Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ode to AHM

So Farewell
American Home

Lenders to
those who
perhaps should
not have

And borrowers
from those
who will
wish they
had not

With Margin
Calls Unpaid,
You could
have used no top-up, fixed-rate, I.O balloon financing

On my Soap Box

As I've highlighted in this space before, the Japanese make the most wonderful and sincere apologies, occasionally acting them out and quite literally taking them to the next level. But they do seemingly have difficulty doing the same in regards to some of the historically sensitive things that might be deserving of the deepest bows and sacrifices accorded to say, a failed trading system, or manufacturing defects that cost consumers their lives. This is particularly acute in regards to Japan's war-time atrocities in Manchuria, treatment of POWs and other brutalities in pursuit of forced labour, and of course, there are the comfort women throughout the Pacific, Southeast, and East Asia. Alongside "scientific whaling", these rate as some of the most monumental errors in public relations emanating from a usually cohesive TeamJapan. The Japanese, of course, have no monopoly the stupidly absurd. Perhaps, like these past seven year of the Bush Amdin, and republican Congress, these cock-ups are merely the last throes of a dying generation of conservatives.

But consider for a moment that the US Congress is in session for not more than 220 days per year. Take away Friday alcoholic lunches & golf, and you're down to no more than 170. In that time, Congress must tackle an inconceivable number of issues ranging the budget, defense, transport, education, the environment, healthcare, energy, foreign relations, intelligence, homeland security, agriculture, veterans affairs, all the while trying to find time to meet lobbyists to raise money in order to get re-elected. Whew!! A cursory glance of the past seven years suggests that it all must be overwhelming for aside from continued increasing expenditures and requisite appropriations, concomitant to large seminal decreases in the marginal income tax and capital gains rates of the wealthiest, decidedly little positive legislation has been forthcoming in respect of energy policy, healthcare reform, the environment, agriculture, foreign relations, public transport or, for that matter, education, international trade policy, or Federal fiscal deficits, which makes yesterday's resolution decrying the lack of a Japanese apology to Comfort Women of The World, such an eye-popping event. Where did they ever find the time? And how could an issue of such supreme current importance (especially with Iraq, Darfur, Zimbabwe, nucular I-atollahs etc. in plain view) have slipped our representatives attention for so long (ummm 60 years!!)? Yes I now, they've been really busy working on the most important public poicy issues like prohibiting gay marriage, banning assault rifles from public schools, making it nearly impossible to obtain a late-term abortion, or for that matter birth control, or morning-after pills. Oh yes, and they've been insuring that African women understand the importance of "abstinence" as a first line of defense against unwanted pregnancy. And they've been preoccupied insuring that fuel mileage standards stay on the shelf, and that Monster-Trucks remain classified as "Cars", and "ketchup" decidely, a vegetable.

It is re-assuring to know that despite the large workload, our Congressmen are not deterred from making important decisions about important policy matters that effect the present and future course of our nation, our children and the World. I am certain that as we speak they are just cooperating intently upon bi-partisan bills to more perfectly craft the legislation that will serve the public interest, rather than those of the interest groups that, to date, have so effectively prevented virtually all meaningful legislation or reform from ever seeing the light of day. Errrr, right?

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programs.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Japanese Upper House Election Results (In Full)

Dear Mr Abe Shinzo,

Yours most politely,

The Japanese People

Department of Falling Knives

First. I have no position in RAIT Financial Trust. Secondly, like a moth to a proverbial flame, I have a morbid fascination with stocks, that on no news, lose most of their market value over the course of less than half a year. This interest is further heightened when investors far more clever than yours truly appear on their shareholder reg with >5% positions in the common.

