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Microsoft Spot New Antivirus Blocking Trojan

In Uncategorized on 22.01.11 at 04:05

A new Trojan has been spotted by Microsoft researchers in China that neutralize antivirus products that rely on cloud-based technology. The cloud technology is a relatively new technology, specially used in security software. Upon running, it targets major Chinese AV vendors and other international security brands by blocking their internet access at the network driver layer.

“Engineering it is not trivial.”

Kurt Baumgartner


Of particular concern here is the sophistication of the so-called “Bohu” Trojan, which blocks the cloud-based antivirus software by means of a Windows Sockets service provider interface (SPI) filter, itself made possible by the installation of an NDIS driver. The malware employs social engineering techniques to trick users into executing it.

The use of cloud-based technologies is becoming more prevalent, as traditional antivirus companies adopt techniques that allow them to detect and neutralize malware infestations in minutes rather than in days.

Speaking to eWeek, Kurt Baumgartner, who is a senior malware researcher at Kaspersky Lab acknowledged that engineering it is “not trivial.”

This effectively gives Bohu the ability to perform deep packet inspection on the network data, which it uses to modify search terms sent to sogou.com, and cookies belong to the top search engines.

For now, Microsoft says it has already contacted the affected vendors about the Bohu threat.

More on this story:
article at eWeek
article at Computer Weekly
article at IT Pro

Related:

Microsoft tool now scans for the Zeus Trojan
Security loopholes surfaces on Mac App Store
Zeus Trojan mules used fake names, passports
Evidence of Zeus Trojan found in majority of Fortune 500 companies

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Cyber Attacks Force EU to Close Emission Trading System

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Natural science, Quantitative Finance, Technology, Trading software, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 22.01.11 at 03:15

A series of cyber-attacks on national registries, where carbon permits are stored, have forced the EU to close its emissions trading system (ETS) for at least a week. The European Commission posted the announcement on its website on Wednesday after Czech Republic-based firm Blackstone Global Ventures said about €6.8 million of carbon allowances appeared to have disappeared. Thefts on electronic registries in Austria, Greece, Poland and Estonia have also been reported over the last days.

“They will over time undermine the credibility of carbon trading as a policy measure.”

Kjersti Ulset


After discovering unauthorized trading on its account on Wednesday, Blackstone contacted the Czech registry OTE AS, which promptly closed all operations and began an investigation. The Paris-based BlueNext SA, operator of the world’s biggest spot exchange for permits, followed suit, as did registries in Poland and Estonia, before the EU finally imposed a region-wide shutdown.

It’s not the first time cyber criminal have been trading stolen permits at the international ETS market, but never has the activity been so comprehensive that the regulators have been forced to close the whole market.

“Incidents over the last weeks have underlined the urgent need for enhanced security measures,” the EU commission says in its announcement of the closure.

The bloc’s ETS system will be down, at least until 26 January.

Full statement

Q&A’s

A Criminals Market

According to The Guardian, European Authorities estimate that up to 90% of the whole market volume is plain fraudulent activities.

Belgian prosecutors highlighted the massive losses faced by EU governments from VAT fraud today after they charged three Britons and a Dutchman with money-laundering following an investigation into a multimillion-pound scam involving carbon emissions permits.

The three Britons, who were arrested last month in Belgium, were accused of failing to pay VAT worth €3m (£2.7m) on a series of carbon credit transactions.

European authorities believe the EU has lost at least €5bn to carbon-trading VAT fraud in the last 18 months.

Last month, the European police agency Europol reported that the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme had been victim of fraudulent trading activities over the past 18 months, worth €5 billion for several national tax revenues.

Europol, the EU’s law-­enforcement operation, fears the fraud will be used in other areas, especially gas and electricity trading markets, after criminals found VAT fraud was one of the most lucrative financial frauds.

The Most Lucrative Financial Fraud

Wednesday’s announcement and similar cyber-attacks have also damaged the EU initiative, together with reports of tax fraud and the recycling of used credits, the EUobserver.com reports.

