Category Archives: US

Legg Mason fights a new war | Equities vs Fixed Income

As fixed income loses the temporary sheen from 2008, Legg Mason bore the brunt of investor displeasure and lack of confidence losing $24 billion from fixed income schemes and close to $33 billion overall in the last quarter, 4 times more than the July – September Quarter. Most banks worldwide have reported losses in Fixed Income in the latest quarter as yields spike with China ready to go off the Charts from doubt in its banking system :lol

However that all seems to be passed as in after its results last week, news filtered in that new board member Nelson Peltz is selling an over 15% in H J Heinz ketchup worth $32 million and another $8 million in Tiffany’s Diamonds.

Interestingly, Legg Mason’s flagship Value fund is heavily invested in healthcare, read health insurers like Humana, Wellpoint and United Health who are celebrating after Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts! O What a tangled web we weave. Bill Miller, the fund’s Equities star also mentions of late his trust in the growing US GDP and in Equities. While we agree with the second, Obama’s latest belt-tightening measures may cloud America’s way on growing in double digits a year.

Fund Managers on Bills side in London and New York also feel more wary of heavily weighted China and India investments which we propose is heresy except that in China one must watch the for the bull entering the China Shop. And who’s invested in India? Not many more than 5 years ago..talk about oversimplification!!!

Note: From a September 09 flyer of the World #10 Asset manager, outflows of $33b would close out fixed income offerings in its entirety, leaving Bill Miller and $8 billion in equity that would be worth $800m, $40m seems at the top of the fair price range for 5%

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Bank results week: Wells Fargo profits from the weak

Wells Fargo used 2009 as a good time to review its national footprint and with Wachovia in its belt used the time to grow its retail presence and cement a leadership position that now threatens BofA directly

Also a couple of tricks of the trade, kept it more profitable than most in its competitor set, using the now derogatoy ‘Proprietary Trading’ desks to hedge with mortgage securities

MARKETWATCH.COM

In investor-speak, that means Wells Fargo, which has 6,600 branches in 39 states, purchased investments that pay off when short-term rates fall–which is exactly the action central bankers have taken to keep credit flowing during the financial crisis.

Wells Fargo reported a profit of $2.82 billion or 8 cents a share for the 4th Quarter up 92 cents a share from the year ago results. The bank reported revenues of $88.7 billion for 2009, producing $12.7 billion in income and the 4th quarter results were well ahead of expectations

MORTGAGE WARS: Wells Fargo vs Bank of America

In the fourth quarter, Wells Fargo originated $94 billion in mortgages while Bank of America originated $84 billion, up sharply from the volume of mortgages they made in the fourth quarter of 2008 at the depths of the financial crisis. According to trade publication National Mortgage News, the two banks accounted for 40% of new mortgages in the third quarter of 2008, the latest period for which information is available. They have similarly dominant positions in the servicing of mortgages.

After this, the war is now heavily tilted in favour of the west coast headquartered Wells Fargo, with Citi struggling to keep up with both. Wells Fargo was never under the pay czar’s administration and despite a 47 cent loss from a $25 b repayment in the fourth quarter, did not tailspin like the other two

Bank Reforms: A second Edition

Paul Volcker has new risk limits

After the treasury induced reforms that were more a laundry list of all measures, with existing internal controls at banks pushed into the open, in the next round against criminal misuse of the monetary and fiscal basis, Obama leaned towards Paul Volcker to introduce risk based limits for the Treasuries at commercial and investment banks. Goldman Sachs has already brought leverage down to 4.42 times net worth during the upheavl of 2009.

In an interview with ABC on Wednesday Mr Obama characterised the move by saying that the administration was about to get into a “big fight with the banks.”

“We’ve got a financial regulatory system that is completely inadequate to control the excessive risks and irresponsible behaviour of financial players all around the world,” he said.

“People are angry and they’re frustrated. From their perspective, the only thing that happens is that we bail out the banks… We’re about to get in a big fight with the banks.”

