Volatile market: European debt problems (Greece and Spain in particular) continue to dominate the Wall Street narrative. Dow had been down more than 170 points, but it's been paring back those losses.
Euro tumbles: Traders are worried about political turmoil in Greece and uncertainty with Spain's finances. The euro is at its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in over three months. (Reuters)
Want government to bring down gas prices?: Just go to China, where heavily regulated gasoline and diesel prices are being lowered. From the WSJ:
The [government] periodically adjusts retail fuel prices, taking into account both changes in global oil prices and domestic economic factors such as inflation concerns. It last cut them in October, tracking a decline in global crude-oil prices. In February and March, as global prices rebounded, it raised retail prices--signaling that the government was relatively comfortable with the inflation outlook. Under China's oil product pricing system, domestic fuel prices may be adjusted when the moving average of a basket of international crudes changes by more than 4% over 22 working days.
Big delays in refis: Banks are being so careful that it takes an average of more than 70 days to complete a refinancing, up from 45 a year ago. Some lenders have boosted their rates in order to hold down volumes. From the WSJ:
The housing bust wiped away $7 trillion in household equity, leaving many homeowners with too much debt to qualify for new loans. But the mortgage sector's limitations are further undermining the Federal Reserve's effort to boost the economy by holding short-term interest rates near zero. Normally during a downturn, refinancing activity "really gets the economy going, and it isn't happening right now," says Alan Boyce, a bond-market veteran who runs Absalon, a company backed by billionaire financier George Soros that is pushing to change how U.S. mortgages are financed.
Mixed results on revised mortgage plan: Some underwater homeowners are getting lower-interest loans under the government program. But others find it a struggle to qualify and the red tape is formidable. From the LAT:
What's more, critics say, homeowners who get new loans are being stuck with higher rates than necessary, often half a percentage point or more. That's because banks are refinancing only their own borrowers, instead of competing against one another, which would drive rates down. "The banks should charge lower than the market interest rate because the new version of the program means less work and less risk for them. Instead, they are charging more," said Amherst Securities analyst Laurie Goodman, who titled a recent report on the program "And the Winner Is ... the Largest Banks."
Appraisals often wrong: New study finds a wide discrepancy between the appraised value of a property and the eventual sales price. "This study confirms what many of us have thought but heretofore have only known anecdotally: That appraisals are not very accurate," says [the study's co-author, KC Conway]. (NYT)
Bed Bath & Beyond buys Cost Plus: Purchase price for the Oakland-based retail chain is $495 million, or $22 a share. The sluggish economy hasn't impact BB&B all that much, and Cost Plus numbers are picking up. (DealBook)
Questions about KCET content supplier: The company was supposed to provide lots of programming for the station and help offset the loss of PBS, but Eyetronics is behind on its rent and it's downsizing, the LAT is reporting:
Despite Bigle and KCET's assurances that the delays were not unusual in the entertainment business, people familiar with Eyetronics depicted the company as having little of the production punch suggested last year when the station announced that its new partner intended to pump up to $50 million into "original productions, acquisitions and distribution" of programs. Bigle's attorney denied some of the claims, saying on Tuesday that "past and current employees have been fully compensated and the company is unaware of any ongoing disputes or claims" about unpaid workers.