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Archive for 2009

Property Rights Take a Hit

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In this article, Peter Schiff discusses the practical problems with a government’s abrogation of contract and property rights for some "contrived greater good." That is deeply disturbing enough but it goes further. Our Constitution gave specific powers to different branches of government to hold the powers of government in check. The loss of these checks and balances goes beyond the financial world "twilight zone" horrors unfolding before us now, it undermines the entire structure of our governance. – Ilene

Property Rights Take a Hit

By Peter Schiff, writing at LewRockwell.com

“Crony capitalism” is a term often applied to foreign nations where government interference circumvents market forces. The practice is widely associated with tin-pot dictators and second-rate economies. In such a system, support for the ruling regime is the best and only path to economic success. Who you know supersedes what you know, and favoritism trumps the rule of law. Unfortunately, this week’s events demonstrate that the phrase now more aptly describes our own country.

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Chrysler’s secured creditors based on the government’s argument that the needs of other stakeholders outweighed those of a few creditors. In this case, the Administration concluded the interests of the United Auto Workers outweighed the interests of the Indiana teachers and firemen whose pension fund sued to block the restructuring. Given the enormous financial support that the UAW poured into the Obama campaign, such partiality is hardly surprising.

When making their investment in Chrysler just a few months ago, the Indiana pension fund agreed to commit capital because of the specific assurances received from the company. In allowing this sham bankruptcy to be crammed through the courts, we have shredded the vital principal of the rule of law, and have become a nation of men, rather than one of laws.

The risk that legal contracts can now be arbitrarily set aside will make investors think twice before committing capital to distressed corporations. Oftentimes enforcing contracts imposes hardships. That’s precisely why we have contracts.

Without absolute faith that deals will be honored, it will be extremely difficult for U.S. companies to borrow money. This will be particularly true for those companies already struggling with too much debt. Without the ability to issue secured debt,
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The Kenosha School District Is All About Riskless Subprime Synthetic CDOs

The Kenosha School District Is All About Riskless Subprime Synthetic CDOs

The latest casualty in the synthetic CDO/subprime implosion is the State of Wisconsin’s Kenosha Unified School District. Although seeing how the school district has launched an all out lawsuit against Stifel Nicolaus, and more specifically its then-SVP David Noack, as well as RBC, for selling them synthetic CDOs as “riskless,” in which the school districts ended up investing $200 million, this one could be tricky – is it the schools’ fault for not doing any homework before investing essentially all their OPEB offsets into some credit-bubble-peak zany scheme, or Stifel’s for taking advantage of gullible investors and misrepresenting associated risks.

Some of the main highlights from the lawsuit:

When questioned by the Plaintiffs about the make-up of the underlying collateral, and the potential existence of any sub-prime debt, Noack contacted Deb Pederson of RBC Global with that inquiry. Ms. Pederson assured Noack that the CDO had no direct exposure to sub-prime debt in the portfolio. Noack then represented to Plaintiffs that there was no sub-prime debt in the portfolio. This representation on the part of Ms. Pederson was materially false and known by her to be false at the time it was made, in circumstances where she well knew the information would be communicated to Plaintiffs, and that Plaintiffs would rely on it.

Regarding the nature of the CDO investments and their attendant risks, Defendants and their agents, including Pederson, Noack and Brewer, made numerous false representations to each of the School Districts, including but not limited to, misrepresentations that used the following words or words to that effect:

• “On the investment side, we’re sticking to AA/AAA.”
• “These are safe AA/AAA type investments.”
• “It’s a AA rated investment [and . . .] meets statute prior to new rules that allow you to invest in anything, so we’re staying on the conservative side.”
• “It takes 20 out of these 100 companies to default


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Guest Post: The Fed Decision Tree

Guest Post: The Fed Decision Tree

Submitted by Gary Jeffery





Where Are We Now? Five Point Summary

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Where Are We Now? Five Point Summary

Courtesy of Simon Johnson of The Baseline Scenario

What happened to the global economy and what we can do about it

1. Financial markets have stabilized – largely because people believe that the government will not allow Citigroup to fail.  We have effectively nationalized any banking system losses, but we’ll let bank executives enjoy the full benefits of the upside.  How much shareholders participate remains to be seen; there will be no effective reining in of insider compensation (my version; Joe Nocera’s view).  For more on how we got here, see the Frontline documentary that airs on Tuesday and Paul Solman’s explainer wrap up.

2. The real economy begins to bottom out, although unemployment will not peak for a while and could stay high for several years.  Longer term growth prospects remain uncertain – has consumer behavior really changed; if finance doesn’t drive growth, what will; is the budget deficit under control or not (note: most of the guarantees extended to banks and other financial institutions are not scored in the budget)?

