Green Light Turns Yellow

It was all going so swimmingly for gold investors: The European Central Bank had thrown out another €529.5 billion in easy-money accommodation for eurozone banks, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had publicly indicated that his quantitative easing gun was loaded and he had an itchy trigger finger.

Then it all fell apart. It started with Bernanke’s most recent testimony before Congress, which was then firmly backstopped by last week’s policy statement from the Federal Open Market Committee. Both strongly suggested that further quantitative easing is off the table in the short term.

After riding high for much of February on bullish news, precious metals prices hit the skids following Bernanke’s testimony on Feb. 29 in front of the House Financial Services Committee.

How dramatic was the fall in gold? Consider that the metal hit its monthly high… and its monthly low… in the same day.

This was a major, bearish technical signal that simply had to be acknowledged. And in doing so, we must also admit that the rally of the previous weeks was much more fragile, and more dependent upon speculative trading funds, than anyone had imagined.

The fact that the markets nose-dived so quickly upon Bernanke’s testimony indicates that some very big money, in a limited number of hands, had been betting that Bernanke was going to outright endorse a third round of quantitative easing in a very clear and direct fashion.

In the end, the markets reacted not so much to what Bernanke said, but what he didn’t say. In short, he didn’t come right out and publicly endorse more quantitative easing. And last week’s FOMC statement did not do so either.

Other factors have played a role in gold’s correction, most notably the brightening economic picture in the United States and at least a temporary resolution to the European credit crisis. In other words, the market believes that even Bernanke can’t find sufficient cause for another round of quantitative easing.

Looking Forward

At the very least, the downdraft in gold has been accompanied by significant short-selling. And this infers a short-covering rally to follow at some point.

Regardless, the correction in gold seems to be well overdone and unjustified, given the broader monetary backdrop. There’s already far too much liquidity in the global system, along with obvious inflation in Asia and “stealth” inflation in the West, to see a collapse in gold demand.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial board put it:

In addition to the European Central Bank’s liquidity burst, China is easing its reserve requirements to stimulate more bank lending. The Bank of England has been all-in for some time, and the Bank of Japan recently joined the party. Lesser central banks have been following suit, as the world takes its cues from the grandest monetary maestro, Mr. Bernanke, who has announced that the Fed will keep interest rates at near-zero for another three years.

Does this sound like a tight-money policy? Purely on monetary momentum alone, the future looks bright for gold and tangible assets over the long term.

In addition, we can’t forget about the $1.5 trillion in excess banking reserves that is being held by the Fed right now. This money officially doesn’t exist… until the Nation’s banks start withdrawing the funds to make loans and thereby insert the money into the economy.

Sustained U.S. economic growth, in other words, won’t be the end of liquidity injections. Instead, it will mark the beginning of a new phase, as the velocity of today’s huge, overhanging money supply accelerates and inflation truly kicks in.

And finally, does anyone really believe that the Fed and the ECB are going to drain the punch bowl anytime soon? Is Bernanke going to suddenly stop printing money?

In fact, one can put forth a very credible argument that more quantitative easing will be necessary — unemployment is still at record levels in the eurozone and the economic data in the U.S. continues to be mixed. In his Senate testimony, Bernanke claimed that the record for quantitative easing was “positive,” and he maintains that his previous two monetary injections didn’t spark inflation at all.

Rest assured, Bernanke still has his finger on the QE trigger, and it’s itchy.

The technical damage that has been inflicted on the gold chart cannot be ignored, of course. The market’s swift reaction to last week’s FOMC statement, for example, sent gold below its widely watched 200-day moving average.

So in the short term, dollar-bullishness based on improving U.S. economic data and a consensus that the worst is over in Europe may continue to hamstring gold prices.

But over the long term, an improving U.S. economy has the potential to unleash massive amounts of price inflation, which will result in a weaker U.S. dollar and stronger gold and commodity prices.

In short, the future may be a bit choppier than we had hoped, but I’m confident that the metals are headed much higher once the current correction has run its course.

The Potential For Economic Armageddon In November

While gold should slowly but surely resume its climb soon, there’s a very real possibility that the metal could absolutely explode higher. And it’s actually getting more likely every day.

