by ilene - March 15th, 2009 10:17 pm
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 8:42 pm
Angry yet? Terrorists are rotting our country from within; AIG gets the prize for the most successful terrorist organization to date.
1. a person, usually a member of a group, who uses or advocates terrorism.
2. a person who terrorizes or frightens others.
3. (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror.
4. an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.
5. American International Group
Forget al-Qaida – the world’s most successful terrorist organization, by a margin of roughly $170 billion dollars, exists right here in the U.S… in fact we will make it easy for the FBI – its terrorist boot camp is located at 70 Pine Street, New York, NY 10270, and they even answer the phone at 212-770-7000. The organization in question, is of course, known as American International Group. And while the U.S. has claimed it will not negotiate with any ad hoc or designated terrorist organization ever, it has time after time succumbed to every single whim and demand that AIG has raised, from shelving out hard-earned taxpayer money to make sure the company does not disappear in the gravitational vortex of its derivatives Frankenstein, to protecting its cabal of crony amateur terrorists in waiting (read CDS counterparties who benefited from every bailout, for a complete list see here), to its employees who mindnumbingly keep receiving bonus after bonus payment. And if America was any country in Europe, with a touchy-feely sense of ethical proprietery, this article in the New York Times would have resulted in mass looting.
As the MSM disclosed a few days ago, Geithner, in a horrendous attempt to play Robin Hood for the masses pressured AIG to cut the $9.6 million its top 50 executives were going to receive. While that bit of information was purposefully circulated, the salvo that came from the NY Times was a bit of a fly in Geithner’s ointment. Turns out AIG is paying out $165 million in "retention" bonuses over the next few days, with a range of
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 7:18 pm
Are we in the grips of a pandemic of fear? If so, history suggests there’s no quick way out, and medical science suggests there’s no miracle cure. – Ilene
One unfortunate consequence of years of hubristically misguided monetary and fiscal policies is the popular notion that if you dig deep enough into a bag of economic tricks, you will invariably find "solutions" to whatever challenges come our way.
Yet what people often forget is that when the element of time has played a major role in spawning broad-based economic and financial woes, history suggests that the passage of days, months, and years is invariably a feature of any turnaround.
In other words, the only way you can really solve problems that were decades in the making is to stop trying to prolong the agony and, instead, allow enough time for the excesses and imbalances to work themselves out.
And even then, it might not mean the "patient" will return to the picture of health. Sometimes, the damage that has been done, or other ailments that were acquired along the way, point to a more crippling, more pervasive malaise.
In discussing today’s America, could that be what Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is referring to in "There’s No Pill for This Kind of Depression"?
Six months after the collapse, a "pandemic of fear."
It is six months since Lehman fell and the crash (or the great recession, or the collapse—it’s time it got its name) began. An aspect of the story given less attention than it is due, perhaps because it doesn’t lend itself to statistics, is the psychic woe beneath the economic blow. There are two parts to this. One is that we have arrived at the first fatigue. The heart-pumping drama of last September is gone, replaced by the drip-drip-drip of pink slips, foreclosures and closed stores. We are tired. It doesn’t feel like 1929, but 1930. People are in a kind of suspended alarm, waiting for the future to unspool and not expecting it to unspool happily.
Two, the economy isn’t the only reason for our unease. There’s more to it. People sense something slipping away, a world receding, not only an economic one but a world of
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 4:41 pm
Banks giving TARP money back – it’s too tainted, too much trouble, too many strings.
Courtesy of Mish
In what any sensible person knew would eventually happen the moment the program was announced, Banks are now scrambling to return bailout funds.
A growing number of healthy bank chains across the country are bailing out of the $700-billion federal banking bailout program, saying it has tarnished the reputation of banks that took the money and tangled them in unwieldy regulations.
When the program began last fall, it was billed by then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson as an investment in strong banks to make them even stronger.
But not long after the program began, it became clear that the bulk of early funding was going to a handful of financially crippled giants such as Bank of America Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co., American International Group Inc. and Citigroup Corp.
"It was supposed to be a badge of honor if you were able to get this money, but now it’s a badge of honor if you didn’t take it, with all the bad publicity it has attracted," said Alan Rothenberg, chairman of 1st Century Bank in Century City.
Rothenberg’s bank took a look at the Treasury program and decided to avoid it.
More than 100 banks were approved by federal regulators to get money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, and then backed out before getting any, a senior Treasury official disclosed.
But a growing number of banks that have received the money now want to give it back.
"The TARP money is tainted and we don’t want it," said Jason Korstange, a spokesman for Minnesota-based TCF Financial Corp., which received $361 million and announced this month that it wanted to pay it back. "The perception is that any bank that took this money is weak. Well, that isn’t our case. We were asked to take this money."