3.  More broadly, there is sophisticated window dressing in the pipeline but no real reform on any issue central to (a) how the banking system operates, or (b) more broadly, how hubris in finance led us into this crisis.  The financial sector lobbies appear stronger than ever.  The administration ducked the early fights that set the tone (credit cards, bankruptcy, even cap and trade); it’s hard to see them making much progress on anything – with the possible exception of healthcare.

4. The consensus from conventional macroeconomics is that there can’t be significant inflation with unemployment so high, and the Fed will not tighten before late 2010.  The financial markets beg to differ – presumably worrying, in part, about easy credit leading to dollar depreciation, higher import prices, and potential commodity price inflation worldwide.  In all recent showdowns with standard macro models recently, the markets’ view of reality has prevailed.  My advice: pay close attention to oil prices. 

5. Emerging markets are increasingly viewed as having “decoupled” from the US/European malaise.  This idea was wrong in early 2008, when it gained consensus status; this time around, it is probably setting


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We Waged a War Against Drugs, And Drugs Won

We Waged a War Against Drugs, And Drugs Won

marijuanaCourtesy of Mark J. Perry’s CARPE DIEM

Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences:

1. We have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

2. We have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.

3. We have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment.

It’s now broadly acknowledged that the drug war approach has failed.

 ~Nicholas Kristof in yesterday’s NY Times

 
 
MP: Note the "War on Drugs" is actually a war against generally peaceful American citizens who decide to buy, sell or ingest drugs that are somewhat arbitrarily considered to be illegal by government officials, e.g. cannabis sativa, an annual, dioecious flowering herb that grows naturally all over the world.

 

 


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The $3.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Wall of Debt

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The $3.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Wall of Debt

Courtesy of Mish

The Deal Magazine has an interesting discussion about That Worrying Wall Of Debt.

The leveraged loan market got accustomed to big numbers over the past decade. There’s $3.6 trillion, the amount of leveraged loans made since 2000, according to Thomson Reuters’ Loan Pricing Corp. There’s 735-fold, the amount of growth between 2003 and 2007 in the volume of collateralized loan obligations — the funds that helped fuel the loan market’s surge after the tech and telecom bust of 2001. And there’s $375 billion, the amount of bank debt used to fund leveraged buyouts completed between 2005 and 2007.

But right now, the leveraged loan market is fixated on one number: $430 billion, the amount in leveraged loans due to mature between 2012 and 2014. Despite the big numbers of the past, this might be simply too big. Indeed, the $430 billion figure is already worrying lenders, borrowers and loan-market investors alike as they struggle with the possibility that a large portion of those loans will neither be repaid nor refinanced, raising the specter of a wave of defaults among the debt-fueled LBO borrowers of 2005 through 2007.

As one executive at a private equity firm describes it, the availability of so much cheap debt profoundly affected how sponsors did business because it encouraged them to change their focus. "The PE firms were not investing in specific industries," he says. "They were investing in the capital markets."

This strategy was predicated on faith that loans could be continually refinanced, that exit options in the form of the equity markets or mergers and acquisitions fueled by more financing would be easily available and lead to profits that justified the outsized risk the sponsors were taking. There was also the belief that an ever-expanding economy would allow companies to keep increasing their Ebitda and pay down debt. The strategy had more than a few similarities with the one used by people who borrowed in increasing amounts to finance home purchases and hoped for either a quick flip or continually rising prices that would make debt more manageable.

The article discusses various ways that this debt can be paid back, but I am inclined


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California Foreclosure Moratoriums An Exercise Of Stupidity

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California Foreclosure Moratoriums An Exercise Of Stupidity

Courtesy of Mish

Except for bankruptcy attorneys, most want the massive spike in foreclosures to end. However, it is impossible to wish foreclosures away or for that matter legislate them away. Unfortunately, economic illiterates do not understand the dynamics.

Please consider CA Lawmakers Impose 90-Day Foreclosure Moratorium.

California is imposing a 90-day moratorium on housing foreclosures under a new law that takes effect Monday.

The law is expected to make lenders try harder to keep borrowers in their homes. Loan companies must prove they tried to modify the delinquent loans before they can begin foreclosing.

But supporters acknowledge the California Foreclosure Prevention Act won’t stop thousands of foreclosures from eventually happening. There have been more than 365,000 foreclosures in California since early 2007, with many more already scheduled.

This bill is no more likely to work than a bill declaring poverty to be illegal or the sky to be green.

Home prices will bottom when they bottom, unemployment will bottom when it bottoms, and foreclosures will stop when they stop. Those are simple economic facts.

The 90 day extension gives anyone sitting on the edge of walking away as well as those wanting a reduction in principle an incentive to stop paying their mortgage, safe and secure in the fact they cannot be thrown out of their house for another 90 days.

This bill is pure idiocy and will not stop a single foreclosure. Instead, the bill will increase late pays and foreclosures. It’s an exercise of sheer stupidity.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
 


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Dow Theory Nonconfirmation in Transports and Industrials

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Dow Theory Nonconfirmation in Transports and Industrials

Courtesy of Corey Rosenbloom of Afraid to Trade

There’s interesting chatter in the “Dow Theory” community as to whether we’re experiencing a non-confirmation in the Industrials and Transports currently – namely, the Industrials are at a new high for 2009 and are above the 200 day SMA while the Transports are not.  Let’s take a look at both.

Dow Jones Industrial Index:

One may also ask the question “Is there a ‘Three Push’ Reversal pattern forming in the Dow Jones?”  It would appear so, with three consolidating ‘pushes’ or impulses up that have formed on three lower highs in the 3/10 Momentum Oscillator.  That alone is a serious non-confirmation of higher prices.

We also see a volume divergence setting in underneath price, with volume in the Dow Jones Index (1.1 Billion today) reaching a level that is clearly below the recent average – more importantly is the “trailing off.”

One can also see the multitude of ‘dojis’ (often known for their ‘reversal’ signal) that have formed over the last two weeks – that is showing signs of serious indecision.

In terms of Dow Theory, the Industrials have made a new high and have risen above their 200 day Simple Moving Average which is classically bullish… but the Transports Index has not.

Dow Jones Transportation Index:

Again, while the Dow recently formed new highs for 2009, the Transports could neither break above their May highs nor its 200 day simple moving average.

A negative momentum divergence has also formed as well as a negative volume divergence.

I could have easily titled this post “Major Sell Signal in the Dow Jones Index” but I dare not be so bold, given the ability of the market to rise against a negative fundamental and technical backdrop.

From a chart (technical) standpoint, the chart is literally screaming “sell signal,” but still we operate in a world of probabilities and stranger things have happened, so do continue to guard your risk and do your own analysis for additional insights.

Corey Rosenbloom, CMT
Afraid to Trade.com

 

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Key Quotes from Biden on the Stimulus

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Key Quotes from Biden on the Stimulus

Courtesy of TIME, Mark Halperin

From NBC’s "Meet the Press":

"No one realized how bad the economy was. The projections, in fact, turned out to be worse. But we took the mainstream model as to what we thought — and everyone else thought — the unemployment rate would be."

"Everyone guessed wrong at the time the estimate was made about what the state of the economy was at the moment this was passed."

"The bottom line is that jobs are being created that would not have been there before."

"Can I claim credit that all of that’s due to the recovery package? No. But it clearly has had an impact."

Photo: Getty, courtesy of TIME

 


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Sunday Readings

Sunday Readings

  • Must read: Algorithmic programs that will be eliminated (SMB)
  • Airbus could cope with 1,000 order cancellations [consider yourself warned] (Bloomberg)
  • Real housewive of OC saves Coto homo from foreclosure, thanks Zachary Scoggins and Art Moore of Washington Mutual [foreclosures for the retard class do not apply with JPM] (OC Register hat tip Ian)
  • Contours of Crisis III: Systemic fear and forward-looking finance (Bichler & Nitzan, hat tip Leo Kolivakis)
  • Where are we now? Five point summary (Baseline Scenario)
  • Muscle car shoot out: Camaro, Challenger, Mustang (Big Picture)
  • Technical – CreditRisk+ by Fast Fourier Transform (SSRN)
  • Sunday humor: Dick Bove raises target on BAC to $19 (hat tip Doug Kass)
  • Chartology via GS: note the forward P/E and the hillarious 3 month sentiment revision. The sell side herd has completely rolled over.








Sincere thanks for the generous donations by Marc and Steve.





 

Help One Of Our Own PSW Members

"Hello PSW Members –

This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible.  Feel free to contact me directly at jennifersurovy@yahoo.com with any questions.

Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts.  After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.)  Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-get-shadowfax-out-from-the-darkness-of-medical-bills-/126743

Thank you for you time!

 
 

Zero Hedge

Central Banker Admits Central Bank Policy Leads To Wealth Inequality

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Six years after QE started, and just about the time when we for the first time said that the primary consequence of QE would be unprecedented wealth and class inequality (in addition to fiat collapse, even if that particular bridge has not yet been crossed), even the central banks themselves - the very institutions that unleashed QE - are now admitting that the record wealth disparity in the world - surpassing that of the Great Depression and even pre-French revolution France - is caused by "monetary policy", i.e., QE.

Case in point, during the Keynote speech by Yves Mersch, ECB executive board member, in Zurich on 17 October 2014 titled "...



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Chart School

Time for the Pullback?

Courtesy of Declan.

Sellers were going to make an appearance at some point and today was the day they paid a visit. Whether a larger pullback emerges will depend on events over the coming days, but today's selling did emerge at some natural attack points for shorts.

The S&P finished with a 'bearish cloud cover,' but it did manage to hold declining resistance turned support, and the 20-day MA has entered the fray as an area for bears to work. But this wasn't the most bearish of the indices, and today's finish actually gives bulls a long play tomorrow (for a bounce off support).  Technicals also suggest a bounce.


While the S&P may give bulls something tomorrow, th...

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Option Review

LUV Options Active Ahead Of Earnings

There is lots of action in Southwest Airlines Co. November expiry call options today ahead of the air carrier’s third-quarter earnings report prior to the opening bell on Thursday. Among the large block trades initiated throughout the trading session, there appears to be at least one options market participant establishing a call spread in far out of the money options. It looks like the trader purchased a 4,000-lot Nov 37/39 call spread at a net premium of $0.40 apiece. The trade makes money if shares in Southwest rally 9.0% over the current price of $34.32 to exceed the effective breakeven point at $37.40, with maximum potential profits of $1.60 per contract available in the event that shares jump more than 13% to $39.00 by expiration. In September, the stock tou...



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Phil's Favorites

Larry Swedroe: Use Valuations for Expected Returns, Not Market Timing

Larry Swedroe: Use Valuations for Expected Returns, Not Market Timing

Courtesy of 

When forecasting investment returns, many individuals make the mistake of simply extrapolating recent returns into the future. Bull markets lead investors to expect higher future returns, and bear markets lead them to expected lower future returns. But the price you pay for an asset also has a great impact on future returns. Consider the following evidence:

The average historical P/E ratio for the market has been around 15. A study covering the period from 1926 through the second quarter of 1999 found that an investor buying stocks when the market traded at P/E ratios of between 14 and 16 e...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: David is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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Insider Scoop

UPDATE: Brean Capital Initiates Coverage On GrubHub

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related GRUB UPDATE: JMP Securities Initiates Coverage On GrubHub Inc Benzinga's Top Initiations Making Money With Charles Payne: 09/25/14 (Fox Business)

Brean Capital initiated coverage on GrubHub Inc (NYSE: GRUB) with a Hold rating.

Analyst Tom Forte noted that "catalysts for the stock include an accelerat...



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Sabrient

Sector Detector: Sharp selloff in stocks sets up long-awaiting buying opportunity

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

Last week brought even more stock market weakness and volatility as the selloff became self-perpetuating, with nobody mid-day on Wednesday wanting to be the last guy left holding equities. Hedge funds and other weak holders exacerbated the situation. But the extreme volatility and panic selling finally led some bulls (along with many corporate insiders) to summon a little backbone and buy into weakness, and the market finished the week on a high note, with continued momentum likely into the first part of this week.

Despite concerns about global economic growth and a persistent lack of inflation, especially given all the global quantitative easing, fundamentals for U.S. stocks still look good, and I believe this overdue correction ultimately will shape up to be a great buying opportunity -- i.e., th...



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Digital Currencies

Goodbye War On Drugs, Hello Libertarian Utopia. Dominic Frisby's Bitcoin: The Future of Money?

Courtesy of John Rubino.

Now that bitcoin has subsided from speculative bubble to functioning currency (see the price chart below), it’s safe for non-speculators to explore the whole “cryptocurrency” thing. So…is bitcoin or one of its growing list of competitors a useful addition to the average person’s array of bank accounts and credit cards — or is it a replacement for most of those things? And how does one make this transition?

With his usual excellent timing, London-based financial writer/actor/stand-up comic Dominic Frisby has just released Bitcoin: The Future of Money? in which he explains all this in terms most readers will have no tr...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of October 20th, 2014

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Market Shadows

Falling Energy Prices: Sober Look takes a Sober Look

Falling Energy Prices: Sober Look takes a Sober Look

What do falling energy prices mean for the US consumer? Sober Look writes a brief yet thorough overview of the consequences of the correction in the price of crude oil. There are good aspects, particularly for the consumer, bad aspects, and out-right ugly possibilities. For more on this subject, read James Hamilton's How will Saudi Arabia respond to lower oil prices?  In previous eras, Saudi Arabia would tighten the supply to help increase prices, but in this "game of chicken," the rules m...



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Stock World Weekly

Stock World Weekly

Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.

Here's this week's Stock World Weekly. Just sign in with your PSW user name and password. (Or take a free trial.)

#457319216 / gettyimages.com

 

...

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Promotions

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Pharmboy

Biotechs & Bubbles

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely.  From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.

First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices.  Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment.  Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer.  For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...



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