Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Another day, another $ drop

Another day, another 14 month low in the $ index and record high in gold. This comes even after the Oct German ZEW investor confidence figure in their economy was almost 3 points less than expected and unexpectedly fell from Sept, below forecasted inflation data in France and the UK and a comment from an ECB member that believes there is no reason to change policy now. Assuming a flat opening, the S&P 500 will have fallen to a one month low in gold terms. With this $ backdrop, Fed members Dudley and Kohn speak today and both will likely reiterate that rates will stay low for a while and they are not worried about inflation, even in the face of market signals. The Sept NFIB small business optimism index rose .2 points to the highest since May but the components were mixed. Those that plan to hire fell to a 4 month low but more want to increase cap ex and expand. Those that expect a better economy and higher sales both fell.

Category: MacroNotes

On the Cusp of a Fascinating Earnings Season

Good Evening: The major U.S. stock market averages rose for a sixth straight day today, and the S&P 500 set a new closing high for 2009 in the process. I will first breeze through today’s events before examining what I think could be a fascinating earnings season. Since there are important similarities and differences between…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

Quarterly Review and Outlook – Q3 2009

I look forward at the beginning of every quarter to receiving the Quarterly Outlook from Hoisington Investment Management. They have been prominent proponents of the view that deflation is the problem, stemming from a variety of factors, and write about their views in a very clear and concise manner. This quarter’s letter is no exception, where they once again delve into the history books to bring up fresh and relevant lessons for today. This is a must read piece.

Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $4-billion under management, composed of corporate and public funds, foundations, endowments, Taft-Hartley funds, and insurance companies. And now let’s jump right in to the essay.

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

Ponzi Finance

The Federal Reserve reported that as of June 30, 2009 total U.S. debt was $52.8 trillion. Total U.S. debt includes government, corporate and consumer debt. Importantly, however, it does not include a few trillion in “off balance sheet” financing, contingent unfunded pension plans for corporate and state and local governments, or unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government for such items as Medicare, Social Security and other programs. Currently GDP stands at $14.2 trillion, so there is approximately $3.73 in debt for every dollar of output in the United States, a level unprecedented in our history (Chart 1). Normally, debt levels as a percent of GDP would be uninteresting and immaterial; however, the current level of debt is unique in two ways. First, the asset side of the balance sheet purchased by the debt is falling in price. Second, the money that was borrowed to purchase those assets was often fraudulently expended. Neither the borrower nor the lender really expected the debt to be serviced. Rather, each party expected the asset price to rise extinguishing the debt.

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This type of financial arrangement was correctly analyzed by the famous American economist Hyman Minsky in his paper, “Financial Instability Hypothesis”, in which he described three phases of debt financing. The first is “hedge finance”, where the lender expects a return on both principal and interest. The second is “speculative finance” where the lender expects to get interest on the loan but perhaps not the principal. The third case, where the lender expects neither the principal nor interest to be returned, is referred to as “ponzi finance”. This was typified in the last business cycle by loans issued without documentation, no down payment home loans, extremely low cap rates on commercial real estate, and the high leverage borrowing ratio of private equity funds. Even ponzi finance works as long as asset prices are rising. But once the bubble is pricked, the debtor is left with declining asset values that preclude the rollover of their obligations.

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Category: Think Tank

2nd quietest volume day of the year

While the market has come off its intraday highs, it didn’t take much as volume is running at the slowest pace since Jan 2nd, the Friday after New Years Day. With earnings reports upon us in earnest beginning tomorrow, the stock market becomes a different place in that it more discriminates between those that deliver…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Oh, Those Financials!

Oh, financials, financials, financials. Here we go again. JPMorgan Chase reports quarterly profits on Wednesday; Citi announces a quarterly loss on Thursday, Bank of America delivers its results (no one knows if loss or profit) on Friday. The parade will continue right through Halloween.

Cumberland does not use single stocks in its US equity account management. So while we are keenly focused on these reports, we’ll review some of the applicable ETFs instead.

