Fannie Mae

Guest Post: If Being Totally, Disastrously Wrong Were a Virtue, Bernanke and His Fed Mates Should Be Sainted

Since the market isn't able to price real estate, risk or credit transparently, then prudent investors would be forced to shun the market: how can you invest wisely when assets, debt and risk can't be priced by the market? Prudent lenders would withdraw from such a rigged, risky market, which is precisely what has happened. Literally 99% of the mortgage market is now guaranteed by the Federal fiefdoms, all of which are losing tens of billions of dollars and require monumental taxpayer bailouts to keep underwriting the banking sectors' private profits. The only way to restore trust and clear the market of uncollectable debt is to let the market transparently price, risk and credit--precisely what the Fed's policies are designed to stop. The Fed's knees are chafed from kow-towing to their banker masters, and worshipping the "magic" of their Keynesian Cargo Cult and Lenin ("destroying capitalism from within" should be stenciled on the Fed letterhead). Separate risk from gain, obliterate transparency and choke the market with zero interest rates, and you've not only destroyed capitalism, you've also destroyed the economy by rewarding the most venal, corrupt, fraudulent and capital-destroying players while stranding the prudent on an island of opacity where the true price of assets, credit and risk cannot be discovered.

Guest Post: Headwinds For Housing

It’s no secret that housing and employment are correlated, and the causation is intuitive. If more people have jobs, then more people have incomes that support the purchase of a home. In the other direction, the more houses that are built to meet rising demand, the more jobs will be created in construction and real estate. We can see the correlation in this chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve displaying one measure of employment for workers age 45-54 and the index of home prices. As employment of those in their peak earning years rose, so did home prices. This is partly a function of basic supply and demand: Rising demand pushes prices higher. As employment fell, demand declined, and so did home prices. The Federal Reserve famously has a dual mandate: to maintain stable inflation and employment. The Fed attempts to pursue these goals with monetary tools such as setting interest rate targets, while the Federal government supports housing by subsidizing mortgage interest via tax policy and guaranteeing mortgages via the housing-lending agencies of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The Fed’s primary tool for stimulating demand for housing has been to lower mortgage interest rates, by buying the US Treasuries that set the baseline cost of long-term debt and also mortgage securities. Indeed, the Fed’s first quantitative easing (QE) program was to buy about $1 trillion in distressed mortgage debt outright. This removed the impaired debt from banks’ balance sheets and also served to lower mortgage rates.

Egon von Greyerz: There Is No Deus Ex Machina Left

With most of the world’s major economies as well as the financial system bankrupt, there is only one solution that can save the world economy. Like in the Greek tragedies, Deus ex Machina is now the only way that the world can avoid a total economic collapse. This would involve God being lowered down onto the world stage and miraculously saving the plot. For those few who believe in this, may God bless them. But since this is a very unlikely solution most people will instead rely on governments and central banks to save us. But how can anyone possibly believe that totally incompetent and clueless politicians and central bankers could solve anything. They created the problem in the first place and are therefore totally unsuitable to play the role of Deus. The main objective of governments is to stay in power and thus to buy votes. Therefore they are incapable of taking the right decisions. And the opposition, aspiring to power is even less suitable since they will lie through their teeth and promise the earth in order to be elected. (We know that there are exceptions like Ron Paul, but the voters will most probably find his medicine too strong to swallow.). What about central bankers, can’t they save us? Unfortunately any sensible person who becomes a central banker loses all his senses and becomes a prisoner of the political system. So if there is no Deus ex Machina and if governments or bankers can’t rescue the world, who can and what is the solution. Let us return to the wise von Mises to look at the options available now:


Ludwig von Mises

Egan-Jones Exposes Wall Street's "Big Investment Fraud"... In 2006

Lately, the Egan-Jones credit ratings agency has experienced a lot of bad publicity from the co-opted and conflicted media, especially those in which GE has a minority stake, for no other reason than being the only organization that is in some way a part of the status quo yet dares to constantly lash out at the lies behind the scenes and expose the fraud and corruption that permeates the modern Ponzi system. Frankly, we have had it with this propaganda. Confirming that when it comes to honesty and integrity, EJ may or may not be at the front of the pack, but they sure tried to warn other about the impending systemic collapse. Presented below is an interview conducted by Kate Welling with Sean Egan back on June 30, 2006, or the absolute peak of the credit bubble frenzy, in which everything Egan said: down to the most dire prediction, has occurred. Somehow we are confident people slighted, mocked and ridiculed him then as well. He was right then. He will be right again.

