Sadly, I find myself with more than enough time to compose yet another Thoughts from the Frontline in an airport, as a flight booking error has me at JFK for six hours instead of fishing in Maine. Details for those interested or amused at the end. But it does allow me to offer you a peek into a very sobering report on how badly underfunded public pension are. The situation is worse than you think. Then we will close with a eye-opening report on China from the gracious Simon Hunt, who is allowing me to reprint his latest missive in toto. You really want to read this one. And we start with this rumor from Reuters, just in. Read this and weep. It comes from James Pethokoukis.
10 posts tagged with “Bailout”.
Rules have consequences. And sometimes they have unintended consequences. If I told you that the US government was going to give multiple tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to hedge funds and private investors, you would justifiably not be happy. I think the word angry would come to mind. But that is exactly what is happening, as a result of rules that were written for a time and place seemingly long ago and far, far away. Further, we are looking at potentially much larger sums being lost in the bank bailout (can we say hundreds of billions?), a reduced lending capacity at banks and, in general, a worsening of the very problems at the core of the crisis.
The good news is that it can be fixed, but the authorities need to get a sense of urgency. As Steve Forbes writes today in the Wall Street Journal, Obama is continuing with the worst of Bush's policies, making the crisis far worse than it should be. It is as if we are giving all 13-year-old kids a "F" in math because one kid failed.
Today's letter will look at some rather obscure rules which are having major unintended (and negative!) consequences, and what can be done. Then, if we have enough time, we will look quickly at Japan, unemployment, and a few more statistical predictions of when the recession will end that you should be very wary of. It's a lot to cover, but it should make for an interesting letter.
But first, and quickly, I just wanted to take a moment and remind you to sign up for the Richard Russell Tribute Dinner, all set for Saturday, April 4 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego -- if you haven't already. This is sure to be an extraordinary evening honoring a great friend and associate of mine, and yours as well. I do hope that you can join us for a night of memories, laughs, and good fun with fellow admirers and long-time readers of Richard's Dow Theory Letter.
What does it mean for Citigroup to be at $3? As it turns out, it distorts the information we think we are getting from the Dow Jones Industrial Index. And more TARP money is surely in our future, and far more than anyone in authority is now suggesting. This week's letter will cover both topics and a little more. I think you will find it interesting.
Before we get into the letter, just two quick housekeeping items. First, I spend most of my week researching and writing. Part of that process is the ability to call friends and esteemed colleagues to discuss our different points of view about the present markets and economy. I have offered, for the first time, exclusive access for my readers to listen in on those conversations. The first "Conversation" will be with Dr. Lacy Hunt and Ed Easterling next Tuesday, and we will have it ready for subscribers to my new service shortly thereafter. This new subscription service will allow you to listen in on Conversations with me and my friends about the most critical financial and economic topics of the day.
If you ever wanted to be "at the table" when I get to have wide-ranging talks with some of the top economists and investment experts (to be determined, based on where the market takes us, week to week) this is the next best thing. You can still subscribe for one more week at the pre-launch half-off price of just $99! This is going to be a very powerful, information-packed 45 minutes to an hour where we will weigh in with lively debate and ideas. You will be able to listen online, download to your iPod, or read a transcript. To learn more, just click on https://www.johnmauldin.com/newsletters2.html, click the Subscribe button, and type in the code "JM33" at the end of the registration process to get your 50% discount. And read about the bonuses we will offer as well! My staff and Tiffani (partner and daughter) have made me promise this offer will not extend past next week. Don't procrastinate.
Where are we headed in 2009? We will explore that in detail over the next few issues of Thoughts from the Frontline, but today we will start with some of the larger forces which will have a major impact on the economies of the world, and I will end with my usual attempt to forecast the various markets. We will look at deflation, deleveraging, the fallout from the stimulus plans (note plural), housing, consumer spending, unemployment, and a lot more. There is a lot to cover. But first two quick announcements.
Along with my partners Altegris Investments I will be co-hosting our 6th annual Strategic Investment Conference in La Jolla, California, April 2-4. I have invited some of the top economic minds in the country to come and address us, giving us their views on what seem to be a continuing crisis. It will be a mix of economic theory and practical investment advice. Already committed to speak are Martin Barnes, Woody Brock, Dennis Gartman, Louis Gave, George Friedman (of Stratfor), and Paul McCulley. I anticipate adding another stellar name or two. This is as strong a lineup as we have ever had, and on par with any conference I know of anywhere.