Mortgage REITs have, in a nutshell, been obliterated. Whether this is justified or not will only be revealed to the masses in hindsight, though my gut believes its overdone. Some like Annaly (according to Jim Cramer according MacroMan) have been trumpeting their distaste for paper of dubious pedigree (and ratings), and despite their high overt leverage, claim they will profit as a result sub-prime fallout. Others like Thornburg, (also with high overt leverage) claim they are nonetheless conservative and that investors should fear not. Still others, like RAS pictured right) with ostensibly less explicit leverage than the others in the sector have (1) pre-announced to allay fears, (2) maintained their dividend, and (3) announced stock buybacks, all admirable attempts to instill confidence in what appears to to be a sinking and rudderless ship. Not that the markets care. But short-interests have increased to more than 10,000,000 as of mid-June (>15% of the float) and undoubtedly has risen further to-date (judging by the price action). And by way of disclosure, I too, have been short, (though will undoubtedly have covered by the time you read this, and so am now financially disinterested. Enough if enough (at least for this basically information-less investor).

More often than not, short-sellers and the price-action are right in the intermediate and longer frames. "Loose lips sink ships" is certainly valid for stock prices when materially non-public bad news is work. But, to insure maximum mind-f*#k, it sometimes isn't, and in such cases, the markets get it very very VERY wrong. Like in the case of Tesoro in Sept 2002. Not only wasn't it bankrupt, but holders and contrarians would see it increase more than 60-fold from less than a dollar to more than 60. "Once in a lifetime", some other bloggers might suggest.

So today, even though I do not believe RAS is anywhere near a 60-bagger, I wonder aloud: have mortgage spreads widened enough? Is RAS's implicit leverage multiples of its explicit leverage (with the people that know their true leverage shorting them to oblivion?)? Do they have "the old maid"? Is this move predominantly driven by short-sellers, no longer encumbered by Reg-SHO?? I am reserving judgement, but I am, it must be said, intrigued, as the move accelerates into the end of the calendar month. Can this knife be one that could safely be caught, at least for a trade? A least that what Leon Cooperman appears to be thinking...

Friday, July 27, 2007


That Charles Gave (senior doyen of GaveKal) is both clever and successful is true beyond a doubt. He's been at it forty years. But that doesn't make him always right. Nor does it make him a good speller (francophones never remember their "S's, not that Cassandra can criticize this given her own appalling revision and editorial skills). So while I do admire his long view, not to mention his multiple commercial successes, I do not share his politics, nor his sanguine view of "risk" pricing.

Ever-bullish and optimistic, the premise of his latest piece is: The CDO subprime implosion is (1) the fault of Government (and probably closet Commies, socialists, or socialist sympathisers); and (2) bullish for equity. He believes the crisis is the fault of government(s) because virtually everything in the world that is wrong, broken, bad or evil stems from this fount. And he believes it is bullish for equities because he subscribes to the benign view of the savings glut hypothesis, and that since the products were created in response to "the glut", and the "the glut" must go somewhere, ergo, it will go into equities.

While not denying the possibility of such an outcome, I tend to subscribe to the view that a moderation in the prime enabler of liquidity creation - i.e., the risk-appetite of institutions that lend thereby conjuring greater amounts of liquidity from the pixie dust of fiscal deficits - has, for the moment, been satiated, as a result of increasing doubts regarding, and the abject failure of, the future to evolve as planned. This of course is mostly the result of asset collateral and projects backing such liquidity creation being found insufficient to make the lender whole. Such a realization is sobering for anyone (let alone a financial institution) who at 10 to 12x++ leverage, has but a thin veneer of capital that in times of great volatility and crisis is not dissimilar from "wet bog roll" in relation to the torrent of the potential call upon assets by ones liabilities.

My different view from the esteemed Mr Gave doesn't make what we are witnessing "the end of the world", nor even the end of growth in the world, nor the end of anything (though it will almost certainly temper the unabashed enthusiasm to lend to the marginally more absurd and less-than credit-worthy undertaking). For in Mr Gave's time-frame, the optimists may well continue to triumph. It does however, have dramatically different implications for risk-asset pricing between "now" and "then". Yesterday IS likely "a dip" in a topping process, ultimately caused by tepid US real PCE, and asset appreciations that have in aggregate, got reasonably ahead of themselves. It may be hastened by looming trade conflict, and systemic instability and costs from war. But I remain dubious that financial institutions eschewing one type of credit risk, will, so quickly abandon caution for the immediate sake of equity risk. No. de-leveraging is a necessary intermediate step in modern financial institutions to the process of allocating to more sober, long-term risk-vs-reward propositions.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Creative Destruction in REIT-land

