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Where Are Oil Prices Headed?

The uncertainty looming around worldwide economies sent oil prices sinking below $90 a barrel yesterday (Wednesday), a level not seen since October of last year.

Benchmark crude slid $1.95 Wednesday to finish the day at $89.90 per barrel.

The decline came on the heels of several weeks of slipping oil, sparked by a plethora of less than stellar economic reports. The concerning data mostly involved Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt saga.

Oil gained 0.5% in early afternoon New York trading Thursday, but the reasons for the rally were unclear.

“You don’t know if this is just a short-covering rally or the start of a more significant rally,” Andy Lebow, an oil analyst with Jefferies, told The Wall Street Journal. Lebow said that progress in the talks between Iran and Western powers about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions could have spurred Thursday’s price reversal.

If the gain isn’t maintained, however, prices could head closer to $85 a barrel.

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Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Patent War with Samsung A Fight No One Wins

Like two mighty monsters in a 1950s sci-fi B-movie, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co. (PINK: SSNLF) have locked horns for over a year in an epic patent war neither can win.

Over the past year, the two tech titans have filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against each other in 10 countries. Most seek to block the sale of one or more of the other’s smartphone and tablet products.

The biggest case, filed in San Jose, CA, is scheduled for a July trial, which U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh is desperate to avoid. (She called the case “cruel and unusual punishment” for the jury.)

Earlier this week Koh ordered the CEOs of both Apple and Samsung to meet in mediation sessions, but nothing came of the meetings.

The mutual stubbornness makes sense when you realize what’s at stake.

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Gold Prices and the "Grexit" Effect

Lately gold priceshave been affected by a strengthening dollar resulting from troubles overseas.
On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told Dow Jones Newswires that considerations were being made for a potential exit by Greece from the euro. He also warned that such an exit would be “catastrophic” for the country and that fallout across the entire Eurozone would be severe.

Warren Buffett Stocks: Where the Oracle of Omaha Puts his Money

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A, BRK.B) has been on a buying spree, adding a plethora of positions to its storied portfolio of “Warren Buffett stocks.”

Last Wednesday the conglomerate released its stock holdings. Mutual funds and retail investors closely watch the picks to dissect the selections for hints about the company’s tactics. Other simply want to mimic Buffett’s moves.

This quarter Berkshire disclosed new stakes in General Motors (NYSE: GM) and Viacom (Nasdaq: VIAB), larger positions in Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE: WMT), and a small increased position in International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM).

Declining stakes were noted in Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG).

The Berkshire portfolio ballooned to $89.1 billion on March 31 from $77 billion at the end of 2011. The firm is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), Wells Fargo and American Express (NYSE: AXP).

The additions come as Buffett and Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger have tasked former hedge fund managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler with more investing duties. The two were brought into Berkshire to help oversee investments, as Buffett, Berkshire’s CEO and chairman, transitions the company for his ultimate departure.

The 81-year-old sage acknowledged that he makes Berkshire’s larger bets, while his team of stock pickers is responsible for smaller wagers.

In his widely read shareholder letter in February, Buffett penned, “When our quarterly filings report relatively small holdings, these are not likely to be buys I made but rather holdings denoting purchases by Todd or Ted. They have the brains, judgments and character” to do the job.

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JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) Losses Keep Unraveling

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) beleaguered CEO Jamie Dimon will not be happy when he reads through Friday’s papers.

The Financial Times reported that more than a dozen senior traders and credit experts know that JPMorgan is in a lot more trouble than just suffering $2.3 billion – and counting – in losses.

Turns out the unit at JPMorgan that’s responsible for the loss has been the biggest buyer of European mortgage-backed bonds and other complex debt securities in all markets for three years.

Now JPMorgan has built up positions totaling $100 billion in the same risky financial products that triggered the financial crisis in 2008.

But anyone who followed Money Morning‘s Shah Gilani as he covered the topic knew this was a likely hidden truth.

You see, Gilani told us last Sunday, just days after news of the losses broke, that there was more to these trades than one hedge-gone-wrong.

“The idiots at the bank wanted to hedge against European credit exposure that they had,” Gilani wrote last to his Wall Street Insights and Indictments readers. “They are idiots because the money that’s shepherded by the Chief Investment Office (some $379 billion, yeah, that number is right) is money that the bank has and hasn’t lent out, or technically is “available” to play with. And instead of parking it in U.S. government bonds (Citi has $293 billion of the same float and has 87% of it parked in “governments”), they parked a lot of it in Europe’s crappy credit markets.”

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The Bernanke Effect on Gold Prices, Silver Prices Means Time to Buy Metals

Gold prices hit a two-month low Wednesday after the Federal Reserve indicated no new stimulus measures would be issued, and silver prices slumped to a seven-week low.

The metals fell after the Fed, led by Chairman Ben Bernanke, announced a positive outlook on the U.S. economy. The Fed reaffirmed it would hold interest rates near zero through 2014, and failed to mention any more means of stimulus.

Without more Fed steps to stimulate growth, and with more positive U.S. economic data, investors expect the dollar to strengthen which puts downward pressure on gold and silver prices.

But the long-term outlook for gold and silver is the same, and investors should instead take the Bernanke Effect as a key time to buy metals.

“This should be treated as an opportunity to buy, or if you already own but feel you don’t own enough, to accumulate,” said Money Morning commodities and mining expert Peter Krauth. “These two precious metals remain in a secular bull market and are integral to every investor’s portfolio.”

The Bernanke Effect on Gold Prices, Silver Prices

After Tuesday’s Fed announcement, gold for April delivery fell $51.30, or 3%, to finish at $1,642.90 an ounce. May silver slumped $1.40, or 4.2%, to $32.18 an ounce.

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