Is it possible to make hundreds of billions of dollars in profits on securities that are backed by nothing more than cyber-entries into a loan book?
It’s not only possible; it’s been done. And now the scoundrels who cashed in on the swindle have lined up outside the Federal Reserve building to trade their garbage paper for billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded loans. Meanwhile, the credit bust has left the financial system in a shambles and driven the economy into the ground like a tent stake. The unemployment lines are growing longer and consumers are cutting back on everything from nights-on-the-town to trips to the grocery store. And it’s all due to a Ponzi-finance scam that was concocted on Wall Street and spread through the global system like an aggressive strain of flu. This isn’t a normal recession; the financial system was blown up by greedy bankers who used "financial innovation" game the system and inflate the biggest speculative bubble of all time. And they did it all legally, using a little-known process called securitization.
Securitization--which is the conversion of pools of loans into securities that are sold in the secondary market--provides a means for massive debt-leveraging. The banks use off-balance sheet operations to create securities so they can avoid normal reserve requirements and bothersome regulatory oversight. Oddly enough, the quality of the loan makes no difference at all, since the banks make their money on loan originations and other related fees. What matters is quantity, quantity, quantity; an industrial-scale assembly line of fetid loans dumped on unsuspecting investors to fatten the bottom line. And, boy, can Wall Street grind out the rotten paper when there’s no cop on the beat and the Fed is cheering from the bleachers. In an analysis written by economist Gary Gorton for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s 2009 Financial Markets Conference titled, "Slapped in the Face by the Invisible Hand; Banking and the Panic of 2007", the author shows that mortgage-related securities ballooned from $492.6 billion in 1996 to $3,071.1 in 2003, while asset backed securities (ABS) jumped from $168.4 billion in 1996 to $1,253.1 in 2006. All told, more than $20 trillion in securitized debt was sold between 1997 to 2007. How much of that debt will turn out to be worthless as foreclosures skyrocket and the…
The focus here is on the bigger picture, although eventually this post will drill down to some more tradable analysis. For starters, lets look at a time frame I have seldom or ever posted before, a monthly view of the SPX:
During the past 15 years, we see two major up moves and two major down moves. Despite the rally of the past three months, the chart shows prices still mired in the most recent down move. Observe the angles of the four major directional moves, one should stand out, the most recent down move. It is by far the steepest of them all. What do you think this means?
The chart above is again a monthly chart, this time with Fibonacci retracements. Notice how prices have just now reached a 25% retracement level of the entire two year decline and that a typical 38% retracement would come in at about SPX 1015. Also observe how short this current three-month rally has been when compared to an 18 month decline. See how Advanced GET is suggesting that the completion of wave 4 will be between 960 – 1020.
Below is a close-up of the above chart via a weekly chart:
This above chart has a more completed look to the wave 4 advance from early March. The problem is that a confirmation will not occur until the Blue Wave sell level is hit. This level was 842.99 last week and will probably be at a higher level next week. We will know the new reversal level on Monday.
Moving to a daily view of the SPX, here is an interesting perspective courtesy of Market Club:
The MC chart is on a buy with a sell basis the weekly charts under 880. I’ve added a Parabolic stop/reverse indicator which is suggesting a level of 887.65 will generate a reverse-short signal. So with a weekly Triangle sell at 880 and the daily at 887.65, we have the makings of important support levels that if breached would signal a major change of trend.
Here is a daily view of the SPX, showing a much closer Blue Wave sell level:
The daily chart above has a much closer Blue Wave reversal sell level, 918, only a little over 20 SPX points lower.
Economics may be the "dismal science" but economists as a group sure seem to be an optimistic lot. Yes, there are a handful of "doomers" like Nouriel Roubini but most economists did not see the recession coming until it was already 10 months old.
Please consider unemployment forecasts. The Fed forecast unemployment at 8.4% in 2009 and the "adverse forecast" was at 10.3% in 2010.
