Stock Market Performance

October 14, 2008

The Stock Market came roaring back on October 13, 2008 and was a major cause for celebration across the globe.

The collective and collaborative effort by the “Heads of Government” through G7 and G20 meetings, in coordination with the global monetary authorities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund yielded the much-required morale boost in the financial markets. Their immediate action to respond to the crisis is praiseworthy.

Despite the consolidated action to jumpstart the markets, the stock market is struggling to sustain the momentum gained on the previous day. Obviously, the indication is that the measures in the past hours and days to guarantee the smooth functioning of the financial system is not adequate.

A selective opinion highlighting the reasons for the problems currently experienced in the credit markets –

Source – – Thank you.

Why Federal Reserve Policy is Failing

Monday, October 06, 2008

Commentary by Thomas I. Paley, Ph.D.

The Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury continue to fail in their attempts to stabilize the U.S. financial system. That is due to failure to grasp the nature of the problem, which concerns the parallel banking system. Rescue policy remains stuck in the past, focused on the traditional banking system while ignoring the parallel unregulated system that was permitted to develop over the past twenty-five years.

This parallel banking system financed vast amounts of real estate lending and consumer borrowing. The system (which included the likes of Thornburg Mortgage, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers) made loans but had no deposit base. Instead, it relied on roll-over funding obtained through money markets. Additionally, it operated with little capital and extremely high leverage ratios, which was critical to its tremendous profitability. Finally, loans were often securitized and traded among financial firms.

This business model has now proven extremely fragile. First, the model created a fundamental maturity mismatch, whereby loans were of a long term nature but funding was short-term. That left firms vulnerable to disruptions of money market funding, as has now occurred.

Second, securitization converted loans into financial instruments that could be priced according to market conditions. That was fine when prices were rising, but when they started falling firms had to take large mark-to-market losses. Given their low capital ratios, those losses quickly wiped out firms’ capital bases, thereby freezing roll-over funding.

In effect, the parallel banking business model completely lacked shock absorbers, and it has now imploded in a vicious cycle. Lack of roll-over financing has compelled asset sales, which has driven down prices. That has further eroded capital, triggering margin calls that have caused more asset sales and even lower prices, making financing impossible for even the best firms.

Though the parallel banking system engaged in riskier lending than the traditional banking system, those differences were a matter of degree. Traditional banks like Washington Mutual, Wachovia, and Citigroup have also all lost huge sums. However, the traditional banking system is more protected for two reasons.

First, traditional banks are significantly funded by customer deposits. Ironically, such deposits can be withdrawn on demand and are in principle even more insecure than short term roll-over funding. However, they stay in place because of federally provided deposit insurance.

Second, traditional banks are significantly shielded from mark-to-market accounting because they hold on to many of their loans. These loans are therefore priced by auditors on a mark-to-realization basis. However, if they were securitized their market value would be significantly lower owing to current disruptive market conditions.

The bottom line is that the banking system is in better shape not because of its virtues, but because of policy. Deposit funding is safe because of deposit insurance. Banks are spared mark-to market losses because of different accounting rules. And the Federal Reserve is providing banks with massive liquidity infusions through its discount window and its various emergency auction facilities.

Policy has therefore ring-fenced traditional banks. But in the meantime it has left the parallel system in the cold, leaving a gaping hole in the policy dyke.

This policy stance reflects the Fed’s continuing attachment to an antiquated view of the system whereby it takes responsibility for traditional banks and nothing else. Such a policy makes no sense and will fail. The Fed encouraged development of the parallel system, and that system undertakes many of the same activities as traditional banks. Meanwhile, failure of the parallel banking system will continue putting downward pressure on asset prices and lender confidence.

The Treasury’s proposed seven hundred billion dollar asset purchase program will help put a needed floor under asset prices. However, it does nothing to tackle the parallel banking system’s roll-over funding crisis that is crimping lending and pushing firms into bankruptcy. That is causing distress to spread far beyond the mortgage market, undermining the ability of any asset purchase program to put a floor under asset prices.

