Thursday, January 15, 2009

SAR #9015

Don't talk to me about conventional wisdom,

I've been to conventions.

Dividend and Conquer: HSBC paid out $10 billion in dividends in 2007. It is likely to cut the dividend by 50% this year as it tries to raise $30 billion in capital. Is that the same as borrowing money to pay dividends? Isn't that what Madoff was doing?

Pelican: America is putting more of itself into Bank of America. Billions more. It's one of the healthy ones, remember. We're just helping it swallow Merrill Lynch because it's tried to gobble up more than it can afford. Yes, the money was supposed to be loaned out - it will be, haven't you heard of margin accounts?

Not Quite the News: Obama's stimulus is not big enough, it needs to be doubled and then redoubled, which means the US will run immense deficits from here to the horizon. More than a few think the US will not be able to do this.

Kick 'em Again: Yet another new report indicates that the IPCC's estimate of a 30 cm sea level rise by 2100 is woefully understated. This one explains that the ice sheets are melting much faster than predicted by the IPCC and that the seas will rise about 1 meter by the end of the century.

Usual Suspect: Russia is suggesting that Ukrainian interference with natural gas shipments to Europe might be traceable to the White House, much as was George's Georgian adventure last fall. Cui Bono?

Excess capacity: First it was bulk cargo shipping that crashed 95% or so. Now its containerized freight. Things are so bad that half-full ships are offering to haul containers for the cost of fuel alone. Last minute cruise vacations?

Stately Pensions: State run pension funds have lost so much they are cutting promises to new-hires. More seriously, they may have to start cutting payments to retirees. Things are far worse at the municipal level where the good ole boys have been promising themselves and their nephews ridiculous pensions for years. We the taxpayers will bail them out because a whole lot of us are them.

Same Old Same Old : After giving private contractors $722 million to restore oil production facilities in Iraq, auditors report that Iraqi oil production facilities need $1 billion for restoration.

Political Georgeography: Almost Ex-President Bush has warned the Canadians that they do not own the Northwest Passage, nor the natural resources off their northern coastline, flatly rejecting Canada's plan to expand its economic and military presence there. Bush wants to protect the fragile region and its natural resources from terrorists.

Freeze in the Dark: The old Texas blessing on the Yankees seems to have moved to Serbia, where the lack of gas for heating is likely to collapse the electric grid as people plug in their toasters.

Fat Lady Singing: JP Morgan Chase is the last of the big banks to get out of the wholesale lending business, saying "We believe that our customers are best served when a mortgage officer works directly with them" and implying they don't trust those other people - the mortgage brokers. Imagine.

Buy the Numbers: There are now about 11.1 million people out of a job, about 50% more than a year ago. Putting 4 million of them back to work is better than nothing.

You Bet Your Life: The life insurance racket wants government regulators to give them "more flexibility" in pricing illiquid assets. What they mean is they want to be able to value assets at whatever they wish. State regulators will go along because they have no choice.

Sub-prime Explained: Wall Street quants and derivative developers, who drink more than seven cups of coffee a day, tend to hallucinate.

Porn O'Graphs: Retail data, wholesale.

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