Note to my subscribers and readers for the year end and the new year.

I will be the first to admit that 2009 was a disappointing year for my investment results. Although the first quarter of the year was the strongest that I ever had during the Asset Securitization Crisis, and I clearly saw the trend reversal coming at the end of the quarter (actually almost to the day since I put a comment out on BoomBustBlog that I was preparing for a very aggressive bear rally, but that granularity in timing was more luck than anything else), I significantly underestimated the length, breadth and depth of the trend reversal. I want all to be clear that I am not making excuses, but the probably reason for the lack of clarity was rampant and clandestine intervention in the equity and debt markets (moe on this later). There has been a lot of chatter in around the web about my performance, and although I am very disappointed at how the year turned out, I would like to put this into perspective. I am not a daytrader nor a swing trader and my research is not aimed in those directions. My stated investment horizon for the research on the blog is 3 to 18 months with a likely targeted range of action of 6 to 9 months. Since I rely primarily on the fundamentals and can't control markets and stock prices, I need to wait for my thesis to pan out.This entails taking some volatility at times. Of course I am the first to admit that the most aggressive rally in 70 years may be a bit much, but one must be able to ride the ups and downs of irrational market moves until one's thesis plays and your are proven right or wrong.This recent bear market rally was probably a once in a lifetime event, and in the case that it was not, we now have the tools to deal with it on an invested basis - even as a pure fundamental investor.

Click any graphic to enlarge.

historical_performance_-_2_years.png.png

Published in BoomBustBlog

Note: A formatting error cut this article short yesterday. Please take the time to read it in its entirety.

Maybe, it just may be the total collapse in credibility and trust in the US Federal Reserve and Treasury. I mean, come on. Have you hear the bullsh1t that they spouted this morning? Quick Bloomberg scan:

Yellen Says Unclear If Use of Rates Can Stem Leverage (Update1) ...

... Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said yesterday it’s “not obvious” there’sa bubble in the US and Yellen said today the US stock market is not overvalued. ...
- 2009-11-17

Kohn Says US Asset Prices Don’t Seem ‘Out of Line’ (Update1) ...

... low interest rates don’t appear to be fueling another asset-price bubble in US ... Kohn’s remarks echoed comments made by Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in an ...
- 2009-11-17

Bernanke Says ‘Not Obvious’ Asset Prices Misaligned (Update2) ...

... regulatory methods to restrain undue risk-taking and to make sure the system is resilient in case an asset-price bubble bursts in the future,” Bernanke said.

I would love to see Bernanke's personal investment accounts, just to note how many long bonds and equities he is piling into over the last few months. Yeah, price misalignent is "not obvious", equity market is not over priced, there is no bubble. They are right, the market is not over priced, it is priced for idiots, fools and the follow me crowd. I remember when Bank of America (the company that just bought the two largest, and the two sickest financial entities around at than time - Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, with no government subsidy on Countrywide) announced the price of a follow on equity offering at about $12 and its share price shot up to around $14 or so (going from memory, so don't hold me to the penny). You know things are bad when the company's own CEO says he doesn't know why the hell his stock is shooting up. For those who are not financial types, all anybody who wanted to buy $14 BAC stock had to do was to purchase it $12 directly from the underwriter. Whoever it was that was buying the stock was "literally" throwing the money away!

Published in BoomBustBlog

It's bound to happen if regulators don't stop playing hide the sausage and don't start forcing banks to take their medicine. First, a quick recap of the nonsense currently taking place. This post is designed to convince banks that they are considerably better off taking their medicine now than going on with the government endorsed plan of pretending your not sick and risking major surgery, plus chemo and radiation just a year or two later. My next post will be a selection of REITs that didn't make my shortlist, followed by a new REIT report for subscribers that will explicitly show property values of each and every property in said REITs portfolio (and potentially the lender or CMBS/mortgagee pool collateralized by said properties - that's right, someone may be called out).