“They will over time undermine the credibility of carbon trading as a policy measure,” says Kjersti Ulset, manager at Point Carbon, a company that reports on Europe’s emission trading, carried out in a network of registries across the union.

Despite its pioneering position, Europe’s ETS system has attracted criticism over its six years of operation, with some businesses saying it threatens the bloc’s competitiveness, while NGOs argue emission thresholds have been set too high.

By placing a price on carbon, Europe’s trading system is designed to lower company emissions and therefore protect the environment from global warming. Corporations received emission permits for free under the first phase (2005-2007) of the scheme. Some, however, are forced to pay for a portion of their permits.

The European emission trading system is the world’s largest, as the US plans for a similar cap-and-trade scheme was blocked by the US Senate last year.

Carbon permits are, however, traded as ordinary securities at the Chicago Carbon Exchange.

Brussels wants to see energy companies buy all their permits with their own money from 2013 and onwards, with other heavy industries gradually phased in by 2020.

China experts suggest pilot ETS projects could appear in Beijing’s next five-year plan, set to be approved in March.

Here at The Swapper we have been skeptical to the ETS all along.

It’s an artificial market, created on basis of nice thoughts, without a real supply/demand situation and is regulated in a way the is more similar to a pharmacy than a financial market.

But what is really worrisome, is the sharp increase in this kind of activity.

Just wait till you see the Chicago Board Option Exchange gets hacked!

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Internet Nuke Bomb Ready To Blow (Update)

In Financial Engeneering, Financial Markets, Health and Environment, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Learning, National Economic Politics, Quantitative Finance, Technology, Trading software, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 16.01.11 at 20:29

The Swapper have been warning about this since last summer when the mysterious Stuxnet worm was discovered at several critical energy and water supply facilities around the world. However, research by Symantec have later reveled that 60% of the infections are found inside Iranian borders. The threat from cyber space has risen to the top of the list over potential global risks in 2011, alongside pandemic diseases and terrorism. The internet, once seen as the solution to all of mans problems, have instead become one of the most severe threats to all of us.

“The primary involvement of states in cyber security, as both protagonists and principal targets, fundamentally changes the nature of the risk.”

Eurasia Group


By the end of 2010 McAfee Security counted 60.000 new pieces of malicious software being released on the internet every day, the hacker attacks on Java platforms (used in practically every security system, including online banks and the Pentagon) rose by 1.200% last year, and for the first time ever the value of theft of digital assets exceeded the theft of physical assets. And for Stuxnet; that’s only the beginning.

More than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are trying to break into US networks, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn wrote in the September/October issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Some already have the capacity to disrupt U.S. information infrastructure, he says.

The US government’s main code-making and code-cracking agency now works on the assumption that foes may have pierced even the most sensitive national security computer networks under its guard, Reuters reports.

“There’s no such thing as ‘secure’ any more,” Debora Plunkett of the National Security Agency said last month, amid US anger and embarrassment over disclosure of sensitive diplomatic cables by the web site WikiLeaks.

“The most sophisticated adversaries are going to go unnoticed on our networks,” she said.

Plunkett heads the NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate, which is responsible for protecting national security information and networks from the foxhole to the White House.

“We have to build our systems on the assumption that adversaries will get in,” she told a cyber security forum sponsored by the Atlantic and Government Executive media organizations.

The United States can’t put its trust “in different components of the system that might have already been violated,” Plunkett added in a rare public airing of NSA’s view on the issue.

“We have to, again, assume that all the components of our system are not safe, and make sure we’re adjusting accordingly.”

The NSA must constantly fine tune its approach, she said, adding that there was no such thing as a “static state of security.”


And the US is not the only nation struggling to keep its sensitive data safe.

According to Iain Lobban, head of GCHQ, the UK’s core infrastructure is under constant attack. He says thousands of targeted emails are hitting the systems every month, planting worms that cause “significant disruptions.”

