Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on the Big Game

I have been amazed there has been so little Superbowl discussion this year so far. I think all media have learned the lesson that if you write about and talk about the game for 24 hours for 2 weeks, people get burned out. I will have a more thorough preview up next weekend but I did want to make a point or two about the game that have been missed so far.

1. The Indianapolis Colts are About to Have Things Speed Up. A Lot.
I had this point in mind just from playoff games, but after review of the Colts schedule I am even more confident about this. What do I mean?

Here are the Colt opponents from December 6 on:
-12/6 Tennessee Titans
-12/13 Denver Broncos
-12/17 Jacksonville Jaguars
-12/27 New York Jets (1 half)
-1/3 Buffalo Bills (no real playing time from starters)

-1/16 Baltimore Ravens
-1/24 New York Jets
Notice a pattern?

How about all of these teams are severely limited offensively. Not one has a real passing attack. The last two games against the Ravens and Jets featured the offensive fireworks of a wet brick of jumping jacks.

Speed? None of these teams had much speed, especially at the receiver spot.

I think the Colts may be a little shocked when game time comes and they are faced with the number one offense in the league at full speed.

2. The New Orleans Saints Will Feel Bigger
After going against the Minnesota Vikings and their ginormous defensive line and gigantic offensive line, the Saints may well feel a bit bigger against the smallish fronts of the Colts. The Saints were able to run moderately well against the Vikings who are the leagues best rush defense. The Saints were able to generate severe pressure against a rock solid Minnesota offensive line. I think the Colts lines are much smaller, though much quicker.

Any reader knows I am in the tank for the Saints, but these two points are clear to me and not just my slant. We shall see.

Automotive Corner
Reader Watchtower made me terribly jealous a while back as he purchased the Mustang Bullit muscle car. Take a look at this thing:

Very nice indeed.

It seems Watchtower cannot stay away from horsepower and checked out the all new 2010 Camaro SS and even took it for a spin. A visual:

That thing looks angry!

My all time favorite car, the 1963 Split Window Corvette may well never be matched for stunning beauty:


I drive the Infiniti G35X AWD sedan and it is the best car I have ever had:

Still, it is not a growling, angry looking, mega powered muscle car so I guess I am still jealous!

Let' make it an all macho night as I just found a clip of the best sword dual in the Highlander series, Mcleod vs Grayson at the sulphur mine:


Have a good night.

Friday, January 29, 2010

An Answer, Linkage, and Entertainment

This past week seemed to go by very slow. As such I am lacking the energy to do some kind of major post that will illuminate the future for all time or something to that degree. I will give an answer to a question posed in the comments section, rip off the best works on the web via linkage, and then reinvigorate with an entertainment section sure to please one and all.

Asked and Answered
From time to time the comments section is visited by one of the Anon posters. The one I am talking about offers a great contrarian view than most of what I write and usually will ask great questions that I will think about for some time. Last night was such an instance.

Anon@7:58 posted:
Here's a question, when is the last time you were optimistic, I mean truly optimistic about the state of the US economy? My guess is the answer is never, hence the reason some (namely I) question your impartiality.

For me, I was optimistic in 01, staid in 02-03, concerned in 04, gloomy gus pessimist 2005-07. Since then, I have slowly become more and more optimistic. Despite the massive, massive govt interventions, we still have gone through the most jarring economic dislocation in decades. We are so much closer to the bottom now than we were in 2005, and this makes me much more optimistic now than I was then.
Now if you are not familiar with Anon that comment may have seemed a touch rough, but I actually like his/her up front take and there are some points here that I would like to discuss.

When was the last time I was optimistic on the US economy? I would say the 1998-2000 time frame. I was fresh out of college, working at one of the hottest biotechs in the industry, gene discovery was running at a clip unseen which promised new drugs, the Internet was not new but the promise it offered sure was, a projected budget surplus was a good thing I thought, the dollar was king crap of turd mountain, and everyone around me (and myself to some extent) were riding the stock market wave higher.

So what happened?

Well, all those genes I and many others found were great but never really translated (pun intended!) to real drugs. My firm was losing about 400-700 million a year but was valued at something like 8 Billion dollars!

Cisco was almost worth more than Japan or something and suddenly that made no sense anymore.

All those stocks up in the nosebleeds came down hard and many got toasted (I sold all my options $5 from the all time high! HA!). closed which was scary.

On some of this I am trying to be funny, but what happened was a huge bubble burst. Soon I was informed I would be out of a job and had to find another. Many faced the same thing. The rest I think you probably know how it goes.

In summary, I wanted to learn how the whole thing happened and that was how I learned about things economic and especially about bubbles.

And not even 2 years later I started to see some of the same signs in housing here in Massachusetts. I applied lessons learned and figured the easy money from Alan Greenspan was an attempt to make the same kind of bubble the dotcom was in another form to rescue an economy that was facing the worst recession since the Great Depression (and yes many were writing that then!).

So Anon, you say you turned more optimistic in 2001, but I was the opposite. I thought it would take a long time to work off all the malinvestment. Little did I know a bubble replacement was in the works.

Now do not confuse macro views with short window views. I knew housing was going up and would continue to until a blow off top, so you could say I was "optimistic" on home prices, but pessimistic on the ramifications to the economy. That's why I was piling into gold and silver from 2002-2004.

I am not optimistic now. Anon may well be right that we are near "the bottom" and I may even agree. What I think we will differ on is how long we stay at the bottom. Just because you have stopped falling does not mean you are going to go up. I do not have time to cover all the reasons for my views, if you read regularly you know the imbalances of which I speak

Anyways, I hope that both answered Anon's question and was worth a read in the process. I do not pretend to know everything I just offer my take.

Trolling the Internets (both of them) for the best reads out there so you can all save time.

Official World Gold Holdings and the Evolution of Global Trade and Wealth
The sharp as an obsidian scalpel Jesse starts off with some gold related ideas and then expands into some key ideas you should be aware of.

Q4 GDP: Beware the Blip
Calculated Risk could have saved CNBC all the breathless amazement at today's GDP number. Hint: it's a one hit wonder.

We are Screwed - The State of the Union
Reader C-T let go on a great missive that is worth a look. Great point:
More and more of the American middle class are joining the race to the bottom, entering the ranks of the poor every day. Food Stamps and other entitlement programs have replaced the food lines of the Great Depression.
To which I responded:
Why is it nobody gets this? They all say "In the Depression there were food lines" well WTF do you call millions on food stamps? I call it moving the line out of sight.

Wall Street Reform and the Federal Reserve
Sharp take on some historical facts about the FED, the US dollar, fiat currency, and much more from Sonicninjakitty.

The blogroll on the left (on the right for those of you in the southern hemisphere) has plenty to read on a news filled day as well.

Friday Night Entertainment
I was sidetracked most of the day exchanging emails with a trader friend of mine who was playing TNA for the morning pop then sold off to avoid the after 11am downdraft. TNA is an ETF so get your mind out of the gutter! Anyways, plenty of good fun this evening.

I am Not Making This Up
Sometimes real life is better than make believe!

Christina Fernandez, Argentinian President, Says Pork is Better Than Viagra for Sex Life
The best looking president in the world shared her input on the other white meat:
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez has told a gathering at her Presidential Palace that pork is even better than Viagra for spicing things up in the bedroom - and credited a satisfying weekend with her husband to the meat.
"I've just been told something I didn't know, that eating pork improves your sex life," she said in a televised speech to the leaders of the Argentinian meat industry, "I'd say it's a lot nicer to eat a bit of grilled pork than take Viagra."
Speaking of a weekend spent with her husband after eating the meat, Fernandez said, "We were in high spirits the whole weekend... I'm a pork fanatic."
For Valentines day gentlemen, may I suggest some flowers, some candy, and some bone-in pork chops? You never know!

