Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sarong Party?


(news from thestar online. Picture from Wikipedia)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

America Hooked on Drugs


December 26, 2008

Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble

“Usually it’s the rich country lending to the poor. This time, it’s the poor country lending to the rich.”

— Niall Ferguson

WASHINGTON — In March 2005, a low-key Princeton economist who had become a Federal Reserve governor coined a novel theory to explain the growing tendency of Americans to borrow from foreigners, particularly the Chinese, to finance their heavy spending.

The problem, he said, was not that Americans spend too much, but that foreigners save too much. The Chinese have piled up so much excess savings that they lend money to the United States at low rates, underwriting American consumption.

This colossal credit cycle could not last forever, he said. But in a global economy, the transfer of Chinese money to America was a market phenomenon that would take years, even a decade, to work itself out. For now, he said, “we probably have little choice except to be patient.”

Today, the dependence of the United States on Chinese money looks less benign. And the economist who proposed the theory, Ben S. Bernanke, is dealing with the consequences, having been promoted to chairman of the Fed in 2006, as these cross-border money flows were reaching stratospheric levels.

In the past decade, China has invested upward of $1 trillion, mostly earnings from manufacturing exports, into American government bonds and government-backed mortgage debt. That has lowered interest rates and helped fuel a historic consumption binge and housing bubble in the United States.

China, some economists say, lulled American consumers, and their leaders, into complacency about their spendthrift ways.

“This was a blinking red light,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. “We should have reacted to it.”

In hindsight, many economists say, the United States should have recognized that borrowing from abroad for consumption and deficit spending at home was not a formula for economic success. Even as that weakness is becoming more widely recognized, however, the United States is likely to be more addicted than ever to foreign creditors to finance record government spending to revive the broken economy.

To be sure, there were few ready remedies. Some critics argue that the United States could have pushed Beijing harder to abandon its policy of keeping the value of its currency weak — a policy that made its exports less expensive and helped turn it into the world’s leading manufacturing power. If China had allowed its currency to float according to market demand in the past decade, its export growth probably would have moderated. And it would not have acquired the same vast hoard of dollars to invest abroad.

Others say the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department should have seen the Chinese lending for what it was: a giant stimulus to the American economy, not unlike interest rate cuts by the Fed. These critics say the Fed under Alan Greenspan contributed to the creation of the housing bubble by leaving interest rates too low for too long, even as Chinese investment further stoked an easy-money economy. The Fed should have cut interest rates less in the middle of this decade, they say, and started raising them sooner, to help reduce speculation in real estate.

Today, with the wreckage around him, Mr. Bernanke said he regretted that more was not done to regulate financial institutions and mortgage providers, which might have prevented the flood of investment, including that from China, from being so badly used. But the Fed’s role in regulation is limited to banks. And stricter regulation by itself would not have been enough, he insisted.

“Achieving a better balance of international capital flows early on could have significantly reduced the risks to the financial system,” Mr. Bernanke said in an interview in his office overlooking the Washington Mall.

“However,” he continued, “this could only have been done through international cooperation, not by the United States alone. The problem was recognized, but sufficient international cooperation was not forthcoming.”

The inaction was because of a range of factors, political and economic. By the yardsticks that appeared to matter most — prosperity and growth — the relationship between China and the United States also seemed to be paying off for both countries. Neither had a strong incentive to break an addiction: China to strong export growth and financial stability; the United States to cheap imports and low-cost foreign loans.

In Washington, China was treated as a threat by some people, but mostly because it lured away manufacturing jobs. Others argued that China’s heavy lending to this country was risky because Chinese leaders could decide to withdraw money at a moment’s notice, creating a panicky run on the dollar.

Mr. Bernanke viewed such international investment flows through a different lens. He argued that Chinese invested savings abroad because consumers in China did not have enough confidence to spend. Changing that situation would take years, and did not amount to a pressing problem for the Americans.

“The global savings glut story did us a collective disservice,” said Edwin M. Truman, a former Fed and Treasury official. “It created the idea that the world was doing it to us and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

But Mr. Bernanke’s theory fit the prevailing hands-off, pro-market ideology of recent years. Mr. Greenspan and the Bush administration treated the record American trade deficit and heavy foreign borrowing as an abstract threat, not an urgent problem.

Mr. Bernanke, after he took charge of the Fed, warned that the imbalances between the countries were growing more serious. By then, however, it was too late to do much about them. And the White House still regarded imbalances as an arcane subject best left to economists.

By itself, money from China is not a bad thing. As American officials like to note, it speaks to the attractiveness of the United States as a destination for foreign investment. In the 19th century, the United States built its railroads with capital borrowed from the British.

In the past decade, China arguably enabled an American boom. Low-cost Chinese goods helped keep a lid on inflation, while the flood of Chinese investment helped the government finance mortgages and a public debt of close to $11 trillion.

But Americans did not use the lower-cost money afforded by Chinese investment to build a 21st-century equivalent of the railroads. Instead, the government engaged in a costly war in Iraq, and consumers used loose credit to buy sport utility vehicles and larger homes. Banks and investors, eagerly seeking higher interest rates in this easy-money environment, created risky new securities like collateralized debt obligations.

“Nobody wanted to get off this drug,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who pushed legislation to punish China by imposing stiff tariffs. “Their drug was an endless line of customers for made-in-China products. Our drug was the Chinese products and cash.”

Mr. Graham said he understood the addiction: he was speaking by phone from a Wal-Mart store in Anderson, S.C., where he was Christmas shopping in aisles lined with items from China.

A New Economic Dance

The United States has been here before. In the 1980s, it ran heavy trade deficits with Japan, which...


An Embrace That Won’t Let Go

For China, too, this crisis has been a time of reckoning. Americans are buying fewer Chinese DVD players and microwave ovens. Trade is collapsing, and thousands of workers are losing their jobs. Chinese leaders are terrified of social unrest.

Having allowed the renminbi to rise a little after 2005, the Chinese government is now under intense pressure domestically to reverse course and depreciate it. China’s fortunes remain tethered to those of the United States. And the reverse is equally true.

In a glassed-in room in a nondescript office building in Washington, the Treasury conducts nearly daily auctions of billions of dollars’ worth of government bonds. An old Army helmet sits on a shelf: as a lark, Treasury officials have been known to strap it on while they monitor incoming bids.

For the past five years, China has been one of the most prolific bidders. It holds $652 billion in Treasury debt, up from $459 billion a year ago. Add in its Fannie Mae bonds and other holdings, and analysts figure China owns $1 of every $10 of America’s public debt.

