Posts Tagged ‘cities’

Sorry Charlie, Meredith Whitney Lives in a Free Country

Courtesy of Joshua M Brown, The Reformed Broker 

Charlie GasparinoI’ve always been a fan of Charlie Gasparino’s, I like his hard-nosed, old school journalism style and generally have agreed with a lot of his opinions over the years.  But his rant about Meredith Whitney’s municipal bond research is so far off the reservation, he may be in danger of losing his Indian name (Reports With Martinis).

Here’s Gasparino excoriating Whitney for being negative about the prospects for municipal fixed income investing in the Huffington Post:

And yet, as the municipal market is crashing on her prediction, with deals being pulled and slashed in size, with prices falling and taxpayers having to pay extra so cities and states can sell debt, Whitney is refusing to release the actual report that would tell us how she came to such a brash, and unprecedented prediction, on the grounds that her research is proprietary and for the use of the clients of her research firm only.

It’s about time Whitney came clean and released her report to the public so we can determine if it should be given so much credence; and if it shouldn’t, traders and investors can stop a possibly misguided prediction from causing further damage.

Hey Charlie, I don’t exactly agree with Whitney’s assertion that a Munigeddon is imminent, but she has the right to publish her research as publicly or as privately as she likes.  I’ll also note that muni bonds are suffering from limited liquidity as the mutual funds that make up a large portion of their ownership are seeing week after week of redemption.  Little Meredith Whitney may have a decent platform but she hardly moves hundreds of billions of dollars.

No, if anything, the blame here goes to the municipalities themselves for writing checks and making promises that their tax bases couldn’t cash.  The townsfolk won’t get fooled again – they are at the school board meetings and the Town Halls, they know there isn’t any money there.  Whitney’s call has simply been the most vocal expression of this general consensus.

Don’t kill the messenger.

Source:

Meredith Whitney Should Show Her Cards (Huffington Post)

Read Also:

Muni Misunderstandings (TRB)  


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Hmmm, This Kind of Thing Could Really Catch On

TLP: Hmmm, This Kind of Thing Could Really Catch On

Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant 

government workers
 

Seems that there’s something to be said for starting completely from scratch.

The NYT scopes out a lesson in privatization:

Not once, not twice, but three times in the last two weeks, Andrew Quezada says, he was stopped and questioned by the authorities here.

Mr. Quezada, a high school student who does volunteer work for the city, pronounced himself delighted.

“I’m walking along at night carrying an overstuffed bag,” he said, describing two of the incidents. “I look suspicious. This shows the sheriff’s department is doing its job.”

Chalk up another Maywood resident who approves of this city’s unusual experience in municipal governing. City officials last month fired all of Maywood’s employees and outsourced their jobs.

While many communities are fearfully contemplating extensive cuts, Maywood says it is the first city in the nation in the current downturn to take an ax to everyone.

The school crossing guards were let go. Parking enforcement was contracted out, City Hall workers dismissed, street maintenance workers made redundant. The public safety duties of the Police Department were handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

At first, people in this poor, long-troubled and heavily Hispanic city southeast of Los Angeles braced for anarchy.

Senior citizens were afraid they would be assaulted as they walked down the street. Parents worried the parks would be shut and their children would have nowhere to safely play. Landlords said their tenants had begun suggesting that without city-run services they would no longer feel obliged to pay rent.

The apocalypse never arrived. In fact, it seems this city was so bad at being a city that outsourcing — so far, at least — is being viewed as an act of municipal genius.

“We don’t want to be the model for other cities to lay off their employees,” said Magdalena Prado, a spokeswoman for the city who works on contract. “But our residents have been somewhat pleased.”

Makes you wonder why the city couldn’t have hired these people to begin with, as actual government employees. Or why the city wasn’t able to hold its workers accountable to begin with. 

 


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Suburbs: the Dispersal Defense Against Nuclear Attack

Suburbs: the Dispersal Defense Against Nuclear Attack 

Row of miniature houses

Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith Of Two Minds 

The roots of suburbia extend deeper into Cold War policy than most of us know.

The built environment (roads, railways, structures and towns/cities) is integral to any understanding of energy, resiliency, fragility, society and the economy. Any discussion of energy consumption must include the fact that roughly half the energy consumed in the U.S. is used to heat and cool buildings. No discussion of transport or economic strength is integrated without an understanding of rail and seaports, and their vast efficiencies.