An administration official on Wednesday said the plan – in discussion for the last couple of months – was born out of a need to “cut down on excessive risk taking”.

The announcement is likely to stop short of the return to a forced separation between riskier investment banking and the utility functions of retail and commercial banking that was enshrined in the Glass-Steagall Act.

Goldman Sachs – which runs a large proprietary trading business and which reported stronger than expected fourth-quarter profits on Thursday – will be watching the details closely, but the measures are more likely to threaten institutions whose operations are large and span commercial and retail operations as well as trading for their own benefit.

MARKETWATCH.COM: Breathing Fire

“While the financial system is far stronger today than it was a year one year ago, it is still operating under the exact same rules that led to its near collapse,” said President Barack Obama at the White House.

“My resolve to reform the system is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see record profits at some of the very firms claiming that they cannot lend more to small business, cannot keep credit card rates low, and cannot refund taxpayers for the bailout. It is exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary,” Obama added.

The proposal aims to deter commercial banks from becoming so large that they put the broader economy at risk and distort normal competitive forces

Bank Results Week : BofA reports troubled 2009

BofA is doing well if for the fact that it has already returned all government monies and has provisioned another $1.6 billion for Credit Losses

As a new habit, we will continue to use the NY Times summary ( No it’s not Scott :) )

Even as the nation’s largest financial institutions report whopping profits from their investment banking units, those with major consumer lending portfolios continue to bleed money as unemployment and a weak housing market hamper people’s ability to repay their debts.

On Wednesday, those losses posed a fresh threat to Bank of America, which reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $5.2 billion, or 60 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $2.4 billion, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a loss of 52 cents a share.

For the year, the bank lost $2.2 billion or 29 cents a share compared with a profit of $2.6 billion or 54 cents in 2008.

The bank, which acquired Merrill Lynch in 2008 at the height of the crisis, said its total assets soared to $2.4 trillion at the end of 2009 from $1.9 trillion a year earlier.

via BofA losses

The rise in 2009 total assets is good, the fourth quarter loss is just $194 million after TARP payback but overall the card portfolio ( yes, MBNA as we knew it) is by itself $4.9 billion and total write downs have risen to a huge $33 billion from less than half the amount for 2008. Also, BofA and Wells Fargo tomorrow will not have the luxury of international business anymore. However, Wells Fargo is competitive and profit-making. Without HHI, Moynihan would probably continue in a state of suspended thinking and BofA must suffer in 2010 as a result. the ML acquisition is not bringing in ny benefits with top executives walking out and global results affected by well Merrill Lynch.

Bank of America is good at retail banking and even traditional Commercial Banking however, and its trained , much prized employees could still show Wells Fargo a thing or too.

What’s the deal with Cadbury?

It get’s wierd(er). I am flummoxed. Let me bite into a little late night chocolate. Searing hot.

One would have thought, esp the fat cat bankers and the Bens, that Cadbury’s needed a richer valuation. As the story unfolds however, there seems to be more than what meets the eye.[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=FUDGE&iid=5140001″ src=”d/4/9/6/closeup_of_a_3b19.jpg?adImageId=9179782&imageId=5140001″ width=”120″ height=”120″ /]

Nestle backing Kraft did not bring extra cash from Kraft and with Buffet watching, nothing more is likely to happen. However the counter offer for 790p or $12.80 as mentioned by Hershey’s today shows a rather bankrupt chocolate bank. I thought only one would be Charlie’s Willy Wonka. All the players are strapped for Cash, the market is growing, the health foods market is not hurting the Chocolate segment, i don’t see where it needs Willie wonka to save Charlie Cadbury.