Loyal reader and literary sage Gawains suggested some works this week:
-"Exiles" by Ron Hansen which looks very compelling
-"Imbibe" by David Wondrich and with a title like that it is going in my Amazon basket!

And no I do not get anything from Amazon, no affiliation.

I will throw in a book passage:
"In addition to believing that my brother's book deserves to be read, there is another reason for having it published.
Frankly his story is incredible. No matter how I try, I can't believe it. I hope its publication creates the possibility that someone will. For myself, I can accept only one aspect of it-but that I accept completely: To Richard, this was not a work of fiction. He believed, without question, that he lived each moment."
Prologue for "Somewhere in Time" by Richard Matheson.

Funny Picture
Naked Capitalism offered this choice picture:

Be sure to drink your ovaltine!

This is running long, so here we go....

Rock Blogging
Take a chance, come on and dance
Guys grab a girl, don't wait, make HER TWIRL
It's your world and I'm just a SQUIRREL
Trying to get a nut to move your butt
To the dance floor, so yo what's up
C&C Music Factory!

Where to start? Ok, when I was young I used to see those TV commercials that had those huge compilation albums for sale and the titles would scroll on the screen and soundbites were played. I always loved the song by the Moody Blues, "Knights in White Satin" and it was on every one of those albums:


Some requests?
Gawains wonders if I like country music, and I of course grew up on folk and country music and my Dad's 12 string guitar! Try out David Allen Coe with "You Never Even Called Me by My Name":

My position is I don't care what the ladies call me, as long as they call me!

I had never heard The Police tune "Synchronicity" and lets say I found it interesting:

My wifes dream man has been Sting for years!

From a late comment from last post I was challenged to post a song with just some lyrics to go on. I KNEW one song right off the bat, but I also weaseled out and did a search and now I am stuck. Best guess, is Michael Damian's "Rock On" but the older version is better I think (plus I had help!). Try out David Essex and "Rock On":


Editors picks? Ok.

In line with the "not in one calendar year repeat unless special circumstances" rule, enjoy the greatest metal singer going it alone with "Tears of the Dragon":

I still get chills on that one.

Last Call!

Get loose, get crazy and get wild with White Snake and "Still of the Night":


Have a good night!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Visualize the Bull

Some strange snow squalls up here today. One minute it is clear, the next you cannot see the front of your car for about 5 minutes, then all clear again.

Regular readers know that Friday Night is entertainment night here and I have featured many things in the past including:
-book passages
-trivia contests for prizes
-coded messages hidden in the 4 letters of DNA (after translation of course) (A-T-C-G)
-pictures of all kinds of things
and many more.

Any and all requests are welcomed and we have had some good attendance as of late so let me know what you want to see tomorrow night and I will do my best.

Bernanke Walks Through Confirmation
I expected this but I was still disappointed. Full roll call can be seen here. Make notes for election season.

Visualize the Bull
A reader had mentioned tennis and it got me thinking about a book that changed my life on many levels. The book is by Timothy Gallwey and it is called "The Inner Game of Tennis". A quick check on Amazon shows it has been reprinted and is available. I have a 1974 first edition that my mother found for me years ago at a yard sale. While titled about tennis, the book is really about the inner game of life and can be applied to any endeavor in which the biggest opponent is yourself. What does not qualify?

As I was thinking about the book I remembered a fable used as an example in the section on concentration. I will include it here to set up the next section. It uses plenty of religious themes, but that is not why I found it memorable, but be warned if easily offended by such things:
A seeker after Truth sought out a yoga master and begged him to help him achieve the enlightenment of perfect union with his true self. The Master told him to go into a room and meditate on God for as long as he could. After just two hours the seeker emerged distraught, saying that he could not concentrate, since his mind kept thinking about his much beloved bull he left at home. The Master then told him to return to the room and meditate on his bull. This time the would-be yogi entered the room and after two days had still not emerged. Finally the Master called for him to come out. From within the seeker replied, "I cannot; my horns are too wide to fit through the door." The seeker had reached such a state of concentration that he had lost all sense of separation from his object of concentration.

So why in the world would this pop into my mind?

As I review economic data almost all of it is terrible. Things are not getting better on many fronts, and the best that can be said about the others is they are getting less worse. Yet the bullishness is so pervasive at this time I wonder if these bulls are not just seekers that have looked so long and so hard for positives that they have become the bull through transference of their hopes.

In prior times (disregard the Great Depression, oh, and the 1970's) recovery ALWAYS came right on the heels of a crash. Thus it MUST be so this time. Furiously pouring over anything that fits that view they, over time, come to view everything as a positive. One might argue that I can only see the negative of things, and I always take a look from many angles to make sure I am not bending things to my own view. Nobody is perfect though!. I would add that I am not trying to sell anyone anything, or get anything I hold to go up in value (nobody likes gold or silver anyways!) so I think I may be more open to be impartial.

That all said, I present some graphs or headlines that tell a different story that the "V" shaped recovery that is at hand any second now. You can decide for yourself how this information looks to you.

From Calculated Risk, Fannie Mae and Freddi Mac delinquency rates:


The words "unlimited guarantee" come to mind.

From Mish, 4 Week Moving Average of Initial Unemployment up 3rd Straight Week:

This is besides the long term unemployed and the many that have given up.

EconomPic with the "gains" in consumer confidence:

The expectations index part must be worth almost the whole number.

Rapid rebound in revenues powering markets? Take away the banking gains due to the myriad of tricks and handout we always discuss and Rosenberg notes:
With 20% Of S&P Reporting, YoY Ex-Fin Revenue Growth Is... Negative

Moving to the "China Miracle", Illusion of Prosperity notes that:
85% of Chinese Cannot Afford Real Estate
There are plenty more China related entries on the site so check them out.

On a technical side of things for those chartists out there, Bespoke has a section up titled:
Percentage of Stocks Above 50-Day Moving Averages
As shown below, the percentage of stocks above their 50-day moving averages in the S&P 500 has dropped to 35%. This is the lowest level seen since mid-2009. Clearly breadth has gotten weak on this pullback. No sectors have more than 50% of stocks above their 50-days, and Consumer Discretionary has the highest reading at 48%. Materials is the weakest sector with a reading of 10%.
Plenty of charts if interested.

Housing Doom trolled their archives to find the most amazing stories they covered over the years as they look now with hindsight:
10 — Bank of America sued for gender bias over bonuses, Reuters 6/25 '09

9 — High Interest Rates Encourage Housing Speculation, Scoop (NZ), 4/24 '07

8 — Swiss Re In CHF1.3B US Life Block Sale To Berkshire, WSJ 1/18 '10

7 — Can’t Sell Your Home? Maybe It’s Priced Too Low, NYT 7/11 '07

6 — "Re-jiggered accounting methods gave Freddie Mac a boost Wednesday when investors rallied over better-than-expected losses", Forbes 5/14 '08

5 — Cooling U.S. economy good for Canadian housing market, CanWest 9/16 '06

4 — Barclays Capital to charter ships to move commodities, SmartBrief 4/26 '08

3 — Ambac Rises as Bond Insurers Try to Tap Treasury Plan, Bloomberg 10/17 '08

2 — Bank of America Says ‘Thank Goodness’ for Countrywide, Bloomberg 3/13 '09

1 — SEC Issues Climate-Risk Guidance Despite Tough Political Environment, NYT 1/28 '10
Classic! #7 and #2 are the best!

Have a good night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lying or Incompetent? You Decide!

A very interesting Wednesday, yes? Plenty to cover this evening.

Full Employment is Directly Related to Bubbles
Up front any long time readers know that I think the FED should be abolished. I do not want to re-hash all of my reason for thinking that way.

