October 3, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 3, 2008

1) The September non farm payroll came in at 159,000, worse than even the most dire estimates, and the unemployment rate jumped to 6.1%. Q3 will now almost certainly come in with a negative GDP, the new jobs figure indicating a -0.5% rate, delivering a body blow to business confidence. So far 760,000 jobs have been lost in this recession, compared to 2-3 million for a normal recession. The low number of job losses this year are partly because so few people were hired in the last upturn, because so many jobs were shipped to China. The October payroll figures are expected to be worse as the credit crunch takes hold. Taking into account the diabolical YOY sales figures announced by the car makers earlier in the week (Nissan -40%!) it is clear that the US economy fell off a cliff in September. Put on your hard hat!

2) Borrowing at the Fed window this week shot up from $$360 billion to $520 billion, an unprecedented increase. With the commercial paper market closed the Fed is basically the only game in town. Globally, central banks are flooding the system with liquidity at a record rate. Expect the monetary aggregates to skyrocket over the next few months.

3) Some 4.2 billion square feet of office space in the San Francisco Bay area is occupied by financial companies that have gone bankrupt or been taken over, like AIG, WAMU, Merrill Lynch, Lehman, and Wachovia. That is almost the equivalent of one World Trade Center Tower. WAMU alone has 267,000 sq. ft. in Pleasanton.

4) Apple (AAPL) stock got crushed down to $94, down from $180 in eight weeks, on an earnings downgrade. Apparently the market for cell phones that freeze, drop calls, with chargers that blow up in your face, is not as big as they thought. Go short cults!

October 2, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 2, 2008

1) One month T-bills are at 0.50%. The credit markets are still locked. If the house bill fails, the Dow will drop another 1,000 very quickly. Even if the bill passes, traders are starting to realize that it may bail out the banks, but not the economy or the stock market. That is what took the market down 350 today. Commodity and transportation names like POT, CHK, CSK, MOS, MON, all hedge fund favorites, were sold off bigtime. Friday is going to be a hairy day because not only do we get the house vote, we also get the September non farm payroll, which could show job losses surging to 150,000. Today weekly jobless claims hit 497,000, a seven year high.

2) I spoke at length with Robert Reich last week. The recession that is unfolding has so many structural elements that a recovery will be won’t begin until 2010, so look for a lot of pain and much lower house prices in 2009. The house will pass the bail out bill tomorrow because a dozen fence sitting congressmen were able to extort funding for favorite programs. Next year we will see a witch hunt and show trials of Wall Street leaders on par with the McCarthy hearings of the fifties. He was brilliant, funny, and insightful as always. It turns out he went to Yale with Hank Paulson and the Clintons.

3) The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged, causing the dollar to hit a new high for the year at the $1.37 handle against the euro. With the US entering into recession, our chronic trade and current account deficit is about to shrink dramatically, while the surpluses of foreign export countries will drop big. This means there will be fewer sellers of dollars in the several hundred billion dollar range. This has been a major factor supporting the dollar. Investors would rather own a currency in trouble, than own a currency in trouble, but doesn’t know it yet.

4) CNBC did an interesting series of interviews with the CEOs of companies in 20 different industries to see how the credit crunch is affecting them. It appears that the local effects of the credit crisis are being exaggerated by the administration and the press in order to get the bail out bill through. The net net is that prime and medium quality credits still have adequate liquidity, although interest rates and spreads may be higher, especially if rollovers are due. The real crunch seems to be happening to lesser credits and small businesses like those of fast food franchisees and highly leveraged SUV oriented car dealers (think GM). Surviving banks are clearly skimming off the best customers from failing banks and leaving the dross behind.

5) Another indicator that the global recession is accelerating is the Baltic Dry Index ($BDI), which has had a record fall of 75% from 12,000 to 3,000 since July. This is another index of international shipping rates, with China as the biggest factor.

