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 What are your thoughts on the dollar? The dollar’s recent resilience to weak U.S. data suggests markets may have fully priced in expectations of a struggling U.S. economy. Against the euro, do you think the dollar has bottomed out?

The dollar has depreciated a long way. But I’m not convinced that the decline is yet over. The fundamental forces that are driving the dollar weakness I don’t believe have yet ended. I think you’ll see the dollar erratically fall some more. There will be rallies, it may become more volatile, but I don’t think we’ve quite yet reached the bottom.

Until we get the credit crisis behind us I think we will have continued volatility in all markets. I think you’ll see continued weakness in the dollar.

Bridges to Hope Foundation Newsletter and Blog

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China and India are by far the biggest current and potential drivers of economic growth and change in the world for the next quarter century. Those two countries alone are a third of the world’s population. Technology is increasingly transportable around the world. Communications are instantaneous. China began periods of economic reform in 1978 to replace their old command and control economy with, in part, a market economy. China has experienced the fastest economic growth in the history of the world in the last quarter century and the people want this to continue and the government wants it to continue. That lesson has been finally learned in the last 10 years or so by India. India started their economic reform in 1991, China did in 1978. They’re about 10 years to 15 years behind. But the Indian people are smart and entrepreneurial when the government stays out of the way.There are other smaller countries such as Vietnam that are also wonderful growth opportunities, but Vietnam has 85 million people in it, it’s the size of one average province in China.

Japan is over. Japan is past its prime. It has the oldest pop in the world by far. It’s a very closed economy and society and it’s not really a source of innovation and growth. Very little foreign capital flows into Japan and a lot of domestic capital continues to flow out. Japan is last century.

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Real estate values are plunging nationwide for the first time in U.S. history.

Millions of homeowners have already lost their homes. And millions more are now facing huge increases in their monthly payments as their Adjustable Rate Mortgages ratchet higher through 2008.

In response, the Federal Reserve is cranking up the printing presses … cutting interest rates … and doing everything else in its power to throw billions of newly created, unbacked paper dollars into the economy.

But in its panic to paper over the real estate bust, the Fed is creating an even greater problem …

The value of the U.S. dollar is sinking world-wide.

The simple fact is that money is just like every other commodity: It operates on the law of supply and demand.

When the supply of money — in this case, the U.S. dollar — surges, its value falls. Put simply, every new dollar the Fed is creating right now is reducing the value of every other dollar in circulation:

Every dollar in your paycheck …

Every dollar in your savings accounts …


Thanks to the U.S. housing bust — plus the Fed’s response to the crisis — the U.S. dollar has now plunged to its lowest level in history, driving foreign currencies, gold, silver and other natural resources sharply higher. With no end in sight to the housing bust, and with the spreading credit crunch in the U.S., and even deeper decline in the dollar is now unavoidable.

Every dollar you invest …

Every dollar you have socked away for retirement.

It couldn’t be happening at a worse time. Because even before the Fed began trying to inflate its way out of the real estate mess, the U.S. dollar had already dropped a staggering 37.3% against major world currencies since 2001.

Now the Fed is printing money like there’s no tomorrow. And as those hundreds of billions of new dollars come home to roost, they’re turning the once-proud greenback into the laughingstock of the currency world.

That’s why — for the first time ever — many economists are beginning to fear the nightmare scenario: The day when foreigners, who own more than $7 trillion in U.S. dollars simply say, “enough!

When that happens — when foreigners stampede for the exits — all heck could break loose. The rapid decline we’ve seen in the dollar’s value so far will turn into a full-fledged crash with the power to cut your buying power in half.

The falling dollar is the single most dangerous event of your investing lifetime!

So I’m going to show you how to do all that and more in this letter.

my mission has been to warn investors about the hidden dangers — dangers with the power to wipe out your savings, investments and retirement — and I’m not about to stop now …

  • In 2003, when the Fed pushed interest rates to their lowest levels ever. They were seducing millions of American home buyers into a quicksand of debt they could never repay and that the future consequences would be disastrous.

Wall Street wonks just rolled their eyes: Called me a “Chicken Little” behind my back.

  • In 2005,  real estate prices peaked at ridiculous highs nationwide, it was a debt-driven bubble that would burst as sure as the sun rises in the eastern sky.
  • Real estate experts scoffed. “Impossible,” they proclaimed, “There has never been a nationwide real estate bust in history!”
  • In early 2007, with greedy lenders making trillions of dollars in reckless loans to underqualified buyers, I warned that the very survival of hundreds of major Wall Street firms was at stake.

