Posts Tagged ‘assets’

Yes, Toto, we’re in a brave new swirl.

January 28, 2018

Today while perusing a post on the Seeking Alpha financial network I came across what appears to be a very sensible explanation of what we see in the world of finance and business today.

This no-nonsense analysis is occasionally echoed by other writers on the SA site, most notably Mr. David Stockman, former budget director for President Reagan.

He was a high-flyer back in the day, the pre-Greenspan days.

But here I make reference to a different contrarian analyst, Mark A. Grant,  upon whose article I stumbled upon this morning.

  https://seekingalpha.com/article/4140703-universe-edge-restaurant?sht=p3a1ld&shu=8wcf#comment-77507865

From a distance, I’ve been following the contrarian school of thought ever since the fall of ’08. I say “from a distance” because I am neither an economist, nor a significant investor. I am a mere citizen who happens to be a consumer, an American, an author and a semi-retired person, age 66.

This contrarian school of alarmist financial analysis generally demonstrates a perpetual amazement; their astonishment revolves around the credit-mongering house-of-cards built by the central bankers of our preset world (the Fed, EuroCBank, Bank of Japan, People’s Bank of Japan, etc.). It’s not that the contrarians have much respect for of the central bankers’ delicate arrangement of interlocking currencies and trade incentives; rather, their astonishment arises from the mystery of why it has not yet fallen apart and produced a new crash.

You see, this new international construct is not founded upon traditional economics, but rather (as it appears to this layman) upon that (at the time) new-kid-on-the-block upstart school founded in the 1930’s by Mr. Keynes; it’s all about governments and banks perpetually tweaking national/international money spigots to produce certain desired effects.

Our current zombified house-of-cards scenario has been at work for a decade or so now, ever since the crash of ’08, with its aftermath of Great Recession or great whatever-it-is.

Getting back to the source of this present article: This morning I was reading Mr. Grant’s take on the present situation and comparing it for the umpteenth time to the contrarian undertow that continues to make perfect sense. This bearish complaint corner has been going on for so long I’m beginning to wonder if the fiat-wielding central bankers have actually managed to change, by their manipulations, the fundamental nature of money.

Maybe we actually are now in a brave new world where the old rules of debit/credit will never again apply.

With all these electrons flying around the planet–all these monetized digital representations of presumed wealth and bank-enabled assets–haven’t we truly ditched the old gold-backed world of currencies-dollars, pounds, francs, marks, drachmas, denarii, Euros, rubles, shekels, yen, yuan, SDRs and zlotys?

Could Bitcoin and such be nothing more than a flash-in-pan death-throes sparkle signifying the end of our great age of post-BrettonWoods expansion? 

Might this extended wave of central banks’ Quantitative Easing actually turn out to be the debt-driven tidal wave that propels us into a land that prime forgot, where all the rules and practices of days gone by are tossed aside forever in the liquidity flood and trash heap of history?

ShipWrek

We’re getting to a precarious place now where the only solution will be to tear up the score-cards, balance sheets, and start over. The central governments of the world are forever indebted to the central banks of the world. It certainly seems that way to this observer. I’ll be surprised if we ever get back to what Mr. Smith called “the wealth of nations.”

We ain’t in Kansas any more, Toto. Exactly where we have landed is unclear. And it just might be that tapping our ruby-slippered heels of old-school analysis are gone with the wind.

When this whirlwind of fiat-instruments does wind down to a dull roar and all the chips fall where they may, who/what institutional entities  will have wrangled control of the new asset-spewing beast? Whatever that entity turns out to be–it (they) will be in a position to dole out the newly-zombified assets to the world’s surviving movers and shakers. I guess most of us out here in lala land will be quakin’ in our boots.

As for us commoners, we may all of us have to settle for a mere meal-ticket while the big chips get re-assigned.

A meal-ticket  on a card or a chip, of course.

What troubles me is: what new rules or allegiances will be demanded by the powers–that-be?

