CNBC Appearance: Me on Merrill & Thain

I am appearing on CNBC at 12:20 to discuss last week’s Merrill Lynch/John Thain Write Down Capital Raise.

Click for video . . .



Here is Thain’s response on CNBC; He is a bit more circumspect, and acknowledges the unknowns.
(its only “kinda weasely):

Part I

Part II

UPDATE: August 4th, 2008 12:25pm

Not bad, but a little off my game. Forgot to mention risking investors confidence may make it harder to raise the next round when needed.

Must still be a bit woozy from all the travel and Scotch this weekend . . .


Airtime: Mon. Aug. 4 2008 | :22:0 08 ET

Merrill CEO John Thain has been under fire lately for his handling of the bank’s financial situation, with Barry Ritholtz, Fusion IQ CEO

Category: Media

Second, Larger Wave of Mortgage Defaults Coming

courtesy of NYT > Quite an instructive chart — Its pretty obvious that late 2006 early 2007 was when something unusual began in Sub-prime mortgages. And, not much after that Alt-A followed. Calls of a bottom in  either housing or financials have been premature.  Those perennial optimists who keep incorrectly making those erroneous bottom tick…Read More

Category: Credit, Markets, Real Estate

Bear Trap

Here’s some breathless reporting about an anonymously authored book. Its an interesting discussion of a senior manager director "running the derivatives desk at Bear."

The whole "anonymous" author goes public in September strikes me as schtick — a book publishing publicity stunt.

However, getting the manuscript is quite the coup for Liz. Any Bear insider
story is worth pursuing, as we still only have partial knowledge of
what really happened, and how things went so wrong.

I love Liz, but if you are going to mention that a firm had $17 Billion in cash, then you have to also mention this capital base was leveraged 35X that amount in liabilities. Its called double entry book keeping for a reason.

One last note — Fox has been stoking the "rumor monger" aspect of the Bear/Lehman story. I am not a believer in this line of thought — rumors cannot bring real companies, and the biggest player in the Residential Mortgage Back Securities sector made a big bad bet that went bust. I am no defender of CNBC, and invariably disagree with Dennis, Charlie and Larry.  To me, the Vanity Fair reportage blaming CNBC was silly, and Fox picking up the same story line — that rumors brought down Bear Stearns — does not serve its viewers. Its old school yellow journalism at its finest.

Regardless, this will be worth watching to see what develops…




Category: Books, Derivatives, Video

Seven Stock Blunders

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Investing, Trading

Rules for Living from Nassim Taleb

The Author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan has some suggestions for you:

Taleb’s top life tips

1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.

2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.

3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.

4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act — if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.

6. Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.

7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words ‘impossible’, ‘never’, ‘too difficult’ too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take ‘no’ for an answer (conversely, take most ‘yeses’ as ‘most probably’).

8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.

9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.

10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

click for video


Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom
Bryan Appleyard
The Sunday Times, June 1, 2008


Category: Apprenticed Investor, Books, Investing, Video

Investment Postcards’ Words from the Wise

Words from the (investment) wise for the week that was (July 28 – August 3, 2008)

As oil prices seesawed through the past week, fresh uncertainty about the outlook for the beleaguered financial sector triggered another wave of volatility in financial markets.

With the exception of Friday, crude prices closed each day with a gain or loss of more than 1%, with US stocks doing likewise as sentiment waxed and waned on the back of a barrage of economic and corporate earnings reports. Economic data were mixed, whereas earnings were mostly better than feared. After all the action, the S&P 500 Index closed the week virtually unchanged, posting a small gain of 0.2%.

David Fuller (Fullermoney) re-emphasizes that the oil price is currently by far the most important factor in terms of global GDP growth. Consequently it is also a huge influence on the direction of various stock market indices, and big moves up or down have a psychological leash effect on currencies and other commodities.


Source: Financial Times, July 29, 2008.

Also center to the roller-coaster ride was Merrill Lynch (MER), plunging 11.6% on Monday, prior to announcing drastic steps to right its capital position on Tuesday. Its stock fell by 9.5% to a 10-year low on the news, but then rebounded to finish the day 7.9% higher.

Traders speculated that the latest capital raise was a sign that the worst was over for financials, but Meredith Whitney, analyst of Oppenheimer & Co and “godmother” of financials, had no illusions and said in an interview that 25 institutions would have to bolster their balance sheets within the next two months.

Offering some reprieve to the financial sector, the Fed, together with the European Central Bank and the Swiss National bank, announced that “emergency” lending facilities to bolster the money markets would stay in force until January 30. The facilities were implemented to improve liquidity arising from the credit market turmoil.

Formalizing the housing bill, President Bush signed into law legislation to support homeowners facing foreclosure and to offer a lifeline to Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FNM).

Separately, the SEC is extending its temporary restriction on naked short selling on 19 financial institutions until August 12.

Next, a tag cloud of the text of all the articles I have read during the past week. This is a way of visualizing word frequencies at a glance. It is quite obvious that the key areas last week were “banks”, “prices”, “inflation” and “growth”, with “housing” and “financial” also prominent. As the saying goes: A picture paints a thousand words …


Read More

Category: Economy, Employment, Markets

Suing, Threatening Analysts

Category: Credit, Legal

Roubini: $2 Trillion in Debt Losses

Nouriel Roubini:

Barron’s: Unfortunately for the rest of us, you have a pretty good track record. How much more misery lies ahead?

Roubini: We are in the second inning of a severe, protracted recession, which started in the first quarter of this year and is going to last at least 18 months, through the middle of next year. A systemic banking crisis will go on for awhile, with hundreds of banks going belly up.

Which banks, specifically, will fail?

I don’t want to name names, but many, given the housing bust, will become insolvent. Their losses are mounting because they have written down only their subprime loans so far. They haven’t started writing down most of their consumer-credit losses, and reserves for losses are much less than they should have been. The banks are playing all sorts of accounting gimmicks not to recognize them. There are hundreds of millions of dollars outstanding in home-equity loans that eventually could be worth zero, too.

Which forces [on the consumer} for instance?

The U.S. consumer is shopped out and saving less. Debt to disposable income has risen to 140% from 100% in 2000. Hit by falling home prices, the consumer no longer can use his house as an ATM machine. The stock market is falling and (issuance of) home-equity loans (has) collapsed. We have a credit crunch in mortgages, and gas is around $4 a gallon. Everyone says, ‘yeah, that’s true, but as long as there is job generation there is going to be income generation and people are going to spend.’ But for seven months in a row, employment in the private sector has fallen.

The most worrisome thing is that in spite of the rebates, retail sales in June were up only 0.1%. In real terms, they were down. If people were not spending their rebate checks in June, what will happen when there are no more checks?

Video is here

Yes, That’s $2 Trillion of Debt-Related Losses
INTERVIEW: Nouriel Roubini, Economist and Professor, New York University
Barron’s AUGUST 4, 2008

Category: Credit, Derivatives, Economy, Real Estate, Video

How Are Your Employees Weathering the Economy?

Category: Economy, Employment

Why Does Gas Cost $4 or More a Gallon?

Category: Energy