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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Zero Hedge

Climate Wars: IEA Warns Governments To Stockpile Battery Metals 

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

China's dominance in green energy technologies are rare earth metal production is very concerning to the International Energy Agency (IEA), who posted a stark warning Wednesday advising western governments to stockpile critical battery metals such as cobalt and lithium.

IEA's warning comes as the next chapter in US-China tensions will be climate wars as energy transition investment ramps up with ...



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Phil's Favorites

Why Facebook created its own 'supreme court' for judging content - 6 questions answered

 

Why Facebook created its own ‘supreme court’ for judging content – 6 questions answered

Facebook’s new Oversight Board affirmed the social media network’s ban on Donald Trump. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Courtesy of Siri Terjesen, Florida Atlantic University

Facebook’s quasi-independent Oversight Board on May 5, 2021, ...



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Biotech/COVID-19

India COVID crisis: four reasons it will derail the world economy

 

India COVID crisis: four reasons it will derail the world economy

India is the fifth largest economy in the world. Deepak Choudhary/Unsplash

Courtesy of Uma S Kambhampati, University of Reading

The second wave of the pandemic has struck India with a devastating impact. With over 300,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths across the country each day at present, the total number of deaths has just passed the 200,000 mark – that’s about one in 16 of all COVID deaths across the world....



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Digital Currencies

Historic Reversal: For The First Time Ever Ether Options Trading Volume Surpasses Bitcoin's

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

The world is gradually realizing that whereas bitcoin is a one-trick pony (one which may or may not be replaced by central bank digital currencies), it is ethereum that is the truly revolutionary architecture powering the new digital realm. We saw this on Monday when not only did ethereum soar as bitcoin prices stagnated, but that's also when Crypto derivatives exchange Deribit experienced an unusual trend for the first time ever: its ether (ETH) options trading volume (...



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Chart School

Yellen can not stop the dollar decline

Courtesy of Read the Ticker

Printing money results in a lower currency, so long as the currency does not fall too fast.

Previous Post: US Dollar Forecast - Weakness

Here are the very strong fundamentals for a lower US dollar: 

(a) US inflation exploding.
(b) Massive US twin deficits.
(c) Better conditions in Europe.

However French election worries in 2022 Q1 and Q2 may provide US dollar strength (via European weakness) after Christmas, but this strength may come after a low in the DXY near $84.  

It looks like Yellen knows a down swing in the US dollar is near because ...

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Politics

If China's middle class continues to thrive and grow, what will it mean for the rest of the world?

 

If China's middle class continues to thrive and grow, what will it mean for the rest of the world?

Over the past few decades, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have become part of the middle class. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Courtesy of Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Rochester Institute of Technology

China’s large and impressive accomplishments over the past four decades have spurred scholars and politicians to debate whether the decline of the West – including the ...



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ValueWalk

Managing Investments As A Charity Or Nonprofit

By Anna Peel. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Maintaining financial viability is a constant challenge for charities and nonprofit organizations.

Q4 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

The past year has underscored that challenge. The pandemic has not just affected investment returns – it’s also had serious implications for charitable activities and the ability to fundraise. For some organizations, it’s even raised doubts about whether they can continue to operate.

Finding ways to generate long-term, sustainable returns for ...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Will Historic Selloff In Treasury Bonds Turn Into Opportunity?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble

Long-dated treasury bonds have been crushed over the past year, sending ETFs like TLT (20+ Year US Treasury Bond ETF) spiraling over 20%.

Improving economy? Inflation concerns? Perhaps a combination of both… interest rates have risen sharply and thus bond prices have fallen in historic fashion.

Today’s chart looks at $TLT over the past 20 years. As you can see, the recent decline has truly been historic. $TLT’s price has swung from historically overbought highs to oversold lows.

At present, the long-dated bond ETF ($TLT) is trading 7.8% below its 200-...



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Mapping The Market

Suez Canal: Critical Waterway Comes to a Halt

 

Suez Canal: Critical Waterway Comes to a Halt

Courtesy of Marcus Lu, Visual Capitalist

The Suez Canal: A Critical Waterway Comes to a Halt

On March 23, 2021, a massive ship named Ever Given became lodged in the Suez Canal, completely blocking traffic in both directions. According to the Suez Canal Authority, the 1,312 foot long (400 m) container ship ran aground during a sandstorm that caused low visibility, impacting the ship’s navigation. The vessel is owned by Taiwanese shipping firm, Evergreen Marine.

With over 2...



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Promotions

Phil's Stock World's Weekly Webinar - March 10, 2021

Don't miss our latest weekly webinar! 

Join us at PSW for LIVE Webinars every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 PM EST.

Phil's Stock World's Weekly Webinar – March 10, 2021

 

Major Topics:

00:00:01 - EIA Petroleum Status Report
00:04:42 - Crude Oil WTI
00:12:52 - COVID-19 Update
00:22:08 - Bonds and Borrowed Funds | S&P 500
00:45:28 - COVID-19 Vaccination
00:48:32 - Trading Techniques
00:50:34 - PBR
00:50:43 - LYG
00:50:48 - More Trading Techniques
00:52:59 - Chinese Hacks Microsoft's E...



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The Technical Traders

Adaptive Fibonacci Price Modeling System Suggests Market Peak May Be Near

Courtesy of Technical Traders

Our Adaptive Fibonacci Price Modeling system is suggesting a moderate price peak may be already setting up in the NASDAQ while the Dow Jones, S&P500, and Transportation Index continue to rally beyond the projected Fibonacci Price Expansion Levels.  This indicates that capital may be shifting away from the already lofty Technology sector and into Basic Materials, Financials, Energy, Consumer Staples, Utilities, as well as other sectors.

This type of a structural market shift indicates a move away from speculation and towards Blue Chip returns. It suggests traders and investors are expecting the US consumer to come back strong (or at least hold up the market at...



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Lee's Free Thinking

Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia - The Branch COVIDIANS Are Still Burning Down the House

 

Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia – The Branch COVIDIANS Are Still Burning Down the House

Courtesy of Lee Adler, WallStreetExaminer 

The numbers of new cases in some of the hardest hit COVID19 states have started to plateau, or even decline, over the past few days. A few pundits have noted it and concluded that it was a hopeful sign. 

Is it real or is something else going on? Like a restriction in the numbers of tests, or simply the inability to test enough, or are some people simply giving up on getting tested? Because as we all know from our dear leader, the less testing, the less...



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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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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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