What will it cost us, John Doe/Jane Smith, to even get in the game?

King of Soul

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Dark Rivers of Dark Money

April 5, 2016

Seismic moneyanamis hit the fan in a big way in Panama two days ago. Multiple georlnalists are reporting that massive dark rivers of dark money have been detected bubbling to the surface in that central American domain. Surreptitious sources indicate that the ultimate origin of these fluidizing liquidities may be the Dark Side of the Moon, an area of high-flying international magnaminity heretofore undetectable to the common man. To this present time in our planetary history, only one witness of this phenom has ever been reported– a shadowy figure known to some money-watchers as Pink Floyd.

If these reports are confirmed, it could be that  how the money world really works will at last be known, according to Tom OnPointe.

Geornalists pouring over the erstwile infamous Panama Papers in a sort of secret cave in London have detected vast streams of dark money sloshing beneath the streets of London, in the sewers of Paris, and beneath the mysteriously enigmatic monoliths of Moscow. Entry points for these large liquidities have been traced to specific hotspots in the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Switzerland and now, for the first time we can remember, Panama.

But hey, the Dark Rivers of Panama have been showing signs of volatility for a long time– since even before Teddy Roosevelt led an exhibition to that star-cross’d country to recover a failed French experiment in canal-building. Boldly sporting a Panama hat, ole rough-ridin’ Teddy went down there in 1904 and established yankee hegemony over the sluggish Panama Canal project; he assured the world that within a few years  the Atlantic and Pacific liquidities would be flowing freely.

Thank our lucky stars, in the 1914 wake of the completed Panama Canal development, vast volumes of worldly goods began floating uninterruptedly from the east ocean to the west ocean and vice-versa for lo these many years. And you know how human beings are in a situation like that. Wherever you’ve got vast volumes of worldly goods barging past each other going both ways, you’re bound to have vast volumes of financial liquidities flowing as well.

Thanks to the ICIJ, we now know that vast portfolios of them insinuated assets are subterranean, which is to say under-the-radar liquidities swishing ever’wheres from Delaware to Doha to Dubrovnik– 11 million documents worth, they’re reporting, revealing trillions of terabytes of wealth hidden between the slipstreaming electrons of international excessive exuberance, implicating perhaps 689 corporations who are no doubt knowingly transferring magnanimous wealth from them that don’t have it to them that do, which is to say like maybe from Lucknow to London or Newark to New York.

Which is to say, like it’s always been. Rich get richer; poor get poorer. But now on an international scale.

We have obtained photographic evidence of an allegedly rich nation sucking the monetary life out of a poor country. Apparently this is nothing new on the face of the earth.

Devouring

So the best the thing a man or woman can do is get him/herself a little back 40 or .40 of terra firma for his family so’s he can do a little something with it in case something unforeseen happens or the big bad wolf decides to float in and do business on a liquiditous stream of financial privilege.

News at 11.

Glass Chimera

The Narrative of the Ancient !con

February 20, 2016

Statu!con

In this episode

we find  PMUnicomm inquiring among the projection heads as to what is going to happen next and how should we proceed from this point and what strategy should we devise to beat the numbers because they be indicating correction ahead and NIRPy deadends between buyin dips and sellin peaks and rockofdebt and hardplace of reality, so Arioch chiefofstaff say to PMUniCom:

BLS-BS say UnEmp be way down and thats good but LabrPart don’t match up to historical precedental expectations so we brought in DaProphit to make recommendation for FEd shells to be moved thus and such so game can go on and broncos can beat panthers and bulls chase bears off into sunset. So here be DaProphit and he say:

You, O PMUnicomm, were dreaming and behold there was a single great !con on your !phone, which was large and of extraordinary splendor and it was standing in front of you and its number of followers was awesome, like in datrillions.

And you saw, O PMUnicomm, the head of the !con was made of silvergold, its breast and arms of ironsteel, its belly ass and thighs of assets, its legs of stokbond, and its feet partly made of toxi and partly made of asset.

