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  • The Subprime Debacle: Act 2, Part 2

    At the end of last week's letter on the whole mortgage foreclosure mess, I wrote:

    'All those subprime and Alt-A mortgages written in the middle of the last decade? They were packaged and sold in securities. They have had huge losses. But those securities had representations and warranties about what was in them. And guess what, the investment banks may have stretched credibility about those warranties. There is the real probability that the investment banks that sold them are going to have to buy them back. We are talking the potential for multiple hundreds of billions of dollars in losses that will have to be eaten by the large investment banks. We will get into details, but it could create the potential for some banks to have real problems.'

    Real problems indeed. Seems the Fed, PIMCO, and others are suing Countrywide over this very topic. We will go into detail later in this week's letter, covering the massive fraud involved in the sale of mortgage-backed securities. Frankly, this is scandalous. It is almost too much to contemplate, but I will make an effort.

    ...
  • The Subprime Debacle: Act 2

    Quick last-minute note: I think this (and next week's) is/will be one of the more important letters I have written in the last ten years. Take the time to read, and if you agree send it on to friends and responsible parties.

    There's trouble, my friends, and it is does indeed involve pool(s), but not in the pool hall. The real monster is hidden in those pools of subprime debt that have not gone away. When I first began writing and speaking about the coming subprime disaster, it was in late 2007 and early 2008. The subject was being dismissed in most polite circles. 'The subprime problem,' testified Ben Bernanke, 'will be contained.'

    My early take? It would be a disaster for investors. I admit I did not see in January that it would bring down Lehman and trigger the worst banking crisis in 80 years, less than 18 months later. But it was clear that it would not be 'contained.' We had no idea.

    ...
  • Why I am an Optimist

    I admit that of late my writings have had a rather dark tone. There are certainly a number of severe long-term problems that we must deal with, and they're going to serve up a lot of economic pain. But the Thanksgiving weekend with the kids has me in a reflective mood, and one that has only served to underscore my long-term optimism. This week we look at why 2007 will not be the good old days we will yearn for in 20 years, after we briefly visit Dubai and the latest unemployment numbers....
  • Who's Afraid of a Big, Bad Bailout?

    Flying last Tuesday, overnight from Cape Town in South Africa to London, I read in the Financial Times that Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas was quoted as saying (this is from memory so it is not exact) that he had difficulty in voting for a bailout plan when none of his constituents could understand the need to bail out Wall Street, didn't understand the problem, and were against spending $750 billion of taxpayer money to solve a crisis for a bunch of (rich) people who took a lot of risk and created the crisis. That is a sentiment that many of the Republican members of the House share. As it happens, I know Joe. My office is in his congressional district. I sat on the Executive Committee for the Texas Republican party representing much of the same district for eight years. This week, Thoughts from the Frontline will be an open letter to Joe, and through him to Congress telling him what the real financial problem is, how it affects his district and help explains to his constituents the nature of the problem, and why he has to hold his nose with one hand and vote for it with the other. I think this is as good a way to explain the crisis we are facing this weekend. This letter will print out a little longer because there are a lot of charts, but the word length is about the same. Let's jump right in....
  • Betting on Financial Armageddon

    My Dad used to tell me there is no accounting for standards when looking at something that seemed odd. Today, we have faulty standards for accounting that are ripping apart the fabric of the world's economy. How can a security that has a high probability of full repayment be downgraded from AA to junk levels? What we will explore today tell us a lot about why we are in the crisis state of affairs. Since I wrote you last Friday, the financial landscape of the world has changed even more. And what will happen this weekend will change it even more. And our kids will be paying for it for a long, long time. At the end I offer a few thoughts on the events, and if there is time my thoughts on the new short covering rules. All in all, it should make for an instructive and interesting letter. We'll jump right in....
  • Housing: Are We Near the Bottom?

    This week we look at the housing market in some detail. When can we expect it to turn around? Part of the problem is a new wave of foreclosures is coming due, and this time it is not subprime. And that means more problems for the large financial companies. Also, as predicted here, consumer spending is taking a hit as consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to get credit and a deteriorating labor market hits total spending. There are some very interesting details in the data that was released this week. And we take a quick peek at the outlook for inflation. What is in the pipeline, so to speak? It should make for an interesting letter....
  • $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....
  • Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis Margin Clerks of the World, Unite! Where Do We Find New Sources of Credit? In Defense of Alan Greenspan What Now for Gold, Oil, Etc? Baseball, Mexico, and Travel Costs My essay in Outside the Box last Monday seemed to...
  • Muddle Through and Your Long Term Returns

    Muddle Through Gets A Boost Honey, I Vaporized My Customers Consumer Spending is Going, Going...South The Boomers Break the Deal Today we drop back to take a look at the economy and its long term effect on our portfolio returns. I am in Orlando this week...
  • Sea Change at the Fed

    Sea Change at the Fed "Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea change Into something rich and strange" (The Tempest - Shakespeare) The term "sea change"...
  • Should the Fed Cut Interest Rates?

    Should the Fed Cut Interest Rates? The Shocker in the Employment Numbers Should the Federal Reserve Cut Interest Rates? Will A Cut Make Any Difference? How Housing Woes Hurt the Rest of the Economy Home Again, Home Again The unemployment numbers came...
  • The Panic of 2007

    The Panic of 2007 Muddle Through or End of the World? An Alphabet Soup of Credit Turning Nuclear Waste Into Gold (and Back Again!) Mrs. Watanabe and the Hedge Fund Connection The Rating Agency Blame Game Where Do We Go From Here? Hedge Funds to the Rescue...
  • The Fugu Ultimatum

    The Fugu Ultimatum In the early fall of 1998, I remember being on a flight to Bermuda from New York. I was upgraded and sat next to a very distinguished looking gentleman. He was going to a conference about re-insurance and I was going to speak at a large...
  • 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...
  • Fun in the Subprime Summer

    Fun in the Subprime Summer Hot Fun In The Summertime Collateralized Loan Obligations The Economic Outlook for Leveraged Credits The New Mickey Mouse Club Planes, Trains and Automobiles This week I am already in Maine and getting ready for a weekend of...