Archive for March, 2009

WE ARE FROM GOVERNMENT…..

March 31, 2009

…….and we are here to help!

Madoff? CDS? Tons of crap rated AAA by the punks at Moody & Co?

Naaahhhh! Let’s waste our ultrapayed time to attack the most working lending ring: common people borrowing from common people.

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CORPORATE ACCOUNTS PERFORMANCE – MARCH 2009

March 30, 2009

EQUITY   ACCOUNT

Inception Date: Dec 01, 2008   –   Inception Capital: 10,000 $

Net Assets Value (Mar 27, 2009): 13,480 $   (monthly return -10.24%)

Capital Loss on Equity Holdings:   -1,026 $

Capital Gain on Protection Hedges: +151 $

Net Income Premium:    +4,243 $

Dividends:   112 $

All time return: 3,480 $ (+34.8%)

————————————————————————————-

DERIVATIVE   ACCOUNT

Inception Date: Dec 01, 2008   –   Inception Capital: 30,000 euro

Net Assets Value (Mar 27, 2009): 38,368 euro   (monthly return +6.9%)

Cash                                                             45,988

Market value options sold                              (7,620)

Market value options bought                              0

All time return: 8,368 euro (+27.89%)

MODEL PORTFOLIOS – MARCH 27, 2009

March 29, 2009

€uroIncome 17.9 € -28.4%   (total return)
base 25 € -Aug 4, 2008

S&P/Mib 27,826 – Aug 4, 2008   (-41.27% total return)

Julians 25.97 $ +3.88%   (total return)
base 25 $ – Aug 21, 2008

S&P500 1,277.72 – Aug 21, 2008   (-36.14% total return)

TOTAL INVESTED CAPITAL – MARCH 27, 2009

March 29, 2009

Maedhros Global Allocation Index   108.72

base 100 – Nov 07, 2008

Total Invested Capital   471.65   (433.82   x   1.0872)

base 500 – Nov 17, 2007

433.82 – Nov 01, 2008

Total Return since Inception   – 5.67%

Benchmarks
S&P 500    -40.55% (same period)

Longleaf Partners Fund    -49.87% (same period)
Sequoia Fund    -24.42% (same period)
Third Avenue Value Fund    -47.07% (same period)

(in US dollars, dividends & broker’s fees included, taxes not included)

CRISIS REDUX

March 27, 2009

So is that it? Is the downturn over? After bouncing off of 6500, or more than half its peak value, and with Citigroup briefly breaking $1, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rallied back more than 1200 points. So, is it safe to go back in the water? Best to figure out what went wrong first — what I like to call a bear-raid extraordinaire.

The Dow clearly got a boost from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s new and improved plan, announced on Monday, to rid our banks of those nasty toxic assets. The idea is to form a “Public-Private Investment Fund” to buy up $500 billion to $1 trillion worth of bad assets — mostly mortgage backed securities (MBSs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).

While it’s true that private interests can conceptually help establish the right market price for these assets, the reality is Mr. Geithner’s public-private scheme won’t work. Why? Because the pricing paradox remains — private parties won’t overpay, yet banks believe these assets are extremely undervalued by the market. As Edward Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association, said recently on CNBC, “You have to go into the securities, examine the securities, examine the cash flow. I’ve seen it done, and the market is so far below what they’re really worth.”

The Treasury can’t just keep throwing money at the problem, but needs instead to figure out what’s really been going on — the aforementioned bear-raid extraordinaire that’s crushed Citigroup and Bank of America and General Electric, among others. Only then can Mr. Geithner craft a real plan to fight back.

In a typical bear raid, traders short a target stock — i.e., borrow shares and then sell them, hoping to cover or replace them at a cheaper price. Once short, traders then spread bad news, amplify it, even make it up if they have to, to get a stock to drop so they can cover their short.

Bear raid image This bear raid was different. Wall Street is short-term financed, mostly through overnight and repurchasing agreements, which was fine when banks were just doing IPOs and trading stocks. But as they began to own things for their own account (MBSs, CDOs) there emerged a huge mismatch between the duration of their holdings (10- and 30-year mortgages and the derivatives based on them) and their overnight funding. When this happens a bear can ride in, undercut a bank’s short-term funding, and force it to sell a long-term holding.

