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July 07, 2010

Wednesday Financial Briefing

Equities started fast out of the gate, but faded as investors realized that everything still pretty much sucks. A last-minute mini-rally drove the S&P 500 up off its low to close at 1,028.06. The Dow closed at 9,743.93.

Technically, we're out of the Great Recession and have been for some time. But anemic growth and high unemployment make it seem like the recession is still with us, and more and more observers are predicing a "double-dip" recession as the economy's impetus fades. Recessions are arriving more requently, with more severity, and are lasting longer.

Grandpa wants you to know that dislikes the Weasels on Wall Street. To get the full effect, you have to imagine him standing on the stoop of his house, shaking his cane at a bunch of smart-mouth investment bankers with greased-up pompadours and leather jackets.

This isn't a link, it's just something that listening to a lecture by Peter Schiff made me think about: why don't we treat banks like we treat any other establishment we patronize? I mean, think about it: we give more thought to which restaurant we want to eat at than we do a place where we put our money. Why the laid-back attitude? Schiff thinks it's because, due to FDIC insurance, we really have no skin in the game: we can't lose our money, so we don't really do any due diligence on the bank -- we don't really care if bank is ethical, has a sound business plan, and gives good value for the price. I think that explains why most banks have shitty customer-service if you're a retail customer. You don't care, so why should they? Uncle Sugar will make everyone whole again if the banks fuck up, while the banks can reap all kinds of profits by investing the money that you have on deposit. It's a moral-hazard sink-hole. Credit unions aren't much better, I suppose, but that's where I do my banking -- at least there's some semblance of stakeholder responsibility and oversight.

Remember when you were a kid and built a glorious sand-castle at the beach? Remember how proud you were of the turrets and ramparts and even the moat? Then you realize that you built it too close to the waterline and mean old Mr. Ocean is about to come in and wipe it out completely. On the one hand, you built a great sand-castle; on the other hand, no one will see it or appreciate it because you didn't plan ahead. (There's a metaphor in there somewhere, I just know it!)

And just to show that irrationality about real-estate is human nature and not just American nature, the Chinese are about to experience their very own property bubble.

This story reminds me of this scene from the movie Goodfellas.

"The bond vigilantes are at the gates," cried the sentry from the ramparts. "What shall we do?". The forces of the impoverished baronies of California, New York, and Illinois huddled in terror behind the keep's walls, confused and leaderless. The attack was coming. And soon.

States: The New Strategic Defaulters. Making bankruptcy as smooth and recoverable as possible is a good thing; it ensures that failure in a capitalist economy is rarely fatal. But making it too easy -- even profitable -- is a sure road to ruin. When you declare that a State "cannot go bankrupt", all you're doing is guaranteeing a lot of bad behavior that will have to be paid off with large amounts of taxpayer cash.

Too big to fail, too big to bail out. What happens next: gravitational collapse or supernova? I guess it depends on if the firm reaches the Chandrasekhar Limit or not. Either way, it won't be good news for anyone within about 10 AU or so.

Niall Ferguson: You'll not only be eating boiled rat, you'll be glad to have it.

Man, what stinks in here? It's about to make me puke! Oh, wait, here it is...it's this giant bag of dogshit! I should have known something was fishy when the Democrats left it on my doorstep with THIS IS A GIFT FROM US TO YOU stenciled on it. They never give good presents.

China's AgBank IP nets nearly $20 Billion in their IPO. Boy, will investors ever be surprised when all those off-the-books loans start to default....

Muni Bonds: Threat or Menace? Perhaps one of these bonds lives in your very neighborhood, listening to beatnik music and smoking reefer and beating on bongo drums! They live only to corrupt your sons and daughters with their lies!

Perennial broke-dick dog continues to be perennial broke-dick dog.

Let's check the magic 8-ball to see which southern European nation will the the next for the chopping-block. And the answer is...Italy!

Well, it had to happen at some point: the blood-crazed monster is now eating the mad scientists who created it. For the wages of sin is death.

Rumpelstiltskin stamps his wee foot in rage, but fails to disappear in a cloud of foul-smelling smoke, alas. (Well, there was a foul-smelling cloud that lingered after the foot-stamping episode, but observers blamed that on his lunch of hotdogs and chili-fritos.)

The literal meaning of "test" is flouted when the "test" is constructed so as to make it impossible to fail. The technical term for this kind of thing is fraud, and if average citizens did it, they'd be sent to jail for decades.

Somewhat off-topic, but worth posting: people sometimes ask me why I self-identify as a Republican rather than a libertarian, given my rather freewheeling social views. My answer can be found here. Libertarians are quite often just garden-variety post-modernist douchebags wearing free-market disguises.

Today's financial briefing brought to you by the grooviest 8-word-long song ever, man. The song that perfumed the air of roller-discos nationwide in that distant age of 1975.

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posted by Monty at 07:08 AM

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