Posted tagged ‘wall street’

Surprising Economic News

October 28, 2009

Consumer confidence falls to a 26-year low.

 New home sales fall in September.

 What’s that? You aren’t surprised? Yeah, me neither. But, apparently, these things were surprising to “economists” according to the linked articles.

 Further proof that Wall Street is completely disconnected from reality.

 Further proof that Keynesian economics is flat wrong (bet they weren’t surprised at the Mises Institute).

 Further proof that the sleeping giant is awakening – that the people are not believing what they hear about “green shoots”, “recession is over” and “jobless recovery” from politicians and pundits.

 The basic rules of economics are kind of like the laws of physics. No matter how much some “expert” might agrue otherwise, you cannot get rid of gravity by throwing things up in the air.

Audit the Fed Update: Kohn Warns Congress on Meddling in Fed Affairs

July 13, 2009

rop_paul_jediGreat post from Mike “Mish” Shedlock:

The Empire Strikes Back – Kohn Warns Congress on Meddling in Fed’s Affairs

Our hero, Ron “Skywalker” Paul, has managed to gather sufficient support to overthrow the Evil Empire widely known as the Fed.

In a brazen attempt to beat back our hero, the Empire has taken its case directly to Congress, seeking more power to rape and pillage the populace under cloak of secrecy.

The Washington Post picks up the story in Sith Lord Kohn warns Congress on meddling in the Empire’s affairs.

The Federal Reserve Evil Empire on Thursday launched a robust defense of its independence and warned that efforts in Congress to put monetary policy under political sway would hurt the economy Empire.

Fed Vice Chairman Sith Master Donald Kohn said opening up some of the U.S. central bank’s most sensitive decisions to political scrutiny could result in higher long-term interest rates and hurt the United States’ credit rating discrimination against the Sith Lords.

Testifying before a congressional panel, Kohn sought to beat back a proposed bill that would open the U.S. central bank’s policy decisions to audits by a federal an Ewok watchdog agency. More than half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives Ewoks have signed as co-sponsors of the measure.

“Any substantial erosion of the Federal Reserve’s Empire’s monetary independence likely would lead to higher long-term interest rates as investors begin to fear future inflation,” Kohn told a House the Ewok subcommittee.

Kohn’s testimony comes as Congress debates President Sith Lord Barack Obama’s plan for regulatory reform, which envisions the Fed Evil Empire taking on an expanded role monitoring risks across the entire financial system to help ward off future financial crises.

The proposal has boosted calls for greater accountability at the central bank, which already faces heavy scrutiny from lawmakers troubled by its role in bailing out Wall Street.

Kohn said blatantly lied while stating the administration’s plan would not greatly expand the Fed’s Empire’s power, and said it would work hand-in-glove with monetary policy, not compromise it as some critics contend.

Fed Empire officials have had to endure rigorous congressional Ewok grillings over their aggressive actions to restore financial calm squash the noble rebellion. Their e-mails have been subpoenaed, recalling past episodes when the central bank came under attack and was forced to yield to the political will.

The proposed bill, put forward by Ron “Skywalker” Paul, a Texas Republican Jedi Knight and long-standing Fed Evil Empire foe, would expose decisions on monetary policy and emergency lending to audits by the Government Ewok Accountability Office.

The GAO EAO is currently prohibited from auditing these areas. Sith Master Kohn said removing this exclusion would be highly detrimental to the Evil Empire and could lead investors to worry that politics — not economics — sanity would guide the Fed’s Empire’s decisions.

Skywalker Paul’s bill has 250 co-sponsors, including 78 Democrats Ewoks. But it has not been promoted by the Democratic Ewok majority leadership in the House, where it has yet to face even a committee-level vote thanks to Ewok traitor Barney “Benedict” Frank.

The Dark Lord, Ben “Vader” Bernanke, head of the Evil Empire, could not be reached for comment.

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Peter Schiff on Relaxing Mark-to-Market: Let’s Play Pretend!

April 5, 2009

Let’s Play Pretend!
by Peter Schiff

When elementary school kids want to escape the confines of their circumstances they pretend to be pirates, princesses, and Jedi knights. Now, with the relaxation of “mark to market” valuation rules announced yesterday by the accounting trade’s self-regulatory body, our bankrupt financial institutions can escape their own reality by pretending to be solvent. The unraveling of our fairytale economy over the last few months has not yet convinced us that the time has come to put away childish things. The applause that greeted the news yesterday on Wall Street is a clear sign that we still have some growing up to do.

The imaginative conceit that lies behind the accounting change is that the toxic assets polluting bank balance sheets are not really toxic at all. They are in fact highly valuable assets that for some irrational reason no one wants to buy.

Using the “mark to market” accounting method, mortgage-backed securities were valued relative to the latest prices fetched by the sale of similar assets on the open market. Currently, those bonds are being sold at deep discounts to their original value. By “marking” their unsold bonds down to those prices, the insolvency of our financial institutions had been laid bare. The new accounting changes will allow the nervous owners to assign more “appropriate” (i.e. higher) values. Problem solved.

It is important to note that the Financial Accounting Standards Board made their rule modifications only after intense pressure had been applied by Washington and Wall Street. In their heart of hearts, I can’t imagine that there are too many bean counters happy with the outcome.

The banks and the government have argued that the assets should be valued based solely on current cash flow. Most mortgages, after all, are not delinquent. Therefore, a few bad apples should not spoil the whole cart, and those that are not yet delinquent should be valued at par. This method assumes we have no ability to look into the future and make assumptions about what is likely to happen, which is presumably what the market is already doing by valuing the assets lower than the banks wish.

All kinds of bonds (corporate, government and municipal, etc.) that are not in default frequently trade at discounts. In fact, the reason that agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s rate bonds is to assess the probability of default. The higher that probability, the lower the value placed on the bonds, regardless of their current cash flow.

For example, GM bonds that mature 10 years from now currently trade for only 8 to 10 cents on the dollar, despite the fact that GM is current on all interest payments. The 90% discount reflects investor awareness that GM will likely default long before the bonds mature. By the new logic, financial institutions with GM bonds on their balance sheets should be able to ignore the market and value these bonds at par.

Some argue that the comparison is invalid because GM’s bonds are liquid while mortgage-backed securities are not. However, if sellers of GM bonds were holding out for 70 or 80 cents on the dollar, those bonds would be illiquid too. The reason GM bonds are trading is that sellers are realistic.

The same should apply to bonds backed by mortgages. To assume that a 30-year, $500,000 mortgage on a house that has declined in value to $300,000 has a high probability of remaining current to maturity is ridiculous. The borrower could lose his job, his ARM might reset higher, or he may simply tire of paying an expensive mortgage for a house that is unlikely to be sold at a profit. Any bond investor with half a brain will factor in these probabilities and look for deep discounts. The only way to accurately assess a real present value is to let the market discover the price.

Despite the pleas from bankers and politicians, mortgages are not plagued by a lack of liquidity but a lack of value. If sellers would be more negotiable, there would be plenty of liquidity. Who knows, at the right price I might even buy a few. The problem is that putting a market price on these assets would render most financial institutions insolvent, which is precisely why they do not want to let that happen.

Simply pretending that all these mortgages will be repaid does not solve the underlying problems. It may keep some banks alive longer, but when they ultimately do fail, the losses will be that much greater. In the meantime, solvent institutions are deprived of capital as more funds are funneled into insolvent “too big to fail” institutions – hiding their toxic assets behind rosy assumptions and phony marks.

Going from the sublime to the completely ridiculous, in a speech at the just-concluded G20 summit in London, President Obama urged Americans not to let their fears crimp their spending. It would be unwise, he argued, for Americans to let the fear of job loss, lack of savings, unpaid bills, credit card debt or student loans deter them from making major purchases. According to the president, “we must spend now as an investment for the future.” So in this land of imagination (where subprime mortgages are valued at par), instead of saving for the future, we must spend for the future.

I guess Ben Franklin had it wrong too – apparently a penny spent is a penny earned.

 

April 5, 2009

Peter Schiff is president of Euro Pacific Capital and author of The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets and Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse.

Copyright © 2009 Euro Pacific Capital

Stock Decline Hits Depression Levels

February 22, 2009

From BusinessWeek:

During the darkest 10 years of the Great Depression, from September 1929 to September 1939, the stock market dropped roughly 50%, adjusted for inflation. With today’s drop in the stock market, the U.S. has now matched that unfortunate milestone. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, adjusted for inflation, is now down about 50% over the past 10 years from Feb. 17, 1999 to Feb. 17, 2009.

Other assets have done much better over the same period. For example, a nice safe investment in six-month certificates of deposit would have yielded a real total return of roughly 12% over the past 10 years. And despite the recent real estate bust, residential home values in the largest cities, adjusted for inflation, actually increased by about 30% over the past decade.

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$700 Billion is Nothing

December 27, 2008