But Cadbury is obviously out-of-pocket and cannot fund itself through a Management buy out, neither are the numbers interesting enough for PE. It seems like PE funds are passing on this one maybe because they do not read their stuff here. More chocolate dinners for them please. Transformers? Anyone? with a nice movie to curl up with , of course..[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Chocolate+production&iid=5255854″ src=”3/c/f/1/Close_up_of_6a46.jpg?adImageId=9179945&imageId=5255854″ width=”120″ height=”120″ /]

I think the like of Bronson Point are obviously busy with bigger prey, but there are others who can help Philip Cadbury out of this predicament and continue growing the market. They were a very happy lot after announcing results in the local India office, esp as India and China continue to recruit in MNCs so we can be happy when things don’t move and we can get on with selling. I’m still waiting for the next offer myself.. I need that job for growing India’s brilliant consumer economy.[picapp align=”center” wrap=”true” link=”term=Cadbury%27s&iid=7312398″ src=”3/f/0/6/Cricket_Field_at_0be5.jpg?adImageId=9179974&imageId=7312398″ width=”120″ height=”116″ /]

But, as of now, Ben applied first and Warren Buffet does like fudge. coming back to PE front, no, emerging market desks here are unlikely to be interested because there is so much in infrastructure and IT, so much in existing brands that need to grow 2-3X from a large established base at ITC, Unilever and P&G apart from Pepsi and Coke. And Britannia, Fonterra, Kraft itself with the unhurt Nestle and the OTC pharma specials from the big 4.

And the issue was..cash. Of course, they might even need more cash to counter the Diamond Foods campaign in the Superbowl, and Irene wouldn’t overspend. Hershey’s is too small to play with Cadbury, but it shows how much Kraft is under-spending when cottage industry players like Hershey’s that have a niche like Swiss Cheese, no go on this deal.

Where the Infrastructure Dollar went?

2009 was the year of the stimulus for the US. Though the Capitol talked mostly only about stimulus in terms of funds for highways and on setting up of recovery.gov, We started taking notice by June that indeed it was hard to track and hard to estimate..a lot of state and some police projects were awarded at the level of county and job savings ascribed to each to get to recovery.gov. Not entirely accurate but definitely a notch or two better than any other spending program i know. The rest of the jobs program will be best utilised probably by the same jobs..new roads, highways that needed even just guard rails, railway infrastructure.

In February, Obama made whistle-stop tours and exhorted the people to see how much they needed these highways and bridges, and how these were unfinished business:

Mr. Obama is proposing what he says is the largest increase in infrastructure spending since President Dwight Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s.

“We will invest more than $100 billion and create nearly 400,000 jobs rebuilding our roads, our railways, our dangerously deficient dams, bridges and levees,” he said.

The president said funding infrastructure projects will also help create jobs in other areas of the economy. He specifically mentioned the Caterpillar company, which makes much of the heavy equipment used in road projects. Caterpillar recently announced more than 20,000 layoffs.

“And today, the Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan passes, his company would be able to rehire some of those employees,” he said.

via VOA

By July, we were comparing dollars at each city:

Track These At Recovery.Gov In Time | NY Times

The NY Times story here was obviously received well because of the graphics and the comparative data, much of which may need to be reworked now. A look at recovery.gov shows 40-45% of the funds being drawn by county programs such as the 11921 awards in California, mostly grants and around 10% ($1.3 billion ) in contracts, going to police stations buying LCD Flat screen TVs and Crowd Control System upgrades, waste water collection systems, increase health center services and presumably the roads, bridges and the highways.

Out of the $158.7 billion awarded ( 58%) 13% has been received and more can probably be done now in receiving those funds and working out what is wrong with the process.

Nonetheless, many in the developing world and even Europe could also use the recovery.gov example to start cleaning the Augean stables of public works. Well begun is half done. But with only 12000 jobs related in Arizona and jobs being reported in fictional districts, well..someone needs to figure out what is wrong and fix it. Similarly Texas has only reported 20000 jobs created and the country as a whole is already reporting 600000 jobs created by the stimulus..obviously not going to match with the rising unemployment numbers..and i haven’t heard from any of these folk on twitter..strange?

