With online technology, buying and selling options abound

The last time Yasmin and Adil Degani bought a home, they took the traditional route. They went with a commission-based real estate brokerage to show them homes and guide them through the homebuying process.

This time around, in an effort to save money and time, they decided to try an emerging path. The Odenton couple went with Redfin, a technology-powered brokerage that employs salaried agents and encourages buyers to use online profiles of homes to determine what properties to tour.

During their first home search several years ago, the Deganis said, they were limited in the number of homes they could see. Many of their tours, they said, were wasted on properties that could have been eliminated after a review of information about the home online.

I think if we had seen them online, we could have ruled out half of them, said Yasmin Degani, as she and her husband, with Redfin agent Lynn Ikle, assessed the kitchen of a home in Gambrills. They used a prepared checklist to record notes about the appliances and room colors while their 21-month-old son, Imraan, toddled by their feet.

The Internet is now an integral part of the home market. The National Association of Realtors says nine of every 10 homebuyers last year searched online for homes, up from seven in 10 a decade earlier. Because of the increasing role of the Web in buying and selling houses, the ways for buyers and sellers to enter the market have never been greater.

The Deganis first heard about Redfin from a relative who used the company when he bought a home several years ago. He told them Redfin would refund a percentage of the homes purchase price when a deal is reached, Yasmin Degani said. Traditionally, a seller pays about 6 percent of a homes sales price in commissions 3 percent to the listing agent and 3 percent to the buyers agent.

I think I even said, Whats the catch? she said, recounting her interaction with an uncle.

She followed up on the lead, and it turned out that what he told her was true: Redfin takes a smaller-than-normal buyers agent commission and sends the remainder the buyers way. Sellers using Redfin also see a savings. Instead of the normal 3 percent commission charged by most listing agents, Redfin charges 1.5 percent.

Were able to work more efficiently and use technology, said Taylor Connolly, Redfins Baltimore market manager, explaining the rationale behind the lower fees. Its a misconception that were not a full-service brokerage.

To keep costs down, the company only has one office, located in Burtonsville, to serve the Baltimore region. But not having traditional retail sales offices is not a disadvantage, Connolly said, since most consumers prefer to consult with their agents while theyre out looking at homes.

Since launching in the region six years ago, Redfins business has expanded significantly. At first, Connolly was Redfins only agent here; now the company has 55 agents serving the region. Half of those agents joined the company in the past year.

This year in Maryland were budgeting to do 600 transactions, Connolly said. Still, thats a small percentage of the market at most, Redfin accounts for 3 percent of any Maryland countys sales, he said. The majority of Redfins activity in Maryland is representing buyers, though its making a push for listings, he said.

The main reason customers give for choosing Redfin is the financial benefit, said Connolly, but the fact that the companys agents are paid a salary, not a commission, is also frequently cited.

A Redfin agent is really on your side, said Connolly. They dont have to worry about paying their mortgage, where their next meal is going to come from.

In their previous homebuying experience, Adil Degani said, they felt as if their agent was avoiding homes that were for sale by owner.

Its a common complaint about buyers agents, who may be concerned that their commission wont be fronted by a do-it-yourself seller. That isnt an issue with Redfins salaried agents, Adil Degani said.

The main drawback to Redfin, he said, is that you have to be Internet-savvy to take advantage of all of Redfins offerings. The Deganis agreed that some of their older relatives with little computer experience would not be able to use Redfins website and mobile application.

Redfin is only one of the Web-based companies reimagining the way people buy and sell homes.

Zillow and Trulia are both online listing sites that can link consumers to third-party agents and other real estate professionals. Both provide marketplaces for mortgages and real estate advice.

ZipRealty connects buyers and sellers with its own and partner agents through its website. Data from the home searches that buyers input to ZipRealtys site and mobile application are fed to the agents, so the agents know when to reach out to the buyers.

What Hedge Funds Have Been Buying – and Selling

Managers of hedge funds spend most of their time evaluating stocks, so its usually a good idea to keep an eye on what theyre buying and selling.

