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Showing posts from September, 2008

The Limits of Optimism

The absurd actions of our financial authorities continue to impress with the sheer hubris and vast scale of their proposals - with today's bailout attempt being the latest and greatest of many attempts. Some of the government's contortions would be impressive even for Cirque du Soleil were they not such a blatant effort to distort the market. Our nation and the world at large seem to be living out the economic equivalent of a Kafka novel today. Yet even here we see the boundaries of government interference and the limits of (unjustified) optimism. As advocates of the free market and rule of law, we have been constantly appalled. A nominally Republican administration continually interferes with market forces and changes investment rules in the middle of the game. How did we come to such a sad pass?

Like many children, yours truly had a favorite word for much of his childhood - "Why?" Eventually, I stopped bothering Mother but never stopped asking the question. It is …

Shadow Banks, Shadow Government

Here at Financial Jenga, we don't often comment directly on politics - being much more inclined towards economics. We are also equally skeptical of both groupthink and conspiracy theories - which tend to be opposite sides of the same psychological coin. However, the sheer scale of the current crisis and many of the proposed solutions make this problem inherently political. It would also appear that many of the "fixes" being bandied about won't actually fix anything but WILL benefit certain politically-connected parties.

There is considerable evidence that the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street will do little to fix the credit problems. One of the key arguements used by supporters is that banks don't have enough money to keep lending. This is simply a lie. The latest Fed H.3 report shows that excess reserves in the banking system were $68.8 billion as of 9/24/08. This is 1400% above any other datapoint for the past year and more than 2000% higher than the…

Frederick the Great vs. Hank Paulson

This is total panic time. They're now firing off everything that they have after the first several attempts at an options expiration week stick save failed badly. Basically, the Treasury is guaranteeing virtually everything now with backstops for money market mutual funds and a new super SIV for bad assets. But as Fredrick the Great said: "He who defends everything, defends nothing!" This was a simple acknowledgement of military reality - concentrate on protecting the most important assets. Spreading yourself too thin invites defeat in detail and the destruction of your forces. Then the enemy can loot at leisure.

The government seemingly doesn't understand this but they will. There simply isn't the money to do everything and in their arrogance the Fed and Treasury have over-reached badly. By trying to save all of the bankrupt financial companies, they are weakening the defenses of the strategic key - Treasury debt. The bond market is already demanding 50 basis poi…

The Fed is Broke

Three months ago we published Why Bennie Can't Lend, detailing the Fed's balance sheet and the limitations they were up against. We contended that they were out of cash and unable to sell their bond holdings without serious consequences. That is why their incremental actions have been limited to the TSLF, where they loan out the actual bonds rather than cash. Today, the Fed admitted that we were right all along by arranging for the US Treasury to raise more money for them so they can keep lending via the alphabet soup of liquidity facilities.

The Federal Reserve has announced a series of lending and liquidity initiatives during the past several quarters intended to address heightened liquidity pressures in the financial market, including enhancing its liquidity facilities this week. To manage the balance sheet impact of (ed. - ie. pay for) these efforts, the Federal Reserve has taken a number of actions, including redeeming and selling securities from the System Open Market…