Our monetary policy soul mate still stuck in the mud

Our monetary policy soul mate (zero rates, QE) Japan, reported a much weaker than expected Q2 GDP gain of .4% annualized vs the consensus of 2.3%. The report is sending the Japanese 10 yr JGB yield to the lowest in 7 years. European bonds are rallying in response, sending the 10 yr German bund yield to a new record low. Also helping bunds is another selloff in Ireland bonds with the 10 yr spread between the two rising 10 bps to 303 bps, the highest since early May. US Treasuries are following with the 10 yr yield approaching the lowest since mid March ’09. Growth concerns also had the Chinese Yuan lower for a 5th day vs the US$ and the selloff has almost eliminated the entire post revaluation rally since late June. The Yuan weakness however did send the Shanghai index to a one week high. With the growth concerns fanned by the FOMC last week, we’ll see the 1st US Aug industrial #’s this week in the NY and Philly manufacturing surveys.

Category: MacroNotes

BAB vs. JNJ

Peter Demirali Managing Director and Portfolio Manager BAB vs. JNJ August 14, 2010 > The Build America Bond (BABs) program continues to garner increased interest on the part of institutional and international investors. Foreign investors are playing a larger role as buyers of this asset class. Some have estimated their participation at anywhere from 25-40%…Read More

Category: Think Tank

The Big Interview with David Rosenberg

In an interview with WSJ’s Kelly Evans, Gluskin Sheff’s Chief Economist David Rosenberg warned that the chances of a double-dip recession are greater than 50-50 and that the recession may not have ended last year at all. He also called for the cutting of corporate taxes to spur job growth.

8/13/2010 9:29:12 AM

Category: Video

Notes from Appraisal Institute’s 16th Annual Summer Conference

The following comes to us via an appraiser who attended the Appraisal Institute’s 16th Annual Summer Conference: The Appraisal Institute’s Southern California Chapter-the largest of its chapters in the country-hosted its 16th Annual Summer conference on Thursday, July 29, 2010. The chapter presented an excellent program of continuing education that was well attended by both…Read More

Category: Credit, Real Estate

FDIC Bank Failures

Via the Chart Store, we learn it was a quiet weekend in terms of FDIC bank closings: >

Category: Credit

Why Are Exchanges For-Profits?

Call it the revenge of Dick Grasso: Since May 17, 1792, when the Buttonwood Agreement was signed by 24 stock brokers outside of 68 Wall Street (under a buttonwood tree), the NYSE has been a non-profit, run for the greater benefit of the public companies that trade there. Following the brouhaha over NYSE Dick Grasso’s…Read More

Category: Markets, Regulation

The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster

The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster
August 13, 2010
By John Mauldin

>

The Gulf Oil Spill Disaster
From Unmitigated Disaster to Merely Disaster
The Corexit Decision
Some More Takeaways
Time to Lift the Moratorium
Getting the Balance Just Right
Omaha, Carbondale, and San Francisco

As I mentioned last Monday night in my Outside the Box, I did not make it to Turks and Caicos, but did end up in Baton Rouge for a special seminar on the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill. I have both good news (or maybe more like less-bad news) and bad news. Today’s letter is a report on what I learned.

The conference was sponsored by the Global Interdependence Center (GIC – http://www.interdependence.org/). David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors organized the event with help from people from Louisiana State University. The quality of the speakers was outstanding. They were extremely knowledgeable and well-connected. The meeting was conducted under the Chatham House Rule, which means all the speakers spoke off the record, unless they indicated otherwise. This allows for a more frank discussion. So, much of what you will read from me is my impressions of what I heard, which I cannot attribute to specific speakers. Indeed, some would be at some occupational risk if I did so.

Some of what I write today will be controversial to some readers. That is a risk I will take, as the large majority will find this interesting, or at least I hope so.

From Unmitigated Disaster to Merely Disaster

First, let’s begin with the “good” news. The ecological destruction that was first feared is not going to be as bad as once thought, for a variety of reasons. It is not good, but it is not the unmitigated disaster it could have been.