The Treasury is conducting more auctions than ever to finance its $700 billion bailout of the banks. Still more will be needed to pay for the incoming Obama administration’s stimulus package. The United States, economists say, will depend on the Chinese to keep buying that debt, perpetuating the American habit.

Even so, Mr. Paulson said he viewed the debate over global imbalances as hopelessly academic. He expressed doubt that Mr. Bernanke or anyone else could have solved the problem as it was germinating.

“One lesson that I have clearly learned,” said Mr. Paulson, sitting beneath his Chinese watercolor. “You don’t get dramatic change, or reform, or action unless there is a crisis.”

(complete story at nytimes.com)


Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Cock Color

IS there any difference between Madoff's 50 Billion Dollar Ponzi scheme and the Trillion Dollar Wall Steet Robbery ? This Nobel Laureate thinks they are pretty much "One Cock Color"!


December 19, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

The Madoff Economy
The revelation that Bernard Madoff — brilliant investor (or so almost everyone thought), philanthropist, pillar of the community — was a phony has shocked the world, and understandably so. The scale of his alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme is hard to comprehend.

Yet surely I’m not the only person to ask the obvious question: How different, really, is Mr. Madoff’s tale from the story of the investment industry as a whole?

The financial services industry has claimed an ever-growing share of the nation’s income over the past generation, making the people who run the industry incredibly rich. Yet, at this point, it looks as if much of the industry has been destroying value, not creating it. And it’s not just a matter of money: the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.

Let’s start with those paychecks. Last year, the average salary of employees in “securities, commodity contracts, and investments” was more than four times the average salary in the rest of the economy. Earning a million dollars was nothing special, and even incomes of $20 million or more were fairly common. The incomes of the richest Americans have exploded over the past generation, even as wages of ordinary workers have stagnated; high pay on Wall Street was a major cause of that divergence.

But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion.

Consider the hypothetical example of a money manager who leverages up his clients’ money with lots of debt, then invests the bulked-up total in high-yielding but risky assets, such as dubious mortgage-backed securities. For a while — say, as long as a housing bubble continues to inflate — he (it’s almost always a he) will make big profits and receive big bonuses. Then, when the bubble bursts and his investments turn into toxic waste, his investors will lose big — but he’ll keep those bonuses.

O.K., maybe my example wasn’t hypothetical after all.

So, how different is what Wall Street in general did from the Madoff affair? Well, Mr. Madoff allegedly skipped a few steps, simply stealing his clients’ money rather than collecting big fees while exposing investors to risks they didn’t understand. And while Mr. Madoff was apparently a self-conscious fraud, many people on Wall Street believed their own hype. Still, the end result was the same (except for the house arrest): the money managers got rich; the investors saw their money disappear.

We’re talking about a lot of money here. In recent years the finance sector accounted for 8 percent of America’s G.D.P., up from less than 5 percent a generation earlier. If that extra 3 percent was money for nothing — and it probably was — we’re talking about $400 billion a year in waste, fraud and abuse.

But the costs of America’s Ponzi era surely went beyond the direct waste of dollars and cents.

At the crudest level, Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials like Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven’t closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms (hello, Senator Schumer), politicians have walked when money talked.

Meanwhile, how much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?

Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.

After all, that’s why so many people trusted Mr. Madoff.

Now, as we survey the wreckage and try to understand how things can have gone so wrong, so fast, the answer is actually quite simple: What we’re looking at now are the consequences of a world gone Madoff.
(Source: nytimes.com)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recession Hits Sinkapor


Rolex appeal fades as recession blues hit Singapore
By Melanie Lee Melanie Lee
Tue Dec 16, 2:05 am ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) – Suffering from recession blues and looking to offload that new Rolex watch?

Don't turn to us, say second-hand luxury stores in Singapore, who are being swamped with requests from people desperate to sell their luxury goods.

Traditionally resilient during times of economic downturn, more than 70 second hand shops in the city-state are feeling the chill of recession, as the appetite for expensive goods has fallen sharply despite big discounts.

"Rolex prices have been like a reliable currency in the past, but there are signs that even Rolex is hit by this recession wave," said Ngo Han, an avid watch collector.

"New Rolexes are selling at much lower prices than before and that has trickled down to the second-hand market," Ngo said.

Home to the highest density of millionaires in the world, Singapore is a wealth management center and a shopping destination for the region's wealthy.


Second-hand stores that stock luxury goods, such as brand name bags and flatscreen televisions, experienced a boom in the past few years, as rising incomes and the need to upgrade to keep up with fast-changing fashions created a fertile secondary market for designer wares.

But with the city-state becoming the first Asian country to slip into recession this year, customers are changing their habits.

Where once they would have bought Rolexes or Patek Philippes that can cost over S$10,000, (about $6,775), they now opt for models that cost under S$5,000, (about $3,390), shop owners said.

"Business has gone down about 20 to 30 percent. The interest to buy watches is still there, but whether people can afford to buy is another thing," said Alvin Lye of Monster-Time.

His online store, http://www.monster-time.com, carries second hand watches from Breitling, Audemars Piguet, Cartier and Longines.

During lunch hour in Singapore's financial district, people fill up May Fong's second-hand luxury bag store, but few are buying, even with many of the bags going at a 50 percent discount.

"There is definitely a drop in business. People are more conscious (of their) spending, even if it's a bargain," Fong said.


Shops that rent, rather than sell, designer goods, are however reporting a spike in rentals despite the recession, suggesting some locals are still keen to get glamorous goods, albeit temporarily.

"New bags are leased out within seconds (of being) posted on the website," ex-policeman Tan Ho Ching, who rents out designer bags for about S$125 a week via his online store http://www.thatbagiwant.com, told local press on Sunday.

The recession's impact on workers whose salaries are commission-based, such as property agents, could be a likely explanation for the drop-off in sales.

"These people tend to earn much more during the boom times, and they are also likely to make up a significant portion of the consumers for these luxury goods," said Alvin Liew, an economist with Standard Chartered in Singapore.

However, some watch enthusiasts said they were holding onto their horological investments, keen to turn a profit once the recession lifts.

A recent Reuters poll said Singapore would be the worst performing emerging Asian economy next year, but would see a recovery together with the rest of the region in 2010 [ID:nHKG10473].

"Watches are better to keep and are better than cash in a recession. They won't drop in value, and after a recession, the value is still there or more," said collector Yeo on online watch forum http://www.swx.com.sg.

