Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earlier this week the shareholders of Citibank rejected the pay packages granted by the board to the top executives. It is a non-binding vote but 55% of the shareholders basically told the people running the bank "we don't think you are worth it". Good for them. Citibank couldn't get the go ahead from the Fed to increase their dividend but they want to pay the head of the bank 15 million dollars. Why? This vote is great on two levels. First it tells the bank the shareholders are not going to be sweet talked into giving away money to executives who don't perform and second it indicates that shareholders are getting more involved in the working of the companies. Both trends are a signal that some good is coming out of the 2008 debacle in the financial sector.

Europe continues to bubble along. This week it is Spain's turn to be put under the microscope. The Spanish economy has close to 25% unemployment, Argentina just seized a significant part of a Spanish oil company's South American holdings, the Spanish banks are under pressure concerning their solvency, and the borrowing cost for the Spanish Government went up at the last auction. It is like a logic test; complete this sentence- Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain ___. The winning answer is Italy. International investors have to be heading for the hills; the hills in this case are either London real estate or the US Government market.

There are indications that the NYC real estate market is showing signs of life. Recent statistics and news articles point to an increase in properties selling. This does not seem to be the trend in the surrounding suburbs where things are sluggish. Maybe the NYC activity is pent-up demand or the benefit of low interest which makes buying cheaper than renting. The unusual part of this scenario is Wall Street did not have a good year in re compensation and a pick up in NYC real estate would seem to be an anomaly.

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