Archive for the Money category

December 13th, 2010

Guys from nine big banks control derivative trading

I didn’t know this committee existed.


November 3rd, 2010

Michael Moore
talks turkey Election Night

Wow. The gosh darn truth, it seems to me.

He’s talking late night election night (November 2010) at Democracy Now, with John Nicolls and Laura Flanders in the studio with Amy Goodman.

He touches on the blackout, during the autumn campaign weeks, on the wars — indeed, foreign policy in toto. This was the first thing that came to mind as Jon Stewart concluded his interview with Obama two weeks ago. Not a word about Pakghanistan, Iraq or Israel. Not a fucking word. Clearly Obama demanded that silence in exchange for the appearance.

It’s also noteworthy, when he speaks of the Left’s guilt for its early support of the Iraq war, 2002-04, and names a few names and nods at institutions, that what he’s pointing to are prominent Jews of the Left, who supported the war persuaded in good part that it served Israel’s interest, and then recanted.

But Michael daresn’t say that to Amy. Not right out.

The recantation of Tom Friedman of the Times suddenly comes to mind as one of the most spectacular. But he was nothing like alone within the New York media. The New Yorker itself, of Remnick and Hertzberg. Perhaps I’ll find links.

Most broadly, the so-called Left here will never mount the kind of power challenge its constituency needs until it faces the huge ideological chaos within its ranks.

I mean, in nutshell: Identity Politics vs (marxian!) Universalism.

This came to mind again yesterday watching a group of three at Busboys & Poets Cafe in DC on Democracy Now. Nothing but racism. Seeing everything thru that narrow lens. Calling themselves Progressives even yet, after 30 years of getting fucked in the ass by the rich.

But … their ideas are so rooted in Academia, where so many people of lefty persuasion retreated after the assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, that what seems necessary also seems all but impossible. At least in my time.

But … it’s no wonder the Left is so powerless. Most Americans listening to the guys at Busboys & Poets would just shake their head and vote no.

Laura Flanders, following Moore, is also good. Maybe go buy her book (she gives the website during the chat — not available at Amazon etc):

And here’s something re his most recent — and, he suggests, his last — documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story.

November 3rd, 2010

Coming Soon:
The Social Security food fight

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — the chairs of Obama’s Debt Commision — talk in February 2010 about the clear and present options for the future of Social Security:

– Increasing the utterly regressive and already onerous (15% or so — or has it crept well beyond that?) SS tax.

– Reducing SS benefits across the board.

– Reducing benefits on a sliding scale need-tested basis. Ie, the better off you are, the less SS you collect. Seems rather reasonable. Don’t it? But to enforce …

It’s interesting, to say the least, that the Final Solution will be wheeled out during these coming two years of, ahem, shared responsibility, given yesterday’s elections.

Within GOPher ranks alone a food fight of epic proportions seems likely, given the ideas and emotion separating Speaker Boehner from Senate minority leader McConnell (who more than once has expressed disdain for the rising Boehner) and of course the new Tea Party kids.

Did Team Obama lure the GOPhers into this snake pit?


October 31st, 2010

Serfdom in Spain /
Ralph Nader finds US
not far behind

Thisis how the serfs of Russia were created, by bank debt and law.

Ralph Nader sounds the same theme, quoting Dreiser among others: “The government has ceased to function. The corporations are the government.”

October 30th, 2010

Wall Street Warrior on Ice

Posted in Money, Movies, The Great Recession by ed

Guy Chimay, featured across the 2007 season of Wall Street Warriors as the Genius Hedge Fund Manager, has spent most of 2010 at Rikers Island jail off the tip of LaGuardia Airport, facing facing 30 years plus for securities fraud, grand larceny and what not.

October 13th, 2010

John le Carre:
Big Banks & Money Laundering
The Iraq War, etc

August 11th, 2010

Free their minds and their asses would follow

There’s general alarm about Net Neutrality going away.

I’ve been saying for ten years that our Owners would not allow the internet to go on in its free form. The surprise is that Google is the lead dog.

