Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SAR #8079

And America lived happily ever after!

Monkey Do: Senator Clinton is urging the leadership of the Democratic Party to "look beyond mere delegate strength" in picking the party's presidential nominee. Much like Bush asked of the Supreme Court. She also says that the US cannot win in Iraq. Wonder which bothers her more.

Diplomacy: European Union countries have agreed to an emissions control plan that exempts heavy industries - those that emit emissions - from the controls. They got the idea from Bush's Clean Air Act.

Reckless Endangerment: The Federal Reserve decided to reduce the value of the dollar while increasing inflation by lowering the Fed Funds rate to 2.25%. Inflation's running above 4%. The government used to encourage savings... and victory gardens.

Tidbit: Russia has imposed export tariffs on nitrogen fertilizers (8.5%) and potassium (5%). More for the homefolks, less for the others; that's pretty selfish.

Incomplete: Visual aids can be quite informative. For example a data set of net non-borrowed reserves of depository institutions (banks!) by the St. Louis Fed is pretty drab, just numbers. But a chart of those numbers! Go take a look . The vertical line at the far right is not a mistake, it's a revelation.

Genuine Fakes: The SEC has ruled that municipal borrowers bidding on their own securities differs from putting on a cheap beard and a red wig and bidding on your own stuff at auction. Mostly the difference is they don't need the red wig.

Idle Hands: A New York securities trader is suing the club where he claims to have been injured during a lap dance. He should have tipped better or stayed at work and watched the market gyrate.

Range War: Chinook salmon, the most prized of the salmon species, have disappeared from the California-Oregon coast. Fishermen blame farmers for taking too much water from the rivers. Couldn't have been over-fishing.

Repositioning: Swiss bank UBS plans to cut 8,000 jobs. This is where the boss walks in and explains that it's nothing personal, but in order to save his job the company, you'll be out of the building in 20 minutes.

Conundrum: If lenders go back to the mortgage standards of yesteryear - the ones that worked - of 3 times annual take-home pay and 10% down, that would limit the average mortgage to $120,000. But we've a recession coming, incomes will drop. If income drops, prices will have to drop. Where's a calliope when you need one?

While You Were Out: Industrial production dropped sharply last month, with mines, factories and utilities running at only 80% of capacity. I've lost money on horses that ran harder than that.

Squeezed: The cost of the energy needed to mine "oil" from Canadian tar sands has again increased, making the undertaking questionable from both a energy return on energy invested basis and a dollar return on dollar invested basis. Extracting oil from the Alberta tar sands will be profitable soon, maybe when oil reaches $30 $50 $100 $150 a barrel.

Chute: Delta Air Lines is offering "voluntary retirement" to half of its employees and cutting flights by 5% as part of a drive to improve its business. It used to be in the service business, catering to travelers. Live freight seems to be the new concept.

Circus Acts: A chorus of legislators have begun chanting "save the housing market". The government must, they say, rescue the poor over-reaching mortgage issuers holders. How do they get so many clowns in such a tiny car?

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