To mention one example out of hundreds: the construction and marketing of distant suburbs (exurbs) as the ultimate extension of the suburban lifestyle has strained the American family to the breaking point via crushingly long commutes; wage-earners have no time to spend with their children because their waking, productive hours are spent getting to work, working and then crawling home exhausted.

Thus the built environment has a direct causal effect on divorce rates, teenage alienation and the "bowling alone" isolation and ennui that characterizes so much of American life.

A long-forgotten, underappreciated aspect of encouraging widely dispersed suburbs was rooted in Cold War defense against nuclear attack.Planner/correspondent Tom Christoffel alerted me to this fascinating connection between military/defense policy and the effective abandonment of cities in favor of suburbs in the poast-World War II era. Here are Tom’s comments:

RE: The Future of Cities (June 17, 2010):

I think you’d find interesting: The Reduction of Urban Vulnerability: Revisiting 1950s American Suburbanization as Civil Defence by Kathleen A Tobin, Purdue University, Cold War History, Vol.2, No.2, January,2002.

This is an unrecognized if not forgotten history of the roots of sprawl in the U.S. as a defensive measure. The outcome of the defense was similar to that of the attack it was meant to survive – a cratering of the cities.

Although incorporation of the automobile into city design began early in the century, it has been since the 1950’s that American housing, retail and employment sites – the business campus, have been designed for the automobile. Distances are unwalkable and very often there are no sidewalks to connect buildings.

There are very few cities where owning an automobile is optional. Jurisdictions are cities in name and legal structure only. New urbanism is simply an attempt to accommodate the car.

There are


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The Future of Cities

The Future of Cities 

Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith Of Two Minds 

Man In Bowler Hat And Suit Standing In Front Of City

The energy consumption of cities will certainly decline in the coming decades, but cities may not disintegrate as many expect.

Among those who understand Peak Oil and the fragility of global supply chains, it is widely assumed cities will quickly become hellholes of squalor and extreme violence once liquid fuels are no longer cheap and abundant. Perhaps, but history suggests cities are highly resilient adaptations.

What never ceases to amaze me is how few people who expect cities to implode have any grasp of the size and scale of cities which thrived for hundreds of years without any fossil fuels.

Fernand Braudel’s masterful three-volume history of European Capitalism (Civilization & Capitalism, 15th to 18th Century) The Structures of Everyday Life (Volume 1)The Wheels of Commerce (Volume 2) and The Perspective of the World (Volume 3) is in effect a history of trade and the rise of urban centers. Paris and other cities were already huge, complex centers of commerce and wealth in the early 16th century.

In Asia, the Chinese T’ang Dynasy capital of Ch’ang-an (A.D. 618-907) contained hundreds of thousands of residents, and drew in the wealth of all Asia: The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T’ang Exotics.

Even today, you need to rent a bicycle to tour the vast ruins of the old Thai capital of Ayuttaya, which had a population in the hundreds of thousands in the 15th century.

If cities are so fragile, how did they grow to vast size without any high-density fuel other than wood, and no transport other than animals and human energy?

Yes, these were not "modern" cities in terms of energy consumption, but it terms of exotic goods available, plentiful food, high culture and intrigue, they were thoroughly modern.

Rather than attempt an over-arching synthesis of the vast literature on urbanism, I will make a few points which I think are suggestive of the enduring value of cities, and of the ways in which wastrel (and thus unsustainable) cities might lower their energy consumption and increase their sustainability.

1. 68% of all trips within Tokyo are by foot, bicycle or subway/transit. 95% of the trips in Houston are by private vehicle. Houston is not Tokyo, but this is a way of suggesting that when liquid fuels become costly/scarce, not all cities are equally…
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Munis About to Blow Up

Munis About to Blow Up

Courtesy of John Rubino at Dollar Collapse and TIME 

So I’m sitting here trying to turn a pile of (mostly terrifying) data on muni bonds into a post that explains why this is the next domino to fall, and here comes Time Magazine with a feature on that subject:

Municipal Bonds: The Next Financial Land Mine?

As Wall Street nervously watches the sovereign debt crisis unfold in Greece, another potential landmine is looming closer to home, one that could bring U.S. cities and towns to their knees, force the federal government to cough up another bailout package, and potentially send the unemployment rate much higher. The danger this time? Municipal debt.

State and local governments are frantically scrambling to meet budget shortfalls as high unemployment and shaky consumer confidence mean less income tax and smaller sales tax revenue for government coffers. At the same time, falling home prices and rising foreclosures will start to hit municipalities hard this year as all those property reassessments done over the past 18 months kick in.

A couple of municipalities, such as Los Angeles and Detroit, have even whispered the “B” word. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan argued in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that the city will likely have little choice but to declare bankruptcy between now and 2014. Also, several smaller markets, such as Harrisburg, Pa., and Jefferson County, Ala., have openly talked about filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy — a reorganization available only to municipalities.

In general, municipalities try to avoid Chapter 9 filings. Although such filings make it easier for a city to break onerous labor contracts or make other politically tough cost cuts, they can have hidden costs, such as distracting politicians, alienating business and making it more difficult for a city to raise cash in the capital markets going forward. The city of Vallejo, Calif., for example, has been in Chapter 9 since spring 2008, and observers say the process has been costly and hurt the city’s ability to attract new business. “It’s been two years and the case is still going on and there’s still significant disputes with the unions,” says Eric Schaffer, a partner at Reed Smith LLP. “Ultimately you hope to bring everybody to the table and share the pain, but that can be a messy


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Padded Pensions and What to do About Them

Padded Pensions and What to do About Them

Courtesy of Mish

The New York Times article Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes has been making the rounds. At least 20 people sent me the link. Let’s take a look at few snips, then a look at a followup Times article on addressing the problems.

In Yonkers, more than 100 retired police officers and firefighters are collecting pensions greater than their pay when they were working. One of the youngest, Hugo Tassone, retired at 44 with a base pay of about $74,000 a year. His pension is now $101,333 a year.

It’s what the system promised, said Mr. Tassone, now 47, adding that he did nothing wrong by adding lots of overtime to his base pay shortly before retiring. “I don’t understand how the working guy that held up their end of the bargain became the problem,” he said.

According to pension data collected by The New York Times from the city and state, about 3,700 retired public workers in New York are now getting pensions of more than $100,000 a year, exempt from state and local taxes. The data belie official reports that the average state pension is a modest $18,000, or $38,000 for retired police officers and firefighters. (The average is low, in part, because it includes people who worked in government only part time, or just a few years, as well as surviving spouses getting partial benefits.)

Some will receive the big pensions for decades. Thirteen New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s.

The Times article is 4 pages long so please give it a closer look.

Legal Theft

Undoubtedly Mr. Tassone is not as stupid as he sounds. He knows full well he gamed the system, but it was legal.

Tassone argues he held up his end of the bargain. Excuse me for asking what end is that? Public unions are legalized mobs. They coerce votes from corrupt politicians willing to buy there patronage.

There is no "public end" because there is no one working on the public’s behalf. Indeed the public in general has been crucified with never ending tax hikes to support union thugs who pack every school board in the country, and promise Armageddon if police or firefighters get laid off.

The public is


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China Thoughts

China Thoughts

china Courtesy of guest author Terry Doherty

Greece and many other economies are up a creek without a paddle, and that will become more apparent later.

The thing about currencies and exports has most relevance for countries that have economies that predominantly depend upon exports. They are the most vulnerable to a recession as well. And yes, that would be China.

And yes, things are much worse in China than people understand. Just have a look at this film. It is excellent, and very accurate. This is what Chinese cities REALLY look like. The nice pictures of the big buildings in Shanghai and Beijing and the fast trains and so forth have about as much to do with the real China as pictures of the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas has to do with your neighborhood. Chinese cities are pretty shabby and depressing, and look mostly like huge ghettos. And, people there live like they do in the ghetto. And that’s the cities. Once you get into the countryside, you would think you accidentally got transported back in time about a hundred years. You’ll see very few cars, but lots of bicycles that all seem to look like they were made 50 years ago, and broken down carts drawn by mules and horse. No joke. Naturally, they don’t publicize that much. 

Video: http://www.hulu.com/watch/91553/vanguard-outsourcing-unemployment 

Note: a weak currency allows a country to export goods more readily because that country’s goods are less expensive in the currency of the importing nation. But that also means that exporters get less for their exports when their currency is weak. 

On the other hand, a weak currency makes it harder for a country to buy imports because they are relatively more expensive (i.e., from the perspective of the importing country). A weak currency also means that things denominated in that currency (e.g., stocks and commodities) are more expensive. So, as the dollar weakens, the price of stocks or dollar-denominated commodities tends to go up, even if the value is unchanged.

One thing for sure, prosperity cannot be attained by weakening your currency to death. That’s because one way a country’s wealth is measured is according to the goods and services it can purchase. And, the weaker the dollar, the less goods and services can be purchased from other countries.

Have a look at the REAL China, keeping in mind that these…
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Coming Collapse of Municipal Bonds; States, Cities Dig Deeper Holes

Coming Collapse of Municipal Bonds; States, Cities Dig Deeper Holes

Black hole abstract

Courtesy of Mish

In New Jersey, governor-elect Christie opposes (and rightfully so), the state going deeper in debt but that is not stopping the current administration of Jon Corzine.

Please consider N.J. to Borrow $200 Million Amid Incoming Governor’s Opposition.

New Jersey, the third-most indebted U.S. state, will sell more than $200 million in bonds today to finance voter-approved capital projects a week after Governor- elect Christopher Christie said he opposed borrowing more money.

The state will issue $209.1 million of bonds, including $205 million of tax-exempt securities, the largest such competitively bid offering in the market today, according to Bloomberg data. Christie, a Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine last month, said he opposed new bond sales after the state last week detailed $2.7 billion in borrowing it plans for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in June.

The state’s bond sale today will finance clean water and open-space preservation projects, according to a preliminary official statement. The state is also planning to sell $1.4 billion of bonds for transportation and $1.1 billion for school construction before June 30, according to a Nov. 30 report.

Christie, 47, a former U.S. attorney, told Bloomberg News last week that New Jersey “can’t have any more debt” and that any projections for borrowing will be “rendered meaningless” when he takes office on Jan. 19.

New Jersey has $36.5 billion of gross tax-supported debt, the third highest of the 50 states, according to a report released in July by Moody’s Investors Service. Moody’s rates the state’s bonds Aa3, the fourth highest ranking. California has the most, at $75.2 billion.

New York City is leading the municipal market this week as issuers seek to borrow more than $10 billion, according to Bloomberg data. New York, the largest borrower among U.S. cities, is selling $1.4 billion of taxable and tax-exempt securities, including $616 million of Build America Bonds. By yesterday, the city had taken orders from individual investors for $440 million of the tax-exempt bonds, and for $20 million in Build America Bonds that it expects to finish pricing on Dec. 10, according to Ray Orlando, a spokesman for the city Office of Management and Budget.

Yields on conventional 20-year municipal debt fell to an eight-week low of 4.24 percent,


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Phil's Favorites

The COVID Comeback

 

The COVID Comeback

Courtesy of Wade Slome, Investing Caffeine

Rocky Balboa (“The Italian Stallion”) the underdog boxer from the movie, Rocky, was down and out until he was given the opportunity to fight World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed. Like the stock market during early 2020, Rocky was up against the ropes and got knocked down, but eventually he picked himself up and rebounded to victory in his rematch with Creed.

The stock market comeback also persisted last month as th...



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Biotech/COVID-19

Antibody injections could fight COVID-19 infections - an infectious disease expert explains the prospects

 

Antibody injections could fight COVID-19 infections – an infectious disease expert explains the prospects

Antibodies (pink) attacking a virus particle (blue). STEVEN MCDOWELL/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Courtesy of Dimiter Stanchev Dimitrov, University of Pittsburgh

Antibodies are part of us – literally.

We have billions of them in our bodies with a combined weight of about 100 grams, or about the weight of a bar of soap. If there are so many antibodies inside our b...



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Zero Hedge

Chicago May Delay Reopening Because Of Riots: Virus Updates

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

Summary:

  • Chicago may delay reopening
  • Florida reports jump of just 0,.4%
  • India now home to world's 7th biggest outbreak
  • Brazil passes 500k cases
  • Russia reports highest jump in new cases in weeks as easing begins
  • UK begins unwinding lockdown as daily deaths slow
  • Japan mulls plan to let some tourists back in

* * *

Update (1215E...



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ValueWalk

How Can We Address the Cybersecurity Skills Gap?

By Dale Strickland. Originally published at ValueWalk.

A 2019 report from Burning Glass noted a 94% growth in the number of cybersecurity job postings since 2013. Unfortunately, the available pool workers with the cybersecurity skills needed to fulfill these roles has risen in proportion, creating a significant gap. What can be done to increase the available pool of candidates?

Q1 2020 hedg...



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Chart School

Silver volume says something is near boiling point

Courtesy of Read the Ticker

Fundamentals are important, but they must show up in the chart. And when they do and if they may matter, it is a good sign if price and volume waves show a change of character.

The Point and Figure chart below is readtheticker.com version of PnF chart format, it is designed to highlight price and volume waves clearly (notice the Volume Hills chart).

Silver ETF volume is screaming at us! The price volatility along with volume tells us those who have not cared, are starting to, those who are wrong are adjusting, and those who are correct are loading up. Soon the kettle will blow and the price of silver will be over $20. 

Normally silver suffers in a recession, maybe this time with trillions of paper money being creat...

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Tech Indicator Suggesting A Historic Top Could Be Forming?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble

Tech stocks have been the clear leader of the stock market recovery rally, this year and since the lows back in 2007!

But within the ranks of leadership, and an important ratio may be sending a caution message to investors.

In today’s chart, we look at the ratio of large-cap tech stocks (the Nasdaq 100 Index) to the broader tech market (the Nasdaq Composite) on a “monthly” basis.

The large-cap concentrated Nasdaq 100 (only 100 stocks) has been the clear leader for several years versus the ...



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The Technical Traders

M2 Velocity Collapses - Could A Bottom In Capital Velocity Be Setting Up?

Courtesy of Technical Traders

M2 Velocity is the measurement of capital circulating within the economy.  The faster capital circulates within the economy, the more that capital is being deployed within the economy to create output and opportunities for economic growth.  When M2 Velocity contracts, capital is being deployed in investments or assets that prevent that capital from further circulation within the economy – thus preventing further output and opportunity growth features.

The decline in M2 Velocity over the past 10+ years has been dramatic and consistent with the dramatic new zero US Federal Reserve interest rates initiated since just after the 2008 credit crisis market colla...



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Lee's Free Thinking

US Southern States COVID19 Cases - Let's Give Credit Where Due

 

US Southern States COVID19 Cases – Let’s Give Credit Where Due

Courtesy of  

The number of new COVID 19 cases has been falling in the Northeast, but the South is not having the same experience. The number of new cases per day in each Southern state has been rangebound for the past month.

And that’s assuming that the numbers haven’t been manipulated. We know that in Georgia’s case at least, they have been. And there are suspicions about Florida as well, as the State now engages in a smear campaign against the fired employee who built its much praised COVID19 database and dashboar...



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Digital Currencies

Blockchains can trace foods from farm to plate, but the industry is still behind the curve

 

Blockchains can trace foods from farm to plate, but the industry is still behind the curve

App-etising? LDprod

Courtesy of Michael Rogerson, University of Bath and Glenn Parry, University of Surrey

Food supply chains were vulnerable long before the coronavirus pandemic. Recent scandals have ranged from modern slavery ...



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Members' Corner

Coronavirus, 'Plandemic' and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking

 

Coronavirus, 'Plandemic' and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking

No matter the details of the plot, conspiracy theories follow common patterns of thought. Ranta Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Courtesy of John Cook, George Mason University; Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge; Stephan Lewandowsky...



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Insider Scoop

Economic Data Scheduled For Friday

Courtesy of Benzinga

  • Data on nonfarm payrolls and unemployment rate for March will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET.
  • US Services Purchasing Managers' Index for March is scheduled for release at 9:45 a.m. ET.
  • The ISM's non-manufacturing index for March will be released at 10:00 a.m. ET.
  • The Baker Hughes North American rig count report for the latest week is scheduled for release at 1:00 p.m. ET.
...

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Promotions

Free, Live Webinar on Stocks, Options and Trading Strategies

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Feb. 26, 1pm EST

Click HERE to join the PSW weekly webinar at 1 pm EST.

Phil will discuss positions, COVID-19, market volatility -- the selloff -- and more! 

This week, we also have a special presentation from Mike Anton of TradeExchange.com. It's a new service that we're excited to be a part of! 

Mike will show off the TradeExchange's new platform which you can try for free.  

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Mapping The Market

How IPOs Are Priced

Via Jean Luc 

Funny but probably true:

...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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