The so-called “experts” on Wall Street said the crisis was “contained,” that it would be limited strictly to a few smaller firms

Each time, the “experts” in Washington … on Wall Street … and in corporate headquarters across America … said I was crazy. “Don’t worry,” they said. “It’ll be just fine.”Now, even a blind man could see things are not “just fine.”

For Your Non-Speculative Money:
Currency ETFs Could Hand You Ten Times The Returns You Get On Your CDs and Money Market Funds

Recently, new exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have been introduced that are designed protect you from a dollar decline — and help you go for big profits as foreign currencies rise against the dollar.

Currency ETFs are truly revolutionary because they make currency investing accessible for everyday investors like us.

And because they cover all of the world’s major foreign currencies they make it possible for you to join the world currency profit party — with investment vehicles that are every bit as familiar, as comfortable and as easy to buy and sell as any stock or other ETF!

These currency ETFs give you the potential to grow your wealth steadily … without the unlimited risk of margin accounts or futures … with a tiny investment … no matter what’s happening in any other investment market!

In 2007, for example, if you bought the British Pound ETF and took advantage of the yield and appreciation, you could have grabbed a nice gain that’s the equivalent of 36% per year on an annualized basis. Add in the yield and you’ve got a total return of 41%.

If you had bought the Euro ETF, you could have had an annualized gain of 41%. The yield on the euro is lower than that of the pound, but I don’t think you’d mind that too much. Because your total return comes to 44%.

And if you had bought the Canadian Dollar ETF, you could have earned an annualized return of 44%. Add in the yield, and you’re looking at a total return of 48%!

You get protection from the dollar decline. Plus you could get a total return that’s up to 10 times greater than what you can get on most of your dollars.

For Your Speculative Money:
Use The Falling Dollar to Potentially Turn $10,000 Into $300,000 With Strictly Limited Risk …

Just recently, The Philadelphia Stock Exchange introduced its new World Currency Options™ — revolutionary new investment vehicles that allow you to seize the massive profit potential of the currency markets without high minimums and with strictly limited risk.

Founded in 1790, The Philadelphia Stock Exchange — also known as PhilX — is 217 years old, making it the oldest stock market in the U.S.

More than 7,000 stocks are listed there — and every brokerage firm — online and offline — allows you to trade on the PhilX as easily as you trade on the New York Stock Exchange or American Stock Exchange.

Now, you can join the world currency profit party — with investment vehicles that are every bit as familiar, as comfortable and as easy to use as any stock or index option!

With these brand new World Currency Options™ …

  • You can get started with as little as $100: Instead of being required to put up huge minimums, you can harness the power of the world’s six largest currencies for as little as $100!
  • Your Risk is Strictly Limited: You always know — to the penny — the maximum risk you’re taking with each trade:

When you buy World Currency Options™, it is guaranteed that you can never lose more than the small premium and brokerage commission you paid for the right to buy or sell the currency!

  • You Get Leverage of up to 200-to-1 — Enough to Multiply Your Money many times over On Every Trade: You pay a small premium to control a vast amount of a currency, some trading for as little as $100 or $200. And you can control
    • Ten thousand Swiss francs worth about $8,400
    • Ten thousand Canadian dollars worth about $9,500
    • Ten thousand Australian dollars worth about $8,600
    • One million Japanese yen worth about $8,500, or …
    • Ten thousand British pounds worth about $20,500!

For example, there’s an option that lets you control British pounds worth more than $20,000. Your price? Just $125 (plus commissions): That gives you astonishing 162-to-1 leverage!

And that massive leverage means you have the potential to turn a molehill of money into a mountain of cash in record time!

In June and July 2007, options on the Aussie dollar could have made you up to 28 times richer in as little as 57 days!

Case in point: Between June 15 and July 12, 2007, the U.S. dollar declined a mere three cents against the euro, giving currency options investors the opportunity to multiply their money up to ten times over …

If you had bought a particular call option on the euro on June 15 and closed your position on July 12, you could have grabbed a 333% gain in just 27 days.

That’s enough to turn a $2,000 investment into $8,666 in less than one month.

