February 25, 2008

1) The spread between Treasuries and AAA rated corporate bonds is now 300 basis points, the largest since the Great Depression. At the first hint of the end of the credit crisis hedge funds will rush to buy corporates and short Treasuries against them and this spread will come screaming down. With a leverage factor of ten times this trade currently yields 30% a year. The hedge funds that are currently in trouble are the ones that put this spread on in big size at 20-30 basis points a year ago.

2) Visa is going public in a few weeks, launching the largest IPO in?? US history which will take in about $19 billion. There is some concern that the size of the deal will divert some money away from the rest of the stock market. Master Card’s business has been booming as people reduce the number of cash transactions in favor of more internet based credit card transactions. Master Card’s stock has been one of the best performing stocks of the past year and is close to its all time high. This is because it is just a processor of transactions and?? not a lender.

3) Value players are pouring into Japan, where at a 13 times multiple stock prices are at a 23 year low. Today China’s sovereign wealth fund announced that it is investing $10 billion in Japanese oil and commodities related stocks.

4) A home owned by the Hearst family in Florida was sold at a foreclosure sale for $22 million to the prime lender. It had $40 million in bank loans on it.

5) Horrendous home sales figures for January came out this morning. Sales are down 23% year on year. Inventories were up 5.5% to a ten month supply. Average prices are down 4.8%. Anyone who thinks the housing crisis will end soon is either smoking something or talking their own book.

6) Coal has doubled in price over the last three months. There are now 100 coal fired power plants under construction in the US. With a 200 year supply the US is the Saudi Arabia of coal. The only question is whether you can bring this much new coal generation on stream without causing major environmental problems. Hence Bush’s comments last week about clean coal technologies.