You were like this is awesome what the hell is it and while you were grokking it a rock was cut but not with human hands because the hand was busy writing on the wall and the rock suddenly smashed the feet of the !con to smithereens and the toxi and the assets and the stokbond and the ironsteel and the silvergold came tumblin down and humpty couldn’t put the dumpty back together again. But the rock that struck the !con became a great mountain and filled the earth.

And as you watched, PMUnicomm, the credits began to roll on your !device and it was time to find another fluffup.

Glass Chimera

From Black Friday to Derivatives Saturday

November 28, 2015

Back in the crash of ’08, clueless underlings such as myself suddenly were made aware of a mysterious component of our financial system called “derivatives.”

What is a derivative? you may ask. Funny you should ask. I didn’t know either, and I still don’t. Although I have been trying to figure it out for seven years now, every time I think I know what a derivative is, I encounter acronymic terminology such as MBS, CDO, or SEC.

These slimmed-down nomenclatures should simplify things, but they do, in fact simplify nothing. Although everybody knows SEC stands for Southeastern Conference, which is the football conference where the best American football is played, and where my alma mater LSU exercises its right to excel in athletics, except when teams like Alabama or Florida are on the field.

Tyger

But I digress. I was explaining to you what a derivative is and I mentioned some of the simplifying terminology.

For instance, as alluded to above: MBS.

Well some well-positioned bloggists of the worldwideweb identify an MBS as a Masters of Bullsh*t, which is attained through much blood sweat and tears and dedicated gamesmanship acquired at a venerable institution, such as Barnwell University or Cayman College. The MBS is attained through years and years of shoveling potentially useful data into HFT, which produces a yield from which its index is derived,  and lucrative assets which are then deposited into accounts on behalf of the bullish denizens of WallStreet. These rich deposits build up the notional value of our economy as a hole, thus enriching all of us, not only those who are forever horsing around on Wall Street, but also  you and me and all the folks on Main Street, Easy Street and Ventnor Avenue.

Somebody has to do it. I don’t mind doing my part, working with a shovel. Keeps me in shape.

Anyway, that’s not the MBS of which I spake. I’m talking about Mortgage Backed Securities. I think Uncle Freddie Mac and Aunt Fannie Mae gave these instruments as gifts back during the holidays of 2007, when life was oh simple then, before time had rewritten every line.

My understanding of a Mortgage Backed Security is that they’re something like an Arkansas RazorBack, which is probably why they didn’t work out so well for investors, although Arkansas is ranked third in the SEC west, behind Florida and–excuse my language–Ole Miss.

After that is my LSU Tigers, presently in fourth place of SEC west, but as always and forever will be, bound for greatness.

It’s quite complex to describe just how LSU could be in fourth place, because its position in the rankings is derived from the ratio of victories to losses, divided by the number of footballs passed beneath the legs of a center when he hikes the ball to the quarterback during any given play of the game.

Nevertheless, as I was saying before, a derivative is derived from the outcome, that is to say the, rear-end of a complex financial instrument.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, as any serious investor is wondering, about the real question here, which is: how much is it worth?

One thing that my research has revealed, and one thing I can tell you with surety is this: The value of any particular derivative is derived from fluctuations in the value of the underlying asset.

Here’s an example: how much is my ticket to this season’s Sugar Bowl worth? Well, at this point it’s an open question, but let’s just say this: I’ll give you my ticket to the Sugar Bowl for your two tickets to the Orange Bowl.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (Texas Aggies be forewarned), the guys who are shoveling out in the barn are asking what’s the real value of these derivatives. And as I explained before, you remember that the value of any particular derivative is derived from fluctuations in the value of the underlying ass-set. That should come out plain enough.

As for the collective value of all the derivatives, this figure is derived from its notional value, which is calculated based on the notion, as defined by the US Treasury, the Fed, the NYSE, and the AP sportswriters, that whatever goes around comes around, so therefore if the value of the aforesaid derivatives passes through enough piles of assets then when it comes out the other end nobody really knows what its worth, so that it can be revalued at the going rate.