After dealing with European banks during my work with GGP, I have come to the conclusion that most regional, community and even global banks have no where near the capacity and/or expertise to properly evaluate and value the projects/assets that they have invested in. Well, if that is the case, this is your chance to rectify that problem - on the cheap, at least on a relative basis. So if you are in an appropriate position in your bank, fund or lender - read this evidence that supports the proactive behavior of snatching the big crumbs off the table before there is a mad dash for the micro-specs of bread that may or may not be left if one were to wait it out while playing "hide the sausage games". I'll give you the tools to make a convincing argument, trust me. Here is the broader macro argument for lenders pulling bad debt from under the REIT and CRE industry, thus supporting a bearish thesis for said players.

First: A picture is worth a thousand words...

fasb_mark_to_market_chart.png

Instance asset gains and market value stemming from just a small tweak of truth. Financial stocks fly, moving farther and farther from their fundamental values.

Second: We have the obvious manipulation that is occurring in the REIT space (see Here's a Big Company Bailout by the Taxpayer That Even the Taxpayer's Missed!). Zerohedge speculates "Is Goldman Preparing To Upgrade The REIT Sector?"

Third: We have government complicity in the purposeful opacity of the values of the mortgage assets (see the FDIC "Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts" guidance issued Oct 30th, as reported by the WSJ: Banks Hasten to Adopt New Loan Rules and the new FDIC guidance that states performing loans "made to creditworthy borrowers" will not require write downs "solely because the value of the underlying collateral declined").

Fouth: We have a false sense of security that nearly everybody believes should make us insecure, yet somehow we have those long in the markets feelng warm and fuzzy. See You've Been Bamboozled, Hoodwinked and Lied To! Here's the Proof. What Are You Going to Do About It?.

Now, for those of you who believe that the government's "pretend and extend" policy has any chance in hell of working, or better yet, that we are not following in the footsteps of Japan, let's take a pictorial trip through recent history. There are nearly no Japanese banks in the top 20 bank category on global basis by 2003 - NONE (save potentially Nomura, which arguably survived in name, alone). As you can see, they literally dominated 90% of the space in 1990!

Click to enlarge...

top_20_banks.jpg

Source: Cap Gemini Banking M&A

I want the banks that read my upcoming real estate analysis to take heed to history. It truly does tend to repeat itself. If you are an officer in a bank with CRE exposure, reach out to me from your work email and I will supply you with an abbreviated copy of one of the recent reports, gratis. This should whet your appetite to subscribe for more.

Well, are we following the Japanese "Lost Path". Notwithstanding the damning evidence of hide the truth and hide amongst lies linked to above, ponder the following rather dated, but still quite poignant data...

Published in BoomBustBlog

This is part 3 in my quest for the truth in what lies off balance sheet of the big banks in America. Please reference If a Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It? and If a Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 - JP Morgan for the prequels. As was noted before, I also have a 30 part series on this Asset Securitization Crisis for those who are interested in my take on this from the beginning. It is a lot of reading, but it tells it like it is. Now, on to the bank to be owned by America - I'm sorry, that's Bank of America...

Bank of America Securitization Activities

Bank of America securitizes residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, credit card receivables, and home equity loans and automobile loans that it originates or purchases from third parties. As of June 30, 2009, the total principal balance outstanding of securitized portfolio was nearly 1.7 trillion (including 1.1 trillion of mortgage backed securities, securitized by Government sponsored entities). The total senior securities and subordinated securities held by BAC on its balance sheet amounted to about $27 billion (28% of tangible equity) and $10 billion (10% of tangible equity), respectively.

Published in BoomBustBlog

I have some very interesting stuff coming up that is the result of my following the breadcrumbs of the banking system liabilities. I think it should be educational, but won't be out till later today or tomorrow.

Next week I will focus on publishing the tweaks I made to my market neutral investing models which now automatically search out the most liquid, under priced opportunities taken into consideration open interest, spreads, and theoretical>market pricing in real time for up to 1,000 option contracts [typo, corrected] at a time. I will be offering this to all paying subscribers again (this time), but will eventually will be a pro service only. The goal is to hammer out a market neutral program that makes money in the bear rally, but will really be able to take advantage of the inevitable market drop. The market neutral program put out 20% for the month of September, while still offering bearish exposure.

I would like to use the comments section for this post as open discussion. It was interesting to note readers speculating on going bullish on the dollar, then watching the dollar rally to a two month high overnight. Any more thoughts on things macro, micro or otherwise are welcome.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 01:00

Option Strategy Analysis Update

The market neutral option strategies analyzed and made available for download last quarter have effectively accomplished their mission, namely allowing one to maintain a bearish position while still being able to profit from spikes in the market. In periods of uncertainty, this is the methodology that I will fall back on personally, although the directional positions are the ones that reap my windfall profits.

The following are the updated payoff's for selected optimal strategies for rhe S&P index, GS, JPM, AXP, HOT, STI, CAT and MAC (subscribers, see the downloads section for the strategies and the forensic analysis of each company). We have computed revised breakeven points, initial cost, payoff matrix, implied volatility and option parameter for the optimal strategies selected previously. I will post these figures in detail within 24 hours, but here is the synopsis.

Published in BoomBustBlog

JPM derivative and off balance sheet lending commitments and guarantees exposure

Warning!!! This is the type of investigative, unbiased and independent analysis that you will never find in the mainstream media. Long live the Blogoshpere!!!

As we step through the various exposures that this most esteemed bank has, keep in mind that as of June 30, 2009 JPM's common shareholder's equity and tangible common equity stood at $147 bn and $79 bn, respectively. You tell me if the risk inherent in our banking system has been mitigated, please!

Off balance sheet lending commitments and guarantees

As of June 30, 2009, JPM had exposure of $85 billion (or 108% of its tangible equity) towards off balance sheet lending commitments and guarantees. The contractual amount of the off balance sheet lending commitments and guarantees represents the maximum possible credit risk should the counterparty draw upon the commitment or JPM be required to fulfill its obligation under the guarantee, and the counterparty subsequently fail to perform according to the terms of the contract.

Published in BoomBustBlog

Early in 2008 I named Morgan Stanley the "The Riskiest Bank on the Street" (see historical links at the bottom of this article). Well, now its time to update my opinion. Who deserves the title "The Riskiest Bank on the Street" now? Well, let's see what the market says...

As defined by Wikipedia: Cost of Captial - Capital (money) used for funding a business should earn returns for the capital providers who risk their capital. For an investment to be worthwhile, the expected return on capital must be greater than the cost of capital. In other words, the risk-adjusted return on capital (that is, incorporating not just the projected returns, but the probabilities of those projections) must be higher than the cost of capital.

This means that one should not simply glance at accounting earnings and declare all is clear on the western front. Whatever return your company generates has to exceed the cost of investing in said company. Well, of the bulge bracket, who has the highest cost of capital? Who has the highest bar? Who does the Street see as the Riskiest Bank on the Street?

cost_of_capital.png

Well it seems as if the company that had the highest cost of capital apparently had enough risk to actually implode. Is there a pattern here? If so, I must be the only one that recognizes it because the current number one spot (the graphed number one spot already collapsed) traded over $130 per share last week.

For those that don't believe in Cost of Capital in measuring risk, I bring you to another metric. As defined by Wikipedia: Leverage (or gearing due to its analogy with a gearbox) is borrowing money to supplement existing funds for investment in such a way that the potential positive or negative outcome is magnified and/or enhanced.[1] It generally refers to using borrowed funds, or debt, so as to attempt to increase the returns to equity. Deleveraging is the action of reducing borrowings.[1]

Financial leverage

Financial leverage (FL) takes the form of a loan or other borrowings (debt), the proceeds of which are (re)invested with the intent to earn a greater rate of return than the cost of interest. If the firm's rate of return on assets (ROA) is higher than the rate of interest on the loan, then its return on equity (ROE) will be higher than if it did not borrow because assets = equity + debt (see accounting equation). On the other hand, if the firm's ROA is lower than the interest rate, then its ROE will be lower than if it did not borrow. Leverage allows greater potential returns to the investor that otherwise would have been unavailable but the potential for loss is also greater because if the investment becomes worthless, the loan principal and all accrued interest on the loan still need to be repaid.

Margin buying is a common way of utilizing the concept of leverage in investing. An unleveraged firm can be seen as an all-equity firm, whereas a leveraged firm is made up of ownership equity and debt. A firm's debt to equity ratio is therefore an indication of its leverage. This debt to equity ratio's influence on the value of a firm is described in the Modigliani-Miller theorem. As is true of operating leverage, the degree of financial leverage measures the effect of a change in one variable on another variable. Degree of financial leverage (DFL) may be defined as the percentage change in earnings (earnings per share) that occurs as a result of a percentage change in earnings before interest and taxes.


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Derivatives

Derivatives allow leverage without borrowing explicitly, though the "effect" of borrowing is implicit in the cost of the derivative.

  • Buying a futures contract magnifies your exposure with little money down.
  • Options do the same. The purchase of a call option on a security gives the buyer the right to purchase the underlying security at a given price in the future. If the price of the underlying security rises, the value of the call option will rise at a rate much greater than the value of the underlying security. However if the rate of the call option falls or does not rise, the call option may be worthless, involving a much greater loss than if the same money had been invested in the underlying instrument. Generally speaking, a put option allows the holder (owner), the investor, to achieve inverted-leverage and/or inverted enhancement--- sometimes called inverse enhancement and/or inverse leverage.
  • Structured products that exist as either closed-ended funds, or public companies, or income trusts are responding to the public's demand for yield by leveraging. That's a good idea. Let's refer to Goldman Sachs as a Structured Product!


Risk and overleverage

Employing leverage amplifies the potential gain from an investment or project, but also increases the potential loss. Interest and principal payments (usually certain ex-ante) may be higher than the investment returns (which are uncertain ex-ante).

This increased risk may still lead to the optimal outcome for the entity or person making the investment. In fact, precisely managing risk utilizing strategies including leverage and security purchases, is the subject of a discipline known as financial engineering.

There are economic periods when optimism incites to a widespread and excessive use of leverage, what is called overleverage. One of its forms, associated to the subprime crisis, was the practice of financing homes with no or little down payment, playing on the hope that the price of the assets (the property in this case) will rise. Another form involved the five largest U.S. investment banks, which borrowed funds to invest in mortgage-backed securities, increasing their leverage between 2003-2007 (see diagram). During September 2008, the five largest firms either went bankrupt (Lehman Brothers), were bought out by other banks (Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns) or changed to commercial bank holding companies, subjecting themselves to leverage restrictions (Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs).

Well, on the topic of leverage, who do you think is the most leveraged bank? Notice that these leverage ratios below are unadjusted. That means that they will go up significantly if I took the time to extract the accounting shenanigan trash that is used to give the impression of lower leverage (this adjustment is explictly done in the 131 page Goldman Sachs Professional Stress Test).

newestriskiestbank.gif

Notice that although Goldman Sachs is the leveraged risk winner as of now, but they would have probably been beaten by Merrill Lynch. Hey, where is Merrill Lynch by the way? You know, it can get pretty painful for guys to play hide the "leveraged" sausage. If you know what I mean...

Okay, for you real stubborn guys and gals who don't think the cost of capital or leverage are legitmate determinants of risk, let's take a look at other popular risk metrics. Surely they will vindicate the riskiest bank on the Street, right? Below, please find the Goldman Sachs VaR and Risk Adjusted Return on Risk Adjusted Capital Chart.

varrarorc.gif

Now, as we can plainly see, Goldman Sachs has steadily trended down in its RARORAC and steadily trended higher in VaR. In other words, risk has steadily increased as risk adjusted return has steadily decreased.

For those who feel I am simply blogging in sanscrit, let's pull up the Wikipedia definitions for VaR and RARORAC:

Value at Risk (VaR):

In financial mathematics and financial risk management, Value at Risk (VaR) is a widely used measure of the risk of loss on a specific portfolio of financial assets. For a given portfolio, probability and time horizon, VaR is defined as a threshold value such that the probability that the mark-to-market loss on the portfolio over the given time horizon exceeds this value (assuming normal markets and no trading in the portfolio) is the given probability level.[1]

For example, if a portfolio of stocks has a one-day 5% VaR of $1 million, there is a 5% probability that the portfolio will fall in value by more than $1 million over a one day period, assuming markets are normal and there is no trading. Informally, a loss of $1 million or more on this portfolio is expected on 1 day in 20. A loss which exceeds the VaR threshold is termed a “VaR break.”[2]

The 10% Value at Risk of a normally distributed portfolio

VaR has five main uses in finance: risk management, risk measurement, financial control, financial reporting and computing regulatory capital. VaR is sometimes used in non-financial applications as well.[3]


Risk adjusted return on capital (RAROC) is a risk-based profitability measurement framework for analysing risk-adjusted financial performance and providing a consistent view of profitability across businesses. The concept was developed by Bankers Trust in the late 1970s. Note, however, that more and more Risk Adjusted Return on Risk Adjusted Capital (RARORAC) is used as a measure, whereby the risk adjustment of Capital is based on the capital adequacy guidelines as outlined by the Basel Committee, currently Basel II.

...

Broadly speaking, in business enterprises, risk is traded off against benefit. RAROC is defined as the ratio of risk adjusted return to economic capital. The economic capital is the amount of money which is needed to secure the survival in a worst case scenario, that is it is a buffer against heavy shocks. Economic capital is a function of market risk, credit risk, and operational risk, and is often calculated by VaR. This use of capital based on risk improves the capital allocation across different functional areas of banks, insurance companies, or any business in which capital is placed at risk for an expected return above the risk-free rate.

RAROC system allocates capital for 2 basic reasons:

  1. Risk management
  2. Performance evaluation

For risk management purposes, the main goal of allocating capital to individual business units is to determine the bank's optimal capital structure—that is economic capital allocation is closely correlated with individual business risk. As a performance evaluation tool, it allows banks to assign capital to business units based on the economic value added of each unit.

Now that we're all up to speed, let's take this one step farther. Below you may find the One-Day Trading VaR of GS with a 95% confidence level.

dailytradingvar.gif

Here we find proof that Goldman Sachs has indeed usurped Morgan Stanley for the title of "Riskiest Bank on the Street".

daysexceedingvar.png

Hey, notice how Goldman Sachs has trended DOWNWARD regularly and steadily over the one year period. As a matter of fact, the only company that had a lower risk adjusted capital return was Lehman. So let's compare what is happening now... Oh yeah, we can't because Lehman has already collapsed. What does that portend for Goldman who appears to operate quite similarly?

raroc.png

I know many of you new readers are wondering, "Who the hell is this guy?". Well, this guy is someone who has been pretty good at ferreting out weak companies on the verge of collapse:

There is the call of the fall of REITs and commercial real estate in 2007 - "GGP has finally filed Bankruptcy, Proving My Analysis to be On Point Over the Course of 18 Months". I also called Bear Stearns (Is this the Breaking of the Bear? [Sunday, 27 January 2008]), Lehman Brothers CRE implosion connection (Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise? [Thursday, 21 February 2008]), Countrywide and Washington Mutual (Yeah, Countrywide is pretty bad, but it ain’t the only one at the subprime party… Comparing Countrywide with its peer), nearly all of the failed or failing regional banks of significant size (As I see it, these 32 banks and thrifts are in deep doo-doo!), MBIA (A Super Scary Halloween Tale of 104 Basis Points Pt I & II, by Reggie Middleton) and Ambac (Ambac is Effectively Insolvent & Will See More than $8 Billion of Losses with Just a $2.26 Billion Market Cap and Follow up to the Ambac Analysis), among others - well in advance.


