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November 19, 2010

Financial Briefing: Au revoir, bonne nuit, bonne chance

NOTE: This will be the last Briefing of 2010. The Financial Briefing will be going on hiatus until next year. My various murder-for-hire, pimping, gun-running, and Amway businesses all require some added attention at this time of year, and I think everyone could use a mood-lightener around the holiday season, so I'll put the DOOM on the back-burner until after the holidays. There'll be enough DOOM to go around in 2011, I'm sure.

It's kind of like loaning money to a buddy who's also a recovering drug-addict: he says he needs it for new shoes, but you suspect that he's going to spend it on meth or crackrock instead. It's less a loan or investment than a comradely form of blackmail. You know you're probably never going to see your money again; but on the other hand...he's your buddy. (Hat tip to Slublog for the link.)

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling/From glen to glen, and down the mountain-side.

While we're kicking poor Ireland while it's down, it's worth remembering why it got into this mess in the first place. (Though, as in the case of Greece, you can't blame it all on the Euro; the Irish spent themsleves into insolvency. It's just that the Euro is making it very difficult -- and maybe impossible -- for them to climb out of the hole they've dug for themselves.)

Will the pending Irish bailout work? No. In fact, it will make the situation worse. So why do it? Because everybody's fundamental recovery plan still rests on the "and then a miracle happens" axiom.

My mom used to tell me that if I had no job, then looking for a job was my job. Well, Uncle Sugar is doing his best to make sure that being unemployed is simply another career path. Unemployment benefits are already at 99 weeks if you count both state and federal benefits; now that will go out to 111 weeks or so if this measure passes. That's over two years of unemployment benefits. So the battle will be joined: the GOP will be called heartless meanies for opposing yet another (completely unfunded) extension of benefits; the Democrats will beat their breasts and speak feelingly of all the little people who will be eating nothing but cat-shit this Christmas season if this bill is not passed. This money will come from Uncle Sugar (if it comes at all) because most states' UE coffers are dry, and since Uncle Sugar is also tapped out, this money will come from...more borrowing. And so our merry ride to DOOM continues. (UPDATE: That's a negatory, good buddy. GOP: heartless meanies.)

I disagree with David Brooks quite often, but he states the problem clearly in this column: economics is as much psychology and sociology as it is statistics and mathematics, but the national economy is being run by technocrats who either discount or ignore the human factors.

Since the Fed is in a bond-buyin' mood, the next batch might be...California munis. There seems to be a lot of confidence that Uncle Sugar will bail out the profligate states in one way or another, no matter what. I don't share that confidence myself, but it does seem to animate most of the decisions of investors these days. Pull quote:

“If the U.S. economy takes another leg down, Bernanke will buy everything,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak. “Even things in your attic.”
So, you know, if you're looking to get rid of that 1971 Ford Pinto that's been rusting into oblivion in your back yard...Ben might be willing to deal. He's like the Uncle Sugar version of Craigslist. Got some bullshit bonds you can't move? Give Ben a call!

Having said that.... Spongeworthy, a fellow Moron who knows a thing or two about Munis, doesn't share my alarm about municipal bonds. From an email he sent me:

The Fed buys bonds to lighten up banks and hand them cash. They just about have to invest it, which is the desired effect. How buying munis would do anything but float a short-term loan to CA is beyond me. Just wouldn't seem to be part of the Fed's portfolio. The piece doesn't elaborate on why the Fed would do this. To my knowledge, the CA RAN deal is still a go, and still right around 1%. That just isn't a distressed situation. So, fun speculation but it isn't happening.
You're getting your filthy rays of light in my rich creamy doom, spongeworthy.

UPDATE: The Fear Factor In the Muni Bond Market. According to the article, there's no panic about Munis...yet.

California, boned, blah blah blah. You all know how this story turns out.


I posted this because you just don't hear the theremin enough in popular music, in my opinion. Plus it's just a cool song.

digg this
posted by Monty at 07:37 AM

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