Cash For Clunkers

Chris Pavese's picture

In our recent post, Coming to America, we encouraged readers to study Nail Ferguson’s concerns voiced in the Financial Times – A Greek crisis is coming to America. It does not take a wild imagination to see that ballooning debt levels on government balance sheets pose a grave systemic risk to the global economy and capital markets. This is precisely why we are left with our tongue on the floor when we hear Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz describing the prospect of a US or UK default as absurd, “particularly in the US because all we do is print money to pay it back.”

Econophile's picture

State of the Economy Part I

This is the first report of a series of 3 reports on the state of the economy as we enter 2010. Part II will appear Wednesday, and Part III will be posted on Thursday. Econophile, as usual, has a different take.

Guest Post: Cycle Logical Issues?

One of the early year themes we have been discussing on our subscriber site has been our expectation for an increase in market volatility. Probably about three weeks back we wrote, “Unlike the consensus and big Street houses which have been predicting/expecting falling volatility in 2010 after an already accomplished death defying drop in volatility during 2009, we’re not so sure shorting volatility is such a wonderful investment idea right here. Although we could be dead wrong, we believe 2010 will present us with a great opportunity to buy volatility. We could be very close right now.” We’re not reprinting this to proverbially pat ourselves on the back as the year is still very young. Secondly, anyone spending time patting themselves on the back in this business are usually about 15 seconds away from having the proverbial rug pulled out from under them. Anything can happen, so judgment is reserved for now as we’ll just have to see what happens on the financial market front as we move forward. We think an increase in volatility is in store not only for the financial markets, but also in a much broader context we’d like to discuss in this missive. We want to quickly talk about another type of volatility – economic volatility. And we want to take a look at the long term in the hope that perhaps we can “see” the future more clearly. Here’s the question that may indeed morph into an investment theme for 2010 and beyond that we’d like to pose. Looking ahead, will the US economy be more or less volatile than we have experienced over what is close to the last thirty years? Yes or no? If indeed were are anywhere even close to the mark regarding our thoughts that economic volatility will increase, then that has direct and meaningful implications for equity and broader business valuations. Let’s start digging through some facts.

US Tries To Maximize Its Equity Return In Bankrupt Automakers, Tells Americans Not To Drive Recalled Toyotas

This whole Toyota recall thing has had us puzzled. The scale of the recall keeps getting bigger and bigger, the hit to Toyota stock greater with every single day. This is extremely uncharacteristic for a company that has taken PR fallout containment (not to mention quality) to an artform. Which, one would speculate, may implicate other forces in this dramatic collapse in everything that Toyota has stood for. The just released announcement from the US Government, in which the government is telling Toyota Owners to "stop driving the recalled vehicles" (can Congress quickly make this into a law please?) which is a defacto endorsement of buy American, and not just any American, but cars made by bankrupt and spun off automakers, in which the country has a major equity stake in via TARP and loan facilities, could be a big clue as to what the behind the scenes play here is. As everyone knows, Cash For Clunkers was a benefit exclusively to Japanese automakers, with Ford barely sneaking into a top 5 spot for cars sold. Well, now it's time for Uncle Sam to demand his pound of flesh; if that involves a "recall" and a huge hit to Toyota's sales and market cap, so be it.One thing for sure: with the various spending freezes , we won't be seeing another Cash For Clunkers for years to come, if ever... Or we may, if and only if, Toyota's reputation has been destroyed beyond measure.

Has The Federal Government Directly Financed The Purchase Of 2.25 Million Cars In The Past Year?

An interesting observation emerges when one analyzes the various holders of non-revolving consumer credit. While the traditionally largest players in non-revolving consumer credit provisioning, commercial banks and finance companies, have been materially curtailing their lending of auto loans (the primary form of non-revolving credit and which also includes student loans, as well as boat and trailer loans) with their combined holdings declining by 5% year over year (from $989 billion to $940 billion), another actor has jumped in to take their place. It should not surprise anyone, that with a 68% increase in non-revolving credit holdings over the past 12 months, this entity is none other than the Federal Government.

Econophile's picture

Christina Romer is one of Obama's chief economic advisors. But she has absolutely no clue what to do about this crisis. Her recent letter defending the Administration's policies is just the usual hack political stuff one would expect from them. She is typical of the problems in Washington. She means well, but she is fabricating the truth in order to justify their actions. Their approach to using government power is one we should all be afraid of. She spells it out quite clearly.