You see, the Republican primary contest has lasted longer, and been more vitriolic, than anyone had imagined. The candidates are doing the opposition research for the Democratic Party, and spending their war chests attacking each other. At this point, I think the odds of unseating President Barack Obama in November are 50/50 at best.

And that means American investors are precariously balanced on a fence. Fall on one side with a Republican victory, and we still have problems… but they’re solvable. Fall on the other side with a Democratic victory, however, and there’s big, big trouble ahead.

We’ll see our debt burden continue to grow with massive spending and no entitlement reform, rising taxes and other attacks on the productive sectors of society, and monetary inflation to a degree that will make recent dollar- and euro-printing pale in comparison.

Make no mistake: This will be economic Armageddon. And the odds of it occurring grow more likely with every day that the Republican nomination remains contested.

That’s one reason why many investors are looking at the current correction in gold and silver as a major buying opportunity. And I agree with them.

In fact, I’m going to provide some specific, bargain-priced recommendations in upcoming issues of my free e-letter, Golden Opportunities.

In the meantime, with Rick Santorum having recently won Mississippi and Alabama, the calls for Newt Gingrich to withdraw from the race are growing more strident. If he remains in the contest, it should help decide the nomination more quickly for Mitt Romney, since Gingrich will split the anti-Romney vote with Santorum.

But don’t count on Gingrich running away from the spotlight he loves so much. To be fair, Gingrich has some great ideas. I’ve discussed many of them with him over the years, as he has appeared at our annual New Orleans Investment Conference.

In fact, as you’ll see below, he presented much of his future platform at our 2010 New Orleans Investment Conference.


Why there? Because the New Orleans Conference is famed for bringing in the world’s top experts in geopolitics, economics and investments together with today’s most successful and opinionated individual investors.

History has shown that there’s simply no better place for investors to get actionable strategies to protect and build their wealth, and there’s no better place for the most accomplished experts to present their views.

Gingrich gave a rousing presentation at the 2010 New Orleans Conference. It’s the speech that’s widely credited with having launched his Presidential campaign, and you’ll see why.

So, enjoy Gingrich’s inspiring speech. But also be sure to protect yourself from the dangers he foresees, and which are growing more real with every day that passes.

–Brien Lundin

More Suicide During Economic Low Point

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. and Canadian researchers said an analysis of the monthly suicide rate in New York suggests a correlation between suicide and a bad economy.

Senior author Dr. Sandro Galea of the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and colleagues at the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy; the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing; and Weill Cornell Medical College examined the suicide and economic data from 1990 to 2006.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, said the New York suicide rate was 29 percent higher at an economic low point in the economy in 1992, compared to an economic high point in 2000.

“The reasons behind an individual’s decision to take his or her life are often complex and difficult to understand, even for family and friends,” Galea said in a statement. “It is usually a combination of forces with, for example, economic stresses on top of a strained relationship. Economic hardship can hurt a person’s self-worth and limit the availability of social resources, including mental healthcare.”

While broader economic conditions were shown to affect suicide, Wall Street volatility was not.

First author Arijit Nandi, an assistant professor at McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy and a former student of Galea’s, said the finding was surprising because it goes against the archetype of the despairing stockbrokers on the window ledge jumping to their death.

The bigger picture, Nandi said, is more complex.

“The causes of individual cases of suicide, such as losing money in the stock market, may be distinct from the causes of suicide rates, which are defined at the population level and may reflect a multifactorial causal mechanism,” Nandi said.

Man Builds House By Wife’s Grave

TAMALEMEQUE, Colombia (UPI) — An 84-year-old Colombian man who built a small house next to his wife’s grave after she died five years ago said he is not finished constructing the home.

Alejandro Garcia of Tamalemeque said he attempted suicide after his wife of 56 years, Maria Antonia, died of a lung infection in 2007 and he decided to build a small house next to her grave after his son died of leukemia shortly afterward, Colombia Reports said Tuesday.

Cemetery worker Jose Manuel Pacheco said Garcia often receives visitors in his small home and is popular among the town’s residents.

“He spends all day here and goes out to eat with his daughters, then comes back and takes care of his wife,” Pacheco said.