It’s rather like education itself, which was suddenly made plentiful and cheap post 1945, as a kind of Thank You card to the Citizen Soldier, and looking forward to decades in the US when skilled labor would otherwise be in short supply.

But by 1974 our Owners had realized that an educated working class is a pain in the ass. And the dawning Globalization would mean they didn’t need one.

The defamation and starvation of the public schools began, quite abruptly. Direct federal aid to colleges was frozen in the 80s and has never been thawed.

The Pesident of St John’s College in Annapolis, Christopher Nelson, spoke in public for five minutes about the Fed freeze at a fancy fundraiser in New York three years ago, in response to my question re same (itself a response to being told the news by a man who served on the SJC Board of Governors for 20 or 30 years).

Mr Nelson explained that, indeed, the face dollar amount of direct Fed aid was frozen, during the Reagantime, and now, degraded by inflation, gets spread across millions of more students.

Thus the Buying Power Per Student that SJC receives in Fed aid is a pittance of what it was when I was a student in the early 80s — a big part of the reason why tuition skyrocketed not long after we left. And the story, of course, is the same all over.

Put this together with the so-called pension reform of … 1987, if memory serves. (Defined Benefit plans out, Defined Contribution plans in. The 401k Casino.)

What could be clearer? Fordism died under the Reaganauts. Maybe “The Fourth World” is the best name for where most Americans are headed.

June 28th, 2010

Krugman calls it:
The Third Depression

Posted in Money, The Great Recession by ed

So much for that.

June 26th, 2010

Sheila Bair blesses
the Finance Reform bill

Posted in Money by ed

If Sheila is happy I guess I must be happy.

January 21st, 2010

Obama sides with Volcker, finally, contra the Zombie Banks

Is Tiny Tim going to cry? Gonna get a spanking when he gets home to Broad and Wall tonight?

Poor Paul looks like he’s STILL not sure the Prez’ll give the word.

January 11th, 2010

The more things change …

Alfred Hitchcock presents …

… a fine elderly unemployed couple, about to be bounced out of their home, try to work things out.

… the trauma of losing your job.

January 9th, 2010

Ye Olde Retirement Account:
Whither the Buck?

Posted in Money by ed

Since Pearl Harbor Day, everybody — everybody — in the money world has setting up for a dollar rally in early 2010, to correct the Buck’s big fall in 2009. The rally — or at least a snap of the dollar’s downtrend — began in December.

But recent US economic news has been mixed, with housing optimism again failing. And yesterday’s unexpected drop in the monthly Jobs report — when the whisper numbers, reported by Todd H at Minyanville, were as sunny as 100,000 jobs created, not the 85,000 lost in fact reported — has people scratching.

And has a lot of fat set-ups suddenly looking pale. If the dollar were to turn down here with any authority, it would touch off a panic sell. And gold would soar.

Here’s the past year for the DXY index, which measures the Dollar against the Euro, Yen, Pound, Swiss Franc, Swedish Kroner and … Aussie dollar, if memory serves.

You can see the year’s tumble, the upturn in December, and the flatline since, as people puzzled and waited for yesterday’s US job number — which sent the dollar down.

Also this past week, bad employment news in Europe and an unusual public disagreement in Tokyo enriched the currency picture.

The new Japanese Finance Minister on his first day loudly renounced his predecessor’s Strong Yen bias — but the next day the Prime Minister rebuked the new Finance guy.

Nevertheless, people seem to think the Japanese bank may begin to publicly intervene — buying dollars — to weaken the Yen, trying to recover the balance that was broken this past year as the Dollar tumbled. (A relatively weak Yen helps Toyota and Sony sell stuff to the corpulent American consumer.)

So. New employment weakness in Europe will promote a weaker Euro.

Tokyo wants a weaker Yen.

But the (mixed) weakness in USA economic numbers across the past month will also blunt the momentum that had been building at the Fed to raise its bank rates sooner than later, blunting the Dollar’s heavily anticipated rise.

So. The three big currencies seem ready to race each other to the bottom.

