Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I liked the new GM CEO, Fritz Henderson, as he introduced himself to investors today. The one thing I think he did that was helpful was that he embraced the possibility of bankruptcy. If I were CEO, I would use the threat of bankruptcy as leverage to try to force settlements with the various stakeholders (managers, shareholders, bond holders, UAW, etc.).
From a purely technical standpoint, it is great to see the Dow rallying today after the fall yesterday.
Former Carolina corner Ken Lucas is also in town. If he can play safety, I'd like to see him signed. But, I don't see him as an upgrade to Vasher or Graham, and he is 30 years old.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Rick Wagoner has been CEO since 2000 and he was given the Chairman of the Board title in 2003. GM's performance under his leadership has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. The only reason he has remained in charge is because his board is made up of his cronies. He is being forced out now that the government has invested so much taxpayer money into the rotting corpse that Wagoner has created. Good riddance.
But, the real issue that we need to watch in coming weeks is how the Treasury auctions go. Last week there was weak demand for 5 year Treasuries, but the 7 year notes sold fairly well. Today, investors expected the Fed to purchase billions of new notes, but the Fed only purchased $2.5 billion. This disappointed the market because it would have been a sign that the Fed was going to keep rates lower.
The only thing we can be certain about is that we are in a choppy, choppy time that is going to result in a volatile market over the next few months.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The problem with the Republican Party is that they have no leadership. Cantor is a joke. He complained about the toxic asset plan this week, calling it a "Shell Game." He sat still and giggled in agreement with a caller on C-Span who complained that Obama was a "fascist." Jeez, the guy is a bona fide idiot and he is one of the top leaders of the Republican Party.
What I really liked was that his C-Span appearance was to complain about Obama's plans that he discussed in his press conference, but Cantor did not even see the press conference. He was watching Brittany Spears prance around in pasties at her Verizon Center concert instead.
When asked about it, he said it was no big deal and that the only reason he went was because he had a political event at the concert. Riiiiiiight! What a joke!
Dennis, where do I start with your last post on the thread?
Do you know who the refiners are? BIG OIL! Refining capacity should be increased, but there is no incentive for Big Oil firms to spend a few billion dollars per refinery when all it would do is lower their profits. Look, oil companies just slap a fee over top of their costs. In the end, they make about 8 cents per dollar of gas sold. If gas costs more because oil prices are higher, that is fine with the Big Oil companies because they make more. If gas was a $1/gallon they would make 8 cents/gallon. If gas is $2/gallon they make 16 cents/gallon.
There is no possible financial incentive for oil companies to build more refineries or drill for more oil. You and I agree that it would be good to flood the market with more oil and build more refineries. The only difference in our opinion is that you seem to think Big Oil firms would actually do it when there is no possible financial gain for them to do so.
As for your unsubstatiated concern that the federal ban on offshore drilling would go into place if you fought to lift the ban on offshore drilling at the state level. That just seems like an excuse not to take action. As I have explained, there are financial reasons not to allow offshore drilling near tourist beaches - which is why you have many members of both parties against offshore drilling.
As for your suggestion that there are few oil spills that would affect beaches or coastlines - I think that is your basic proposition - it simply flies in the face of all of the evidence of dozens of spills that have happened over the last few years. I can tell you that if they started putting up oil rigs that you can see from the shores of Myrtle Beach, people would start to look elsewhere. And when that first spill actually happened - and it would happen - it would devastate the multi-billion dollar beach industry.
Finally, Obama took office with the Dow at 8000. We'll see where it is when the mid-terms hit. I have predicted multiple times that it will be at 10,000. We'll see where it is and how "anti-business" this administration is. Clearly this week Wall Street and the banking sector loved the Administration's plan to address toxic assets.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The Dow closed last Friday at 7278. Today it closed 650 points higher at at 7924. From a strictly technical standpoint, this is a very good sign. I was concerned that the gains on Monday would slowly ebb away through the week, but it looks like that has not happened. Tomorrow will probably be a day of profit-taking, but if the market gains 500 points for the week, that is a very good sign. In fact, the Dow is up about 1500 points over the low it hit a couple of weeks ago.
Where are all those ridiculous Republicans who claimed Obama was killing Wall Street? I don't see them giving him any credit (no surprise) for the big gains this week and over the last couple of weeks. These idiots are quick to criticize, but are uwilling to compliment. Politics as usual from Republicans.
I think the Dow will continue to rally over the next month by about 500 more points as details of the Obama/Geithner plan come out and Congress gets behind it - Wall Street already likes it.