Or, you could have purchased another euro option on June 8 and closed your position 35 days later — on July 13 — for a 700% gain.

That’s enough to turn $2,000 into $16,000 in five weeks.

And another, more aggressive option on the euro, if purchased on June 15 and sold on July 12 jumped 1,008% in value.

That’s enough to turn your $2,000 molehill of money into a whopping $22,160 in just 27 days.

And thanks to World Currency Options™, you can now get that kind of money-multiplying power with all of the major foreign currencies …

  • A British pound call option if bought on April 1 and sold on July 23 jumped 1,280.5% in value — enough to turn $2,000 invested into $27,610.
  • A call option on the Canadian dollar jumped more than 1,100% between April 1 and July 21: Enough to turn $2,000 into $22,210.
  • You could have bought still another, more aggressive option on the Aussie dollar on May 29 and watched it soar a staggering 2,866.7% by July 24 — enough to turn your $2,000 into a mind-blowing $59,334 in just 56 days!

With the Fed beating the dollar
like a red-headed stepchild …And with 3 billion consumers in China, India
and other emerging nations buying nearly everything in sight …Oil, gold and other natural resources are making investors rich!
I love natural resources at a time like this because they give you not just one, but two important ways to profit:First, as the U.S. dollar falls in value, tangible assets — things with true intrinsic value — naturally become more expensive.

Since the dollar began falling and emerging markets began booming in 2003 …

  • Wheat is up 133.9%
  • Oil is up 140.8%
  • Gold is up 149.8%
  • Soybeans are up 159.2%
  • Gasoline is up 203.6%
  • Platinum is up 224.2%
  • Silver is up 257.7% and …
  • The entire CRB commodity price index is off the charts!

Second, it’s also no secret that massive new demand from three billion new consumers in China, India and other emerging markets is driving resource prices through the roof.

That’s why — since the dollar began falling and emerging markets began booming in 2003 …

  • Corn is up 39.5% …
  • Wheat is up 133.9% …
  • Oil is up 140.8% …
  • Gold is up 149.8% …
  • Soybeans are up 159.2% …
  • Gasoline is up 203.6% …
  • Platinum is up 224.2% …
  • Silver is up 257.7%, and
  • The entire CRB commodity price index is off the charts!

Most importantly, when natural resources and other commodities soar in price, the stock of the companies that produce them take off like a moon rocket.

  •  
    • In the past 12 months, for example …
    • Agnico-Eagle Mines is up 56.7% …
    • Hess Corporation is up 68.1% …
    • Freeport-McMoRan Copper is up 64.35%, and …
    • Yanzhou Coal is up a whopping 98.6%!

Every indicator we can find tells us that
the potential profits have only begun to flow!

Some might think that with gold, oil and many other commodities at or near their all-time highs, the greatest price increases could be behind us.

But it’s an illusion: When you measure natural resources in the real world — with inflation-adjusted dollars, you’ll see there’s plenty of room to the upside.

In fact, just to reach the highs they made the last time the Fed was pumping money and the dollar’s value was eroding rapidly …

  • Gold will have to nearly triple to $2,271 per ounce.
  • Aluminum will have to more than double to $7,559 per ton.
  • Wheat will have to triple, corn will have to surge four-fold and sugar will have to jump to ten times the highs it reached recently.
  • And silver would have to go up almost fourteen times — just to match its earlier peak.

And remember: Those old highs were established decades ago — long before billions of new consumers descended upon the natural resource markets, devouring nearly everything in their paths.

The previous highs were also established when there were millions more gallons of oil and millions more pounds of gold, nickel and iron ore still in the ground.

Not so today!

Take oil, for instance: With the exception of one off the coast of Brazil, no major new oil fields have been discovered in more than 35 years. More than 80% of the oil pumped today comes from wells that are at least 20 years old — and those oil fields are now in decline.

Alaskan fields are in decline now, and so are Mexico’s.

The U.K., one of the world’s great oil exporters for 25 years, will be importing oil within the decade.

And in Saudi Arabia, despite promises to increase oil production over the past three years, they’ve been unable to boost output by a single drop.
Now, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there are only 41 years-worth of proven oil reserves left on Earth.

And to make matters worse, not a single oil refinery has been built in America since 1976 — while the number of operational refineries is falling fast. In 1981, the U.S. had 324 oil refineries. Today, there are just 132.

