by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 9:40 pm
and Keep Its Economic Surplus for Itself
Courtesy of Michael Hudson
CDES Conference, Brasilia, September 17, 2010
I would like to place this seminar’s topic, ‘Global Governance,’in the context of global control, which is what ‘governance’ is mainly about. The word (from Latin gubernari, cognate to the Greek root kyber) means ‘steering’. The question is, toward what goal is the world economy steering?
That obviously depends on who is doing the steering. It almost always has been the most powerful nations that organize the world in ways that transfer income and property to themselves. From the Roman Empire through modern Europe such transfers took mainly the form of military seizure and tribute. The Norman conquerors endowed themselves as a landed aristocracy extracting rent from the populace, as did the Nordic conquerors of France and other countries. Europe later took resources by colonial conquest, increasingly via local client oligarchies.
The post-1945 mode of global integration has outlived its early promise. It has become exploitative rather than supportive of capital investment, public infrastructure and living standards.
In the sphere of trade, countries need to rebuild their self-sufficiency in food grains and other basic needs. In the financial sphere, the ability of banks to create credit (loans) at almost no cost on their computer keyboards has led North America and Europe to become debt ridden, and now seeks to move into Brazil and other BRIC countries by financing buyouts or lending against their natural resources, real estate, basic infrastructure and industry. Speculators, arbitrageurs and financial institutions using “free money” see these economies as easy pickings. But by obliging countries to defend themselves financially, their predatory credit creation is ending the era of free capital movements.
Does Brazil really need inflows of foreign credit for domestic spending when it can create this at home? Foreign lending ends up in its central bank, which invests its reserves in US Treasury and Euro bonds that yield low returns and whose international value is likely to decline against the BRIC currencies. So accepting credit and buyout “capital inflows” from the North provides a “free lunch” for key-currency issuers of dollars and Euros, but does not help local economies much.
The natural history of debt and financialization
by ilene - September 22nd, 2010 2:12 pm
Courtesy of Roddy Boyd, THE FINANCIAL INVESTIGATOR
In the world of finance theory, a credible suggestion that you are being forced to raise cash at exorbitant rates or are internally valuing your assets sharply below where the market appears to value them is traditionally a death sentence for your share price. The reasons for this are straight forward enough: Investors hate desperation but not as much as they hate making an asset play and being wrong on the value of the assets.
Then there is InterOil.
A Cairns, Australia- and Houston, Tx-based oil and gas producer that has been touting in one form or another a potentially epic find in the wilds of Papua New Guinea for more than a decade now, it recently raised cash at exorbitant rates and appears to be internally valuing its assets way below what the market appears to think they are worth.
Yet all is well in the share price department.
The story is none too complicated: InterOil, a company whose shares are seemingly made of titanium, is paying rates for cash that only credit cards aimed at those with bad credit can obtain. Better still, the person pulling InterOil’s eyeballs out is its long-time sponsor and key investor, Clarion Finanz AG and its controversial chief, Carlo Civelli.
[Civelli’s record as a broker, investor and promoter of a series of often troubled energy enterprises drives skeptics somewhere north of berserk. He and InterOil have loudly proclaimed that he is little more than an investor and advisor, although the power dynamics of this picture would seem to indicate otherwise. When having your company feted at the NYSE, it is customary to have the CEO or the company’s founder/guiding spirit ring the bell at the opening. Civelli, in the picture, is the one reaching over to ring the opening bell.]
To call InterOil a battleground stock is to be droll. The dispute over the proper level of its valuation and prospects in every sense of the word is analogous to the sanguinary trench combat of the First World War’s Western Front. Short-sellers, critics and investigative reporters raise more and more questions about management disclosures and candor but the stock continues to enjoy robust support. To follow through on…
by ilene - September 12th, 2010 4:57 pm
Sam Antar makes a request to CFOs, Audit Committees, and auditors of public companies’ financial reports: study the SEC’s rules governing the calculation of non-GAAP measures such as EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), and follow them. Correct the mistakes before the reports get filed so Sam doesn’t have to write an article and I don’t have to post it.
For example, Penn National Gaming (PENN) erroneously reported EBITDA as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization AND charges for stock compensation, impairment losses, disposal of assets, losses from unconsolidated affiliates and the Empress Casino Hotel fire--that would be an "Adjusted EBITDA" or in PENN’s case, EBITDASCILDALUAECHFIRE.
Courtesy of Sam Antar
It’s pathetic that so many public companies miscalculate EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and violate Regulation G governing the calculation of non-GAAP measures such as EBITDA. It seems that too many CFOs, Audit Committees, and auditors don’t take the time to thoroughly review compliance with all appropriate SEC financial reporting rules.
Starting in 2007, I reported improper EBITDA calculations by Overstock.com (NASDAQ: OSTK). After a brutal yearlong public battle, Overstock.com’s embittered CEO Patrick Byrne finally changed his company’s EBITDA calculation to comply with Regulation G. For additional details, please read Lee Webb’s Stockwatch article and Richard Sauer’s book.
Last July, I reported apparently erroneous EBITDA calculations by Penson Worldwide (NASDAQ: PNSN) and Comtech Telecommunications (NASDAQ: CMTL).
In this blog post, I will report erroneous EBITDA calculations by five more public companies: A. H. Belo Corporation (NYSE: AHC), FirstService Corporation (NASDAQ: FSRV), Animal Health International, Inc. (NASDAQ: AHII), Schawk Inc. (NYSE: SGK), and Penn National Gaming Inc. (NASDAQ: PENN).
First, let’s review how EBITDA supposed to be calculated
According to the SEC Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations, EBITDA is defined as under Regulation G as net income (not operating income) before interest,…
by ilene - August 20th, 2010 12:41 am
Courtesy of John Rubino of Dollar Collapse
Pretend for a second that you recently retired with a decent amount of money in the bank, and all you have to do is generate a paltry 5% to live in comfort for the rest of your days. But lately that’s been easier said than done. Your money market fund yields less than 1%. Your bond funds are around 3% and your bank CDs are are down to half the rate of a couple of years ago. Stocks, meanwhile, are down over the past decade and way too volatile in any event. If you don’t find a way to generate that 5% you’ll have to start eating into capital, which screws up your plan, possibly leaving you with more life than money a decade hence.
Now pretend that you’re running a multi-billion dollar pension fund. You’ve promised the trustees a 7% return and they’ve calibrated contributions and payouts accordingly. But nothing in the investment-grade realm gets you anywhere near 7%. If you come up short, the plan’s recipients won’t get paid in a decade or – the ultimate horror – you’ll have to ask the folks paying in to contribute more, which means you’ll probably be scapegoated out of a job.
In either case, what do you do? Apparently you start buying junk bonds. According to Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, junk issuance is soaring as desperate investors snap up whatever paper promises to get them the yield they’ve come to depend on. Here’s an excerpt:
U.S. companies issued risky “junk” bonds at a record clip this week, taking advantage of keen investor appetite for returns amid declining interest rates and tepid stock markets.
The borrowing binge comes as the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates near zero and yields on U.S. government debt are near record lows. Those low rates have spread across a variety of markets, making it cheaper for companies with low credit ratings to borrow from investors.
Corporate borrowers with less than investment-grade ratings sold $15.4 billion in junk bonds this week, a record total for a single week, according to data provider Dealogic. The month-to-date total, $21.1 billion, is especially high for August, typically a quiet month that has seen an average of just $6.5 billion in issuance over the past decade.
For the year, the volume of U.S.
by ilene - August 19th, 2010 4:47 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
There is increasing chatter of the great “bond bubble” as U.S. Treasury bonds surge ever higher and deflation fears rise. This is just one more myth that has persisted in recent years (decades really) due to mass misconception of the way the bond market actually operates and this propensity to label everything as a “bubble”.
Before we dive into the real meat of the argument it’s important that we define what a market “bubble” is. A “bubble” occurs when market forces combine to generate a highly unstable position. This results in the system entering an extreme disequilibrium and ultimately failure. The causes of this “bubble” (or extreme disequilibrium) can be many – though primarily psychological any number of exogenous factors can contribute to the instability of the system (government policy for example). The psychological aspect of a bubble is well explained by analysts at BNP Paribas:
“When interacting agents are playing in a hierarchical network structure very specific emerging patterns arise. Let us clarify this with an example. After a concert the audience expresses its appreciation with applause. In the beginning, everybody is handclapping according to their own rhythm. The sound is like random noise. There is no imminence of collective behavior. This can be compared to financial markets operating in a steady-state where prices follow a random walk. All of a sudden something curious happens. All randomness disappears; the audience organizes itself in a synchronized regular beat, each pair of hands is clapping in unison. There is no master of ceremony at play. This collective behaviour emanates endogenously. It is a pattern arising from the underlying interactions. This can be compared to a crash. There is a steady build-up of tension in the system (like with an earthquake or a sand pile) and without any exogenous trigger a massive failure of the system occurs. There is no need for big news events for a crash to happen.
Financial markets can be classified as open, non-linear and complex systems. They also exhibit emanating patterns as a result of which the “invisible hand” can be very shaky. More then 40 years ago Benoit Mandelbrot described the fractal structure of cotton prices and the emanating properties of fat tails and volatility clustering and Hyman Minsky proposed a theory for endogenous speculative bubble formation.
by ilene - August 15th, 2010 5:33 am
Courtesy of Maulik Mody, Bondsquawk.com
As Treasury rates continue to decline and economic growth slows down, the markets saw the yield on the 5-yr TIPS fall below zero to negative 8 basis points. So what does a negative yield imply and what is it about TIPS that makes investors buy them even at negative yields? A discussion started by a member of the Bondsquawk community prompted me to write this.
TIPS or Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities are bonds issued by the U.S. Government that provide protection against inflation. Like any bond, it pays a fixed coupon rate but the principal amount is adjusted as per the growth of CPI so that in case of high inflation, the dollar amount of the coupon is in line with inflation, thereby preserving the spending power of the money invested. At maturity, the bond pays the adjusted principal amount or the original amount, whichever is higher.
The difference between the yield offered by a Treasury and TIPS having the same maturity is an indication of the inflation expectations, also called the breakeven rate. Treasuries are said to offer a nominal rate of interest, which includes real interest rate and inflation expectations, whereas the yield on TIPS is the real interest rate, since it accounts for inflation by adjusting its principal. So what does a negative TIPS yield imply?
The first thing that would come to our minds is deflation. But what it means is exactly the opposite. During deflation, the principal of TIPS would reduce and it would effectively provide lower returns as compared to other securities. In that case, it is better to hold on to the cash rather than buy TIPS. This will cause TIPS prices to fall and its yield to rise. But right now, as Treasury rates are falling on concerns of a shaky recovery, the TIPS yields are falling since inflation expectation remains constant. Because if Treasury yields fell and TIPS yields remain the same, the spread would narrow too much, indicating a bigger problem that’s already on peoples‘ minds right now, viz. deflation.
So now we know that the negative yields are not a result of expectations of deflation but because inflation expectation is more or less constant while real interest rates decrease. Which opens the question that why are investors still buying TIPS with negative yields when inflation expectation…
by ilene - July 6th, 2010 4:10 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
Overdrafts are big business for the big banks and even though the Fed has clamped down to protect the precious consumer (I’m sure that’s high up on their to-do list), they may have forgotten to bite down hard enough with those big sharp regulatory teeth.
Before we get to that, let’s talk about the impact overdrafts have on said sad consumer. And yes, that does read an annual percentage rate of 3,520%.
The findings of an FDIC study of bank automatic overdraft programs — also called courtesy overdraft or bounce protection — are no surprise to consumer advocates. For years, studies by consumer groups of automatic overdraft programs have shown them to be short-term loans that cost consumers billions in fees, while often denying them the ability to make an informed choice.
The difference this time around is a federal banking regulator has arrived at statistics that paint the same picture — most customers aren’t informed of the overdraft until after the ATM or point-of-sale transaction has taken place, and high fees mean that someone who overdraws their account at the ATM by $20, and is charged the median overdraft fee of $27, would incur an annual percentage rate of 3520 percent if they repaid the loan in two weeks. Even payday lenders don’t charge that much.
How much does all this add up to for banks? A 2007 study by the Center for Responsible Lending said consumers are paying fees of $17.5 billion annually — on automatic overdraft loans of $15.8 billion per year.
"This is a huge amount of money for the banks," says Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services at Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. "But aren’t we in trouble if the only way banks stay afloat is by sticking their most desperate customers with the highest priced credit that consumers have not applied for and don’t know they’re using?"
Meanwhile, new overdraft rules only apply to ATM and debit card transactions, not recurring transactions (like subscriptions) or check transactions. Which is ironic because we still call it "bouncing a check" even though few of us actually use them. Whatever, splitting hairs.
Anyway, banks can still unwittingly enroll customers in overdraft protection for these transactions and the sad little consumer will still be responsible…
by ilene - June 17th, 2010 12:38 pm
Courtesy of Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden
Some terrific insight from Rosie on the future:
THE OUTLOOK IS ONE OF…
- Deflation: own income-generating securities, which include dividend yield and dividend growth.
- Corporate balance sheet strength and liquidity: own corporate bonds with liquidity, marginal refinancing needs and stable cash flows.
- Intense volatility: invest in classic hedge funds — true long-short strategies that preserve capital and minimize fluctuations in the portfolio.
- Ongoing sovereign credit concerns and recurring rounds of currency depreciation: ensure the portfolio has a core holding in precious metals (gold and silver). These are effective hedges against lingering concerns over the stability of the global monetary system.
I realize that I am viewed as a perma-bear, but it’s my forecast that is bearish, not my personality. I’m bullish on my kids. I’m bullish on my friends — the few I have. I’m bullish on the New York Yankees — please don’t hold it against me. And I’m bullish on my firm. Look — if I really believed that cash was where investors should be, I’d be working at a bank, not a wealth management firm.
… On the present:
Double-dip risks in the U.S. have risen substantially in the past two months. While the “back end” of the economy is still performing well, as we saw in the May industrial production report, this lags the cycle. The “front end” leads the cycle and by that we mean the key guts of final sales — the consumer and housing.
We have already endured two soft retail sales reports in a row and now the weekly chain-store data for June are pointing to subpar activity. The housing sector is going back into the tank — there is no question about it. Bank credit is back in freefall. The recovery in consumer sentiment leaves it at levels that in the past were consistent with outright recessions. By our estimates, the diffusion index on the Conference Board’s leading economic indicator (LEI) in May came in at a disconcerting 40% for the second month in a row. Jobless claims are one of the 10 components of the LEI and last year’s improvement not only stalled out completely, but at around 460k is consistent with stagnant to negative jobs growth. And exports, which had been a
by ilene - March 10th, 2010 12:24 pm
Karl asks why do we let Congress and the Federal Reserve continue their reign of assault against us. - Ilene
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
No, that’s not a misprint.
Let’s say you went to Starbucks and bought a $5 Latte. You swiped your debit card and didn’t have the $5 in your account.
Bank of America would charge you a roughly $30 overdraft fee, amounting to 600% of your purchase for a loan of that $5 for as little as one day. That’s bad enough.
Let’s assume you paid that overdraft fee (and the $5) in one week. There are 52 weeks in a year and the bad news is that when computing the annual percentage rate you must divide the interest charged by the percentage of a year you held the money to get the APR. Thus, 31,200% interest on an "annualized" basis, assuming you pay it in one week (it’s 218,400% if you pay it off the next morning!)
The bank will soon stop doing this, and in fact is mandated to do so without getting permission first for each transaction, as of June 1st.
The question that should be asked is why we should have to wait until June 19th for new accounts, or August 1st for existing accounts, never mind why this sort of outrageous behavior has been permitted in the first place.
Guido on the corner typically will charge you something obscene like 500% interest over the course of a year.
The banksters put Guido to shame.