Garcia said he receives $80 in government assistance every two months and puts most of the money back into the home.

“The first shelter I did with cardboard and pieces of wood, then it gradually got better. With my next paycheck, I will tile the floor,” he said.

Church Bans Dog From Funeral

HELSINGBORG, Sweden (UPI) — A Swedish woman said the church hosting her husband’s funeral is refusing his final wish, to have his dog attend the service.

Gun Thern, whose husband of 56 years, Willy Thern, 81, died Saturday, said it was her spouse’s final wish to have their dog Milo attend his funeral service, The Local reported Tuesday.

“In our 56-year marriage we had, all told, eight dogs,” Thern said. “Because we never had any children, they became our girls and boys.”

However, Thern said Markus von Martens, the priest at Valluv Church in Helsingborg, told her she could not bring the 9-year-old canine into the facility.

“This is primarily because we have people with allergies. If we allow dogs in the church then we’ll be forced to clean up afterwards. That’s a big project for a church from the 1100’s,” von Martens said.


Man Apologizes For Rude Mug Shot

AKRON, Ohio (UPI) — An Ohio 18-year-old has apologized for his mug shot, which features him displaying his middle finger and grabbing his crotch.

The mug shot taken of Mitchell Peterman after he was arrested Sunday on charges of underage drinking and obstruction went viral online after it was posted to Facebook by Bath Township police, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Tuesday.

Peterman, a student at the University of Akron, apologized for his rude photo Monday and police took the picture off Facebook later in the day.

“I haven’t even seen them. I don’t even want to look at them,” Peterman said of the pictures. “It’s something I wish I wouldn’t have done, something I wish I could undo. So, I’m just going to try and distance myself from it, learn from it and leave it behind.”

Woman Fined $6,000 For Flowers

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (UPI) — A New Hampshire woman said her condo board is charging her $50 per day for planting flowers in her small front yard.

Kimberly Bois, who has owned the Portsmouth townhouse since 2008, said the fines have grown to nearly $6,000 and the condo board has put a lien on her home for the owed sum, WBZ-TV, Boston, reported Tuesday.

“It just feels like we’ve been bullied and really all we wanted to do was have a conversation to figure out how this can benefit all of us,” Bois said.

Bois said the board refused her offer to pull up the flowers and pay a portion of the legal fees.

“Now we’ve gone down a rabbit hole that I just can’t seem to get out of and it’s very sad, and it’s upsetting,” she said.


Stolen Bike Left With Note Signed ‘Drunk’

ASPEN, Colo. (UPI) — A Colorado man said he has his stolen bicycle back after the thief left it at a courthouse with a note signed “Drunk.”

Jay Maytin of Aspen said the bicycle he received as a gift in 1999 was missing for less than 24 hours when he saw a newspaper article describing a bike that had been left Friday at the Pitkin County Courthouse and turned over to Aspen Police, The Aspen Times reported Tuesday.

“Sorry. I stole this bike. I rode it home. Please give it back — Drunk,” the note accompanying the bike read.

“I knew a drunk took it because it doesn’t have much of a re-sale value,” Maytin said. However, he said, “to me it’s worth $500. It’s transportation.”

Maytin said he would not have pressed charges against the thief.

“All I wanted was my bike back,” he said.

India Now World’s Leading Arms Importer

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (UPI) — Sweden’s International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the global arms trade, reports that India is the world’s leading arms importer.

SIPRI’s latest report notes that for the period 2007-11, India accounted for 10 percent of global arms imports.

While the bulk of India’s foreign weapons came from the Russian Federation, including 120 Sukhoi-30MK multi-role combat aircraft and 29 MiG-29K fighters, India also diversified its arm suppliers and purchases during the period included 20 British Jaguar warplanes.

Besides India, for the period 2007-11 other Asian states were responsible for the bulk of armaments. South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore imported significant amounts of weaponry, with those four countries and India accounting for 30 percent of all imports of major conventional weapons for the period.

The SIPRI report named the United States and Russia as key arms suppliers that, respectively, accounted for 30 and 24 percent of all weapons exports.