That said, the longer term is still cloudy. There are signs that the economy is stabilizing and stimulus spending should help build momentum for an even more broad rally, but there is no way of knowing if we are at bottom with real estate. We also don't know if Congress will fully support the President's toxic assets plan or budget. Unemployment is still rising, so we have to hit bottom on that. I think we are looking at choppy waters over the next 6-12 months, then I think we will start to see real signs of recovery in 2010.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I'd still like to see the Bears take another lineman early in the draft, but now it is not as critical that they use their first pick to do it. Good move, and I like the way the line is starting to shape up. We have gotten significantly younger, bigger, and more athletic this offseason.
I think he is winning over Wall Street, just as he won over millions of American voters. It is clear that Wall Street liked his plan for toxic wastes this year. The housing market seems to be stabilizing and the durable goods report that came out today was surprisingly strong. Things will be choppy on the markets in coming weeks, but as things stabilize and the stimulus money starts to work its way through the economy in coming months, things will improve.
This President is measured in his tone and thoughtful in his decision-making. It is clear that he is fully engaged by the knowledge he expresses when answering questions. I have heard right wingers complaining that he is overexposed in the media (doing 60 Minutes, the Leno show, etc.). That is nonsense. Obama's strength is is ability to communicate and connect with people - that is how he beat Hillary and then McCain. He needs to continue to do what he does best - communicate - because it is helping him keep his approval ratings in the 60s.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
On March 11, I posted basic facts about the plan that was announced yesterday and predicted that it would send the market sharply higher (1200 points) over the month following the announcement.
What is clear is that Wall Street likes the plan. It is encouraging that a day after yesterday's big rally, that the market has held its ground. Things will remain choppy, but I like the plan and think it offers a real chance for fixing much of what is ailing the banking sector. It is a private sector/market-based solution that has a very clear set of advantages for investors, banks, taxpayers, and the government. Certainly if investors don't bid on the toxic assets, banks choose not to accept auction bids, Congress changes the plan, etc. the plan could be derailed. But, things appear to be stabilizing and the plan could help open up credit flows and get the economy moving again.
My prediction still stands. Yesterday the Dow opened at 7280. By April 23, we will see the Dow rise by 1200 points. That would put the Dow at about 8500. Obama took office with the Dow at about 8000.
I just read that in 2006, when the Bears ended the season in the Super Bowl, they started on the road in Green Bay. The Steelers were the defending champs and the Super Bowl that year was in Miami. It is in Miami this upcoming year.
All NFC competition should just quit now. The Bears will be NFC champs again. And, they will cap off the year with a destruction of whoever comes out of the AFC.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The original Bush/Paulson plan was to take the $700 billion TARP money and buy up bad assets. But this quickly was abandoned because there are far more than $700 billion in bad assets and the prior administration could find no way to set a price for the toxic assets. Buying the bad assets would also have just removed any moral hazard the banks faced and rewarded them without penalty, when it was their fault the crisis happened in the first place.
The Obama/Geithner plan that has been in the works over the last several weeks is a very strong, market-based solution to the vexing problems faced by our large banks. Banks will be allowed to put their toxic assets up for auction. The government will run the auction and allow private investors (only pre-qualified fund managers who have a history of success) to bid on these assets. The market will set the price - not the government. The banks will be able to remove the bad assets. The government will provide funding and insurance for much of the deal (which makes it attractive for investors), and if the assets increase in value taxpayers will benefit.
Let me do this by example. Let's say there is a $1 billion toxic asset a bank wants to dispose of. It goes to auction and private investors bid up to $700M to buy the asset. The bank takes a $300M loss and removes the otherwise illiquid asset from their books. The investor has to come up with $650M and $50M comes out of the TARP. The FDIC insures $600M for a fee. Most of the risk falls on the taxpayer - if the asset fails the government (i.e., taxpayers) could lose $650M. But this is highly unlikely. These are savvy investors who won't purchase assets unless they can see a way to get a profit. They are not going to want to take a $50M loss. There is no way for private investors to scam the system and make out big while taxpayers lose. As the asset gains value, the government will be a 50-50 equity partner. So any profit will be divided equally.
What is clear is that Wall Street loves the plan. It brings certainty to a highly volatile and uncertain banking sector. The question now is will investors bid in the auction process, and/or will Congress find a way to muck it up?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Now that the Dow is up 14 percent (939 points) in the last week, where are those same Republicans?
Here is the bottom line, no one should make policy decisions based on a few days on the Dow. We'll see if the stimulus plan and the President's policies improve our economic situation. This is going to be a period of months and even years before we should expect to see how things turn out.
That said, I have predicted and will continue to predict that in 20 months we will be looking at a stabilized economy and the Dow will be around 10,000. If that happens the Republicans will get wiped out in the mid-term elections.
Right tackle John Tait retired and St. Clair is gone, so both tackles from last year are gone. Obviously, Chris Williams will take over at left tackle and should be an upgrade. But with the loss of St. Clair, I would be surprised, and disappointed, if the Bears did not draft someone to take over at right tackle.