If nothing else, trends among fund managers can move stocks in both directions. Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is a textbook case.

Billions of dollars in hedge fund money played a major role in pushing Apple stock to its highs last year, and contributed to its fall in the fourth quarter as many fund managers reversed their position.

Of course, many retail investors like to follow what the hedge funds are doing because their moves can often point to hot stocks or hot sectors.

Contrarian investors like to know where the big money is going so they can bet in the opposite direction.

The best way to follow the stock choices of hedge funds is to study their quarterly 13F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Back to Market-Based Rates

WASHINGTON — In his annual budget request on Wednesday, President Obama proposed a major change to student loan interest rates that would save students money in the short term but eventually make loans more costly for borrowers.

The proposal, which would tie the interest rate on student loans to the governments cost of borrowing, for the first time since 2006, is one of the only new ideas in annual budget proposal, and one that is already drawing pushback from student advocates. Otherwise, the presidents plan for fiscal year 2014 brings back many proposed initiatives that higher education advocates here praised last year, but that failed to gain traction in a budget-conscious Congress partially controlled by Republicans.

As a result, much of the budget — particularly proposals that call for new federal spending — is a politically symbolic wish list of ideas with little chance of becoming law: $8 billion in new money for community colleges from the Education and Labor Departments; a $150 million expansion to federal work-study; and $1 billion for a new competition among states to improve public higher education, among others. Obama proposed increasing discretionary spending on the Education Department by 4.6 percent over all, and increasing the maximum Pell Grant to $5,785 for the 2014-15 academic year.

The presidents budget would also continue the administrations recent tradition of not only shielding, but in most cases enhancing, the budgets of federal agencies and programs that fund scientific research and innovation. The National Science Foundation, in particular, would benefit from Obamas view that Ramp;D is essential to the countrys economic and competitive future. (See section on science funding below.)

The proposal most likely to become law in the next few months deals with the interest rate on student loans. The interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford student loans — which dont accumulate interest while students are enrolled in college — is now 3.4 percent and is scheduled to double July 1. The increase was originally scheduled for last year, but a coalition of student groups and the Obama campaign successfully pressured Congress to put the increase off a year at a cost of about $6 billion. Student advocates would like to see interest rates remain low, but momentum appears to have shifted in Washington toward a long-term fix rather than a short-term solution.

Although there are some differences, the administrations proposal has several features in common with a Senate Republican plan to change how interest rates for student loans are calculated by tying it to market interest rates. Interest rates would not be capped, meaning that if overall interest rates rise, student loan interest rates could rise with them.

The proposal would peg interest rates on student loans to the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds plus a few percentage points. How many percentage points would depend on the type of loan: the interest rate would be the 10-year Treasury yield plus 0.93 percent for subsidized Stafford loans, plus 2.93 percent for unsubsidized Stafford loans, and plus 3.93 percent for PLUS loans for parents and graduate students.

Since interest rates are right now at historic lows, that would lead to interest rates below current levels for all loans right now — unsubsidized Stafford loans now have an interest rate of 6.8 percent, and the rate is 7.9 percent for PLUS loans. But as the economy improves, interest rates are expected to rise — meaning the proposal is a good deal for students in the short term but for the government (as the lender) in the long term, since rates could increase above current levels.

Unlike a bill introduced Wednesday by three Senate Republicans, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Obamas proposal would keep subsidized loans for low-income undergraduate students with a lower interest rate. That bill would have established an interest rate for all new loans at the 10-year Treasury yield plus 3 percent.

This is a gesture on loan policy the administration feels would be acceptable to Republicans, said Jonathan Fansmith, associate director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Council on Education. Theres not a lot in there thats particularly protective of or generous to students — even in a healthy economy, not a booming economy.

Student groups, which have generally supported Obamas higher education proposals, criticized the interest rate plan on Wednesday.

Without a cap, this proposal falls far short of the comprehensive reform to student loans that we need, five groups representing young voters — the National Campus Leadership Council, Rock the Vote, US Public Interest Research Group, Young Invincibles and Our Time — said in a combined statement. Students have never taken out federal student loans without a cap on how high interest can go. The President stood with us by investing in higher education during his first term, and were concerned that his budget does not deliver the same investment this time around. (Note: This paragraph has been updated to correct the signatories of the letter.)