In California, almost 45% has been allocated by the Department of Education ( 8 out of 18 billion )  and more than 15% to the Department of Transportation – Have people really seen these half a million jobs making a difference? Have these funds to school districts saved the schools or the teachers? There however the reports are still missing, probably dwarfed by the enormity of the task involved

An example of the agency wise allocation is in the included screen grab for Alabama on the right. It is a great time for people at these agencies to get back with the results. America needs it before going on another joyride with public funds. If you go by these statistics the journos at Reuters have done a pretty ‘funny’ piece with the stats

The second stimulus program may just be going the wrong way without a detailed success/failure report on the first one.

The new Jobs program

The “Jobs for Main street” , Whitehouse’s own repartee to the Wall street cats, is equally unrepentant getting another $40 billion for Department or Transportation, to teach us the ‘new deal’ all over again. The ARRA year has gone by and we are still thinking about another set of roads that will be up in ‘120 days’. I thought the overwhelming majority passed it because it was creating jobs? Especially now with the shadow inventory showing, it is time to tread a little cautiously and on sure footing not ‘sidings and tarpools’ The ARRA bill already has 7886 transportation projects underway.

An example of others who could have got the money is below from The Huffington Post

Demand for high-speed rail funding has well exceeded the expectations that existed when the recovery bill was signed last year. Currently, there are close to $60 billion in project applications from more than 30 states competing for the first $8 billion in federal high-speed rail funding, which will go out in a few months. Domestic and foreign investors and private industry have taken notice of the government’s initiative and the sector has exploded over the last few months, providing hope for new employment that can offset the massive losses in the automotive industry. All eyes are on Congress to see if they will follow through on the initial down payment in their next major transportation spending bill.

Jobs are being lost every month even two years after the recession began. While the number has stopped growing very fast, the number of jobs lost is growing every month without fail. These businesses cannot just wait for banks to start lending, and pretty soon we are going to be out of money to print.  We were losing more than 600,000 jobs every month just a few weeks back. This recovery will take much longer than in the Asia and Latam markets. The unemployment rate is still above 10% even after November showed up a huge improvement to just 11000 lost jobs ( just Kentucky lost 5000 out of this!) 15.4 million are still looking for work hopelessly stuck with a lasting unemployment with even the limited foreign worker visas going unrequited in this situation. The long term unemployed, looking for work for more than 6 months are a good 38.3% of the unemployed, another record for America.

More foreclosures

Thousands Of New York Area Home Owners Attend Mortgage Modification Event

Even as dismal numbers from the loan modification program caused an extension of the program till October 2010 ( see Geithner extends TARP) the latest shadow inventory nos ( detailing foreclosures shocked the nation with 1.7 million available for sale from foreclosures. St Louis got an award for 800 modifications to save homes from foreclosure! There seems to be no comparison between the two figures, and more is required than depending on just road construction to make new jobs

Probably some of the economists at Obama and Biden’s offices are already at work untangling the confusion of the stimulus and getting ready to tell us what has worked. I think it’s time.

Citi fizzles out in end 2009 bid

Repayment week came a cropper as Citibank found a lukewarm market waiting for its sale to raise the $20 billion to repay. It seems Vikram Pandit’s team failed to do the required homework before declaring its ambitious calendar and lacked the skills to judge the market conditions right for its sale. All the meetings Vikram Pandit had been having with the Treasury came a cropper on a day that mysteriously coincided with Obama’s call to the bankers.

The market does nt ignore such folly. All insider trading and information based decisioning apart, the market first and foremost reads market information and that information now puts Citi and AIG in the same league. Both will now be assessed with a lack of direction and difficulty in reading its stakeholders because of a simple public fracas. I mince no words when I say that they could now be treated worse than an Accenture cuddling Tiger woods a week after the man destroyed his marriage.

