"The President, in these last few days following the second revolution against big government started in Massachusetts, has come out swinging savagely against “banks” in numerous ways in numerous speeches. Let’s be clear. There are legitimate issues and reforms to be discussed. But my first question is why this exact moment? The answer is simple. When a failing government with totalitarian impulses needs help, it’s pretty standard strategy to call down a pogrom against an unpopular class of citizens. The bankers are nothing if not unpopular. Unfortunately for this President, he will, I hope, find the financial community not cowering from his Cossacks on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement (Greenwich, CT), but meeting his accusations with logic and patriotism." - Cliff Asness
Harry Reid Hopes To Proceed With Bernanke Vote Late In Week, Succeeds At Keeping His Commercial Real Estate Holdings' Values HighSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/26/2010 - 12:38
Harry Reid hopes to have enough votes to proceed with Bernanke's reconfirmation by Friday. More relevantly, Harry Reid hopes to have secured the value of his Commercial Real Estate holdings likely valued at over $3 million from collapsing should the Chairman not be reappointed, and have the opportunity to sell, sell, sell. But all Senators who have acquiesced to Reid's prodding for a Bernanke vote knew all this already. Right? After all, this is in no way a conflict of interest.
A Hill aide has indicated that Hank Paulson has accepted the invitation, and will be present for tomorrow's grilling, keeping his old buddy Tim-O Tax company. We still have to hear if the last straggler, Goldman's Stephen Friedman, will also join the patriarchs of the wealth transfer plan under oath.
"Equities tend to do well when real rates are rising, but there are risks that it could be different this time if higher yields are driven by an inflation scare and/or heightened fiscal concerns. 'Start of tightening' remains our dominant theme of the year, and we continue to expect a consolidation in equities associated with the start of tightening. Market volatility around the start of Asian tightening and announcement of more onerous financial regulations confirms our long held view that the start of tightening could be many things other than the first Fed hike. With the general willingness of authorities to move away from crisis mode in recent weeks, we believe the tightening phase has now started and will intensify, and we expect positive payrolls will lead to a change in Fed language and the start of excess liquidity withdrawal in the next few months. We see 6% downside to MSCI Europe in the next 12 months and recommend selling into strength." - Teun Draaisma, Morgan Stanley
"Once private demand has become self-sustained, the sequencing of exit from accommodative monetary and fiscal policy should be guided by a variety of considerations, including whether: high fiscal deficits and debt are raising concerns about sustainability and sovereign risk—which is the primary consideration in many countries; low interest rates might be contributing to asset price bubbles; the exchange rate is under pressure to appreciate or depreciate as well as its position relative to medium-term fundamentals; and how quickly monetary or fiscal policy can be adjusted to changes in domestic demand." - IMF
After the double dip in now home sales and NAHB confidence, the unadjusted double dip in housing prices is following suit. Today's November Case-Shiller data showed that after having recorded several sequential increases in prices, November's -0.2% decline is substantiating the October -0.1% decline. The decline on a YoY basis was -5.3%. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Composite 20 also indicated a moderation, as the sequential rate of increase declined from 0.3% to 0.2% in November, and indicated the same YoY decline as the unadjusted data of -5.3%.
- IMF World Economic Outlook revises 2010 world GDP to +3.9% from prior estimate of +3.1%, world revenue growth revised ro 2.4% from 1.5% (Link to come)
- Fink or Blankfein: who is lying: "BlackRock indicated that Goldman Sachs might be willing to
accept less money than it was entitled to under its AIG
contracts because the bank hadn’t received all of the collateral
it requested. Goldman Sachs’s van Praag said the firm was never open to
anything less than full repayment and that it never indicated
otherwise to BlackRock." (Bloomberg)
- AIG bail out investigations launched (BBC)
- It is time for Ben Bernanke to resign (Real Clear Markets)
- Goldman parachute awaits Geithner to ease fall (Bloomberg)
- Goldman Sachs, in cross hairs, mulls options (Reuters)
"The ratings on Japan could fall by one notch if economic data remain weak and measures to boost medium-term growth are not forthcoming, given the country's high government debt burden and its weak demographic profile. Standard & Poor's will be looking for signs of government policy toward fiscal consolidation in the update of its medium-term fiscal plan, due to be released in the first half of 2010. Additional policy initiatives may also be revealed after the upper house elections in July. If on the other hand we conclude that government policies, either on the fiscal side or structural reform side, will moderate the government's debt trajectory, the ratings could stabilize at the current levels." S&P
- Asian stocks fall as China tightening concerns deepen; Yen, Dollar advance.