Representative George Miller, a California Democrat and the ranking member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, urged postponing an interest rate fix until the Higher Education Act comes up for reauthorization at the end of the year. At a time of historically low interest rates, skyrocketing college costs, and recent graduates facing a tight job market, Congress should not let student loan interest rates double at this time, Miller said in a statement. I believe that a long-term solution on student loan rates is best addressed as part of Congresss efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and the committees chairman, said in a statement that he supports a market-based interest rate but the devil is in the details.

The administration estimated the change to interest rates would cost $25 billion in the first 5 years, but over 10 years would eventually generate $14 billion in revenue for the federal government.

Big Plans for Campus-Based Aid

The budget also appears to follow through — at least modestly — on a proposal in this years State of the Union address to encourage alternatives to traditional accreditation systems for higher education. The Education Departments Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education will seek to support development of third-party validation systems for competency-based learning, which awards credit based on what students know rather than on the amount of time spent in class, as well as ways to direct federal funding to programs with good student outcomes that bypass normal accreditation routes.

The administration also revived several proposals from last years budget plan that failed to get traction in the Senate, among them a $1 billion Race to the Top to encourage states to invest in higher education, new spending on community colleges and a vast expansion of campus-based financial aid programs.

If approved by Congress, Obamas plan would spend $8 billion over three years on job training at community colleges, with half of the money from coming from the Education Department and the other half from the Labor Department. But community colleges were promised big new federal spending several times during the presidents first term, and the money never materialized. The job training fund, which would focus on workers in high-demand fields, was first proposed last year, but Congress didnt support the idea.

The budget plan also would revive a proposed $1 billion Race to the Top for College Affordability and Completion, which would give competitive grants to states working to keep college affordable. The plan, which would require states to maintain their own spending levels on higher education and smooth transfer among community colleges and public universities, among other changes, was proposed last year, but even Senate Democrats chose not to include it in their own budget plan for the 2013 fiscal year.

Obama also proposes major changes for federal work-study grants and Perkins loans, expanding Perkins loan volume to $8 billion from $1 billion and allowing more colleges access to the money, which is now distributed according to a funding formula that favors older institutions that have been in the program for many years. The money would be used to hold colleges accountable for providing good value — a proposal that the president first put forward in his 2012 State of the Union address, but that has advanced little in the intervening 14 months.

But given the budget constraints, few of these new spending proposals are likely to advance through Congress, Fansmith said. Most of the things right now that propose to spend money on new programs the appropriators just arent particularly interested in, he said. Were going to be under the tightest caps weve seen in a very long time.

Favoring Science

Even as downward pressure has mounted on federal spending generally, the administrations 2014 proposal not only would keep science and research budgets whole, but would increase many of them.

The Presidents FY2014 budget reflects the wise recognition that investing today in science, innovation, and STEM education is the best way to maintain Americas edge in the development of transformative technologies, the industries of future, and breakthrough solutions to national and global challenges, said John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We have seen
time and again that fueling the American Ramp;D engine not only results in new tools to solve our toughest problems but also opens new doors to jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

The administration would continue its efforts to significantly increase spending on the natural sciences, with the National Science Foundation seeing a boost of 8.4 percent over all (and 9.2 for its research programs), and the Energy Departments science office and the Commerce Departments National Institute of Standards and Technology benefiting from increases of 6.3 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively.

The largest funder of academic research, the National Institutes of Health, would receive $30.7 billion under the presidents 2014 plan, up 2.8 percent over 2012. (Typically budget increases are shown over the previous year, but because the impact of the sequester on the recently enacted 2013 federal budget is still unclear, all of the figures released by the administration this year compared 2014 proposals to 2012 actual figures.)

The NIH budget would include funds for a new program aimed at bolstering the role of big data in biomedical research, including in the training of data scientists, and $50 million for a new effort aimed at dealing with the relative dearth of members of minority groups in the scientific work force.