No matter which commodity you look at, the story is similar …

  • Gold: In South Africa, gold production has fallen to its lowest level since the great strike of 1922 — 85 years ago. Worldwide, while gold demand has jumped 14% since 2001, gold production has fallen 7%.
  • Base metals: When it comes to copper, lead, nickel, zinc and tin — no new mine shafts have been sunk in 20 years. No lead smelter has been built in America since 1969. And even worse, few are even looking for zinc or tin.
  • Uranium: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that the world’s supply of low-cost uranium will vanish within 20 years.
  • Grains: For the first time in history, the world is consuming more food than it produces. Global wheat stockpiles have fallen to a 32-year low, while the U.S. wheat stockpiles hit a 59-year low. Corn supplies have fallen to the lowest levels on record.
  • Silver: Manufacturers who need silver to make their products are fighting the growth in Barclay’s silver ETF. Reason: There simply isn’t enough silver to go around.

And as if all this weren’t enough to drive resource prices through the roof, new supplies are years in the future: By the time miners, drillers and farmers realize that demand has exploded, it’s too late.

It takes years to find new sources …

More years to dig the mines and drill the wells …

More years to build the refineries and processing plants …

Still more years to build the pipelines and freighters to move the new commodities to market …

And all the while, global resource prices are rising rapidly!

For 2007 Stock Market Returns, 64 Countries Out-ranked the U.S.!
Rank
Country
% Return
1
China
179.8
2
Ukraine
135.4
3
Slovenia
96.9
4
Nigeria
90.9
5
Botswana
86.2
6
Croatia
80.8
7
Brazil
72.4
8
Turkey
71.9
9
Mauritius
70.0
10
India
65.2
11
Oman
61.9
12
Bulgaria
60.1
13
Egypt
56.3
14
Hong Kong
55.5
15
Serbia
55.0
16
United Arab Emirates
51.8
17
Indonesia
45.5
18
Peru
45.0
19
Philippines
44.3
20
Israel
43.7
21
Saudi Arabia
40.9
22
Malaysia
40.6
23
Pakistan
38.5
24
Cyprus
36.6
25
Jordan
36.3
26
Botswana
35.7
27
Germany
35.2
28
Qatar
34.3
29
Thailand
32.7
30
Kuwait
32.0
31
South Korea
31.4
32
Czech Republic
30.7
33
Norway
30.4
34
Greece
30.3
35
Portugal
28.5
36
Romania
27.7
37
Lebanon
26.8
38
Singapore
26.5
39
Ghana
25.6
40
Canada
25.1
41
Bahrain
24.6
42
Australia
24.1
43
Vietnam
23.6
44
Poland
23.6
45
Luxembourg
22.9
46
Slovakia
21.5
47
Chile
21.4
48
Russian Federation
19.2
49
Tunisia
19.0
50
South Africa
18.7
51
Spain
18.6
52
Denmark
16.2
53
Hungary
15.9
54
Lithuania
15.4
55
Netherlands
15.1
56
Namibia
14.5
57
Finland
14.3
58
Malta
12.0
59
France
12.0
60
Austria
11.8
61
Iceland
11.5
62
Mexico
10.8
63
Taiwan
9.3
64
New Zealand
8.5
65
United States
6.4
Source: Bloomberg  

More than double your money every year
with Global ETFs.

Let me ask you this: Would you rather earn 6.4% a year investing in the U.S. — the world’s 65th most profitable stock market — and get paid in dollars that are rapidly losing their value …

Or would it be smarter to take full advantage of international markets that are delivering up to 28 times the money; jumping as much as 179.8% per year — and be paid in currencies that are actually rising against the dollar?

And how about this question: Would you prefer to invest in an economy that’s being ravaged by the housing bust, the credit crunch and recession? Or would you prefer to invest in economies that, even with a global slowdown, are expected to grow by 7%, 8%, even 9% this year?

To me — that looks more like an IQ test than a simple question!

After all — why would anyone settle for 65th best of anything? And why would you want to invest in an economy that’s sliding into recession?

Please forgive me for being blunt — but my point is simply this: if most or all of your money is in the U.S. stock market, you’re probably exposed to excess risk. More importantly, you’re missing out on the greatest profit bonanza of our generation …

… and leaving up to 90% of your profit potential on the table!

Take 2007, for example: The Dow rose 6.4%.