Makes it very difficult to guess or bet on the currency pairs (ie, to trade dollar versus euro, euro vs yen, dollar vs yen, etc).

But if all the central bankers are intent on keeping their currencies weak, it seems gold — despite the recent trend in thinking re the Dollar rebound — will benefit again this year.

So I got back into some gold yesterday in my retirement account (having sold out early December, on the report of the November employment numbers).

And may prove a bit early getting back into gold now, if indeed the Dollar bid of December holds a while longer. As always we shall see. The dollar was down yesterday, on the bad US employment news.

I also got into a Japan fund this week, inspired by the new Finance Minister. The chart here is inviting — for Japanese stocks have suffered of late, not like American, worse than Chinese. Thus obvious room for upside if the Strong Yen is truly dead. And Japan would serve as something of a hedge on my new gold bet if the dollar were to rock a bit skyward against the yen.

Am still 40% cash in the retirement account. Would like to get back in technology if the stock markets provide an opening (ie, go down) sometime. They’ve been up, generally speaking, since March last year — perhaps (another story this week) with direct help from Tsy and Fed, who may have been buying S&P Mini Futures on the sly (again).

(They began doing so in March 2003 to support the Iraq war. Fiendish. A great sickness. Free market capitalism? Don’t be silly.)

January 7th, 2010

An excuse to can Geithner?

Posted in Money, President Obama by ed

This story about AIG and 2008, although in essence not important, could be used by the White House to begin the business of easing Tiny Tim into the dumpster.

If the White House were so minded. No evidence yet that it is. Reactions worth watching.

January 5th, 2010

Money’s New Decade:
Tower of Babel,
Tuna or your House

Yesterday’s spectacular debut of the world’s tallest building — twice as tall (!) as the Trade Center towers were — in Dubai, whose related sovereign debt is number six on a recent list of Most Likely To Fails after its corporate sister pleaded poverty in December …

Leaves me speechless.

Floyd Norris managed to say something. Hear him, sigh.

And check out the business prospects for this white mammoth. Those prospects are nil, but Murdoch’s man closes with assurance that the “image of yesterday’s fireworks display” will surely mean alot to Dubai in years to come.

Meanwhile, farther east, into the creditor hemisphere, a single tuna sells for $177,000. In Japan. Our second biggest banker.

Back at the ranch, a prominent finance CEO today accused the Fed and Tsy of steadily buying stock futures during 2009 to ignite and prop the miraculous rally of March-November.

The money-management world is full of serious people who are certain this began in March 2003 — in an effort to support the (world?) war also set in motion that month by Bush-Cheney. “The Market That Will Not Go Down” then ran up despite news and experience in highly abnormal fashion until the weight of the credit crisis finally crushed it in October 2007.

Meanwhile, more mundanely, the media are full of forecasts for the year. Here is a quick summary of twelve prominent money minders, all foretelling doom as Obama cements his administration’s feet in the status quo ante on the finance front.

In same vein, the Times editors today forecasted doom for US real estate this year in light of Team Obama’s Do Nothing agenda.

Finance. Pakghanistan. Health Care. No Change We Need in any of these, and very little change at all.

Who would have thought, fourteen months ago?

“He went down with the ship.”

My own thoughts about the year ahead in the markets are almost entirely neutral, having been neutralized by the odd three years now past. The future is a mist and the postwar’s First World is as fragile as it has ever been. No reason for long-term confidence of any sort. Investments are all trades.

The stock market just had a fabulous, perhaps basically fraudulent, run, so one must be cautious. And yet if the combined forces, public and covert, of the Fed and Tsy and their international investors continue to juice the markets perhaps there’s some profit yet to be had in being long stocks.

My retirement account went all cash in early December, selling its gold fund FGLDX near peak (on the report of the November employment numbers, which juiced the dollar, breaking gold’s uptrend). Had already sold its China and Tech in May and summer (too early). And its energy by September. So the autumn was about 40% gold and 60% cash, until cashing out entirely in December.