I like St. Clair - he is a UVA guy and a solid guy - but Cleveland offered him $9M over three years. The Bears offered him $4M over three years. I don't think he is a $9M player, but I wish him well.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
People are rightfully outraged when they see that the firm gave its executives tens of millions in bonuses - why should executives who drove a company into the ground be rewarded at all? That is a great question, and the Obama Administration has to unwind legal contractual obligations that required the firm to pay these bonuses.
Most Americans don't understand the role AIG plays in the whole global economic meltdown. AIG issued out hundreds of billions of dollars in credit default swaps (CDS) on a wide variety of corporate bonds, hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, etc. CDS are a major reason we have had the meltdown. They are essentially unregulated insurance contracts that the issuers (like AIG) never expected to pay out. However, as the economy has failed, firms have had to pay out CDS at an increasing rate.
There are literally $60 trillion CDS contracts on $9 trillion in mortgage backed securities. To put this in perspective the world's GDP is about $55 trillion - that is how much the value of all goods and services sold throughout the world is in a year. To buy up every bad mortgage that is in default or soon to be in default in the U.S. would cost less than $1 trillion. But these CDS contracts swamp them all. They turned a couple of hundred billion in bad loans into literally a multi-trillion problem that is crushing the financial sector.
The Bush Administration decided that AIG was an important firewall to contain the damage worldwide - the firm has insured large banks, financial firms, hedge funds, and private investors all around the world. Like it or not, keeping AIG afloat allows a whole host of other companies to remain afloat. I understand the rationale, but I still don't agree with it. The Obama Administration inherited many of the contractual obligations to executives that Bush and Paulson put in place. It is up to Obama to unwind those obligations. If he does not, he is the one who will face the wrath of angry taxpayers - and rightfully so.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I'd like to see Jeff Capel (although he is a Duke guy), or Tubby Smith come in. If they cannot attract one of those guys, I'd like to see the VCU coach interviewed.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I think this is a "Borat-styled" hoax that is going to end up a "documentary." Casey Affleck is following Joaquin around with a camera getting it all on film. Just watch, Joaquin will shave the beard and do a movie with M. Night Shyamalan soon enough.
I was thinking about this last night and find it just remarkable how many excuses the Republicans have for their incompetence and how hypocritical they are. I'll start by saying if the economy is not improving in 20 months, I will blame Obama and Dems - they are in charge.
Many Republicans are blaming Obama for the current economic mess - he has been in office for 50 days and they think he is responsible. On the face of it is ridiculous. But what makes this argument even more stupid is how hypocritical it is. Bush had been in office for more than 7 months when 9/11 happened - but these same folks who are now blaming Obama all blamed Clinton for 9/11.
Until the Republicans grow up, take some responsibility, stop being so childish and calling everything Obama does "socialism", and develop coherent policies of their own, they will find themselves lost in the wilderness.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is truly an idiot and Chris Mathews closes well in this clip.
The solution that is emerging seems very reasonable to me. It is based on trying to bring private investors back into the fold. The problem has always been how to price the toxic assets. Former Treasury Secretary could not figure out how to price them, but Obama's team seems to be coming up with a solid market approach to the problem.
They are going to have private investors bid on funds that are created to hold these toxic assets. Investors will be allowed to borrow up to 90 percent of their bid from the Federal Reserve. Obviously, investors are going to bid on the assets at pennies on the dollar, so banks will still lose money but they will have a way to dispose of the otherwise worthless assets on their balance sheets. It is good that banks will still have to deal with the moral hazard of making bad bets. If the asset fails, the government loses and the investor loses. If the asset value recovers, the investor will make money and pay back the government. Taxpayers will end up making money.
Most of the toxic assets are tied to the real estate market. If the market stabilizes and starts to grow, there is a better chance that these funds will end up making money. There is still risk for the taxpayers, but this is a market-based solution that very well could work. Certainly, it is a much better solution than anything that has been in place since the crisis hit.
If Wall Street like the plan, we will see the market roar back. I suspect that if they can work out all of the kinks, they will announce the plan in the next 2-3 weeks. Within a month, we will see the Dow Jones Industrial Average rise by at least 1200 points. It will be a great time to invest.
The Bears signed free safety Josh Bullocks formerly of New Orleans. The guy played at Nebraska, but only started 6 games last year for New Orleans. Given how bad the New Orleans secondary was last year, not too comforting. Still, he is only 26 and he was a former 2nd round pick. Maybe he can rejuvenate his career, and he was cheap.
These moves are not likely to make much difference, but we will see.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Over the next 6 months, I expect we will start to hear more and more good news about housing prices rising. In about 6-12 months we will start to see new home construction start to pick up. As those two things happen (if they happen), there will be greater confidence in the fundamentals of the economy and we will see construction jobs increase.
