by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 10:07 pm
Courtesy of Bruce Krasting
California’s Governor (R) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania’s Governor Edward Rendell (D) were on TV on Sunday. These two were having a bi-coastal love fest. They have connected with another big shot, Mike Bloomberg, in an effort to steer the country toward a much larger program of infrastructure investment.
This is an old story. You don’t have to look too far to see that America is in need of some new ‘stuff’. They made the case that other countries are investing more than we are and as a result we are falling behind. Arnold made a good point when he said that the US was spending 5% of GPD on infrastructure in the 60’s and that paid off for decades. The current infrastructure investment rate is only 2.5%. The Cali Governor made it clear, the nation should revert back to that 5% level. It would create jobs today and the investments would pay of in the future with more jobs. Ed R. was almost slavering about all the steel his state could produce under those conditions.
This sounds good. But it is a dead end. A 2-1/2% increase in infrastructure spending translates to $350b a year, for at least the next five. With interest that comes to $2 trillion. Call it an extra $30 billion a month of funding requirements. That would of course be on top of the existing deficit. What is already on the table comes to about $120b a month. Forever. These two governors want us to go into hock for an addition 25% over our existing crazy monthly nut.
The Terminator gave an example of his thinking. He is planning a new $11b Bond to cover the cost of a major irrigation project. There are clear benefits to the proposal. But another $11 of debt is required. The solution to Cali’s problem is clear. Borrow, spend and worry about paying it back later. At one point the bond market will just say “no”.
Ed. R. made his thoughts on deficit financing clear. His message was, if we don’t borrow and invest “We will become a second rate power”. The T was clear on this too. If we don’t rebuild our infrastructure, “We will fall like Rome”.
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 9:47 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
It’s good that the rest of the economy is humming along, and the whole record unemployment thing is under control, cause we were wondering when the president would refocus his efforts on such mission critical things as having the government determine health insurance rates. Apparently the answer to the last question is tomorrow. According to the NYT, “Obama will propose on Monday giving the federal government new power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies, as he rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system, White House officials said.”
This whole thing is just getting way out of hand:
By focusing on the effort to tighten regulation of insurance costs, a new element not included in either the House or Senate bills, Mr. Obama is seizing on outrage over recent premium increases of up to 39 percent announced by Anthem Blue Cross of California and moving to portray the Democrats’ health overhaul as a way to protect Americans from predatory insurers.
And yes, just when you thought government couldn’t get any more socialist, er, pardon, bigger, here’s Johnny:
The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, potentially superseding state insurance regulators. The bill would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.
Officials said they envisioned the provision taking effect immediately after the health care bill is signed into law.
The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries.
In this vein, how long before we get a “Credit Card Rate Authority”, a “Bid Offer Spread Arbitrage Authority” and, just jokingly (not really), a “Thank God There Is A PPT So Pay The Government A Tenth Of Your AUM Authority”? Yes, we are serious. And we are even more confused how [Lenin|Stalin|Khrushchev|Brezhnev|Chernenko] did not think of all these things when they had the chance… Oh wait, they did.
by ilene - February 21st, 2010 9:33 pm
John Burns Real Estate Consulting released a much-cited study this week arguing that the country has a "shadow inventory" of 5 million houses that will hit the market over the next few years.
Another startling assumption here: 80% of homeowners who are currently delinquent on their mortgages will end up losing their houses. Mortgage mods, meanwhile, will just delay the inevitable.
(From the perspective of the homeowners, it’s probably best to get the inevitable out of the way sooner rather than later, before throwing more money down the negative-equity rat hole.)
Below, John Collins of the O.C. Register interviews an author of the study, Wayne Yamano of John Burns Consulting:
Us: Your study says that five million of the 7.7 million delinquent homes will go through foreclosure or a “foreclosure-related procedure.” How is this likely to occur?
Wayne: Most shadow inventory will get out onto the market as an REO or short sale. In any event, it results in the homeowner losing their home, and that home being added to the supply of homes available for sale.
Us: Do the remaining 2.7 million borrowers get their loan payments caught up?