Let’s take a look at all the Fed’s adverse assumptions for the recently conducted "stress-free test" as laid out in the Fed’s Stress Test White Paper.
Click on Table for Sharper Image
1 Percent change in annual average.
2 Baseline forecasts for real GDP and the unemployment rate equal the average of projections released by Consensus Forecasts, Blue Chip, and Survey of Professional Forecasters in February.
3 Annual average.
4 Case?Shiller 10?City Composite, percent change, fourth quarter of the previous year to fourth quarter of the year indicated.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index ? which covers 20 metropolitan areas ? showed a price decline of 18.7% in March, suggesting a greater fall in prices than expected. Analysts were looking for an -18.40% reading, following the -18.67% reading for February. The 10-city measure fell a similar 18.6%.
The numbers were even worse on a quarterly basis. The Q1 report ? which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, rather than just 20 metropolitan areas ? recorded a 19.1% decline compared to the first quarter of 2008, marking the steepest fall ever in the 21-year history of the index.
“All 20 metro areas are still showing negative annual rates of change in average home prices with nine of the metro areas having record annual declines,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “Seventeen metro areas recorded a monthly decline in March, with Minneapolis, Detroit and New York posting record monthly declines.”
Note that the baseline scenario for housing for 2009 is -14%. Home prices are already down 19.1% and the adverse scenario will be under
A conundrum wrapped in an enigma… that’s the S&P 500 index.
I was just looking at the S&P 500 index as we come to a close for the week of June 6th. While the market appears to be higher for week, it also appears that we’re losing momentum on the upside.
This can be seen in the second attempt to close over the 950 level. Also some of our momentum indicators are showing negative divergences. This means that while the S&P 500 is making new highs for the move, the momentum indicators are not showing the same configuration and making new highs. This can often be the first clue of a potential market correction.
It’s a very dangerous situation when any huge multinational corporation wages war against media companies. Especially when that huge multinational corporation is General Electric, which itself owns a media company, NBC Universal, and it’s using all its power and influence and money to try to harm another media company, Nielsen, and Nielsen Business Media, and its trade publication The Hollywood Reporter. This certainly sounds like a situation which the FCC, and the FTC, and the U.S. Justice Department should be investigating. Just one problem: the controversy stems from GE/NBCU’s coverage of President Obama. Here’s what happened:
According to my sources inside and outside Nielsen Business Media, The Hollywood Reporter trade publication ran a story dated April 22nd and updated on April 24th covering the "drama" at the most recent GE shareholders meeting in Orlando. THR‘s West Coast Business Editor Paul Bond wasn’t sent to the meeting, but he interviewed about half a dozen people who’d been inside the shareholders meeting and told him what transpired (see below). Bond’s THR story focused on the attempts by stockholders and Fox News Channel and other media to find out whether or not GE Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Immelt ordered his news operations to be less critical of President Obama and his policies.
Bond’s story was immediately picked up by The Drudge Report under the headline "GE shareholders outraged over MSNBC bias; Microphone cut off." It became a widely posted news story on conservative and liberal and media websites everywhere. That’s when, sources inside and outside Nielsen Business Media tell me, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt ordered a GE company-wide ban on all of The Hollywood Reporter‘s parent company Nielsen: advertising, editorial, the works… Continue here.
We are coming to a critical inflection point, perhaps the most critical point that we have had in 70 years for the US and to a great extent the global economy. The choices we make (or that Congress and the Fed make for us) will affect not just our investment portfolios but business and our jobs for a very long time. Last week I talked about the three paths we face as a nation. I want to go back to that theme and expand upon it. You need to clearly understand what the risks are so that you can interpret the actions and data that will be coming at us in the next few quarters. I am feeling a little tired today, so I am going to take the liberty to reproduce Bill Gross’s latest comments as well, which are somewhat in line with my own.