Housing Starts Slide, But Permits Are Up

WASHINGTON (UPI) — New home construction starts in the United States fell 1.1 percent January to February, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Housing starts dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000, compared with a upwardly revised figure for January of 706,000.

The rate of single-family housing starts in the month was 457,000, which was 9.9 percent below the 507,000 annual rate for January.

For multiple-unit housing starts, the annual rate in February came to 233,000.

Permits issued for privately owned housing units rose 5.1 percent month to month to an annual rate of 717,000. A year earlier in February, the annual rate stood at 534,000 permits. The new rate is a 34.3 percent climb over the rate 12 months prior.

Permits issued are an indicator of what direction construction starts might take one or two months down the road.

Completed housing projects in January were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 568,000, which is 6.2 percent above the revised figure for January of 535,000 units and 7 percent below February 2011, when 611,000 housing completions were posted.

Poll: Alternative Energy Loses Support

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Support for development of fuel sources such as wind and solar power has diminished in the United States during the past year, a survey found.

The March 7-11 poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press, found 52 percent of those responding indicated support for alternative fuel was more important than increasing oil, coal and natural gas production, while 39 percent indicated expanding exploration of coal, oil and gas was the more important of the two choices.

Although a majority went for alternative fuels, support for solar, wind and hydrogen power was not as popular as it had been in March 2011, when 63 percent indicated that was their favorite choice, while 29 percent chose coal, oil and gas exploration.

Respondents who identified themselves as Republicans were more apt to have changed their preferences — with 33 percent indicated support for alternative energy sources, down from 47 percent in 2011.

The survey found “as in the past … there continues to be broad public support for an array of policies aimed at addressing the nation’s energy supply.”

Nearly 80 percent overall indicated support for improving fuel efficiency in cars, while nearly 70 percent indicated support for federal research for alternative energy sources. Sixty-five percent indicated support for improved rail, bus and subway systems.

Concerning the controversial method of mining called fracking, 37 percent indicated they have only heard a little about it and 37 percent, indicated they have never heard of it. Only 25 percent indicated they had heard a lot about it.

A majority — 52 percent — indicated support for fracking, a figure held up mostly by Republicans, 73 percent of whom indicated they supported fracking, compared to 33 percent of Democrats.

The poll was based on 1,503 interviews and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

UPS Buying TNT Express For $6.77 Billion

ATLANTA (UPI) — United Parcel Service Inc. has agreed to buy European rival TNT Express NV for $6.77 billion in an all-cash offer, the firms announced Monday.

The deal for the Dutch logistics company will extend the presence of Atlanta’s UPS in China and in Latin America. It will also create a mega-firm with $60 billion in annual revenues “and an enhanced, integrated global network,” the companies said in a statement.

Currently, UPS derives 26 percent of its revenue outside of the United States. After the merger, that is expected to rise to 36 percent, the firms said.

Most of the overlap in services is in Europe.

The price of the deal represents a 53.7 percent premium over the unaffected share price of TNT Express on Feb. 16, the day before discussions of the deal became public.

TNT employs 77,000 people worldwide and includes a fleet of 30,000 vehicles. It delivers 1 million parcels on a daily basis.

United Parcel Service has its headquarters in Atlanta and operates in more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.

The companies expect to save as much as $725 million per year in operating costs. The firms said, “All employee rights, covenants, and benefits under current ownership will be respected.”

They also said, “Throughout integration, the selection and appointment of staff for any function within the newly combined entity, will be subject to applicable laws, and be based on the ‘best person for the job’ principle.”

“In case of potential consequences for employees of the combination, the principle of fairness will be applied as to the impact of redundancies on TNT Express and UPS staff,” the companies said without naming a specific number of expected layoffs.

TaxMasters Files For Bankruptcy

HOUSTON (UPI) — Nationally advertised income tax consulting firm TaxMasters Inc., which is under suspicion of fraud in Texas, has filed for bankruptcy, court papers show.

The company, which is based in Houston, is the defendant in a multi-count civil case filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot.

Abbott has charged the firm with misleading sales practices. ABC News reported Monday that a spokesman for Abbott’s office said he was unaware of the bankruptcy filing.

