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Posts Tagged ‘Yves Smith’

Fears of Regime Change in New York

Fears of Regime Change in New York

Courtesy of Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism

Time Square New York

Normally, I don’t report on anecdotes from my immediate circle, but a set of conversations in less than a 24 hour period suggests that even those comparatively unaffected by the crisis are bracing themselves for the possibility of sudden, large-scale, adverse changes. And that sort of gnawing worry seems to be growing in New York despite being buoyed by TARP funds and covert bank subsidies.

When out on my rounds the day before yesterday, I ran into an old McKinsey colleague, who had subsequently had impressively titled jobs in Big Firms You Heard Of before semi-retiring to manage family money. He and his very accomplished wife were big Bush donors and had been invited to both inaugurations.

He made short order of niceties and got to the point: “We need more fiscal stimulus. Obama did too little and too much of what he spent on was liberal pork. We could and need to spend a lot on infrastructure. This is looking a lot like 1936. I’m afraid it could get really ugly. And I’m particularly worried that the Republicans will win big this fall. They’ll cut even deeper, that’s the last thing we need right now.”

No I am not making this up, and yes, this is one of the last people I would have expected to express this line of thinking.

Next day, I had lunch with a two long standing, keen observers and participants in the New York scene, as in very involved in some of the city’s important institutions. Both have witnessed the shift in values over the last thirty years and the rising stratification, particularly at the top end (New York has always been plutocratic, but it formerly had a large upper middle class and a much smaller and much less isolated upper crust).

They started by commenting on my Bill Gross post, which had mentioned the appalling Steve Schwarzman contention that taxing private equity overlords more on their carried interest was like HItler invading Poland. Schwarzman is not only not retreating from his remark, he is convinced that the reason the economy is so lousy is that rich men like him are not getting their way (this is if anything an understatement of their account. Both men expect his head to be the first…
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Are Bank Stocks Such a Good Buy?

Are Bank Stocks Such a Good Buy?

Courtesy of Yves Smith at Naked Capitalistm 

banks

A fund manager who will go unnamed mentioned to me that he is putting clients into bank stocks because they are trading at or below book value.

Now of course, individual stocks can and do always outperform the outlook for their sector, so there are no doubt particular banks whose stocks are cheap right now. But there are good reasons to question the notion that banks in general, and money center banks in particular, are a bargain.

First and perhaps most fundamental is the notion that bank equity is a readily-measured number, and that book value is therefore a useful metric. In general, even in companies in make-and-sell businesses, balance sheet items are subject to artful reporting. Notice, for instance, how every four or five years most big public companies take a writeoff that they classify as extraordinary, and equity shills dutifully exclude it from their calculation. In most cases, the writeoff is an admission that past earnings were overstated, but seldom is anyone bothered by what this says about the integrity of that company’s accounting or the acumen of its management.

Bank earnings, even under the best circumstances, involve a great deal of artwork, and most of all in the very big banks with large dealer operations. As Steve Waldman pointed out,

Bank capital cannot be measured. Think about that until you really get it. “Large complex financial institutions” report leverage ratios and “tier one” capital and all kinds of aromatic stuff. But those numbers are meaningless. For any large complex financial institution levered at the House-proposed limit of 15×, a reasonable confidence interval surrounding its estimate of bank capital would be greater than 100% of the reported value. In English, we cannot distinguish “well capitalized” from insolvent banks, even in good times, and regardless of their formal statements.

Lehman is a case-in-point. On September 10, 2008, Lehman reported 11% “tier one” capital and very


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NYT Muffs Merrill/Magnetar Piece (And Why is No One Investigating the Related Bonus Fraud?)

NYT Muffs Merrill/Magnetar Piece (And Why is No One Investigating the Related Bonus Fraud?)

By Yves Smith and Tom Adams, an attorney and former monoline executive, at Naked Capitalism 

Radar Marking an Earthquake's Epicenter

Louise Story has penned what presents itself as an important story at the New York Times, one that charges Merrill Lynch with misrepresenting the size of its subprime, specifically, collateralized debt obligation exposures, in the runup to the global financial crisis. The ruse the article depicts is a CDO called Pyxis., which purportedly served as a dumping ground for exposures Merrill could not unload. Initially, Merrill was able to escape reporting these positions because it claimed to have hedged the risk. In fact, the hedges failed, the bank was ultimately on the hook and was later forced to ‘fess up to the magnitude of its holdings. This revelation sounds juicy in that Citigroup and some of its recent senior executives paid fines to the SEC for similar, albeit less convoluted-sounding, misconduct.

But in fact, the story is astonishingly incomplete, to the point of being misleading. While Merrill’s probable accounting improprieties are noteworthy and merit investigation by the authorities, they are not the most important element of this episode. CDO abuses amounted to accounting fraud to enable employees and executives to loot their companies. Moreover, they were not perpetrated by isolated actors, but were part of what Bill Black calls a criminogenic environment.

To put it more simply, if you think Merrill’s misrepresentations to investors are a big deal, they are only a small aspect of the bigger, and frustratingly largely untold, tale of the role of CDOs in the crisis. CDOs were the epicenter of the upheaval, the device that magnified a what otherwise would have been contained subprime bubble into an economy-wrecking meltdown. When the music stopped, it was the dealers themselves that wound up holding much of the toxic paper they’d created. AAA rated CDOs went from haircuts of 2-4% in early 2006 to 95% in later 2007. The collapse in CDO valuations and the resulting inability to use CDOs as collateral for repo was a major, if not the major, cause of dealer illiquidity and insolvency which resulted in massive bailouts and backdoor subsidies.

Accounts like Ms. Story’s are blind man and the elephant affairs: at best, they do a good enough job of depicting, say, the trunk, but leave the beast…
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Stop the madness now!

Excellent post on the economy and saving it (or not) by Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns. (My yellow highlighting) – Ilene

Stop the madness now!

mad as hellThis is a post I just wrote over at Yves Smith’s site Naked Capitalism in response to a reader request. Marshall Auerback has already written a reply as well and I will post this later today.

A reader at Naked Capitalism asked us to respond to a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor asking Does US need a second stimulus to create jobs?

Marshall Auerback has already done some heavy lifting. He says emphatically yes. Now I want to take a crack at this. My short answer is no. But before I go into this, as an aside, I wanted to mention Marshall’s new smiling, happy picture up at the great blog New Deal 2.0 where he now writes.  Earlier, when Credit Writedowns was hosted at Blogger, he used a picture best described as a mug shot in his profile, but he has changed that one too (although he smiles there a little less). He thinks we haven’t noticed this sleight of hand.  Well I have! Once upon a time, Marshall wrote with a man I called all bearish, all the time this summer. Take a look at that post; you don’t see him smiling now do you? We have Lynn Parramore, New Deal 2.0’s editor to thank for making Marshall Auerback into an optimist.

Different policy choices

But all teasing aside, I do want to take the opposite side of this trade.  You see I too was a deficit hawk. And while I may have been backing fiscal stimulus, I have felt conflicted for doing so. Here’s how I see it. 

You have four options:

  1. No stimulus. Let the chips fall where they may. Yves Smith calls this the ‘Mellonite liquidationist mode.’ The thinking here is that trying to avoid the inevitable bust only makes it that much larger. And the economic policies during recessions in 1991 and 2001 seem to bear that out. The Harding Recession of 1921 is commonly seen as gold standard response.
  2. Monetary stimulus only. Quantitative easing mania. My understanding is this is what Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has been advocating.   The thinking here is that the flood of money and the


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Sympathy for the Treasury

Wondering what happened at the bloggers-Treasury officials’ get-together?  Here’s Steve Randy Waldman’s account of the meeting. – Ilene

Sympathy for the Treasury

us treasury buildingCourtesy of Steve Randy Waldman of Interfluidity

On Monday, I was among a group of eight bloggers who attended a discussion with "senior Treasury officials" in Washington. Several nice accounts of that meeting have already been posted (see roundup below). Here’s mine.

First, I’d like to thank the "senior Treasury officials" for taking the time to meet with us, and for being very gracious hosts. Whatever disagreements one might have, in statistical if not moral terms it was an extreme privilege to sit across a conference table and have a chance to speak with these people. And despite the limitations of the event, I’d rather there be more of this kind of thing than less. So a sincere tip o’the hat to all of our hosts. Thank you for having us.

The second thing I’d like to discuss is corruption. Not, I hasten to add, the corruption of senior Treasury officials, but my own. As a slime mold with a cable modem, it was very flattering to be invited to a meeting at the US Treasury. A tour guide came through with two visitors before the meeting began, and chattily announced that the table I was sitting at had belonged to FDR. It very clearly was not the purpose of the meeting for policymakers to pick our brains. The e-mail invitation we received came from the Treasury’s department of Public Affairs. Treasury’s goal in meeting with us was to inform the public discussion of their past and continuing policies. (Note that I use the word "inform" in the sense outlined in a previous post. It is not about true or false, but about shaping behavior.)

Nevertheless, vanity outshines reason, and I could not help but hope that someone in the bowels of power had read my effluent and decided I should be part of the brain trust. The mere invitation made me more favorably disposed to policymakers. Further, sitting across a table transforms a television talking head into a human being, and cordial conversation with a human being creates a relationship. Most corrupt acts don’t take the form of clearly immoral choices. People fight those. Corruption thrives where there is a tension between institutional and interpersonal ethics. There is "the…
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Help One Of Our Own PSW Members

"Hello PSW Members –

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 jennifersurovy@yahoo.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.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-get-shadowfax-out-from-the-darkness-of-medical-bills-/126743

Thank you for you time!

 
 

Chart School

ECRI Recession Watch: Weekly Update

Courtesy of Doug Short.

The Weekly Leading Index (WLI) of the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) is at 131.7, down from the previous week's 131.8. The WLI annualized growth indicator (WLIg) is at -1.2, down from -0.1 the previous week.

ECRI has been at the center of a prolonged controversy since publicizing its recession call on September 30, 2011. The company had made the announcement to its private clients on September 21st. ECRI's cofounder and spokesman, Lakshman Achuthan, subsequently forecast that the recession would begin in Q1 2012, or Q2 at the latest. He later identified mid-2012 as the start of the recession. Over the past two years he has been a frequent guest on the likes of CNBC and Bloomberg TV. In recent months he has ad...



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Zero Hedge

How Long Can The Top 10% Households Prop Up The "Recovery"?

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The question of "recovery" really boils down to this: how much longer can the top 10% prop up the expansion?

A flurry of recent media stories have addressed housing unaffordability, for example Why Middle-Class Americans Can't Afford to Live in Liberal Cities.
  The topic of housing unaffordability crosses party lines: ...

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Insider Scoop

Euro Continues Lower On Encouraging US GDP

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related EWI Euro Responds To Federal Reserve Conclusion Euro Steady Above $1.27 Ahead Of Fed Meeting Conclusion

The euro fell further below the dollar on Friday morning as poor economic data from the region weighed on investors’ confidence.

The common currency also lost some ground after U.S. GDP data came in better than expected on Thursday...



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Phil's Favorites

Looking for a Good Education at a Low Price, Perhaps Free? Head to Europe

Courtesy of Mish.

On June 7, 2014 I wrote Looking to Drastically Reduce College Costs? Study Abroad!

Yesterday, a writer for the Washington Post expressed the same opinion.

Please consider 7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free). Since 1985, U.S. college costs have surged by about 500 percent, and tuition fees keep rising. In Germany, they've done the opposite.

The country's universities have been tuition-free since the beginning of October, when Lower Saxony became the last ...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: David is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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Sabrient

Sector Detector: Bullish conviction returns, but market likely to consolidate its V-bottom

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

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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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of October 27th, 2014

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Stock World Weekly

Stock World Weekly

Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.

Here's the latest Stock World Weekly. Enjoy!

(As usual, use your PSW user name and password to sign in. You may also take a free trial.) 

 

#455292918 / gettyimages.com

 

...

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Market Shadows

Bill Ackman's Big Pharma Trade Is Making Wall Street A Super Awkward Place

 

#452525522 / gettyimages.com

Intro by Ilene

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...



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Option Review

LUV Options Active Ahead Of Earnings

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...



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Digital Currencies

Goodbye War On Drugs, Hello Libertarian Utopia. Dominic Frisby's Bitcoin: The Future of Money?

Courtesy of John Rubino.

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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Pharmboy

Biotechs & Bubbles

Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

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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