- Bank of Japan holds interest rate steady to fight deflation as Yen rises.
- China stocks drop a third day as loan outlook weighs on banks, developers.
- Chinese banks may see addln increase in their reserve ratios take effect today: media.
- Existing-home sales plunged in December by 16.7% - raising fresh concerns.
- Fed officials consider adopting interest on reserves as new benchmark rate.
- Obama to propose a 3-yr freeze on $447B in discretionary federal spending.
- S. Korean economic growth eases to 0.2%, slowest pace in three quarters.
Federal Reserve Moral Hazard Smoking Gun: In August 2008 Goldman Was Willing To Tear Up AIG Derivative Contracts, Offered To Take HaircutSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/25/2010 - 23:08
As observant readers will recall, a week ago we pointed out a letter in which the New York Fed's Steven Manzari instructed AIG to stand down on all discussions with counterparties on "tearing up/unwinding CDS trades on the CDO portfolio." At the time we focused on the word "stand down" as an indication of the Fed's lead role in the process. At this point there is no doubt that the FRBNY, together with its law firm, Davis Polk, were in the pilot's seat during the entire AIG negotiation, and while Tim Geithner may not have been the responsible man for this, someone must have been - and for the record, our money is a double or nothing on recently promoted FRBNY Senior Vice President Sarah Dahlgren, who as of January 21st is in charge of the Fed's Special Investments [AIG] Management Group. We sure hope Sarah gets the chance to recall her memories beginning in the fateful month of September 2008 when she became the person in charge of the FRBNY's AIG relationship. But back to the letter - little did we know that our focus was on the right sentence... but on the wrong word. What should have struck us front and center, was Habayeb's admission that contract "tear downs" had been evaluated. This means that someone, aside from AIG, must have expressed an interest in a tear down, which if true would have dramatic consequences for the entire AIG debacle. Today, the WSJ presented the missing piece of the puzzle.
Debate On Financial Innovation: Scholes And Putnam's Reyonlds Vs. Grantham And Bookstaber; Innovation LosesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/25/2010 - 20:57
By now you have certainly heard the opinion of one Paul Volcker who claims that the only useful financial innovation over the past 20 years has been the ATM machine. Now please indulge this video, in which Jeremy Grantham and Rick Bookstaber debate popular opinion that financial innovation boosts economic growth, as defended by Myron Scholes and Putnam's Robert Reynolds, and support the case (judged by a popular vote before and after the debate) that financial innovation in recent decades has done nothing but make the financial sector become a "large, heavy, and growing bloodsucker on the economy's back." (and yes, such brilliant developments as HFT, Flash trading, and all other "market efficiency and liquidity enhancing" gimmicks most certainly fall under the innovation umbrella).
Everyone in Congress, and anywhere else for that matter, knows prop desk trading (banks trading their own capital like a hedge fund) is a conflict of interest. They may or may not think it important or that it caused this or that problem, but they know it’s a real conflict. Congressmen, since when wasn’t conflict of interest and poor ethical standards reason enough to change the law? But since we bring it up, of course prop trading was indeed the rot at the heart of our financial problems (see last quarter’s Letter). Watching traders take home their $28 million bonus sent a powerful message to lowly salesmen and packagers of asset-backed securities, for example, to get out there and really take some risk. This rot spread to the very top, and pretty soon chairmen of boards were exhorting CEOs to leverage up and look more like some much more profitable rival that resembled a hedge fund rather than an investment bank. Thus encouraged – or intimidated – some CEOs just kept on dancing right off the cliff. Let’s
learn from our near disaster. Viva Volcker!
Senator Dick Durbin has said that he hopes the Senate will reconfirm Bernanke by the end of the week, and
that President Obama is actively calling senators to boost Bernanke.
One wonders if this weekend's massive campaign to push for Bernanke has been insufficient.
And other news we have gotten recently:
- These are other senators who have voiced their support for Bernanke recently:Bennett, Nelson, Byrd, Hagan.
- These are still undecided: Leahy, Udall, Cardin, Klobuchar, Thune
Is it time to summon Davis Polk And Wardwell to provide testimony before Congress? New disclosure from the Huffington Post seems to indicate so.