Minnesota’s attorney general’s office is also considering filing charges. “This is a company which is taking advantage of people, and unfortunately, when people see it on TV, they do believe in it, Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

At the heart of the controversy are $2,000 to $8,000 fees customers are charged upfront. “When you pay these upfront, advanced fees, now you’re signed up, you’re stuck, and the promised [tax] help doesn’t materialize,” Swanson said.

In a taped sales pitch, a company representative says, “You’re owing 19,000 … I mean we can basically get you down to basically next to nothing.” The tape also says, “We’re 97 percent successful.”

Court papers say TaxMasters has between $1 million and $10 million in liabilities.

The company, which has been publicly traded since 2010, had revenues of $45.7 million in 2011.


Women Can Have Orgasm Exercising

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., March 20 (UPI) — U.S. researchers confirmed anecdotal evidence that some women experience sexual pleasure or even an orgasm while exercising.

Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, conducted an online survey that found 124 women who reported experiencing exercise-induced orgasms and 246 women who experienced exercise-induced sexual pleasure.

The women ranged in age from 18 to 63. Most were in a relationship or married and about 69 percent identified themselves as heterosexual.

“The most common exercises associated with exercise-induced orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing poles or ropes, biking/spinning and weight lifting,” Herbenick said in a statement. “These data are interesting because they suggest that orgasm is not necessarily a sexual event, and they may also teach us more about the bodily processes underlying women’s experiences of orgasm.”

The study, published in a special issue of Sexual and Relationship Therapy, found 51 percent reported experiencing an orgasm during abdominal exercises within the previous 90 days. Twenty-seven percent reported orgasm while weightlifting, 20 percent during yoga, 16 percent while bicycling, 13 percent while running and 10 percent while walking/hiking.

Most women reporting exercise-induced orgasms said they were not fantasizing sexually or thinking about anyone they were attracted to during their experiences, Herbenick said.


U.S. ADHD Diagnoses Rocket Upward

CHICAGO (UPI) — From 2000 to 2010, U.S. children and teens diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder jumped from 6.2 million to 10.4 million, researchers say.

Dr. Craig Garfield of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital said the 66 percent increase in physician-diagnosed ADHD cases in the past decade means it is now “a common diagnosis among children and teens.” The 2010 Census found there are about 75 million Americans under age 18.

“The magnitude and speed of this shift in one decade is likely due to an increased awareness of ADHD, which may have caused more physicians to recognize symptoms and diagnose the disorder,” Garfield, the first author of the study, said in a statement.

Symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors and being overly active, can affect children and teens both academically and socially, Garfield said.

Garfield and his team quantified ADHD diagnosis and treatment for those age 18 and under using the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index via a nationally representative sample of office-based visits and included 4,300 office-based physicians in 2010.

They found that more diagnoses are being made by specialists rather than primary doctors.

They also learned psychostimulants were used in 96 percent of treatments in 2000 and 87 percent in 2010. Garfield said the exact reason for the decrease is unclear.

The researchers’ findings are to be published in the March/April issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.


Fracking Emissions May Affect Health

AURORA, Colo. (UPI) — Air pollution due to hydraulic fracturing might add to acute or chronic health issues for those living near natural gas drilling sites, U.S. researchers said.

Lead author Lisa McKenzie of Colorado School of Public Health said the findings, based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons — including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, heptane, octane and diethylbenzene — in the air near wells.

Benzene has been identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a known carcinogen, McKenzie said.

“Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing,” McKenzie said in a statement. “Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells. The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period.”

The researchers calculated there were elevated cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further away, the report said. However, benzene was the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios.


Low-Income Moms Risk Obesity To Feed Kids

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., March 19 (UPI) — Low-income U.S. mothers who struggle to provide food for their families are often at risk for obesity while trying to feed their children, researchers say.

Molly Martin, assistant professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University, and Adam Lippert, a graduate student, said low-income mothers — who are often the food managers in the household — might skip meals and eat cheaper but less nutritious foods, to ensure their children are fed.

The sociologists found food-insecure mothers were more likely than fathers who face food shortages, as well as food-insecure, childless women and men, to be obese or overweight.

The researchers analyzed data of 7,931 participants in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics — data on weight and food insecurity in 1999.