In a savings-glutted(*) world, 10% compounds nicely, even with actual inflation (ex hedonic adjustments and official smoke & mirrors that limit the State's indexed liabilities) being what it is(*. And its amazing what a difference two months make, for it seems like just yesterday bidders were falling over each other in order to disassemble Sam Zell's EOP at cap rates that were pedestrian even to optimistic pedestrians, and the Tourettic Cramer was wondering why J. Bruce Flatt (of Brookfield Props) was not a household name like Warren Buffett.

Since February, the growth-darlings of REITville (AVB, SLG, BXP, VNO, KIM, BPO with Feb P/Est FFO of approx 20X) have been savaged, and in typical Wall St. fashion, the mauling has made formerly bullish analysts much less enthusiastic. Goldman got supremely whipsawed calling mid-June a buying opp, with an about-face in early July to "Ooops, I meant Sell them to oblivion". Which they have.

Old saws like "location, location, location" aside, and irrespective of what the Jones's have making (til the end of Q1) on their leveraged CDO and CLO portfolios marked to market by the guy who gets his bonus based upon his mark, 10% is in fact a fair and reasonable return to a rentier for the rights conferred by ownership of real and good assets, lowly leveraged, and professionally managed, and protected by the powers of the state and the rule of law. A prolific gold deposit in Bolivia or DR-Congo might have more upside, but it also has more downside. Complete downside, in fact.

Back to topic. Price destruction is, as it should, creating value in US REITs. Maybe there will be more destruction. Maybe we are on the cusp of an engulfing revulsion that will finally turn Tice, Faber and DKW's Edwards into bulls. By way of example, irrespective and contrary to low price momentum, low relative growth rates, low earnings momentum, poor analyst expectations - all the things newly-minted MBAs are taught to avoid - CLI, HRP, HPT, AHT, LXP and CDR, are ALL offering P/Est FFOs of 10x or less. These are all owners of real property (be they hotels, shopping centers, suburban officesm, what have you) with good existing tenants, fine management , attractive yields, and even more attractive valuations. It's as if the huge liquidity and monetary growth of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 , and their resultant impact upon asset values never happened. Yes there is probably more volatility and perhaps some more downside ahead. Yes they've been more attractively valued before. BUT liquidity remains out there, even if held by official authorities, and that liquidity will move into equity from cash or debt at the right price. And as a betting man, I would wager that US authorities do NOT turn the screws tighter amidst a downturn, irrespective of how desperately US ficsal balance requires tax increases.

Mortgage REITs (CT, RAS, NRF, NCT, RWT, AHR, NLY, TMA etc. etc.) - which have vastly different size and leverage too are screaming ... errrr... something. As are their investors, though I, even with my mis-spent youth, cannot repeat the words here without whincing. Yet I cannot help but wonder whether the more moderately levered of this group do not offer meaningful opps, somewhere, perhaps close to here. Yes, one cannot say for certain what pieces of toxic waste populate their portfolios. And I cannot honestly say I can fathom the impact of price discovery upon their portfolio. But with the flight to quality and yields going one way, should quality tenant, diversified net-lease yields (like those of LXP) really be moving in the other? Yes, the market probably knows something about RAS that we will find out only later. But in the meantime, it is worth doing some work to find out those that didn't shoot the moon, and will survive the shakeout, when we hear the definitive "THUD!" of those that DID "shoot the moon".

Bear's Feast

Tune in to CNBC today and you are certain to see Marc Faber, Bill Fleckenstein, David Tice and perhaps even a reconstituted Robert Prechter detailing why this wavelet is the big wavelet. Hide the knives, lock away the barbituates and Oxycontin, and do keep away from from open windows. However sliced, it will be a feast day for bears and simple pessimists alike.