October 2, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 2, 2008

1) One month T-bills are at 0.50%. The credit markets are still locked. If the house bill fails, the Dow will drop another 1,000 very quickly. Even if the bill passes, traders are starting to realize that it may bail out the banks, but not the economy or the stock market. That is what took the market down 350 today. Commodity and transportation names like POT, CHK, CSK, MOS, MON, all hedge fund favorites, were sold off bigtime. Friday is going to be a hairy day because not only do we get the house vote, we also get the September non farm payroll, which could show job losses surging to 150,000. Today weekly jobless claims hit 497,000, a seven year high.

2) I spoke at length with Robert Reich last week. The recession that is unfolding has so many structural elements that a recovery will be won’t begin until 2010, so look for a lot of pain and much lower house prices in 2009. The house will pass the bail out bill tomorrow because a dozen fence sitting congressmen were able to extort funding for favorite programs. Next year we will see a witch hunt and show trials of Wall Street leaders on par with the McCarthy hearings of the fifties. He was brilliant, funny, and insightful as always. It turns out he went to Yale with Hank Paulson and the Clintons.

3) The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged, causing the dollar to hit a new high for the year at the $1.37 handle against the euro. With the US entering into recession, our chronic trade and current account deficit is about to shrink dramatically, while the surpluses of foreign export countries will drop big. This means there will be fewer sellers of dollars in the several hundred billion dollar range. This has been a major factor supporting the dollar. Investors would rather own a currency in trouble, than own a currency in trouble, but doesn’t know it yet.

4) CNBC did an interesting series of interviews with the CEOs of companies in 20 different industries to see how the credit crunch is affecting them. It appears that the local effects of the credit crisis are being exaggerated by the administration and the press in order to get the bail out bill through. The net net is that prime and medium quality credits still have adequate liquidity, although interest rates and spreads may be higher, especially if rollovers are due. The real crunch seems to be happening to lesser credits and small businesses like those of fast food franchisees and highly leveraged SUV oriented car dealers (think GM). Surviving banks are clearly skimming off the best customers from failing banks and leaving the dross behind.

5) Another indicator that the global recession is accelerating is the Baltic Dry Index ($BDI), which has had a record fall of 75% from 12,000 to 3,000 since July. This is another index of international shipping rates, with China as the biggest factor.

October 1, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 1, 2008

1) The democrats are going to get the bail out bill through by turning it into a Christmas tree with presents for all of the wavering members. So far on the list: subsidies for mental health, alternative energy, makers of US based wooden arrows, and a tax cut for small businesses for Republicans. Poulson’s original three page bill is now up to 400 pages. Rumors of a proposed ???300 billion bail out of European banks by the ECB was later denied by France, who else?

2) Since 1990, October has been the top performing month of the year for the Dow, followed by November and December. Since 1950, five out of nine bear markets ended in October. The 1929 and 1987 stock market crashes also happened in October.

3) Emerging markets account for just 11% of the world’s stock market capitalization, but will deliver 70% of global growth over the next two decades, according to the Capital Group. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM) is a strong buy here, which has fallen from 45% from $55 to $30 over the past year. Look for an easy double over the next two years and a tenfold return over ten years.

4) The high school drop out rate in California is 25%, ranking it 43rd in the nation. In the Los Angeles School District, the state?s largest, the rate is 50%. Appalling. And you wonder why things are going to hell in a hand basket here. Ebay’s Meg Whitman says finding qualified staff is now the biggest impediment to doing business in California.

5) The average compensation of a Goldman Sachs employee last year was $600,000, and that includes the janitors and the secretaries. CEO Lloyd Blankfein earned $70 million, making him the eighth high paid executive in the US. This year it will be less.

6) We are about to see huge buying of JP Morgan (JPM) and Citibank (C) by index funds. With the disappearance of so many of banks, JPM and C now account for a much larger percentage of the banking industry, and index funds must buy their shares to maintain market weightings. The concentration of the banking system is accelerating at an amazing rate. These two banks alone now account for one third of all US bank deposits.