Mr. Lobban’s claims are supported in a national security report, naming cyber attacks as a top threat to the UK, alongside pandemic diseases and terrorism, according to the PC Pro Magazine.

A Global Threat

“Cyberspace is contested every day, every hour, every minute and every second,” the British security expert says.

The international risk analysis company Eurasia Group put cyber security at number 3 amongst the top 10 risks of 2011.

“For the past decade, increasingly technologically capable hackers and organized crime organizations have elevated cyber security as a business risk, but not as a political risk. The centralization of data networks, both in energy distribution (the move to the smart grid) and information technology more broadly (the shift to cloud computing) are now metastasizing the cyber risk, and governments are becoming more directly and actively involved in playing both offense and defense in cyberspace. The primary involvement of states in cyber security, as both protagonists and principal targets, fundamentally changes the nature of the risk. The new roles of governments and their antagonists bring geopolitics and cyber security together in three different ways,” Eurasia writes.

(Link to full report below).

Java Systems Under Heavy Fire

One of the main components in practically every security system today is the Java platform, produced by Oracle.

So it’s no wonder that attacks on the Java system increased by more than thousand percent in 2010.

“The number of attacks against flaws in Java has jumped by 1.000% – even outstripping attacks against vulnerabilities in Adobe PDF’s,” Microsoft says.

The attacks against Java code – not the Java script – rose from 500.000 at the beginning of last year to about 6 million in the last quarter of 2010.

Even if Oracle have manged to patch the vulnerabilities in Java, the have the same problem as Adobe – people forget to update their software.

And on top of that; Java is a piece of software that’s used in almost everything, it runs in the background, making more visible components work, PC Pro Magazine points out.

“How do you know if you have Java installed, or if it is running?” researcher at Microsoft Malware Protection, Holly Stewart rightfully asks.

(If you want to know more about Java, click the link below.)

1 in 3 Companies Exposed To Data Theft

According to the latest issue of Kroll Annual Global Fraud Report, suggest that the theft of digital assets has overtaken that of physical stock for the first time ever in 2010.

A Survey, conducted in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, indicates that the numbers of companies reporting theft of information has risen sharply – from 18% to 27,3% – in 2010.

“There’s a growing awareness among thieves of the intrinsic value of intellectual property,” Kroll vice president, Robert Brenner explains.

The survey also suggest that 88% of the  participating companies had been victim of some kind of fraud over the past year, nearly half of them are now fearful of expanding globally because of the cyber threat.

The experts emphasize that the numbers probably not are 100% accurate.

However, the message is pretty clear.

(Download the report below)

The Most Scary Thing

I guess most of you have heard about the Stuxnet worm/virus/malware in the news by now, and are familiar with the speculations that the extremely sophisticated malware might be some kind of cyber weapon, developed by government related scientists somewhere.

I sounds like a plot in James Bond movie – but the truth might be even more vicious.

Davey Winder

According to experts is not unlikely to be a prototype of the first ever cyber-weapon-of-mass-destruction.

Davey Winder, award-winning journalist, business consultant and security expert, explains:

“So what do we know about Stuxnet and the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems?  Well, we know that Stuxnet is designed to be disseminated via USB sticks, and that it was developed to exploit specific zero-day vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system. To expand on that a little, Stuxnet actually exploits no fewer than four zero-day Windows vulnerabilities, a statement that alone should set the hair on the back of any security analyst’s neck prickling. Zero-day vulnerabilities are extremely valuable to the shady world of both hackers – where a zero-day is a kudos-generating device – and to criminals where zero-day equals pay-day. It’s relatively rare to see a single exploit being used in a piece of malware, and totally unheard of to see four expended in such a way.”

“Ask yourself, why would anyone waste three highly valuable zero-day exploits in a single piece of code when one would most likely do the job? Security experts recognize that this isn’t the modus operandi of the average hacker, nor the average criminal,” Winder writes in a recent article.

Personally, I believe that Stuxnet 2.0 is already out there – it just hasn’t been discovered yet.