But make no mistake: this is not about an equity market bubble or overvaluation. Ceteris paribus, most equities remain fine relative value. But things are rarely the same going forward. For the past four years, they've admittedly been BETTER than almost anyone and everyone expected, except for the worriers about imbalances and reserves. Now, as I alluded to with my Gene Kelly analogy, things are getting decidedly worse in most respects, whilst markets (excepting certain fixed-income sectors) have been slow on the uptake, basking (even singing) in the errr ummm rain. Sometimes such recognition of the validity of the bear case seeps in slowly and markets erode, though others, like an epiphany are triggered by a seminal event.

The trends in the real economy that are deteriorating are not those satiated by an instant gratification, particularly at the nexus where real estate, stagflation, and credit dislocation meet. And indeed with the bell likely having been rung on real estate, private equity, leveraged speculative carry trades, and for the moment the minting of coin via securitization, those who remain long leveraged portfolios of whatever with but a veneer of capital run the real risk of Hunter-esque infamy.

With Basis Capital having called-in "The Cleaner" (right), one wonders how many and how soon others, outside the sub-prime arena might be calling in "Victor" spreads continue to widen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Exclusive: Pope Lends Hands to REIT Holders

American real estate investors, residential, commerical, specialty, lodging and even warehouse/flex have been feeling it in the tucchus lately. And today, while not yet a full-on crisis, Pope Benedict has nonetheless agreed to lend a helping hand to distressed and leveraged property investors alike, saying special prayers for a reversal in current REIT price trends.
The Pope is not alone in being perplexed by the extended slide in American real estate asset prices, amidst what Federal Reserve Chairman Dr. Bernanke calls a prodigious global savings glut. The Vatican is concerned insofar as it is one of America's (and the World's!) largest private real estate concerns, and it too has been seduced by gains to extract equity for the pursuit of otherworldy and more spiritual purposes.

The S&P Real State Index (S15Real Index) seen here left has resoundingly vindicated Mr Market's June1 explanation of a "month-end bear bounce" amidst a secular erosion in values. How this squares with "the savings glut" in general, and global asset prices in particular remains to be seen. Will US Real Estate Price bottom and bounce after such a vicious correction or will global asset prices moderate in response to a change in the quantitiy and pricing of end-user availability of risk-capital?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

TeamJapan: 3 - Carpetbaggers 1

Of all the recent activism in Japan, I [wrongly] would have thought that DaVinci's chances in wresting control of TOC from the Otani's were reaonsably attractive, given the NEW new nice price they were offering. Alas, the Otani's won, and aside from the forced sale of Myojo Foods to Nissin, the Carpetbaggers are looking the worse off for it. A Black-eye for Steel Partners, rebuffed twice recently, now left holding (yet again) another unmarketable position in a pedestrian (and illiquid) enterprise. TCI was "flipped the bird" by the management (and shareholders) of Electric Power Development, and as if to prove the point to those would-be disrupters of the wah of the house, Japan's spark of bloodsucking activism, Murakami, was just sentenced to several years in a comfortable Japanese prison for his transgressions.

All which speaks volumes for the Lichtenstein School of the Dan Loeb University of Investor Activism. Even though you too can learn to be An Activist (Mail away to me for your own Activist Kit today for only 5 easy payments of $99.95), it is likely that the ultimate form that increasing shareholder value will take in Japan will be wholly different in character and nature than acquiring a line of stock and writing management an insulting letter. Softly, softly indeed, will be the watchword for the successful, whilst vulgarity (both culturally and financially) will continued to be countered with derision and a sharp stick in the eye.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Singing in the Rain

This is post is about nothing. Sort of.

Indeed, momentum traders and trend-followers tend towards the optimism and see the glass half-full. This needs to be so because faith is inevitably involved in believing the past conveys sufficient information such that it will remain the best predictor of the future (or at least the bias next datapoint over the ensuing interval).