8) Investors withdrew $74.5 billion from equity mutual funds in September, an all time record. As a result the S&P 500 Index had its worst month in history. This is historically a great buy signal.

October 1, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 1, 2008

1) The democrats are going to get the bail out bill through by turning it into a Christmas tree with presents for all of the wavering members. So far on the list: subsidies for mental health, alternative energy, makers of US based wooden arrows, and a tax cut for small businesses for Republicans. Poulson’s original three page bill is now up to 400 pages. Rumors of a proposed ???300 billion bail out of European banks by the ECB was later denied by France, who else?

2) Since 1990, October has been the top performing month of the year for the Dow, followed by November and December. Since 1950, five out of nine bear markets ended in October. The 1929 and 1987 stock market crashes also happened in October.

3) Emerging markets account for just 11% of the world’s stock market capitalization, but will deliver 70% of global growth over the next two decades, according to the Capital Group. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM) is a strong buy here, which has fallen from 45% from $55 to $30 over the past year. Look for an easy double over the next two years and a tenfold return over ten years.

4) The high school drop out rate in California is 25%, ranking it 43rd in the nation. In the Los Angeles School District, the state?s largest, the rate is 50%. Appalling. And you wonder why things are going to hell in a hand basket here. Ebay’s Meg Whitman says finding qualified staff is now the biggest impediment to doing business in California.

5) The average compensation of a Goldman Sachs employee last year was $600,000, and that includes the janitors and the secretaries. CEO Lloyd Blankfein earned $70 million, making him the eighth high paid executive in the US. This year it will be less.

6) We are about to see huge buying of JP Morgan (JPM) and Citibank (C) by index funds. With the disappearance of so many of banks, JPM and C now account for a much larger percentage of the banking industry, and index funds must buy their shares to maintain market weightings. The concentration of the banking system is accelerating at an amazing rate. These two banks alone now account for one third of all US bank deposits.

8) Investors withdrew $74.5 billion from equity mutual funds in September, an all time record. As a result the S&P 500 Index had its worst month in history. This is historically a great buy signal.

September 30, 2008

Global Market Comments for September 30, 2008

1) The Bail Out Bill II will be voted on Thursday. That took the Dow up 485.

2) Three month LIBOR hit 7% overnight, a 500 bp premium to Fed funds. During the 1987 stock market crash the premium only got up to 200 bp. Mortgage backed securities are now trading at levels implying a 55% default rate. During the great depression the default rate peaked at 12%. Things are way out of whack.

3) A number of indicators are pointing to a major long term bottom in the stock market soon. The S&P 500 volatility index hit an all time high of 48% on Monday. Every time the VIX traded at this level the market was up 7%-15% within a month. The market PE multiple is down to 13. The Index is now 30% off its year ago high. The hedge funds told us yesterday that big cap tech will lead the next bull market with their massive selling of the sector yesterday. This is where they had their big long positions. The BRIC countries are also very attractive here.

4) Wachovia Bank went under because of its 2006 acquisition of Golden West Financial for $24 billion. The company was the inventor of option arms, and had a portfolio almost entirely made of these high risk loans, 60% of which were made in Florida and California. Citibank immediately wrote off $42 billion of Wachovia’s loans. This has to go down as one of the worst takeovers in history, which vaporized the buyer within two years. Talk about ‘caveat emptor’ with a turbocharger. Unfortunately, along with the WAMU deal, this means that the greatest destruction of loan capacity is going on in California. JP Morgan was the largest bank in the US for a whole weekend until Citibank passed it with this deal on Monday, taking its deposits up to $1.3 trillion.

7) The really important move yesterday was not in the stock market but in the Baltic Dry Shipping Index ($BDI), which has melted 70% from 1,200 to 3,746 since May. The index measures the average cost of chartering carriers of iron ore, coal, wheat, and other bulk commodities, and is a very accurate, but volatile measure of marginal global economic activity. Especially affected is the Brazil-China route. An entire fleet of ships is sitting idle off the Brazilian coast hoping for charters at any price.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

‘To say derivative accounting in America is a sewer is an insult to sewage’: Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger.

