Subscribe: RSS Feed | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Home | Contact Us

Archive for the ‘Economic Stimulus’ Category

“Nobody Has Ever Seen This Market”

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 12th, 2009 8:22 AM |

“I’ve seen this market before” is a very commonly used phrase by Wall Street professionals to compare and contrast different periods.

For example, when the Treasury yield curve is steepening or flattening, many market pros will project what will happen in different segments of the market based on discounting cash flows under the steepening or flattening scenario. Similarly, when credit spreads are in a widening or tightening trend, market pros will project how higher or lower rated investments will typically behave.

These projections are all based upon prior experience. The pros are utilizing a combination of market fundamentals along with investor sentiment to make forecasts. They will overlay their current forecasts against similar trends during prior cycles. Not that markets are ever perfectly symmetrical, but ‘having seen a market before’ is often a strong indicator of current and future price action.

Against this backdrop and given the challenging nature of the current market price action, I would challenge any market analyst or pundit who would utilize a similar approach today.

The simple fact is, ‘nobody has ever seen this market before.’ Why? Because this market has never transpired previously. Certainly, we have seen bull markets. We have seen low interest rate markets. We have seen accomodative Fed policy. We have seen bubbles. All that said, we have never seen a market in which global cross currents combined with ongoing fiscal stimulus have impacted markets to this extent.

In fact, I think one could make the case that the market is doing better as large parts of our domestic economy and the global economy are actually doing worse. While traditional schools of thought would view that correlation as perverse, the economic strains are compelling global governments to keep stimulus programs in place.

What is the result? A rallying market with increasing potential that the market develops into a blowoff. The irrationally positive nature of a blowoff is akin to a wholesale dumping of securities in a selloff.

Keep your head and stick to disciplined investing. Respect the price action, but do not get overly enamored with those analysts telling you what will happen . . . because ‘nobody has ever seen this market.’


Second Stimulus Speculation Submarining Bonds and Supporting Gold

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 3rd, 2009 3:09 PM |

What are the biggest stories in the market today? Consider the following . . .

1. Warren Buffett makes his single largest acquisition ever with the $34 billion purchase of Burlington Northern

2. Ford posts surprisingly strong auto sales

3. Royal Bank of Scotland becomes the biggest banking bailout yet with another injection of capital

4. Johnson & Johnson announces plans to layoff 7% of its global workforce

Each of these developments is truly meaningful. Interestingly enough, numbers one and two are decidedly constructive while numbers three and four are clearly quite bearish about global prospects. Despite the magnitude of these stories, in my opinion, they pale in comparison to developments in the precious metals and bond markets today. What is happening? Let’s navigate.

The Treasury yield curve is steepening dramatically today with yields on longer term notes and bonds rising by 6 to 8 basis points, while shorter maturities are unchanged. A snapshot of the Treasury market is provided by WSJ Market Data.

Why is the curve steepening? What does that mean? What are the implications for other markets? All great questions. Let’s navigate further. (more…)

‘Cash for Clunkers’ Comments and Questions

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 31st, 2009 2:51 PM |

Uncle Sam just spent $1 billion via the “Cash for Clunkers” program over a 4 day time frame. Given the speed of that burn rate, The Wall Street Journal reports, House Votes to Extend ‘Clunkers’ Program.

A few questions and comments:

1. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is overseeing the disbursement of these funds. Think there may be a chance of some kickbacks or fraud going on here? Who is checking?

2. Assuming the average list price of the fuel efficient vehicles being sold is $20k, the subsidy of upwards of $4500 is approximately a 20% discount. Is this a true reflection of latent demand or partially a reflection of consumers responding to a gift?

3. What does this program do to the used car market? If I am in the market for a used car, my bid just went down at least 10% if not more.

4. How does this program affect the less fuel efficient car market? Does it strip demand away from that segment?

5. If there is such demand for the Cash for Clunkers program, should there be further restrictions on who may be able to benefit from this program going forward?

6. Given the speed with which the initial $1 billion was utilized, do you think there is a chance car dealers are working other deals with customers?

Not to be overly cynical, but as an industry car dealers do not exactly enjoy the best reputation. As such, while Congress can approve more funds, I would like to see a thorough audit of this program prior to the actual allocation of those funds.

Thoughts and comments welcome.


Goldilocks Economy

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 8th, 2009 1:15 PM |

Will the wizards in Washington be able to recreate the Goldilocks economy, in which we can generate moderate growth with limited inflation and near full employment? Well, that economic dream is still off in the distance, but the Goldilocks analogy is appropriate. How’s that? Much like the cherished tale, the wizards are faced with three choices in virtually every situation: too much, too little, just right.

Fiscal policy
 – too much spending and/or improperly targeted spending will drive interest rates higher via massive deficits and potential hyperinflation.

 – too little spending and/or improperly targeted will not properly stimulate the economy and may lead to a bout of deflation.