A Different Perspective on Health Care
But before we jump into the letter, I want to acknowledge the very large response I got from readers about the cut and paste I did about the differences between the national health care systems of Canada and Great Britain the health care system of the US. To say that I touched a raw nerve is an understatement. I should also admit that I learned a great deal from some very cogent and thoughtful letters. I often write about the problems with using selective statistics in gauging the economy. I have learned that you can do the same with health care statistics.
There are many letters I could quote, but let me give you a counter for the statistics from last week from Raoul Pal of Spain. And of course, there are other statistics that can be brought in to make almost any case you want. But I found these to be very thought-provoking.
"Using the Economists World in Figures I think there is a very interesting and maybe appalling story to tell. In its simplest terms a healthcare system is there to extend the longevity of live of the population. It is the single best and simplest way to judge it because we can all find examples of where one country is better than…
Robert Shiller of the infamous Case-Shiller index has a particularly interesting piece in the NYT. Instead of hammering on numbers he takes a look at the psychology of home buyers and sellers and why that might affect home prices for some time to come.
Shiller examines the behavioral biases that lead people to “irrationally” hold onto houses during a period or declining values. The concluding paragraphs are thought provoking:
For this reason, not all economists agree that home price declines are really predictable. Ray Fair, my colleague at Yale, for one, warns that any trend up or down may suddenly be reversed if there is an economic “regime change” — a shift big enough to make people change their thinking.
But market changes that big don’t occur every day. And when they do, there is a coordination problem: people won’t all change their views about homeownership at once. Some will focus on recent price declines, which may seem to belie any improvement in the economy, reinforcing negative attitudes about the housing market.
Even if there is a quick end to the recession, the housing market’s poor performance may linger. After the last home price boom, which ended about the time of the 1990-91 recession, home prices did not start moving upward, even incrementally, until 1997.
I say it’s thought provoking because when you look at the recent frenzy in the lower priced end of the housing markets it’s hard to come up with a theory that squares with Shiller’s ideas. Unless you are of the opinion that the drastic decline in prices constitutes an economic “regime change.” Certainly, there hasn’t been any fundamental shift at all in the general economy that has prevailed in this sudden shift from a buyers to sellers market. So what might be driving it?
The only plausible theory I can come up with is that the buyers perceived an exceptional opportunity to purchase housing at favorable prices. Did they do so on the assumption that prices were about to begin a march back? Is the meme that you can’t lose money long term buying real estate so firmly ingrained that no amount of empirical evidence to the contrary will diminish it or are they simply grabbing an opportunity to buy shelter?
Last weekend I warned my bears: "DO NOT underestimate how irrational the markets can get."
I also closed the wrap-up saying: "Keep in mind I am generally bullish – just not this bullish, this soon!" It was "Just Another Manic Monday" and it was indeed a manic-depressive week with 250 points gained on Monday almost entirely erased on Wednesday afternoon ahead of one of the week's two massive stick saves that, overall, got us even for the week. The markets remain too close to call as we drift into the "Triple Top Testing Zone" I spoke about on Thursday Morning (but these are recovery levels I've been predicting since the March lows). So it was yet another week of watching from the sidelines and making few trades – even in our $106,191 Virtual Portfolio Update on Tuesday, other than buying more FAZ to protect our gains, and setting stops on some winning positions, there was not much to do as even the mix of stops we set on that virtual portfolio left us in a fairly neutral position going into the weekend.
Rather than do a Wrap-Up this week of a directionless week, let's see what we can figure out by reading some bullish and bearish articles, hopefully figure out where we're going in the week(s) ahead. It's very good to be in cash, over the past two weeks we've had both bulls and bears screaming about market manipulation, statistics fraud and both green and brown shoots and having cash lets us laugh at everyone. While our cash out at 8,600 in early May did cause us to miss a 150-point gain in the market over the past month, we also missed a 300-point drop so it's hard to say I regret my call at the time or my continued caution on "Double Top Tuesday," the 19th, where I said: "We continue to remain mainly in cash but playing for a drop unless another index breaks that 40% line at which point we will be forced to add some plays to the bull side despite our concerns."