That said, say I did believe a central bank was a necessity. The mandate as stated by the FED is "Stable prices and full employment" or a balancing act of those two. Of course the FED has a hand in many more pies than this, but say I believe them.

The following graph lifted from The Mess That Greenspan Made should be required reading for the FED:

Notice that the information technology jobs dropped and kept dropping after the dotcom bust and have been depressed ever since. This contributed to the last "jobless recovery". The construction jobs outlook will follow the same path as well.

This is one of the biggest dangers of malinvestment during bubbles. Not only do asset prices eventually crash, but a host of related industries (and hence jobs) crash as well. The FED should indeed target bubbles if their mandate includes full employment. Of course we really know their prime concern is fiat credit expansion, but I thought I would play devil's advocate tonight.

Cheap Trick
I am not talking about the great 1980's band! If I was I would say "The Flame" rocks!
"I'm going crazy, I'm losing sleep...."

Many market watchers have been surprised to see "investors" gobbling up government debt like challenge winners eating food rewards in the late stages of the show "Survivor". Why would anyone stash cash at the FED either for no return or even negative returns as the 1 month T-Bill goes negative? The answer is complex if you like or very simple. I prefer simple so I offer this from Zero Hedge:
Suspending Money Market Redemptions Is Now Legal; SEC Approves New Money Market Regulation In 4-1 Vote
You can read the whole thing but in summary:
-Money Market funds can suspend redemptions as long as some definition of "extraordinary circumstances" are met, which are not spelled out so they may as well be any reason
-Strict limits on assets in funds steer all cash towards government debt
This of course will force MM funds to buy government debt by the boatload or even cause investors to just bypass the middle man and buy it themselves.

Did I mention how much debt the US has to sell this year?

PS for "investors";
What makes you think the government will return your money under "extraordinary circumstances"? Answers welcome in the comments section.

Lying or Incompetent? You Decide!
The big news of the day had to be the AIG bailout hearings in Washington. I am not going to recap the entire day's events. There are many great takes in the blogroll. Some items worth a closer look include:

-Update: Unredacted AIG Schedule A Released And Initial Data Spread
Seems less than stellar collateral was accepted by the FED during all this, shocking I know, as by law they cannot do so.

-AIG, Paulson and Giethner
Lots of good nuggets by Market Ticker.

To me the whole thing boils down to this:

Between the AIG full par payouts and then the move to keep disclosures from being made public we have been told by the players themselves no less that:
-Ben Bernanke
-Hank Paulson
-Tim Giethner
All had either NO role in these matters or never had a direct involvement in discussions for some or all of the biggest bailout in the history of the world.

This presents us with an easy decision to make and the players themselves fell into an old chess trap (Mish has used this term before, I know):
Zugzwang (German for "compulsion to move"), is a term originally used in chess which also applies to various other games. The concept finds its formal definition in combinatorial game theory. It describes a situation where one player is put at a disadvantage because he has to make a move – the player would prefer to pass and make no move. The fact that the player must make a move means that his position will be significantly weaker than the hypothetical one in which it were his opponent's turn to move.
This can also be described as "any move sucks".

This applies to the current fiasco in that the players involved would have you believe one of two things, either of which is grounds for immediate dismissal and charges if possible (Hanky P has a get out of jail free card, remember that beauty of a move!):

1-Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner in their respective places at the table at the time, had no direct influence on the AIG decision process. They all cite various reasons for this.

2-They are all lying.

If you buy option #1, then the trio are clearly incompetent and had no idea what their own people were doing in regards to the biggest bailout in history. I guess it is easy to let Goldman just do what they want directly!

If option #2 fits your mind, then we will need a clear smoking gun to catch them. As they are all loaded for bear with regards to lawyers, I would doubt any such damning evidence exists.

I will leave it at that. What else do you really need to consider? I have a poll up where you can vote your opinion, so try it out!

Side note:
EconomicDisconnect loves chess! I will always open as white with the Barcza, and will defend as black with either the Sicilian Scheveningen or King's Indian Defense.

Have a good night.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Market Data Means What It Means Unless It Doesn't

Now that was a late night! Plenty of drama for the NFC title game and then of course I was too amped to go to bed and stayed up until about 1:30am watching recaps and interviews. Not fun when my 5am wake up time came!

Conference Championships
I will have plenty to say about football later but here was my quick take from last nights games (that I was SO close to picking the two final scores!)
-The Jets were done the second they went to a crappy zone defense. Partly by choice (they were getting burned by the 3rd and 4th receivers) and partly by necessity (a slew of injuries took away most of their secondary) the result was a second half that looked like a Colts practice drill session. Still, the Jets have plenty to build on after a great season.
-The Saints did everything possible to lose the game and then the Vikings said "Anything you can do I can do better!" and blew the game at the end. Hats off to Brett Favre who took a spectacular beating by the Saints (not all hits were clean!) but that last interception was pretty terrible. Fresh back from a Las Vegas trip, Kid Dynamite had the most hilarious line of the NFL season:
For some reason, I also repeatedly got a kick out of the way Drew Brees crouches down in the huddle - real low, like a ninja. Love it.
Hear that Sonic? Drew Brees is a Ninja too!

Market Data Means What It Means Unless It Doesn't
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
-Simon an Garfunkel "The Boxer"
As a scientist one of the most frustrating things about economics and market trading has to be the total lack of structure and reason behind moves in the market. I mean there is no evaluation or set of criteria. A narrative is set and then whatever information comes out is ignored or explained away if it does not fit the current consensus story. This happens on the way up and down. Puzzling.

Tonight I wanted to look at two examples of this phenomena in action.

November Durable Goods Report
Karl Denninger was all over a major revision to the November Durable Goods report:
Durable Goods "Mistake or FRAUD?
On January 5th the durables report for November was 'released'.

It showed a 0.2% increase. I didn't write on it at the time, as it didn't appear to be particularly consequential. The report, of course, came in the middle of the first-week January market rally.

But now, in the dark of night, the number has been revised - to a decrease of 0.7%. The reason is a claimed "statistical error."
There is more in the article.

I sort of remembered this number being trotted out as "proof" the economy was doing the whole "V" shaped recovery thing. A sample of new stories from that data release:
Durable orders up, jobless claims at 15-month low
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods, excluding transportation items, surged in November and new applications for jobless aid hit the lowest level in 15 months last week, pointing to a firmly entrenched economic recovery.

Capital equipment orders strengthen in November
Orders for durable goods rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in November, held back by a massive 32.6% drop in aircraft bookings. Excluding transportation goods, orders rose 2%.
"The nation's manufacturers are returning to health," wrote Jay Bryson, global economist for Wells Fargo Securities.

So here we have a 0.2% positive print being lauded as wonderful, but almost no major media coverage of the massive downward revision can be found today. I wonder why?

I would also note that GDP played the same game with a +3.6% print initial (Rocket Ship Recovery Baby!) and then was revised all the way down to +2.2% (Backward looking indicator anyway). What makes me uneasy is this kind of massive revision work is starting to happen more frequently. Also worrying is the market's total lack of interest in the data.

Home Sales and Seasonality
Existing home sales for December came out today and they were much worse than consensus calls. A -16.7% print was worse than the -10% expected. Of course the downside surprise was shrugged off as unimportant. How this was done makes me laugh though.

Anyone that follows home sales knows that there is a monster seasonal factor associated with it. Not many people buy homes in the dead of winter and the Summer months are prime time due to children being out of school and other factors. Ok, no problem there.

Today the fact that December is a slow month for home sales was repeatedly harped on. Nothing wrong there either. The problem is that EVERY May-June-July home sale bump up is celebrated as proof positive housing is turning around when the EXACT same seasonality issue applies as well! You see, just tell a story and stick to it. It works for criminals!

Of course data being massaged is troubling but at least we the public get to see some of it. If given the choice maybe it could fall under the umbrella of "National Security" like the AIG bailout.