(source: yahoo! news)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008



A couple of simplified visual presentations of the toxic debt story.

The Mortgage Banking Meltdown

Understanding the financial crisis

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stock Trader Tokking Kok

"Trading For A Living"

Bush Eat Shoes

Bush received a farewell gift from the Iraqi people.


Monday, December 15, 2008

"the American Dream"

George Carlin on "the American Dream"


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Right to Humour

Sarkozy voodoo doll wins 'right to humor' in court

Friday, November 28, 2008
PARIS: Amid deepening economic gloom, the tale of the voodoo doll of Nicolas Sarkozy has provided some needed light relief for the French.

Twice, the French president asked the courts to ban the sale of a figurine made in his image. On Friday, an appeals court dealt him the latest rebuff: not only can the doll remain on sale, but the judges ordered that it be sold with a bright-red banner on the packaging entitled "Judicial Injunction" and a warning that sticking needles into the doll affronts Sarkozy's dignity.

So far, Sarkozy's actions in court have had the apparently unintended consequence of turning the voodoo doll into something of a cult item. The actions Friday may give another boost to its popularity.

The doll's light-blue body, which comes with a set of 12 needles and a manual explaining how to put a curse on the president, also features some of Sarkozy's best-known quotes and gaffes: "Work more to earn more" reads one quote, a slogan from Sarkozy's presidential campaign. "Get lost, you poor jerk," reads another, a swipe Sarkozy took at a bystander at a farm fair who refused to shake his hand.

In keeping with the often meticulous nature of French officialdom, the ruling Friday was very specific. The distributor of the dolls, K&B Editions, was ordered to write the notice that will be distributed with the doll in black block-lettering and it must say exactly this: "It was ruled that the encouragement of the reader to poke the doll that comes with the needles in the kit, an activity whose subtext is physical harm, even if it is symbolic, constitutes an attack on the dignity of the person of Mr. Sarkozy."

The court also awarded the president a symbolic euro in damages and ordered K&B Editions to pay the equivalent of about $2,000 in legal costs.

But the court also stuck to the initial ruling by a lower court last month: "The demanded ban is disproportionate," the judges ruled, "in that it is a measure that would compromise freedom of expression." The earlier ruling had already argued that the case fell under what it dubbed "the right to humor."

Thierry Herzog, a lawyer for Sarkozy, appeared to indicate on Friday that the president was satisfied with the ruling and that he would not appeal a second time. "The important thing is that consistent principles and jurisprudence should be applied," Herzog said.

In asking for a ban, Herzog had argued that the president owns the right to his image and that the doll could provoke violence against him. It was Sarkozy's sixth lawsuit this year, and the first time that a sitting French president has lost a court case dealing with the country's strict privacy laws.

Sarkozy is not the only public person whose voodoo doll is on sale. K&B Editions has sold similar figurines in the image of Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy's Socialist rival for the presidency last year. Other dolls represent President George W. Bush and Senator Hillary Clinton.

According to K&B Editions, the initial 20,000 Sarkozy dolls that went on sale on Oct. 9 sold out by Oct. 28. Another 20,000 will be delivered to newsagents from mid-December, this time with the court-ordered label.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

November 28, 2008
Retailers Offer Big Discounts, and Then Pray

Black Friday, long the Super Bowl of shopping, is at hand, but it may have become nearly irrelevant. Check out the deals that were already on offer earlier this week:

Diamond earrings at Macy’s were chopped to $249 from $700. A Marc Jacobs bag at Saks, originally $995, fell to $248.45. And for men, a Ted Baker suit at Lord & Taylor was selling not for the usual $895, but for $399.99.

Such crazy prices are a sign of the times, and analysts expect many more such deals during one of the toughest holiday seasons in decades.

Laden with excess inventory, hungry for sales and worried because of five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the nation’s retailers went into a price-cutting frenzy long before the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. For weeks, they have been trying to outdo one another to capture the attention of consumers who have become numb to run-of-the-mill discounts. As the latest T. J. Maxx slogan goes: “Every day is Black Friday.”

In fact, retailers have had so many early “doorbusters” — jaw-dropping deals usually reserved for Black Friday — that “it’s almost not necessary to get up at 5 in the morning,” said Bill Dreher, a senior retailing analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities.

But the retailers are just getting warmed up.

The Toys “R” Us chain is planning the deepest discounts in its history on Friday, with 50 percent more doorbusters than last year. Other retailers are promising that their deals will be even more striking than the sales they have already unveiled — with Wal-Mart, for instance, promising large flat-panel televisions for less than $400.

Such bargains are likely to set the tone for the shopping season to come.

“There’s no reason to suspect this will end,” said Dan de Grandpre, editor in chief of Dealnews.com, which has been tracking Black Friday deals for about a decade. “This kind of heavy discounting will continue until we see some retailers start to fail, until they start to go out of business.”

Indeed, the intense competition could erode profits at many chains. Some retailing analysts even fear it could condition consumers to shop only when merchandise is deeply discounted.

Still, stores plan to pull out all the stops on Friday and through the weekend. After all, November and December sales make up 25 to 40 percent of many retailers’ annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry group. (The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because it was, historically, the day that many retailers moved into the black, or became profitable for the year.)

The deals were laid out in circulars tucked into newspapers on Thanksgiving Day, on retailers’ Web sites and on sites dedicated to sales and shopping strategies, like bfads.net and gottadeal.com. Many stores planned to open just after midnight Friday morning, and others — including Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, Best Buy, Circuit City, Toys “R” Us and Old Navy — set their openings for 5 a.m. Target will open at 6 a.m. and BJ’s Wholesale Club at 7 a.m.

Consumers have been resisting the stores’ entreaties. In the first two weeks of November, retail categories like apparel, luxury goods and electronics and appliances all had double-digit sales declines, according to SpendingPulse sales reports from MasterCard. Grocers are just about the only stores doing well in this economy, as people hole up and eat at home instead of going to restaurants.

“If you’re in a sector that doesn’t sell food, you’re under a lot of pressure,” said Michael McNamara, vice president of SpendingPulse.

Projections vary about the likely success of this year’s Black Friday and the days following. A National Retail Federation survey said fewer people planned to shop this weekend — as many as 128 million, down from about 135 million who said they planned to shop Thanksgiving weekend sales last year. But a survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers found the opposite, that more people plan to shop this year.

Retailers are hoping for the best.