Reversion traders, and counter-trend traders, by contrast, tend towards the skeptical and err on the side of pessimism (by nature). If something isn't already going wrong, such a personality is well-trained in conjuring a scenario for why precisely the future will be unlike the past.

Knowing where one sits on this relative scale is essential for investors and traders alike, for BOTH extremes engender flaws that inimical to incorporating new information into one's view, and therefore optimal decision making.

I listen to detached economists, and they are far more sanguine than skeptics like me, and those I hang out with, certain that a disaster (or cpital dislocation event) is just around the corner. Yet when I hear them ignore what is to these panglossian observers "a wall of worry" ro be climbed, it is me, veritable litany of macro conditions that are increasingly difficult overcome and/or reconcile.

So to optimists, this post is about nothing. Really. But to skeptics and those continually re-triangulating the future course of events on the basis of emerging observations, such observers remind me of the wonderful Gene Kelly seen here at his wettest and best....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Avian FX

It occured to me while racing madly west upon the M4 that virtually all currencies profoundly resemble birds. I have no idea why this should be so but nonetheless, skeptical as one might be, it is.

Starting with that most earnest of peoples (and currencies), the CANADIAN DOLLAR (left) is known to all affectionately as the Loonie, being tatooed directly upon its money. To be fair, while Canadians are known for both their literal natures (and spendthriftiness - no offense CB!), rather strangely, the most sarcastic and satirical wits in North America are all in fact Canadian. Go figure. The unit is exemplified by the Loonie since it flew south for a long extended winter during the great commodity trough, and following successive Labour governments with attendant Provincial profligacy, but it has now returned to the north where roaring commodity prices and abundant investment in the northern tar-pits has meant "I'm a geologist, really...!" elicits laughs no longer.

The Dollar The US DOLLAR has many potential feathered metaphors, but I reckon "Daffy Duck", (pictured right) exemplifies it best. Loud, obnoxious, greedy, opinionated and so-often wrong, resulting in innumerable egg-on-his-face moments. Daffy rarely if ever wins, and one almost feels sorry for his vulgar self-interest that all-too-often ends in that tragic-comic moment we've come to both love and despise.

The EURO is perhaps best represented by "Rocky" the reluctant poultrous hero (from Chicken Run fame). First I must dispel any illusions that this is a vote of favor for Mel Gibson, perhaps best cariacatured by South Park in their "Passion of the Last Jew" episode. The Euro, too, like Rocky, is the reluctant currency superhero. They don't want to be strong, and do not have strength as an objective.They are not going out of their way to stimulate domestic demand (loose fiscal policies, high VAT, highish taxes, generous health & social safety nets!!) that are not normally assoociated with a strong currency. But with everyone else in the OECD pathetically worse by comparison, the Europeans have shouldered their reluctant burden with grace (like our friend Rocky).

On to Casssandra's pet peeve, The YEN which IMHO is best exemplified by "Tweety Bird" ("I tought I taw a puddy tat..."). This innocent yellow canary, innocent as it appears, has a streak of mischieviousness and good fortune that forever thwarts his nefarious suitors, much like the YEN has (with the exception of
the Mid-90s Rubin Dance of Their Heads) seemingly forever escaped what should be its deterministic fate. In the case of Tweety Bird, this fate is a fortified snack for Sylvester The Cat, though for the YEN it should be (under a normal interest rate regime) 90 to the dollar and 125 or so to the Euro, with all the attendant "winner's curse" of deflationary hollowing that success in the BW & BW II system entails.

Cable is undoubtedly the Big Bird of the FX world. For Big Bird is a immature and most child-like mind inside the body of a huge and gawky... errrrr.... feathered... ummm .... something. Like Big Bird, Sterling, is a unit of exchange that has perennially depreciated (for reasons of political weakness leading to explicit debasement) for the better part of a couple of hundred years. Occassionally it grows too big tolo fast for its fundamental britches and global ambitions, after which it is periodically receives its ritual anglo-saxon bitch-slapping.