This is unpredictable, of course, as the LTCM affair had indicated  back in the Glass-Steagall days, but it is bound to be worth, somehow somewhere when you least expect it, more than it was in January of 2009. So that’s progress, although the Progressives may not agree with me. I don’t pay much attention to all those freaks on the fringe anyway.

And you understand, of course, that all this has taken place after Cronkite passed from the scene.  Before that, it was pretty much everybody working together in America toward the same values and goals. But that was then and this is now. Derivatives happens.

I’m glad I could clear this up for you. As for the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl,  may the best team win, as it frequently does, but sometimes not.

 

Glass Chimera

Through the kindling glass: Uncle Ben in ’08

November 22, 2015

History is fascinating when you get into it.

Today I’m remembering the fall of 2008–that perilous time when the financial crash was pummeling down all around us. The reason I’m remembering this is: I’m reading on kindle Ben Bernanke’s book Courage to Act:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Courage-Act-Memoir-Aftermath-ebook/dp/B00TIZFP0I

So I’m remembering.

My day job during that time was working with students at a local elementary school. The workday began every morning at 8 a.m. I have vivid memories of sitting in my old Subaru wagon in the school parking lot each morning, catching the latest financial news before going inside to punch in. I’d be sitting in the car during the last ten minutes of the 7 o’clock hour while listening to Marketplace Morning on NPR.

Not that I had any real money or assets to work with, mind you, just a little nest-egg house that wife and I had just about paid for, and a little spare change we had after the three young’uns had finished college, etc. just like most folks our age.

But here’s why the memory of those news reports clings to my unfettered mind so tenaciously. Those fateful September days of seven years ago released megalithic destructive financial forces of mayhem and immense complexity that changed forever the economic world as we kno(e)w it.  Perilous WallStreet cluster-fuds suddenly opened a flood of financial and fiscal confusion unprecedented in the history of the world. The only thing that compares to it would be the crash of ’29, but of course that was then and this was now.

In Uncle Ben’s book, Courage to Act, through which he strives to shine a light of transparency into the workings of the Fed and its relationship to the financial powers that be, he explains, in chapter 12, the demise of one particular entity (the AIG insurance conglomerate) that fell during that month’s frantic rearrangement of dominoes. He describes the problem this way:

 “AIG FP’s risk was compounded by the difficulty in valuing its highly complex position, in part because the securities that the company was insuring were so complex and hard to value.”

This universal fragility about value (or sudden loss of value) of toxic assets would be something akin to a global computer-virus, but in the financial world. Nobody knew how, when, or where, the infection of overnight falling  asinine asset prices could obliterate the richness of previously fat portfolios. It was like Ebola on WallStreet.

During that third week of September of 2008, the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Bros, and then the unraveling of worldwide cluster-fudded AIG, damn near brought the whole house of WallStreet et al etc cards of down.

I guess US Treasurer Hank Paulson and a few other arm-twisting high-flyers later put the fear of dog into Congress and into whomever else was in charge of this country at the time, so that the gov-softened crash landing of worldwide money tranches wasn’t nearly as bad as when something like that happened in ’29 and the whole dam American economy fell apart.

As I told you before, I was just a detached observer at the time, September 15 2008, a regular guy with no skin in the game trying to figure out what the hell was going as I heard about events on the car radio.

Now reading Uncle Ben’s memoir, I see a little more clearly what was going on behind the scenes. I guess his transparency mission is being realized; at least it is on me.

I see the light. I think I understand. Fear, as Joni Mitchell once sang, is like a wilderland.

Fear is a big part of this whole things fall apart deal that we see in life sometimes.

In the case of the investment banks and Wall Street and all that derivative-induced shenanigans that came unwounded in fall of ’08, it was fear of losing value on a massive scale, fear of diminishing assets on a global scale, and hence fear of metastasizing money-loss on a megadential scale.

