Inflation Pressures Are Easing but Rate Cut Forecast Remains Uncertain

The New Year is beginning where the old one ended -- with uncertainty about when – or whether – the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates.

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You’ve probably heard by now that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was “shocked” to discover that the financial markets, left to regulate themselves, don’t.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published details of the new “HOPE for Homeowners” program enacted by Congress several months (and a couple of massive financial industry bail-outs) ago. The program authorizes the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to refinance up to $300 billion in under-water mortgages held by borrowers at risk of losing their homes through foreclosure.

Among all the reports of downward trends – in sales of autos, homes, clothing and everything in between – it is possible to find one growth area: Subprime litigation.

If you needed more proof that the financial problems dominating the news are serious – as if the dizzying stock market declines we’ve been seeing aren’t sufficient to make that point – consider the number of analysts from all corners of the political spectrum who are saying that the $700 billion bail-out plan Congress has approved is just a “first step.” A $700 billion first step?