This is a setback for the entire recovery mechanism and a symptom of the misreading that afflicts the Geithers, Benmoshes and the Pandits

Even a Hongkong market could raise over $50 billion but you came out with an offer no one wanted for Citi. Sounds like, Citi is no better than one of the 133 banks that have failed in the US this year. This cannot be compared to the Mortgage meltdown or made a part of it. It needs a new chapter by itself. We all suffer for such fools though the gimmer of hope is that now no one cares when an AIG or Citi breaks the buck and the markets go on with better picks. It’s a shop like any other..In fact in pstate Des Moines in Iowa, the schools and the lake planes are all fine. The Ski resorts are doing big business too. And Dubai is back. Azerbaijan has a sovereign wealth fund. What about the new oil and mineral deposits south of Brazil and in the dense African safari..

Tortoise wins race for best U.S. city for business – MarketWatch

It’s no fluke in the pan either. Spokane (WA), Phoenix (AZ) and Boise(ID) have been consistent scorers, because you can get the same quality of life for much less than a crushing load on your pockets. And your favorite banks and ATMs have not been taken down either. Your favourite super retailers are there right till Nordstrom, I’d say do it now. Figure out where you want to live in that new pay cap, and your office will do it for you. Come to Iowa, Come to Nebraska. Come in your own plane. That is why your bonus is in the best stock you could own, your employer. Try it!

We all know the fable of the tortoise ultimately winning his painstakingly measured race against the hare.

Apply that to today’s economy and it’s relatively easy to come up with a winner for MarketWatch’s third survey of the best U.S. cities for business. This year’s victor is the subdued terrapin of regional economies: Des Moines, Iowa — population 556,230.

via Tortoise wins race for best U.S. city for business – MarketWatch.

A new strategic climate fund

Everyone is in Oil these days and with Dubai coming back off the cliff, China bankrolling African dreams, Indian energy corps going global and Russia waiting to come back from a contraction and Gazprom thru Europe without Ukraine, that is the light at the end of the tunnel. Though a lot of people have talked about it, a market for carbon credits has just taken off this year, Copenhagen may likely have an agreement and time is ripe for the right people to get into energy funds. Who better than the Governments and the World Bank…Great news to hear. Maybe some will bankroll ethanol the right way too! It’s a great collection of baubles from the O’nomics back team to clear out the Christmas tree. Rassmussen reports will love Obama and the markets will love this new Sheikh out of Texas and the sands.

The United States pledged on Monday to contribute $85 million to a $350 million multinational fund aimed at speeding up renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies in poor countries. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced a high-level meeting will be held in Washington next year of major developed countries energy ministers to discuss global deployment of clean energy technology. Chu made the announcements on the sidelines of a Dec. 7-18 international climate conference in Copenhagen. The talks temporarily stalled on Monday when African countries walked out, accusing rich countries of trying to kill the U.N. Kyoto Protocol which set targets for emissions cuts by most industrialised countries. Projects which the fund will support include a plan to speed affordable solar-generated lighting systems and LED lanterns to those without access to electricity. Chu said the devices would eliminate air pollution from indoor kerosene lamps that he said contributes to 1.6 million deaths per year in poor countries. Other facets of the programme are the encouragement of more energy-efficient appliances in developing countries and rich country information-sharing of clean energy technologies. The White House said the financing would enhance a World Bank strategic climate fund that helps poor countries develop national renewable energy plans. Italy, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland also are participating and already have promised funds.

via MyFeedMe – Show Article.

We shld start saving right about now..

Well these here are the expenses we needed done..

Jobs bill approved

The U.S. House approved a $154 billion economic-aid package and a $290 billion increase in the legal limit on government borrowing as the chamber wrapped up its legislative business for the year.

via Bloomberg

The house voted these measures in with a narrow vote and the senate is expected to oppose the jobs bill
Once the senate is done, that makes the complete $1.1 T including the defense spending below and starts the jobs giveaway..i hope recovery.gov can track this one.

Isn’t a $1.1 trillion too much?

Wow, it might add up to a little more

This $1.1 trillion bill is not using the leftover funds from TARP at all. And sorry to sound like a tired donkey on the wrong crop, but keeping stakeholders happy with extra cash is going to come back to someone discussing your Rassmussen reports.

