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June 24, 2010

Thursday Financial Briefing

After bad US housing news sent stocks into an early swoon, DAGGER marshaled his various cybernetic forces and drove the Dow up to a tiny gain for the day to close at 10,298.44. The S&P 500 likewise moved up off the morning lows to close about three points lower at 1,092.04. (Did anyone else notice that freaky spike around 2:30PM EDT? DAGGER must have sneezed or something.) Generally speaking it was a big fat meh of a day.

Break out the umbrellas, boys and girls. A hard rain's gonna fall.


George Soros (looking like one of those gross goblins from The Lord of the Rings) is the newest convert to my "Germany is leaving the Euro" conspiracy theory. His job will be to muck out the shitters in my cult's compound in the Himalayas. He will also be the lead Yeti-wrangler and groomer.

Austin Bay, an excellent writer about military and strategic world affairs, turns his gaze to the Eurozone. Bay's point -- not news to anyone who's been following the Eurozone crisis -- is that the Eurozone is collapsing under the weight of wishful thinking, lies and perfidy as much as it is from debt.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on your parents for raising such a turd. Fool me three times, shame on society for not driving you out as unfit to live among civilized people. Fool me four times, shame on God for not striking you down in anger. But fool me five or more times, shame on me.

Timmah and The Larry announce their plans for the G20 meeting in Toronto. With no trace of shame or embarassment, Geithner deposits this little turd on the sidewalk:

Thanks to strong, decisive and coordinated action, President Obama and the other G-20 leaders have achieved significant progress since the London meeting. The global economy, which was then contracting at an unprecedented rate, is now expanding, and world trade has increased by more than 20% over the last 15 months.
Strong! Decisive! Coordinated! Unprecedented! It's like the Justice League and the Super Friends and the Avengers all rolled into one! Well, to them it's like that. To the rest of us it's the same gaily-steaming puddle of monkey-puke it's been since Obama took office.

Half-baked? Wasn't that a movie about a bunch of dumb stoners who get themselves into a jam and--oh.

A mere decade or so after it might have been useful, states are now focusing on public sector pension costs. Unfortunately the new rules -- even if adopted -- won't have any effect for years and years because they only apply to new hires, not existing workers. But this still amounts to a huge savings! Somehow. Anyway, they're going to go ahead and realize these kinda-sorta-maybe future-savings and cut down on the amount they're paying into the pension funds right now. Because those fat 8% return-rates are all but guaranteed, baby! It's a can't-miss plan!

Remember how the "cash for clunkers" program didn't stimulate demand for cars so much as it displaced existing demand? Looks like the federal mortgage subsidy had the exact same effect: subsidy expires, home sales crater, billions of taxpayer dollars go up in a fragrant whiff of smoke. (Bonus: terrifying chart-fu!) Comment from the sober-sided, non-doom-mongering WSJ? Ugly! "Really ugly", in fact, and that's a direct quote. From Bloomberg, a scary pull-quote (emphasis mine):

Refinancings are being suppressed because more than 23 percent of homeowners with mortgages owe more than their houses are worth, according to Seattle-based Zillow.com.

Ah, political patronage. Like hot dogs at the ballpark, it never goes out of style. (Blanche Lincoln is a walking corpse career-wise at this point, so she really loses nothing by making every greasy, underhanded, low-down deal she can between now and November.)

Via Insty comes this lovely bit of advice from the sages at the NYT: Inflation is good for you! It sticks to your ribs! It's just as tasty as taters!

What part of "risk follows return" don't you pension-fund dumbasses understand? This is what comes of hiring your actuaries and pension-fund managers from the pool of day-labor workers who hang around Home Depot and scatter when La Migra rolls by. (It turns out that Máximas de prisión de seguridad para los hombres is a supermax prison, not Mexico's premier business school. Remember, folks: always follow up on those references.)

I was going to make a "busted rubber" joke about the failure of BP's containment dome, but this isn't funny. The oil is once again gushing at full gout.

Peak oil is so yesterday. The new thing? Peak lumber. Good thing I wake up with wood every morning! Haw haw haw haw! (Get it? Wood!)

Consider the terminally-boned Los Angeles calculation that 8% returns were a safe bet, rather than an artifact of a wild methamphetamine-addled daydream. Actual returns? Between 2.8% and 3.2%. But we can use "smoothing" to magically conjure up that missing 4.8% compounded over ten years, right? Let me repeat: boned. Utterly, completely, fundamentally, irretrievably, now and forever -- boned.

Ai! Estamos tão parafusado! (Translation here. Portuguese-to-English.)

More and more people who have been resistant to the idea that the Fed is full of shit are coming around to the idea that the Fed is, indeed, full of shit. Happy talk and hand-waving do not a recovery make.

A quick quiz for the historically minded Morons. No cheating, now. Who said this?

The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.
Answer: Marcus Tullius Cicero said it. In 88 B.C. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Today's briefing brought to you by the Brothers Gibb, and their immortal commentary on life, love, and financial markets.

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posted by Monty at 07:16 AM

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