The bank issued a toughly worded statement earlier this year, saying that the money had put the financially strong banking chain at a "competitive disadvantage" and that the bank now believed it was "in the best interest of shareholders" to return it.
Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp., which took $1.5 billion, seems even more anxious for a quick exit. It found itself the
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 4:23 pm
Considered a ‘Severe’ Epidemic, Every Mode of Transmission Is Increasing, City Study Finds
By Jose Antonio Vargas and Darryl Fears, Washington Post Staff Writers
At least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a "generalized and severe" epidemic, according to a report scheduled to be released by health officials tomorrow…
"Our rates are higher than West Africa," said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work in Zimbabwe. "They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."…
So urgent is the concern that the HIV/AIDS Administration took the relatively rare step of couching the city’s infections in a percentage, harkening to 1992, when San Francisco, around the height of its epidemic, announced that 4 percent of its population was HIV positive. But the report also cautions that "we know that the true number of residents currently infected and living with HIV is certainly higher."…. Almost 1 in 10 residents between the ages of 40 and 49 has the virus.
The report notes that "this growing population will have significant implications on the District’s health care system" as residents face chronic medical problems associated with aging and fighting a disease that compromises the immune system.
[For comparison, the HIV infection rate estimates (2007) for the United States was 0.6%, Canada, 0.4%, Uganda 5.4% and South Africa, 18%. For a map of HIV infection rates per country, click here. ]
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 2:10 pm
I’m continually amazed by how easy it is for government officials to hoodwink most of the news media. All it takes is for a couple of leading finance ministers to get on roughly the same page, and we’re reading/hearing about “substantial progress” or “major steps forward.” If someone provides an articulate background briefing to a leading newspaper on the supposed debate within a group of countries, this becomes the dominant news story.
Saturday’s G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors is a leading example. It was a disaster - we face what officials readily concede is the biggest financial and economic crisis since the 1930s, yet this conclave agreed on precisely nothing that will make any difference. If the G20 heads of government summit on April 2nd is a similar failure, we will be staring at the real possibility of a global catastrophe. Yet the spinning storytellers of the G7 have still managed to get much of the press peering in entirely the wrong direction.
For more on what would the right direction, take a look at my piece in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph.
The media coverage of the G20 finance ministers meeting this weekend was dominated by the apparent battle between those who support more fiscal stimulus and those who want to impose more regulations on the financial system.
This, we are led to believe, is the big debate facing the full G20 heads of government summit early next month: the US is pushing for a bigger global fiscal stimulus (2pc extra government spending from everyone, to be monitored by the IMF), while the continental Europeans are holding out for greater regulation. Gordon Brown is trying hard to cast himself as the broker for any apparent deal.
However, don’t be fooled by all this sound and fury.
by ilene - March 15th, 2009 12:46 am
Justin Fox discusses the classic question surrounding losses – who pays? – in the context of bank bailouts.
You’re ticked off about the bank bailouts. Furious. You think somebody — other than you and your fellow taxpayers — needs to pay. Let’s try to work out who that somebody ought to be.
The banks’ shareholders don’t make a promising target. The stock prices of Citigroup and Bank of America, to name two especially dramatic examples, are down more than 90% from their 2007 peaks. There are arguments, relating to incentives for executives and future shareholders, for wiping out current shareholders at the most troubled banks. But that won’t pay for anything — the shareholders simply don’t have much more value to cough up. Same goes for those who work in the business. Many have lost their job and life savings, and most have seen their salary cut. Yes, there have been egregious bonuses and golden parachutes — and we ought to claw them back — but that won’t pay for a trillion-dollar (or more) bailout. Which leaves … the folks who loaned the banks money. The banks’ creditors have been the clearest beneficiaries of the bailouts — leaving them with the most wherewithal to contribute. (See 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.)
Who are these creditors? The biggest group, with outstanding loans of about $9 trillion, is depositors like you and me. When you deposit money, you’re lending it to the bank. Those deposits were explicitly insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $100,000 before the crisis, and the banks paid for that insurance (though not in full, given that FDIC coverage has been raised to $250,000 and seems effectively without limit at bigger banks) and passed the cost on in the form of lower interest rates than on, say, an uninsured money-market account. That, plus the fear that panicked depositors could start a devastating run on the banking system, explains why we’re going to continue to be protected. (See the worst business deals of 2008.)
