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Posts Tagged ‘shadow banking system’

Let’s Revisit Whether the Market is Being Manipulated

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 22nd, 2010 9:52 AM |

Is the stock market being manipulated?

I can not count the number of times I have been asked that question over the last 9 months. Rather than my offering personal opinions which market pundits may view as sour grapes or worse, I want to revisit a ten-minute segment of my interview last evening with Phil Davis.

The segment runs from 29:45 until 40:00 (audio player provided below). If you do nothing else today, please listen to this dialogue between Phil and myself. Neither of us goes into this conversation with agendas or preconceived notions in an attempt to score points. I will offer an edited version here. I think you will find the information, thoughts, and opinions offered to be enlightening. (more…)

When Will Our Economy Return to Normal?

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 8th, 2010 8:18 AM |

The question most asked in economic circles is, “How and when will our economy return to normal?” My response is always, “What is normal?”

I find it most impactful to explain to people looking to gain a greater understanding of our economy and our markets that the normal economy of the late ’90s through 2007 was driven by the shadow banking system. This shadow banking system provided upwards of 40-45% of the total credit employed by our economy.

The shadow banking system incorporated the credit origination, securitization, and distribution businesses of Wall Street investment banks as opposed to the traditional lines of credit provided by commercial banking activities.

The crisis on Wall Street 2008 brought this shadow banking system to a virtual standstill. While it has begun to resuscitate itself, it remains a mere shadow (no pun intended) of its former self. What is the result? (more…)

2009 Market Review

Posted by Larry Doyle on January 2nd, 2010 11:34 AM |


More than any period of the last thirty years, I think it is imperative to view the global economy and market prospects with a longer time horizon. Those in Washington and on Wall Street have never displayed the discipline nor the inclination to truly take this approach. I strongly encourage those reading Sense on Cents to view your personal situation and that of our global economy and market with a longer time horizon. Why?

I personally believe our global economy remains in the relatively early stages of a significant fundamental shift. Recall that the shadow banking system provided 40-45% of the credit to our domestic economy. That shadow banking system remains a mere shadow of itself. Pardon the pun.

Try as he might, Uncle Sam can not fill that credit void forever. Credit demand and credit supply remain overwhelmed by the mountain of debts at the federal, municipal, and personal levels. The bad debt embedded in toxic assets on Wall Street also remains. While selected segments of our private market can and will grow, the economy as a whole remains constrained by the aforementioned debts. The price to service these debts (that is, the prevailing level of interest rates) will likely move higher.

Can we experience a confluence of higher interest rates along with a general decline in wages and prices, that is the core of deflation? That double whammy scares the hell out of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. These questions and prospects will not be answered anytime real soon. They will take time.

What is an individual to do? Continue to pay down debt and be disciplined in maintaining a diversified investment portfolio. On that note, let’s look back at 2009 so we can most effectively look forward to 2010 and navigate the economic landscape.

The figures I provide are year-end 2009 relative to year-end 2008, and the returns for the year. (more…)

June 2009 Market Review

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 1st, 2009 8:52 AM |

A cursory review of market returns for June indicates no dramatic shifts, so let’s go to the sports pages, right? No, don’t do that! In the Brave New World of the Uncle Sam economy, every day, week, and month provides historic developments both above and below the surface.  How does one possibly navigate the hills and valleys of the markets and economic landscape? Welcome to Sense on Cents!

I had forecasted in the Sense on Cents May 2009 Market Review:

Add it all up and I think the following will occur:
– equity markets will now move sideways in range bound fashion;
– the bond market will move lower in price, higher in rates;
– the dollar will gradually decline;
– our economy will be filled with more stops than starts.

Let’s review the stat sheet, assess our May calls, and forecast what we see on the horizon. As we move along, let’s continually remember the largest player in our markets – both literally and figuratively – is none other than Uncle Sam himself.

Pimco’s Bill Gross said a few month’s back, “you should keep the big uncle in clear sight and without back turned.” The Wall Street Journal reported just yesterday in Inflation Fears Seem to Be, Well, Inflated:

Given the Fed’s heavy and unpredictable hand in the market lately…

Yes, Uncle Sam is casting an ever larger shadow across our economy and markets. Let’s navigate . . .


Market Returns:

Equities: the major market averages (the DJIA and S&P 500 especially) ended the month largely unchanged. In fact, the S&P 500 ended the month exactly unchanged. That said, the markets had an overall range of approximately 6%-7%. Why so volatile? Primarily a continuation of technical flows of funds, while the economic fundamentals remain decidedly mixed.

The tech heavy Nasdaq continued to outperform given some positive earnings developments (e.g Oracle) and lessened debt burdens. Given the Nasdaq’s dramatic outperformance, I would be reluctant to add exposure to this sector.

Sense on Cents’ self-assessment of May call: very solid

Bonds: while the 10yr Treasury ended largely unchanged on the month, it experienced a major selloff and actually broke above the 4% level for a short stretch mid-month. The upward pressure in rates, about which Sense on Cents wrote extensively, raised major concerns about potential inflation, economic recovery, and the equity markets.

Rates came back down over the last week. Cooler heads prevailed, right? Or did that “heavy and unpredictable hand of the Fed” go to work? Sense on Cents feels strongly that the Fed managed to move rates lower via quantitative easing and working with Treasury which had redefined indirect buying in Treasury auctions (“Turbo-Tim Takes ‘Indirect’ to a Whole New Level”).

While the government bond sector did post slightly negative returns for the month, the credit sensitive sectors of the bond market (corporates, high yield, municipals, and mortgages) did post low single digit returns. What is driving cash into these sectors? The fact that the Fed and banking system at large are holding short term rates (including savings rates and CDs) at near zero or marginally above is literally compelling both consumers and investors to seek some degree of return elsewhere. That money is flowing into these bond funds as investors remain extremely concerned about the economy and equity markets.

Are investors being lured into a potential trap by investing in bonds? I believe they are. I do not see the pressure of global government deficits along with refinancing pressures throughout the economy abating anytime soon.

Sense on Cents’ self-assessment of May call: fair (more…)

April 2009 Market Review: Brave New World

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 1st, 2009 5:00 AM |

Does the economic activity in April 2009 represent a turning point in the recession which started in December 2007? Does the continuing rebound in the equity markets represent a bright light at the end of the tunnel or merely a rebound from a very oversold market? Have global risks abated or are they being masked by massive government intervention? Let’s get after it.


In my opinion, we are in the early stages of transition to a new global economic dynamic. That process includes:

1. Strict discipline in underwriting. Banks are forced to underwrite to own as opposed to underwrite to sell. The shadow banking system (loans originated to be securitized and sold) is dead as we knew it. Banks have certain assets marked way too cheaply while also carrying plenty of fraudulently underwritten loans worth far less than their mark. Growth potential for the economy as a whole will remain constricted by a lessened flow of credit. There will be a clear distinction in companies which are winners and losers in this process.  

2. Lessened consumer demand on a going forward basis.   

3. Challenges for companies relying on debt financing and opportunities for companies generating free cash flow. The model based on leveraged finance is dead and not soon to return. Automotive companies need a 13 million rate of unit sales to break even. Without a shadow banking system, I don’t see this happening.

4. Opportunities for consumers buying homes. Don’t expect a rebound in home price appreciation as foreclosures, which were forestalled by banks and Freddie and Fannie, will add supply to the housing market. Housing may stabilize, but I do not think it will improve given the glut of unsold homes. 

5. Continued increase in unemployment will keep consumers cautious.

6. Many analysts focused on inventory drawdown in the latest GDP report as being a positive for future growth. Why didn’t analysts highlight the fact that consumer spending was actually a positive 2.2%?  Does that statistic represent a return of the consumer? In my opinion, NO. The positive consumer spending was primarily focused on massive price discounts offered in January and February to move product after anemic holiday sales. Personal spending for March was released yesterday morning and came in at -.2%. March retail sales were a surprisingly weak -1.1%.

7. Government intervention in markets may be viewed as necessary in the short term, but a persistent government presence in markets and industries comes with unknown, and in my opinion, very high costs. We are seeing heightened challenges in banking, insurance, automotive, and soon health care, energy, and education. Companies, consumers, and investors will be forced to adapt to a regular presence of Uncle Sam. He is not a good business partner. 

8. There is a very distinct shift in economic power towards China and with it a shift in political power, as well. I believe it is a question of when – not if – in terms of a major European country defaulting on its debt and requiring a rescue from the EU and/or  IMF.

9.  I still see a steady dose of analysts and economists forecasting future economic activity based on past models. I think they are missing the big picture.  I believe we need to forecast economic activity based upon traditional bank lending. If the government persists in trying to fill a void which naturally is not there, the risk involved in that undertaking is hyperinflation. 

Again, I am happy the markets have rebounded from the lows of early March but in looking forward I see a dramatically different economic landscape than our recent past. People who are able to adjust to that will do fine. People who are trying to maintain a lifestyle predicated on the economy of 2003-2007 will be very frustrated.

As far as my market call, I remain very concerned about the prevailing level of interest rates. I think the market will test the resolve of the Fed to continue to effectively overpay for mortgage and government securities.

In regard to the equity market, we are only 3-7% away from the S&P and DJIA being unchanged on the year. If we do get there, I think it would be a good opportunity to sell positions. I believe the next 10% move will be to lower prices.

In short, I think the delevering process has been given a significant breather due to Uncle Sam’s checkbook but that it is not yet over.

What do you think? There is plenty here for everybody. Please share your thoughts.


1st Quarter Earnings: What Have We Learned?

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 22nd, 2009 5:45 PM |

As we work our way through the 1st quarter earnings reports, what have we learned?

1. Earnings for certain tech companies (Google, E-Bay, Apple, Qualcomm) have beat expectations. The fact that these companies have large cash positions and are not overly burdened with debt has benefitted them.

2. Major money center bank (Citi, BofA, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo) earnings looked good on the surface but there remain real questions about the quality and transparency of the numbers. The Bank Stress Tests hang over this sector. Independent analysis indicates that banks in general are lending less as credit writedowns continue to increase. The earnings in these banks are focused more on trading activities and mortgage refinancing while core consumer banking is quite weak. The strength in trading and refinancing is directly linked to government supported actions (related to AIG, Fed purchases of mortgage and government securities). Many analysts question whether the earnings from trading are repeatable while core banking activity is a drag.   

3. Earnings for regional banks (KeyCorp, First Horizon, Bank of New York, Suntrust, Regions) and banks without sizable trading businesses are weak across the board. Credit chargeoffs on existing loans (credit cards, residential, commercial mortgages, corporate loans) continue to move higher and limited demand for new credit are hurting these institutions. (more…)

Hancock Tower Cut In Half

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 1st, 2009 2:59 PM |

Many people may not fully appreciate the dynamics of the “shadow banking system.” Credit for consumers, small business, and corporations is still largely a function of bank lending. Many parts of our economy are railing on banks for not providing more credit. The banks do deserve plenty of blame for not allocating more credit and at reasonable rates (primarily consumer credit). That said, the “shadow banking system” (funds generated by securitizing assets) has largely shut down.

The stream of credit from the “shadow banking system” represented approximately 40% of the credit injected into our economy. While plenty of people clearly feel this lack of credit at the individual level, what does it mean at the corporate level?

Let’s review a major real estate transaction. Bloomberg reports, Hancock Tower Sells at About Half Price to Normandy. This tower is a first class office building in a prime Boston location. (more…)

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