See this Zero Hedge article and Barry Ritholtz offers his take.

If this is not all the proof you need for immediate removal of Tim Geithner and the voting down of Ben Bernanke (maybe there is still time?) then you may have a serious problem.

Have a good night.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2010 NFL Conference Championships

Hello all!

I have to tell you I am all pins and needles waiting for the NFC title game later today!

Investing Made Easy
Now I would think that it would be impossible to get my mind off football today but amazingly something did grab my attention and it wasn't even a Lil Kim video!:
Paul Krugman for the FED
The Baseline Scenario offers up the single dumbest idea I have seen since I started blogging. I am speechless.

In a way if this ever happened it would make investing very simple. Krugman is a political hack and the biggest wanna be Keynesian money printer of all time. Should Krugman ever sit at the FED head you should immediately:
-Buy all the gold and silver you can
-Stock up on canned goods and toilet paper (thanks Mark!)
-Arm yourself
-Have a fireplace set up to burn any paper money you have, soon that's all it will be good for

I am kidding here, but only a little bit!

Conference Title Games

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
The irony of this game is amazing as it was the Colts that layed down and allowed the Jets to get a needed win to earn the wild card spot. Should the Colts lose today they are going to feel sick for a very long time.

I think the game is going to come down to the Jets having to make a decision. The Colts are going to play short ball and keep everything underneath and in front of the Jets. This will result in LONG drives and keep the Jets running game off the field. The Jets will have to decide if they want to try and play a low scoring game according to the Colt game plan, or if they want to press and jump the baby routes being run and try and make something happen.

If the Jets play the Colt game, I think they will lose fairly easily. If they get nasty and really jump the Colts and get very aggressive I think they could have a shot. Key stats to watch:
-How many 5 minute plus drives do the Colts have?
-How many running plays have the Jets had against the smallish Colt defensive line?
Those two questions will decide the game.
Pick: Colts 23, Jets 17
But I really want the Jets to win!

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
These two teams have been on a collision course all year and now it's go time.

Up front, I am in the tank for the Saints. I have loved this team since 1990 and I am no bandwagon jumper. I even went as far as applying to Tulane University senior year in high school to be close to the Superdome (I got in but besides being totally unattainable financially, they did not have a biotechnology centered degree program). Just so you know I am not unbiased here in any way.

The key for the Saints is to make the Vikings either HAVE to pass the ball alot (due to being behind) or WANT to pass the ball alot (due to perceived match up advantage). If the Vikings slow this game down and grind at the Saints with all world running back Adrian Petersen the Saints chances of a win go down big.

In any case I think this game could be one that you will talk about for years, so don't miss it!
Pick: Saints 34, Vikings 28

I will check in later.

Have a good night.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mortgage Debt Still the Main Show

Another wild day out there!

That had to be first 3 day losing streak for the new bull market in some time. I will have more to say about this below, but it was almost surreal to see indices move down after almost a year of vertical moonshot.

Plenty of topics tonight and of course some fun stuff (hardly any requests?!).

Fly the Empty Skies
I came across this article via Some Assembly Required and I thought the story had to be a misprint:
2009 airline revenue: Worst drop ever
NEW YORK ( -- The airline industry suffered its largest drop ever in passenger revenue last year as a weak economy grounded many would-be travelers, an industry group said Wednesday.

The Air Transport Association of America said total passenger revenue for the major U.S. carriers fell 18% in 2009 versus the year before. It was the largest drop on record, exceeding the 14% decline in 2001.
The current drop off is worse than after 9/11? Granted the terrorist attacks were in September (near years end) but that is a shocking contraction year over year. Another sign of the V shaped recovery no doubt.

Ben Bernanke Confirmation: Understand What it Will Mean
There are now some serious doubts about whether Ben Bernanke will be confirmed as FED head by the end of the month. I of course think he should not be and that case has been layed out in depth by many already. I wanted to talk about what this will result in ahead of time so people are not shocked when it happens.

-Get ready for the Mother Of All Temper Tantrums (MOATT) by Wall Street. This could be a downside 10% move in 2 or 3 days time in a fit of rage. It will be blamed on "uncertainty" or whatever but you will know what it is.
-Who replaces Bernanke is important, but likely to be another academic easy money type. The difference here is the nominee will be under enormous pressure to do things different.

If I am betting I think he scrapes in by the thinnest of margins.

Market Action
Returning to the market move down I want to point out the painfully obvious because it exposes the truth about the markets:

-It is only easy money and never ending backstops that have generated the entire move up in stocks and the entire improvement in economic data.

This should settle that debate. The exit button cannot be hit fast enough after the mere hint that things may change in the slightest.

Mortgage Debt Still the Main Show
It all comes back to housing debt, and it will until something is done about it. I wrote about my support for the proposals of the President on banking reforms and i think that is a good start. The central threat the banks, and thus the taxpayers, remains mortgage debt.

HAMP has been a failure (for the 3rd o 4th time?) and now we are getting to the real show. From today's New York Times:
Treasury Weighs Fixes to Foreclosures Program
Key Snippet:
The changes by the Treasury Department are expected to include greater assistance for homeowners no longer able to make mortgage payments because their paychecks have shrunk, said banking industry representatives privy to the department’s deliberations who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating government officials.

The Treasury was still debating the method, these banking representatives said, looking at either direct cash assistance or a grace period in which borrowers could postpone payments. That component may not be announced next week, but would follow soon after.
At least the games are being trimmed off, direct cash handouts to mortgage deadbeats. Unreal.

As you may know, because of my special Force powers I am able to Flow-Walk at times and see the future. On October 29th, 2009 I shared my vision of the future with the readers and offered this:
The future distortion that I see is folding FNM/FRE/FHA and the MBS assets of the FED into a "bad bank". New purchases will be funded by the newly created Federal Office of Mortgage Issuance with a 4% rate for all. This will be funded on the bond market with shortfalls made up with taxpayer money. Do not worry, this program will be short term with an exit strategy planned for 5 years before our Sun goes Red Giant.
The FOMI. That is what I saw.

Today while checking out the new and improved Housing Doom site I came across this revealing tidbit from a Bloomberg story:
"A Whole New System of Housing Finance"
Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Representative Barney Frank said his committee will push to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, seized by regulators almost 17 months ago, with a different model for U.S. mortgage financing.

“The committee will be recommending abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their current form and coming up with a whole new system of housing finance,” Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said at a hearing in Washington today. “That’s the approach, rather than a piecemeal one.”

Housing Doom writer Twist offers:
There have been many of us who have speculated as to what the housing market would look like after government intervention ends. Clearly "recovery" and "stabilization" in the market at the moment is the result of massive government intervention, the government being nearly the only game in town for housing finance.
If Frank and Co. are considering a "whole new system of housing finance" replacing Fannie and Freddie, we can assume that the plan is for intervention to be a permanent thing.
Will this prevent housing prices from falling? My guess is, no. Unemployment, a large shadow inventory and a jumbo market that will continue in freefall will continue to put downward pressure on prices. Home prices for homes under the conforming limit may see short-term gains in some areas, but in general are liable to languish at best.

There are those that claim that this is necessary because of the failure of the free market. I disagree. The free market was never given- and isn't likely to be given, a chance.
Good stuff.

Remember, I named the FOMI before anyone else!

Friday Night Entertainment
That was plenty of heavy lifting, now for some cutting loose. Foot loose. Kick off the Sunday shoes.

Sketch Cartoon
The following XKCD comic may only be funny if you have seen both "Dirty Harry" and "Rain Man":

Instant Classic!

It's Hammer Time!
This clock is for the ultimate geek:

Full Description at Geekologie.

Film Clips
Maybe inspiring a rental some where out there.