  • But if you had invested in France’s stock market index instead, you would have done nearly twice as well — with a 11.9% gain …
  • Canada’s stock market index could have made you more than four times more money — with a 25.1% gain …
  • Hong Kong would have made you more than eight times richer than the Dow — with a 55.5% gain …
  • If you’d invested in Brazil’s blue chips instead of the Dow, you would have made 11 times more money — with a 72.4% gain, and …
  • China’s blue chips could have made you more than 28 times richer — with a mind-boggling 179.8% gain!

Think of it: While a $10,000 investment in the Dow would have handed you a paltry $643 gain in 2007 …

The same investment in France would have made you $1,199 richer …

In Canada, $2,514 richer …

In Hong Kong, $5,551 richer …

In Brazil, $7,244 richer, and …

If you had invested in the average Chinese bluechip, your $10,000 investment would have made you a staggering $17,975 richer. You would have earned 28 times the money the Dow would have paid you! That’s 2,695% more profits.

And there’s more: An investment in …

Singapore’s blue chips would have made you 312% more money than the Dow could have …

Norway’s would have made you 372% more …

Germany’s stock index would have made you 447% more…

Peru ’s would have made you 599% more, and …

An investment in Brazil’s stock market would have made you a blistering 1,026% more than the Dow would have.

WHY are these stock markets leaving Wall Street in the dust?

Simple: While the U.S. economy is being pummeled by the real estate bust, credit catastrophe and now, the diving dollar — and growing by less than 3% per year — 29 foreign economies are now growing as much as five times faster than ours is.

China’s economy has been exploding at about 10% per year for more than a decade — and in 2007, grew even faster: By a whopping 11.5% — 4 times faster than ours!

And Now, the Second Phase of This Great Global Boom — Likely to Be the Most Profitable Phase of All —
Is Just Beginning to Kick in!

If you missed out on the opportunity for triple-digit gains in 2007, please — don’t be too hard on yourself. Because you’re going to have a second chance — starting right now.

Until recently, most of the economic growth in my favorite emerging markets came from their exports — from selling their products around the globe.

Now, three billion people in these fast-growing economies are shifting into the middle class.

While household income in the U.S. has been rising only about 1.1% per year, it’s rising four times faster in Australia, Mexico and Brazil … five times faster in Cambodia … six times faster in Thailand … seven times faster in India … nearly eight times faster in Vietnam … and a whopping 11 times faster in China!

Care to guess what all those newly affluent consumers are doing with their new-found wealth?

Right: They’re spending it! In China alone, consumer spending has jumped from virtually zero to $1 trillion in 2007 — and is now growing at 13%-14% per year.

Think about that for a moment. Most of the expansion you’ve seen in these international stocks so far came from selling their products to about one billion consumers in the West.

Now, their own citizens … more than three billion strong … nearly half of the planet’s population … are beginning to buy their products and their stocks.

It doesn’t take a Nobel-Prize-winning economist to figure out what’s likely to come next: The foreign companies selling to those three billion new consumers are getting rich … their stocks are set to soar even faster … and if you own them, you are perfectly positioned to grab windfall profits in 2008!

How to Harness This Amazing Profit Potential Now
— With a Click of Your Mouse or a Quick Call to Your Broker:

International ETFs are the only investment vehicles that give you all the diversity, simplicity and flexibility you need to maximize your profit potential in these red-hot international markets:

  • They’re pure power plays in the markets of your choice. Unlike U.S. stocks that get only part of their earnings overseas, International ETFs buy only foreign stocks, so they never dilute your profit potential.
  • International ETFs are U.S. companies traded on U.S. exchanges. So you totally bypass all the hassles of dealing with foreign exchanges.
  • They trade just like stocks. So, unlike international mutual funds, you can check the value of every ETF you own in real time at any moment of the trading day, and you can get in or out almost instantly.
  • International ETFs are cheap to buy, cheap to own and cheap to sell. You pay a small brokerage commission, but never an entry fee or exit penalty … you never pay marketing fees … there are no minimums … and you never, ever have to pay taxes on your paper profits.
  • They never lock you in to a buy-and-hold strategy. You can buy them or sell them anytime you like — without the trading restrictions mutual funds place on you, and …
  • International ETFs are easy to understand and follow: When these foreign stocks rise or fall, the value of your ETF moves in lock-step — and when the value of your ETF shoots for the moon, you can make a bundle!