Wayne: Of the 7.7 million delinquent homeowners, we actually think that only about 1.6 million will be able avoid losing their homes, and that the remaining 6.1 million will lose their homes. We say that there is 5 million units of shadow inventory because we estimate that about 1.1 million delinquent homeowners already have their homes listed for sale, and we would not classify those homes as “shadow.”
Us: When will this wave of foreclosures hit, and how will this shadow inventory affect home prices?
Wayne: We don’t believe that the shadow inventory will be dumped onto the market all at once. Although we don’t believe modification efforts will truly save a lot of homeowners from losing their homes, we do believe that these programs are effective in delaying foreclosures and pushing out the additional supply to later years.
In terms of pricing, as long as the economic recovery continues and mortgage rates remain low, we do NOT expect another leg down in pricing, despite the looming shadow inventory problem. However, if the economy takes another dip and mortgage rates spike, we’re certain to see
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 8:33 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Of course, little do we care about such minor things as attribution. As long as the truth is out there…
Greece’s fiscal woes, the exposure of the European financial system to them and the role played by Wall Street in hiding the problems all converge in a fifth-floor office near London’s Liverpool Street station where a company called Titlos PLC was created in early 2009.
Just 22 days after Titlos was born, the National Bank of Greece SA and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. arranged for the company to sell €5.1 billion, or about $2.04 billion, in notes, according to U.K. and U.S. documents.
But Titlos wasn’t a real company and the notes weren’t designed for ordinary investors. Titlos doesn’t make anything and its only directors are two British executives who work for a firm that specializes in the formation of corporations and the sale of pooled assets.
Instead, Titlos, descendent of a 2001 deal to help Greece hide debt, was set up to take advantage of a European Central Bank effort to inject cash into a banking market hobbled by the financial crisis. Titlos’s notes were designed to be pledged for that program, according to filings by Titlos and the National Bank of Greece, and the buyer was the bank itself.
The history of Titlos also illustrates how bank and government dealings, often deeply intertwined, can complicate efforts to unclog a global banking system.
Gustavo Piga, a professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, says the opaque derivative trades that Greece and other countries engaged in “tarnishes the reputation of government” as it tries to police financial markets.
“There is this huge mortal embrace between the government and the banks,” Mr. Piga says. “It creates huge conflicts of interest in the actions of government.”
Behind Titlos and the notes sale are Goldman and the National Bank of Greece, a 169-year-old institution whose operations span Eastern Europe into Turkey, Serbia and Romania. The bank isn’t the country’s central bank, though the government owns a 12% stake through its pension system.
Goldman, the National Bank
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 8:16 pm
Courtesy of thetechnicaltake
The investor sentiment data is consistent with a market that is in bounce mode. Following the late January sell off, investors really did not become too bearish. The subsequent bounce over the past 2 weeks has once again created a sense of complacency across our various metrics. In light of this, it will be difficult for the major stock indices to climb to new highs. Despite the recent short term strength, it is still my contention that we will need to go lower before heading meaningfully higher. I discussed the research behind this claim in the article, “Why I Think We Need To Go Lower Before Going Higher”.
The “Dumb Money” indicator, which is shown in figure 1, looks for extremes in the data from 4 different groups of investors who historically have been wrong on the market: 1) Investor Intelligence; 2) Market Vane; 3) American Association of Individual Investors; and 4) the put call ratio. The “Dumb Money” indicator is neutral.
by Chart School - February 21st, 2010 8:13 pm
IT’S ALL ABOUT LOWER HIGHS AND PULLBACK OFF LOWS PATTERNS
Courtesy of David Grandey at All About Trends
As you can see Friday the indexes stopped cold on the 61.8% fibonacci level after an options expiration vertical assault up.
On Monday, the market may rise to fill the gap created in January and to retest that resistance level to see how it acts should it get there. Seeing as how it’s overhead supply it may act as a ceiling and that is exactly what we want to see should that occur. But on top of that those red lines in the charts also serve another purpose besides a gap fill and resistance and that is because those red lines are 78.6% Fibonacci levels. What’s great about that is you have confluence at those levels with multiple technical pieces of information that we chartists can sink our teeth into.