How President Obama Is Rapidly Becoming A Gold Bug's Best Friend

In the latest note from the masters of the arcane at ConvergEx, Nick Colas' team looks at the historically very strong correlation between home prices (which recently hit an 8 year low: here and here) and unemployment, a foundation stone in every single QE episode as to the Chairman the only controlled variable to set the unemployment rate are average home prices, and flips it. In other words, in their Friday analysis ConvergEx try to extrapolate just by how much home prices need to rise to hit the Fed's projected unemployment rates of 8.7% in 2012 (absent the now generic labor participation rate fudge of course), 8.2% in 2013 and 7.7% in 2014. The answer is disturbing: "In order for unemployment to reach 8.7% in the Composite-10 next year (2012), home prices will have to rise by an average of 3.5%. To reach 8.2% in 2013, they will have to climb 9.4% from their current prices. For a 7.7% unemployment rate in 2014, the necessary rate of increase is 15.4%." It is disturbing because while Case Shiller predicts a 2.7% rise in 2012, we have now seen the 5th consecutive drop in home prices, and the largest sequential decline since March 2011. In other words, not only are home prices not rising, or even stabilizing, they are suddenly deteriorating at an alarming pace yet again. ConvergEx continues: "we have no doubt that the Fed knows these numbers... If it costs a QE III to get the 3.5% bump in real estate prices, or even a QE IV, then markets should not doubt that the current Federal Reserve will seriously consider it." At the end of the day, the only thing the Fed thinks it can control are asset prices for that most critical of assets: housing. And if rising home prices means diluting a few hundred billion more dollars, so be it. After all, we are now less than 12 months from the presidential election, and all bets are off. As SocGen predicted, expect to see massive monetary easing resume as soon as January when Obama realizes he needs something to go right or else he can kiss that second term good bye. Ironically, the lower the president's interim rating, the higher the price of gold will ultimately rise when all is said and done. Who would have thought that the worst president since Carter would be a gold bug's biggest friend.

Guest Post: Unleashing the Future: Advancing Prosperity Through Debt Forgiveness (Part 4)

Simply put, “productivity” is giving to the future, instead of taking from the future. Parasitism is the opposite: Borrowing from the future to fund present desires without credible connection to future healthy growth. Successful productivity requires the development of beneficial new approaches to value creation and the rigorous identification and confrontation of approaches that destroy value and that destroy the environmental, financial, social, and personal fabric of human endeavor. Debt forgiveness is initially brought into play to address the latter requirement, but cannot be viable over the long haul without affirmative new ways to create and exchange value. Given that we have the collective integrity, self-preservation instinct, human will, and the sense of necessity to confront our broken system, let’s first establish philosophical and practical corollaries to guide debt forgiveness as “giving to the future instead of taking from it”:

Hank Paulson Tipped Off The Goldman-Led "Plunge Protection Team" About Fannie Bankruptcy 7 Weeks In Advance

Today, BusinessWeek's Michael Serrill and Jonathan Neumann have released a blockbuster report based on a FOIA response by the Treasury, which proves that in America rules are only for little people, that this country has been a banana republic for years, that Animal Farm was spot on, and gives excruciating detail of how Hank Paulson tipped off a select group of Goldman diaspora hedge fund managers about the eventual failure of Fannie and Freddie 7 weeks ahead of this information becoming public knowledge. The report basically is a summary of a meeting that took place at the offices of Eton Mindich's Eton Park headquarters on July 21, 2008, 7 days after his famous '“If you have a bazooka, and people know you have it, you're not likely to take it out," speech and 7 weeks before both GSEs effectively filed for bankruptcy and were put into conservatorship. Now if it only ended there it would have been fine - a case of potential criminal collusion between the government (although nothing specific against Paulson as he didn't actually trade: he just made sure his former Goldman colleagues made money), and the 0.00001% in the face of a few multi-billionaires who most certainly did trade on material non-public information sourced by Hank. Where it however gets worse is when one considers the actual role of one Eric Mindich in the hierarchy of the Asset Managers' committee of the President's Working Group on Capital Markets, better known of course as the PPT: a topic we discussed first back in September 2009 when we asked "What Is Goldman Alum Eric Mindich's Role As Chair Of The Asset Managers' Committee Of The President's Working Group?" Back then we did not get an answer. Luckily, courtesy of a few answered FOIA requests, some real investigative journalism, and not reporting for the sake of brown-nosing just so one can get soundbites for their next name dropping "blockbuster" and straight to HBO movie, we are starting to get the full picture of just how high in US government the Goldman Sachs controlled "crony capitalist" adminsitration truly runs.