And the great news is, there are already more than 100 ETFs covering foreign markets — and more are being added every month:

>> ETFs that own the leading stocks traded on the exchanges across an entire region — like Asia or Latin America, for example …

>> ETFs that own the leading stocks traded on the exchange of an individual country …

>> ETFs that let you profit from the growth of specific sectors in foreign countries — like gold, energy, health and telecommunications, for example …

>> ETFs that let you profit from international mid-caps … blue chips … dividend-paying stocks … and more!

For virtually every major foreign market, there’s an ETF standing by to help you bring the profits home!

Bridges to Hope Foundation Newsletter and Blog

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Greenspan in 1996 | Bernanke yesterday

Years ago, when Alan Greenspan warned of “irrational exuberance,” he did so with fire and brimstone. People paid attention. The stock market fell.

But yesterday, when Ben Bernanke issued a much broader warning — with far graver consequences — most folks on Wall Street didn’t seem to care.

Reason: They heard only what they wanted to hear — that Bernanke is virtually promising to cut rates.

So take a closer look at what else he talked about, as summed up by this morning’s Los Angeles Times

Triple threat: He predicted a weaker economy and financial market freeze-ups and rising inflation all at the same time — precisely what we warned you in our recent presentation at the World Money Show.

Housing: Suffering a “continuing contraction” despite the fact that sales and construction are already down to less than half their peak levels.

Consumer spending: “Slowing significantly” due to rising energy prices and falling home prices (both of which are much worse today than they were when the Fed last had data).

Business investment: “Subdued” with plant and office construction “likely to decelerate sharply.”

Extremely serious: The combination of the stumbling economy and breakdowns in the financial markets are so serious that Bernanke says he will cut interest rates even if inflation continues to rise.

U.S. Dollar in Free Fall! Again!

Now Here’s What
Bernanke Didn’t Tell You

Bernanke didn’t tell you about the dramatic impact on the U.S. dollar, which is in a free fall! Again!

He didn’t mention that the U.S. Dollar Index has just plunged to a brand new historic low, while foreign currencies soar!

Nor did he mention that the widely-watched CRB index is now at a new record high … oil has busted clean through the $100-barrier … gold is within a stone’s throw of $1,000 per ounce … silver is rising even faster … wheat is at a new record high … corn is soaring … soybeans are nearing $15 a bushel.

These are major dangers. But they’re also generating massive profit opportunities.

That’s why, next week we’re issuing a blockbuster new Safe Money Report with a complete model portfolio of investment picks to help you accomplish three things immediately:

Check Get a large chunk of your money to safety!

Check Protect yourself against further real estate declines!

Check And go for extraordinary profits as choice alternative investments soar!

Bridges to Hope Foundation Newsletter and Blog

www.bthf.org

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The economy is going through a rough patch, and the stock market is well below its all-time high. Mortgage rates have been dropping since the end of last year.

For homeowners, that can mean only one thing: It’s time to think about refinancing your mortgage.

“If you can save on the interest you’re paying, then it’s time to do a mortgage refinance,” explains Fred Glick, managing member of US Loans Mortgage LLC, a Philadelphia-based mortgage broker.

For some homeowners whose adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) interest rates are rising, the low interest rates on 30- and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages offer an opportunity to refinance into something that’s a known quantity.

“If you have a mortgage that’s going to adjust, it’s important to get into a fixed-rate program now,” says Emma Butler, a certified mortgage planner with Mobium Mortgage Group, in Chicago.

In Freddie Mac’s latest survey of mortgage rates, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.72 percent with fees totaling 0.4 percent. A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage cost an average of 5.25 percent, plus 0.4 percent in fees.

A year ago, a 30-year mortgage cost an average of 6.3 percent, up more than a half percent, while the average 15-year mortgage cost 6.03 percent, nearly a full percentage point higher than what is available today.

Should you do a mortgage refinance now? Or, wait to see if interest rates drop further?

Conventional wisdom used to say that if you could shave 2 percentage points off of your interest rate, you should refinance your mortgage. But today, with zero-cost mortgage refinance options widely available, it may make sense to refinance if you can shave a half point off the interest rate you’re now paying — without lengthening the loan term.

“If you can save money by doing a mortgage refinance, you should do it. Some clients lately have saved $250 per month by refinancing,” Butler notes.

But understand that with a zero-cost refinance, you won’t get the very lowest interest rate for your mortgage.