Should we get the Monday program trading melt up to those levels and stall, the next week or two then we really want to be on the lookout for a breakdown in the market. By the same token if we can pullback and not really give it up to the downside the computers could push us to a retest of the highs which really wouldn’t be a big deal as it would then be a double top on most likely negative divergence. A good example of what that would look like can be found in a current chart of the XOI shown below.
We’ll find out soon enough if we are going to get rolling on the downside for the next leg down of this correction soon enough. First we need to get through melt up Monday and see what transpires at the 78.6% fibonacci level as well as that overhead supply. Over the next two weeks we really need to be on our toes and pay attention as odds favor a big move coming and it’s setting up to NOT be on the long side.
Pullback Off Lows or POL for short.
Let’s talk Charting 101 for a moment. Specifically what is an uptrend? When viewing a chart an uptrend, it looks like the diagram below. Higher highs and higher lows.
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 7:50 pm
Courtesy of Travis
Tag, and Toyota’s it. Right or wrong- this recall thing is getting big, bigger rather, and it’s increasingly more and more political as the days unfold.
In an article published by the Associated Press- documents relating to an internal company presentation back in July, 2009 were uncovered to the congressional investigators that claim that Toyota officials saved the company some $100 million by negotiating with the government on a limited recall of the floor mat issue involving 55,000 Camry and Lexus ES350 sedans back in September, 2007.
“The savings are listed under the title, “Wins for Toyota — Safety Group.” The document cites millions of dollars in other savings by delaying safety regulations, avoiding defect investigations and slowing down other industry requirements.
The documents could set off alarms in Congress over whether Toyota put profits ahead of customer safety and pushed regulators to narrow the scope of recalls. Two House committees are holding hearings this week on the Japanese automaker’s recall of 8.5 million vehicles in recent months to deal with safety problems involving gas pedals, floor mats and brakes.
The world’s largest automaker has been criticized for responding too slowly to complaints of sudden acceleration in its vehicles, threatening to undermine its reputation for quality and safety.
The documents were turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday. The presentation was first reported by The Detroit News.”
Toyota is not immediately commenting.
The Associated Press article published on Yahoo continues-
“The new documents show the financial benefit of delay. In the presentation, Toyota said a phase-in to new safety regulations for side air bags saved the company $124 million and 50,000 man hours. Delaying a rule for tougher door locks saved $11 million.
On defect regulations, the document boasts that Toyota “avoided investigation” on rusting Tacoma pickup trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated the case in 2008 but closed it without finding a safety defect. Toyota agreed to buy back certain rusty pickups, inspect other and extend warranties.
The document lists seven “Wins for Toyota & Industry,” including “favorable recall outcomes,” “secured safety rulemaking favorable to Toyota” and “vehicles not in climate legislation.” Another page lists “key safety issues,” including “Sudden acceleration on ES/Camry, Tacoma, LS etc.”
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 6:26 pm
Courtesy of asiablues
The U.S. dollar rose, commodity prices dropped and stocks fell last Friday after the Federal Reserve unexpectedly lifted an emergency lending rate for the first time since the financial crisis.
The dollar hit an eight-month high against a currency basket, while gold prices rose as investors bought the metal to hedge against paper currencies and debt default risks in Europe. Gold futures ended on Friday with a weekly gain of 3.1% at $1,122.10 an ounce.
Gold had rallied to a record of $1,218.30 an ounce on Dec. 3, 2009, as near-zero U.S. interest rates and government spending weighed on the dollar and countries including India and China boosted gold reserves.
However, bullion in the spot market has declined more than 6% since December, as the U.S. dollar benefited from the unfolding debt crisis in Dubai, Greece and the rest of southern Europe.
New Inverse Tango with Euro
Since gold is primarily a hedge against the Dollar and inflation, it typically has the strongest inverse correlation with the US Dollar. In the last month, however, the trend has broken with gold trending inversely with Euro and positively with Dollar (Fig. 1). And Euro has formally taken the center stage in dictating the price of gold on concerns about the fiscal health of Greece and other euro zone countries.
Fears over the outlook for Euro have been driving investors out of euro, and lifted both bullion and dollar as alternative assets. The euro has declined, particularly against the dollar and gold, almost 5% against the dollar, and gold in Euro terms is up 4.2%, so far in 2010.
