The Week that was: The Dow handily upended the prior highs from 2000, finally climbing above 11,750 to an all time high. The Industrials rose 171 points, or 1.5%, to
reach 11,850. The S&P 500 tacked on a 1%, while the Nasdaq rose
1.8%, to 2299. The Russell 2000 outperformed them all, advancing 2%.
Just what this means has been the subject of a fairly robust debate. I see the internals as suspect, while others see a beuatiful Goldilocks scenario. Hey, someone has to be on the other side of your trade.
On a personal note, I picked a helluva couple of days to be unplugged (scheduled months ago). I leave my desk, and the market screams higher. Well, I’m back in the saddle, and just in time for everyone’s favorite weekend diversion: Linkfest!
Now you know why its called the dismal science: The news is nearly all bad — and yet the market powers higher. Here’s some more fodder for the Wall of Worry:
• Caroline Baum on why the Yield Curve May Yet Upend Stock Market;
• Non farm payrolls continue to stink up the joint; Here’s a few reasons why sticking with the Under has been the money bet: Factors implying a weak jobs number;
• It ain’t just housing: U.S. Manufacturing Expanded Less Than Forecast (still expanding, but slowing);
• The normally cheerful BusinessWeek turns somewhat dour: Is the Economy Headed for a Fall?
• Barron’s technical writer on The Bull Stampedes On ($)
• Record-setting profit engines: Expectations for a record setting 13th consecutive Quarter of double digit SPX profits;
• Dow Set a Record in Height, but Weight Had a Lot to Do With That;
• An SEC Lawyer explains why we need short sellers in Bring On the Bears
• While many public news organziations are suffering, privately held Bloomberg LP is thriving: The Bloomberg Lesson;
• Private-Sector Anger Builds as Public Pension Costs Rise;
• FORTUNE’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business 2006
• Lastly, The Beards of Wall Street
Lots of debate about what the Fed will do in the coming months:
-The Fed is Right On Target;
-No, the Fed Will Lower Rates in Q1;
-No, a new Fed President says the Fed will have to tighten;
(You’re on your own with this one!)
• I didn’t get around to last week’s New Home Starts until Monday, but if you believe that they actually ticked upwards, I got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing: New Home Starts? Don’t Make Me Laugh!
• The Christian Science Monitor notes that some 500,000 homeowners are projected to face foreclosure: Risky mortgages threaten a squeeze; As is often the case in cutting edge issues, California leads the way with exotic mortgages;
• Fascinating survey from RBC Capital (via Barron’s print edition) on U.S. Homeowners; Any similarities in sentiment between home owners and equity investors circa 2000 is strictly coincidental;
Energy & Commodities
• An interesting look at how Oil prices have risen and fallen: Oil Price Cycles Up, Then Down;
• While the blogosphere has been all atwitter about the sudden drop in gasoline prices for some weeks now (see "Calling All Conspiracy Theorists!", the controversy eventually made its way to the NYT: Change in Goldman Index Played Role in Gasoline Price Drop;
Politics, Media, Military, Elections
• Repubs taking it on the chin on the back of Foley/Page scandal. According to Tradesports, while the Senate remains securely GOP (70.4%), the probabilities of Republicans retaining the House have slipped to 43.7%. (NOTE: this trades 24/7 and is fluctuating as I write this)
• David Wessel says Deficit Progress Will Be Tough to Sustain;
• I didn’t know where else to put this one: FBI worries about al-Qaida ties to mob;
• Two on Fox news (fair & balanced):
Science & Technology
• I want one! The Thin Pill
• Speaking of hookups, BestBuy is launching a music service with Real & Sandisk
• Speaking of hookups, part II: More than Half of MySpace Visitors are Now Age 35 or Older
• Miracles You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years (from February, 1950)
• PC World picks: The 25 Worst Web Sites
• Study: Most New Species Arise in Tropics (which makes some intuitive sense)
Music Film TV Books Fun!
