Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Merrill Lynch

Bloomberg: Merrill to Sell $8.5 Billion of Stock, Unload CDOs
In yesterday's statement, Merrill said it agreed to sell $30.6 billion of collateralized debt obligations -- the mortgage- related bonds that have caused most of the firm's losses -- for $6.7 billion. The buyer is an affiliate of Lone Star Funds, a Dallas-based investment manager.

``Our consistent focus has been to opportunistically reduce risk, and in order to take advantage of this sizeable sale on an accelerated basis, we have decided to further enhance our capital position,'' Thain, 53, said in the statement.

`Little Disheartening'

Merrill will provide financing for about 75 percent of the purchase price, according to the statement. The financing is secured only by the assets being sold, meaning Merrill would absorb any losses on the CDOs beyond $1.68 billion.
In other words: ML gets a USD 1.68 billion cash infusion (hopefully), but otherwise keeps the remaining risk on the USD 5 billion CDO crap without having any upside potential. If it wasn't so obvious anyway (selling Bloomberg stake and on and on), this looks pretty desperate.

WEISSGARNIX has more comments (in German) on the shareholder dilution etc.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Good analysises, funny comments. I could say unfortunately in German, but actually it is this blog's strength.

Wirtschaft & Politik aus allerletzter Hand …

Here two example posts, a good look at the recent Credit Suisse quarterly result...

Credit Suisse, Version für Erwachsene

... and here some Barrack-Berlin impressions (hehe:):

Aus Obamas JFK-Karaoke

Housing Crisis

Brett Steenbarger took a first hand look at the housing market around his area. Very well worth the read!

Beneath the Housing Crisis: Variation in Housing Inventory
It was clear from our drive that there is no single housing crisis. Much of Naperville real estate is in slow-down mode: prices are holding reasonably well, but taking longer, on average, to sell. In the formerly hot areas of development, however, the overexpansion is mind-boggling. Not even free cars and large rebates can move the inventory--particularly with the tightening of mortgage loan criteria for would-be buyers.

This is not an intensification of the slowdown in the general market; it is many standard deviations from the mean. I have significant doubts that many of these subdivisions are viable at any price. From the pricing of the regional bank stocks that have loaned to these developers, I don't seem to be alone in this opinion. C'mon: are you going to jump in and buy a home in a half-filled, half-built development, when it's not clear that the builder will ever be able to finish the work? Are you going to buy a condo in a partially filled building and hope that the remainder of the units will sell, so that you won't have to cover the shortfall in maintenance assessments?
this is like tech stocks in early 2000. While many sectors back then were overpriced and experienced a significant but normal bear market, a host of internet-related companies were brought to market with no underlying demand or value whatsoever. The bust wasn't over until many of these roundtripped to zero.

The difference, of course, with housing is that, when developments fail, contractors don't get paid; their suppliers aren't paid; bank loans go into default; mortgage-backed securities are threatened; homeowners lose value in their homes; municipalities lose property tax income; and on and on. Just as surviving the 2000-2003 period meant staying out of the formerly hot areas, I suspect that those who get through the current crisis will insulate their funds from the many areas touched by the collapse of developments that are forced to resort to increasingly desperate discounts and come-ons.
When I looked at the homes that were selling for $1 million and over, however, there was six years or more of inventory on the market. Is anyone likely to pony up that kind of money for what looks to be a depreciating asset? With tightening loan conditions, where are these buyers going to come from?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Short Selling

Bloomberg: Never Have So Many Short Sellers Made So Much Money
More than $1.4 trillion of equities worldwide are now on loan, about a third higher than at the start of 2007, data compiled by Spitalfields Advisors, the London-based firm specializing in securities lending, show. Almost all of that is being used to speculate that shares will fall, according to James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University who studies short selling. The global economic slowdown, $447 billion in bank losses and an explosion of funds that can profit from stock declines spurred the increase in short selling, helping send 22 of 23 countries in the MSCI World Index into bear markets.
Assets at so-called 130/30 and 120/20 funds, or those that are allowed to both hold stocks and short them, may climb to $2 trillion by 2010 from $140 billion in 2007, according to a study last year by Westborough, Massachusetts-based Tabb Group. Spitalfields estimates these funds may borrow an additional $600 billion by 2010.
Via Trader Daily.

Funny & Fried

The basic accounting equation goes like:

Assets = Liabilities + Shareholder's Equity

Now for Fanny and Freddie the news paper have it that Liabilities equals USD 5000 billion. So how much will be the assets worth? 10% less than liabilities would result in a loss of USD 500 billion etc.

The NY Times has a detailed list of foreign countries that hold USD 1200 billion of these liabilities. F&F do not only threaten the US financial system, but directly the international ones as well.

Trouble at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Stirs Concern Abroad
Asian institutions and investors hold some $800 billion in securities issued by Fannie and Freddie, the bulk of that in China and Japan. China held $376 billion and Japan $228 billion as of June 2007, the most recent country-specific Treasury figures.

In Europe, roughly $39 billion in Fannie and Freddie debt is held in Luxembourg and $33 billion more in Belgium, countries that are home to large investment management firms. Investors in Britain hold $28 billion, and Russian buyers hold $75 billion. Sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East are also believed to be big investors in Fannie and Freddie debt.
So this is also very much about bailing out the US's international creditors.

E.g. Swiss Re has 10 billion in their books. There could be a beautiful chain reaction all over the planet if the US goverment doesn't cover any fallout.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Buffett Buffet

Lessons from Lunch with Warren Buffett
Do the Right Thing Even if it’s Hard
Buffet has become one of the richest men in the world while never sacrificing the highest ethical standards. “People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional,” said Buffet.

Listen to Yourself, Not the Crowd
Buffet learned at an early age from his father that it is important to listen to yourself rather than seek the affirmation of others. Although he was heavily criticized for not investing with the crowd in technology and Internet stocks in the late '90s, he stuck to what he believed and turned out to be right. During the lunch he asked his guests, “Would you rather be considered the best lover in the world and know privately that you're the worst — or would you prefer to know privately that you're the best lover in the world, but be considered the worst?"

The Numbers Don’t Lie
Buffet said that he limits contact with the managers of businesses that he invests in, choosing rather to examine the company’s financial records. By relying on the numbers he is able to focus on neutral information and prevent outside noise from affecting his decisions.