by ilene - February 26th, 2011 4:55 pm
Courtesy of EDWARD HARRISON, Credit Writedowns
Bill Fleckenstein was back talking to Dylan Ratigan about the source of rising oil prices. (See the last Fleckenstein video here). Clearly, supply constraints and increased demand in emerging markets play the central role in creating a supply demand imbalance for a commodity where demand is price inelastic. I am not just talking about natural disasters and riots, I am also talking about peak oil, of course. That means prices for oil soar until we hit a recession and the resulting demand destruction.
However, at the margin there are other factors at play, one of which is pro-inflationary central bank policy. I have mentioned this a couple of times in the past. For example, regarding food price inflation, I wrote in November:
[Morgan Stanley Chief Economist Richard] Berner sees four forces at play, pushing up food prices: strong global demand, weather, energy costs, low food stock inventories. You can read the full note at the link below.
My take is a bit different. The rise in food and energy prices should be taken into consideration by government officials conducting pro-inflationary policies. What should be of concern regarding commodity price inflation is how it represents a regressive tax on lower income workers and consumers in emerging markets and developing countries. Lower income consumers spend a much greater percentage of income on food and energy. So when commodity prices increase, it has a disproportionate effect on them. One reason we saw food riots in emerging markets in 2008 has much to do with this.
Bill Fleckenstein gives his take in the video below.
by ilene - February 14th, 2011 11:46 am
Excellent article comparing current situation with lead up to the Great Depression. Well worth reading. – Ilene
Courtesy of Jim Quinn at The Burning Platform
by ilene - February 9th, 2011 3:49 pm
Courtesy of Mish
MarketWatch reports Paul slams Fed’s bond-buying program
Outspoken Federal Reserve critic Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, slammed the central bank’s latest $600 billion bond-buying program on Wednesday, saying it and near-zero interest rates haven’t led to job creation in the United States.
“Over $4 trillion in bailout facilities and outright debt monetization, combined with interest rates near zero for over two years, have not and will not contribute to increased employment,” Paul said at a hearing of a House Financial Services subcommittee he heads.
“Debt monetization” is a reference by Paul and other Fed critics to the Fed’s latest bond-buying program — a characterization rejected by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
In essence, Paul is charging that the central bank is enabling profligate spending by the government. The term “debt monetization” is a buzzword for how some poorer countries conducted policies in the post-World War II era.
Political Pressure on Fed Mounts
WSJ’s Sudeep Reddy reports on concerns the Federal Reserve could be facing political pressure from Congress, as Rep. Ron Paul holds the first hearing of a new Fed oversight committee. Separately, Fed Chairman Bernanke updates Congress on the economy.
If the above YouTube does not play here is a link: Rep. Ron Paul Ignites Fed Worry
by ilene - January 30th, 2011 8:23 am
Here’s this week’s Stock World Weekly. Enjoy! Comments welcome.
by ilene - January 27th, 2011 2:38 pm
The majority report finds fault with two Fed chairmen: Alan Greenspan, who led the central bank as the housing bubble expanded, and his successor, Ben S. Bernanke, who did not foresee the crisis but played a crucial role in the response. It criticizes Mr. Greenspan for advocating deregulation and cites a “pivotal failure to stem the flow of toxic mortgages” under his leadership as a “prime example” of negligence.
Anyone else running out tomorrow to get a copy?
Like the 9/11 Commission, we could have saved a whole lot of money and time by simply verifying alternative media claims instead of starting from scratch as if no one knew anything all along.
by ilene - January 25th, 2011 4:07 pm
One of the big reasons there have been so few fraud charges leveled against what looks like clear and widespread banking industry is that under the law, “fraud” is pretty difficult to prove. Needless to say, that puts commentators in a bit of a bind, because they can be depicted as being hysterical if they use the “f” words, since behavior that is often fraud by any common sense standard may be hard or impossible to prove in court.
The hurdle in litigation and prosecution is proving intent. Basically, the party who is being accused has to not only have done something bad, he has to have been demonstrably aware that he was up to no good. Thus po-faced claims of “I had no idea this was improper, my accountants/lawyers knew about it and didn’t say anything” or “everyone in the industry was doing it, so I had not reason to think this was irregular” is a “get out of jail free” card. Similarly, even if lower level employees knew that their company was up to stuff that stank, if the decision-makers can plausibly claim ignorance, again they can probably get away with it.
So it is gratifying in a perverse way to see a case in which the perp not only looks to have engaged in chicanery, but the facts make it pretty hard for him to say he didn’t know he was pulling a fast one. And even more fun, it involves JP Morgan, which has somehow managed to create the impression that it was better than all the other TARP banks, when on the mortgage front, there is plenty evidence to suggest that all the major banks have been up to their eyeballs in bad practices.
The case involves the bond insurer Ambac and the mortgage company EMC, which was the Bear Stearns conduit for buying mortgages to securitize and now thus part of JP Morgan. In 2010, reports surfaced that EMC had been falsifying mortgage data to keep its pipeline moving as fast as Bear wanted and contain costs.
But a suit by bond insurer Ambac alleges far more serious misbehavior. The discovery process in outstanding putback litigation has unearthed a scheme to defraud investors and Ambac and led the bond insurer to add fraud charges to its complaint. The Atlantic, which broke the 2010 story, gives a…
by ilene - January 23rd, 2011 3:20 pm
Food Inflation Comes To America: General Mills, Kraft And Kellogg Hike Prices On Selected Food Products
by ilene - January 20th, 2011 8:20 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge
After denying for months that surging food prices will eventually come to the consumer, hoping that instead food companies could absorb the margin drop, sellside research is finally capitulating to the reality of what is really happening in the retail store. In a note discussing General Mills, Goldman Sachs says the company raised prices on snack bars some 7% last week. Goldman further clarifies that "this reportedly followed a comparable increase taken by K on its snack bars in mid-December. In addition, KFT has reportedly announced a 6% increase on select Planters branded nut products. We expect more price increases to be announced by the food companies in the coming weeks." Maybe, but the Chairman sure doesn’t. And the Chairman is always 100% correct.
Other observations from Goldman on what are now seen as inevitable price increases across numerous food verticals.
These pricing actions support our Food sector view that price momentum will continue to build as 2011 progresses, driven by easing promotional spending and list price increases (see our 1/5 report, Time to embrace inflation; Upgrade Food to Neutral, GIS to buy). This should drive top-line acceleration and margin stabilization over the course of 2011. Evidence of the progression is already apparent in retail scanner data (see our 1/11 report, Progression to a ‘less bad’ promo environment continues). Scanner data is likely to continue to show a measured pace of price growth. That said, we acknowledge that the growth is likely to build gradually as the pass-through of list price hikes to retail shelves lags and the reduction of promotional spend takes time to execute.
As a reminder, in December, the food component of the CPI increased by 0.1%, the lowest amount since July…
And just to complete the circus, Goldman now views price pass throughs as a good thing. See: it resolves the margin issue. Uh, yeah. But someone should explain to Goldman that when calculating revenue, one multiples Price (P) by Volume (V). And in a stagflationary economy, and increase in P results in a more than commensurate decline in V, offsetting all margin boosts.
GIS (Buy) remains our top Food pick and snack bar price hikes reinforce our conviction. To our knowledge, Mills has now executed price increases in categories that account for roughly half of its US retail portfolio (and we think there may
by ilene - January 15th, 2011 4:40 pm
Courtesy of Washington’s Blog
The following is an excerpt of my much longer roundup of the many covert ways the government is bailing out the giant banks.
Fraud As a Business Model
If you stop and think for a moment, it is obvious that failing to prosecute fraud is a bailout.
Nobel prize-winning economist George Akerlof demonstrated that if big companies aren’t held responsible for their actions, the government ends up bailing them out. So failure to prosecute directly leads to a bailout.
Moreover, as I noted last month:
Fraud benefits the wealthy more than the poor, because the big banks and big companies have the inside knowledge and the resources to leverage fraud into profits. Joseph Stiglitz noted in September that giants like Goldman are using their size to manipulate the market. The giants (especially Goldman Sachs) have also used high-frequency program trading (representing up to 70% of all stock trades) and high proportions of other trades as well). This not only distorts the markets, but which also lets the program trading giants take a sneak peak at what the real traders are buying and selling, and then trade on the insider information. See this,this, this, this and this.
Similarly, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley together hold 80% of the country’s derivatives risk, and 96% of the exposure to credit derivatives. They use their dominance to manipulate the market.
Fraud disproportionally benefits the big players (and helps them to become big in the first place), increasing inequality and warping the market.
[And] Professor Black says that fraud is a large part of the mechanism through which bubbles are blown.
Finally, failure to prosecute
“The Fed No Longer Even Denies that the Purpose of Its Latest Blast of Bond Purchases … Is To Drive Up Wall Street”
by ilene - January 15th, 2011 4:36 pm
Courtesy of Washington’s Blog
The stated purpose of quantitative easing was to drive down interest rates on U.S. treasury bonds.
But as U.S. News and World Reported noted last month:
By now, you’ve probably heard that the Fed is purchasing $600 billion in treasuries in hopes that it will push interest rates even lower, spur lending, and help jump-start the economy. Two years ago, the Fed set the federal funds rate (the interest rate at which banks lend to each other) to virtually zero, and this second round of quantitative easing--commonly referred to as QE2--is one of the few tools it has left to help boost economic growth. In spite of all this, a funny thing has happened. Treasury yields have actually risen since the Fed’s announcement.
The following charts from Doug Short update this trend:
Of course, rather than admit that the Fed is failing at driving down rates, rising rates are now being heralded as a sign of success. As the New York Times reported Monday:
The trouble is [rates] they have risen since it was formally announced in November, leaving many in the markets puzzled about the value of the Fed’s bond-buying program.
But the biggest reason for the rise in interest rates was probably that the economy was, at last, growing faster. And that’s good news.
“Rates have risen for the reasons we were hoping for: investors are more optimistic about the recovery,” said Mr. Sack. “It is a good sign.”
Last November, after it started to become apparent that rates were moving in the wrong direction, Bernanke pulled a bait-and-switch, defending quantitative easing on other grounds: