This is my response to an inciteful insightful comment posted by GJK313. It is in reference to an article which readers can find here, titled "FASB Surrenders - America Win". I suggest readers read the aforelinked document in its entirety before moving on. Notice how this is written by economists and analysts, not real world investors that are investing THEIR OWN CAPITAL! When I state "own capital" I mean their money, and not that of their clients. I cannot fathom how anyone who had their own money at stake would ever want more ambiguity in pricing assets, in lieu of less.. Let me pick this apart...
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As soon to be ex-president Mubarak demonstrates that he has essentially lost control of
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his country, as is exemplified by the multi-million man march in the streets of Egypt, it brings to mind one of the major contributors to financial contagion, and that is government instability.The uprising in Egypt, brought over from Tunisia (whose president lost power) has now spread to Yemen: Yemeni president pledges not to seek another term:
Yemen's U.S.-backed president, in power for more than three decades, pledged Wednesday not to seek another term in office in an apparent attempt to defuse protests inspired by Tunisia's revolt and the turmoil in Egypt.
As I have stated in my posts over the last few days, financial contagion can spread rapidly and from relatively unexpected origins. The debt situation in the EU is a powder keg simply waiting for an ignition spark as the ECB and stronger EU parties attempt to spray water on the pile of gunpowder from an aerosol can.
I have long said that Apple will face margin compression once the next generation Android products start to roll in the second quarter. Motorola is on a mission, and there is no telling what HTC is cooking up...
I spent the majority of 2010 and a decent portion of 2009 warning that massive debt simply does not just "go away", particularly after significant asset devaluation. The result of these two actions (once combined) is the evaporation of equity, the waning of value, and the ultimate destruction of capital. Sovereign nations and global financial institutions alike have been dodging, ducking, weaving, fibbing, lying, closing their eyes, sticking their collective heads in the sand and kicking the can down the road for 3 years now. This is not the end of the world, but it is the end of the massive amount of economic capital that so many swear is still abound. The longer we take to acquiesce and accept this foregone conclusion, the harder the pill will be to swallow - "can kicking" be damned.
And on that note, Bloomberg reports: Japan's Credit Rating Cut to AA- by S&P on Mounting Debt Burden
Japan’s credit rating was cut for the first time in nine years by Standard & Poor’s as persistent deflation and political gridlock undermine efforts to reduce a 943 trillion yen ($11 trillion) debt burden. The world’s most indebted nation is now ranked at AA-, the fourth-highest level, putting the country on a par with China, which likely passed Japan last year to become the second-largest economy. The government lacks a “coherent strategy” to address the nation’s debt, the rating company said in a statement. The outlook for the rating is stable, S&P said.
The yen and bond futures fell on concern the downgrade will push up the cost of borrowing for Japan, where public debt is about twice the size of gross domestic product. Vice Finance Minister Fumihiko Igarashi this week said the government must fix its finances to avoid a debt crisis that could trigger a “global depression.”
I must admit, I was shocked when I first read this headline and saw the accompanying cover. After all, Bloomberg was the organization that published a story lavishing adulation upon a young Goldman analyst that had a 38% win rate throughout the credit crisis and (faux) recovery. I see those results as mediocre at best, and downright horrible from a realistic perspective. To make matters even worse, I believe I ran circles not only around that analyst, but the entire firm, see Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best? The next thing you know, this heavy nugget of truth is dropped, and all I can say is.... Damn. Let's excerpt some juicy tidbits from Blankfein Flunks Asset Management as Jim Clark Vows No More Goldman Sachs:
On Jan. 2, Jim Clark, a founder of such technology icons as Netscape Communications Corp. and Silicon Graphics Inc., was at home in Palm Beach, Florida, when he got an e-mail from an executive at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s private wealth management division. Goldman was offering Clark a chance to invest in the closely held social-networking company FacebookInc. The deal -- through a fund overseen by Goldman Sachs Asset Management -- was being offered to other Goldman investors at the same time, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its March issue.