Since March 9 the big bank ETF that tracks the KBW Bank Index has delivered a total return of 145%. The three banks reporting this week constitute 25% of the weight of the exchange-traded fund (ETF) that mirrors that index. Its symbol is KBE. These big banks are deemed “too big to fail” and have benefitted greatly by obtaining the federal government’s direct support and guarantees. That subsidy will be revealed in their positive surprises to earnings reports

Contrast KBE with KRE. It is the exchange-traded fund composed of regional banks that have not been deemed “too big to fail” by the Washington-based troika of Treasury, Fed, and White House/Congress. Many regional banks are small enough to be resolved by the FDIC, and many suffer from a greater concentration of deteriorating commercial loans than their larger brethren. Their status is reflected in the performance of their stocks. KRE has had a total return of only 49% since March 9. It has actually lagged the performance of the S&P 500 index, represented by the “Spider.” SPY has had a total return since March 9 of 59%.

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Category: Think Tank

Self sustaining or not? That is the question.

In a harbinger of what’s to come in terms of Q3 growth, Singapore is the first nation of significance to report Q3 GDP and it was better than expected. Its GDP grew 14.9% q/o/q annualized, .4% higher than forecasts. Q3 Earnings reports beginning in earnest this week will translate for us what the statistical global…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Killing the Goose

Killing the Goose
October 9, 2009
By John Mauldin

Killing the Goose
What Were We Thinking?
Let’s Play Turn It Around
Detroit, the Red Sox and the Yankees, and Traveling Too Much

Peggy Noonan, maybe the most gifted essayist of our time, wrote a few weeks ago about the vague concern that many of us have that the monster looming up ahead of us has the potential (my interpretation) for not just plucking a few feathers from the goose that lays the golden egg (the US free-market economy), or stealing a few more of the valuable eggs, but of actually killing the goose. Today we look at the possibility that the fiscal path of the enormous US government deficits we are on could indeed kill the goose, or harm it so badly it will make the lost decades that Japan has suffered seem like a stroll in the park.

And while I do not think we will get to that point (though I can’t deny the possibility), for reasons I will go into, there is the very real prospect that the upheavals created by not dealing proactively with the problems (or denying they exist) will be as bad as or worse than the credit crisis we have gone through. This is not going to be something that happens overnight, and the seeming return to normalcy that so many predict has the rather alarming aspect of creating a sense of complacency that will only serve to “kick the can” down the road.

This week we look at the problem, and then muse upon what the more likely scenarios are that may play out. This is a longer version of a speech I gave this morning to the New Orleans Conference, where I also offered a path out of the problems. This letter will be a little more controversial than normal, but I hope it makes us all think about the very serious plight we have put ourselves in.

Let’s review a few paragraphs I wrote last month: “I have seven kids. As our family grew, we limited the choices our kids could make; but as they grew into teenagers, they were given more leeway. Not all of their choices were good. How many times did Dad say, ‘What were you thinking?’ and get a mute reply or a mumbled ‘I don’t know.’

“Yet how else do you teach them that bad choices have bad consequences? You can lecture, you can be a role model; but in the end you have to let them make their own choices. And a lot of them make a lot of bad choices. After having raised six, with one more teenage son at home, I have come to the conclusion that you just breathe a sigh of relief if they grow up and have avoided fatal, life-altering choices. I am lucky. So far. Knock on a lot of wood.

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Category: Think Tank

The American Enterprise Institute in Washington hosted this discussion on the steps taken by the government to stabilize the financial markets. In the first session, AEI resident scholar Vincent R. Reinhart presented his findings gleaned from a series of conversations with market participants. Angel Ubide of Tudor Investment Corporation; Greg Ip, the U.S. economics editor…Read More

Category: Bailouts, Regulation, Think Tank

TIPS, what they sayin?

With the persistent weakness in the US$, a 4% rally this week in the CRB index, much better than expected job’s data from Australia and Canada, a rate hike from the RBA, and a weak 30 yr US bond auction, inflation expectations in the 5 year TIPS has risen 11 bps on the week to…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Employment Change by Industry

Huge info graphic, via Visual Economics: click for ginormous chart Hat tip Flowing Data

Category: Employment, Think Tank