The Internet Nuke Bomb

According to trend analyst, Gerald Celente, CEO and founder of Trends Research Institute, will cyber wars cause stir and come to fore in 2011.

And. as Eurasia, he is concerned about the government’s involvement.

.

Here are some of the other highlights in Mr. Celente’s predictions for the year to come:

  • Every citizen in 2011 will realize that we are in the “greatest depression”
  • In 2011, the game’s gonna run out
  • Digital money, not worth the paper it’s not printed on
  • The youth of the world has mountains of debt to climb, and no way to get to the top
  • The greatest fear that governments have is freedom of speech
  • Your growth industries are the gangs
  • Crackdown on crime will lead to crackdown on liberties
  • Drones flying over your city looking in windows
  • The more government loses control, the harder they crack down

You may not take all of Gerald Celente’s forecasts equally serious, but many of the situations he describes is. in fact, common human behavior, observed in times of crisis since the collapse of the Roman empire thousands of years ago and up to our time.

At the latest count by McAfee Security Lab, about 60.000 pieces of malicious software is released on the internet every day.

And here’s how the last six months of 2010 looked like from the security software producer Kaspersky‘s point of view:

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Perhaps it’s time to upgrade?

 

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Local Clothing Manufacturer Hires The Rolling Stones

In Financial Markets, International Econnomic Politics, Technology, Uncategorized on 13.01.11 at 23:07

The Norwegian Oslo.based clothing manufacturer, Dressmann, has signed a contract with legendary rock band The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger & Co will be promoting the manufacturers clothes as the company aim to penetrate the global markets and become a world leading provider of suits and shirts for business people.

“Rolling Stones will also make a collection that will be sold by us, we have purchased the rights to six new Rolling Stones songs and we want to use the band in various promotional campaigns.”

Knut Vidar Nilsen


It must be like a manufacturers dream to have some of the most famous artists with one of the worlds most recognized logo to promote their clothes. The Dressmann company will not disclose how much the cost of the deal, but says the initiative originally came from the Stones’ record company, Universal.

According to the Norwegian financial newspaper, Finansavisen, will the two owners of Dressmann have to come up with a double digit number of million NOK to gain exclusive rights to use the Rolling Stones brand together with their own.

The partnership with the legendary rock band is a part of the clothing manufacturers strategy to become one of the worlds leading producers of men’s clothes.

Petter and Marius Varner

The two brothers, Petter Varner and Marius Varner, have already spent several hundred million NOK to redesign the company, with colors matching the famous Rolling Stones tongue, and set up 400 new Dressmann shops

At the moment the Varner group have a total of 1100 outlets all over Scandinavia and in the Baltic countries.

Now it’s time for the “big bang.”

Last week the Varner-brothers hired two airplanes and invited 600 employees to a kick-of event in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Last night the event was completed with a private concert with The Rolling Stones.

The Golden Connection

The foundation for the cooperation is said to be that both parties are targeting the exact same market segment – financially healthy men between the age of 45 and 65.

This has been The Stones’ strategy since the mid 80’s, and a major factor behind their success today. This is the people who can afford to replace their old collections of vinyl with new CD’s and DVD’s, and are able (and willing) to pay $200 for a concert ticket.

Surveys also show that the bands popularity in this particular market segment goes straight across all social and cultural barriers. Only a handful of other artists have managed to do the same.

And the bands logo – the tongue – is one of the most recognized brands in the world, alongside McDonalds and CocaCola.

Besides having the same customers, there is also another notable similarity; both the Rolling Stones Incorporated and the Dressmann company was founded in 1962.

The manufacturer, today known as Dressmann and Varner group, was established by Frank Varner at a single shop on Oslo’s east side. His slogan was “Good Quality at a Good Prize.”

That turned out the be the key to success for the company who specializes in  making clothes for mature men; suits, coats, shirts and neckties.

Dressmann is now the leading provider of business suits and men’s accessories in the Nordic countries.

