by ilene - January 2nd, 2011 8:18 am
Here’s the latest Stock World Weekly Newsletter, New Year’s Edition.
Feedback welcome — please leave comments, we value your input. - Ilene
Picture credit: William Banzai7
For Stock World Weekly archives, click here.
by ilene - November 27th, 2010 9:11 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
“On this week’s Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, a Financial Thought Leader who called the credit and housing bubbles way ahead of the pack. Gluskin Sheff’s prescient Chief Economist, David Rosenberg shares his economic and market outlook, plus advice on how to invest in it.”
by ilene - October 20th, 2010 1:19 am
Courtesy of John Nyaradi of Wall Street Sector Selector
Red Flag: We Expect Lower Prices Ahead
Daily Technical Sentiment Indicators: Neutral
Short Term Market Condition: Oversold (short term bullish)
Short Term Trend: Neutral
Just about everyone has heard about or read “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in which he describes how unexpected, highly improbable events can have massive impact.
I think that recent developments in U.S. financial markets could be a “black turkey,” larger, more destructive and uglier than any black swan ever could be.
In recent days, a “black swan” event, or even worse, a potential “black turkey” event has surfaced that is just beginning to impact financial markets and could have far reaching effects going forward.
I’m talking about “Foreclosuregate” or the “robo signing” scandal that has been rocking financial markets over the past several days and that this action could be just the beginning of a major unforeseen, black swan event.
Of course the details are still murky but the Attorneys General in all 50 states have launched an investigation to see if false documents and forged signatures were used in their foreclosure procedures.
All the big names could be involved, including Ally Financial, Bank of America and JP Morgan, among others, and the ramifications could be huge as this situation could throw the whole foreclosure process into question and uncertainty.
Today’s selloff appeared to be what could be the first salvo in a bloody war as PIMCO, Blackrock and the New York Federal Reserve went to Bank of America with a demand for $47 billion of mortgage repurchases. These entities are all huge players with similar interests and to have them square off against each other is certainly an unexpected event.
Bank of America will fight this, of course, but the “black turkey” here is that nobody knows how large the liability or how far reaching the claims might go if “robo signing” spreads.
JP Morgan estimates liabilities of as high as $120 Billion but if the $47 Billion at Bank of America is accurate, total industry liabilities could be much higher.
by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 7:34 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
This is a superb summary of Paul Volcker’s must read comments at the Federal
1) Macroprudential regulation — “somehow those words grate on my ears.”
2) Banking — Investment banks became “trading machines instead of investment banks [leading to] encroachment on the territory of commercial banks, and commercial banks encroached on the territory of others in a way that couldn’t easily be managed by the old supervisory system.”
3) Financial system — “The financial system is broken. We can use that term in late 2008, and I think it’s fair to still use the term unfortunately. We know that parts of it are absolutely broken, like the mortgage
marketwhich only happens to be the most important part of our capital markets [and has] become a subsidiary of the U.S. government.”
4) Business schools — “We had all our best business schools in the United States pouring out financial engineers, every smart young mathematician and physicist said ‘I don’t want to be a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer. I’m a smart guy, I want to go to Wall Street.’ And then you know all the risks were going to be sliced and diced and [people thought] the market would be resilient and not face any crises. We took care of all that stuff, and I think that was the general philosophy that markets are efficient and self correcting and we don’t have to worry about them too much.
5) Central banks and the Fed — “Central banks became…maybe a little too infatuated with their own skills and authority because they found secrets to price stability…I think its fair to say there was a certain neglect of supervisory responsibilities, certainly not confined to the Federal Reserve, but including the Federal Reserve, I only say that because the Federal Reserve is the most important in my view.”
6) The recession — “It’s so difficult to get out of this recession because of the basic disequilibrium in the real economy.”
7) Council of regulators — “Potentially cumbersome.”
8 ) On judgment — “Let me suggest to you that relying on judgment all the time makes for a very heavy burden whether you are regulating an individual institution or whether you are regulating the whole market or whether you are deciding what might be disturbing or what might not be disturbing.
by ilene - September 21st, 2010 11:24 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
It is no longer fun being a hedge fund manager – first, up until the recent POMO-based rally in stocks, HFs were down for the year, and what is far worse, they were underperforming the broader market – a death sentence for pretty much every hedge fund, as this is proof a fund can not extract alpha and thus has no reason to collect 2 and 20. While the recent ramp in the market is welcome by all bulls, the question remains just how leveraged into the latest beta rally hedge funds have been. If after the nearly 10% rise in the past 2 weeks any individual HFs are still underperforming the market, it is a near certain "lights out."