But hey, there are worse fears in life. . .fear of dying?

Speaking of death, we could say that old folks are generally closer to it than young ones. But the fear of death can be, I feel, softened somewhat by the sense that one has lived a fulfilling life, or maybe an adventurous life, or perhaps a prosperous life, whatever attribute of the good life floats your boat.

Here’s something Uncle Ben wrote in his memoir about the old-timers on Wall Street during that fateful fall of ’08:

“For Wall Street old-timers, the events of the (Lehman weekend) weekend would evoke some nostalgia. Two iconic Wall Street firms that had survived world wars and depressions, Lehman (Bros.) and Merrill (Lynch), had disappeared in a weekend. I felt no nostalgia at all. I knew that the risks the two firms had taken had endangered not only the companies but the global economy with unknowable consequences.”

Unknowable consequences. That’s what you get when a bunch of old (or young) wise guys play fast and loose with a world-class pile of other people’s money.

But hey, that was then and this is now; it could never happen again.

At least not the same way.

 

Glass Chimera

Dat’s a Millennial trap Rap

March 21, 2015

Oh the Fed treadeth so so lightly

tryin to state the state of things so politely

gotta keep them interest rate so low

but them cant get much lower than half-point from zero;

now it be knockin’ hell outa euro,

propellin’ Dollar to once and future hero.

To raise them rates would be classically correct

oh but then them traders might eject

their programs from gliding oh so perfect

along HFT tracks that them algorithms select.

Autie Jan cant withdraw the punchbowl;

uncle Ben had schooled her ’bout that donut hole.

As you go through life, investor, whatever be your goal

keep your eye on the Fednut, not on the whole.

Kick that can, baby, kick it down the road;

we don’t want them bulls havin’ to unload.

Keep ’em buying on the dips

with e-eyes fixed upon them blips,

Watch ’em risin’, selling on the peaks

this trend could fly for weeks n weeks.

But hey! them near zero rates punish savers;

it aint like it used to be, with small-bank favors.

How them millennials gon’ pay back them college loans

while Zirpy Fed hover in zero zones?

Meanwhile, ‘though emerging nations buy them new cell phones

jihad jinx be out slashin’ no-go zones,

which aint no climates for no new homes,

juxt red-line zones with bloods n bones.

What kinda world is that

for anything but talkin’ skat?

And with no nest-egg savins in the bank,

wha you gon’ do, drive a tank?

Maybe risk your small-caps in data high-risk market,

or spend it at all while at walmart parkin?

I say this secular stagnation

it juxt stultify my ‘magination.

With nutt’n on balance sheets but diminishin’ returnin’s,

where I gon’ stuff my hard-earned earnin’s?

Wit dem central banks winkin’

and HFTs a-blinkin’

and all dem ole free-market opportunities shrinkin’,

I think I feel them fabled long-tails slinkin’

which means I need a different way of thinkin’.

Pshaw! nuf, that ole magic growth it refuse to come

even ‘though gas price be low as scum

While .gov employment indicators

morph to .gov-on-fumes manipulators,

central banks toss hot potato;

but feel to me like rot tomato

Gotta get them econ0my off QE methamphetamine,

get it back on track, American Dream!

Is that dream now juxt pie in the sky?

Just sayin, wtf, don’t ask me why.

But hey! I be tryin’ to discern these market dynamics

and hopin’ there aint no market titanics.

Someone said it juxt a rigged game

for the 1%, you know dem with wealth and fame.

But I’s gon’ get in this game;

ask me again n’ I’ll tell u the same.

It the only game in town that I know of;

I know it still be there when them push come to shove.

And when them market collapses, like them big house of cards,

then I’ll jump in the game; I’ll scoop up them shards!

As them fluffed-up values deflate in them crashes,

it’s then I’ll buy in, as them fall on them assets!

 

Glass Chimera