My favorite Bill Murray film is "Lost in Translation" which is a special film. One of my favorite comedies that Bill Murray starred in was "Quick Change". Not too many people have seen this one and it is worth a look:

"Quit looking at me!"

While not a film, my local Channel 7 News weather man Pete Bouchard thought it was a good time to share some very personal information about himself with the TV audience that left me thinking that it had to be a movie (MUST SEE!!!!!!!!):

Maybe he needs this book.

Rock Blogging
A little rock and roll because:
I've got a dream when the darkness is over
We'll be lyin' in the rays of the sun
But it's only a dream and tonight is for real
You'll never know what it means
But you'll know how it feels

Loyal requester Anon wanted Roy Orbison and "Only the Lonely" and who am I to say no?:

The Golden Truth had a Cypress Hill tune posted tonight and I actually like that rap band, go figure. Try out "Insane in the Membrane" for some wicked pissa base(Skip if a sensitive sort!):


What could be better than Lita Ford AND Ozzy together for "Close My Eyes Forever"?:


Last week I featured what could be thought of as a "Ladies Anthem" as a SonicNinjaKitty grew up with "The Warrior". Tonight it's the boys turn and what better than Motley Crue and "Girls, Girls, Girls"! This video is the only one I could embed, so the visuals are pure coincidence, honest:

Moving along.....

Last call!!! Are you ready? Are you really? Ok.

Closing the show with a song that may well fit the mood right now. Enjoy the Scorpions and "Winds of Change" and how we have turned a corner on this financial system:


My friend C-T knew the lyrics from one of my favorite films, so here is "Tonight is What it Means to be Young":

Crazy wonderful.

Have a good night.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It is Decision Time

What a crazy week! First off a stunning election result and today may well be the most news packed day since Lehman Brothers. Just when you thought things were getting boring.....

Due to the landscape of items I have in mind I will cover in short form some items of interest and then off to the main topic.

As always, requests are ready for submission for Friday Night Entertainment. If you are one of the newer readers I will include films, pictures, science, comedy, books and of course music that anyone has an interest in seeing should it add mirth/interest to the evening.

But I thought Stock Splits Were Stupid?
On a day chock full of interesting tidbits, I caught this blurb at Bespoke Investment Group:
The Split Heard Round the World
lnvestors have been clamoring for years and years for Berkshire to split its shares, whether it be the $100,000 A shares or the $3500 B shares. After voting confirmed the split today, BRK/B shares will be divided into 50 smaller shares tomorrow. This 50 for 1 split will convert shares to roughly $70. Berkshire B shares were up $85 yesterday and are up another $130 today. The bulls are clearly favoring the split and eagerly awaiting its arrival.
Now Warren Buffet has always maintained that stock splits are just games and mean nothing. I wonder why this move is being done right now? Any ideas are welcome.

Gold and Silver Getting Beat Up (Down?)
Regular readers know that I love the metals gold and silver. The action as of late has been pretty harsh to the downside and the dollar is really catching a bid (for a variety of reasons). I had exited late positions a while back and then I missed my entry points as both never met my downside targets. It looks like I will maybe get another shot.
Gold: $950
Silver $15.50
Should the metals fall to my targets I will be placing positions and will detail them here.

It is Decision Time
Today when I heard that President Obama was to speak about new banking regulations I had the familiar feeling of "why waste our time?". When the words hit the newswires I had to do a double take and make sure I read them correct!

I will go over the proposal and some reaction to it in a moment, but I wanted to open with some commentary first. For the moment assume the proposals mean what they say they mean and will be enforced, no exceptions. Now allow me a few words.

On it's face these reforms will indeed be the kind of significant reform that I (and so many others) have been clamoring for it seems forever. These plans may have been in the works; these plans may have been put in place if the Massachusetts Senate seat was lost due to public anger about many things. The President may be trying to play to the crowd. I do not know. I do not care.

This is good legislation, and a great start. If your reflex is to say "The President's Plan sucks" then you either work for Goldman Sachs or a reflex hater of the President. This proposal demands your consideration and if followed up on correctly, your support. Yes I just wrote that. This is the way I see it.

Now, the coverage.

From Yahoo Finance:
Obama hits Wall Street, pushes for bank limits
Combative Obama aims at Wall Street big banks, wants Depression Era-style federal limits

Obama's announcement included changes that have been advocated for over a year by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker -- who appeared with the president at the White House -- particularly by endorsing Volcker's proposal to ban banks that take deposits from also trading stocks for their own profit. The change would separate commercial banks from investment banks, a line that was blurred a decade ago by the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act.
If you remember I am a huge Paul Volcker fan.

The fine print details are not yet really hammered out and I am loathe to spend pixels going over the finer points of the proposals when it is not clear what the final details are. My take home points up front:
-The separation of public deposits from use by firms to trade
-Limits on possible size for mega banks

Embedded in the tone and scope of the announcement, at least to my read, was a serious warning that firms will have to either take FED help and get smaller as well as leave individual deposits alone, or fly on their own and forget about another bailout should they screw up again, which of course they will. This is the first step on a course to extricate the taxpayer from privatized gains and socialized losses. I welcome this.

Now already I have read how this will not work, will be ineffective, and will not really prevent another crisis. Some of this is true, and I was sad to have missed my wishlist item of an end to housing support structures. But this is a start. If the bill is no big deal, then what is with the hyperventilating going on? Many are so brazen in their belief that no real reform will come to Wall Street they openly mock the very idea of it. Some snippets:
Privately, Wall Streeters Decry Obama’s Populist Turn After Massachusetts
Privately, top Wall Streeters say they are being scape-goated by an administration desperate following Tuesday’s stunning loss in Massachusetts....
..One person at a top ranking financial institution pointed to Geithner’s seemingly unhappy stance during the press conference.
“He was looking at his feet the whole time. He knows this is a joke,” the person said.

Big Banks Have Already Figured Out The Loophole In Obama’s New Rules
Big banks have already begun poking the holes in Obama’s new rules—holes they expect their banks to pass through basically unchanged.

The president promised this morning to work with Congress to ensure that no bank or financial institution that contains a bank will own, invest in or sponsor a hedge fund or a private equity fund, or proprietary trading operations unrelated to serving customers for its own profit.

But sources at three banks tell us that they are already finding ways to own, investment in and sponsor hedge funds and private equity funds. Even prop trading seems safe.

“This thing is about showing the public that Obama is standing up to Wall Street. So the rhetoric is heated. But the implementation will require far less change than people think right now,” a person familiar with the thinking at the upper echelons of one of our largest banks said.

“The market is getting this wrong by selling off the megas,” a person at another bank said.

Seems like plenty of reaction to a non event.

This is now decision time. On the very day that some kind of useful regulation is proposed, the banks:
-dump all over it
-speculate that the government will not have the guts to follow through
-tank the stock market in a "Tarp-rejected" like temper tantrum

If the President wants to capture the will of the people and their support he must not only make this stand, but go further as well. If this thing gets loop holed to high heaven, allowed to take place "gradually" over the span of a 100 year time frame, or gets dropped outright there may be no coming back.

I hate to quote the same source multiple times, but when a writer has it right, it's hard to top them. From Jesse once again:
Allowing the banks to speculate for their own accounts in the markets inexorably intermingles their risks with those of the broader financial system. It is also a tilt to the playing field to allow these market makers with access to proprietary information, very favorable positioning with the exchanges, and the Fed discount window and special programs to sit at the same table with other investors and funds.

This is so basic a move that one has to wonder why Obama waited so long to propose it. Or rather to listen to Paul Volcker who has been advising it, and largely unheeded.

Goldman and perhaps Morgan Stanley will give up the charade of commercial banking to become a full time investment bank, aka hedge fund, again. One positive outcome is that the next time they get into trouble they are on their own. And given their blind greed it won't be all that long before they do.