The study, published in Social Science and Medicine, found food-insecure mothers gain more weight over time, compared to all food-insecure men and food-insecure women not caring for children.

“To make sure mothers can provide for their children, they may eat only once a day, for example, or they may eat erratically, which are all behaviors that are obesity risks,” Lippert said in a statement.

Besides causing weight gain, irregular eating can also cause a metabolic response that retains fat, the researchers said.

Women who have given birth tend to gain weight, but the researchers determined having children did not explain the weight gain for the food-insecure mothers.

Children Will Lose Weight If Parents Do

SAN DIEGO (UPI) — U.S. researchers said if a parent is worried about the weight of their child, the parents should lose weight themselves and their children will too.

Kerri N. Boutelle, an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at University of California, San Diego, and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, and colleagues said 31 percent of U.S. children were overweight or obese — between 4 and 5 million children.

“We looked at things such as parenting skills and styles, or changing the home food environment, and how they impacted a child’s weight,” Boutelle said in a statement. “The No. 1 way in which parents can help an obese child lose weight? Lose weight themselves. In this study, it was the most important predictor of child weight loss.”

The study involved 80 parent-child groups with an overweight obese child ages 8-12, who participated in a parent-only or parent plus child treatment program for five months.

The study focused on evaluating the impact of three types of parenting skills taught in family-based behavioral treatment for childhood obesity: The parent modeling behaviors to promote their own weight loss, changes in home food environment and parenting style and techniques — for example, a parent’s ability to help limit the child’s eating behavior, encouraging the child and participating in program activities.

The study published in the journal Obesity found, consistent with previously published research, parent body mass index change was the only significant predictor of child’s weight loss.

Poll: Teens Text More Than They Call

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Texting is the dominant mode of daily communication between teens and all those with whom they communicate, a U.S. poll indicates.

The volume of texting among teens has risen from 50 texts a day in 2009 to 60 texts while frequency of teens’ voice calls has fallen, the poll released Monday by the Pew Internet & American Life project indicates.

Among the teens surveyed, 63 percent said they exchange text messages every day with people in their lives.

Texting is the most common choice of daily communication, teens reported, surpassing phone calling by cell phone, 39 percent; face-to-face socializing outside of school, 35 percent; social network site messaging, 29 percent; instant messaging, 22 percent; talking on landlines, 19 percent, and e-mailing, 6 percent.

More and more teenagers have smartphones, the survey found, with 23 percent of all those ages 12-17 saying they have a smartphone.

Ownership is highest among older teens: 31 percent of those ages 14-17 have a smartphone, compared to just 8 percent of youth ages 12-13.

The poll was conducted by telephone with a sample of 799 teens ages 12 to 17 years old and their parents living in the continental United States. The margin of error was 4.8 percentage points.

Mobile Apps With Ads Called Security Risk

RALEIGH, N.C. (UPI) — Mobile applications that contain ads may be creating privacy and security risks for cellphone users, U.S. researchers say.

In a study of 100,000 apps in the official Google Play market, researchers at North Carolina State University reported more than half contained so-called ad libraries, and hundreds of the apps included aggressive ad libraries that could download and run code from remote servers.

“Running code downloaded from the Internet is problematic because the code could be anything,” computer scientist Xuxian Jiang said. “For example, it could potentially launch a ‘root exploit’ attack to take control of your phone — as demonstrated in a recently discovered piece of Android malware called RootSmart.”

To generate revenue, many free apps incorporate “in-app ad libraries” provided by Google, Apple or other third-parties that retrieve advertisements from remote servers and run the ads on a user’s smartphone. Every time an ad runs, the app developer receives a payment.

The problem arises because ad libraries receive the same permissions the user granted to the app itself when it was installed, regardless of whether the user was aware of granting permissions to the library.

Jiang said some apps use libraries “that made use of an unsafe mechanism to fetch and run code from the Internet — a behavior that is not necessary for their mission, yet has troubling privacy and security implications.”

Hackers could use the libraries to bypass existing Android security efforts, he said, since the app itself may be harmless and won’t trigger any security concerns — but its ad library may download harmful or invasive code after installation.