The firm would levy a 4 percent placement fee on clients, plus a half percent “expense reserve” fee. It would also require investors to surrender 5 percent of any profits, known as “carried interest,” according to a Goldman Sachs document.
Clark turned Goldman down. In June, 2009, he had yanked most of the roughly $400 million he had invested with the firm due to what he considered bad advice and poor performance, including a big hit from GSAM’s Global Alpha hedge fund. This offer, he says, just irked him further. A few months earlier, he had purchased a stake in Facebook through another firm for a lower price, he says, and without the onerous carried interest.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable,” Clark says. “It’s just another way for them to make money from their clients.”
Jim Clark is a smart man, and I don't think he needs me to assure him of that. For those who may not be as hip to fees and valuations, I published The Anatomy Of The Record Bonus Pool As The Foregone Conclusion: We Plug The Numbers From Goldman’s Facebook Fund Marketing Brochure Into Our Models which clearly demonstrated that this offering was primarily for Goldman's bonus pool integrity and basically a ripoff for clients. In the following post, I declared "Here’s A Look At What The Goldman FaceBook Fund Will Look Like As It Ignores The SEC & Peddles Private Shares To The Public Without Full Disclosure". As excerpted:
After hearing of Goldman's plans to allow investors to skirt SEC guidelines and issue private shares of Facebook to the public, I had a plethora of warnings and admonitions. Once I (and my best analyst) took the time to parse the numbers and the logic behind the deal, I concluded that Facebook Registers The WHOLE WORLD! Or At Least They Would Have To In Order To Justify Goldman’s Pricing: Here’s What $2 Billion Or So Worth Of Goldman HNW Clients Probably Wish They Read This Time Last Week!
In a nutshell, not only is the offering unlawful on its face (although probably lawful due to the financial engineering cum law splicing from the wizards at Goldman), the valuations were simply stuff of fairy tails and dot.com implosions.
About 4 months ago, I claimed that Banks Will Be Forced to Forgo Certain Foreclosures, Even If the Borrower Has Admittedly Defaulted! In summary:
Without an economic incentive to foreclose, it would not be in the bank shareholders best interests to pursue foreclosure even though borrowers clearly defaulted & owe money to the lender. The economics of distressed assets in mortgage and commercial banking are quickly changing. I am quite open to discussing this in the mainstream media if any are interested in hearing the “Truth go Viral!” I want all to keep this in mind when pondering the release of reserves by the banks.
This was taken by many readers as sensationalist and unlikely. As a matter of fact, much of my writing is taken in a similar way, most likely due to the fact that I have an uncommon proclivity to state things exactly as I see them, sans the sucrose patina. This is not a pessimistic (bearish) outlook, nor an optimistic (bullish) outlook. It is simply called, the TRUTH! Realism! Something that is increasingly hard to come by in these days of media for a purpose and embedded agendas.
You see, the United States, much of Europe, and China have sever balance sheet issues that are ravaging their respective economic prospects. The media, analysts, and investors are gingerly mozying along as if this is not the case. Well, no matter how hard you ignore certain problems, no matte how hard you try to kick the can down the road - the issues really do not just "disappear" on their own.
With these points in mind, let's peruse this piece I picked up from the Chicago Tribune: More banks walking away from homes, adding to housing crisis blight: the bank walkaway.
Research to be released Thursday, the first of its kind locally, identifies 1,896 "red flag" homes in Chicago — most of them are in distressed African-American neighborhoods — that appear to have been abandoned by mortgage servicers during the foreclosure process, the Woodstock Institute found.
Abandoned foreclosures are increasing as mortgage investors determine that, at sale, they can't recoup the costs of foreclosing, securing, maintaining and marketing a home, and they sometimes aren't completing foreclosure actions. The property, by then usually vacant, becomes another eyesore in limbo along blocks where faded signs still announce block clubs.
