle comments on the government’s efforts to restore confidence in the U.S. economy. “There’s no confidence that we know what the rules are yet," he said. “It doesn’t help that the administration has spent a lot of time talking about how bad everything is."  Battle said the goal is for markets to start functionally normally again and that still hasn’t happened.

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Treasury promises to help homeowners, but the potential reality remains a mystery

February 11, 2009
The Chicago Tribune

Peter Cook reacts to the latest bank bailout. He said the plan largely appeared to be “warmed-over TARP One," he said.  Supply and demand imbalances in the mortgage market are the central problems that must be addressed, Cook said.

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Critics of mark-to-market accounting renew efforts to get it overturned

February 10, 2009
Medill News Service

Rich Berg discusses the web site Performance Trust launched to educate people on the mark-to-market issues affecting financial institutions. “Many people do not realize that the mark-to-market rules are having a disastrous effect in today’s distressed market because they are discouraging banks from taking on significant amounts of new lending, which is vital to economic recovery," Berg said.  “My fear is we will kill all the banks and then figure we should have made a change," he said. He likened the issue to a home loan where the appraised value of a home falls below the loan value and the homeowner is left to come up with the cash or face foreclosure.  “Lenders don’t want to be forced to come up with cash if the value of the loan or asset declines below cost," Berg said. He added that such rules make sense for investment banks, but for commercial banks it destroys capital and the bank’s ability to lend.  A better solution, Berg said, would be to allow banks to take impairments in the amount they expect to lose on an asset but not the entire asset.

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Bond market calls the Fed’s bluff

February 6, 2009

Brian Battle comments on efforts by the Federal Reserve to keep long-term interest rates down. “The government has to pay for stimulus somehow.  The market is fearful of the new supply," Battle said.  “Whether the Fed will do something or not, there is an implied threat," he said. “But I think another selloff is coming."

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Healthy payoffs lure investors to corporate bonds

February 3, 2009
Associated Press

Brian Battle discusses investing in corporate bonds.  He said investors who want to take the plunge on individual bonds should select companies that seem best positioned for hard times.  He singled out Caterpillar Inc., among others, as a “pretty good credit" despite declining demand for its heavy equipment in a global recession.  Still, he said, there is significant risk in most any individual corporate bond these days.

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