Since these derivatives were so weird, if you wanted to count them as part of your reserves, regulators demanded that you buy insurance against the derivatives defaulting. And everyone did. The “default insurance” was in the form of credit default swaps (CDSs), often from AIG’s now infamous Financial Products unit. Never mind that AIG never bothered reserving for potential payouts or ever had to put up collateral because of its own AAA rating. The whole exercise was stupid, akin to buying insurance from the captain of the Titanic, who put the premiums in the ship’s safe and collected a tidy bonus for his efforts.

Because these derivatives were part of the banks’ reserve calculations, if you could knock down their value, mark-to-market accounting would force the banks to take more write-offs and scramble for capital to replace it. Remember that Citigroup went so far as to set up off-balance-sheet vehicles to own this stuff. So Wall Street got stuck holding the hot potato making them vulnerable to a bear raid.

You can’t just manipulate a $62 trillion market for derivatives. So what did the bears do? They looked and found an asymmetry to exploit in those same credit default swaps. If you bid up the price of swaps, because markets are all linked, the higher likelihood (or at least the perception based on swap prices) of derivative defaults would cause the value of these CDO derivatives to drop, thus triggering banks and financial companies to write off losses and their stocks to plummet.

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt famously complained that “by spending 25 million bucks in a handful of transactions in an unregulated market” traders in credit default swaps could tank major companies. “I just don’t think we should treat credit default swaps as like the Delphic Oracle of any kind,” he continued. “It’s the most easily manipulated and broadly manipulated market that there is.”

Complain all you want, it worked. In early March, Citigroup hit $1 and Bank of America dropped to $3 and GE bottomed at $6.66 from $36 not much more than a year ago. Same for Lloyds Banking Group in the U.K. dropping from 400 to 40. Citi CEO Vikram Pandit recently announced that the bank was profitable in January and February. (How couldn’t they be? With short-term rates close to zero, any loan could be profitable). Never mind they still had squished CDOs, it was enough to get some of the pressure off, for now.

Oddly, with the new Treasury plan, these same bear raiders are still incentivized to manipulate the price of swaps to depress toxic derivative prices, especially so with the government’s help to get hedge funds to turn around and buy them. Perversely, they may get rewarded for their own shenanigans.

This week’s Treasury announcement of private buyers isn’t going to magically change the depressed prices of these toxic derivatives. The Treasury needs to fight fire with fire. If I were Mr. Geithner, I’d pull off a bull run — i.e., pile into the CDS market and sell as many swaps as I could, the opposite of a bear raid. If the bears are buying, I’d be selling, using the same asymmetry against them. Sensing the deep pockets of Uncle Sam, the bears will back off. Worst case, the Fed is on the hook for defaults, which they are anyway!

With the pressure of default assumptions easing, prices of CDOs should rise, which not only gives breathing room to banks, but may actually get these derivatives to a price where banks would be willing to sell them, replacing toxic assets in their reserves with cash or short term Treasurys, which ought to stimulate lending.

So are hedge funds villains? Not especially. The bear raid probably saved us five to 10 years’ of bank earning disappointments as they worked off these bad loans. Those that mismatched duration set themselves up to be clawed. Under cover of a Treasury bull run, banks should raise whatever capital they can and dump as many bad loans before the bear raiders come back. Let the bears find others to feast on, like autos, cellular, cable and California.

Andy Kessler

CRISIS REDUX

March 26, 2009

The Obama administration has finally come up with a plan to deal with the real cause of the credit crunch: the infamous “toxic assets” on bank balance sheets that have scared off investors and borrowers, clogging credit markets around the world. But if Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hopes to prevent a repeat of this global economic crisis, his rescue plan must recognize that the real problem is not the bad loans, but the debasement of the paper they are printed on.

[Commentary] Chad Crowe

Today’s global crisis — a loss on paper of more than $50 trillion in stocks, real estate, commodities and operational earnings within 15 months — cannot be explained only by the default on a meager 7% of subprime mortgages (worth probably no more than $1 trillion) that triggered it. The real villain is the lack of trust in the paper on which they — and all other assets — are printed. If we don’t restore trust in paper, the next default — on credit cards or student loans — will trigger another collapse in paper and bring the world economy to its knees.