Mariachi – PIIGS & The Fed
The new trend between the Euro, Dollar and gold is expected to continue amid fiscal challenges in the UK and Eurozone, PIIGS (Portugal, Iceland, Italy, Greece and Spain) in particular. Uncertainty over the details of any financial rescue package for Greece will likely keep the mood in the markets nervous, and the currency markets volatile in the near term.
In addition, the Fed’s discount rate hike signals that other central banks will likely follow suit in exiting from stimulus measures, while the Eurozone, UK and Japan will likely lag behind. This view has partly triggered selling of the euro against dollar to seek…
by Zero Hedge - February 21st, 2010 6:16 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
In this interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou makes it clear that Greece has enough cash to get it through another 30 days (and likely less), or to last it thought “Mid-March.” While this statement was likely supposed to remove pressure from expectations that Greece will auction off another €5 billion this week, which as we disclosed previously will most likely not happen, this revelation will likely not achieve the required goal. It has been well known for a long-time that Greek bond maturities culminate with €16.7 billion over April and May. Specifically, there is €8.22 billion maturing on April 20. The fact that there is a lag time of at least a month between when Greece should be rolling maturities and actually in need of funding, will likely be taken as a sign of additional weakness, as spending apparently has not moderated by one bit. This means that Greece will now have to raise double the amount as it approaches the funding deadline when taking into account the natural deficit generated between mid-March and April 20. How happy the EU, and Germany in particular, will be with this disclosure will be seen in tomorrow’s Greek CDS market.
Furthermore, Papandreou’s attempt to marginalize the importance of the auction which now it appears will not take place is refuted by Greek website bankingnews.gr, which (Google translated) notes the following:
It is obvious that this auction is perhaps the most crucial in the history of borrowing as the country takes place amid wild speculative gambling in bonds and amid dire situation for the economy.
Taking a lesson straight out of the Obama administration, Papandreou placed the blame for the Greek catastrophe squarely where it belongs: it is all the prior administration’s fault, thank you…oh yes, and tax-evading tax”payers.”
“We had a mismanagement of the economy from the previous economy. And we have to admit that. And the mismamangement had to do with a lot of corruption, cronyism, clientilism, and the way money was used. Taxpayers just began to say “why should I pay my taxes” and we had an increase in tax evasion, which of course then hit our budget and deficit. When we were elected a few months
by ilene - February 21st, 2010 5:21 pm
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
The housing bubble did nothing for real median incomes in the US but it did wonders for the insiders in the financial sector.
This is why the average Joe in the States went into debt to continue to maintain their consumption.
Until this situation is addressed, there will be no sustained economic recovery in the US.
Trickle down or supply side economics does well for the upper percentiles of income but does much less for the median wage.
Why care? For several reasons.
First, the median wage is the bulwark of general consumption and savings, and the prosperity of a nation. It must match the character of the social fabric, or place a severe strain on the contract between classes and peoples. A nation cannot survive both slave and free without necessarily resorting to repression.
Second, in any relatively free society, the reversion to the mean in the distribution wealth and justice is never pleasant, and often bloody and indiscriminate.
There are several economic myths, popularized over the last thirty years, that are falling hard in the recent series of financial crises: the efficient market hypothesis, the inherent benefits of globalization from the natural equilibrium of national competitive advantages, and the infallibility of unfettered greed as a ideal method of managing and organizing human social behaviour and maximizing national production.
One has to wonder what would have happened if some more coherent, approachable science, had put forward a system of management that relied upon the nearly perfect rationality and unnatural goodness of men as a critical assumption in order to work? They would have been laughed out of the academy. Yes, there is a certain power to befuddle and intimidate common sense in professionally specific jargon, supported by pseudo-scientific equations.
Why doesn’t ‘greed is good’ work? Because rather than work harder, a certain portion of the population, not necessarily the most productive and intelligent, will immediately seek rents and income obtained by unnatural advantages, by gaming the system, by cheating and coercion, by the subversion of the rule of law, which will sap the vitality of the greater portion of the population which does in fact work harder, until they can no longer sustain themselves.