Yesterday I stepped back in with some China. About 14% of the account. Rest is still cash.

Why China. Simply because it’s in a fundamentally sound position, bad news is less likely to appear here, or cash in reaction to flee from here, and the chart is somewhat more inviting than the others.

In my mother’s account of free cash I bought some CTL, the fourth-largest telecom in the US last time I looked, something of a takeover possibility, with a very healthy dividend and rather nice chart. I should have bought it before Christmas — had been watching — but was without an internet connection when the opportunity arose. I’m unhappy buying it here — 36.75 — but will be even less happy if it breaks out over $37, which bad news elsewhere is likely to make it do. The buy was a small lot, about a third of what one hopes to buy if things work out.

In short: I’m trying to get my head back in the morass.

Gold jumped the past two days as the dollar (which broke its downtrend late in the year) sank a bit — but then gold sold off this afternoon and its bulls seem flummoxed again, after 36 hours of unrestrained crowing.

The big news here is Friday’s December employment numbers, which will clarify the dollar (and thus gold) picture. I will be looking for the right time to get back into gold. Perhaps already missed the best time, but there’s plenty of upside left if the bull thesis has merit. Gold’s LONG-TERM prospects seem secure, up up and up as the postwar First World continues its descent into the maelstrom for wont of political will to regulate capital and large corporations.

But it’s not clear yet that the dollar’s late-year rebound is done. I tend to think not, and thus have done nothing. If Friday’s numbers are unexpectedly not bad, the dollar should resume its rise and the time to restock gold will have been pushed further into the future. If the numbers are unexpectedly poor, the dollar may roll over and gold go off again to the races.

Finally, if the dollar continues to rise, it will pressure american stocks down in general, although other factors may be countervailing.

Otherwise, there are certainly some inviting tech stories. But for now the macro picture outweighs in my mind any stock-picking enthusiasms, all of which will get funnelled into short-term trades or the trash.

This has been a poorly written report from a mind mostly elsewhere.

December 8th, 2009

Dollar, gold, sovereign debt woe

Posted in Money by ed

I had half my rather pathetic IRA account in a a gold fund FGLDX all fall, until two weeks ago, when I cashed out half. Then cashed out the other half last Friday on the employment number.

Theory being that the dollar seems near or at its midterm bottom, because the economic numbers (despite many disconnects to economic reality) are likely to bring Tightening talk into the Fedspeak.
Juicing the dollar. Hurting gold.

The world is the other consideration of the moment. Two weeks ago Dubai asked forbearance. Now Greece is waving a flag. Snowballing here seems likely to also help the dollar, short and mid term.

Team Obama are already on the tightening wagon, already talking down Job Creation and talking up the need to rein in the deficit. Quite the good boy.

So. At the moment — all cash in my retirement account. The juicing dollar also exerts downward pressure on stocks, which of course had a very good year. People generally look for Santa Claus here, this time of year, but if Greece goes belly up on its sov debt …

Wait and see with cash for the moment. Even if we have a year-end flourish, January seems forbidding. Maybe it’s just me.

October 28th, 2009


Posted in Goodbye to All That, Money, Music by ed


Perhaps the best tickets I ever scored on the fly outside the gate were at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, an amphitheater, for Rickie Lee Jones in 1991, near the end of the summer’s FLYING COWBOYS tour.

Third row. Most memorable was an exquisitely theatrical “Something Cool.” June Christy’s signature tune. The sad song of Blanche DuBois.

Days later, a similar score in San Diego. And then, the tour closer, in Santa Barbara — where I danced in the grass before the stage with the Celestial herself during “Ghetto of My Mind.”

Earlier on, closer to home, I once got into Madison Square Garden for Springsteen without a ticket of any sort, by paying a brazen snappy fellow, reminiscent of Michael Parks in Then Came Bronson, whom I — and four others — simply followed past an elderly black ticket-taker, a distinguished looking gent with grizzled lambchops, who granted entry to each Vandal with a sober nod, summing, I imagine, his piece of the action.

Dem was the daze.

But dose days are gone.

This past Sunday, this veteran of Gotham — and a visiting friend, under his aegis — walking south for John Hammond and The Blind Boys of Alabama at City Winery in the Village, were taken for fools and parted from their money by a pair of slicky boys hocking bogus Van Morrison tickets on 33rd and Seventh.

Marx warned us about technology. Advances in home printing have brought us to the pass where none but a box-office expert may now distinguish false ducats and the real thing.

But surely, you wonder, would even the most credulous of chowderheads not have balked at the $300 face?

Well … That’s what the high-ends were going for at the Box. Van is cashing in his chips with this Astral Weeks extravaganza. And this wasn’t the Garden’s basketball arena, but the former Felt Forum, a sideshow theater with about seventeen hundred seats.

Even so, you may wonder if something less than a perfect putz might have at least nosed a whiff of suspicion when the sellers agreed to $80 per.

Well … The thought was that showtime was ten minutes off and the boys were happy, at that point, to dump at any price, eighty bucks being better than zero by multiples indeterminate.

Imagine my humiliation …

An insult all the more peccant and piquant when perceived piling on my unemployed back.

With a friend on my arm.

Under my aegis.

Her first time in New York for anything more than business affairs.

Oh it burns. It burns. The city’s red face, and my red ass.

The fish rots from the head. Bear Stearns and Lehman. AIG and Goldman Sachs. Bernie Madoff and …

And now one can’t trust the local scalpers.

I imagine, indeed, they no longer exist — the honest brokers, I mean. For the falsifiers have burst the bonds of trust and surely none but a ditzy dunderheaded diptstick would dare, henceforth, to buy tickets off the street.

Dem daze indeed are done.

Whither hence, my friends?

Theyre selling postcards of the hanging
Theyre painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
Theyve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad theyre restless
They need somewhere to go
As lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row …

October 19th, 2009

Geography of Lost Jobs & Homes

Posted in Money, New York City by ed


A map of jobs lost and gained.

A political pattern?

And here’s a map of foreclosure rates.

The two maps don’t synch as much as one might think. The wave of unemployment foreclosures, if coming, is not yet reflected in the one.

October 15th, 2009

The New Jeremiah:
Alan Greenspan says
Break up the big banks

Posted in Money, President Obama by ed


– the news since June re big banks buying Treasuries with their governmental loans and new capital — instead of lending into the economy, and

– now (this week and next) the quarterly results of the big financials,

it became clear that Bill Seidman’s Zombie diagnosis of the winter was correct.

And today (!) we find Alan Greenspan reiterating the prognosis.

Off with their heads!

October 9th, 2009

Weekly Dollar & Disaster Update

Posted in Money by ed


As surmised last Sunday, it was a bad week for the greenback and good for gold and other precious commodities.

Gold rocketed to a new high circa $1,060 and settled on Friday about $1,045.

The dollar dived then bounced a bit. Still roughly $1.47 to the euro.

Many commentators sense the Europeans won’t let the euro climb much more any time soon.

If so, we may be approaching the end of the dollar’s slide for this cycle, and that would likely temper gold’s ardor and, to a degree, that of the stock markets.

Ie, the dollar turning up against other major currencies would almost surely hurt gold a bit, and would pressure the stock of corporations that sell alot of stuff overseas, and to a degree US stocks in general (as dollar-denominated assets) as a mere matter of exchange.

But where precisely the turn shall be … What do you think?


Thats the DXY index for the past 18 months or so, measuring the dollar against six other currencies.

Does it look like it’s done going down? That 72 level still seems to beckon. But perhaps not now …

( The DXY is weighted this way: Euro 57.6%, Yen 13.6, Brit Pound 11.9, Canadian Loonie 9.1, Swedish Krona 4.2 and Swiss Franc 3.6. )


Maybe us Net Debtors shouldn’t care — indeed, should applaud the dollar’s drowse.

