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  • The Room – 04/03/2009

    In the March 6, 2009 edition of this missive/blog/column/whatever you want to call it, I listed three 'Desperate Measures' the U.S. government might turn to next in its futile attempt to rearrange the ruined economy into something more resembling a perfect world.

    Suspend 'mark to market' rules. At the time of my initial write-up (which you can read here), highly placed sources within the financial services industry that I spoke to were of the opinion that no significant changes would be made, for the simple reason that to do otherwise would risk destroying what little credibility was left for the financial sector.

    As you now know, the government has strong-armed the FASB into modifying the rules, essentially allowing companies to 'mark to model.' Which simply means that the same financial wizards who helped create the models so pivotal to causing the mess in the first place are now free to dust those models off, give them a little tweak, and use them to fabricate more attractive values for the toxic waste than the market was willing to assign. Some might term these rule changes outrageous, fraud even... I call it business as usual.

    Bad bank. The government has moved forward with this initiative as well, essentially rigging up a system that literally guarantees that a very small handful of firms -- likely just four or five -- will receive the sweetheart deal of the century, at the same time that the U.S. taxpayer gets the short end of the stick... right up the side of the head.

    Fed buys long-term Treasuries. This, too, has now come to pass and is likely to accelerate. While there are many ways that one could describe this latest initiative, I find it best to keep these things simple... it's called inflation....
  • The Room – 03/20/2009

    I worry I shall disappoint you today. After all, how can mere words, pecked out awkwardly on a shaky airplane table, adequately communicate all that has occurred this week?

    As regular readers may guess, the plane I am on is taking me to Las Vegas for our sold-out Crisis & Opportunity Summit. While the event was deliberately scheduled to give the Obama administration an opportunity to reveal its cards after having been handed Bush's busted hand, the timing has turned out to be especially propitious, coming as it is at the end of a week that seems to be of some historic significance.

    Of course, we wish you were joining us here in Las Vegas -- if you aren't -- but as your correspondent, I will certainly include notes from the event in next week's missive. But that is then, and this is now.

    And now, everything is going to hell....
  • The Room – 03/16/2009

    This week I tripped over an old musical favorite, I'm Your Captain, by Grand Funk Railroad, which is what I'm listening to as I begin this weekly missive. While the song has a little rust on it, for those of you who haven't taken a ride on Grand Funk Railroad of late, it's a nice enough trip. Now, on to what seems important this week. This week Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup, a bank that has managed to lose $38 billion over the last five quarters, sent around an internal memorandum in which he said he was "encouraged" by the company's performance so far in 2009....
  • The Room – 02/20/2009

    We’re going to be flying low and fast in this weekly scan of the landscape in the quest for items that are 'important,' as opposed to 'merely interesting.' At the top of the list of what we would consider important is the increasing likelihood that the wheels are about to come off the global economy. And, worse, fly through the air and wipe out any number of innocent bystanders. (By now, you and the other readers of our services should already be safely in the duck-and-cover position.) It is becoming clear that more than just our subscribers are beginning to understand the depth, severity, and nature of this crisis: as I begin writing this morning, gold has rebounded to just a few ticks away from the $1,000 mark. By the time I am finished today, we could see that mark taken out. More on that topic later, but first......
  • The Room - 10/24/2008

    I have woken in the pre-dawn to find our direst predictions coming true, with global stock markets taking yet another pounding and U.S. stock futures limit down. Serving as a proxy for the mindset now gripping governments around the world, French President Sarkozy has announced that the French government will, henceforth, buy shares in important French companies in an attempt to prop them up. 'We will intervene massively whenever a strategic enterprise needs our money,' said Sarkozy, a supposed economic conservative, as he pounded the table on behalf of nationalizing industry. The New Age of big government is upon us. Armed with Harry Potter-like magical monetary wands, they are wildly conjuring a deluge of money from thin air to bind the free market and keep it from facilitating the resolution of economic and investment dislocations created over decades. Bud Conrad tells me he is having a hard time adding up all the fiat money that has been committed to the battle for economic - and, by extension, political - survival over the past couple of months. The numbers rolling off the lips of officialdumb have progressed well past the hundreds of millions, or even hundreds of billions, and have now reached the trillions. In that theme, the Fed announced this week that it would drop over half a trillion - $540 billion, to be exact - on the purchase of suspect commercial paper now clogging the portfolios of 'safe harbor' money market funds. Given that there is a total of $3.4 trillion of your money resting in those very same funds, the commitment of $540 billion - about 16% of the total - should be taken as an indicator of just how bad the problem really is....
  • The Room 09/19/2008

    Hi, I am Olivier Garret, this week’s editor of The Room. What a rough week out there. My mind wanders as I drive at a crawl (I am not known to be a patient driver) behind a car full of “leaf peepers,” as Vermonters affectionately call the tourists who invade our state every autumn. I wonder how my friend David Galland is doing in Portugal, sipping the local wines with no access to his emails? It may be the worst week to be without market news -- or perhaps not… Hopefully David is enjoying himself while celebrating an old friend’s birthday with a group of other newsletter editors and industry peers. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Bernanke are not exactly having a day at the beach as they try to solve our nation’s problems. By the way, this past week, it seemed to me that Lehman drew the wrong lottery number while AIG appears to have hit the jackpot. I wonder how many other “private enterprises” will be lucky enough to get bailed out at taxpayers’ expense in the next few months: WaMu, Wachovia, and hundreds of other financial institutions, GM, Ford, Delta, United?...
  • The Room 09/12/2008

    In today's "special" edition of the Room, I want to go somewhat beyond the latest news and observations on same. Instead, I want to discuss the big picture as it relates to the U.S. and global economy. I do so because it is growing more important with each passing day to get a solid fix on where things stand and, more importantly, where they are going next and how you can protect yourself. It's hard to overstate just how unpredictable and dangerous the economic and investment environment has become. While these are topics we'll be covering in today's online event, Casey's Crisis & Opportunity Update, the situation at this point is moving so fast, and is so highly charged, that it is time to pay very, very close attention to things. As you should expect, we have been furiously fingering the tea leaves in an attempt to make actionable sense out of the big moves now in motion. While there is much that we know about the unfolding events, there is also much that is unknowable – for instance, how much longer the long-suffering foreign holders of U.S. dollars will be patient....
  • The Room 4/29/08

    Written: April 25, 2008 Dear Reader, What an interesting week! Having been a single parent for two weeks, with the kids on spring break for the second of those, I have attained a whole new level of appreciation, yes, I think that's the word, for the...
  • The Room 4/7/08

    Dear Readers, This week finds me writing from Room 2218 of the infamous Jekyll Island Club. The hotel's adjective comes from a secret meeting held here in 1910 involving some of America's most powerful men. Here's an official history of that...
  • The Room 3/10/08

    Dear Fellow Global Adventurers , This past week I came across worthy comments from Dr. Marc Faber of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report in which he comments that, by continuing to cut interest rates, Bernanke will eventually "destroy the U.S. dollar...