But banks also borrow on wholesale markets, mainly by issuing bonds. About $2.6 trillion of bank funding in the U.S., 20% of the total,
by ilene - March 14th, 2009 11:53 pm
Another episode in the twilight zone of the bailout world…
Here’s Exhibit A why the government shouldn’t be bailing out firms like AIG: The company says it is "contractually obligated" to pay $450 million in bonuses to the group that wrote the credit default swaps that have already cost U.S. taxpayers $170 billion.
Timothy Geithner howled in protest--but to no avail. AIG merely reduced the bonuses modestly and explained that taxpayers had better let it pay them, or taxpayers would never get any of their money back.
This, needless to say, is outrageous: If AIG had gone bankrupt (in an orderly fashion), these bonuses would not be paid. The executives holding the contracts would just get in line with AIG’s other creditors. And U.S. taxpayers would not be out $170 billion and counting and enduring insult after injury every week from the national embarrassment known as AIG.
Washington Post: Insurance giant American International Group will award hundreds of millions of dollars in employee bonuses and retention pay despite a confrontation Wednesday between the firm’s chief executive and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.
But the company agreed to revise some executive payments after what chief executive Edward M. Liddy called a "difficult" conversation.
The bonuses and other payments have been exasperating government officials, who have committed $170 billion to keep the company afloat — far more than has been offered to any other financial firm.
The issue came to a head when Geithner called Liddy and told him the payments were unacceptable and had to be renegotiated, an administration official said.
In a letter to Geithner yesterday, Liddy agreed to restructure some of the payments. But Liddy said he had "grave concerns" about the impact on the firm’s ability to retain talented staff "if employees believe that their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury."
Lawyers at both the Treasury Department and AIG have concluded that the firm would risk a lawsuit if it scrapped the retention payments at the AIG
by ilene - March 14th, 2009 10:34 pm
Corey Rosenbloom revisits the Elliott Wave chart patterns on the SP500.
In a much anticipated post, I wanted to revisit the “Which Elliott Fourth Wave are we in Currently?” debate that I mentioned last December. I followed that post up with a mid-January update, “Two Competing Elliott Wave Counts on the S&P 500“. This post reflects the mid-March update of the two interpretations and how they have both played out in the markets.
Let me summarize the interpretations.
1. The Bullish Interpretation
States that we are Ending the 5-Wave decline that Began in 2007 (that we are in a Primary Wave 5 down… technically Wave (4) of circled 5.
I call this “bullish” because it means we just need one more swing down (in the Elliott Structure) to complete the 5-wave decline.
2. The … Bearish Interpretation
States that We are Still in an Extended Third Wave off the 2007 High (that we are an a Primary Wave 3).
I call this bearish because it implies that we are close to finishing the Primary 3rd Wave before embarking on a large ABC up… then we will begin a 5-wave decline to take us to lower lows than we’re seeing now. It’s also likely to trick so many people because the Primary 4th Wave rally is expected to be sharp (violent) and will lead so many people to believe we’ve put in a bottom… only to see price rip to new lows once the 4th Wave completes.
1. The “Bullish” Scenario:
Summary: The circled waves reflect a Primary Degree and that we are just one more swing away from completing this 5-Wave sequence of a Major C Wave (reference monthly charts).
It states that we’re currently in (4) of circled 5 of Cycle C.
Ending target: 600 – 650 within two/three months.
2. The “Bearish” Scenario
by ilene - March 14th, 2009 7:03 pm
This week we look at the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan is going through major upheavals, and they will have consequences all over the world. And what are those wild and crazy Swiss central bankers up to? It’s time for another round of competitive devaluation. And of course I have to look at the recent Barron’s cover story, about how stocks are cheap. There’s a lot to cover…
Where Have My Earnings Gone?
Barron’s probably jinxed the stock market by stating why they think the Dow won’t fall to 5000, although we do have what I hope is the start of a nice bear market rally. Part of their reasoning is that stocks are cheap. They assign a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of a lowly 13, based upon 2009 estimated earnings of $51 in operating profits, which they suggest is historically low. And I agree that 13 is toward the low end and would represent a good long-term buying opportunity – if indeed it was 13.
Actually, if you want to get really bullish, go to S&P’s web site and look at their estimated earnings for 2009. They calculate a P/E of 10.89 on 2009 estimated operating earnings.
As I have written over the years, the long-term P/E studies all use "as-reported" earnings, or earnings that are reported on tax returns. Operating earnings are of the EBBS variety, or Earnings Before Bad Stuff (or whatever you want to designate as the BS component). Companies like to tell us to ignore all those "one-time" writedowns, which seem to happen a lot more than once these days.
Going back a few decades, operating and as-reported earnings were very closely aligned. That relationship began to change in the mid-’90s, as management wanted to make a more bullish case, which certainly helped with their stock options. And the difference between operating and as-reported earnings is now wider than ever.