Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SAR #8232

What kind of denial shall we try today?

Repo Man: You don't make the car payments, Danny Devito comes and takes the Caddy away. You can't make the mortgage payments, Bank America comes and takes Countrywide away. How many payments can Uncle Sam miss before Rocky shows up to break his leg?

Preview: Asking prices for houses in London fell 5.3% in August, a $40,000 drop in value per home, in a single month.

First Do No Harm: In 1985, famine killed over a million Ethiopians. The developed world responded with massive aid, and an extensive social welfare system was built to prevent recurrence - and it has. But what it has also done is enshrine a system that reduces more and more Ethiopians to dependence on food aid from abroad. If the exporting nations supplies dwindle, as they are doing, what will happen to all those Ethiopians who cannot be fed from local production?

Rhetorical Question: To the headline question: Did Washington Waste Millions On Faulty Voting Machines? I refer you to the 2004 results in Ohio.

Un-rosy Glasses: Breaking with Wall Street's long tradition of smiling optimism, Morgan Stanley's president is predicting that things are not getting better, but progressively worse and will continue on the downward slope until late 2009.

Sticks and Stones and Numbers: Barron's estimates that Fannie and Freddie each have a negative net worth exceeding $50 billion, guaranteeing some $5.3 trillion in mortgages.

Chose One: There is growing doubt over the US Energy Information Agency's data. They were previously caught overstating OPEC oil production. Now it seems they are overstating natural gas production - for example, EIA estimates Texas produced an average of 21 BCF a day for Jan-May 2008, while actual production reports for the same period shows only 17.6 BCF a day, a 15% exaggeration. Cui Bono?

Night of the Living Dead: The Efficient Market Hypothesis, beloved of certain economists and most market appologists, has been among thw walking dead forever. Would somebody get a silver bullet and a stake and get rid of this thing? Bury it right next to that othe favorite of economics texts - the rational investor.

Fine Print: While the spotlight has been on Fannie and Freddie and their possible bailout (ie nationalization) by the Treasury Department, about half of US mortgage originations last month went to FHA, which is backed by Ginnie Mae, which is and always has been 100% backed by you-the-taxpayer. Ginnie used to do about 25% the business that Fannie did. I guess 'promises' of Treasury support don't quite match legislated Treasury support.

Spoor: Your slip is showing. We all know that criminals lead all sorts of "trace evidence" behind. Turns out that very modern Millie does, too. In Britain the government gathers over 3,200 pieces of personal information on the average person in an average week. Telephone calls, credit card swipes, traffic cameras, bank cameras, transportation records, emails, websites... Good thing we've got the right to privacy in the US.

Porn O'Graph: Our Financial Leaderslip.

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