But as some like Anglo-Saxon units of Sterling and the USD are long-term being debased punctuated by [temporary] exclamation marks of strength, others, particularly some of the smaller but ferocious global competitors are ascendant, such as the Korean Won. In this regard, KRW resembles the stoic Looney Toon Chicken-Hawk (depicted left) known as Henery Hawk, who despite the advisement of Foghorn Leghorn, is intent upon bagging himself a chicken for dinner. Indeed, Koreans get tough, when things around them get difficult. Rather than get intimidated by gangstas and thugs in the hood, Korean shopkeepers arm themselves with all manner of automatic weapons or various calibre. Or as in 1998, make a patriotic contribution to the national treasury - in kind - by way of an heirloom candleabra, or sterling-silver pictureframe - a far cry from the cynical and derisory fiscal policy pandering for votes in their constituencies or campaign finance on K-Street.

The RMB is (at present) seemingly cut in the mould of the endearing Foghorn Leghorn. As most readers might recall from mis-spent youth in front of the television, this Rooster is fond of practical jokes, and taking the so-called mickey out of adversaries. China and the RMB also apparently like practical jokes and taking the piss out of the US, EU and World Trading System, in their rapid and admittedly reasonably-inspired sprint for development. Nonetheless, there is such a thing a "cynical overkill", and PBoCs unrelenting accumulation of USD reserves is bordering on such a turn of the phrase (surely this is understatement? - ed.). Moreover, Mr Leghorn's antics, while frequently comically successful, do occasionally end with an embarassing, self-inflicted "BANG!", followed by that well-known retort in a mos southernly drawl.... "Ahhh keep my feathers numbered for just such ocassions...."

The Road Runner perfectly epitomizes the AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR. Indeed, it is outpacing virtually all developed units, thanks to roaring commodity prices and lucious nominal rates, and even gives the highest yielding emerging currencies a run for their money. Even the barren picturesque backdrop of Australia's GAFA (Great Australian Fuck-All) high-lighted in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert resembles the arid homeland of this turbocharged avian.

The SWISS FRANC is undoubtedly PINGU, the Helvetically-created animated Penguin. Pingu, like the SNB, is wholly benign and rather ineffectual, even mischievious and (like the SNB) saying one thing, while doing something else altogether.. In fact Pingu speaks its own language Pingish which eerily resembles the SNBs own dialect whereby it moans and complains voiciferously about something like the CHFs use as a carry-funding currency, only to do sweet F.A. when the time come 'round to normalise rates. In the meantime, pathetically low rates will continue to inspire a speculative construction boom in the land of Lindt, encouraging normally sober-minded farmers to carve any and all parcels for yet another room with a pasture view, and the smell of cow poo in the morning.

The RUBLE, BRAZILIAN REAL and TURKISH LIRA are all splitting images of Albus Dumbledore's most magical of Phoenix's, "Fawkes". Indeed these currencies have, by now, risen from the ashes of the past so many times, the only explanation can be magical reconstitution sprinkled with some other-worldly (commodity price) trans-substantiation. Turkey was only just a pariah, in a unit of time that is less than what it takes to wear through a pair of tires! And doesn't anyone recall the derision and contempt that Russis's xternal financiers of GKOs were treated with in 1998? And Brazil! Does annyone really believe that a BRL is the same thing as ownership of the farmland and forests of Brazil? Of course the future may be different than the past. The USD may be the Cruzeiro of 2010, and the Ruble the Swissie of Eastern Europe, friendly as they are to capital flight, villains and nefariously accumulated fortunes.

Finally, we come to the NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR , which is known universally as the "The Kiwi" It has scarcity value, is inconoclastic, always marching to it own ummm errr tune. But feathered it is. 'Nuff said.

What is interesting and worth pondering is that, like all the currencies above, conciously or unconciously, nationas have modelled their currencies upon things that fly. Is this a statement about the long-term state of purchasing power of paper, and it's role as a store of value? US real estate may NOT loooking that bad by comparison...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"Megan's Law" for Activists in Japan

"Megan's Law" is well know in America, meant to warn the community of convicted child-molester felons potentially on the prowl in one's community. Apparently, once can sign up for "text-alerts" to one's cell-phone for such warnings.