While the administrations proposal would cut funding overall for the Pentagon, funds for basic scientific research within the Defense Department would increase, as seen in the table below.

Status of Other Programs Important to Higher Education

Beyond the Education Department and science programs, the administrations budget affects numerous other agencies and programs that affect many colleges.

  • The 2014 budget plan would increase spending on the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts to $154.5 million each, up by about $14 million.
  • Funding for the Americorps national service program would hold flat at $345 million under the presidents plan.
  • The administration would increase Labor Department funds for training of adult and dislocated workers by nearly 3 percent each, to $792 million and $1.27 billion, respectively.
  • The State Department would cut funding for its educational and cultural exchange programs by about $30 million, with most of the decrease resulting from the elimination of an $18.5 million program of regional graduate fellowships. Funds for the Fulbright program would remain flat.
  • The administrations budget plan, as it did last year, calls for reducing or eliminating several tax deductions that have implications for colleges. The most visible would reduce the value of itemized deductions for high earning Americans, which colleges and other nonprofits fear could diminish their willingness to make charitable contributions. The Obama budget would also cap the tax exemption for interest paid by municipal bonds, which could diminish the attractiveness to investors of a tool that many colleges use to finance their facilities.

The Obama Budget for Education and Labor Programs

Lawmaker says fight over title, payday loan reform not finished

Stephen Stetson, left, of Alabama Arise Citizens Policy Project, and Kate Shuster listen to speakers Tuesday, April 2, 2013, during a rally in support of legislation to reduce interest rates charged by title loan and payday loan businesses at the Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)

Intelliloan Announces 7 Things to Consider When Getting a Loan in 2013 – PRWeb

IRVINE, CA (PRWEB) April 11, 2013

“Some lenders swamp their customers with complicated forms and cryptic jargon. They think it makes them look smart and indispensable. Not us,” says an Intelliloan representative, “We strive to give you access to the materials and information that make approval and closure easy, fast and low-stress. That is why we have released this list of seven points that people should take into consideration when shopping for a loan in these uncertain times.”

Intelliloan Offers 7 Points to Consider when Getting a Loan

1.Will I be able to get pre-approved? Having a pre-approved loan gives you leverage with a seller when negotiating a price and comfort in knowing precisely how much property you can afford.

2.Do I need an adjustable rate or a fixed rate? Intelliloan notes this decision should be based on your plans for the future and appetite for risk. If your plans are to sell your home in a few years or refinance for financial reasons, an ARM will give you immediate savings over a fixed rate loan for the term period. If you feel your income may be increasing in the future an ARM will give you the ability to leverage more loan that you may otherwise be able to afford right now, and allow you to have the financial flexibility you need today. However, if you are uncertain about your financial future or plan on staying in your new loan for the long haul, then you may be better off with a low fixed rate loan. There is no one loan that is the answer for every borrower.

3.What is the difference between APR and interest rate? When you borrow money lenders customarily charge you a percentage of the sum borrowed on an annual basis for the privilege of doing so. This is the interest rate. The APR is the Annual Percentage Rate and includes other charges you have to pay to obtain the loan, such as any arrangement fees in addition to the interest on the loan. The APR takes into consideration these fees and allows you to determine the true cost of the loan over the entire term of the loan. The loan with the lower APR is the less expensive loan.

4.What amounts are included in my monthly payments? This will generally include things such as Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance (PITI) and Mortgage Insurance (MI) if applicable. This may vary from state to state based on your equity, but most lenders require loans with less than 20% equity to carry MI and Escrow for Taxes and Insurance. MI allows homebuyers and homeowners to take advantage of immediate opportunities without having to wait for that 20% equity position.

5.What is LTV? Why does it matter? LTV is the loan-to-value ratio, the size of your mortgage compared to the value of your house and is usually expressed as a percentage. A high LTV represents increased risk for the Lender, and usually will require Mortgage Insurance (MI). The advantage to the borrower is many times the borrower can obtain financing without the standard 20% equity position required. In 2013, as in recent years, the housing market has been depressed, but is beginning to see some turn around. As home prices recover, many homeowners may see an increase in their equity position and a corresponding decrease in their LTV.

