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  • Gambling in the House?

    The latest scandal du jour seems to be about what is now called LIBORgate. But is it a scandal or is it really just business as usual? And if we don’t know which it is, what does that say about how we organize the financial world, in which $300-800 trillion, give or take, is based on LIBOR? This is actually just the second verse of the old song about derivatives, which is a much larger market. Which of course is a problem that was not solved by Dodd-Frank and that has the potential to once again create true havoc with the markets, whereas LIBOR can only cost a few billion here and there. (Sarcasm intended.)

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  • Preparing for a Credit Crisis

    The Consequences of Austerity
    Euro Break-Up – The Consequences
    Welcome to the Hotel California
    The Slow March to Recession in the US
    Preparing for a Credit Crisis
    What Can You Do About the Weather?
    Europe, Houston, New York, and South Africa

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  • What Does Greece Mean to You?

    How does an event like a problem in Greece (or elsewhere) affect you, gentle reader? That is the question I was posed this week. I mean, down where the rubber hits your road. Not some formula or writing about the velocity of money or the effect of taxes on GDP. 'I want to understand why you think this is so important.' So that is what I will attempt to do in this week's missive, as I write a letter to my kids trying to explain the almost inexplicable.

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  • I Meant to Do That

    The Fed has taken interest rates to zero. They have clearly started a program of quantitative easing. What exactly does that mean? Are we all now Japanese? Is the Fed pushing on a string, as Japan has done for almost two decades? The quick answer is no, but the quick answer doesn't tell us much. We may not be in for a two-decades-long Japanese malaise, but we will experience a whole new set of circumstances. In what will hopefully be a shorter holiday version of the e-letter, I will tackle these questions and more....
  • Leverage Is an 8 Letter Word

    Leverage is an eight-letter word, which the markets now regard as twice as bad as the two four-letter words debt and pain (or fill in your own four-letter words). This week I try to give some insight into what is happening in the credit markets, some of it below the radar screen of most analysts. We will look at the potential for deflation and the Fed's response. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump right in. I talked with a friend who runs a collateralized loan obligation fund, or CLO. There are a lot of these funds in the Shadow Banking System. Typically they buy certain types of debt, with a lot of it in the bank loan space. In the old days of the last few years, banks would make loans to corporations and then sell them to CLOs and other institutions, making a spread on the loan and a profit on the servicing business. Some funds would typically leverage up somewhat and make a decent return....
  • Electing the Janitor-in-Chief

    This week we survey the economic landscape that the new president will inherit. It is a polite understatement to say that he will be getting a serious mess. In reality, the US goes to the polls this next Tuesday to elect a Janitor-in-Chief. He will face a task that rivals that of Hercules in cleaning out the Stygian stables (legendary huge stables that had not been mucked out for ten years). However, there are no convenient rivers at hand for a probable President Obama to redirect that will quickly be able to clean out the mess left in the stables of our economy. This will indeed be an Herculean task and one that will take most of the first term of the next administration. So, let's look at what will face the next president. It should make for an interesting, even if not optimistic, letter....
  • Who Holds the Old Maid?

    When is the credit crisis going to end? How will we know? The credit crisis is getting ready to enter its second phase. This week we examine what that means, and what the economic environment will look like over the coming quarters. We also (sadly) re-visit Freddie and Fannie and examine the risks that they put into the markets. Risks, by the way, that were sanctioned by regulators and encouraged by a Congress that took in hundreds of millions in campaign contributions and lobbying fees. We (the US taxpayer) have taken on a huge risk and potential loss for that paltry few hundred million. Sadly, those who encouraged that risk will by and large be voted back into office rather than ridden out of town on a rail (an old US custom, rather barbaric, but one which should maybe be revived for this purpose). It should make for an interesting letter as we count down the last days of summer....
  • $1.6 Trillion in Losses and Counting

    It seems that with each passing month the estimates for losses in the international banking system keep rising. This time last summer the largest estimates (from credible sources), if memory serves me correct, were around $400 billion, give or take a few months. By the end of the year it was in the neighborhood of twice that. Then last quarter we saw estimates approaching $1 trillion. Last week, the number being broached was $1.6 trillion, by Bridgewater Associates, one of the top, and more credible, analytical firms in the world. In this week's letter we look at the implications of that projection, analyze recent lending patterns by banks, briefly touch on the implications of the recent unemployment numbers, and end with a few comments on the bear market. It will make for an interesting letter. Warning: remove sharp objects from your vicinity before reading....
  • Credit Crisis to Credit Crunch

    In this issue: A Confidence Credit Crunch Credit Crisis How Much is That Dog in Your Net Capitalization? King Dollar Faces the Guillotine The Euro-Yen Cross The Consumer is Getting Tired New York, Philadelphia, Switzerland and Phoenix Just when it felt...
  • The Subprime Virus

    The Subprime Virus The Subprime Virus 2007 Mid-Year Forecast Compete With the Pros When the Facts Change Credit? What Credit? global Warming, Maine and San Antonio As predicted in this letter early this year, the credit markets have finally begun to tighten...
  • Where is the Real Risk in the Subprime Debacle?

    Introduction This week we continue to look at an alphabet soup of problems: RMBSs, CDOs, Alt-A, BBB and - a new acronym to put on your radar screen - the very useful CDS. When does an AAA rating not mean an offering is ready for prime time? What type...