Due to securities regulations, attendance is limited to qualified high-net-worth investors and/or institutional investors. Early registrants will get a discount. Last year we had to close registration, and I anticipate we will run out of room again, so I would not procrastinate. Simply click on the link below, give us your name and email, and you will be sent a form next week to register.
I meant to take yet another Friday away from my writing, but as I am researching for next week's annual prediction issue, there is so much material that begs to be covered that I thought I would put out a short letter with 3 or 4 points as a preface to my prognostications of next week.
This week we look at a very interesting, if not altogether encouraging, piece of research on the length and severity of recessions that come during periods of financial crisis, which can apply to not just the US but all countries that are involved in the current crisis. But being forewarned is better than blindly stumbling through, so we will take some time to peruse it. Then we (briefly) look at the depth of the manufacturing numbers in the US, which leads us into the recent bout of earnings downgrades and some thoughts as to where that might suggest the market is going. That should be enough for this week.
But first, and quickly, my annual Strategic Investor Conference that is co-hosted by my partners Altegris Investments will be April 2-4 this year in La Jolla. We will have information out next week, but save the date in your calendar. Like last year, we expect it to sell out. We have the best line-up of speakers ever: Martin Barnes, Dr. Woody Brock, Dennis Gartman, Louis Gave, and George Friedman are already committed, and we have a few who we expect to announce soon.
And we had a large response to the Richard Russell Tribute Dinner for that Saturday night, April 4. That, too, looks like it could sell out. If you have already responded that you are interested, we will contact you shortly. If you haven't and would like to be part of a dinner honoring Richard Russell for a lifetime of service to investors through writing his Dow Theory Letters, then drop me a response and we will add you to the list of invitees. And now to the letter.
"It will therefore be crucial that you see the world anew. That means looking from the outside in to reanalyze much that you have probably taken for granted. This will enable you to come to an understanding. If you fail to transcend conventional thinking at a time when conventional thinking is losing touch with reality, then you will be more likely to fall prey to an epidemic of disorientation that lies ahead. Disorientation breeds mistakes that could threaten your business, your investments and your way of life."
-- James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual, 1997
The economic news just continues to be bad. New unemployment claims were over 529,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The "real" number was 606,877 lost jobs. New home sales were off by another 5% and down 40% from a year ago, as builders slash inventories. The Chicago Purchasing Manager index came in at 33.8, the weakest number since the serious recession of 1982. The national number due next Monday will be just as ugly, as durable goods were down far more than expected, by a negative 6.2%. But it is Thanksgiving weekend, and not a time for gloom. In this week's letter I am going to talk about why we should be optimistic about the future. Things will turn around. I will also make a few comments about the latest stimulus package.
As I will be moving my home this weekend, I am writing this letter early. I am going to use material from two previous letters, which I think will help give us perspective. The first is a personal anecdote from last Thanksgiving (2007), as a lead-in to comments on whether the Fed's latest monetizing action will end up spurring inflation; and then the second is part of an essay I did for my last book, Just One Thing, edited and updated.
As long-time readers know, my daughter Tiffani and I are interviewing millionaires for a book we will be writing called Eavesdropping on Millionaires. This has been one of the more personally impacting projects of my life, as the stories we hear are so very provocative. I hope we can transfer to readers of the book at least half of the impact we are personally experiencing. But at the end of each interview, we let the interviewee ask me questions. Often, they are along the line of "Do you really think we will Muddle Through?" Sometimes they ask in need of assurance and sometimes they simply think that my stance is somewhat naive. It is something of an irony that I am called a perma-bear in some circles and a Pollyanna in others. The Muddle Through middle has been lonely of late.
So, this week I take another look at my Muddle Through stance. We look at some of the recent data on unemployment and retail sales, think about the implications of a falling trade deficit and a rising US government deficit, speculate about the potential for a serious stock market rally, and also comment on the potential for a GM bailout. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump right in.
Retail sales and prices of goods imported to the US dropped by the most on record, signaling the economy may be in its worst slump in decades. Purchases fell 2.8 % in October, the fourth straight decline, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Labor Department figures showed import prices dropped 4.7%, pointing to a rising danger of deflation, and a private report said consumer confidence this month remained near the lowest level since 1980. (Bloomberg)
I have been writing for almost a year that the next shoe to drop on US banks would be commercial construction lending. Today we look at some hard numbers. We look across the pond to sort out the problems in Europe. We look at the consequences of the losses stemming from Lehman. Then we look at one of the more serious consequences of the banking crisis, one that will bring the crisis home to you. Finally, we look at what the various governments of the world must do in response. It may not be fun, but it should be interesting. And it is important. Feel free to forward this letter to anyone who asks why we not only need the bailout but will need even more coordinated government action.
But first, let me offer a note of optimism before I serve up the not so good news. This is not the end of the world. There are a lot of very positive things happening in the US and the world. Companies are creating new inventions. Much of the economy, including health care, is moving along fine. I have lived through two serious recessions (1973-74 and 1980-82), and the point is that a free-market economy will find a way to eventually get back to solid growth. Recessions are simply part of the business cycle. Congress cannot repeal the business cycle. This will not be the last recession of my life. I hope to live long enough to go through 4 or 5 more.
Depressions are caused by governments making major policy mistakes. And we have made some in the areas of not regulating mortgage lending, allowing the five large investment banks to increase their leverage to 30 or 40 to one in 2004 (what was the SEC thinking?), and failing to oversee the rating agencies. That is behind us. It will make a normal recession deeper and the recovery longer, as I have been forecasting for some time.
The "Bailout Plan" was passed. Will it work? The answer depends on what your definition of "work" is. If by work you mean no more government intervention and no further costly programs and a functioning market, then the answer is no. But there are things it will do. This week I try to help you see what might lie ahead around the Curve in the Road. We look at how the rescue plan will function, see what is happening in the economy, and finally muse as to whether Muddle Through is really in our future. It will make for an interesting, if not very upbeat, letter, so strap in. I would like your promise to not shoot the messenger. I am just trying to give you some of my thoughts as to what may lie in our future. And remember, as you read this, we will get through it. There are better days "a'coming."
But first, a few housekeeping items. Let me welcome some 200,000 new readers from EQUITIES Magazine. I have recently joined EQUITIES Magazine as a regular contributing editor. My column, Back to the Frontline, is featured in both their print publication and at equitiesmagazine.com. I am excited to be associated with this esteemed magazine with a rich history covering the global markets for over 57 years.
They've once again agreed to offer any reader of mine a free subscription to EQUITIES Magazine. For those who did not take advantage of the free subscription the first time, here is your chance. You can go to http://www.equitiesmagazine.com/mwi and simply register to get the magazine sent to your home or office. There is also a link to an interview I did in April with them. They have a lot of content and free resources like "live" real-time stock quotes and "live" real-time portfolio managers. Check it out!
"A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies.
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
(It's time I had some time alone.)"
- Lyrics from R.E.M., 1987
Flying last Tuesday, overnight from Cape Town in South Africa to London, I read in the Financial Times that Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas was quoted as saying (this is from memory, so it is not exact) that he had difficulty voting for a bailout plan when none of his constituents could understand the need to bail out Wall Street, didn't understand the problem, and were against spending $700 billion of taxpayer money to solve a crisis for a bunch of (rich) people who took a lot of risk and created the crisis. That is a sentiment that many of the Republican members of the House share.
As it happens, I know Joe. My office is in his congressional district. I sat on the Executive Committee for the Texas Republican Party representing much of the same district for eight years. This week, Thoughts from the Frontline will be an open letter to Joe, and through him to Congress, telling him what the real financial problem is and how it affects his district, helping explain the problem to his constituents , and explaining why he has to hold his nose with one hand and vote for a bailout with the other.
Just for the record, Joe has been in Congress for 24 years. He is the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is one of the three most important committees and is usually considered in the top five of Republican House leadership. He is quite conservative and has been a very good and effective congressman. I have known Joe for a long time and consider him a friend. He has been my Congressman at times, depending on where they draw the line. I called his senior aide and asked him how the phone calls were going. It is at least ten to one against supporting this bill, and that is probably typical of the phones all across this country. People are angry, and with real justification. And watching the debates, it reminds us that one should never look at how sausages and laws are made. It is a very messy process.
I think what follows is as good a way as any to explain the crisis we are facing this weekend. This letter will print out a little longer, because there are a lot of charts, but the word length is about the same. Let's jump right in.