6.How do I determine my homes value? It depends on the purpose of the valuation. If you need a value for a Purchase or Refinance transaction it is best to rely upon an expert’s opinion and hire a state licensed real estate appraiser. If you are buying or refinancing you will want to obtain this appraisal through an appraiser approved by your lending institution. You should be careful not to rely on free electronic appraisal analysis available online, as these tools may not be evaluating all of the relevant points of the property or may be considering faulty data in this analysis.

7.What will my rate be? This is important because it will determine the amount you have to pay each month and the total cost of the loan. There are many factors that must be considered when quoting interest rates; it is not a one size fits all. Some of the variables that are considered are Loan Amount, Loan Type, LTV, Credit Score, Term, Debt Ratios, Discount Points and Lock Period. Rates change daily and sometimes multiple times per day, the best thing to do is to talk with a Licensed Mortgage Specialist that can review all of your needs, and help you decide what program and rate best meets your financial goals.

Intelliloan has created this list to help those considering a loan. Intelliloan would like to point out that these are not the only things to consider, they are simple tips. Finding the answers to these seven questions will not only help point the buyer in the direction of the right loan for their circumstances, it will also give them confidence to help them when communicating with moneylending professionals. For help in finding the answers to these and other questions you have about getting a loan in 2013, call us at Intelliloan on 877-263-8499.

About Intelliloan:Intelliloan is a mortgage banker and direct lender, established in 1993. Approved by HUD, FHA and FNMA, Intelliloan is licensed to practice in 13 states. Intelliloan has been a member of the Better Business Bureau since 1999 and has an A+ rating. NMLS 3290

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The CFPB Answers Your Student Loan Questions, Part 3: Defaulting And Loan …

In the second set of questions and answers about student loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra made a few mentions of the various service-specific loan forgiveness programs out there. Here, he gets into more detail and responds to questions about the one topic no one ever hopes to face: default.

I am curious about loan forgiveness. I currently work at a [nonprofit organization], and I am under the impression that after a certain number of years (I believe it’s 10) working here I qualify for loan forgiveness.
– What are the stipulations for loan forgiveness via working for a nonprofit?
– Do I have to be paying for my loans each year in order to qualify for forgiveness within the 10-year time period? If I was not paying because my Income-Based Repayment schedule said I wasnt making enough, do those two years I’ve worked with the nonprofit not count?
– If I were to go back to school to do my PhD for a number of years, and then return to a nonprofit job, would the years prior to my PhD still be included in the years I need to total for loan forgiveness? Or do I have to start again post-doc? In other words, is the 10-year time frame consecutive or cumulative?

Rohit: You’re talking about the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This program provides loan forgiveness for Direct Loan borrowers who make 120 qualifying monthly payments, while working for a non-profit or government entity. It doesn’t need to be consecutive, but the payments must be on-time.

In my personal opinion, this program is not well-understood and may cause heartache for the first cohort of borrowers who try to get forgiveness in a few years. First, this doesn’t impact private student loans, just federal. If you have a private student loan with a 25-year payment schedule, you won’t be done after 10 years. It’s not an eligible loan.

Another thing I worry about is that many borrowers believe that they’ll get forgiveness after 10 years if they are on the extended repayment plan. This plan spreads out payments over a longer period, but it doesn’t count as a qualifying payment under Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The borrowers who will benefit the most are the ones who enroll in the income-based repayment plan early. If you are on the normal, 10-year plan, there won’t be any balance to forgive after 10 years! I also recommend that borrowers annually certify their public service, so they can track progress and avoid the need to hunt down former employers for signatures later.

I have one loan that I defaulted on last year without knowing it. All of the notices were sent to my estranged dads address, and it wasnt until I checked the federal student loan database last fall and contacted the company servicing the loan that I found out.

