CNN Financial News Producer
Bernard Madoff, who stole billions from investment clients, was ordered jailed today after pleading guilty to all 11 criminal counts in one of Wall Street's biggest swindles ever.
"I operated a Ponzi scheme," Madoff told a packed courtroom after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin told him to explain his crimes.
"I thought it would end quickly, but it proved impossible," said Madoff, who stole from more than 4,000 victims through his investment firm. "I am ashamed for these criminal acts. I always knew this day would come."
Judge Chin remanded the 70-year-old to jail following his confession. He could face a maximum 150-year sentence. His sentencing was set for June 16.
CNNMoney.com writes that Madoff, despite his white-collar status and non-violent history, won't be whiling away his days in some cushy "Club Fed" style prison. He’ll more likely land in a minimum-security federal prison or, if he's lucky, a less-stringent prison camp.
The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week, while the total number of people continuing to receive benefits set a fresh record high.
First-time claims for unemployment insurance increased to 654,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 645,000.
And the number of people receiving benefits for more than a week increased by 193,000 to 5.3 million, the highest number on records dating back to 1967.
The foreclosure picture suddenly darkened again in February.
More than 74,000 homes were lost to bank repossession during the month, up from 67,000 in January, according to a report from RealtyTrac. Nearly 1.2 million homes have been lost since the foreclosure crisis hit in August 2007.
The total number of foreclosure filings, meanwhile, rose 6% during the month after falling 10% in January. Worse still, filings leaped nearly 30% compared with February 2008.
The results defied expectations. A decline had been expected due to the numerous foreclosure moratoriums in effect during the month.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said late Wednesday it’s asked the government for an additional $30.8 billion in funding to close a gaping hole on its books.
The company, which has been majority-owned by taxpayers since its takeover in September, announced the funding request as it reported a loss of nearly $24 billion dollars for the fourth quarter of 2008 and more than $50 billion for the entire year.
After its first two-day winning streak in more than a month, can Wall Street make it three in a row? Stocks got off to a tentative start this morning but soon found their footing.
The last time we had a three-day win streak was in late January – Jan. 26 to 28. The Dow closed on Jan. 28 at 8,375. Today we’re hovering around the 7,000 mark.
Retail sales showed a smaller-than-expected decline in February after posting an unexpected jump in January.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales fell 0.1% last month, compared with January's revised increase of 1.8%.
Gas prices dropped 7-tenths of a cent overnight to $1.931 a gallon. 10 states have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. 40 states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices below $2. The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.509). The cheapest gas prices are in Wyoming ($1.737)
The meltdown of global financial markets slashed the ranks of the world's billionaires by 30% in 2008.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates topped the list, even though his net worth dived to $40 billion from $58 billion a year earlier. Gates reclaimed his title as “World’s Richest Man” because two other billionaires lost more on paper than he did.
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, who was No. 1 on last year’s list, sank to No. 2 as his net worth plunged to $37 billion from $62 billion. And Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu slid to No. 3, with wealth of $35 billion, down from $60 billion.
America’s millionaires also took it on the chin.
The number of American households with a net worth of $1 million or more, excluding the value of their primary residence, fell 27% to 6.7 million in 2008 from an all-time high of 9.2 million the year before, according to a report from market research firm Spectrem Group.
But don't weep only for the 2.5 million fewer millionaires. The report, which is based on surveys of 3,000 affluent households, also showed the number of both multi-millionaires and aspiring millionaires plummeted last year.
Affluent households, defined as those with a net worth of $500,000 or more, declined 28% to 11.3 million from 15.7 million.
Even the very rich have not been immune. Households worth $5 million or more, excluding primary residence, fell 28% to 840,000 last year from 1.16 million households in 2007.
Finally, what began on Wall Street and spread to Main Street has now hit Sesame Street.
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street,” said Wednesday it will be cutting approximately 20% of its workforce due to “the unprecedented challenges of today’s economic environment.”
A company spokeswoman said 67 out of a total of 355 employees will be let go, and that those cuts will be made across the board in every department.
Elmo is said to be less-than-tickled with the development.
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