So, all we have been doing for the past 3 weeks is PATIENTLY (well, some of us have been patient) waiting mostly on the sidelines for our 40% (off the 2007 highs) levels to be broken. Those levels are: Dow 8,413, Nasdaq 1,717, S&P 946, NYSE 6,232, Russell 514, SOX…
In the West, the breakup of the Soviet Union was viewed as a total victory that proved that the West did not need to change. Western leaders were convinced that they were at the helm of the right system and of a well-functioning, almost perfect economic model. Scholars opined that history had ended. The "Washington Consensus," the dogma of free markets, deregulation and balanced budgets at any cost, was force-fed to the rest of the world.
But then came the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, and it became clear that the new Western model was an illusion that benefited chiefly the very rich. …The current global crisis demonstrates that the leaders of major powers, particularly the United States, had missed the signals that called for a perestroika. The result is a crisis that is not just financial and economic. It is political, too.
The model that emerged during the final decades of the 20th century has turned out to be unsustainable. It was based on a drive for super-profits and hyper-consumption for a few, on unrestrained exploitation of resources and on social and environmental irresponsibility.
But if all the proposed solutions and action now come down to a mere rebranding of the old system, we are bound to see another, perhaps even greater upheaval down the road. The current model does not need adjusting; it needs replacing. I have no ready-made prescriptions. But I am convinced that a new model will emerge, one that will emphasize public needs and public goods, such as a cleaner environment, well-functioning infrastructure and public transportation, sound education and health systems and affordable housing.
Following Obama's 9/11 bill veto defeat yesterday, and despite a surge in oil prices after a 'deal' was struck by OPEC, Saudi Arabia's markets are signaling panic in The Kingdom. Currency forwards are collapsing, default risk is jumping, and bank stocks are hitting record lows...
Mint's Bill Blain, in his Morning Porridge noted that last nights “surprise” OPEC agreement to agree to agree about talks on cutting oil production is fascinating. Not from the likelihood it may not ever happen, (the earliest we will know is the...
In this class, we started with computing costs of debt for companies without the usual crutches (traded bonds and ratings) and talked about synthetic ratings and default spreads. If you are interested in getting updated default spreads (on the cheap or free), try the Federal Reserve site in St. Louis: ...
Border skirmishes between India and Pakistan have been going on for years. But with social mood darkening everywhere, and with India making the claim ‘Significant casualties’ inflicted on ‘launch pads’ for militant attacks, one can’t help but wonder when this erupts in a major way.
India said it had carried out “surgical strikes” overnight across its disputed border with Pakistan to target groups of militants that were allegedly planning to carry out terror attacks on Indian territory.
In early 2009, the seven largest publicly traded college operators were worth a combined $51 billion. Today, they’ve been all but wiped out.
When Barack Obama took office, America’s seven largest publicly traded college operators were worth a combined $51 billion, with more than 815,000 students enrolled at campuses spread across the country. The schools were flooded with with people seeking shelter from the recession, returning to school to pick up new skills.
Almost eight years later, the industry has been decimated. The seven largest listed operators are worth just over $6 billion, and the most valuable co...
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I was so pleased yesterday by the announcement that I have joined the Research team at GoldCore as it meant that I could finally start talking about it and was back in a role that lets me indulge in my passion by researching and geeking out on all things gold, silver and money.
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Epizyme was founded in 2007, and trying to create drugs to treat patient's cancer by focusing on genetically-linked differences between normal and cancer cells. Cancer areas of focus include leukemia, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer. One of the Epizme cofounders, H. Robert Horvitz, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2002 for "discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death."
Before discussing the drug targets of Epizyme, understanding epigenetics is crucial to comprehend the company's goals.
Genetic components are the DNA sequences that are 'inherited.' Some of these genes are stronger than others in their expression (e.g., eye color). Yet, some genes turn on or off due to external factors (environmental), and it is und...
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