The urgent implication is the Fed (and other central banks) must extend its safety network to include the parallel banking system. Just as the traditional banking system needs liquidity assistance, so too does the parallel system. That assistance can be provided through such vehicles as the discount window and Federal Reserve auction facilities, and it should be allocated to qualified firms able to post appropriate collateral.

A credit based system is a chain, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The Federal Reserve’s antiquated view has it protecting links connected to the traditional banking system while neglecting everything else. That is a recipe for failure.

Dr. Thomas Palley is a widely published economist and was formerly Chief Economist at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Analysis: Certainly, the emphasis is on the oversight with effective policies for the entire financial structure to alleviate stagnation in the liquidity markets. The investor confidence overall is marred with concerns and skepticism despite stunning performance on October 13, 2008.

The resistance from the free market system towards proposed measures is one of the factors for the current trend. However, the necessary action could eliminate many underlying problems surrounding the entire financial infrastructure, contributing to the volatility in the markets.

Meanwhile, the investors’ active participation to restore momentum and strengthening market gains across all sectors is important for the common good and benefit in the short and long run.

An optimistic approach to the crisis with an absolute integrity in the implementation of policies will assist the markets to rebound now and in the future.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

Stock Market Crisis

October 10, 2008

Courtesy: – Thank you.

Whats Driving the Stock Market Chaos??

Denninger Speaks… – Thank you.


What The Media *Didn’t* Cover

So yesterday the “news” was all about the long end of the Treasury curve rocketing higher (yield), which many people believe is about “risk acceptance” and The Fed (along with other central banks) cutting rates by 50 basis points.

Uh huh.

Let’s talk about what’s really going on.

First, our rates. The EFF (Effective Fed Funds) rate has been trading at 1.5% now for a couple of weeks. Two percent schmoo percent; a target rate only in name is no target at all. In reality the 50 bips cut, even though it resulted in an instantaneous 40 handle rocket shot in the /ES futures Wednesday morning, was entirely a CONfidence game (with the emphasis on “Con”!)

The RTS (Russian Market) is down 87% YTD, and is closed until further notice. The Nikkei is trading below the DOW – that’s not good. Indonesia’s stock market was shuttered Wednesday and remains closed after tripping “lock limits” within 90 minutes of the opening bell. As of Thursday morning the RTS was closed again after Putin allegedly strong-armed a whole bunch of Russian wealthy to “stick it in” (to the stock market); this sort of v-fib in a market does horrifyingly bad things to ordinary investors who find themselves out just before the market rockets higher without underlying economic cause.

Iceland has essentially melted down. Their currency went straight into the toilet and two of the three largest banks were nationalized – all in the space of 24 hours. The culprit? Bad loans. Where have we seen this movie before?

Mexico’s peso has fallen some 40% in days against the dollar. Great if you’re traveling there as an American. Sucks severely if you’re a Mexican. That alleged fence on our southern border is going to need reinforcements.

Wednesday morning Britain and the EU zone all announced major bank rescue operations. Same deal – “throw money at it, paper it over.”

Nowhere a mention of forcing balance sheet transparency and truth.

Except in one place – here in the US! Plans to standardize CDS contracts and force them onto an exchange are actually under way. This is a major positive move and fulfills one of the three prongs of my view of how to solve this problem, once implemented. We’ll see how much pushback we get, and whether OTC derivatives are actually banned (as they should be), or whether the big trading houses and banks insist on being able to play “pick pocket” along side the “regulated” world.

The NY Fed announced plans to extend a further $39.6 billion credit line to AIG. The tab is now almost $120 billion dollars. Where did the other $80 billion go? Has it been vaporized trying to raise capital to pay down CDS contracts that have gone the wrong way on them?

Speaking of which, Thursday is D-Day – D standing for either “derivative” or, if things go sideways on people, “detonation.”

