Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SAR #10349


      “Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks."       Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

Winners & Losers:    The Republicans are delighted that a (conservative, low-level Virginia) judge has ruled that the individual mandate portion of the Healthcare Reform law is unconstitutional.  Insurance companies are not amused – it's the only part of the reform they liked.

Agenda:   The principal accomplishment of international climate conferences is the selection of the location of the next one.  It is becoming exceedingly obvious that we are not going to make progress on this issue until Big Oil, Big Coal and Goldman Sachs figure out how to make a profit from it.

Must Be Doing Something Right:  Obama is calling up the neighbors and complaining about WikiLeaks going around telling the truth on everybody.   We are waiting for Assenge to be burned at the stake, like Servetus.

Dumb & Dumber: Crude oil is like an elevated highway, the denier explained. When it collapses we'll just find another way around... Wonder how long the detour'll take.

Deleveraging for Dummies:  Leverage – to the economists – means credit.  Credit is another way of saying debt.  Deleveraging is the process of paying off the debt your use of credit piled up.  If you've been living on the never-never for 30 years it takes more than two extra payments on the Visa bill to settle things. It means paying those extra payments and not running up any more debt for years, decades.  It means stopping all that damned consumerism that got us here.  We're not going back to normal – whatever that once was – for a very long time.

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary:  As I recall, Ben Bernanke said that QE2 was going to lower long term interest rates.  The bond markets didn't get the memo.

Up, Up, and Away:  For the 26th consecutive month, the US spent more than it took in. The 2011 deficit will be about $1.5 trillion (plus whatever amount we give the rich), topping last year's $1.3 trillion and 2009's $1.46 trillion.

Big Boys Don't Cry:  The rumored upturn in the economy is leading to more discrimination in the workplace – November unemployment for men was 10.6% and for women 8.9%.   This reflects the long term trend in US employment as jobs traditionally done by men are abolished or sent overseas and the lower paying jobs more heavily populated by women show growth, especially in nursing and related health care services.

Golden Years:  Over 1.6 million older Americans are putting off retiring, finding that continuing to work and continuing to eat are closely related after Wall Street ran off with their savings and pensions.

Headliners:  Wall Street Sees Record Revenue in '09-10 Recovery From Government Bailout, as Stocks Rally With Bernanke Bond Buying, Data Shows QE Buoying the S&P 500 and Real Yields Show Dollar Can Still Outperform With Bernanke Printing Money.  How are things in your neighborhood?

Shut Up and Go Away:  A California state judge has ruled that the ratings given by Fitch, Moody's and S&P are protected free speech and they are immune from being sued for their ratings no matter how “wildly inaccurate” they are. Just because their ratings lead to billions in losses does not mean they can be sued – for fear of quelling speech about public issues. The Judge ruled that the ratings firms were “potentially the good guys.”  Potentially.


lineside said...

CK, re: "shut up..."

There are defective opinions and analyses everywhere...Wall Street analysts, political pundits, you, me, everybody else.

It's not always easy to identify which analyses are likely to be defective...but sometimes it is.

In the case of the ratings agencies, it has been widely known for many years that they are paid by the issuers of the debt which they rate. This in and of itself should serve as enough warning of there being a high probability of their product coming up seriously defective.

If that weren't enough, not very long ago we had two irrefutable and massively publicized proofs of the agencies' ineffectiveness, namely the Worldcom and Enron debacles.

Despite the fact that the term "caveat emptor" goes all the way back to the time of the Caesars, we just don't seem to learn.

So, what's to be done? From a practical standpoint, rather than make bad opinion a crime (the part of me that values the Bill of Rights hates moving even an inch in that direction), I would suggest that the best way to fix or eliminate the incumbent agencies is to get rid of the government's rating agency cartel protection racket (i.e., NSRO status), which more than anything keeps these boobs in business.

CKMichaelson said...

I know not of NSRO status (and am being lazy today), but I don't understand why the marketplace itself doesn't look at all the bad (purchased) ratings over the last decade and either stop using them or subscribe on a blanket basis as consumers of the (not buyers of the rating) and insist that no income derive from rated firms and their brokers.

Ah, transparency. Certainly acting on the advice of known liars who have a long history of being outstandingly wrong should (according to my market wisdom guidebook) cause the market to abandon them. The facat that they continue to prosper is a fair indictment of the intelligence generally displayed by Wall Street.


fajensen said...

Pension funds, e.t.c. are required by law to restrict their invesments to Rated securities. They are also forced by contract to deliver yield. When someone peddles a 'AAA' rated 'bond' with higher yield and a hidden bet on interest rates cast into it - who can resist?