The economic stimulus package will also kick in new construction projects as roads, bridges, schools, energy infrastructure, etc. get rolling. I am hopeful and cautiously confident that as we move into 2010, the economy will really be showing signs of roaring back. Thanks in large part to Obama's economic plans.
I also like the emerging plan that is coming out of the Obama administration regarding how to handle the troubled assets that are killing many banks. But, I'll post more on that later today or tomorrow.
Monday, March 09, 2009
I have been a vocal critic of the TARP (i.e., bank bailout). I understand the idea behind the AIG bailout and the bailout for GM and Chrysler, but I have been and continue to be against them. However, I do believe in the economic stimulus package and direction that Obama is going.
People who understand what happened in the Great Depression know that when private sector spending collapsed and unemployment rose to 25 percent, it was government spending that stabilized the unemployment rate. Those who say WWII spending is what brought us out of the Great Depression fail to realize that by that time unemployment had already fallen 11 percent (to 14 percent) and that WWII spending was Keynsian economics on steroids - that is, the government spent money it did not have to build up the U.S. war production. It wasn't private sector growth that funded WWII - that lagged behind government spending.
All that said, for the first time in years, I am starting to see a glimmer of hope. The Dow and real estate market have collapsed, but they seem to be bottoming out. I can see that buyers are returning to the real estate market. In 20 months, Obama's economic policies will be vindicated and Republicans will lose even more ground. More stats and data will be forthcoming over the next week to support my contention. Stay tuned.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Steele has been an utter embarrassment. His use of terms such as "bling-bling," "slumlove," "keepin' it real," etc. have been ridiculous. On top of that, he has attacked Rush Limbaugh unnecessarily - although I think the Republican Party would do well to steer clear of Rush and his ideas.
I'd say he is getting close to resigning, but it is not clear who would be better for the Republicans - that is how disorganized and splintered the Republican Party has become.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Steele apologized to Rush and there are plenty of elected Republican figures who fell over backward to say they agreed with Rush. It is peculiar in my opinion. Frankly, Rush is an entertainer and he has a major following. However, the way Republicans bow down to this guy and take it in the rear from him is just a joke. Rush plays to the Republican base, but his negatives are through the roof with Dems and Independents. If the Republican Party wants to ever be a "big tent" party and it wants to actually win a national election, it has to broaden its appeal. Giving Rush even more power within the Party just ensures that the Republican Party remains narrow and small.
While it may be bad for the RNC and the GOP in general, it is brilliant for Rush. He has financial incentives to build his following of "ditto heads." This fat, drug-addicted, philandering (married three times) dude has become the de facto leader of the Republican Party. The hypocrisy of the way he lives his life relative to the Christian values he espouses and supposedly represents is a joke, and I am sure Rush is laughing all the way to the bank. Good for him.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Adam Schefter has a good summary of what they did on their O-line. It is not a miracle that Pennington played well last year. He had an O-line that knows how to block and open holes for the running attack. That makes his job easier.
I'd like to see the Bears re-sign John St. Clair and then use the 18th pick to draft O-line help - preferably someone who could play right tackle.
I hear Republicans crying about Obama's 2010 budget proposal. They would rather just sit back and do nothing (which I assume because they don't offer any new solutions). It is remarkable because they are taking the Herbert Hoover approach as the second Great Depression is taking hold of the nation. Hoover chose to do nothing and all the shanty towns that sprung up around the country became knows as "Hoovervilles."
What should be clear is that there is a global economic meltdown and as a result money is not flowing. This is the time that government needs to flex its muscle and try to pick up spending where the private sector is leaving off.
I love that Obama is talking big and bold, and I appreciate that he has taken on the economic challenges full force. He is pushing his agenda aggressively and will take ownership of the economy. We don't know what will happen, but if the economy improves he will be the beneficiary.
We are getting near an economic bottom. The stock market and real estate market have tumbled, but they cannot fall forever. For the first time in years, I am beginning to feel that they are hitting bottom and will be poised to rise in the next few months. I just hope Obama does not give in on letting the Bush tax cuts expire on those making more than $250K, and I would like to see a significant reduction in the defense budget toward other American infrastructure priorities. If you want to find the definition of government waste, look at how much waste there is in defense contracts over the last 8 years.
The Bears are also talking to Darren Sharper about becoming the starting safety. He has got a couple of years left. I'd like to see that type of veteran leadership in the locker room.
The only reason Cutler is a possibility is that I think Denver really botched the relationship by talking trade. I suspect Cutler will be the starting QB in Denver and will just have to get over his hurt feelings. But, I hope Jerry Angelo (Bears GM) is on the phone trying to make it happen.