The company did offer a plan for rehabilitating the loan, but I couldnt afford the initial payment (at least $1000), nor could I afford the monthly payments of about $200/month that they wanted. After graduation, the only full-time employment I found was working two part-time jobs and then just getting one full-time job that paid about $10/hr. Since I knew that rehabbing the loan is a one-shot deal and screwing it up would put me in a worse predicament, I havent contacted them since, as I cant commit to something Im not sure Ill be able to maintain.

Would it be helpful if I started paying a small amount, like $25-$50 a month, until I found better employment or came into a small fortune and am able to afford to rehab the loan? Even if I dont find a job that pays more, would continuing to send monthly payments like that over the long term make it likelier that I can negotiate lower payments for a rehab agreement?

Rohit: You should be careful when making partial payments, particularly if you are in default. Unless your servicer or debt collector agrees to accept a partial payment, this may not fix your credit or help you get back on the path to paying off your loan. Check out the CFPB’s online tool to navigate your options when in default on a student loan.

For private student loans in default, your options may be limited, particularly borrowers who are unemployed or may be experiencing long-term financial distress. We’re currently looking for ideas about how to help borrowers with private loans find an affordable payment option.

A handful of for-profit colleges in the US have been accused of misleading students into taking out financial aid they didn’t need or weren’t qualified for. Additionally, there have been several lawsuits against for-profit schools, alleging the colleges made promises of job-placement and education standards they failed to live up to.

Given the higher rate of default by former students at for-profit schools, is there a possibility that these people, especially the ones who never received degrees or took out more aid than they needed, will ever see any option for relief, even through bankruptcy?

Last year, CFPB Director Cordray and Education Secretary Arne Duncan recommended that Congress take another look at the treatment of private student loans in bankruptcy.

But even bankruptcy may not be the best path for the many borrowers with private loans that are struggling, but still wish to repay their debts. For these borrowers, an affordable monthly payment may be sufficient, and would have the added benefit of preserving their credit so that they can one day take out a mortgage or buy a car.

For these private student loan borrowers, existing options may not provide enough flexibility to navigate tough times. We’re currently looking for ideas on policy options to help borrowers with private loans find an affordable payment plan. We want to hear from you.

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series of questions and answers from CFPBs Rohit Chopra. Part 1 is for prospective students trying to pick the right financial aid packages. Part 2 deals with repaying, refinancing, and consolidating student loans.

Obama Budget’s Student Loan Gamble Filled With Long-Term Questions

President Barack Obamas proposed budget for next year would reduce interest rates on federal student loans in an attempt to remove staggering burdens confronting graduates facing one of the weakest job markets in recent times.

The White House proposal would tie interest rates on student loans to the governments costs of funding the program. Most student borrowers with recent government loans are paying record relative interest rates on their debts, according to a Huffington Post review. Students now pay fixed rates set by Congress, while borrowing costs in the broader economy are at historic lows, allowing the government to profit on student borrowing.

Obamas budget proposal comes as a growing number of policymakers have expressed alarm at the rapid rise of student debt and the relatively high interest rates graduates pay. Newly-released meeting minutes from the Federal Reserves rate-setting panel on Wednesday showed Fed policy makers expressing concern that the high level of student debt poses a risk to aggregate household spending over the next three years.

The Federal Open Market Committee joins the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Financial Stability Oversight Council, Office of Financial Research, and the New York Fed among government agencies that have identified high student debt burdens as threats to either financial stability or economic growth.

Although Obamas budget proposal may bring immediate interest rate relief to students taking out new loans this year, advocates and student debt experts argued that it would only be a short-term fix, because there is no cap on the interest rates students could face later. If the governments borrowing costs increase in upcoming years as the economy improves, as expected, student loan interest rates may rise above current levels.

This is effectively a way of having an immediately low interest rate, but it will ultimately cost families more down the line, said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and the publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org.

Obamas plan would tie student loan rates to yields on 10-year Treasuries, which represent the rates investors demand to purchase government notes. The rates would reset each academic year, and would be fixed for the life of the loan.

Executives selling company shares at rapid pace, scaring investors

barely $1 billion in purchases.