Japanese courts have seemingly done the same to would-be rapist of Japanese corporations, Warren Lichtenstein and his Steel Partners Japan Fund, by branding them "Abusive Acquirers", and so permitting Bulldog management to fend off the undesired attention of their erstwhile suitors through dilutive warrant issuance. Tonkatsu, it would appear, will remain safely Japanese.

To suggest that the decision is a proverbial kick to Mr Lichtenstein's (and his investors) so-called crown-jewels would perhaps be an understatement, evidenced by the market's post-ruling response (see two price graphs above and left). And this price destruction appears to be BEFORE Steel's liquididation, unless they've used stealth OTC or derivative sales to cover their material sales.

Cassandra will admit to experiencing some schaudenfraude here. Not because she feels so strongly that "Abusive Acquisition" is altogether a bad thing (though I will admit to admiring some of the positive externalities that result from more harmonious capital-labour relationships and longer-term investment horizons), but rather because she feels that Steel Partners (and others using similar so-called fiduciary positions as "agents" combined with the economics of market impact in tandem with incentive fee accrual, is simply rather disingenuous when so-gamed, and in the process attempting to profit from something that IMHO is financial chiccanery at its most cynical. Well played? Yes, Steel has played well, certainly until this court decision.

But the real result of this decision, is that the market (and more importantly Steel's external investors) can now see the difference between the mark-to-market of their positions, and the likely "realizable value" of their positions should they be denied what they seek, and try to exit. The result is sobering, not least because said investors are likely to have already paid large incentive fees on the mark-to-market of the portfolio. I will admit it is not fraud on the scale of Lauder's "Lancer" fiasco, though one should take the opportunity to compare the similarities, at the same time as they consider the differences.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ask the Experts: Will Liquidity Remain Abundant?

Cassandra has assembled a most esteemed panel of experts in order to answer the simple trillion dollar question: Will global liquidity remain super-abundant?

My first expert: Madame Madeleine, a well-known (in some circles) Tarot Card Seer.

I decided on a single-card draw, and got the "Ace of Pentacles".

Mme Madeleine: Briefly, yes. You will be surprised to learn that one of your greatest financial wishes is about to come true. This card shows a large pentacle in the middle which is symbolic of material wealth and abundance. If you one receives this card in a layout, and it is representative of a future event, then you will be surprised to learn that one of your greatest financial wishes is about to come true. And what could be a greater wish than Abundant Liquidity??!

Our second "Expert" is The Ouija Board (Piloted by yours truly, my spouse & my neigbours, the Evans').
We choose to use it inorder to to channel the spirit of the great speculator, Bernard Baruch, in order to ask him the answer to our question. Once we established contact, and verified it was the esteemed financier himself, we first posed a test question, "whether the YEN would continue to weaken?", to which he ouijcally-answered "YES". This was plausible as he was not a man of many many words. Then posing our primary query, we received a categorically undeniable "YES".

Next, we consulted the Runes. Runes were first used over 1500 years ago by the East Goths, and later appeared throughout England and Scandinavia. As Christianity took hold, the use of runic alphabets in divination became reviled as a pagan practice. The word "rune" itself comes from an early Anglo-Saxon word meaning "secret" or "mystery", and they remain an enigma to the world at large. To answer the pressing query, I choose a single-Rune cast. Ther results were as follows:
Sowilo. Like the blazing sun, your essential self is the source of your vitality. You are in a moment of profound regeneration, and the fire of your soul forges a new unity to your personality. Parts of yourself long denied see the light of day, and will be integrated or discarded as the organizing force of your spirit realigns the energies that express who you are. Avoid dealing with difficult and pressing situations until your newly aligned energies are running smoothly!
After some careful ruminating, I took this to mean a resounding "Yes!", so long as we don't try to confront the important issues of our day. So do as Gavekal & Arthur Laffer suggest: "Don't worry, just be happy!"