Today the company is run by his two sons, Petter and Marius, who have decided to take the business to a whole new level.

Adding Exclusivity

By teaming up with The Rolling Stones, Peter and Marius Varer are adding to the company the only thing they’ve never had; exclusivity.

Mick Jagger and Keith RichardsThe Dressmann clothes have always been regarded as “every-men-clothes,” without a strong brand to promote.

Included in the deal with the famous rock-stars is an exclusive Rolling Stones collection of men’s clothes, the exclusive rights to commercial use six new songs, production of exclusive TV commercials featuring The Rolling Stones and sale of a new collectors CD – only available through the Dressmann shops in Norway.

Dressmann and The Rolling Stones have been negotiating for a year and a half, according to Knut Vidar Nilsen at the marketing firm Sprint.

He says the deal is a mutual cooperation to promote both music and clothes in a new way.

“Going forward we will look at how we might develop the cooperation with the Rolling Stones even further,” Nilsen says.

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Bailing Out Ireland – The Inside Story

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, National Economic Politics, Quantitative Finance, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 19.11.10 at 15:54

A financial aid plan to help Ireland cope with its battered banks will be unveiled next week, EU sources says on Friday, but experts warns that a rescue may not be enough to prevent contagion in the single currency bloc. Still, the Irish government is hesitating.

“As long as the fundamentals don’t improve, the pressure will continue on other countries too.”

Daniel Gros


The euro rose and the risk premium investors demand to buy Irish and other peripheral euro zone debt – instead of benchmark German bonds – narrowed Friday as a sign of optimism that an aid deal for Dublin will be sealed soon.

But a poll of participants at a high-level banking congress in Frankfurt showed that nearly three-quarters believed the crisis that has shaken the euro zone for a full year would rage on even after an Irish rescue and ensnare other financially weak countries such as Portugal. Reuters reports.

“As long as the fundamentals don’t improve, the pressure will continue on other countries too,” Daniel Gros, heads of the Center of European Policy Studies, says in an interview with Reuters Insider TV.

“The problem is that no problems are currently being solved. Many believe that the euro zone is just moving from one crisis to the next.”

Ireland’s central bank chief has acknowledged that the country needs a loan running into the tens of billions of euros to shore up an extremely fragile banking sector that has grown dependent on ECB funds.

Time Is NOT On Your Side

Reflecting concerns among other euro zone periphery countries that Ireland’s financial troubles could spread, Greece’s finance minister, George Papaconstantinou. is  pushing Dublin to move fast.

“We are now at a point where decisions have to be taken,” he told bankers at a congress in Frankfurt. “Time is of the essence.”

Sources tell Reuters that Ireland may need assistance of between 45 billion and 90 billion euros, depending on whether it needs help only for its banks or for public debt as well.

So why is the Irish government dragging its feet? Is it so embarrassed or fearful of risking sovereign control?

Or – is Ireland in fact in a position to reject an aid package from the EU or is it simply buying time?

Al Jazeera have just released this report, talking to Jim Rogers, among others:

 

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Fitch Comments On Irish Crisis

“As previously stated, Fitch Ratings says that its current Ireland sovereign rating of ‘A+’ with a Negative Outlook is premised on the Irish government’s commitment to fiscal consolidation, its strong liquidity position, improving external accounts and the measures it had taken to restructure the Irish banking system,” the agency writes in a statement.

Adding: “However, it is now evident that the actions taken in September have not succeeded in restoring confidence in the banking sector. Despite substantial injections of public capital into Irish banks and the extension of the issuance window for bank guarantees, Irish banks have been struggling to secure market funding and rollover existing debt, rendering them almost wholly reliant on ECB and Central Bank of Ireland liquidity support – some EUR130 billion and EUR35 billion respectively according to the latest available figures.”

While losses from commercial real estate lending appear to have been fully recognised with the transfer of related assets to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and additional capital injections into Irish banks announced on the 30 September, there is considerable uncertainty over the potential for further bank losses on other assets, including from residential mortgage lending, Fitch points out.