 – just the right amount of spending and properly targeted will support the economy and stabilize prices.

Monetary Policy
 – too much gas on this fire will massively grow the money supply and lead to hyperinflation.

 – not enough gas or a slow delivery (the concern in Europe) will not stop the economy from sliding into a deeper recession.

 – just right will lead to support for the economy. However, our wizards must be prescient and know exactly when to turn the gas line down and then off. If this procedure is not executed with precision, our house may go up in the flames of hyperinflation. Many wise and elderly wizards, including none other than Paul Volcker, have this concern.

 – overly restrictive regulations will inhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and drive business overseas.

 – ineffective, inappropriate, or insufficient regulations will lead to further moral hazards and an economic foundation akin to a pile of sand. Dare I say, our house is suffering from this problem currently.

 – just right would compel new regulators with real teeth to redraft the rules by which we play. Paul Krugman wrote “Stressing The Positive” in yesterday’s New York Time and addressed this topic. Krugman offers:

. . . what worries me most about the way policy is going isn’t any of these things. It’s my sense that the prospects for fundamental financial reform are fading.

Does anyone remember the case of H. Rodgin Cohen, a prominent New York lawyer whom The Times has described as a “Wall Street éminence grise”? He briefly made the news in March when he reportedly withdrew his name after being considered a top pick for deputy Treasury secretary.

Well, earlier this week, Mr. Cohen told an audience that the future of Wall Street won’t be very different from its recent past, declaring, “I am far from convinced there was something inherently wrong with the system.” Hey, that little thing about causing the worst global slump since the Great Depression? Never mind.

Those are frightening words. They suggest that while the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration continue to insist that they’re committed to tighter financial regulation and greater oversight, Wall Street insiders are taking the mildness of bank policy so far as a sign that they’ll soon be able to go back to playing the same games as before.

Uncle Sam’s intervention
 – too much involvement means private enterprise will either not play in our markets or charge a higher price in the form of higher interest rates (this is VERY likely to happen given the disregard for property rights and the validity of contracts).

 – too little and the economy may take another leg down in the form of a triple dip.

 – just right . . . how do we compel Uncle Sam to be a benevolent Old Man and not encroach on the principles of capitalism, free markets, and private enterprise as he tries to push forward with a massive social agenda and enormous spending plans?

The trail on which we are proceeding will be LONG. Will we be able to find that warm home in the woods? Do we have the fortitude and courage to sacrifice as need be or do we have leaders who are blinded by ambition and agendas which will cause us to lose our way?

Bring extra supplies.   


Good News and Bad News: The Plot Thickens

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 13th, 2009 6:39 PM |

It seems as if Wall Street banks are releasing “surprisingly positive” earnings in stealth fashion these days. Goldman Sachs was expected to release 1st quarter 2009 earnings tomorrow. Well, Goldman just released that they “blew the doors off” the building in a very explosive and positive fashion. Bloomberg reports Goldman Sachs to Sell $5 Billion in Stock, Repay TARP:

The New York-based bank earned $1.81 billion, or $3.39 a share, in the first quarter as a surge in trading revenue outweighed asset writedowns. The results beat the $1.64 a share estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The earnings were driven by a sizable increase in trading activity which reads as a major gain in market share. With Bear, Lehman, and Merrill all gone and Citi and BofA in the hospital, the crowd at Goldman is sowing while the sun shines. What does that mean? For those who want or need to “play,” Goldman is now one of the few shops truly open for biz. The price to “get in the game” just went up and Goldman’s franchise is clearly benefiting:

Goldman Sachs benefited as the gap between what banks pay to buy fixed-income securities and the price at which they sell, the so-called bid-ask spread, almost doubled to 19 basis points in six months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Over and above the earnings, Goldman has sent a clear signal to Uncle Sam requesting him to leave the Goldman “casino.” With Goldman’s earnings power clearly defined, the firm has announced its intention to raise more equity capital and pay back the TARP money it received last Fall. It will make that equity raise after the release of the Bank Stress Tests at the end of the month. Uncle Sam’s intentions to oversee compensation, business practices, and the like is the antithesis of how Goldman operates. While the actual cost of the government TARP money is cheap, the unknown costs are enormous. Goldman has no interest in maintaining those risks.    (more…)

“Beholden to Failed Banksters”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 9th, 2009 3:56 PM |

Any investor or manager with a degree of experience knows that the “first loss is the best loss.” What do I mean by that? Once the market detects a loss or a weakened position, the price for that asset will remain capped unless and until the asset is sold or liquidated. This price action occurs in every sector of every market.

Welcome to the world of global finance 2009. As banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, and other financial entities deal with losses, we see a lack of aggressive posture being taken on dealing with these losses. Why? Once moral hazard is violated with a single entity, every other entity will look to violate it as well.

Immediate losses are forestalled in hopes that they will be covered or disguised. However, every loss ultimately must be recognized. By whom  and how is the question.

At this juncture, more of the losses in our financial system are being directed toward the taxpayers. How? Via the wide array of government programs. What is the cost? A likely underperforming economy due to a lack of credit, and higher taxes to offset lower revenues.  (more…)

Things You May Have Missed

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 7th, 2009 10:08 AM |

The stream of data and market moving news is non-stop. I found these items of interest and look to share them with you as I believe they provide interesting insights and perspectives from around the world. I beg your indulgence if some of these items are not news to you, but if they are I hope they help you “navigate the economic landscape.”

1. Australia’s central bank cut its overnight lending rate to 3%, the lowest level in 49 years. While that rate is one of the highest rates in the developed world, it was widely expected to be left unchanged.  Australia has had one of the strongest economies in the world. This cut is an indication the Australian central bank believes their economy is slipping into a recession.

2. Japan’s exports are reported to be down 40% versus a year ago. Additionally, Japan’s industrial production is reported to be down 30+% during the same time period. These economic figures are significantly weaker than most other developed economies. As a frame of reference, most other developed economies’ industrial production is down 10-15%. Clearly, Japan is so dependent on exports and it is now paying the price of not having more fully diversified its economic foundation.

3. Gold is now trading near $880/oz. A month ago this precious metal was trading slightly above $1000/oz. Why is gold down recently? Coming out of the G-20, there are expectations that the IMF may sell some gold reserves to raise funds for low-income countries. I commented the other day that gold is not perfectly correlated with inflation due to changing fundamentals and technical variables in the gold market. This development with the IMF is a perfect case in point of my assertion. (more…)

In 30 Minutes, Join NoQuarter Radio’s “Sense on Cents with Larry Doyle”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 5th, 2009 7:30 PM |

Join me from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET on NoQuarter Radio for Sense on Cents with Larry Doyle. These are truly historic times in the global economy. Let’s “navigate the economic landscape” without the pandering or nonsense found elsewhere! With the stock market near 12 year lows, what is driving the flows? What is truly going on in the economy? Where are markets headed? What came out of the G-20? What is happening in Washington and how is that impacting Wall Street? So much to cover.

Tonight I will be speaking with Phil Trupp, a journalist/author with more than 30 years of professional experience writing for several prestigious newspapers and magazines in the world. Over the years, his investigative reporting and columns have led to congressional hearings on coal mine safety, corruption in the trucking industry, poverty in America, environmental hazards, and global warming, among other controversial issues. Trupp’s financial journalism background includes a seven-year stint as Washington correspondent and assistant bureau chief for Fairchild Publications, and as a reporter at the Washington Evening Star.

Phil Trupp is currently writing MONEY ON ICE: How Ordinary Investors Beat the Biggest Fraud in Wall Street History.  It is an exposure of the Auction Rate Securities scandal in which 146,000 investors have been bilked out of $336 billion.

 The developments in the markets, economy, global finance, Wall Street, and Washington are occurring at breakneck speed. I will try to slow things down a bit and provide a sense of perspective. What did we learn in the markets over the last week and month and what do they mean for the weeks and months ahead? What is happening overseas and how does that impact us here at home? What is happening in the municipal sector and how will that impact the markets and our personal finances?

Tea Is Served

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 4th, 2009 4:45 PM |

I strongly believe Congress and the Obama administration know that the American public has no appetite for further government bailouts. This public demeanor presents a challenge for a government that has gotten used to writing big checks for Wall Street, the Stimulus, and automotive companies. 

What is the federal government to do for municipalities, insurance companies, commercial real estate companies, or others who may go bankrupt?

Secretary Geithner has laid the groundwork for government takeover of institutions deemed to present systemic risk. How that power is effected or implemented will be very interesting. (more…)

Remaining on Guard…

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 4th, 2009 10:07 AM |

I much prefer a rallying stock market, but I am not a day trader trying to catch moves for quick flips. I look for changes in economic fundamentals (incorporating both private sector and public sector inputs), assess those changes with market technicals (overbought and oversold conditions), and position myself accordingly.

The big wild card in current analysis is the impact of public sector inputs. Many of the maneuvers utilized by the Treasury and Federal Reserve have never been used prior to this economic downturn. Are they working? To what extent? What are the unintended consequences? What is the time delay from implementing a program to measuring its impact on the economy? These questions are the topics of protracted discussions by economists, bankers, analysts, and money managers around the globe. I’d also like to address them here at Sense on Cents.

My market instincts tell me that programs injecting trillions of dollars across wide swaths of the market are not without costs. These costs in the form of “crowding out“, distorted competition, changed behaviors (AIG undercutting insurance rates), moral hazards, and inflation are very real. The challenge is assessing the risks of these long term costs versus the necessity of providing sufficient capital and liquidity backstops to support the economy.  (more…)

Recent Posts