For retail investors who are finally getting over their fear of the market, it is a worrisome indicator — though not necessarily a race for the exits signal. Companies that have high and rising levels of insider selling often follow that up with share price underperformance, market studies show.

But company officers and directors — who must file records of their purchases and sales with the US Securities and Exchange Commission — have many personal reasons for selling that dont necessarily point to a market or individual company collapse.

Executives sell for a range of reasons: Sometimes they just want to cash out some options to pay a tuition bill or put a down payment on a vacation home. Others want to reduce their dependence on any single companys future — or pull money out at an opportune time.

The list of insiders involved in large sales in early April includes Google (GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin ($67.5 million worth of shares); LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman ($14.5 million); Gilead Sciences (GILD) CEO John Martin ($13.6 million); and Dollar General CEO Richard Dreiling ($12.3 million).

A Dollar General spokesman said Dreilings stock sale was part of a planned diversification program, and LinkedIn offered that Hoffmans automatic stock sales are part of a personal investment diversification strategy.

Gilead Sciences had no comment on Martins transaction.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt sold over $191 million of company stock in one February week — after a stellar year that left the share price hovering around $800.

As the sale amounted to about 42 percent of his stake, the company released this statement: This is a routine diversification of assets, and Eric remains completely committed to Google.

Even so, when so many insiders sell instead of buy, it becomes an intriguing clue to their collective take on the market – and not an upbeat clue.

Rising selling to net buys is a net negative for the market, said Kristen Hendrickson, an analyst with The Leuthold Group, a Minneapolis-based institutional research firm.

Leuthold analysts have seen unusually high selling patterns among the so-called big-block insider stock transactions they track — transactions of at least $1 million in total value, or a minimum of 100,000 shares.

At the end of 2012, there were 150 more big-block sales transactions than purchases over a 10-week period. That compares with a 10-week moving average of 60 more big-block sales than purchases since 1982, when Leuthold began tracking that data.

It is a critical indicator of the sentiment of corporate executives, and what they are seeing in the future, said Hendrickson.

The ratio of insider selling to buying has reached sky-high levels two other times: In mid-2000 as the dot-com bubble burst, the average spread of big-block sales over buys crested close to 250. In 2006, before the financial crisis hit, the same average hit a peak of 220.

Recently it has hovered around 125 – not quite as high, but still more than double the long-term average.

Of course, insider selling is just one indicator of market direction. Leutholds Major Trend Index tracks 130 different components, only two of which measure insider activity (number of transactions and total dollar volume involved).

Leuthold analysts say they remain bullish about the markets prospects as a whole, thanks to other positive indicators, such as market momentum.

That said, the negative signal that insider buying throws off is often company-specific as well as market-specific.

Stocks with significant insider selling tend to underperform the market, particularly after one to 12 months, said Jonathan Moreland, research director at InsiderInsights.com.

The ultimate situation you are looking for is three or more insiders at a company, all of whom have great track records at trading company shares, all selling big dollar amounts that add up to a large percentage of their holdings, Moreland said.

Stocks with significant insider buying rose 87.1 percent between the beginning of 2009 and April 2010, more than double the 36.8 percent gain recorded by companies with big insider selling, according to InsiderInsights.com.

Insider sales in the aggregate are much like national home-price averages: they dont offer enough specific detail. Just as real estate prices in one area could be rising or falling, so too will insider buying and selling vary with each individual company.

For that kind of granular information, useful websites include GuruFocus.com, InsiderInsights.com, FINVIZ.com and InsiderCow.com.

You can also search for activity on individual firms at the website of the US Securities amp; Exchange Commission () or on the Reuters.com website.

The best advice for individual investors is to use insider selling data in conjunction with other indicators, TrimTabs Santschi said. Buy-back programs paired with significant insider buying is a positive signal, while buybacks combined with insider selling might mean its time to take some profits.

Witness: Developer pitched project, then sought a loan

By Tim McGlone
The Virginian-Pilot


In February 2010, developer Dwight Etheridge stood outside the Attucks Theatre with the mayor and other top city officials for a groundbreaking ceremony for a five-story office complex that was to start a revitalization effort in a depressed neighborhood.

