Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SAR #9126

SAR 9127

Killing your opponents is not the same as actually winning the argument.

Approximations: ADP says 491.000 private sector jobs were lost in April, the government will report (on May 8) the loss of 610,000 jobs, and Trim Tabs weports the loss of 745,000 jobs and a resulting U3 unemployment rate of 8.9% with 10% expected by summer. The more accurate U6 measure of unemployment is now above 16%.

Axiom: A slap on the wrist not torture, nor is it an adequate punishment for those who instigated and authorized torture. Nor is disbarment. Jail is, preferably at Guantánamo.

Apocalypse Now: Americans are not driving as much as they used to. But if teenagers aren't driving up and down the drag, companies are not shipping goods hither and yon, and there are hundreds of loaded tankers hovering just off-shore, why is the price of oil and gasoline going up?

Wish I'd Said: "If reporters would focus more on reporting the news rather than repeating what the Fed chairman says the public would be much better informed." Dean Baker.

Another Infamous Victory: Faced with truckloads of dead Afghan women and children - perhaps as many as 150 - the US admitted that there had been a battle in the neighborhood and that air support had been used, but could not comment on the collateral damage.

Spiral Logic: There is a long term connection between industrial production and the consumption of energy. Absent a new source of cheap and abundant energy, economic recovery will lead to oil price spikes and a downward spiral in both energy use and industrial production.

Drive Off: Chrysler, having gotten $7 billion in bailout cash, is speeding away towards bankruptcy without paying a penny back.

Circling the Drain: The BLS employment cost index shows wages and benefits grew in 1Q09 at an annual 0.8% pace - lower than the inflation rate. This is a sharp drop from 4Q08 and indicates that wage growth will slow more as 2009 progresses. Thus workers will have less purchasing power, which will in turn slow any economic recovery.

Asked & Answered: Do the Rich Really Get Richer? Yes.

Cheer Up, Things Will Get Worse: People in Western democracies expect a rise in political extremism. An overwhelming 86% anticipate unrest, strikes and violent demonstrations - half being sure these will happen in their countries.

Restless Natives: The yield on 10-year Treasury notes is creeping up as investors demand larger returns for the larger risk. The US federal deficit for the first 6 months of the fiscal year is $956 billion, nearly 15% of GDP. Debt held by the public will rise from 41% of GDP last year to 54% in 2011. The outlook is for rapidly increasing debt in the years ahead, with interest rates rising as government borrowing crowds out investment in a recovery.

Scout's Honor: AIG paid out $454 million in bonuses last year. This is their latest guess. In March they said it was only $120 million, but that was just for the janitors. And the $454 million doesn't include another $165 million in retention bonuses.

Activist Judges: South Carolina's highest court has stopped some 5,000 pending foreclosure sales throughout the state on homes guaranteed by FHA, Freddie, Fannie, or any mortgage company that has signed on to any federal assistance program. Hotbed of socialist judges there in the Deep South.

Tea Leaves: China's power use is down 4% so far this year, and is expected to continue to decline, suggesting that rumors of a quick recovery in China have been overstated.

Alchemy: Michael Milken, godfather of credit flim flams, has morphed into a paragon of reason and advocate of reform in debt creation financing. He points out that the rating firms worked an interesting bit of magic, certifying over 17 thousand AAA rated debt obligations and yet today certifying only 4 companies as having triple A worthy debt. He also wonders " How can you sell trillions and trillions of dollars of loans on an assumption that is false?”

Deep End: How many American home-owners owe more than their house is worth? (a) 8.2 million, (b) 14.8 million, (c) 26.9 million, (d) take a hike, Ike.

Good Luck: Wells Fargo announced it would no longer contribute to its traditional pension plan, which is a direct reduction in workers total compensation. The stock rose 12% amid cheers. Their employees are sitting around the kitchen table, scribbling aimless columns of numbers.