See, this is the day that Lehman’s CDS contracts are supposed to be resolved. Since Lehman’s bonds are trading at ~20-30% recovery (horrible, on balance) the writers may have to fork up 60 to 70 cents on the dollar.

The $64,000 question is how many of those contracts net out. The real liability is what’s left once everything is “balanced” (a long and short held by the same guy net to zero, assuming that both contracts are “money good”, leaving the holder with no liability – and no asset)

This has the potential to be a big “nothingburger”, a minor tremor, or a 250′ high tsunami that washes over Lower Manhattan (and the City) tomorrow. There’s no good way to know in advance which outcome will manifest, since nobody (at present) knows what the true netted-out open interest is. This is one of the problems with not having a public exchange; lack of knowledge.

The bright light of reality will shine tomorrow……

The architects of this, by the way, are the folks who took the cuffs off the banks, going back to the Gramm-Leach-Bailey law and the repeal, piece-by-piece prior but finished by GLBA, of Glass-Steagall. GLBA, by the way, was passed in 1999 – just as the Internet bubble was in full force. Coincidence? No. The root cause of this mess? Right there. Thank Congress, and make sure you include those members who have been around for the entire thing, including John McCain.

On the equity market side shorting is once again available, the order having expired. The lack of shorts was a definite factor in the stiff selloff that we’ve seen, and Chris Cox owes investors in America an apology – on the air. This was an objectively stupid decision, as shorts provide necessary liquidity during serious downturns. Without them you get “no bid” circumstances, and they sporadically appeared during the last few days in financials, which certainly exacerbated the selloff.

In the bond markets Treasury refunded some “off the run” bonds and got an ugly surprise – the market didn’t want them. They had to pay a 40 bips “tail” to get them to go, which may be the start of a really troublesome trend. See, Treasury is now throwing over $100 billion a week into the market, and this only works on days when the market is crashing. THEN you can get people to suck up all you puke out, but the rest of the time you’re going to have to pay up, and Treasury has had to do so – dearly.

This may be the start of the “bond market dislocation” that I have long feared. I hope and pray not, but if this trend continues Treasury is going to find that it cannot sell its debt into the market without slamming rates higher, especially on the long end of the curve, which means an instantaneous implosion of what’s left in the housing market.

The ugly is that 3-month LIBOR widened today, as did the TED Spread. Both should have come in. They did not. LIBOR is essentially unsecured lending and the bad news is that a lot of corporate (and some personal) borrowing is indexed off it. If you are, you’re screwed.

Why has LIBOR refused to come in despite these “coordinated” effort? Its simple: the underlying trust issue has not been addressed, and nobody is seriously proposing to do so.

Paulson and Bernanke now are truly caught in the box, as I have been talking about for more than a year. As they introduce and fund these silly programs like the “TARP” each new program produces more foreclosures by depressing home values and thus tightens the spiral.

See, as long rates go up house prices go down, since the value of a home for most people is Dependant on what they can finance, and that is directly related to interest rates. Get out your HP12C and run the principal value change for a fixed payment if interest rates change from 6% to 8% or 10% – that’s the impact on the value of your house from these changes that are occurring in the Treasury marketplace.

This outcome is what I warned of in “Our Mortgage Mess” back in April of this year; a potential ramping of borrowing costs for government debt, which will not only make sustaining government spending (and perhaps government operation) impossible, but in addition destroy private credit by driving costs in the private sector skyward as well.

Simply put, the “TARP” or “EESA” must be repealed here and now.

It is unacceptable to risk Treasury Funding destruction in order to bail out some bankers. And make no mistake – there is and will be no benefit to taxpayers.

We are also now entering into earnings season, and Alcoa was a warning blast. They missed badly. That won’t be the last.

This is the “value trap” problem that many investors fall into. You see the market down 30% and think its a great buying opportunity.