It is nice to see Paul Volcker gaining a voice in an administration dominated by Wall Street sychophants.

Let the threats, whining, tales of doom, financial media spin, and an army of lobbyists now go forth from Wall Street to try and stop this very basic reform.

It's a beginning. Barney Frank is already talking about putting a five year transition period on the change. Ludicrous really considering the banks that just grabbed their charters. Barney is part of the problem. A bigger part than most people probably suspect.

A good next step would be fire Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, and to permit Bernanke to gracefully step aside and go back to grading term papers. Obama needs to nominate someone with a stronger practical experience profile in that job. Volcker could do quite well.
I agree all the way.

I do not care about the politics of how we got into this discussion of real reforms, I just care that we are here. Who knows where this could go? Everything starts small.

Always the sardonic sarcastic that I am I do reserve the right to savage the gutting of this bill or it's outright drop should polls improve and some decide all show and no go was good enough. Let's hope the voters are not ready to allow such a backpedal.

Also this week, Ben Bernanke is not the shoe-in once thought. Now we are talking! See what ONE ELECTION can do? I said it once and I will say it as often as possible; nothing will bend a politico to the will of the people as voting them out! Nothing comes close, not even a distant second. We have the tools, we can do this.

Have a good night.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Financial Reform Wishlist

Well it was certainly an interesting day here in Massachusetts!

Scott Brown pulled of what could be the biggest upset in history with his win. Congratulations to him and to the voters of the Commonwealth.

I have seen plenty of write ups saying this vote was a total repudiation of the Health Care bill and to an extent it was that. I have also read that this vote is a vote against President Obama and the Democrats. It was not that at all.

The core of the voter movement here was a general sickness over elected officials everywhere doing whatever they pleased with no regard for the will of the people. You have seen this across the nation and it is not relegated to a democrat/republican thing. TARP, AIG, Health Care backroom deals, multiple mortgage handouts for dead beats, the list goes on. Nobody wanted any of this and the government rammed it down out throat regardless. This has to change and I hope the message was heard around the country; No seat is safe if you have been or will be a party to these kinds of odious bills that nobody wants. (R), (I), or (D) will not save you.

Financial Reform Wishlist
"I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro's hood"
Pearl Jam "Wishlist"

I am feeling like maybe, possibly some real change could come on the financial end of things after the special election. I may be crazy, well we all know that to be true, but I can have a wishlist!

I was thinking about this section today and it was funny because in one step all the ills of the financial system could be exposed and then the process of dealing with them could begin in earnest:

End All Support for the Housing Market

It can't be that simple, right? Well I did not say pleasant, but yes the entire financial system hinges on government home price supports.

Consider the following points:
-We have no idea what mortgage rates would be in a "normal" market due to FED interference
-Banks are STILL holding tons of mortgage debt at mark to myth prices based on the hope housing snaps back or they can sell them all off to the FED at par
-The VAST majority of the country (including all you innocent renters getting royally screwed here) are not a party to failing mortgages and make their payments on time. The punishment of the masses for the miss-deeds of the few is morally corrupt and worse encourages those weakest among us to play that system
-Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the stash of foreign holders of much US debt and all the tap dancing done for those two firms is to support continued US debt buying. This needs to be discussed openly
-The FHA has now become another repository for terrible loans and will result in yet another massive bailout. What next? Another acronym? How about an original idea?
-Under cover of "this is helping YOUR home keep it's value" these games are really to help big banks avoid bankruptcy

My only wish is for all government intervention in the housing market to end.

This would cause all the problems, lies, balance sheet issues and hidden losses out in the open. The ripple effect would be enormous.

I am not a fool, and I understand that a move like this would cause "the end of the world as we know it" but I think we could get through it somehow. We may even find that it is the end of the world as THEY know it and maybe that is worth the struggle.

The people responsible for the debt crisis have yet to be fully exposed, much less held accountable. Bondholders, investors, and defaulting mortgage holders have walked while the rest carry the load. This must end.

Jesse's Americain Cafe has some insights on how to deal with the banking issues today and I would point you here for a stirring read.

There is no other one area or item that can enable the true financial reform process we need so badly to happen as powerful as the housing issue.

Have a good night.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Delayed by Snow

Delayed by Snow
The funny thing about Massachusetts is that it snows here every winter and nobody gets any better at driving in it. After a VERY long commute home and a stop off at the polls to vote I am way late after dinner. There was plenty of great stories out there today and the blogroll on the left should be used in case of financial news need!

As I had written in the last post, the Massachusetts Senate special election is today and I am sure you have heard about it no matter where you are. My anecdotal observations from voting:
-About 2 times as many people as for the last Presidential election at my voting station.
-Scott Brown signs on cars and in front of the school were running about 4 to 1 over Martha Coakley signs.
-Heard at least 10 times: Question: "Do you think he can pull it off?". Answer: "I hope so."

It seems Mr. Brown has a realistic chance to win which is jaw dropping here. Still, he will have to win by a fair amount as the city "vote creation", I mean "turnout" will be large and there is always the fun game of "Absentee Ballot Avalanche" to contend with.

As is aid before the only thing that moves a politician is the idea they are going to be sent home. Protests, marches, and phone calls are nice but they do not scare anyone. A win for Brown here may have the desired effect of waking the elected few up to the people's will. It could also be a fine example of how easy it is to get real change; just go out and vote, it's that simple.

For those looking for a new way to do things, I submit from Outside The (Cardboard) Box The Cardboard Manifesto.

Have a good night.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Massachusetts Senate Race

I always try and stay away from political items because I know two things:
1-Most readers cannot stand either party and are fed up with the government
2-Most readers know too much of the country is either too dumb or too jaded to do anything about our system

Of course I agree 100%

What I post tonight is for one reason only.

What happens in Massachusetts will make a difference.

Now you may think the health care bill hangs in the balance, and it might. I hate the bill but that is secondary to the main point. The point is our elected leaders have done terrible, horrible things in total violation of the people's will for so long they take it for granted. If Scott Brown wins this may change. I said MAY, not will.

Nothing motivates a politician more than the idea they are going to lose and lose royally in an election. This is the message we need to send. If a Republican can win in Massachusetts than all their butts are on the line on both sides of the aisle.

With that said I submit all the evidence anyone needs to cast a vote for Scott Brown. If, after viewing the following two clips you still choose to vote for Martha Coakley, then you may have a serious problem and I cannot help you.

Clip 1: The People's Seat:

Mr. Brown explains the Senate seat belongs to the people of Massachusetts. We have not been represented in the Senate for about 20 years because Ted Kennedy and John Kerry are residents of Washington DC, not Massachusetts.

Clip 2: Total Rip Off:

That is all you need.

Faced with a powerful truth the Coakley crew just rip off Scott Brown's line and re-use it! This is beyond weak and disqualifies the entire campaign due to total lack of class. This is absurd.

If you vote for this kind of limited ability you are a fool. If you vote for this weak a candidate you have sacrificed any ability for Massachusetts to be an independent vote in the Senate and instead be a lackey for the government.

Need I remind all Massachusetts natives that Biotech/Pharma is our bread and butter industry? What do you think happens if the health care bill gets passed? If you lack a brain or an imagination let me help:
We are screwed as research jobs will dry up as Pharma focuses on generics and kills off pipeline work to see how things unfold.
Got that? Is that simple enough?

Sorry for the political rant but this is important.

Have a good night.

NFL Playoff Final Thoughts

What a crazy wild weekend of football. A few quick thoughts and a reset for the comments section. Thanks to all for the participation!

New Orleans Saints 45, Arizona Cardinals 14
The last 3 games of the regular season the Saints were bored and had little to play for. Saturday they wanted to play and when they want to things get scary fast. The Cardinals had no chance even after scoring on the first play of the game. The Saints host the NFC title game and the dome will be VERY loud.