The Plot Thickens: More On The Weekly $88 Billion "Other" Outflow

Following our observations last night that there was an $88 billion swing in the weekly "other" deposit account with the Fed, some have quickly come to the fore to "debunk" our observation that this is a rather curious swing in total notional, by claiming that this can easily be explained away using cash demands at the GSE level. There are two problems with this "explanation" - i) it does not actually explain the swing, and ii) it is incomplete. As noted previously, Fannie tapped the Treasury for $7.8 billion in Q3, while the quarterly Freddie Mac injection amounted to $6.0 billion. In other words the combined $13.8 billion cash draw need (assuming a deferral to the funds flow) would almost explain the $88 billion weekly shift... if only it weren't for the other $74.2 billion, which not even fully unmatched (i.e., assuming no new issuance) weekly debt maturity and interest repayment comes close to filling the gap. Furthermore, the "Other" cumulative delta for November and the YTD period is $61.5 billion and $115 billion, respectively, which is nowhere near close to explaining the total funding needs of these entities. What may explain the delta, and what these "debunkers" have missed is the full definition of the "Deposits with Federal Reserve Banks, other than Reserve Balances: Other (WOTHLB)" from the St Louis Fed which is as follows: "Other deposits at Federal Reserve Banks include balances of international and multilateral organizations with accounts at FRBNY, such as the International Monetary Fund, United Nations, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank); the special checking account of the ESF (where deposits from monetizing SDRs would be placed); and balances of a few U.S. government agencies, such as the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." In other words, the GSEs may well be a part of last week's cash outflow package, but they certainly are not the full story, and other entities such as the IMF, the UN, the World Bank and the legendary in some circles ESF are all part of the "other" reserve "use of funds" destination. In other words, someone (presumably someone with some urgent window dressing needs), and it sure wasn't only (if at all) the GSEs, had a massive capital shortfall and had to resort to Fed deposits. And by the looks of things, these could have easily been "international" entities tasked with bailing out the world such as the IMF.

Congress Shocked To Find That Being CEO Of A Bankrupt Company Is The New Killing It

Two weeks ago we reported with sheer disgust that the outgoing CEO of bankrupt Freddie Mac, Ed Haldeman, was to pocket over $4 million for his brief two year stay at the nationalized GSE, which money was to reward him for lots of hard work collecting bail out cash from the Treasury. $21 billion to be precise. Apparently it is not easy to beg from Tim Geithner which explains the compensation for a task which is essentially supervising a financial black hole with an attached run off portfolio. Nonetheless the optics of this farce are rather unpleasant which is why we said that this is the (one of many) reason "why people in America are very, very pissed." Today Congress, which has yet to ban itself from trading on inside information, has decided to at least rectify this one sticking point, and moved forward with a "bill to block multimillion-dollar executive pay packages at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac even as their regulator defended them as necessary to retain top talent and limit taxpayer losses at the bailed-out companies." And where are they going to go: MF Global? Morgan Stanley? RBS? Jefferies? As for what new pay wil be: "The committee adopted an amendment that would use the pay scale that applies to independent financial regulators, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, which allows for higher pay than at most federal agencies. Representative Al Green, who offered the amendment, said this would have the effect of limiting the highest salaries to about $260,000 per year." While still about 3 times more than what they deserve, this is a good start. And an even better one would be to if not unwind the GSEs, then to at least recognize that their $7 trillion in debt should be counted toward the US Federal debt, as Peter Orzsag suggested once. Naturally were that to happen US total debt/GDP would be over 150%, and the bond vigilantes would suddenly be confused whether their time is not better spent on this side of the Atlantic. Yet the biggest twist in this story, is that not only are the GSEs bankrupt, but as the NYT reported earlier, the FHA itself has a "close to 50% chance of requiring a bailout." Add to that that the corporate retirement guys (PBGC) and the post office (USPS) are now effectively broke as well, and very soon being the CEO of a bankrupt company will be the new killing it.