In the Fat Cat Bankers interview,

In the interview, which was conducted last week for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Mr. Obama was asked about Wall Street banks that had recently recovered enough to repay government loans, but once again planned to give large bonuses to employees. News of the bonuses has has only fueled continuing anger over the bank bailouts.

“They don’t get it,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re still puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let’s see. You guys are drawing down ten million, twenty million dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it’s gone through in decades, and you guys caused the problem.”

Lawrence H. Summers, the White House chief economic adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that bankers “need to recognize that they’ve got obligations to the country after all that’s been done for them, and there is a lot more they can do.”

There is a reason why this comes here. Obama meets the bankers tonight to discuss their ‘special responsibility’ that presumably ties in with his own fiscally prudent self. And he is signing of $1100 billion at the year end himself. With an extra $650 billion for

The bankers will probably tell him his funds are safe now that BofA and Citi are well on their way, In fact BofA is now out of the purview of Federal supervision, leaving only 6 like Citi and AIG in their grasp. The Financial regulatory bill has more than 12 months to go in the Senate, notwithstanding the approval by the House.

These are the pork projects for the FBI and the CIA over 3000 of them

This still leaves the $650 billion defense bill that includes action to raise the $12.1 trillion ceiling of US debt and proposals to save the job market. This includes the savings from TARP funds as of today. In the five bills included in the sign off piece, FBI gets $7.9 billion, a $680 million increase over 2009; the Veterans Health Administration budget goes from $41 billion to $45.1 billion; and the National Institutes of Health receives $31 billion, a $692 million increase.

All but three Democrats voted for the bill, while all but three Republicans opposed it. And as any other year end appropriation, this will be fodder for the GOP that indulged itself with a much bigger ticket every other year. More importantly, Obama needs to steer the debt and the fiscal deficiti back on track and make jobs from the petty cash he has left including this $1.1 T ( that’s just another trillion) all funded from Chinese purchase of treasuries. Hoo boy, bad end to the year!, but probably in the normal course of affairs. It is probably more a ‘Fat Cat Armed Forces’ vs the ‘Fat Cat Intelligence’ and others waiting for the annual dole. Economics and the Economy never sung the same notes, let alone the same song.

Actually, the bill has quite a few saving graces and is more than justfied. My fellow bloggers should be able to see the woods and the trees both without shaking up the snow flurries. Here are the details from Reuters:

Following are details on some items in the legislation:

* Includes $1.11 billion, a 14 percent boost, to allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to hire 420 workers to oversee investments and financial markets. The agency has faced questions about its effectiveness after it failed to catch a $65 billion scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff.
* Provides $824 million for the Small Business Administration, a 26 percent increase, to support new lending to small businesses. Further efforts to encourage small-business growth could pass Congress in the coming weeks as part of an effort to bring down U.S. unemployment, which stands at 10 percent nationally.
* Requires General Motors Co and Chrysler to submit to binding arbitration to determine whether auto dealerships they have tried to close should be reopened.
* Includes a 50 percent increase to fight fraud in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Lawmakers say this could save $48 billion over the next 10 years.
* Provides $2.5 billion for high-speed rail intercity rail projects, on top of $8 billion signed into law earlier this year as part of the economic stimulus bill.
* Includes nearly $1.5 billion for new nonmilitary aid to Pakistan, proposed by Obama as one tool to combat extremism there.
* Has no money for an infrastructure bank requested by the Obama administration to finance large-scale transportation projects. Lawmakers said the $5 billion project was too complex to handle through a spending bill.
* Reduces economic, governance and security aid to Iraq by 30 percent; keeps levels to Pakistan and Afghanistan roughly the same.
* Prevents the government from doing business with U.S. companies that have moved headquarters overseas to reduce their tax bills.
* Prevents the Export-Import Bank from providing loans to oil companies that do business with Iran.

[Tag Onomics, 2008, 2009, Banks, Reform, Banking, Crisis, Meltdown, TARP, Healthcare, Health]