Official estimates suggest around 10% of residential mortgages are either in arrears or have rescheduled and continue to rise, though more positively, repossession rates remain relatively low.

To underpin continuing financial support for the banking sector and further measures to restore confidence, the Irish government is expected to agree an external financial support package with the EU and IMF in the near future.

“Fitch will review Ireland’s sovereign ratings in the light of any package agreed with the IMF and EU. The outcome of such a review will be influenced, amongst other factors, by the financial terms of any assistance provided and their fiscal implications; the agreed policy programme; and the likelihood that it would allow Irish banks and in particular the government to regain access to market funding at an affordable cost,” David Riley, Fitch’s Group Managing Director, writes.

 

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Fitch Place The Entire US Mortgage Industry Under Negative Outlook

In Financial Markets, Health and Environment, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Quantitative Finance, Uncategorized on 04.11.10 at 20:05

Fitch Ratings has Thursday assigned a negative outlook for the entire US Residential Mortgage Servicer ratings sector on increased concerns surrounding alleged procedural defects in the judicial foreclosure process. The industry-wide issue will cause all servicers to be under increased scrutiny from a wide range of state and federal regulators, state attorneys general, and GSE‘s. All servicers will be affected, even those fully in compliance with all foreclosure rules and regulations.

Risks to servicers include cost to research and remediate any errors, additional fees and resources, potential penalties and reputational risk.”

Diane Pendley


This is due to the increased amount of time and manpower it will take to properly address the much higher level of oversight and inquiries that are received, as well as the anticipated additional court delays. ‘Risks to servicers include cost to research and remediate any errors, additional fees and resources, potential penalties and reputational risk,’ said Diane Pendley, Managing Director and head of U.S. RMBS Operational Risk for Fitch.

This industry-wide issue will cause all servicers to be under increased scrutiny from a wide range of state and federal regulators, state attorneys general, and GSE’s. All servicers will be

Fitch’s Rating Outlooks indicate the likely direction of any rating change over a one- to two-year period and may be Positive, Negative, Stable or, occasionally, Evolving.

Fitch has received responses to its recent survey from all of its rated servicers regarding the servicers’ specific internal procedures used to verify and execute foreclosure affidavits.

All servicers have indicated that they are taking this matter seriously and have reviewed or are in the process of reviewing their internal procedures used to verify and execute foreclosure affidavits.

Approximately one-third of Fitch’s rated servicers have completed their reviews of foreclosure processes and the accuracy of their foreclosure affidavits. These servicers do not believe they will need to take any corrective action or make any changes to their current processes at this time.

Some servicers have estimated that they will be able to complete their review within the next several weeks, while others are still unable to give a specific estimate of how long it may take to complete their reviews.

However, ‘all servicers appear to be working towards quantifying and defining their position on foreclosures,’ said Pendley. Therefore, Fitch expects all servicers will have substantially completed their internal reviews by the end of the fourth quarter.

Based on the research that the servicers have completed to date on these issues, all servicers generally maintain the factual accuracy of their affidavits.

However, some have found their procedures for reviewing, signing and notarizing foreclosure documents may require changes and corrective actions. Some servicers have announced publicly that they have halted certain foreclosure and liquidation actions until their reviews are completed.

Many servicers have also stated that they will be resuming the foreclosure and liquidation actions in identified jurisdictions as they complete their reviews and determine that their processes are adequate and any needed corrective actions have been taken.

Fitch has requested its rated servicers to provide estimates on the volumes and timeframes for submitting corrected affidavits when it is found to be necessary and as this information becomes available. However, the servicer’s ability to resolve each corrective action at the local court level will create a wide variety of remedial steps and associated timeframes. ‘Final resolution of the foreclosure affidavit concerns and the multiple resulting investigations, along with assigned ownership rights prior to initiating foreclosure actions, may not occur until well into 2011 and possibly beyond,’ said Pendley.

Fitch has discussed with its rated servicers their ability to track and segregate the additional costs associated with taking any corrective actions.

If corrective actions are needed because of a servicer error, any increased costs should be borne by the servicers and not passed through to the trusts.

These increased costs may include legal costs to correct and file new or amended foreclosure documents and the increased carrying costs for the extended foreclosure and liquidation timelines.

Fitch may place an individual servicer’s ratings on Rating Watch Negative and/or downgrade the ratings if the servicer does not diligently and timely review its processes and take immediate corrective action to remediate any foreclosure action or documentation failures.

Fitch may take similar actions on a servicer’s ratings if the impact of the additional costs that must be borne by the servicer significantly affects its financial condition. Until those conclusions are reached, the Negative Outlook on the sector impacts all U.S. RMBS servicers.

An increase in loss severities on liquidated loans from expected trend lines or any downgrades to servicer ratings may result in negative rating actions on related RMBS classes.

As a direct by-product of the recent foreclosure issues, Fitch currently expects any negative rating actions on RMBS tranches to be limited largely to non-investment grade classes and tranches that currently have a Negative Rating Outlook. Additionally, Fitch does not envision RMBS downgrades to exceed a single rating category in most cases.

(Source: Credit Suisse)

Here’s a copy of the full report: Rating U.S. Residential Mortgage Servicers

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New All-Time-High For Irish CDS Spreads

In Health and Environment, High Frequency Trading, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, National Economic Politics, Philosophy, Quantitative Finance, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 03.11.10 at 02:05

The spreads on Irish CDS reached another all-time-high at 530 basis points, Tuesday, as the nation’s governments problems keep mounting. Allied Irish Bank (AIB) announce that it has failed to sell its UK operations, meaning that the government’s preference shares could be converted into ordinary shares. Additionally, the credit market is worried about the recent announced restructuring mechanism in the EU.

“As usual, the core euro zone countries drove the expansion but the dichotomy between core and peripheral countries was less distinct.”

Gavan Nolan


European credit markets lagged their equity counterparts for most of the day but managed a recovery in the afternoon. Investors are now focused on tomorrow’s FOMC announcement and the – near certainty – of additional quantitative easing.

The expectation of monetary loosening by the FED has been the main driver of spread compression in recent weeks.

The markets recall the strong performance of risky assets after the FED’s initial programme of “unconventional” measures. Fundamentals were often disregarded during the rally of 2009; the flood of central bank liquidity deterred the bearish.

The positive direction of recent leading indicators hasn’t changed the consensus view that QE is inevitable; persistently high unemployment is the FED’s main concern.

Yesterday the ISM manufacturing survey came in well ahead of expectations, as did the Markit PMIs for China, India and the UK.

Today’s Markit Euro zone PMI continued the trend, the 54.6 October reading well up on the 54.1 flash estimate, Markit Financial Information reports.

“As usual, the core euro zone countries drove the expansion but the dichotomy between core and peripheral countries was less distinct,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan at Markit Credit Research comments.

Spain was back above the 50 neutral mark and even Ireland was expanding again. However, the performance of Ireland’s sovereign spreads didn’t reflect this good news.

The country’s spreads hit a new record wide level of 530bp today as the problems for the government piled up.

The negative sentiment created by a weekend article in the Irish Independent was compounded today by two unrelated pieces of news, according to Markit.

Allied Irish Bank (AIB) announced that it had failed to sell its UK operations, meaning that the government’s preference shares could be converted into ordinary shares.

“Along with a proposed rights issue, this could take the government’s share to 92% if asset sales aren’t achieved,” Gavan Nolan notes.

To make matters worse for the government, one of its Fianna Fail TDs announced he was resigning his seat. This leaves Brian Cowen‘s administration with a very slim majority – a delicate situation given the upcoming budget vote.

“And all of this in a sovereign market uneasy about the EU restructuring mechanism announced last week,” Nolan writes.

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe was over 160bp earlier in the day before recovering in the afternoon.