Edward Overton, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Environmental Sciences, LSU, is an expert on oil spills. He was at the Exxon Valdez. The Exxon Valdez (EV) was a big, black, thick tide of oil. The Deepwater Horizon is a much bigger spill: every ten days the amount of the EV spill spewed into the Gulf, from April 20 to July 15. Professor Overton spoke mostly for the record. He is very much a concerned environmentalist, and he is also a very serious scientist.

He reminded us that the Louisiana wetlands are a very important part of the ecological system of the Gulf of Mexico. Oversimplifying, they are the nutrient source for the small animal world which feeds the larger. Without the wetlands much of the Gulf ecosystem dies. If they were destroyed, they would not come back very easily, as without their very root system the land would erode away. Bluntly, oil kills wetlands if it gets into it.

There are only three ways to get rid of an oil spill. You can mechanically remove it, chemically remove it, or burn it. They used all three methods. But not fast enough. The Obama administration dithered while Rome burned. (This is not from Overton.)

As The Christian Science Monitor reported in “The Top Five Bottlenecks“:

“Three days after the accident, the Dutch government offered advanced skimming equipment capable of sucking up oiled water, separating out most of the oil, and returning the cleaner water to the Gulf. But citing discharge regulations that demand that 99.9985 percent of the returned water be oil-free, the EPA initially turned down the offer. A month into the crisis, the EPA backed off those regulations, and the Dutch equipment was airlifted to the Gulf.”

Really? For 0.0015 percent clean water from badly contaminated, toxic water? It takes a month to get that decision? I can guarantee you that there were people arguing for such a decision early on, and some rookie environmentalist at the EPA who never had responsibility in the real world made things a lot worse. Moving on:

“A giant Taiwanese oil skimming ship, The A Whale, is only now working on the spill. It can process 500,000 barrels of oily seawater per day, but it also needed the same waiver from the EPA which, expressed in another way, limits discharged water to trace amounts of less than 15 parts-per-million of oil residue. It also needed a waiver from the Jones Act, which prevents the use of specialized foreign ships from the North Sea oil fields because they use non-American crews. Previously, the skimmers had to return to port to offload almost pure seawater each time they filled up with water.” (http://reason.com/archives/2010/07/09/the-governments-catastrophic-r)

Ok, Let’s get this straight. The oil industry screwed up by not having enough disaster equipment and ships available. That’s bad beyond words. But for the government to compound that by not allowing needed ships to do the work, just because they did not have US union workers is just as bad. You expect better from government in a disaster, or we should.

(Overton said we never really did learn whether The A Whale would have been as useful as advertised, as it did not get into the Gulf soon enough.)

What should have been a no-brainer decision to use the Dutch ships was delayed for whatever reason. What should have been a no-brainer decision to waive the water purity rules was delayed beyond reason. My personal opinion. Whoever participated in that decision should be allowed to return to the private sector. They only made the problem of the spill worse. They should not be allowed near the decision-making process again.

Please note, this is no defense of British Petroleum. As noted below, they were extremely negligent, and deserve the costs and more. We just don’t need to compound stupid, incompetent, irresponsible (choose several more adjectives, some with color) corporate acts with dumb government ones.

Read More

Category: Think Tank

Weekend Miscellany

A few items I thought noteworthy for weekend perusal: Corporations are issuing debt on record terms (and in the junk market in record volume).  IBM recently issued three year paper at a meager 1 percent.  And JNJ just set the record for longer paper — “around 3.10% for the 10-year maturity and 4.5% for the…Read More

Category: Credit, Economy, Financial Press, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Markets

Stocks vs Bonds

My disdain for the efficient market hypothesis came about by observing the difference between the stock and bond markets.  It was apparent that the Fixed Income traders were of a “rational” mindset so often lacking in the equity world. Indeed, I have frequently called Bonds the market that acts as “Adult Supervision.” So I got…Read More

Category: Dividends, Markets, Valuation

Quit your job with style!

I bet these t shirts won’t age well . . . > Quit your Job with Style: Steven Slater Shirt

Category: Weekend