Then again, here’s an excellent piece from Bloomberg on the quiz:

“The Washington theory is that dollar weakness will benefit the U.S. by inflating our way out of debt and causing more exports,” Encima’s Malpass said in a Sept. 25 note to clients. “The problem with this theory is that it assumes capital stays put while the dollar devalues.”

There’s the rub.

When capital begins to flee … You have Argentina, 2001: Not only do Asian bankers stop investing, but eventually the domestic rich move their money to Switzerland (or Uruguay), leaving the domestic banks to get run on and close.

Those not footloose enough to flee get f#%*$d. Lose (access to) their money. Default on their mortgages — and then the banks (perhaps yet shuttered) take the real estate.

The editor of a Buenos Aires daily walked me through this in 2006, in painful detail. Citibank, he said, owned a good deal of Buenos Aires at that point, having foreclosed en masse on the middle class during the bank closures of 2001-02.

It can certainly happen here. The FDIC was about broke a few weeks ago. And after dishing out hundreds of billions to the big banks last year, nobody in D.C. seemed able to come up with the $10 billion the FDIC held out its hat for. Geithner should never have been hired.

If it were to happen here, our plastic Rugged Individualist society would … Well.

Indeed, something’s happening here (same article says) already in the New American Century:

The dollar’s 15 percent decline against the euro and 11 percent depreciation versus the yen since early March are increasing concern among world leaders. At the same time, Americans are getting poorer.

Per capita net wealth tumbled to $172,749 in August from a peak of $212,599 in September 2007, government figures show.

A United Nations Human Development Report released Oct. 5 showed America’s quality of life dropped to No. 13 in a 2007 global ranking from No. 5 in 2000.

The last refers to the UN Human Development agency’s global 2009 report, which contains its annual Human Development Index:

1. Norway 0.971 No change
2. Australia 0.970 No change
3. Iceland 0.969 No change
4. Canada 0.966 No change
5. Ireland 0.965 No change
6. Netherlands 0.964 Up 1
7. Sweden 0.963 Down 1
8. France 0.961 Up 33
9. Switzerland 0.960 No change
tie Japan 0.960 No change
tie Luxembourg 0.960 Down 3
12. Finland 0.959 Up 1
13. United States 0.956 Down 1
14. Austria 0.955
15. Spain 0.955
16. Denmark 0.955
17. Belgium 0.953
18. Italy 0.951
19. Liechtenstein 0.951
20. New Zealand 0.950
21. United Kingdom 0.947
22. Germany 0.947
23. Singapore 0.944
24. Hong Kong 0.944
25. Greece 0.942
26. South Korea 0.937
27. Israel 0.935
28. Andorra 0.934
29. Slovenia 0.929
30. Brunei 0.920
31. Kuwait 0.916
32. Cyprus 0.914
33. Qatar 0.910
34. Portugal 0.909
35. United Arab Emirates 0.903
36. Czech Republic 0.903
37. Barbados 0.903
38. Malta 0.902

October 6th, 2009

Independent: Gulf Arabs, France, Russia, China & Japan plan to dump Petrodollar system

Posted in Mideast & Oil, Money by ed

Zheeesh, when I surmised over the weekend that the dollar might “abruptly” sag, I had no guess about the two things pounding it this morning.

1. Diversifying the near-global business of selling oil in dollars has been talked about for years.

According to The Independent’s top mideast correspondent this morning, Robert Fisk, based in Beirut, something concrete has been agreed to, to kick in across nine years. He cites banking sources in the Persian Gulf and Hong Kong.

In reaction: a rash of news stories quoting finance ministers saying “Stuff and nonsense!” Quite a media teapot tempest …

2. The Austrailian central bank also surprised, everybody, by raising its interbank rate overnight (from 3 to 3.25%) — the first major-currency CB to do so since the crisis kicked in.

These two items have the dollar reeling and gold rocketing to new highs — $1043 last I looked.

From the Independent:

The demise of the dollar

In a graphic illustration of the new world order, Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading

By Robert Fisk
Tuesday, 6 October 2009

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.


Here’s another:

End of the Dollar Spells the Rise of a New Order

And here’s five years of gold: