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Capital One Deceptive Marketing
Capital One Deceptive Marketing

Capital One (NYSE: COF) was ordered to pay a penalty of up to $210 million by two regulators who charged the bank with employing deceptive marketing tactics to press or mislead consumers into paying for add-on products such as credit monitoring. The penalty orders the bank to reimburse $150 million to 2.5 million affected customers. Regulators also ordered Capital One to stop selling and marketing debt suspension products or debt cancellation products. The action, taken by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is taken in coordination with a newly created consumer watchdog bureau - the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is assessing a $25 million civil penalty against Capital One for 'deceptive marketing tactics used by Capital One's vendors to pressure or mislead consumers into paying for add-on products such as payment protection and credit monitoring'.

U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday that U.S. builders started construction on new homes in June at the fastest pace since fall 2008, though building permits fell. Housing starts rose 6.9% to an annual seasonally adjusted rate of 760,000 last month from an upwardly revised 711,000 in May. Building permits - which give an indication of whether demand for new homes is growing or slowing - to begin new construction dropped 3.7% to an annual rate of 755,000 from 784,000 in May which is perhaps a sign that builders are turning more cautious in response to the latest slowdown in the U.S. economy. New construction of single-family homes, which account for three-quarters of the housing market, climbed 4.7% to an annual rate of 539,000. Compared with a year ago, construction of single-family homes is 21.7% higher. Work on buildings with five or more housing units rose 17% to an annual rate of 213,000. Permits to build additional single-family homes moved slightly higher up 0.6% last month to 493,000, while permits for condominiums and apartments declined 11.4%. In the West new construction increased 36.9%; in the Northeast new construction increased 22.2%; in the South new construction fell 4.2% and in the Midwest new construction fell 7.3%. As the housing industry recovers from its worst slump in modern times, construction has picked up gradually over the past year and a half. Housing during 2012 could contribute to the nation’s annual economic growth for the first time since the recession ended. As the effects of a healthy housing industry are widespread, large amounts of raw materials and finished goods are required to build homes, furnish them after sale as well as the construction trade which employs millions of workers directly or indirectly. However, the economy could act as a brake on housing if growth doesn’t speed up in the near future as consumer confidence is waning and businesses are growing more nervous about a protracted slowdown. The housing industry remains very weak by historical standards, at the current pace of construction.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an interview on CNBC that the economy has slowed down and Congress is blocking needed support. Geithner said the economy needs "a very substantial, well-designed program of support of economic growth" that should be tied to a long-term fiscal reform program. "The main thing that stands in the way of a stronger recovery is that Congress should act" on this package, Geithner said. While Washington is hard to read and mostly "evokes despair" at the moment, there is work underway behind-the-scenes to lay foundation for a long-term fiscal deal, he said. Geithner said Europe was a more severe risk to the U.S. recovery because it is outside control of U.S. policymakers and that European leaders needed to take more action to defuse the debt crisis. Geithner defended his actions regarding manipulation of the Libor interest rate and said that he brought the issue to the attention of U.S. regulators, which led to the case against British bank Barclays (NYSE: BCS) .

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday urged European leaders to move quickly to complete a banking union and calling on the European Central Bank to pull out the stops to combat a crisis that has reached a “new and critical stage.” “Despite major policy actions, financial markets in parts of the region remain under acute stress, raising questions about the viability of the monetary union itself. The adverse links between sovereigns, banks, and the real economy are stronger than ever,” IMF staff wrote in a report that accompanied the Washington-based institution’s annual review of the region’s economy. The IMF’s Executive Board urged leaders to make working on the creation of a banking union with pan-European deposit guarantees, a pan-European program for winding up failed banks and a single regulator a 'first priority'. The IMF said the move would help break what’s been a long-running feedback loop between banks, sovereign debt and the economic performance of the region. IMF directors said the European Central Bank should move to further ease monetary policy and must remain committed to providing liquidity to the region’s financial sector. The Frankfurt-based European Central Bank must continue to play a major role in shoring up the region as leaders move toward tighter integration of the euro zone, per the IMF. The IMF reiterated its call on the central bank to continue purchasing distressed government bonds, an activity that’s been largely dormant since late last year. The IMF called for further interest-rate cuts although European Central Bank has limited room to reduce rates. Such a move would provide a 'strong signaling effect' that would provide assistance to weaker banks by reducing the rate of interest they pay on loans from the central bank through its long-term refinancing operations. IMF staff urged the European Central Bank to consider the launch of a quantitative-easing program. “Buying a representative portfolio of long-term government bonds—e.g., defined equitably across the euro area by GDP weights—would also provide a measure of added stability to stressed sovereign markets,” the IMF staff report said but noted it would also make for even lower yields in 'low-yield' countries, including Germany. The IMF said some of its directors argued that the European Central Bank should clarify the status of its current holdings of sovereign bonds. “A clear commitment to accept equal status with private-sector claims, as in the case of Spain, would enhance the effectiveness of official sector crisis management,” the IMF staff report said.
 

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July 18, 2012


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