• Deconstructing the Dude: Why ‘The Big Lebowski’ is a cult classic
• Seriously cool tracks from one of the first major techno-musicians: How Thomas Dolby records music;
• Robert Sutton, a Stanford Professor of Management Science in the Engineering School has a new book out titled The No Asshole Rule. Given the success of Princeton professor Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at this one. I suspect the secret of getting away with this is having a professorship at an esteemed University. Otherwise, the best seller list would be filled with books of rather questionable titles:
- Titties & Beer: The Frank Zappa story
- Fuck Me? Fuck You: Learn to negotiate anything!
- Cocksucker: The untold story of a wayward fluffer
- MotherFucker: Understanding the Oedipal Complex
• Laugh out loud funny: Worst. Bowler. Ever.
• U New Mexico prof sports full face tattoo;
• Ever feel compelled to laugh at a really inappropriate time? Its even worse if you are a talk show host.
And that’s about all from the Northeast, where my Turn-in, Apex and Track-out are rather flawless . . .
Another edition of our new series: Blog Spotlight.
We put together a short list of excellent but somewhat overlooked
blog that deserves a greater audience. Expect to see a post from a
different featured blogger here every Tuesday and Thursday evening,
Second up in our Blogger Spotlight: Michael Shedlock and Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis. Mike is one of the editors of The Survival Report, covering stocks and the economy. He also writes for the Daily Reckoning, and co-edits Whiskey & Gunpowder. He also runs stock boards on the Motley Fool, Silicon Investor, and TheMarketTraders. He is an avid photographer, when not writing about stocks or the economy, with over 80 magazine and book covers to his credit.
Today’s focus commentary is called Falling Dominoes and addresses the impact of Housing’s decline on the economy:
The Sentinel is reporting State targeting abusive lenders.
The [Massachusetts] state Division of Banks is cracking down this month on what it sees as abusive business practices by mortgage lenders and brokers.
The agency issued a series of new emergency regulations earlier this month, requiring better documentation from lenders and prohibiting them from pressuring consumers into taking out mortgages they can’t afford or working without their own independent lawyers. It also forced four companies — two of them located Worcester — to close immediately and place all pending mortgages with another, more established lender.
Commissioner of Banks Steven L. Antonakes said in a recent interview that division examiners found a pattern of deceptive business practices by some lenders during their most recent round of company inspections.
"We want to spell out in very plain English to send a message to lenders and brokers that these specific acts, whether they’re very obviously unfair or deceptive, or more subtle, they weren’t going to be tolerated," he said. "And you would put your license at risk by engaging in this kind of activity."
Abusive lending practices can destabilize the entire real-estate market. As an example, he described a hypothetical street containing 10 homes, each worth a certain amount of money.
"If loans were originated for two of those homes, in which the loan was made that the broker knows the consumer has no hope of repaying those loans, very likely the borrower will become delinquent," he said. "In the worst case, the home will be foreclosed upon, and that kind of activity could result in the home being sold for less than its value and before you know it, you have a domino effect."
But the slowdown has also put lenders in a tough position, said Christopher J. Iosua, president of the Mortgage Connection Inc. "When business slows down the way it has in the past six to nine months, new loan originators and those without a strong base of customers do things they probably wouldn’t normally do," he said.
The idea that lenders are doing things they may not have done in "normal conditions" may have some merit for some lenders but when 40% of the loans sold in California before the bust were either stated income loans or pay option arms, I think the idea if more fiction than fact. Anything and everything was done to keep the bubble booming, and that was as I said happening well before the bust.
With every bubble comes fraud. The two go hand in hand and housing is not unique in this respect. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the fraud that supported this bubble. Lending standards are going to tighten as a result, and will continue to tighten as more and more of the fraudulent activity is exposed. I consider fraud and tightening of lending standards to be two big dominoes that are now falling. Tightening of lending standards was previously discussed in Lending Guidelines / Credit Squeeze and The Blame Game.