Lines: The current downturn exceeds all previous ones in both intensity and speed; the total value destroyed to date is larger than that of the Great Depression even when adjusted for inflation.

Porn O'Graph: Where the boys (and girls) are.

Try not to confuse voting with democracy,

nor democracy with morality.

(Note - SAR is temporarily being 'blocked' by blogspot - we'll be back soon.)

Hot Air: Rumors: Citi's fine. Citi needs $10 billion. BofA needs more than $10 billion. Or $60 billion. Or maybe $100 billion. Only 4 banks fail the stress test. Or 14. Or maybe just 10. Or they all did. Or is Bernanke only going to give the banks 30 days to raise funds before having to accept a Fed takeover via "infusions"? Or these are all trial balloons as the administration 'adjusts' the numbers to some acceptable result.

Insiders Out: Corporate insiders continue to sell aggressively - both in volume and in frequency - into the rising market, with sell orders topping buys at levels not seen since the market top in 2007.

Wicked Witch: Workers of the world are getting pummeled as employers slash hours, cut wages and eliminate overtime. In Japan the drop is nearly 4%, in the UK wages have dropped the fastest in over 60 years, and in the US over a third of all households have at least one worker whose hours or wages (or both) have been cut in the last few months. Some green slips shoots.

Betting Slip: "Technical Analysis" indicates crude oil is on its way to $71.55 a barrel. Not $71.46 or $72.03, $71.55.

Shortcut: China has entered into a series of currency swaps with Brazil, South Korea, Hong Kong, Belarus and Malaysia. Sounds pretty harmless, but it is a way of establishing direct convertibility between these currencies without reference to the US dollar, which is pretty interesting.

Lying Eyes: Roubini says you shouldn't believe your lying eyes, the market rally is an temporary illusion and the bank stress tests are a fraud. Or the other way around.

A Famous Victory: The US has been so successful against the Taliban in Afghanistan that half a million Pakistanis are fleeing Taliban forces who now control the Swat area. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, US bombs have killed dozens of Afghan civilians, saving them from the resurgent Taliban. Explain to me again, please, why are we there, doing what?

Charts: The S&P 500 is up 34% from the bottom, and still off 42% from the peak. Violent rallies are often followed by slow, painful sell-offs.

Room At The Inn: The Fed is now accepting commercial mortgage-backed securities and securities backed by insurance premium finance loans as collateral for TALF underwriting. In other words, the Fed is now bailing out commercial real estate adventures and insurance company losses.

Medic! ADM's profits have fallen 98%, mostly due to a lack of demand for ethanol. Congress will meet in special session.

Without A Trace: According to the headline, "The Economy Will Turn Up Later This Year" It's been in the witness protection program all this time.

Out of Sight: Those worst hit by Wall Street's economic banditry are packed into cheap motels, living in cars on vacant parking lots, and in tent cities hidden from decent folks' view. They spend their days alternately distressed and hopeful, searching for work and praying their fortunes will change, dreaming of America.

Assumptions: Senior bank officers suspect that credit quality for all types of loans will continue to deteriorate during 2009. "If the economy does not take a turn for the worse..." Further deponent sayeth not.

Suitable for Framing: Here's a keeper: "AIG Supposedly Done Needing Money" Well, maybe for at least this quarter - or until the silliness of the mark-to-myth rules change.

Big Bucks: Economists say that firms using undocumented workers pay them less and thus gain a competitive advantage. Wow! Also, stopping the flow of undocumented workers often leads to firms moving production to where the cheaper workers are. And forcing firms to pay the undocumented the same as legal employees cuts the demand for undocumented workers but tends to chase the jobs abroad. They conclude that the employers demand for cheap labor will prevent actual enforcement of both immigration laws and equal pay laws.

Conspiracy: Haven't TARP, TALF, and all the trillions given/lent/guaranteed to Wall Street made the US Treasury and FED co-defendants in any prosecution of the guilty?

Porn O'Graph: Joy to the World Wall Street, 2009 Version.

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