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
“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,…
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 StifelNicolaus, 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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 email@example.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.
Note from dshort: The NYSE has released new data for margin debt, now available through September. I've updated the charts in this commentary to include the latest numbers.
The New York Stock Exchange publishes end-of-month data for margin debt on the NYXdata website, where we can also find historical data back to 1959. Let's examine the numbers and study the relationship between margin debt and the market, using the S&P 500 as the surrogate for the latter.
The first chart shows the two series in real terms — adjusted for inflation to today's dollar using the Consumer Price Index as the deflator. I picked 1995 as an arbitrary start date. We were well into the Boomer Bull Market that began in 1982 and approaching t...
The story of energy is the story of human expansion. From the days when we roamed the African savanna, we tamed first fire and then other forms of energy, using them as tools to control our environment and improve our lives. The control of energy has always been at the heart of the human story.
This week our Outside the Box essay is from my friend Marin Katusa, who has written a fascinating book about a part of that story, a subplot of intrigue and conspiracy. Under Putin, Russia has aspired to dominate the energy markets. Called The Colder War, Marin’s book is a well-written tale of the rise of Putin and his desire to change the way the world’s energy markets are controlled.
I sat down a few months ago with an advance copy, not sure...
Bulls showed renewed backbone last week and drew a line in the sand for the bears, buying with gusto into weakness as I suggested they would. After all, this was the buying opportunity they had been waiting for. As if on cue, the start of the World Series launched the rapid market reversal and recovery. However, there is little chance that the rally will go straight up. Volatility is back, and I would look for prices to consolidate at this level before making an attempt to go higher. I still question whether the S&P 500 will ultimately achieve a new high before year end.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten U.S. business sectors, and then o...
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If you're following Valeant's proposed takeover (or merger) of Allergan and the lawsuit by Allergan against Valeant and notorious hedge fund manager William Ackman, for insider trading this is a must-read article.
Linette Lopez describes the roles played by key Wall Street hedge fund owners--Jim Chanos, John Paulson, and Mason Morfit, a major shareholder in Valeant. Linette goes through the con...
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...
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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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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