“You can expect to pay an additional quarter percent in the interest rate if you want a zero-cost refinance,” explains Dick Lepre, a senior loan consultant with Residential Pacific Mortgage, in San Francisco.

One problem some homeowners are having is that they had previously listed their properties for sale. Some lenders will not refinance a property that had been listed for sale within six months of the refinance. But other lenders will, Butler explains.

“Each lender has his or her own guidelines,” Butler says. “Some will let you do a mortgage refinance if the property has been off the market for one day. It varies from lender to lender.”

“We have three investors we work with who will do Fannie Mae loans even on properties [that] have been off MLS for one day. One of the three will not allow you to do a cash-out refinance, but the other two will,” offers Lepre.

When should you do a mortgage refinance?

“Don’t do it to go on vacation, buy shoes or go out to dinner. Do not mortgage your house for something like that,” says Glick. “But if you’re going to pay off your credit card and cut it up, or if you need to do it so you do not go into default on your loan, then absolutely you should refinance.”

Glick believes you should never do a mortgage refinance just to get a tax deduction. “Don’t refinance for tax purposes.”

And finally, don’t refinance to lower your payment but lengthen your loan — unless you are facing possible foreclosure.

When you refinance, the goal should be to lower the amount of interest you’re paying, either by lowering the interest rate or shortening your loan term.

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Most homeowners expect the value of their homes will increase when they spend money on remodeling. However, this is often not the case. The recent Cost vs. Value Report prepared by Remodeling magazine in conjunction with the National Association of Realtors makes this point abundantly clear.

The Cost vs. Value Report was based on a survey of more than 100,000 appraisers, real estate sales agents and brokers in 65 different markets around the country. The survey included information about construction costs and specifications for 29 mid- to high-range projects. Those who participated in the survey were asked to estimate the percent returned on resale for each project.

In general, the value of remodeling was down in 2007 compared to 2006. This was attributed to rising renovation costs and a slower rate of home-price appreciation.

Also revealed in the report is a trend toward renovation projects that improve the exterior of a home. Nationally, of those projects that paid back more than 80 percent of the cost on resale, only one — a minor kitchen remodel that returned 83 percent — was an interior renovation. It’s noteworthy that since a minor kitchen remodel was added to the survey in 2004, it has consistently ranked amongst the highest-value projects.

Other high-returning exterior upgrades included: upscale siding using fiber-cement material; a wood deck addition; mid-range vinyl siding replacement; and mid-range to upscale window replacement. All of these improvements returned in the 81 to 88 percent range.

Nationally, the maximum percent returned on a renovation project was 88 percent. However, the Pacific region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington) bucked the trend with six projects paying back more than 100 percent of the amount spent for renovations. These included: a wood deck addition; a minor kitchen remodel; fiber-cement siding replacement; wood window replacement; and upscale wood and vinyl window replacement.

According to the Cost vs. Value Report, there is a wide range of payback on renovation projects to be expected from different regions. For example, a bathroom remodel recouped 69 percent nationally. In the Mid-Atlantic region the return was 60.7 percent, but it was 84.1 percent in the Pacific region.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Given current real estate market conditions and regional variability in the amount you can expect to recoup on a remodel, it’s wise to know your local area well before embarking on a major project. Check costs with a local contractor and talk to a local agent whose opinion you trust before you start, particularly if you have resale in mind.

Just as it isn’t wise to buy a home if you plan to move again soon, it’s also not smart to do a major renovation unless you plan to stay put for awhile. The more you spend, the more money you could lose unless you own the property long enough to benefit from years of appreciation.

Homeowners who are planning to fix up their homes for sale in the near future can gain insight from the results of the Cost vs. Value Report. First impressions have always been an important element in selling homes. So, put some effort in improving the exterior appearance of your home and yard. If your home has limited outdoor living, adding a wood deck can overcome this deficiency.

It may seem ridiculous to improve the kitchen for someone else when you could never seem to find the time to fix it up for yourself. But, since minor kitchen remodels have such a high rate of return, it’s a project well worth considering if your kitchen is dated.

THE CLOSING: It could make the difference between selling or not in the current challenging home-sale market.

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Although definitions may vary among brokerages, small-caps are companies with a market capitalization of between $300 million and $2 billion. These smaller companies have a greater chance for growth but also more volatility.

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