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October 20, 2010

Financial Briefing: Pennies from Heaven

We will be assaulting the Shady Acres Retirement Village just before sunrise, men. Some of us will not return. The geezers know of our presence, and are prepared. They will meet us with phalanxes of walkers; with Scoot-A-Bouts massed for defense; with checmical warfare (primarily Mentholatum and Dr. Sprott's Deep Heating Salve); with pureed peas and mashed potatoes and prune juice. They will conduct psyops missions -- grey-haired grannies will plaintively ask you why you don't visit more often, and some grand-dad with high-water chinos will tell you that kids these days aren't worth a damn. They will play Glenn Miller tunes at ear-splitting volumes. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, men. It will be the toughest fight of your lives. But I can say that this is the most important battle that you will ever fight! The future of the world depends upon your success! Now get in there and BRING THE PAIN to those geezers! Crush them, or they will surely crush you!

I really cannot fathom why the French are raising such a ruckus. They're usually so subdued. If ever there was a people to face hardship with quiet grace and calm, it's the French. They're like the Greeks that way.

If you're currently funemployed, you have a lot of company. The federal government has obfuscated and twisted every number they can think of to keep the official unemployment number below the dreaded double-digit mark, but anyone with half a brain knows it's been above 10% for a long while now.

Here's your scary chart-fu for the day. It's a color coded map of underwater mortgages in Q4 2000 and Q4 2009. The change is...dramatic.

BofA Complaints Department: Yes, may I help you?
PIMCO: Yes, I'd like to return these bonds, please.
BofA: May I ask why you are dissatisfied with the bonds, sir?
PIMCO: Well, they're not really bonds, are they? They're just bits of paper with "$$$THIS IS A BONED$$$" written on them. In crayon. And you misspelled "bond".
BofA: That is our standard bond, sir. I'm sure you'll be happy with them!
PIMCO: No, I don't think I will. I'll just have my money back, please, and you can have this truckload of worthless paper.
BofA: And what is the amount in question, sir?
PIMCO: That'd be $47 billion. Cash, if you please.
BofA: Ah. Yes. I'm afraid that our policy is not to refund, but rather to issue store credit. Here is a credit receipt for $47 billion as requested, sir, redeemable at any BofA store.
PIMCO: Look here! You just tore off a piece of shopping-bag paper and wrote "47 billyun dallars" on it! No, no, no! There's just something off about this whole business! I bid you good day, sir! You will hear from my solicitor directly!

I told you so. China is facing wage-pressure. You can't pay people slave-wages forever. If you're an authoritarian Communist country, you can do it for quite a long time, of course; but sooner or later, the employees are going to want their share of the pie. If you can't give it to them, why...they might just stop showing up for work. Or get fractious and start breaking things.

I don't really cover the stock markets any more (what's the point?) but it's worth noting that both the DJIA and the S&P 500 took a real shot in the nuts, losing about 1.5% at the close of trading.

$41,966.00 Pay up, sucker.

Good news? We don't need no stinkin' good news! Nor actual investors, neither! Nor earnings! Pull quote:

For the first time in at least 25 years, the market has staged a three-month rally of more than 10 percent without having a single week where equity mutual funds saw net inflows, according to data from the Investment Company Institute and LPL Financial.

A rare financial tie-in to my Sunday book-thread: Rare books are sometimes smart investments. I would sound a note of caution, though: this is not a pastime for amateurs. It's rather like the art market in that way -- there are few genuinely good investments, but much fraud, fakery, and cheating. (I myself opt for the surer -- if less remunerative -- market offered by vintage gentlemen's periodicals. My vast unbroken collection of Juggs magazine will someday be worth a tidy sum, if I'm any judge of my fellow enthusiasts.)

The worker's story was heart-rending: "It's like workin' under the Romans in the olden days, guv! Like the salt mines or slave galleys! The lash! Vicious beatin's at all times o' the day, gettin' nothing from the overseer but a mouthful of vulgar abuse! No food! No water! Letting your waste drop where you stand like some kind o' wild animal! It's iniquitous, it is, uncivilized, and it oughtn't to be allowed!" I must confess I was rather taken aback when I saw the crowds of people waiting in line to work in such a horrendous dungeon. I wondered if perhaps the worker might have exaggerated his sad tale just a bit.

A Europe-wide VAT? I'm sure the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels love the idea, but I have a feeling that the sovereigns -- especially the solvent ones like Germany -- might have a thing or two to say about that. They're desperately trying to come up with a bailout for the PIIGS that won't freak out the bond market, but so far, no miracle-cure has presented itself.

Is it just me or does this aspirin stink?

Yet another sad chapter in the California Annals of the Boned: noted walking political dead man bronzes a turd, mounts it on a pedestal, and pretends it's his prize for seven years of cowardice, missteps, fuckups, and perfidy.

digg this
posted by Monty at 07:04 AM

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