Indianapolis Colts 20, Baltimore Ravens 3
The Colts play sound football and the Ravens self destruct as they have all year. What else is there to write? Ray Lewis did get jobbed on the endzone roughness call as all the cameras clearly show the Colts receiver with the ball when Lewis lays him out. I guess you cannot hit in football anymore. Whatever.

Minnesota Vikings 34, Dallas Cowboys 3
Everything that Dallas has been doing well they did the opposite today. They were obviously bothered by the crowd noise. A disappointing showing. The Vikings late pass on 4th down for a touchdown was a classless move and really not necessary. The Vikings defense is top level. Where was Adrian Peterson though?

New York Jets 17, San Diego Chargers 14
The only shocker of the weekend. Norv Turner has to be fired. The Chargers played right into the Jets hands by playing short dink and donk passes and running the ball non stop which they suck at. A bemusing performance by San Diego the perennial losers of the AFC. The Jets are about as scary a team right now as the Giants were in 2007/2008 season.

I will have more on the games a bit closer to next weekend.

Have a good night.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend

It seems most had a good time last night with the Friday post and that is great. I do try to both inform and entertain!

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend
Monster games today and all are tough ones to call.

Before the game section I would like to congratulate Marvin Lewis on winning NFL coach of the year. The leader of the Cincinnati Bengals had his team play well this year and win the AFC North division. While they did lose their first playoff game, the season overall was a great success.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
I do not think Arizona has a firm grasp on just how loud the Superdome will be today. A few years ago in a playoff divisional game against Philadelphia in the Dome my TV speakers almost blew out! It will be a raucous crowd.

This game can go a few different ways and any way it goes it will be a high scoring affair. I think the Saints are rested and motivated, and as an added inspiration they have brought back New Orleans legend Deuce McAllister to lead the team out for the game.

The Cardinals are red hot, just like last year in the playoffs. They can kill you in different ways and they are not afraid of playing on the road. Kurt Warner is a hall of fame quarterback in my opinion.

So how is it going to go? I think the Saints are going to open the game fast and overwhelm the Cardinals early. The game will slow down after a while and a late rally by the Cardinals will fall short.
Prediction: Saints 38, Cardinals 28

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
The Ravens are coming off a pounding of my New England Patriots and must feel confident not just due to last week, but that they lost a close game to the Colts (17-15) earlier in the year.

The Colts are in the same spot they are in almost every year. They usually disappoint. As I have written, the Colts do not have a "high gear" for the playoffs they play the same all the time, which is excellent, but they lack a second level.

I think this game will remain close but I cannot see how the Ravens will generate enough points to win. To beat the Colts you must score at least 28 points and I do not see that happening for Baltimore unless Ed Reed runs a pick back for a TD.
Prediction: Colts 27, Ravens 17

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
Another great match up on a power packed weekend.

The entire game will come down to one question; can the Vikings run the ball inside effectively? It the Vikings are forced to the air either by falling behind or being unable to run the ball they will lose the game. If the Vikings can run this changes everything. The Cowboys have not played a run oriented team since they played the Giants.

This game is impossible to call and I am having a tough time. Because Cowboys mega fan Gawains picked the Cardinals to upset the Saints (on my own blog no less!) I feel this is affecting my call!
Prediction: Vikings 30, Cowboys 27

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
This game should be very interesting. The Chargers have been very strong for the last 2 months and they are very, very hungry. The upstart Jets have ignored the critics and played their kind of football.

This game does not suit the Chargers as much as most think. The Jets are weak against the run (I don't care what the stats say) but the Chargers do not run the ball. Darrelle Revis is a problem and I know Phillip Rivers will go after him and how that goes will be huge. The Chargers are not very good at stopping the run, and the Jets run very well.

Another tough game to call, but I think the Jets will not score enough points to win.
Prediction: Chargers 24, Jets 20

It seems that the band Scandal resonated with many last night. On the chance that the Ravens could bounce the Colts from the playoffs tonight (PLEASE!!) I will embed the following tune so I can play it for the Colts if they lose:

Good Bye to You Peyton Manning!

Have a good night.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Enough is Enough

It is indeed Friday! Looking forward to the 3 day weekend and the full NFL Playoffs slate. I may do a preview/prediction post tomorrow but after last week (2-2) my powers of prognostication took a serious hit!

Enough is Enough
I am going to present a set of stories that all fit the same theme; the systemic corruption in America is alive and well and the very offices that are meant to serve and protect instead rob us blind. Add to this the world is so enamored of "pretend and extend" that it may well become a UN charter provision. In other words, nothing new!

In one of the best investigative journalism works in years, Diana Olick (of CNBC no less!) does the kind of work one can only dream of ever seeing from the press as a whole:
Big Banks Accused of Short Sale Fraud
I will not take away from the power of the article with any excerpts, you simply MUST read the whole thing. Suffice to say Diana Olick has big banks dead to rights in illegal procedures and even has phone conversations to back it up. I am dreaming of that call being played at a FED congress hearing or another big banker hearing sometime in my life time.

Next up, the mess that is Greece. I will not bore you with the nitty gritty of Greece's issues, ,lets just say they are broke. Instead of facing this, flushing the bad debt and moving on (sounds easy but I know it is very hard) we get more calls to just sweep it under the rug as not to, wait for it, put confidence in danger! No that!:
Europe cannot afford a Greek default
Key snippet:
If the eurozone fails to support Greece or makes the terms of any bail-out politically impossible for the country’s authorities to meet, Greece could default on its sovereign debt. The eurozone would then face a big problem. The financial markets would quickly turn their attention to other euro bloc economies with unsustainable fiscal positions and poor growth prospects. Italy, Spain and Portugal would find themselves paying dramatically higher borrowing costs, raising the likelihood of further fiscal crises.
Note the key phrase; unsustainable fiscal positions. The writer does not even try to suggest a way to undo terrible overspending and debt burdens but instead goes right for the "just bail them out" easy route. This thing is global!

So what can you do?

The short answer is, probably not much. Sorry.

The long answer will require me to delve into two areas I try and avoid: the political and the legal. Skip on if not interested; if you are then allow me a little room to roam.

Upfront: I am no fan of either political party. To me the best government is the absolute smallest one that takes the bare minimum of my money to pay for the big items like defense and infrastructure. Everything else is not the governments business in my book. Alas, that is not reality and you have to work in the system you are faced with.

That said, what can you do?

If you live in Massachusetts you can vote for Scott Brown for the US Senate seat on Tuesday January 19th. If Mr. Brown wins this will accomplish two things:
-Sends a message to Washington that the bailouts and other crap they have sat by and watched (or voted for) has pissed us off to the degree Massachusetts will elect a REPUBLICAN! This will scare the politicos more than a 500,000 person tea party on the White House lawn. This will have an effect.
-This will kill the terrible Health Care bill. We can debate all we want the details (I do not feel like it) but I can boil it down in simple terms that after review of all the information is the real deal:
You will be paying much more (both directly and indirectly) than you are now for either the same care or worse care.
Now you may be fine with this but I am not.

On the legal front, Mish has a few thoughts on spreading ideas:
Send a Message
With every letter you send, with every bill you write, and with every dollar you spend, send a message.

Here's how:
Go out and buy some stamps that say things like ...
"End The Fed"
"Got Gold?"
"Dump Bernanke"
"**** The Fed"
“Buy Gold; End the Fed”
"I Demand Honest Money"
"Dump the Dollar, Buy Gold"
Use your imagination.
By the way, "End the Fed" is better than "Audit the Fed" as that is the ultimate goal.
Red Ink Will Stand Out Better
You can get custom rubber stamps cheap in many places.
Stamp a loving message on all the bills you pay, on every letter you send, any piece of paper or form you send anywhere.
Order some stamps today and tell your friends to do the same.
Now Economic Disconnect would never suggest defacing US currency as that is illegal.

But as a pure thought experiment (only an experiment!!) allow me to suggest:
-"Audit the FED" is indeed better. "End the FED" is nice if you know what the FED is. Most people do not. Throw in a scary word like AUDIT and you get people's attention. Maybe get the stamp to have a little arrow pointing to the words "Federal Reserve" on the money and the label "Audit the FED". This will excite people as nothing is more enjoyable than somebody else getting audited!
-Buy the stamps in bulk and with the same ink in a large batch. Pass along the items far and wide. This way if a pissed off government tries to mass spec the ink or trace the rubber stamp there will too many to follow. Plausible deny ability and all that.

Friday Night Entertainment
Enough heavy lifting, it is weekend time!

It's All Mars All the Time
Loyal readers know I am a Mars fanatic. This week brought some news on the red planet front that I wanted to pass along.

First up, proving me right after all these years:
Proof of Martians 'to come this year'
This pertains to bacterial like life, but that's just the start!

New reader DIYer pointed out this amazing picture of dunes on Mars taken by the orbiter:

So here we have proof of microbial life and we see DUNES on Mars? What does it all add up to?

I think the martian life escaped to the planet core by tunnels:

See this for full read up.

Rock Blogging
Some songs to get you excited for the weekend!

I will lead of with something fun and it is not from the 80's or heavy metal! I know, you are shocked. Start it off with Sam Cooke and "Twistin' the Night Away":

New reader and fellow blogger Tom of the North asked for anything John Hiatt. I have to admit I had never heard of this artist. Some checking and I arrived at the song "Thunderbird" which I like very much:


Reader Anon bypassed Elvis this week and asked for the Roy Orbsion classic "Crying" and who could say no to such a song? Not me:

Warning!: If you have been taking any psychotropic drugs please skip over Rusted Root and "Ecstasy":

Love the 2:30 mark slow section, fine guitar work!

Two more? You guys are demanding. Ok, I will do it.

No night is truly me without Ozzy and/or Iron Maiden. I am a creature of habit!

Enjoy Ozzy's better than you think song "Shot in the Dark":

Pretty good!

Last Call! Grab a drink, a girl, or both at the same time!

Equal parts cheesy 80's video, great lyrical talent, and hair band old time fun take a ride with Scandal (featuring John McEnroe's wife Patty Smyth) and "The Warrior":


Have a good night.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Gordon Gartrelle Replica Economy

It is Thursday and I had no idea that I have Monday off from work for Martin Luther King Day! Good deal. I noticed today that the Sun was staying up higher in the sky for once as I drove home and not going lower. Spring is right around the corner!

Reader Input
Besides some very kind words from a commenter last night, I also received a request to offer my take on a question. I love questions and encourage all to ask anything in the comments and I will work on it the best I can.

Loyal reader Watchtower asks:
Do you think that in the future the government will negate the benefits of a tax deferred account by changing the tax rules (I'm talking about IRA's)?
This question is actually multi faceted the more I thought about it.

My first reaction is that the small amount able to go into an IRA ($5k/year) would not attract the attention of tax increases. Of course across the entire country across all the accounts this would add up, but allow me to offer another avenue that fits our governments stealth way of taking your money for their own use.

If you have not seen this story from Jesse about 401k's and IRA's it is worth a look. My own take is a bit more sarcastic (of course!) so here goes:

-Any type of tax changes to either 401k/IRA will get people upset and very interested in the issue, thus I do not see the tax status being changed at all. For some reason people fail to see almost everything right in front of them when it comes to finance but they do get bent out of shape about tax changes, especially from "none" to "some amount".

What I envision in the near future instead is this kind of a letter you will get from your holding firm which will read something like this:
In accordance with the new regulations set forth by the Federal Reserve Act of Citizen Retirement Flexibility, 15% of your existing and future contributions will require settling in the Tax Deferred Retirement Protection Fund (TDRPF). This program has been established to offer long term protection for your retirement savings by providing automatic access to risk free financial instruments* at no cost to you. You do not have to do anything; no forms are required and no action is needed. The tax treatment of your investment has not changed. Thanks you for your attention.

*-Denotes 2,7,10 year US Treasury Bonds, FHA/FRE/FNM bonds, and other instruments as needed.

In this way the government would have access to plenty of cash to support debt sales and no tax increases would make the front page. As long as most people see "No tax changes" and more importantly "No action required" most will miss what junk 15% of their portfolio just got stuffed with.

Just my 2 cents. Let me know what you think.

The Gordon Gartrelle Replica Economy
Now for this section to work you are going to have indulge for a minute!

I was a big fan of "The Cosby Show" when I was younger. I was thinking about tonight's section for a while and I suddenly recalled a Cosby episode that summed up how I think about some things.

The season one episode "A Shirt Story" is summed up on Wiki as such:
Theo wants to impress a girl by wearing an expensive shirt by designer Gordon Gartrelle. Since Cliff and Clair will not pay for it, Denise offers to make a copy of the shirt for him. Guest appearance by Kadeem Hardison, who years later would portray Dwayne Wayne on the Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World.
(NOTE: The real Gordon Gartrelle is a writer/producer for The Cosby Show.)
That is the first part of the puzzle.

The second comes from the end of the episode where Theo has to wear the horrible replica of the shirt in front of the girl he was trying to impress and instead of being horrified the girl loves the shirt (see 5:55 mark):

Faced with a ridiculous shirt, the peanut gallery simply says it's awesome and all is well.

So what the heck does that episode have to do with anything? Great question.

You may recall that last week same store retail sales came out and everyone was excited about the "proof" of a turnaround as the numbers looked pretty good. The real proof is in the final aggregate numbers though, and today the December retail sales number was -0.3% (that's NEGATIVE) instead of the +0.5 positive print expected. Another "unexpected" number.

So what happened? Well it seems that in the spirit of the banks, who had never modelled serious home price depreciation as a possible event, it seems the old data points just are not applicable in a downturn like this one. The culprit here: same store sales were skewed by the huge number of store closings which boosted sales at the remaining stores, but there was no boost in aggregate purchases. Great take can be found here:
Here's How The December Retail Data Turned Out To Be Such A Disaster

To be even more frank, gasoline, due to higher prices, also made up most of any gains as can be seen on this EconomPic graph.

Now of course the markets could not be bothered with such information, but that leads me to my point. I swear there is one!

Just like the Gordon Gartrelle replica shirt was accepted by the character as "hot", data today is accepted as great no matter what with no care how it was made.

We have seen this kind of over reaction to all kinds of data since the rally began and many times before then. Items include:
-When mortgage brokers were closing doors by the hundreds, mortgage applications went up as people had to re-apply many places. The broken data point was cheered as a sign of housing recovery.
-Initial Unemployment claims are trending down because really, who is left to fire? This is a far cry from job gains (excluding the census workers to come!) but this data point is heralded as the next bull market instigator.
-Cash for Clunkers added car sales, who would have thought? As GM moved to ramp up production sales went right back to where they were. Another fake data point.

There are many more.

My point is that as long as some data point "beats expectations" or "is getting worse less quick" or "shows gains over last year" it is lauded. No attention is paid to the details. This is hardly a new game but the total reliance on funny numbers is a first.

Data right now is a cheap knock off that was stitched together and passed off a genuine. At first I think this was done for the whole "confidence" thing we hear so much about. Now I believe that being allowed to get away with it has emboldened market participants (see the VIX lately?) to bank on gaming the system in perpetuity.

Anytime players think they can place bets without losing something goes terribly wrong. One would think we would have learned something, anything, over the past 3 years but I guess that is a cheap knock off of an idea as well.

For more on this try "Simulacra and Simulation".

Have a good night.