  • Markit iTraxx Europe 97bp (-1), Markit iTraxx Crossover 448bp (-8.5)
  • Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe 157.5bp (0)
  • Markit iTraxx Senior Financials 125.5bp (-0.5)
  • Markit CDX IG 92.5bp (-2)
  • Sovereigns – Greece 845bp (+15), Spain 225bp (0), Portugal 402bp (+8), Italy 179bp (+2), Ireland 520bp (+22), Belgium 123bp (+2)

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Jon Stewart’s Crusade To Restore Sanity

In Health and Environment, International Econnomic Politics, Law & Regulations, Learning, National Economic Politics, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Views, commentaries and opinions on 28.10.10 at 21:50

Comedian Jon Stewart – who yesterday was announced as the most influential man of 2010 – is now crusading to restore sanity in the US. The so-called “Rally to Restore Sanity” is scheduled to take place on the National Mall in Washington DC on Saturday. Stewart is expecting more than 100.000 americans to participate at his rally.

“What does the journalists of the 21st century have to know about listening to the crowd? And how can he or she break through the information overload to reach the public?”

Paley Center for Media


Jon Stewart is seeking to reintroduce the concept of playing nice with his upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity.   Rather than the name-calling and anger that seems to increase with every political season, Stewart is asking everyone to take it down a notch with a meeting of opposing views coming together in “respectful disagreement”. Basically it’s the reintroduction of playground rules – always play nice, no name-calling, no yelling, and when it’s all done shake hands and go home on friendly terms.

The Rally, which will take place on October 30 in Washington DC, is calling for “the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler,” to come together and discuss the issues that truly impact our lives (minus the political discord).

“The only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler.

Also a satellite rally also will take place in Los Angeles.

However,  the details on the event are limited, Associated Press and  Matt Friedman reports:

More influential Than Obama

On Wednesday, Mr. Stewart was announced as the most influential man of 2010.

The award is based on a poll conducted by AskMen.com with half a million readers voting, along with the staff of the magazine.

The host of Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” rise to the top of the list this year, amongst 49 other prominent men from politics, sports, entertainment, technology and philanthropy.

On the following placed on the most-influential-list are;  Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Steve Jobs and artist Kanye West, according to Reuters.

“The “Daily Show” is our youths’ most trusted source of information and its host the most trusted man in America,” AskMen.com says in a statement.

When it comes to the US President, Mr. Barack Obama only reach place number 21 on the list.

The President is said to be guest at the “Daily Show” tonight. Thursday.

Other notables included James Franco (No. 7), Jay-Z (No. 13), George Clooney (No. 18), designer-turned-director Tom Ford (No. 23), Eminem (No. 24), Ben Affleck (No. 25), Zach Galifianakis (No. 29), Old Spice guy Isaiah Mustafa (No. 30), Justin Timberlake (No. 33), Hugh Jackman (No. 36), Christopher Nolan (No. 40), Leonardo DiCaprio (No. 43), former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater (No. 48) and comedian Russell Brand (No. 49).

“These are the men history will remember as having defined 2010,” according to AskMen.

Good For Democracy?

Stewart’s fellow Comedy Central late-night host, Stephen Colbert, came in at number 11.

Stewart and Colbert was named as the “real winners” of last years presidential election in the US, after their intensive coverage of the candidate’s campaigns.

Several surveys confirm that the majority of young Americans gets their news and general information, mainly, from the “Daily Show”.

Gone are the days when the Brahmins of the news industry dictate what the audience should know.

This was the topic of a debate at ForaTV earlier this year.

“The loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard.”

Ira Glass with the National Public Radio (NPR) argues that the program, while good satire, is a poor substitute for actual, in-depth news coverage.

Journalists Rachel Davis Mersey and Ted Anthony defends the “Daily Show”.

Rachel Davis Mersey is an assistant professor of journalism at the Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Ted Anthony is Assistant Managing Editor for The Associated Press.

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Please, Give This Man An Award!