“This year I expect it to be bigger than ever,” said Gerald L. Storch, chairman and chief executive of Toys “R” Us. Citing the down economy, he explained: “I believe it will be huge because Black Friday is all about bargains.” ...

(Full story at nytimes.com)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stop whining, make whoopee!


Pastor’s Advice for Better Marriage: More Sex

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — And on the seventh day, there was no rest for married couples. A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

“Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex,” he said, with his characteristic mix of humor, showmanship and Scripture. “How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”

On Sunday parishioners at the Grapevine branch watched a prerecorded sermon from Mr. Young and his wife, Lisa, on jumbo screens over a candlelit stage. “I know there’s been a lot of love going around this week, among the married couples,” one of the church musicians said, strumming on a guitar before a crowd of about 3,000.

Mrs. Young, dressed in knee-high black boots and jeans, said that after a week of having sex every day, or close to it, “some of us are smiling.” For others grappling with infidelities, addictions to pornography or other bitter hurts, “there’s been some pain; hopefully there’s been some forgiveness, too.”

Mr. Young advised the couples to “keep on doing what you’ve been doing this week. We should try to double up the amount of intimacy we have in marriage. And when I say intimacy, I don’t mean holding hands in the park or a back rub.”...

(Full story at nytimes.com)


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let's Get Physical...

... to win back our man from China Mei Mei!

Photo borrowed from Getty Images by AFP/Getty Images


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This could be the next craze after Yoga

As a result of the recent Fatwa, livelihood of many people in the Yoga business will be affected. One of them is Ninie Ahmad, a prominent Yoga instructor in Malaysia. She will now have to either change job or teach Yoga in another country.

Oni thinks Ninie should change job. Ninie might want to consider teaching i-Yoyo from now on instead of Yoga. i-Yoyo is originated from Obamaland and it has no historical link to Hinduism. There is currently no Fatwa against i-Yoyo.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bad Old Days

In the bad old days, doctors, dentists, ... and even Santa endorse cigarette smoking.

What's "professional ethics" by-the-way?

These ads are from the 40's and 50's

Bad Time

November 19, 2008
A Sea of Unwanted Imports

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Gleaming new Mercedes cars roll one by one out of a huge container ship here and onto a pier. Ordinarily the cars would be loaded on trucks within hours, destined for dealerships around the country. But these are not ordinary times.

For now, the port itself is the destination. Unwelcome by dealers and buyers, thousands of cars worth tens of millions of dollars are being warehoused on increasingly crowded port property.

And for the first time, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Nissan have each asked to lease space from the port for these orphan vehicles. They are turning dozens of acres of the nation’s second-largest container port into a parking lot, creating a vivid picture of a paralyzed auto business and an economy in peril.

“This is one way to look at the economy,” Art Wong, a spokesman for the port, said of the cars. “And it scares you to death.”

The backlog at the port is just part of a broader rise in the nation’s inventories, which were up 5.5 percent in September from a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department. The car industry has been hurt particularly, with sales down nearly 15 percent this year. General Motors has said it would run out of operating cash by the end of the year if it does not receive a government bailout.

But the inventory glut in Long Beach is not limited to imported cars. There has also been a sharp drop in demand for the port’s single largest export: recycled cardboard and paper products.

This material typically goes to China, where it is used to make boxes for new electronics and other products that are sent back to the United States. But Chinese factories reacting to sharply falling demand are slowing production, so they need less cardboard. Tons of paper are piling up recycling businesses around the port, the detritus of economies on hold.

Long Beach is an important port, particularly for the West. It is where imported products arrive and...

(full story at nytimes.com)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Confusing Signals

This is damn confusing. Really "catch no balls"!


Immelt’s GE Purchases Signal Sell as Insiders Buy
By Eric Martin and Michael Tsang

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt and Citigroup Inc.‘s Vikram Pandit are back to buying their own companies’ shares. That means there may be more stock declines to come. (Oni: Huh!?? WTF does this mean?)

CEOs, directors and other senior officers at New York Stock Exchange-listed companies purchased $1.37 billion worth of equities in October, according to Bethesda, Maryland-based research firm Washington Service. They snapped them up as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 17 percent, the most since 1987.

Insider buying, a bullish signal for two decades, lost its prescience this year and now may be a harbinger of a retreat in shares because it signals overconfidence, (Oni: sometimes it signals bullishness, sometimes it's just sign of overconfidence. It's fcuking confusing!?). according to Ben Silverman, director of research at InsiderScore.com, a stock tracking firm in Princeton, New Jersey. The last time officers bought as much was in March 2008, preceding a drop in the S&P 500 a month later, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“Everyone’s drinking the Kool-Aid,” said Michael Levine, a money manager at New York-based OppenheimerFunds Inc., which oversees $160 billion. “These guys know their companies better than the market, so they think they’ll be right. But the economic slowdown has happened much more quickly and has been much deeper than people expected.”

Insiders stepped up purchases in the past four months, buying $57 worth of shares for every $100 sold in October, from a low of $21 bought in June. The last time the amount of buying increased as much was in March, when executives bought $62 of shares for every $100 they sold.

False Starts

Futures on the S&P 500 lost 0.6 percent today. The gauge gained 7.9 percent from the end of March to 1,426.63 on May 19, before giving up the entire advance the next month. The index has dropped 44 percent since reaching a record in October 2007 as signs of a recession increased and banks lost almost $1 trillion on mortgage-related investments.

Insiders scooped up $2.15 billion of stock in August 2007 as S&P 500 companies reported record quarterly profits. Executives at financial firms such as Wachovia Corp. Chairman Lanty Smith and Washington Mutual Inc. director Michael Murphy accounted for a third of purchases after industry profits reached an all-time high. The S&P 500 rose 6.2 percent from the end of the month until the start of the bear market in October.

“Recent history isn’t on their side,” said Silverman, whose firm tracks insider transactions for more than 325 institutional investors. “We saw in financials last year people fooled by their own imagination. Whether it was hubris or being too close, not being able to see the forest for the trees.”

Best Buy

The S&P 500 lost 6.2 percent last week, dragged down in part by a 14 percent plunge in Best Buy Co., the largest U.S. electronics retailer. The Richfield, Minnesota-based company said last week that profit and sales will fall more than analysts forecast. Founder Richard Schulze bought 1.76 million shares three weeks before the announcement. The purchases were his first in at least five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A phone message left for Best Buy spokeswoman Susan Busch wasn’t returned.