But Etheridge had no money for the project. He pitched the idea to the city without having obtained financing, Recardo Lewis, who once worked for Etheridge, testified Wednesday.

Lewis said Etheridge was struggling with another project at Broad Creek when he approached the city with an unsolicited proposal to build the tower. Lewis said the city offered to sell the vacant lot at Virginia Beach Boulevard and Tidewater Drive to Etheridge for $10.

He said he told Etheridge not to have the groundbreaking because the project was not yet viable.

He wanted to have the groundbreaking anyway, Lewis testified at the federal trial of Etheridge and former Bank of the Commonwealth executives.

Etheridge then turned to two bank vice presidents, Stephen Fields and Jeremy Churchill, to discuss a loan. He had already received more than $8 million in bank loans for the Broad Creek project, according to court filings.

In the fall of 2010, bank President and CEO Edward J. Woodard Jr. approved a $250,000 loan to Etheridge for preconstruction funding of the office tower, according to the indictment. Etheridge and Fields are on trial with Woodard, former Vice President Simon Hounslow, and Woodards son, T. Brandon Woodard, charged with defrauding the Norfolk-based bank out of tens of millions of dollars before its collapse in September 2011. Churchill has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify.

On March 3, 2011, Woodard approved an increase in the office tower loan to $750,000, some of which was used to pay off other past-due bank loans, the indictment says.

On that same day, and at the same meeting, the indictment says, Woodard made Etheridge another offer. The bank had loaned millions for an Oceanfront condo project that failed. Lewis said Woodard posed a question to Etheridge: Would he be willing to take over that project with a $4.1 million loan?

Lewis said he was against the idea. The $4.1 million would not be enough to complete the eight-unit project.

He said that project ultimately came to a halt after Etheridge instructed him to make bank draw requests for work that had not been completed. No one at the bank had ever properly inspected the project to approve those draws, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in draw requests were taken for work, such as siding, tiling, flooring and insulation that was never done. Lewis said Etheridge instructed him to do the same thing at the Broad Creek project so that he could pay subcontractors.

Etheridge completed about half of the Broad Creek project. Lewis said sales simply stopped.

Lewis, who was the construction manager for Etheridges company, Tivest Development, was authorized to sign the draw requests. Etheridge was not, he said.

Lewis pleaded guilty to filing false draw requests and is awaiting sentencing. He is cooperating with the government, he said, in the hopes of getting leniency.

Do you regret submitting those false application forms? Assistant US Attorney Melissa OBoyle asked Lewis.

Very much so, he said.

His testimony will continue today.

Tim McGlone, 757-446-2343, tim.mcglone@pilotonline.com

Egypt to hold more talks with IMF on loan next week

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has made progress in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $4.8 billion loan and will continue negotiations next week, Finance Minister Al-Mursi al-Sayed Hejazy said on Thursday.

Talks are continuing with the delegation. There is progress, Hejazy told reporters after a round of talks with IMF officials. Discussions are going in the right direction, added Hani Gadra, a finance ministry official. Neither elaborated.

An Egyptian government spokesman also said new aid from Qatar and Libya worth $5 billion, unveiled on Wednesday, would not affect the governments determination….to reach a deal with the IMF, according to a statement.

After two years of political upheaval, foreign currency reserves have fallen to critically low levels, threatening Egypts ability to buy wheat, of which it is the worlds biggest importer, and fuel.

President Mohamed Mursis government initialed a deal with the IMF last November but postponed ratification in December in the face of unrest triggered by a political row over the extent of his powers.

In the talks, Cairo must convince the IMF it is serious about reforms aimed at boosting growth and curbing an unaffordable budget deficit. That implies tax hikes and politically risky cuts to the generous system of state subsidies for fuel and bread.

On Wednesday, Qatar said it would buy Egyptian bonds worth $3 billion, coming on top of some $5 billion the wealthy Gulf state has already provided to Cairo.

In addition, Libya will grant a $2 billion five-year interest-free loan to Egypt, Egyptian state news agency MENA said on Wednesday.

(Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche)