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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Zero Hedge

Italian Cases Soar Past 300 As EU Stubbornly Refuses To Close Borders; 10 Dead: Live Updates

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

Summary:

  • WHO warns the rest of the world "is not ready for the virus to spread..."

  • CDC warns Americans "should prepare for possible community spread" of virus.

  • Italy cases spike to 322; deaths hit 10

  • HHS Sec. Azar warns US lacks stockpiles of masks

  • Italy Hotel in Lockdown ...



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Phil's Favorites

World economy flashes red over coronavirus - with strange echoes of 1880s Yellow Peril hysteria

 

World economy flashes red over coronavirus – with strange echoes of 1880s Yellow Peril hysteria

Courtesy of John Weeks, SOAS, University of London

As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, travel restrictions are being imposed around the world. China is the main target, with various countries including Australia, Canada and the US placing different restrictions on people who have travelled through the country ...



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Biotech & Health

World economy flashes red over coronavirus - with strange echoes of 1880s Yellow Peril hysteria

 

World economy flashes red over coronavirus – with strange echoes of 1880s Yellow Peril hysteria

Courtesy of John Weeks, SOAS, University of London

As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, travel restrictions are being imposed around the world. China is the main target, with various countries including Australia, Canada and the US placing different restrictions on people who have travelled through the country ...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Dow Industrials Reversal Lower Could Be Double Whammy for Stock Bulls!

Courtesy of Chris Kimble

Dow Jones Industrial Average “monthly” Chart

The Dow Industrials have spent the past 70 years in a wide rising price channel marked by each (1). And the past 25 years have seen prices test and pull back from the upper end of that channel.

The current bull market cycle has seen stocks rise sharply off the 2009 lows toward the upper end of that channel once more.

In fact, the Dow has been hovering near the topside of that price channel for several months.

But just as the Dow is kissing the top of this channel, it might be creating back-to-back “monthly” bearish ...



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Insider Scoop

Benzinga's Top Upgrades, Downgrades For February 25, 2020

Courtesy of Benzinga

Upgrades
  • Sidoti & Co. changed the rating for FormFactor Inc (NASDAQ: FORM) from Neutral to Buy. For the fourth quarter, FormFactor had an EPS of $0.41, compared to year-ago quarter EPS of $0.31. The stock has a 52-week-high of $28.58 and a 52-week-low of $14.20. FormFactor's stock last closed at $23.16 per share.
Downgrades
  • Dougherty downgraded the stock for Palo Alto Networks Inc (NYSE: PANW) from Buy to Neutral. Palo Alto Networks earned $1.19 in the second quarter. The stock has a...


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The Technical Traders

Yield Curve Patterns - What To Expect In 2020

Courtesy of Technical Traders

Quite a bit of information can be gleaned from the US Treasury Yield Curve charts.  There are two very interesting components that we identified from the Yield Curve charts below.  First, the bottom in late 2018 was a very important price bottom in the US markets.  That low presented a very deep bottom in the Yield Curve 30Y-10Y chart.  We believe this bottom set up a very dynamic shift in the capital markets that present the current risk factor throughout must of the rest of the world.  Second, this same December 2018 price bottom set up a very unique consolidation pattern on the 10Y-3Y Yield Curve chart.  This pattern has been seen before, in late 1997-1998 and late 2005-2008.

...

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Chart School

Oil cycle leads the stock cycle

Courtesy of Read the Ticker

Sure correlation is not causation, but this chart should be known by you.

We all know the world economy was waiting for a pin to prick the 'everything bubble', but no one had any idea of what the pin would look like.

Hence this is why the story of the black swan is so relevant.






There is massive debt behind the record high stock markets, there so much debt the political will required to allow central banks to print trillions to cover losses will likely effect elections. The point is printing money to cover billions is unlikely to upset anyone, however printing trillions will. In 2007 it was billions, in 202X it ...

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Members' Corner

Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

 

Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

Courtesy of David Brin, Contrary Brin Blog 

Fascinating and important to consider, since it is probably one of the reasons why the world aristocracy is pulling its all-out putsch right now… “Trillions will be inherited over the coming decades, further widening the wealth gap,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The beneficiaries aren’t all that young themselves. From 1989 to 2016, U.S. households inherited more than $8.5 trillion. Over that time, the average age of recipients rose by a decade to 51. More ...



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Digital Currencies

Altcoin season 2.0: why bitcoin has been outgunned by crypto rivals since new year

 

Altcoin season 2.0: why bitcoin has been outgunned by crypto rivals since new year

‘We have you surrounded!’ Wit Olszewski

Courtesy of Gavin Brown, Manchester Metropolitan University and Richard Whittle, Manchester Metropolitan University

When bitcoin was trading at the dizzying heights of almost US$2...



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ValueWalk

What US companies are saying about coronavirus impact

By Aman Jain. Originally published at ValueWalk.

With the coronavirus outbreak coinciding with the U.S. earnings seasons, it is only normal to expect companies to talk about this deadly virus in their earnings conference calls. In fact, many major U.S. companies not only talked about coronavirus, but also warned about its potential impact on their financial numbers.

Q4 2019 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Coronavirus impact: many US companies unclear

According to ...



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Lee's Free Thinking

Why Blaming the Repo Market is Like Blaming the Australian Bush Fires

 

Why Blaming the Repo Market is Like Blaming the Australian Bush Fires

Courtesy of  

The repo market problem isn’t the problem. It’s a sideshow, a diversion, and a joke. It’s a symptom of the problem.

Today, I got a note from Liquidity Trader subscriber David, a professional investor, and it got me to thinking. Here’s what David wrote:

Lee,

The ‘experts’ I hear from keep saying that once 300B more in reserves have ...



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Mapping The Market

How IPOs Are Priced

Via Jean Luc 

Funny but probably true:

...

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Promotions

Free eBook - "My Top Strategies for 2017"

 

 

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Phil has a chapter in a newly-released eBook that we think you’ll enjoy.

In My Top Strategies for 2017, Phil's chapter is Secret Santa’s Inflation Hedges for 2017.

This chapter isn’t about risk or leverage. Phil present a few smart, practical ideas you can use as a hedge against inflation as well as hedging strategies designed to assist you in staying ahead of the markets.

Some other great content in this free eBook includes:

 

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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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