If you think about it, everything of value we own travels on property paper. At the beginning of the decade there was about $100 trillion worth of property paper representing tangible goods such as land, buildings, and patents world-wide, and some $170 trillion representing ownership over such semiliquid assets as mortgages, stocks and bonds. Since then, however, aggressive financiers have manufactured what the Bank for International Settlements estimates to be $1 quadrillion worth of new derivatives (mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, and credit default swaps) that have flooded the market.

These derivatives are the root of the credit crunch. Why? Unlike all other property paper, derivatives are not required by law to be recorded, continually tracked and tied to the assets they represent. Nobody knows precisely how many there are, where they are, and who is finally accountable for them. Thus, there is widespread fear that potential borrowers and recipients of capital with too many nonperforming derivatives will be unable to repay their loans. As trust in property paper breaks down it sets off a chain reaction, paralyzing credit and investment, which shrinks transactions and leads to a catastrophic drop in employment and in the value of everyone’s property.

Ever since humans started trading, lending and investing beyond the confines of the family and the tribe, we have depended on legally authenticated written statements to get the facts about things of value. Over the past 200 years, that legal authority has matured into a global consensus on the procedures, standards and principles required to document facts in a way that everyone can easily understand and trust.

The result is a formidable property system with rules and recording mechanisms that fix on paper the facts that allow us to hold, transfer, transform and use everything we own, from stocks to screenplays. The only paper representing an asset that is not centrally recorded, standardized and easily tracked are derivatives.

Property is much more than a body of norms. It is also a huge information system that processes raw data until it is transformed into facts that can be tested for truth, and thereby destroys the main catalysts of recessions and panics — ambiguity and opacity. To bring derivatives under the rule of law, governments should ensure that they conform to six longstanding procedures that guarantee the value and legitimacy of any kind of paper purporting to represent an asset:

All documents and the assets and transactions they represent or are derived from must be recorded in publicly accessible registries. It is only by recording and continually updating such factual knowledge that we can detect the kind of overly creative financial and contractual instruments that plunged us into this recession.

– The law has to take into account the “externalities” or side effects of all financial transactions according to the legal principle of erga omnes (“toward all”), which was originally developed to protect third parties from the negative consequences of secret deals carried out by aristocracies accountable to no one but themselves.

– Every financial deal must be firmly tethered to the real performance of the asset from which it originated. By aligning debts to assets, we can create simple and understandable benchmarks for quickly detecting whether a financial transaction has been created to help production or to bet on the performance of distant “underlying assets.”

– Governments should never forget that production always takes priority over finance. As Adam Smith and Karl Marx both recognized, finance supports wealth creation, but in itself creates no value.

– Governments can encourage assets to be leveraged, transformed, combined, recombined and repackaged into any number of tranches, provided the process intends to improve the value of the original asset. This has been the rule for awarding property since the beginning of time.

– Governments can no longer tolerate the use of opaque and confusing language in drafting financial instruments. Clarity and precision are indispensable for the creation of credit and capital through paper. Western politicians must not forget what their greatest thinkers have been saying for centuries: All obligations and commitments that stick are derived from words recorded on paper with great precision.

Above all, governments should stop clinging to the hope that the existing market will eventually sort things out. “Let the market do its work” has come to mean, “let the shadow economy do its work.” But modern markets only work if the paper is reliable.

Government’s main duty now is to bring the whole toxic environment under the rule of law where it will be subject to enforcement. No economic activity based on the public trust should be allowed to operate outside the general principles of property law.

Financial institutions will have to serve society and fully report what they own and what they owe — just like the rest of us — so that we get the facts necessary to find our way out of the current maze. They must begin learning to put on paper statements about facts, instead of statements about statements.

Hernando de Soto

Protected: ALERT – GLOBAL ALLOCATION INDEX

March 17, 2009

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Protected: ALERT – GLOBAL ALLOCATION INDEX

March 14, 2009

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SMART MONEY

March 14, 2009

How to lose 500 billions, earning for the good job 284 millions and retiring with one million/month contract to keep on giving advices to the company you destroyed…….

FITCH IS A PUNK

March 13, 2009

Now I’m really considering to buy Berkshire Hathaway.