There’s a surfeit of instructionals on the secret to investing, ranging from Investing for Dummies to The Intelligent Investor. My bookshelves at home are full of them, and I’ve learned or at least absorbed something from many. Experience is a great teacher, but the foundation of civilization, and too investing, is also dependent upon the capsulization of the experiences of others and that is where books have played a formative part in my own career. Still, there’s never been a book called “Common Sense for Dummies,” which would be required reading in my investment class if either existed. That’s an oxymoron to begin with, though, which points to the obvious – that common sense cannot be taught. It’s like sex appeal – you either have it or you don’t, although both are subject to relative judgments of the observer. What is commonsensical to one investor may seem ludicrous to someone else. And even in cases where history has validated the irrationality of one investment idea or another – the subprime frenzy being perhaps the most recent – there are questions of timing. Michael Lewis’s book The Big Short is not only a tale of the validation of common sense, but of its delicate shelf life. Most of Lewis’s heroes were almost all closed out by their own clients before their logic blossomed and their profits multiplied. - Bill Gross
Now that Greece is thoroughly irrelevant, the market just told the ECB, the IMF, and the EMU to prepare another $1 trillion in bailout packages. The reason: the Greek bailout just made it abundantly clear the bond vigilantes have free reign to call the bureaucrats' bluff whenever they see fit. The result: CDS of all non Greek PIIGS are now blowing out, and represent the top 4 names of all biggest CDS wideners for the day, each pushing a 10%+ change from yesterday. This movement wider will not stop until the IMF resolves to backstop all the PIIS ex. G. At this point nothing that happens in Greece is important, although the thing that will most likely happen is that the Greek government will fall imminently, killing the austerity package and destroying whatever credibility the EMU and the EU have left, but not before the IMF and the EU soak up another 110 billion euro in their slush funds. However, even with the bailout the Greek stock market is tumbling: the Athens Stock Exchange is now down 3.4% to just under 1,800. As we expected, the euro is about to breach 1.31 support. At that point, not even the US algos and the Liberty 33 traders will be able to prevent the contagion. And adding insult to injury is the latest rumor of an upcoming downgrade or very cautious language of Germany by the suddenly hyperactive rating agencies. When that occurs, you can kiss Europe goodbye.
Greek 2 Year Yields 20 Percent, Italy Up 6 Basis Points, Portugal Up 7 Basis Points, Spain Up 27 Basis PointsSubmitted by George Washington on 04/28/2010 11:52 -0400
Not just Greece ...
The drama continues following S&P’s slice to Greece’s debt rating (to junk status of BB+, a three-notch decline, which prompted a surge in 2-year bond yields to a Zeus-like 15%) and the two-notch decline to Portugal’s rating, to A- from A+. The Euro has bounced back this morning and the flight to higher quality German and French bonds has partly reversed course as the markets are swirling with speculation that the IMF is about to announce a stepped-up aid package (yet again!) and the ECB’s Trichet (“Mr. Euro” himself) is set to make a trip to Berlin to meet with German parliamentarians today. (In the U.S., the huge rally in Treasuries has subsided too as the bond market braces for $42 billion of fresh 5-year T-notes today). JGBs have rallied all the way to four-month lows, in terms of yield, to 1.28% — talk about a switch to defense (not to mention a slap in the face to the conventional wisdom that JGBs are an accident waiting to happen)
"What could go wrong? In the short term, I can think of two serious risks: First, a collapse of the Greek financial system, e.g. via a run on banks. If that were to happen, I would expect an immediate guarantee by the government and recapitalisation of the banks, as necessary, implicitly underwritten by the ECB. Second, a sudden dramatic political shift in Greece away from the present policy towards one of confrontation with its creditors. In that case, the international support becomes obsolete, of course, and we’ll be heading straight towards debt restructuring. In the longer term, all the same risks that I have discussed for months remain, including the government’s ability and willingness to carry through the necessary reforms. The required cocktail of tough fiscal measures and structural reforms aimed at restoring competitiveness has long made me think that the odds are against them making it longer term." Goldman Sachs - can you say unfilled axes?
William K. Black, a regulator during the dark days of the Savings & Loan Crisis, gave the most sensible testimony about the financial crisis heard in Washington so far.* Fraud thrives and spreads in a regulatory free, highly paid, criminogenic environment. Cheaters prosper driving honesty out of the market. It's time to bring back Black and resolute regulators like him. Our proposed "financial reform" bill is a sham, and the health of our society and our economy is at stake.
The Abacus deal stunk. But there were other deals that were even worse. This train wreck for investors could have been avoided. Instead, everyone just closed their eyes.
Carl Levin's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released several internal emails that indicate that Goldman, well duh, was actively shorting the mortgage market. Um, we all already knew that. Although what is relevant is that this once again bolsters the case for the Volcker Rule - as Levin points out: “Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs were not simply market-makers, they were self-interested promoters of risky and complicated financial schemes that helped trigger the crisis.” In other words, Goldman's traditional defense that all it does is match buyers and sellers while holding some "inventory" is blown out of the window. And this will be magnified substantially during the April 27th grilling of Blankfein (and Tourre). On the other hand didn't the president himself, with great aplomb, say that the Volcker rule is coming thus causing the February correction? So whatever happened to the presidential decree being followed true? Oh yeah, it stopped at the Chris Dodd barrier of corruption which only filters through whatever his Wall Street superiors allow him to.
LTTP (Late to the Party), Euro Style: Goldman Recommends Betting On Contagion Risk In Portuguese, Spanish And Italian Banks 3 Months After BoomBustBlogSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 04/24/2010 04:48 -0400
Will someone explain to me why the world is so enamored with Goldman. It appears that their research department is now recommending clients to bet on European bank contagion risk. LTTP (Late to the Party), we first warned on European bank risk in Spain with BBVA in January of last year (The Spanish Inquisition is About to Begin…).
"In the depths of the 2008 crisis it was the governments that stepped in to provide a guarantee on financial assets. It was the governments that backed our savings accounts, money market funds, day-to-day business banking accounts, as well as debt issued by US banks. But what happens when confidence in the government guarantee begins to erode? We’ve seen what happened to Greece. Leverage inherent in the banking system elevated a bank run, equivalent to a mere 3.6 percent of deposits, into another full blown banking crisis. In our view it’s time for investors to acknowledge sovereign risk. The ratings agencies can opine all they want, but it seems clear to us that the only true AAA asset to protect your wealth is gold. " Eric Sprott
Economist James Galbraith: Economists Should Move into the Background, and "Criminologists to the Forefront"Submitted by George Washington on 04/22/2010 20:11 -0400
Forget the economists ... call in the criminologists.
Goldman Sachs claims great risk management skills, while it shirks responsibility for its role in the near collapse of the U.S. economy. The former is a myth, and the latter is a dodge.  As taxpayer wealth was destroyed, Goldman exploited the financial crisis it helped cause, while the U.S. was (and remains) at war.
Goldman Sachs released its 2009 annual report today showing it made net revenues of $45.17 billion with net earnings of $13.39 billion. In its shareholder letter, Goldman says it repaid TARP money, but did not mention the massive new taxpayer subsidies it continues to enjoy.
"Goldman did not and does not operate or manage our risk with any expectation of outside assistance."
Yet due to the influence of highly placed Goldman Sachs former officers, Goldman received--and continues to receive--enormous assistance from taxpayers.
The Latest Reincarnation Of Repo 105 - With End Of Quarter "Deleveraging" Over, Primary Dealer Repoable Assets SurgeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/20/2010 01:16 -0400
One of the take home lessons from the Lehman Repo 105 scam is that Primary Dealers will do everything in their power to dispose of assets in any way possible at end of quarter time in order to make their leverage ratios palatable to investors and rating agencies. A week ago, taking a hint from the WSJ, we observed how for the week ended March 31, total Primary Dealer assets plunged by $34 billion in just one week: from March 24 to March 31. For this EOQ asset window dressing hypothesis to be confirmed, we needed to see a corresponding spike in asset in the week immediately following March 31. Sure enough, using Treasury data of Primary Dealer holdings, we observe precisely that, and then some. In the week ended April 7, total Primary Dealer assets exploded by $53 billion to the highest level seen in 2010, or $300 billion, a stunning 21% increase in total assets in just one week! This is also the highest total level of PD asset holdings since June 10, 2009. What do primary dealers do with these assets? They either repo them out back to the Fed directly, or via the Tri-Party Repo System, or via some other off balance sheet conduit, using the cash proceeds to go elbow deep in risky assets and purchase every stock imaginable (having given the impression the week before that they are all prudent fiduciaries who don't "gamble" with other people's money). If you were wondering where the surge in buying interest came from in the first few days of April, wonder no more. Furthermore, as PDs would be careful about negative carry on the repo rates, it would be expected that the one security they would buy the most of, would be T-Bills with their next to nothing interest rates... Which is exactly what happened: PD T-Bill holdings surged from a mere $12.6 billion at March 31 to $44.4 billion on April 7. PDs no longer need Repo 105 - they do all their EOQ window dressing directly in the open market.
John Paulson was the big swinging dick who created Abacus. He is Teflon on that one. Consider OneWest.
In the video below, it appears that Steve Liesman of CNBC has access to deposition or other facts in the SEC case. Perhaps he has been talking to Paolo Pellegrini, Paulson’s former head trader who is believed to be a key witness for the SEC. We have found no one else that is reporting on case specifics beyond what was in the SEC complaint. Liesman reports that the Abacus 2007-AC1 deal was somewhat unique in that it was Paulson’s only CDO that used a neutral third party manager to select collateral (ACA management) or “bespoke” deal. Pauslon did other CDO deals where they picked the collateral directly and it was disclosed as such. What is not clear is if Paulson’s economic interest in those deals failing was also properly disclosed. The implication is if Goldman loses this case it will not lead to a precedent that will spread to many other CDOs.