More Goldman Sach's Research:

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§ As Reality hits, the Masters of the Universe are starting to look like regular bank employees


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Historical context for the "Riskiest Bank on the Street" moniker.

Banks, Brokers, & Bullsh1+ part 1

Wednesday, 19 December 2007 | Reggie Middleton

A thorough forensic analysis of Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Lehman Brothers has uncovered... Last week, Morgan Stanley called Citibank the “short play of...

The Riskiest Bank on the Street
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)

Key highlights of my research on the "Riskiest Investment Bank on the Street": The Riskiest Bank on Wall Street – Morgan Stanley has US$74 billion of Level 3 assets, over 200% of its eq
Monday, 11 February 2008

A closer look at the exposure of the other brokers
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)

...- Who has the most of their assets tied up in illiquid Level 3 as a proportion to tangible equity? You guessed it, The Riskiest Bank on the Street. Now, they do have a decent amount of liquidity the ...
Sunday, 16 March 2008


19. On the insolvencies of non-bank financial institutions
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
...Bullsh1+ part 1 Banks, Brokers, & Bullsh1+ part 2 Money Panic Bear Fight The Breaking of the Bear The Riskiest Bank on the Street Here comes the CRE Bust (Quip on Lehman Brothers)...
Tuesday, 18 March 2008


20. Quick Morgan Stanley update from my lab
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
This is a refresher to the The Riskiest Bank on the Street piece that I posted a few months ago on Morgan Stanley. Let me get straight to the salient points. High exposure to lev
Thursday, 20 March 2008


21. Early morning scan of events
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
For those that haven't noticed, I've begun sharing my early morning news and data routine with the blog. Here goes Monday moring EST. Is the Fed running out of ammo? Reserve
Monday, 31 March 2008


22. Reggie Middleton on the Street's Riskiest Bank - Update
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
This is the update to my forensic deep dive analysis of Morgan Stanley. It is still, in my opinion, the "riskiest bank on the street". A few things to make note of as you browse through my opinion a
Sunday, 06 April 2008


23. Banks, Brokers & Bullsh1t 3.0: Shenanigans at Morgan and Lehman
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
I've been promising to give an illustration of the shenanigans being played by the commercial and investment bank's for some time now, but I've been quite busy working on my entrepeneurial pursuits
Wednesday, 16 April 2008


24. I warned you about the risk of those I Banks
(Archived/Reggie Middleton's Boom Bust Blog/MyBlog)
...ive counterparty and credit risk to imperfect hedges to dead and depreciating assets held off balance sheet: The Riskiest Bank on the Street Is this the Breaking of the Bear? Banks, Broke...
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Published in BoomBustBlog

I am really proud of our president, but I am truly suspect, no... disappointed in some of his economic team appointments and the holes in their recent ideas. This may really come back to bite him in the ass. Granted, this may be a bit unfair since I may have considerably more financial knowledge and acumen than even the most accomplished politicians, but a mistake is a mistake.

Heavily excerpted from TPMMuckraker:

Harvard Derivatives Whiz Fired For Emailing Larry Summers About "Frightening" Trades?

...

A former quantitative analyst at Harvard Management Company, the university's once-vaunted endowment manager, tells the Harvard Crimson she was fired for voicing concern to then-university president Larry Summers' chief of staff about the money manager's risky use of derivatives the traders didn't understand.

The episode dates back to 2002, when analyst Iris Mack, whose website identifies her as the second African American woman to earn a Harvard PhD. in applied math (and someone who likes primary colors) joined the much-venerated Harvard Management Company, which invests the university's then $18 billion endowment, to find what she termed a "frightening" state of affairs.

"The group I was working for had no background whatsoever to be working on [derivatives]," Mack says, adding that, to her knowledge, several of her colleagues were not licensed securities traders. "Sometimes the ways they handled even basic Black-Scholes models [widely used to price stock options] were puzzling."

So Mack took inventory of the abuses -- high employee turnover, lax risk management practices and a "low level of productivity in the workplace" were among others, and detailed them in an email to Marne Levine, Summers' chief of staff and a Treasury staffer on the Obama Transition Team. (Summers was the only person to whom Meyers reported, and according to a recent Forbes story he personally ordered the university's biggest derivatives trade, a purchase of interest rate swaps that cost the university billions this year.)

A month after sending her email, Mack was fired after a meeting in which the endowment fund's then-chief furnished her the emails and castigated her for making "baseless accusations." She later sued for wrongful termination and settled out-of-court with the university. But she claims the practices "shocked" her, and -- the punchline is -- she had joined the company from Enron.

Which is also to say, lest you dismiss Mack as an opportunistic snitch capitalizing on Summers fateful opposition to regulating the derivatives that wreaked havoc on the financial system, she had a pretty valid reason to believe in the importance of whistleblowing.

"I'm not trying to pretend I'm omniscient or anything, but a lot of people who were quantitative traders, in the back of our minds, we knew a lot of these models were just that: guestimates," Mack says. "I have mixed feelings, on the one hand, I wasn't crazy, I knew what I was talking about. But maybe if more and more people had spoken up, the economy wouldn't be the way it is now."

...
If Mack's allegations are true Harvard certainly paid the price for its recklessness: Summers' swaps sowed the seeds for a financial disaster at HMC:

It doesn't feel good to be borrowing at 6% while holding assets with negative returns. Harvard has oversize positions in emerging market stocks and private equity partnerships, both disaster areas in the past eight months. The one category that has done well since last June is conventional Treasury bonds, and Harvard appears to have owned little of these. As of its last public disclosure on this score, it had a modest 16% allocation to fixed income, consisting of 7% in inflation-indexed bonds, 4% in corporates and the rest in high-yield and foreign debt.

...

But risk brings pain in a market crash. Although the full extent of the damage won't be known until Harvard releases the endowment numbers for June 30, 2009, the university is already working on the assumption that the portfolio will be down 30%, or $11 billion.

Mack's boss at HMC, Jack Meyer, parted ways with the university in 2005. His bets were still paying off but his relationship with Summers had reportedly cooled -- among other things, over alumni outcry led by the university's Class of 1969 over the hedge fund-sized bonuses being awarded to employees of a supposed nonprofit. But if there's anything we've learned from the past year, gratuitous compensation and gratuitous risk go hand-in-hand.

"The events of the last year show that the whole procedure of rewarding people so handsomely based on increases on paper value of the endowment was deeply flawed," says a spokesman for the [Class of 1969], which recently sent a letter to the Harvard president suggesting HMC staffers return $21 million of their latest bonuses. "Even now we don't really know how well it has done in the last ten years."

Reggie's Comment:
Published in BoomBustBlog
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 01:00

Bear Market Rallies Shake Out Weak Hands!

The title says it all, but at the end of the day (or more accurately, at the end of the week and a half -on average), they are still just bear market rallies).


We have identified 5 bear market rallies based on 3-day , 5 -day, 7 day and 10 day cumulative return. On an average bear market rallies last for 9 days with an average gain of 16% from trough-to-peak.This most recent bear rally run has been the most violent, and the largest single move in the history of the markets. That means that it is a possibility the bear market is over - not! I have run multiple scenario analyses, though, just to be sure.

Bear market rallies

Start date

End date

Number of days

% Change


1


9-Mar-09


23-Mar-09


11.0


21.6%


2


20-Jan-09


28-Jan-09


7.0


8.6%


3


20-Nov-08


8-Dec-08


12.0


20.9%


4


27-Oct-08


4-Nov-08


7.0


18.5%


5


10-Oct-08


20-Oct-08


7.0


9.6%


Average


8.8


15.8%

image009.png

Published in BoomBustBlog