In further effort to get a consensus from our experts, I asked "Jerry", a well known astrologer in private practice in New England to conduct an in-depth astrological reading of Bank of Japan Governor, Toshihiko Fukui (b. Sept 7, 1935; See resulting Chart above left))in the hope that a reading would give some needed insight inwhether nearZIRP will remain the "policy du jour".
Here is the meat of it: In his chart, Gemini rises and it is Jupiter hour. Jupiter rules the airy triplicity by day and night, so the chart is radical. Mercury ruler of the 1st and our significator is peregrine and thus weak in the 8th, but cazimi as it is at 4 degrees 22 minutes of Capricorn and the Sun is at 4 degrees 21 minutes. This is an extremely close conjunction. The ruler of the 10th of government is Saturn, dignified by face and term, but fast retrograde in the malefic 12th. The ruler of the 11th of the government's money is Jupiter, in detriment, conjunct the ascendant. Jupiter is retrograde. The ruler of the 2nd of our money is the Moon, who is peregrine, in detriment and going from combustion, in the 8th. She is separating from a conjunction of Mercury, our significator, indicating that our money is indeed separating from historical baselines in, one should believe, continue to allow it grow.

Despite all this consultation of experts, whether technically-based, fundamentally-based or rooted in the occult, I must tell you straight-out, that I am not terribly superstitious, and really am an objectivist at heart. OK, I'll admit that I drink out of the same coffee cup each morning when I am on a serious winning streak. And I do not intentionally walk under ladders, break mirrors, or, for that matter, kill spiders. But there are times when my brain is just taxed-to-the-max from making hundreds of complex decisions each day, and I just want a simple answer to a simple question.
At times like this, I open my desk drawer, reach for the back, carefully removing the shiny black sphere from its box, close my eyes, take a deep breath and concentrate upon asking my question: "Will liquidity continue to be abundant?" I wait a moment. Turn the sphere over. Now, I open my eyes, where the answer is now, undeniably evident, from the expert's expert...

(note to all: Cassandra will be taking a holiday until sometime mid-month, ostensibly for a change of scenery, to take some high-altitude air, and to teach the offspring that stoically dealing with muscle fatigue and blisters is a prerequisite to capturing vistas for oneself, spotting marmots and hawks, and should be seen as a virtue. Ummm really! )

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Additions to the Hedgies Lexicon

Some new definitions to add to the hedgies lexicon:

"ABX'ed" - What happens when the basis blows out and the OTC hedge basis some ABX Index behaves opposite to the highly leveraged portfolio of underlying crap that you own resulting in large losses for your investors, the eventual closure of business, and hours of psychotherapy.

"CLO'bbered" - How an erstwhile manager long the bottom tranches will describe his performance to his investors in his quarterly letter.

"Deep-SPX'ed" - Material under-performance and loss of assets as a result of being short the S&P500 index following the swoon in late February.

"REITization" - The epiphany that a portfolio manager has late in Q2 2007 that perhaps he has overstayed his welcome in real estate stocks.

"PE'ed Off" - That shitty (and angry) feeling a Long vs. Manager has waking-up yet again to find that yet another short position in his portfolio has agreed to be taken private at an enormous premium.

"MOTHR F*#ked" - Any stock in the TSE MOTHRs index (YTD -18%!!)

"KIWI'ed Out" or "Pounded" - Any short bet against any carry trade.

and one from Washington, DC

"Libbyrated" - Using the power of the Office of the President to release a convicted felon from doing time.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Moronic Statement of the Week

Sometimes when I hear things that market participants say, I almost begin to sympathize with Nassim Nicholas Taleb's shoulder-chipped rant "Fooled by Randomness", in regards to lurid stereotyping he offers of the average market trader. This gem was picked up from Naked Shorts, references the testimony of an energy trader testifying before Senate committee investigating Amaranth, and is well-deserving of the "Moronic Statement of the Week Award":
One trader said, “Seven-standard deviation events happen all the time in this market.” [Emphasis added].

I doubt whether anyone of the august Senators took him to task on this one.