September 30, 2008

Global Market Comments for September 30, 2008

1) The Bail Out Bill II will be voted on Thursday. That took the Dow up 485.

2) Three month LIBOR hit 7% overnight, a 500 bp premium to Fed funds. During the 1987 stock market crash the premium only got up to 200 bp. Mortgage backed securities are now trading at levels implying a 55% default rate. During the great depression the default rate peaked at 12%. Things are way out of whack.

3) A number of indicators are pointing to a major long term bottom in the stock market soon. The S&P 500 volatility index hit an all time high of 48% on Monday. Every time the VIX traded at this level the market was up 7%-15% within a month. The market PE multiple is down to 13. The Index is now 30% off its year ago high. The hedge funds told us yesterday that big cap tech will lead the next bull market with their massive selling of the sector yesterday. This is where they had their big long positions. The BRIC countries are also very attractive here.

4) Wachovia Bank went under because of its 2006 acquisition of Golden West Financial for $24 billion. The company was the inventor of option arms, and had a portfolio almost entirely made of these high risk loans, 60% of which were made in Florida and California. Citibank immediately wrote off $42 billion of Wachovia’s loans. This has to go down as one of the worst takeovers in history, which vaporized the buyer within two years. Talk about ‘caveat emptor’ with a turbocharger. Unfortunately, along with the WAMU deal, this means that the greatest destruction of loan capacity is going on in California. JP Morgan was the largest bank in the US for a whole weekend until Citibank passed it with this deal on Monday, taking its deposits up to $1.3 trillion.

7) The really important move yesterday was not in the stock market but in the Baltic Dry Shipping Index ($BDI), which has melted 70% from 1,200 to 3,746 since May. The index measures the average cost of chartering carriers of iron ore, coal, wheat, and other bulk commodities, and is a very accurate, but volatile measure of marginal global economic activity. Especially affected is the Brazil-China route. An entire fleet of ships is sitting idle off the Brazilian coast hoping for charters at any price.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

‘To say derivative accounting in America is a sewer is an insult to sewage’: Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger.

September 26, 2008

Global Market Comments for September 26, 2008

1) The government seized WAMU and sold it to JP Morgan without even telling WAMU’s senior management because they were all on a plane to meet with a potential buyer. Common, preferred, and debt holders were all wiped out. Morgan immediately wrote off $31 billion of WAMU’s debt, about 20% of the total.

2) From 2002 to 2007, $100 billion poured into BRIC country stock markets. In the last three months $25 billion has come out, taking these markets down 39%-58%.

3) The five largest sovereign wealth funds are the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) $625 billion, Norway $322 billion, Singapore $215 billion, Kuwait $213 billion, and China $200 billion.

4) The trailing ten year return on the S&P 500 is the lowest since 1974. This signals that the market is in the process of forming a major multi decade bottom. It has made this low only four other times in history.

5) It?s looking like China’s economic slowdown is more than just a post Olympic hangover. The US Christmas selling season is expected to be a disaster this year and that will make a big dent in Chinese exports, the main driver of the economy. Home prices in Southwest China are down 20% and may enter a US style meltdown. The Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets are already reflecting as much, down 68% and 45% respectively. Economic growth may fall from an 11% annualized rate earlier this year to under 8%. If it falls to zero, there will be a revolution. Expect bulk commodity prices to fall further.

TRADE OF THE DAY

Time to come out of the bull cylinder I recommended yesterday. The congressional talks are obviously in trouble, and with the WAMU failure there is a real chance of a crash on Monday. And there is already a big profit in the position. Time to say ‘thank you very much Mr. Market’, take the gift and retreat to the sidelines. If your friends make a killing on a giant up move on Monday, just let them pay for dinner next time. Capital preservation is key here. The October mini S&P 1100 puts you sold yesterday for $13 you can now buy back for $10 because the market is taking the weekend’s time decay out in advance and short dated volatility has come in a bit. The Dec mini S&P 1300 calls you bought for $18 you can now sell for $25 because of a 200 point move up in the market and because longer dated volatility is holding up. The overnight net profit on the position is $15, or $750,000. Just trying to show you how I operate. Take the money and run.