Richmond Fed's Lacker Joins Philadelphia's Plossner In Fed "Excess Liquidity" Dissent Panel

Yesterday it was Philly Fed's Plossner, today it is Richmond Fed's Jeff Lacker who joins the chorus demanding an end to Bernanke's insane monetary policy of drowning the market with unprecedented liquidity which is not getting to consumers but merely propping Amazon stock at a bubblelicious 100x P/E. In a speech before the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Lacker stated: "The perception of inflation risk could be particularly pertinent to the current recovery, given the massive and unprecedented expansion in bank reserves that has occurred, and the widespread market commentary expressing uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve is willing and able to promptly reverse that expansion... If we hope to keep inflation in check, we cannot be paralyzed by patches of lingering weakness, which could persist well into the recovery. In assessing when we will need to begin taking monetary stimulus out, I will be looking for the time at which economic growth is strong enough and well-enough established, even if it is not yet especially vigorous. Although it is hard to predict when that will occur, I can confidently predict that monetary policy will remain particularly challenging for some time to come." Then again, the stock market does not seem to share Mr. Lacker's concerns.

Goldman Prepares To IPO Its Adesa Car Auction Portfolio Company And Pocket A Nice 3 Year Return

Don't say the market is unkind to Goldman. First the firm's employees are about to rake in all time record bonuses. Then, courtesy of of a rocking bear market rally, top-tick Goldman is about to get the hell out of dodge in another GS Capital Partners LBO, Adesa, basically a vehicle auction firm, which the firm bought in conjunction with Kelso in 2006. And who gets to pocket the underwriting fee? Why, Goldman. No way is the squid going to let any capital leave the firm. As for the company: prepare to own a 10x EV/EBITDA Craigslist knock off which will spew $100 million in free cash flow on a good year (and with consumers waiting for Cash for Clunkers 2 thru 100, don't expect a whole lot of car auction activity any time soon).

The Most Recent Recipient Of Obama's Middle Class-Funded Generosity: Key Largo's Ocean Reef Club For The Mega Wealthy

A reader submits the following disclosure released by Ocean Reef Club, a country club, which very much unlike America's 35 million food-stamp recipients, has roughly a $35 million net worth cutoff for members, who enjoy such amenities as 100 foot yachts, a private airport, and two golf courses. It is precisely in connection with golf that we see these very needy multi-millionaires follow in Wall Street's footsteps and proceed to redistribute wealth away from those who actually work for their money, to those who merely use the dollar as a temporary (or otherwise) replacement for one-ply Cottonelle.

Vitaliy Katsenelson's picture

Birds are singing, the sun is shining and life is beautiful again. On the surface, the vital signs of our economy are improving with every economic report. In some areas, like unemployment, the rate of decline is decelerating; in others, like GDP, decline is turning into growth. The stock market is behaving as if the history of the last twenty years is about to repeat itself: recession will turn into a robust expansion.

Prepare To Pay Back The Tax Credit

And you thought the government was not out to screw you. According to a research report released by the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration, over 15 million people may own $250 (and in same cases more than $400) on the tax "credit" received earlier in the year, purely as a function of how the tax break was set up by the IRS. The payment will come as either a smaller tax refund or larger tax bill. As a reminder, Obama's tax break earlier in 2009 (first of many) provided individuals up to $400 and couples up to $800 in one-time benefits. It turns out that money may now have to be repaid. And as the credit impacted 95% of all wage earners, the number of people impacted is estimated at about 15.4 million. But at least it got these 15.4 million soon to be angry taxpayers to consumer a little more than they otherwise would in Q2. And now, it is time for another "one-time" jolt to the system.

Guest Post: Deficit Doubles for Government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

So many future bailouts to look forward to, so little time. So many cans do kick down the road via accounting adjustments, so few feet do keep doing the kicking. While I read this piece I was struck by my own reaction... not even $30 billion in deficit? This is peanuts! We've become so numb to bailouts that anything less than hundreds of billions seems like a normal part of Bailout Nation. Yet just over a decade ago the world was in a panic over hedge fund Long Term Capital and its gaping hole of $3.6 billion. How quickly we've adjusted to brushing off our shoulders handouts and bailouts 10 times that size. The cost for one of the smallest handouts, Cash for Clunkers was more than the bailout of LTCM in 1998. Need to manipulate housing prices higher? It's worth it! Only costs $16 billion; or with Cash for Cul de Sacs v 2.0 - $30B+. Peanuts.