I am in New York this afternoon attending and speaking at the Bank Credit Analyst Conference. I have to say that the panel on emerging markets gave me some real food for thought and an idea or two for a future e-letter. I have been a fan of emerging markets in general (with some exceptions) for some time but I should become even more so I think.
For today’s Outside the Box I have something a little different. Michael Hudson has written a book called The Monster about the Mortgage industry, and specifically Ameriquest and Lehman. Someone sent me his introduction and I read it on the plane. I will buy the book. It made me angry. And the new financial regulations don’t address some of the real problem here.
It is an easy read, well written and lots of great quotes and stories. I won’t say enjoy but do take the tine to read and then think about what you just read and about the culture in our country.
You ready for the World Series analyst,
As readers know, I was in Europe a few weeks ago, making a LOT of presentations. My London-based partners seem to feel that an hour or two of down time is wasted and only for sissies. I learn as much as I impart, and come away with lots of interesting information. Every now and then I learn something that gets into the category of what in the wide, wide world of (multiple expletives deleted) economics is going on? Subprime was like that when I first read about it. Could you really design CDOs that were so patently absurd and then sell them to the Europeans and Asians? Turns out you could.
Last week, Niels Jensen (head of Absolute Return Partners) and I were talking with a variety of pension funds. They started telling us about this thing called Solvency II. Outside the arcane world of European pension funds and insurance companies, it is not on the radar screen of most people. But it may be one of the more explosive problems in our future. Cutting to the chase, the new rules require insurance companies and pension funds to buy more bonds to match their liabilities. But as yields go down they are required to buy yet MORE bonds and then yields go down some more. And so on. The possibility of serious defaults by these same pension funds in the wake of these new rules (setting aside whether it makes sense to actually require pension funds to set aside enough assets to pay their obligations) is all too real. And more pervasive than we now think.
Niels, in his latest Absolute Return Letter, wrote up what we learned, and it is Today’s Outside the Box. Wonder why yields in Europe are falling? Read on.
“I am not sure if policy makers understand how potentially dangerous this situation is. We are on the road to insolvency. And, even if pension providers manage to stay solvent, future generations of retirees are likely to run into serious financial difficulties as their retirement savings earn next to nothing, because our political leaders forced new rules on the industry, the implications of which they did not grasp.”
I know, I am just a bundle of fun. But this really is stuff we should be aware of. And tomorrow I am off to discuss this and more (with some serious play time thrown in) at the Barefoot Ranch Symposium. Enjoy your week!
Your ready for some R&R analyst,
As I am traveling in Europe for a few more days, it seems appropriate to review the very fascinating work of Arnuad Mares of Morgan Stanley in London. He poses the very provocative question: “Ask Not Whether Governments Will Default, but How?” and comes up with some very interesting statistics. He suggests that simply looking at debt to GDP misses the point and offers four other ways we should also evaluate sovereign debt risk. This is a very worthy contribution to Outside the Box.
The question I get over and over as I travel and present my thoughts is “When is the US going to get real about its fiscal deficits?” There is little sympathy for the massive deficits we are running. We are making Europe, or at least the part of Europe I am visiting, very nervous. Let us hope after the next elections we can say we are getting a handle on the deficits, and from both sides of the aisle and not just the Republicans. This is going to require cooperation.
Mallorca is very beautiful, but they have a very small and particularly nasty breed of wasp that has my left hand and fingers quite swollen and sore. But that did not take away from sitting on the balcony with my partners late one night watching a spectacular lightening display as a thunder storm was coming our direction. Then all of a sudden, we saw something that none of us have ever seen.
The moonlight was behind us, and shining through the clouds formed a very clear white rainbow. It was an amazing sight. I will never forget it. Not sure what it is a metaphor for, but I was glad to have witnessed it.
Your sometimes you just get lucky analyst,
This weekend I wrote about the problems of being an entrepreneur in our Muddle Through Economy. I would like to follow that up with two brief (but somewhat controversial) essays on two aspects of starting up small businesses. The first, by Vivek Wadhwa, points out that start-ups account for all of the net new jobs, and is a summary of a paper from the Kaufman Foundation. (You can read the 12 page paper at http://www.kauffman.org/uploadedFiles/firm_formation_importance_of_startups.pdf)
The second is by my friend William C. Dunkelberg, the Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Business. He asks a very simple question: Why is thrift getting such a bad name? And if we take the potential savings from “the rich,” where will the savings come from to invest in start-ups?
Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University.
The both make for thought-provoking reading, and offer some challenges to the conventional wisdom, which is what Outside the Box is supposed to do.
Your doing his part by creating start-ups analyst,
This week we look at some mostly bullish analysis from my friends at GaveKal for the Outside the Box. Much of the letter is devoted to looking at why Europe may fare better than many think (which will make uber-European bull David Kotok happy to read!). But be very sure to read the last page as Steve Vannelli analyzes the latest speculation about the Fed and quantitative easing. All those calling for QE2 may not actually do what they think it will. His conclusion?
"Once again, if there is no growth in broad money, no increase in velocity and no increase in Fed credit (hybrid money), then the only source to finance growth in the real economy will remain the sale of risky assets. When confidence seems to be stuck in a low plateau and talk of reigning in fiscal deficits is growing louder, a policy of undermining the value of risky assets couldn't be more counterproductive to growth."
I find myself in New York this morning (I once again did Yahoo Tech Ticker) leaving for DC later. Then sadly will have to forego Turks and Caicos, but that does allow for me to go to Baton Rouge for a one day course on the affects of the gulf oil spill on the regional economy, helicopter flyovers, etc. I will report back in this week's letter what I learn.
Have a great week.
Your wishing he was still fishing in Maine analyst,