September 26, 2008

Global Market Comments for September 26, 2008

1) The government seized WAMU and sold it to JP Morgan without even telling WAMU’s senior management because they were all on a plane to meet with a potential buyer. Common, preferred, and debt holders were all wiped out. Morgan immediately wrote off $31 billion of WAMU’s debt, about 20% of the total.

2) From 2002 to 2007, $100 billion poured into BRIC country stock markets. In the last three months $25 billion has come out, taking these markets down 39%-58%.

3) The five largest sovereign wealth funds are the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) $625 billion, Norway $322 billion, Singapore $215 billion, Kuwait $213 billion, and China $200 billion.

4) The trailing ten year return on the S&P 500 is the lowest since 1974. This signals that the market is in the process of forming a major multi decade bottom. It has made this low only four other times in history.

5) It?s looking like China’s economic slowdown is more than just a post Olympic hangover. The US Christmas selling season is expected to be a disaster this year and that will make a big dent in Chinese exports, the main driver of the economy. Home prices in Southwest China are down 20% and may enter a US style meltdown. The Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets are already reflecting as much, down 68% and 45% respectively. Economic growth may fall from an 11% annualized rate earlier this year to under 8%. If it falls to zero, there will be a revolution. Expect bulk commodity prices to fall further.

TRADE OF THE DAY

Time to come out of the bull cylinder I recommended yesterday. The congressional talks are obviously in trouble, and with the WAMU failure there is a real chance of a crash on Monday. And there is already a big profit in the position. Time to say ‘thank you very much Mr. Market’, take the gift and retreat to the sidelines. If your friends make a killing on a giant up move on Monday, just let them pay for dinner next time. Capital preservation is key here. The October mini S&P 1100 puts you sold yesterday for $13 you can now buy back for $10 because the market is taking the weekend’s time decay out in advance and short dated volatility has come in a bit. The Dec mini S&P 1300 calls you bought for $18 you can now sell for $25 because of a 200 point move up in the market and because longer dated volatility is holding up. The overnight net profit on the position is $15, or $750,000. Just trying to show you how I operate. Take the money and run.

September 25, 2008

Global Market Comments for September 25, 2008

1) Those who work in the financial industry see the world ending on their screens, then walk outside and see people and cars on the street, shops doing business, the sun shining, and everything appearing normal. It’s surreal. Many businesses and banks are months away from shutting down from the lack of operating cash and no one realizes it. It’s like an atomic bomb has been dropped, but hasn’t hit the ground yet. Even if the bail out package passes, home prices are still going down and we are still falling into a recession. 30 day T-bills were trading at 0.40% today, which means that banks are parking their money with the government instead of lending it.?? Phone calls to congressmen from constituents were running 300:1 against the package. The Wall Street Bail out is a misnomer. The money is going to thousands of banks around the country, not Wall Street. And it is a restructuring more than a bail out.

2) August new home building permits in California plunged by 58% YOY, the largest fall since the Great Depression. San Joaquin County (Stockton) was the worst, down 65%. Solano County was best off, showing a 3.3% rise.

3) Weekly jobless claims skyrocked to 493,000, a seven year high.

TRADE RECOMMENDATION

Position your self for a post bail out rally. Sell 100 X October S&P mini 1100 puts for $13, taking in $650,000 in premium and use these proceeds to buy 100 X December 1300 calls at $18 for $900,000. The net cost of the entire position is $5, or $250,000. Run the October puts into expiration, keeping the entire premium, and sell the December calls on any rally. This is profitable on any rise in the market and any decline in implied volatilities from sky high levels in the mid thirties a rally would bring, while protecting your long volatility position from time decay with a long dated option. The technical term for this position is a ‘short dated bull cylinder’.