Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Snatches from the Pink Snapper — 9
I was chatting with Hopalong when a buddy of his came over. Hopalong greeted him with "Hey, man! Ya' working or bleeding?"
"Working," his friend allowed.
After the guy left I had to ask. "What did you mean, 'Are you working or bleeding?'"
"I was asking whether he had work or was giving plasma," Hopalong explained.
If it weren't for the Pink Snapper I'd be seriously out of touch.
Snatches from the Pink Snapper — 8 (9/18/08)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"First" of the Day: The Dow takes a leap
After eight consecutive drops and the worst weekly loss in its 112-year history last week, the Dow Jones industrial average registered its biggest one-day point gain in history and its biggest percentage gain since the depths of the Great Depression. —Walter Hamilton reporting in "A rally for the ages: Dow leaps 936 points"
I was tempted to title this post "No-brainer of the Day." Last week a friend called, who's been worried about her credit union deposit. Breaking with my native reluctance to voice an opinion, I suggested she might risk a few ducats in a stock index fund. (A stock index fund invests your money in the stocks contained within the index such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the S&P 500.) And whoop-de-doo! Look what happened!
I didn't make my recommendation based on such nonsense as "the market is undervalued" but on the belief that (1) a portion of the investing class would feel that the market has no place to go but up and (2) that the remaining portion of the investing class would believe that the other investors would believe that the market has no place to go but up and would hop on for the ride, even if they had to borrow money to do it. I myself called my banker to see if I might borrow some money to get in on the action. Unfortunately he was tied up in a call to his broker whom he was trying to convince to accept his bank shares as leverage for a purchase. After all, they had no place to go
Many financial correspondents appear not to share my view of the rally. They are looking for a genuine change of heart on the part of the investing public, which means we must endure yet another wave of hopefuls asking "Is the crisis finally over?"
Writers for the Richmond-Times Dispatch burbled—
Stocks soared yesterday, with the Dow Jones industrial average climbing 936 points, as investors took heart that the worst of the financial crisis could be over.
"It looks like the stock market might have found the bottom," said Buford Scott, chairman of Scott & Stringfellow Inc.
That said, the bottom will be tested, Scott said. Investors should expect to see the Dow to return to the 8,000 level in the next couple of days....
The market usually corrects by a third of the gain, meaning it could drop 300 points today, Scott said. "Once the low is tested three times, then everyone feels the lows are behind us, and they can look forward to a rising market."1
Unfortunately the story, which was headlined Dow leaps 936 points on aid to U.S. banks, included the subhead INVESTORS FEEL WORST MAY BE OVER; PRESIDENT DETAILS PLAN TODAY. Market cheerleaders forget that every time the President is allowed to peak out from behind the curtain it's bad for the market, not to mention John McCain.
Now comes the revolution
Other writers attributed yesterday's market exuberance to the greatest nationalization of banks since the Russian Revolution. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown waved the red flag and led the charge on "the City," as financiers like to refer to London's version of Wall Street.
Robert Winnett and Andrew Porter wrote that—
The Prime Minister unveiled an unprecedented bail-out for RBS [Royal Bank of Scotland], HBOS [Bank of Scotland, which is Britain's largest mortgage lender] and Lloyds TSB [Trustee Savings Bank].
Under the emergency package, more than two-thirds of Britons will become customers of government-controlled banks that have more than £1 trillion in savings.
The announcement of the £37 billion bail-out – expected to become the blueprint for similar government schemes around the world – was welcomed by the City and the stock market rose sharply.
The Revolution swiftly spread across Europe, with one country after another scrambling to nationalize.2
Investors are now encouraged, or so we are told.
Is there any meaning in the hubbub?
What does the market rally really mean? Is the market near the "bottom"?
If we were to survey the many problems of the U.S. economy, such questions must fade in importance. But if we are to focus upon the stock market, as the media insist, I would urge you to consider the date of the previous record-holding leap of the Dow: It fell on the Ides of March in the glorious year 1933.
10:28 pm — Correction: I originally wrote "Market cheerleaders forget that every time the President is allowed to peak out from behind the curtain ..." I should have written "Market cheerleaders forget that every time the President is allowed to peek out from behind the curtain ..."
Though Bush may very well be peaking out from behind a curtain, it is only when he peeks out that damage is done to the market.
"First" of the Day: Crash of the Dow (10/13/08)
2Free-market capitalists have long insisted that governments should not be involved in business because it would put them in the position of deciding winners and losers, which governments are "unqualified" to do. Such decisions should be left to "the Market," they argue.
These concerns were put aside when it was realized that all the major banks are losers and there is really nothing left to decide. [back]
Monday, October 13, 2008
"First" of the Day: Crash of the Dow
For the week, the Dow [Dow Jones Industrial Average] fell just over 1,874 points, or 18%, its worst weekly decline ever on both a point and percentage basis.
The Dow, or DJIA, represents an average of the value of the stock of "30 of the largest and most widely held public companies in the United States." These are companies that only those living in a bunker would not have heard mention—General Motors, American Express, Chevron, Coca-Cola and so forth.
What last week's crash represents in putative dollars is summed up by the figure $2.4 trillion. One way to look at that number is to consider that under present estimates of the US federal budget deficit for 2009, the government will lose only $1.3 trillion, as measured against the budget surplus the Congressional Budget Office had foolishly projected for 2009 looking forward from the dark year 2001 when George Bush took office. And it is only $1.4 trillion less than the government is expected to lose for the entire 10-year period
This biggest weekly decline of the Dow follows on the heels of another "first" two weeks
Stocks skidded Monday, with the Dow slumping nearly 778 points, in the biggest single-day point loss ever, after the House rejected the government's $700 billion bank bailout plan.
Which goes to show that the investing class only distrusts government on the days they're making money.
Adding to the market panic have been the repeated reassurances from George Bush that the government is working to fix the problem. Every time his handlers trot him out to make an announcement on the soundness of the economy, stocks take a dive.
If White House financial advisors ever hope to see a recovery, they must send the President abroad until his term is out or at least hide him under a blanket. Instead they're discussing the possibility of having him meet with the heads of the other G-7 countries—Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. One can only hope they'll bring a map.
On this week's horizon, beginning Wednesday, are government reports on consumer spending and housing starts, inflation numbers for September, business inventories and industrial production. That should test whether the market has a bottom.