GE’s Immelt purchased 50,000 shares at prices from $16.41 to $16.45 on Nov. 13, the same day the stock dipped below $15 for the first time since 1996.

Immelt, who took over on Sept. 7, 2001, bought GE stock after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington four days later. The 52-year-old executive works without a contract and has always exceeded a requirement that he hold shares valued at least six times his salary. With his most recent purchase, Immelt now owns more than 1.62 million GE shares, based on U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Immelt’s Confidence

Immelt’s purchase “reflects his confidence in the company,” said Gary Sheffer, a spokesman for the Fairfield, Connecticut- based company.

Pandit, 51, bought 750,000 common shares on Nov. 13, paying an average of about $9.25 apiece, New York-based Citigroup said in a filing with the SEC. He also bought 100,000 preferred shares. In all, he spent about $8.4 million. Citigroup closed last week at $9.52.

“The purchases reflect the belief in the long-term strength and growth opportunities of the company,” said Citigroup spokesman Michael Hanretta.

Nine officers and two directors at Consolidated Edison Inc., including Chief Financial Officer Robert Hoglund, bought the stock at $42.79 on Oct. 3. One month later, the owner of New York City’s biggest utility said third-quarter profit fell 42 percent, more than analysts estimated, on higher operating costs and taxes. The stock dropped 9.2 percent since their purchases.

The Consolidated Edison executives weren’t available to comment, a spokesman for the New York-based company said.

Buy Signals

In the past, insider purchases were a reliable indicator for investors looking to buy. Between 1988 and 2007, executives at NYSE-listed companies were net buyers on eight occasions, monthly data compiled by Washington Service show. In every case, the S&P 500 rallied in the following 12 months, posting an average advance of 21 percent.

Penn Capital Management’s Eric Green still considers buying by company executives to be bullish, especially when U.S. stocks are trading at historic lows relative to profits.

The S&P 500 fetches 9.96 times next year’s estimated earnings from continuing operations, compared with the weekly average of 21.1 times historical operating profit over the past decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It’s always bullish when the insiders are buying because they believe in the fundamentals of the company and think the valuations make no sense,” said Green, director of research at Penn Capital Management in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which oversees $3 billion. “This market could go up very, very quickly, and if you’re not in it you’ll miss it.”

Worsening Fundamentals

So far, fundamentals such as earnings have dropped along with stocks. Profits at S&P 500 companies declined for five straight quarters, the most since 2001. One-third of companies, including Burbank, California-based Walt Disney Co. and Seattle- based Starbucks Corp., missed analysts’ estimates for third- quarter earnings -- the biggest shortfall since 1997, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“If you’re a company insider, you may not fully appreciate the economic wreckage going on worldwide,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago, who helps manage about $60 billion. “From the inside out, the company looks a lot more solid than from the outside in.”
(Source: Bloomberg)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Enter The Dragon

China has just announced a HUGH fiscal stimulus plan. $586 Billion is to be spent between now and 2010 on infrastructure and social development. The size of this stimulus plan is about one fifth of China's GDP. Wow!

November 10, 2008
China Unveils $586 Billion Economic Stimulus Plan

SHANGHAI — China on Sunday announced a huge economic stimulus package aimed at bolstering its weakening economy and perhaps helping fight the effects of a global economic slowdown.

In a sweeping move at a time when major projects are being put off around the world, Beijing said it would spend an estimated $586 billion by 2010 on wide array of national infrastructure and social welfare projects, including constructing new railways, subways, airports and rebuilding communities devastated by an earthquake in southwest China in May.

The package, announced by the State Council Sunday evening, is the largest economic stimulus effort ever undertaken by the Chinese government and would amount to about 7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product during each of the next two years.

Beijing also said it was loosening credit and encouraging lending as part of a more “pro-active fiscal policy.”

“Over the past two months, the global financial crisis has been intensifying daily,” the State Council said in its statement. “In expanding investment, we must be fast and heavy-handed.”

The stimulus plan would be enormous for any country, let alone one whose gross domestic product is lower than most other major industrialized countries, at around $3.5 trillion this year. Earlier this year, the United States Congress passed a $700 billion bailout package in a country with an economy whose size is close to $14 trillion.

The announcement came less than a week before President Hu Jintao is scheduled to travel to Washington for a global economic summit meeting that will be attended by world leaders and hosted by President Bush. There, China is expected to be pressed by world leaders to do its part to help strengthen the global economy in the face of what some economists say is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

But Beijing has already indicated that it intends to help stabilize the global economy by looking inward, and helping keep the world¡¯s fastest-growing economy on track.

At a weekend meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the head of China’s Central Bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, said China can help stabilize international markets by encouraging consumption at home.

And on Saturday, Chinese President Hu spoke by telephone with President-elect Barack Obama about a range of issues, including the global financial crisis and how the two countries might cooperate to help resolve economic problems, according to China’s state-run news media.

Beijing is already struggling to cope with a rapidly slowing economy at home.

After five years of growth in excess of 10 percent, China’s economy is beginning to weaken because of slowing export and investment growth, waning consumer confidence and severely depressed stock and property markets.

The downturn in investment and exports has led to factory closures in southern China, triggering mass layoffs and even sporadic protests by workers who have complained that owners disappeared without paying them their wages.

With many economists in China now projecting that growth in the fourth quarter of this year could be as low as 5.8 percent, and worries that China’s economic miracle could be walloped by the global financial crisis, Beijing is moving aggressively.

While it is unclear how much of the stimulus money is additional government spending, on top of what the government normally earmarks for its infrastructure projects, the government made clear it was aimed at propelling growth for the next two and a quarter years.

Analysts were expecting China to announce a big stimulus package but say they were surprised at the size of it.

“That is much more aggressive than I expected,” said Frank Gong, a Hong Kong based economist at J.P. Morgan. “That’s a lot of money to spend.”

Mr. Gong said that after the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Beijing undertook a similar, but much smaller, stimulus package, earmarking huge sums to build the country’s massive highway and toll road system, which helped keep the economy growing.

Arthur Kroeber, managing director at Dragonomics, a Beijing-based economic research firm, said the government is concerned because people in China have suddenly pulled back on spending as a precautionary move because of worries about China suffering with the global economy.

“The government is sending a signal saying: ‘We’re going to spend in a big way,’ ” Mr. Kroeber said late Sunday in a telephone interview. “This is designed to say to the market that people should not panic.”


Thursday, November 6, 2008

I, too, sing America

"I, too"

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes.
But I laugh
And eat well
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody ‘ll dare
Say to me
“Eat in the Kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed -

I, too, am America.

- Langston Hughes

An Historic Election

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Subprime Hit Vatican

Vatican, Hit By Crisis, Leads Crackdown on `Slackers'

By Flavia Krause-Jackson

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- For the first time in almost half a century, Vatican administration staff will clock in for work as part of a clampdown on slackers, a sign that the global financial crisis has also spread to the world's smallest state.

Timekeeping was scrapped in 1960 under Pope John XXIII. Starting Jan. 1, the practice returns. All Holy See employees will be given magnetic badges and forced to clock in and out in an effort to track their movements and ensure they're working a full day, said a Vatican spokesman who declined to be named.

``We can't afford any waste,'' Bishop Renato Boccardo, secretary of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, told La Stampa newspaper. ``There is a lot of work that needs doing, and the financial situation doesn't allow us to hire more staff.'' A spokesman confirmed the comments today.

The Vatican, located across Rome's Tiber River and home to Pope Benedict XVI, relies on earnings from $1 billion in stocks, bonds and real estate to top up donations from Catholics around the world. While the Holy See benefited in the 1990s from booming stock markets and a strong dollar, it plunged into the red in 2003 and again in 2007 because of the U.S. currency's tumble. The financial turmoil is now taking its toll as well.

`Worrying' Results

``The results from the first part of 2008 are worrying and don't inspire optimism,'' according to a Vatican document published on Sept. 26 by U.K. Catholic weekly ``The Tablet.'' Vincenzo Di Mauro, secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs for the Holy See, declined to comment on the current state of the Vatican's finances.

The Holy See, the central administration for the Roman Catholic Church, swung into a deficit in 2007 because of ``brusque and accentuated inversion of the currency markets, above all the American dollar,'' according to a statement posted on the Vatican Web site on July 9. The combined surplus in the past three years was 15.2 million euros ($19.4 million).

The push for greater efficiency comes from the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees the property owned by the Holy See. The source of the Vatican's wealth invested in the global markets dates to the 1929 Lateran Treaties, when Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini compensated the pope for the loss of the Papal States in 1870 with the reunification of Italy.

The Holy See, which according to its annual financial statement has 2,748 employees including priests and lay people, has also devised an evaluation system to reward hard workers and punish slackers, the spokesman said. According to the new measures, prolonged absences will result in pay cuts while virtuous employees can benefit from bonuses.

Vatican workers earn between 1,300 euros and 2,300 euros a month, according to La Stampa newspaper. In addition to their salaries, they also enjoy perks such as duty-free gas and subsidized housing.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paris for President

Scoot over, Obama.., McCain!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Am I Not Pretty?

Wei!! Wat about Malaysia? Isn't it IMPORTANT ?

The bosses in this country say it's the center of the universe. It is the most attractive country in the world. To do business here, one would have to compromise. Have to comply to this policy, that contract and 1001 other things.
You can't afford to take it off your radar screen . You're gonna lose out Ben!

Fed Opens Swaps With South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore

By Steve Matthews and William Sim

Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve agreed to provide $30 billion each to the central banks of Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore, expanding its effort to unfreeze money markets to emerging nations for the first time.

The Fed set up ``liquidity swap facilities with the central banks of these four large systemically important economies'' effective until April 30, the central bank said yesterday in a statement. The arrangements aim ``to mitigate the spread of difficulties in obtaining U.S. dollar funding.''

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is trying to prevent the global credit crisis from upending the financial markets and economies of developing countries, where currencies have plunged and government bond premiums have soared. The Fed yesterday cut its benchmark interest rate, followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan today.

``We can't leave these other important countries out in the cold,'' said Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington and former chief of the Fed's international-finance division. ``A global recession is being caused by the effects of seizing up of the financial system around the world.'' ...

(full story at bloomberg.com)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yee-Hah !

=> nytimes.com


Confidence Lowest

October 29, 2008
Rattled by Housing Slide, Consumers See Worse to Come

Falling home prices and steep declines in the stock market are taking a sharp toll on Americans’ faith in the economy, a fact driven home by a pessimistic reading on consumer confidence released on Tuesday.

A widely watched survey by the private Conference Board, which dates back decades, plunged to its lowest point on record in October as Americans complained about fewer jobs and smaller incomes and ratcheted back plans for major purchases like cars and appliances.

Americans also say they believe the economy will worsen before it improves — a sign of deep pessimism that reflects a year of painful declines in stocks, jobs and home values. Some have lost thousands in retirement money. Others are fearful of losing their source of income, and a record number of outstanding mortgages are in foreclosure.

“A consumer-led recession is upon us, and it promises to be a serious one,” Joshua Shapiro, chief domestic economist at MFR, a research firm, wrote Tuesday in a note.

Despite the report, Wall Street was sharply higher as trading came to a close Tuesday, with both the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index almost 8 percent higher.

The survey’s confidence index fell to 38 in October, down from 61.4 in September, on a scale where a reading of 100 represents the consumer outlook on the economy in 1985. Expectations for the future also reached a record low. The survey dates to 1967.

“Looking ahead, consumers are extremely pessimistic, and a significantly larger proportion than last month foresees business and labor market conditions worsening,” Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center, said in a statement.

Nearly half of the 5,000 surveyed households said they expected the job market to deteriorate further, and many appeared worried about their ability to make purchases over the next few months. The report did not bode well for retailers who are anxiously eying the December shopping season.

The Commerce Department said last week that retail sales sank 1.2 percent in September, and many large retailers have reported double-digit declines.

“These moves are likely to have at least partially been driven by the worrying news flow on the U.S. financial system, but it appears to be the labor market that is the source of the bulk of the worries,” James Knightley, an economist at ING Bank, wrote in a research note of the consumer confidence numbers.

The American economy lost 159,000 jobs in September, the worst month of retrenchment in five years. Over the nine months ending in September, employment has diminished for nine consecutive months, eliminating 760,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported earlier this month.

Economists said they expected sentiment to improve as cheaper gas prices eased the strains on consumers’ pocketbooks. But housing troubles will probably weigh on Americans for many more months, eroding home equity lines and possibly creating another wave of foreclosures.

The beleaguered housing market found little relief in August as home prices across the country dropped at yet another record pace, according to a closely watched survey released Tuesday.

Home prices in 20 cities fell 16.6 percent in August compared with a year ago, the biggest annual drop in the history of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, released by Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency.

Every city included in the survey experienced a drop in prices from a year earlier, a trend that has so far lasted five months. Phoenix and Las Vegas were hit hardest, with prices down 31 percent in both cities. Prices declined more than 25 percent in Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco.

Prices dropped a percentage point between August and July, an indication that the pace of the decline may be slowing slightly. Only two cities — Cleveland and Boston — had price increases for the month, compared with six in July. Prices were unchanged in Chicago and Denver.

“The downturn in residential real estate prices continued, with very few bright spots in the data,” David M. Blitzer, who oversees the survey, said in a statement.

A 10-city index fell 17.7 percent year-over-year.

The housing slump has continued unabated for months, and its consequences can be felt throughout the nation’s economy. It has led to the erosion of jobs, pain in a number of housing-related industries, and, in part, the credit crisis that caused the collapse of several Wall Street banks. Whirlpool, the appliance maker, announced more layoffs and additional plants closings on Tuesday, citing the housing slowdown. Household home equity lines have also deteriorated.

Lower prices, however, are in some sense the key to recovery, economists said, although prices may need to fall further to lure buyers back into a market sagging with unsold inventory.

Sales also appeared to pick up slightly in September, according to reports from the Commerce Department and the private National Association of Realtors. Sales of both previously owned and newly reconstructed homes rose. But inventories remained elevated.

(=> nytimes.com)



short-sellers get slaughtered!

October 29, 2008
Panicked Traders Take VW Shares on a Wild Ride


German regulators are analyzing a torrent of panicky trading in Volkswagen shares that at one point Tuesday turned VW into the world’s most valuable company while wreaking havoc with several big banks and hedge funds.

Shares in the German automaker rose as high as 1,005 euros, or $1,258 Tuesday after surging 146 percent to 471 euros Monday, the day after Porsche, a rival seeking to build up one of Europe’s great automotive dynasties, said it had effectively gained 75 percent of VW’s voting shares. On the Friday before the announcement, Volkswagen’s shares had closed at 210 euros.

Porsche has waged a series of bitter legal and political battles in the last three years to gain control of Volkswagen, a company whose foundations were laid by Porsche’s own founder, Ferdinand Porsche. On Sunday, Porsche appeared to have closed in on its target, announcing it had raised its stake in Volkswagen to 42.6 percent from 35 percent, and that it had options for another 31.5 percent.

Porsche said it issued its statement partly to give investors who bet that Volkswagen’s stock would weaken after a takeover “the opportunity to close their positions unhurriedly and without bigger risk.”

But that offer turned to dross when trading opened Monday, as investors known as short-sellers who had been betting that Volkswagen shares would lose value if Porsche took control were blindsided by the announcement. Earlier this year, Porsche had said it would not raise its then-31 percent holding, largely to calm a long-running conflict with the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns a 20.2 percent stake in VW that it uses to protect thousands of VW’s unionized autoworkers.

But when Porsche hinted that, at long last, it might be poised to bring Volkswagen under its thumb, it short-circuited several strategies that had been used by hedge funds and trading desks in New York and London.

One was to exploit the difference in value between two classes of Volkswagen stock by betting against a decline in one of them. Another was to buy into Porsche while betting that Volkswagen shares would fall, in a bid to profit from Porsche’s expected success.

Many short-sellers had borrowed the VW shares that Porsche is entitled to through its options contracts in order to speculate on Volkswagen stock, analysts said. But Porsche’s statement appeared to have prompted the banks that wrote the options contracts to demand those shares back, so as to have them ready for Porsche.

As of last week, roughly 12.9 percent of Volkswagen shares were lent out, according to Data Explorers, a London research firm. It was an unusually high number and the most for any member of the DAX in Germany.

With Porsche already owning so much of Volkswagen, and more shares tied up in stock funds linked to Germany’s DAX stock market index, the number of VW shares that were readily available for sale, known as the “free float,” was relatively small. That amplified the effect of the dash to buy Volkswagen shares, as demand vastly outstripped supply and drove the price higher when speculators betting against VW sought to cover their losses by buying.

“There is no other explanation than Porsche’s counterparties are lending out the shares,” said Arndt Ellinghorst, head of European automotive research at Credit Suisse in London. “That means heavy losses for funds who shorted them.”

Shares in Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Société Générale of France all tumbled on Tuesday on concern the banks might be caught on the wrong side of trades involving Volkswagen. Morgan Stanley said it had no exposure to the automaker.

It is not the first time Volkswagen shares have fallen prey to speculative gyrations. It lost a quarter of its value on Oct. 20 as short-selling seemed to gain traction amid a sense that Volkswagen would lose value if Porsche could steer decisions at the larger company to its advantage.

In a broader sense, the losses that Porsche has inflicted on short-sellers are collateral damage inflicted during its campaign to bring Volkswagen firmly under its thumb.

Although the two companies are linked by one powerful individual, Ferdinand Piëch, who heads Volkswagen’s board and also sits on Porsche’s, VW employees and their union have fought against a full takeover by Porsche, largely through their alliance with Lower Saxony, whose “golden share” lets it block major decisions about Volkswagen.

But the European Union is closing in on a ruling — the second since Porsche bought into Volkswagen — that would force Germany to alter the law underpinning the state’s share. That has created an opening for Porsche, which is based in Stuttgart, to assert control.

(=> nytimes.com)


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Berkshire Hathaway

If you had bought just one share of Berkshire Hathaway in 1990 for around $6,000 a share, that same share would be worth around $120,000 today. 10 shares would bring you up to $1.2 million.

That's why he is known as the greatest investor in the world!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to Square One

Looks like it ain't bottom yet. Lower low again!
Enjoy the ride!

(source: nytimes.com)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Abolish the Federal Reserve"

A reader left a comment in "The History of Federal Reserve Bank" announcing an on-going petition to "Abolish the Federal Reserve". Many people from around the world feels that the Fed must be held responsible for the financial meltdown of 2008. Everyone, from active investors in the financial markets to retirees and common citizens has been screwed.

It's a mamoth task going up against Godzilla like those Monster Bankers... but as Arnold Schwarzenegger said in "Predator": "if it bleeds, it can be killed". Remember Battle at Kruger?

Sign the petition if you agree with it. Voice out if you think that the continue existance of the Federal Reserve will only cause more damage to you and future generations. http://www.petitiononline.com/fed/petition.html

Anonymous said...

