Thursday, February 19, 2009

When is it going to sink in again?

This was posted on a website. The date was May 8, 2008.

That we are in a real mess? I think we are about to see a real crisis, the quasi public banks like the Fed, FHLB and the GSE's going into crisis. If you read the agreements behind this auction stuff, the Fed has the right to require repurchase or to sell the stuff any time they get ready. Since the books only have to balanced overnight, this stuff is actually repoed daily. What happens if the bank that has the stuff can't perform and the Fed is suddenly stuck with some illiquid stuff? Well, I would venture the taxpayer gets the bill until the Fed earns enough money to pay back the government. The government, probably in return for the New Deal owns 100% of the profits of the Fed, save the preferred stock dividend. The Federal Home Loan banks are somewhat different and I don't know how they work. It seems though that they might be somewhat like FNMA and FHLMC, except I don't exactly know how. I do know I read recently the one in Chicago and the one in Dallas were discussing a merger, which tells me they aren't exactly public entities any more. I am wondering what happens to the bank that has propped up CFC? I don't think CFC is going away as a problem and it will be bigger than Bear. There are significant problems that have nothing but a band-aid on them. The auction loans are one of them, as they are nothing more than a method of keeping insolvents solvent until hope and time bail them out. They are clearly hoping that bad paper can in fact rise from the grave and walk on water, across the Pacific to some sucker fund in China. Surely the world isn't so stupid as to make more deals for Wall Street junk? One thing that I keep bringing up that they keep bringing someone to the table on CNBC is that credit problems like these cause economic problems and I am not talking about cyclical recessions. FNM needs another $6 billion. How much is Merrill going to need the next go around? When is Goldman going to come clean with the losses out of their $60 billion in level 3 assets? When is Wells Fargo going to come clean with its mortgage losses, as it is next to impossible for me to believe that everyone in that business made across the board bad loans except them? We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg on the prime mortgage front of losses from mortgages. Truth is the good stuff was junk and the junk was basically akin to making loans to heroin junkies. There is a supply problem in housing. Nothing is going to make this go away except a hell of a lot of well to do population. Wetbacks from Mexico aren't going to float the housing market at todays prices or even prices 50% of todays prices. It is clear the consumer credit game isn't going to be the same and corporate profits are fueled with consumer bucks. Consumer spending isn't 70% of the economy, it is all the economy either directly or indirectly. Same for the rest of the world. 5% of the US economy is somewhere around $600 billion depending on whose figures you believe. This is about what is going to be missing out of home equity extraction due to refinance or sale the next few years. It is the entire trade deficit, something that has fed the rest of the world with money to create a boom. But, that money is now owed, not free to circulate and there has to be some new real credit. Credit that was being created by virtue of a myriad of derivatives that no longer can be marketed. These CDO losses I can assure you will be more than subprime mortgages by the time they are done.The boom was perpetuated by subprime financing. The other side of this game is the long term investment projects are in full swing, but at some point it is going to be clear that the money was loaned at too low a rate, according to Mises, and the game is going to fall apart. The game is being played in China, but it is being financed by American consumer credit. It won't be long before they suddenly realize they don't have money to finish what they started and the minerals game comes back to earth. They aren't breaking their necks to keep the American financials afloat because they like losing money, but because they need the fresh money created in the US. There are some statistics that tell us the game is coming back. I don't think the consumer balance sheet and some of the more speculative ventures are going to work. I don't think gasoline is the drag it is said to be, but more the idea that the consumer is out of credit and it is going to be that much more difficult to balance the trade balance. Ditto China and Asia, which could be sending more money to the US in trade, but having to send it to OPEC instead. One thing I read a long time ago was that 80% of GDP was the real valuation line for the entire stock market capitalization and we are still way above that, probably in the 140% range. 3% was the dividend rate that capped markets for the past century, but not now. It is clear that only financial bubbles prop markets at these rates. The bulls like to spout a lot of statistics, but few of them are true. The SPX reached it old top solely because stock buybacks reduce the divisor, while dividends don't. Had they back adjusted for the roughly $200 billion to $300 billion shortfall in dividends for the past 10 years, it would have clearly shrunk. Stock buybacks do little for the holder of stock other than increase his proportion of ownership only so far as the stock remains out of the market. It is what used to be called for tax purposes, a partial liquidation. The Dow is up only by virtue of some by chance almost perfect portfolio management. If we reversed the Dow splits and then allowed for the portfolio changes, we would have a hard time having a real new high in the Dow from 2000. There was 60 points of losses saved in the split of GE alone, not to mention another 100 roughly out of the split of INTC. Prior to the last inclusion of new companies, I think BAC and Chevron (CVT?) were put in place of MO and HON, just to make the index match the split adjusted points of 1/14/00, it took 12,610 to reach a real new high. Had they left these lost points in the index, the Dow would be even another 1000 points lower. Quite interesting, MO put about 500 points on the Dow, then they threw it out before it could be bashed apart. The Nasdaq also shows the bear never really ended, only making 50% of its prior high while the big cap NDX, never got close to 50% of its old high.I think this is a speculators market, which means that not one thing I have written means a damn thing, not even the news going forward. What it does mean is that buy and hold to make money in stocks is dead. There is no doubt until the true valuations are back in stocks in the market in general, holding for long term real gains is not going to work for a good while and faces a highly risky near future. No one with a brain would hold any portfolio of stocks, unless they knew how to rotate around losses.

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