To everyone else: congratulations – you just bought yourself another three months of breathing room. Better hope the Fed makes good on its QE promises one day soon. In the meantime, Bloomberg Matthew Lynn and Ecclectica’s Hugh Hendry both confirm that in these days of instantaneous liquidity demands, and cheap strategy replicators in the form of ETFs which provide the same beta capture as hedge funds, at a fraction of the price, it is only going to get worse and worse for the once high flying community. In fact, Hugh Hendry goes as far as suggesting that 10 years from now 80% of all hedge funds will be gone. Our personal view is that the target will be reached in a far shorter time frame.
On one hand, Matthew Lynn shows the uphill climb that defenders of the hedge fund industry have to pass in recent days. "An industry that doesn’t know how to defend itself, and has forgotten how to justify its existence, is in crisis. Hedge funds are now in that position." Hilariously, Lynn shows that hedge funds uses that good old staple used by HFTs to defend their own piracy ways and means: providing liquidity.
On both sides of the Atlantic, hedge funds have been busy trying to hold their own against the tide of fresh regulations sweeping through capital markets.
The Washington-based Managed Funds Association, the U.S. hedge-fund industry’s biggest trade group, has been campaigning against proposed curbs on high-frequency trading. That would, it says, reduce liquidity
by ilene - September 19th, 2010 1:26 pm
The Long Road to Recovery
By David Galland, Managing Editor, The Casey Report
Last week the government released the latest unemployment data. Bloomberg, always ready to roll up the sleeves to help its friends in government (get reelected), was running a headline that “Companies in U.S. Added 67,000 Jobs in August.”
While I haven’t had time to go through the minutiae of the report, I find myself scratching my head at Mr. Market’s rather positive reaction to the report, given the bullet points:
- Manufacturing payrolls declined by 27,000.
- Employment at service-providers fell by 54,000.
- Retailers cut 4,900 workers.
- State and local governments gave walking papers to 10,000 people.
- The federal government cut 111,000 jobs (mostly temporary census workers).
- The number of “underemployed” – people who want full-time work, but have given up and are now working part-time, increased again, from 16.5% to 16.7%.
The fine folks at Chart of the Day just published their take on the numbers. You may see something cheerful in this snapshot, but if so, it eludes me…
Interestingly, a week ago ADP, a company that does real-time payroll processing for about one in every six U.S. workers, and whose data – because it is based on hard data and not surveying – has tended to be accurate, released its report for August employment. Based on ADP’s data, they had forecasted that the construction industry had actually cut 33,000 jobs in August.
Their data pointed to an overall decline in the work force of 105,000 jobs, worse than the government’s numbers that showed overall unemployment rose by 54,000 – moving the unemployment rate from 9.5% back up to 9.6%.
At all times, but especially ahead of an election as important as November’s, you can count me skeptical in the extreme when it comes to government data. Especially when it flies in the face of the clear trends in motion. Even with the government’s stimulus funds still coursing through the economy, in the second quarter U.S. gross domestic product fell by more than half, to an annualized rate of just 1.6%. Without the government’s supercharged spending, it’s been calculated that actual GDP would have been halved again.
So, where are all these new private-sector jobs coming from?
by ilene - September 10th, 2010 6:27 pm
I gave an interview to My Private Banker the other day. They wanted to take my discussion of the potential bubble in currency trading a step further.
Investing in currencies is all the rage in wealth management. Currency ETFs, ETNs and currency structructured products are springing up like mushrooms. Inspired by the Euro crisis many private investors in the EU have started investing in currency products. Wealth managers and bankers play also a big role as more and more products are pushed on to their clients. But does currency investing make any sense? We talked about this topic to Josh Brown, who is one of the best known global finance bloggers providing daily comments on The Reformed Broker. Josh Brown has been recently a vocal critic of the boom in currency investing.
MyPrivateBanking: Why do you see a bubble in currency trading – comparable to bubbles in stocks or house prices?
Josh Brown: With currencies, we are still at the stage where we’re talking "prospective bubble", but all the ingredients are there. This isn’t going to be a Price Bubble, it will be an Activity Bubble should the mania take over.
MyPrivateBanking: What differentiates this bubble from “normal” investment bubbles?
Josh Brown: Normal investment bubbles require a certain backdrop of speculative fervor along with some exogenous encouragement to fan the flames (think innovative mortgages or freely available margin leverage). This one is more akin to the Texas Hold ‘Em craze of the mid-2000′s where all of a sudden all your friends and neighbors were poker sharks out of nowhere.
MyPrivateBanking: Why do wealth managers increasingly recommend currency products to their clients?
Josh Brown: I think wealth managers are introducing ETFs that are currency-related because of what’s known as "reverse inquiry". The financial media has done a really terrific job of painting the currency markets as unstable and exciting, this has led to product introductions and marketing which has in turn led to inquiries from the public to their advisors – "How can we get in on this". The reality is that it’s foolish to "invest" in a currency from an asset management standpoint, unless we’re talking about swinging for the fences with the Iraqi Dinar or something. Currency is not an investment, it…
by ilene - September 7th, 2010 11:36 am
Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon
Since I started publishing Financial Armageddon in late-2006, I’ve often railed against the incompetence and tomfoolery of highly-paid Wall Street "strategists" (note the double quotes). Many of these so-called experts are clueless data-regurgitators or ivory tower economists with above average communications skills. Indeed, it seems to me that most of the "stars" of the forecasting game are simply being rewarded for having the gift of gab, rather than their ability to look past the trees and size up the layout of the forest.
But as with most generalizations, there are exceptions. Surprisingly — yes, I am cynical — a very small number of those who know what they are talking about, have something intelligent to say, and know how to translate their insights into clear and interesting prose have been recognized as such. I am referring in particular to Albert Edwards, the number-one ranked global strategist for I-don’t-know-how-many-years running, and his sidekick Dylan Grice, who placed second overall in the 2010 Thomson Reuters Extel Survey, both of whom are members of the strategy team at Societe Generale.
In his most recent Global Strategy Weekly, Mr. Edwards touches upon two topics near-and-dear to my heart: the real state of the economy and the utter cluelessness of most equity investors [italics mind]:
The current situation reminds me of mid 2007. Investors then were content to stick their heads into very deep sand and ignore the fact that The Great Unwind had clearly begun. But in August and September 2007, even though the wheels were clearly falling off the global economy, the S&P still managed to rally 15%! The recent reaction to data suggests the market is in a similar deluded state of mind. Yet again, equity investors refuse to accept they are now locked in a Vulcan death grip and are about to fall unconscious.
The notion that the equity market predicts anything has always struck me as ludicrous. In the
by ilene - August 25th, 2010 5:40 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
“The investment world is the civilized version of natural selection. It cuts to the core of every emotion imaginable. When Joe Schmo goes to work for 25 years straight in an attempt to create a better life for his family and suddenly sees his life’s savings going down the tube because Lehman Bros went bankrupt you can’t possibly expect him to react rationally in such an environment. This is no different than the man whose family is attacked in the middle of the night. Do you expect that man to react rationally when everything he lives for is suddenly in harms way? Do human beings make rational and efficient decisions in chaotic scenarios? Even more important, will 1 million humans working in tandem make efficient decisions all within the same system? No, the majority of them will make highly inefficient decisions. “Mistakes” as we like to call them. We all make them.
If we have learned anything over the course of the greatest mean reversion in stock
markethistory over the last 24 months it is that markets are HIGHLY inefficient. Why? Because the humans that write the algorithms are using flawed theories and the emotions upon which these trades are placed are not psychologically efficient.”
Despite our evolutionary leaps and bounds I believe we are not so far removed from our animal brethren when it comes to survival instincts. When confronted with complex decisions we make mistakes, we panic, we turn to our animal instincts which scream: SURVIVE AT ANY COST. And nowhere is this more apparent than it is in the most complex facets of our lives. Markets are highly complex systems and have become directly tied to important facets of our lives. In many regards it is the last place most human beings should be residing. …
by ilene - August 15th, 2010 2:12 pm
Courtesy of Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
Today there is a horrific derivatives bubble that threatens to destroy not only the U.S. economy but the entire world financial system as well, but unfortunately the vast majority of people do not understand it. When you say the word "derivatives" to most Americans, they have no idea what you are talking about. In fact, even most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really seem to understand them. But you don’t have to get into all the technicalities to understand the bigger picture.
Basically, derivatives are financial instruments whose value depends upon or is derived from the price of something else. A derivative has no underlying value of its own. It is essentially a side bet. Originally, derivatives were mostly used to hedge risk and to offset the possibility of taking losses. But today it has gone way, way beyond that. Today the world financial system has become a gigantic casino where insanely large bets are made on anything and everything that you can possibly imagine.
The derivatives market is almost entirely unregulated and in recent years it has ballooned to such enormous proportions that it is almost hard to believe. Today, the worldwide derivatives market is approximately 20 times the size of the entire global economy.
Because derivatives are so unregulated, nobody knows for certain exactly what the total value of all the derivatives worldwide is, but low estimates put it around 600 trillion dollars and high estimates put it at around 1.5 quadrillion dollars.
Do you know how large one quadrillion is?