"The steward relationship between the servicer and the property is broken, particularly in these hard-hit communities," said Geoff Smith, senior vice president of Woodstock, a Chicago-based research and advocacy group. "The role of the servicer is to be the person in charge of that property's disposition. You're seeing situations where servicers are not living up to that standard." City neighborhoods where 80 percent of the population is African-American account for 71.1 percent of red-flag properties, according to Woodstock.
Don't fret, this is definitely not an "African American" thing. As a matter of fact, the reason that this is concentrated in this primarily "African American" community is that this is one of the demographic groups that have been heavily targeted by predatory lenders. You will see other demographic "concentrations" start to show similar attributes and behavior from the banks - lower income, lower educated, higher LTV, lower mean rental income, lower property value, higher mean time to disposition from commencement of marketing areas, etc.
A short interview clip on BNR, in Dutch. See http://www.bnr.nl/static/jspx/play.jspx?dag=12&maand=1&jaar=2011&tijd=06:16&lengte=5&titel=Radio-archief
I read this headline from the Financial Times and said to myself, "Okay Reg, Don't say 'I told you so'". Thus, you won't hear it from me, at least not this time. As reported today in the Financial Times: Goldman reveals fresh crisis losses and Goldman’s republished results present a new picture
Goldman Sachs has revealed details of about $5bn in investment losses suffered during the crisis for the first time this week, in a move that will deepen the debate over companies’ financial disclosures. The figures, issued as part of internal reforms aimed at silencing Goldman’s critics, show that the bank suffered $13.5bn in losses from “investing and lending” with its own funds in 2008. But Goldman’s regulatory filings and its executives’ comments to investors at the time pointed to about $8.5bn of losses arising from its investments in debt and equity, as markets were rocked by the turmoil.
Hmmmm! I walked through this in explicit detail in “When the Patina Fades… The Rise and Fall of Goldman Sachs???“ and I did it without being privvy to Goldman's financial innards. It was more or less common damn sense. Goldman and its employees do not walk on water, they do not shit gold, and they cannot perform miracles. If one takes an objective approach to their equity analysis, and simple plug the numbers into a spreadsheet (objectively) you would have come up with the exact same conclusions that I gave my subscribers all of these years. Let's reminisce, shall we?
So, what is GS if you strip it of its government protected, name branded hedge fund status. Well, my subscribers already know. Let’ take a peak into one of their subscription documents ( Goldman Sachs Stress Test Professional 2009-04-20 10:06:45 4.04 Mb - 131 pages). I believe many with short term memory actually forgot what got this bank into trouble in the first place, and exactly how it created the perception that it got out of trouble. The (Off) Balance Sheet!!!
Contrary to popular belief, it does not appear that Goldman is a superior risk manager as compared to the rest of the Street. They may
the same mistakes and had to accept the same bailouts. They are apparently well connected though, because they have one of the riskiest
balance sheet compositions around yet managed to get themselves insured and protected by the FDIC like a real bank. This bank’s portfolio looked quite scary at the height of the bubble.
And back to the FT article...
I received a thought provoking email the other day, and thought it would be good for sparking the debate on the future of the web. Please be aware that this is a reader's opinion, and not necessarily my own, but he definitely seems to have thought his viewpoint thoroughly through. I welcome any and all comment. Portions of the email have been removed to preserve anonymity.
You're well aware of the current models, primarily advertising and direct marketing driven by web publishers such as BusinessInsider, ZeroHedge, SeekingAlpha, etc. Although these combination publishers/aggregators/bloggers have achieved a certain level of success they don't really have a model, at least as I see it, that will supply them with an ongoing stream of steady high-quality content, such as the research and analysis provided by your blog.
If you consider the understandings of the surplus in content as described by Yochai Benkler in Wealth of Networks, Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus or Rachel Botsman's Collaborative Consumption, it seems there is no end in site to free, high quality content. I believe that the so-called net neutrality regulations are going to change that. A tiered internet will probably create a situation where casual bloggers will lose visbility as a "pay to play" model emerges.