The Federal Reserve is Guilty of Helping Create the Global Financial Meltdown

Many investors and concerned citizens around the world are showing their outrage at what the Federal Reserve has done to the American economy with their easy money policies which caused the credit & real estate bubble and subsequent global financial meltdown.

Join the thousands who are signing & commenting on the Abolish the Federal Reserve Petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/fed/petition.html

October 14, 2008 4:48 PM


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dead Cat Bounce?


Yoohoo!!! Stocks are sky rocketing!!!

Could this be just a technical rebound or dead cat bouncing? Caution!

(Full story at nytimes.com)


The History of Federal Reserve Bank

Version conspiracy theory.
"The Invisible Hands"

Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 1 of 5)

Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 2 of 5)

Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 3 of 5)

Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 4 of 5)

Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 5 of 5)

"None are more hopelessly enslaved

than those who falsely believe they are free."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -

1749 - 1832


Monday, October 13, 2008

Shit Load of Debt

Two Added Digits Needed By U.S. National Debt Clock At Times Square
New York, NY (AHN) - Two extra digits are needed by the National Debt Clock on Times Square in New York City as the U.S.' borrowings reached $10.2 trillion.

With the ongoing credit crunch, it would not be surprising that the national debt would further balloon, which would make it impossible to reflect the accurate figure unless the two additional digits are in place soon.

As a result, the Durst Organization which owns the clock, bumped off the dollar sign and put in its place the number "1" of the $10 trillion figures. The organization promised to update the sign in 2009.

The clock was put up by Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst in1989 to remind America of its fast growing national debt, which stood 19 years ago at $2.7 trillion.
(source: AHN)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Okay! Let's Print Some Money


Financial wizards print money and creat it out of debt. "Investors" (especially Asian countries) give up their sweat-money to lend to them for pieces of homemade IOU Notes that promise interest payments.
To pay interest and repay those loans later, Financial wizards simply create and print more new money. This goes on and on until the value of money becomes like "Hell Bank Notes", or the magicians suddently disappear or runaway with money they borrowed. How 'bout it?


Bailout Passed!... So What?


(Chart courtecy of Yahoo Finance)

The New York Times
October 4, 2008

Bailout Bill Fails to Reassure Investors

Wall Street finally got what it had been demanding all week, a financial rescue package, but by the time the gavel fell in Washington on Friday, investors had turned their attention to other problems in the economy.

On Monday, the House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion bailout plan for the nation’s financial system, causing the Dow Jones industrial average to fall 777 points. On Friday, after round-the-clock negotiations, the House passed the plan, sending the Dow down 157 points.

It was a disappointing end to a cantankerous session. The Dow gained nearly 300 points in the morning in anticipation the bill would go through; when it passed, those gains were erased. But the afternoon swoon was less a judgment on the merits of the bailout than proof of a broader truth about the market: investors are always looking ahead.

“We’re dealing with the next situation,” said Howard Silverblatt, the senior index analyst at Standard & Poor’s.

Investors were already pivoting their focus to growing evidence that the nation is embroiled in a recession. A report on Friday from the Labor Department said the economy lost 159,000 jobs in September, far more than economists had expected. Other reports this week revealed sudden collapses in the manufacturing sector. Some economists also are predicting the economy will contract in the months ahead.

Those developments did not bode well for the corporate earnings that investors watch closely, creating a dour outlook that helped send stocks lower late in the day.

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index lost 15.05 points, or 1.35 percent, to close at 1,099.23, ending under 1,100 for the first time in four years — a fitting end to the index’s fourth-worst week in half a century.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 157.47 points, or 1.5 percent, to 10,325.38. The Nasdaq composite index fell 29.33 points, or 1.45 percent, to 1,947.39.

“Investors still have to face some significant challenges in the broad economy that can’t be magically removed by a group of our Congressional leaders,” said Marc D. Stern, the chief investment officer at Bessemer Trust. “Investors have to confront a series of unknowns in the weeks ahead that can be disconcerting.”

Also weighing on investors were the strains on the flow of credit, which the bailout bill was intended to relieve.

Analysts said it might take several days before the effect of the bill’s approval could be seen on the credit markets. On Friday afternoon, the signals were mixed: high-yield bonds and junk bonds eased slightly, but Treasury bills moved against expectations, becoming more expensive as investors remained nervous about emerging from the safety of government notes.

It was too soon to tell whether interest rates that banks charge each other for overnight loans — a crucial measure of the flow of credit to businesses and consumers — would fall.

Investors and analysts interviewed Friday said they were glad to see the bailout package approved, but they warned that credit would not immediately loosen.

“It is not a panacea,” said Douglas M. Peta, a market strategist at J.& W. Seligman. “Credit is the lifeblood of the economy. Until the short-term funding markets start behaving regularly, and until banks are willing to play their role in the system, the direction in stocks is going to be down.”

Mr. Peta said Friday’s stock sell-off “was a rational response when the credit markets are almost practically not functioning.”

A few other factors may have been at play. On Friday morning, Wells Fargo, the San Francisco-based bank, said it had made a $15.1 billion bid for the Wachovia Corporation, scuttling a rival deal with Citigroup that had been struck under government pressure. The move helped raise confidence among investors that companies were still willing to take on major acquisitions amid the current crisis. Still, financial stocks as a group ended lower for the day.

The sell-off after the vote on Capitol Hill may have been the result of investors’ tendency to buy on expectations — in this case, that the House would ultimately pass the bill — and sell when the event actually occurs.

And Mr. Stern, of Bessemer Trust, noted that Fridays were becoming popular days for investors to sell their stock holdings.There are two more days that used to be called the weekend, and now are simply two more business days, where important news may develop,” Mr. Stern said, referring to recent developments — the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers; the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America — all of which have occurred on the weekend.

“There’s no way to trade on that news until Monday. Therefore you need to position your portfolio on Friday to be ready for what happens over the weekend.”

Mr. Stern chuckled. “In 2008, you have to stay close to your BlackBerry on the weekend.”

The benchmark 10-year Treasury bill rose 6/32, to 103 8/32. The yield, which moves in the opposite direction from the price, fell to 3.6 percent, from 3.63 percent late Thursday. Oil prices fell 9 cents, to settle at $93.88 a barrel.

In Europe, the markets closed ahead of the House vote. The major indexes all rose after stocks on Wall Street advanced. The FTSE 100 index in Britain ended up 2.3 percent, the CAC-40 in Paris rose 3 percent, and the DAX in Frankfurt gained 2.4 percent.

(story from: nytimes.com)