It is a great buying opportunity only if earnings going forward can be sustained. But in this case, they cannot. It is flatly impossible; with Treasury borrowing money like a madman, tacking on more than 20% to the national debt in the space of months, carrying costs will inevitably rise as will taxes. Both of these have a multiplier effect (in the wrong direction) on corporate profits, and in addition the “faux profits” from financial engineering have all disappeared at the same time.

The S&P 500’s profit, in terms of gross dollars, are almost certainly going to come in by 50% from the highs, and that assumes we get a garden-variety recession and not something worse. This of course puts “Fair Value” on the SPX down around 750, or another 25% down from here.

The ugly stick potential is what I discussed yesterday, and that risk is very real. Treasury borrowing cost ramps can produce a 1930s-style dislocation in credit, and if it happens then you will see mass bankruptcies not only in corporate America but among individuals as well as borrowing costs ramp to the point of shutting down the marketplace for credit.

Treasury and Bernanke claimed that “credit markets seized”; this is only half-true. Credit markets always close to those who are lying, because there is no reason to loan someone money if you’re not reasonably sure you will get paid back.

But there is a second form of seizure and this is the frying pan into which we’ve now jumped – that is a credit market that prices beyond what the market can bear at its imputed rate of return. In that market credit is available but it does not matter, as you can’t make enough profit to generate a positive carry on the borrowed money, and consumers in that environment fall into a vortex of interest payments that spiral faster than they can borrow to stay ahead of them.

That rabbit hole is how we got the 1930s, and it is the danger we now face. Congress was in fact conned by Treasury, George W. Bush and the banking industry (including Ben Bernanke), who instead of forcing the malefactors into the open and exposing those who were bankrupt (or just plain corrupt – notice the common stem on both words?) threw them a line – unfortunately, the line is cleated to the entire economy of the United States, and they have enough negative buoyancy to drag us all under the waves.


Analysis: This is one of many opinions floating around all over the cyberspace regarding the latest downward spiral in the stock market. The consensus is clear; a few operatives with a major stake in the gamut of the financial world are driving the mania for their profiteering with utter disregard for the rest of the population around the world.

It is time for the people of the United States and around the world to rise to the occasion and intervene as the snowballing of losses in market shares is not a natural event. Clearly, this kind of manufactured, well-orchestrated and premeditated mechanism is the result of greed, corruption and cronyism that is rampant and has now come to surface.

Not surprisingly, there is no investigation or reports by the media as the Corporations, the de facto beneficiaries own them. The world must awaken now and deal with the reality to bring all of these entities to justice. It is time to make every one of them accountable for their actions and inaction as well as make them absorb all of the losses generated by their devious “modus operandi”.

The current situation is not an isolated occurrence. The cause and effect factor is evident in the existing stock market turmoil. As suggested earlier, the unethical practices resulting from the lack of accountability and oversight is contributing to the pandemonium in the market worldwide with the infusion of the “survival of the fittest” theory.

The world is shocked and in despair, seeing no end to the plundering of wealth that rightfully belongs to the righteous and not the self-righteous. However, it is presumptuous of those involved in this mass abduction of world treasury that they will not be exposed and brought to spotlight.

Perhaps, Armageddon is the only alternative now to restore morality and world order. The degradation of principles, ethics and democratic values by the ruling power will not escape the judicial verdict.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of all those involved in the conspiracy to come forward and demonstrate figment of integrity by stabilizing the stock market decline or be prepared to deal with the wrath of natural phenomenon.

Further, to those entities responsible for the current economic disaster, “the end justifies the means”.
Any attempt to ignore the warning will be an invitation to their peril.

If the authorities in power fail to exercise diligence, proper management, and immediate interventional policies to stabilize the market, they will share similar destiny as the recently convicted O.J. Simpson.

The judicial mantle seized by the power is in denial and defiance of the existence of force that will deliver justice.

The mortals brought nothing upon their birth hence; take nothing upon death.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant