Friday, May 2, 2008

SAR # 8123

History suggests that a state's force is eventually applied
to its citizenry.

Times' Signs: Home Depot, with operating profits down 24%, will take a $586 million loss in dropping 50 stores in the planning stage, and will close 15 stores. Starbucks, with earnings down 28%, is cutting 155 planned stores. Initial unemployment claims rose by 35,000 and over 3 million remain unemployed, a 4-year high.

Stand Next to the Mirror: Exxon's net income grew 17% in 1Q2008, but profits dropped due to reduced margins in refining operations and declining production. Maybe Big Oil isn't the villain of the piece after all.

Un-American: Yahoo's CEO Jerry Yang again last year took an annual salary of $1. Nor did he receive any bonus, stock options, or other rewards. He feels he's rich enough.

Education Process: Zimbabwe's army is arresting those suspected of unleashing violence and terror (by not voting for Mugabe) including women and their nursing babies. Makes one appreciate the Supreme Court.

Promises, Promises: S&P revised its valuation of Collateralized Debt Obligations - securities made up of chopped-up mortgages. "Slices" rated A or lower are expected to be worthless; the AA-rated slices may return 5% of the original investment "at best"; junior AAA's get to 35% and the gilt edged "super-senior" AAA make it all the way to a 60% recovery of principal.

Surge: With three deaths on Wednesday, March's total of 49 dead US soldiers - the highest in 7 months - marks another successful month for the surge. Iraqi deaths remain high, especially in places like Sadr City where US rockets indiscriminately reign down. The fierce struggle by the US to gain control of Sadr City - which has half of Baghdad's population - pointlessly continues.

Jolson: At least half of the Alt-A "liars loans" contain significant overstatements of income. That's fraud. When the derivatives based on these fraudulent mortgages fail, the firms that securitized them will end up having to take them back. And half of Alt-A's ($400 billon) are expected to fail, and only $200 billion of that be recovered. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Conspiracy : Non-OPEC oil producers "are not in a position to supply more oil" to the world, due to increasing internal demand and "exhausted oil fields." This has long been expected. The real question is why is why oil at $100 plus is not changing the way we behave? The answer is: we cannot, not and keep drive-in drive-thru fast food utopia going.

Private Powers: The Treasury proposes to give the Fed power to order banks, hedge funds, mortgage brokers and shoeshine stands to stop doing things the Fed feels will threaten economic stability - or just doesn't like. Someone should remind Paulson that the Fed is a privately company and that we haven't yet privatized the entire government.

Lowering The Bait Bar: Bank of America crossed its fingers and proclaimed that if they are allowed to swallow Countrywide they will give 265,000 debtors holding $40 billion in mortgages a chance to refinance or modify their loans. They also pleged to give $2 billion to charity (much of this will come from Mozilo's old salary). BoA did not mention the merger would give them 25% of the US mortgage origination market, or that arranging for people to keep paying them is rather much in their best interests.

Investment Idea: Take that windfall tax rebate/stimulus check and invest it in the newly revived 1-year Treasury notes that Bush is issuing to pay for the tax rebate/stimulus checks.

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