Tag Archive: Standard and Poors

Mar 08 2013

The Dow of the Economy

The “sequester that wouldn’t happen” kicked into reality last Friday. So far all the dire warnings of job losses, airport delays and threats to national security haven’t materialized but give it a month for the effects to kick in. Meanwhile the Stock Market seems to have not noticed and is reaching new pinnacles for a third say. If you read the financial pages of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you’d think the economy was on a rapid road to recovery, yet the economy continues to languish, along with the middle class and manufacturing as naked capitalism founder Yves Smith noted:

It’s hard to fathom the celebratory mood in the US markets, save that the moneyed classes are benefitting from a wall of liquidity reminiscent of early 2007, when risk spreads across virtually all types of lending shrank to scarily low levels. Then the culprit was not well understood, although Gillian Tett discerned that CDOs were a huge source of leverage, and in April 2007, an analyst, Henry Maxey at Ruffler, LLC, did an impressive job of piecing together how levered structured credit strategies were driving market liquidity.

Now it’s a lot easier to see what is afoot. The Fed has been trying to reflate asset values to goose the real economy. What it has done instead is goose the incomes of the top 1% while everyone else is on the whole worse off. But the central bank is suffering from a very bad case of “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” syndrome. It’s unwilling or unable to admit that its program is working only for a very few. It has convinced itself that if it just keeps on the same failed path long enough, things will turn around.

The Guardian‘s US finance and economics editor, Heidi Moore explains why this rally is not an indicator of US economic growth and why we shouldn’t trust the Dow:

The last time the Dow hit a high, in 2007, the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank were already collaborating on a global economic bailout, and Bear Stearns collapsed six months later. Before that, the high was in January 2000, only about three months before the market started a long, ugly downward slide in the wake of the tech boom. Go back further, in 1987, when the Dow hit a temporary high before the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s hit. In 1966, the Dow hit 1,000 and by 1967 the economy began a long downward slide into the stagflation of the 1970s and the recession of the early 1980s.

None of that, however, beats the Dow’s high in September 1929, just weeks before the giant crash that ushered in the Great Depression. The Dow cannot defy gravity. The higher it rises, the harder it will fall.

So when the Dow is high, you should smile – briefly. Then duck.

If you’re getting a bad feeling about this, you should.

On MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Tuesday, Rachel’s guests Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and Frank Rich, New York Magazine writer-at-large discuss the stock market and corporate profits reaching record setting heights while most Americans see their wages stagnant and unemployment rates barely moving.



Transcript can be read here

Feb 04 2013

Preventing Future Economic Failures. Maybe

In the “I’ll believe this when I see it” category, there are two bits of news about banking and Wall Street have been too long in the coming and if it happens, there will be a lot of happy dances in places like Zucotti Park.

First, the British Treasury chief has told the “Too Big To Fail” banks that their days are numbered if they flout the law and banking regulations in the future:

George Osborne told executives from JPMorgan that the days of banks being “too big to fail” are over in Britain, and that taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to bail out the lenders. The next time a crisis hits, he wants more options to act. [..]

The new measure gives regulators the power to force a complete separation of a lender’s retail business from its investment banking. Risky investments undermined banks’ stability in 2008, leading to taxpayer bailouts of two big U.K. banks. [..]

The banking standards commission said that the scandal of manipulating key lending indexes (LIBOR) had “exposed a culture of culpable greed far removed from the interests of bank customers.” [..]

Other countries and regulators are also grappling with how to prevent future bailouts. In the United States, legislation known as the Dodd-Frank act seeks to bar banks them from engaging in risky trading on their own account. The European Union is also examining how banks might separate their riskier investment banking operations from the rest of their business.

Besides that, new international rules – known as Basel III – will require banks to hold more financial reserves to protect against possible losses. The requirements will be phased in over the coming years, but banks have said they are too demanding.

The second is the report that the US Department of Justice and state prosecutors intend to file civil charges again the rating service, Standard & Poors, alleging wrong doing  in its rating of mortgage bonds before the financial crisis erupted in 2008. According to the report in The Wall Street Journal

The likely move by U.S. officials would be the first federal enforcement action against a credit-rating firm for alleged illegal behavior related to the crisis. Several state attorneys general are expected to join the case, making it one of the highest-profile and widest-ranging enforcement crisis-era crackdowns.

The expected civil charges against S&P follow the breakdown of long-running settlement talks between the Justice Department and S&P, the people said. [..]

All three credit-rating firms have faced intense criticism from lawmakers for giving allegedly overly rosy ratings to thousands of subprime-mortgage bonds before the housing market collapsed.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded two years ago that the top credit-rating agencies were “key enablers of the financial meltdown.”

The Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies have long been investigating whether the rating firms broke securities laws or simply failed to predict the housing crisis.

Over at Zero Hedge, Tyler Durdin questions why S&P is being targeted and not the other ratings agencies:

Certainly if S&P is being targeted so will be the Octogenarian of Omaha’s pet rating company, Moody’s as well, not to mention French Fitch. Or maybe not: after all these were the two raters who sternly refused to downgrade the US when the country boldly penetrated the 100% debt/GDP target barrier, and which at last check has some 105% in debt/GDP with no actual plan of trimming spending. As in ever.

And in these here united banana states, it is only reasonable to expect that such crony, corrupt behavior is not only not punished but solidly rewarded.

I expect to be disappointed. Fool me.