Power And Dollar

Did Obama Plagiarize Glass And Stegall?

Did Obama’s Volcker’s Rule announcement contribute to the drop of DJ?  Did Obama plagiarize Glass and Stegall?  Pundits all over the place say that is the result of the Volcker’s Rule.  One, Volcker’s Rule alone did not necessitate the fall.  Two, who among these pundits actually read what the White House press release, and not the Bloomberg announcement, is about?  Three, Volcker’s Rule is not “new”.  Volcker’s Rule is actually a re-tro.  Four and finally, what is the implication/impact (theoretical or academic) of Volcker’s Rule?  What can we learn from Geithner’s opposition to this Volcker’s Rule?

Yahoo (of all places) actually hit it right: there are plenty of reasons for DJ to fall.  Realizing the profits from Massachusetts Senator election is quite a good reason already.  In fact, the rise of DJ on Tuesday contradicts the fall of DJ on Thursday: DJ rose because the market expected that having 1 more Republican in the Senate would derail the agenda of Obama.  If investors believed in that, then the investors could not have believed Obama’s Volcker’s Rule would become law.  So, Volcker’s Rule alone did not create the fall.

The White House press release regarding Volcker’s Rule actually gives very little information.  And luck would have it that everything covered by Obama’s 01.21 announcement is already covered by H.R.4173 – Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.  Quite possibly, nothing is new. 

Worse, nothing is new: Glass-Steagall Act probably covered everything Volcker’s Rule is about.  Since Volcker’s Rule is not in the legislation form, no comparison can be done.  In fact even Volcker calls it “in the spirit” of Glass-Steagall Act.  It further proves that Obama named it Volcker’s Rule for political purposes: to show he is doing something to punish the bad guys (banks) for the rest of us. 

Preventing banks from having private equity funds, hedge funds et etc do decrease profits of the banks.  However, these funds make up 5% of revenues of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Citi (NYSE: C) and the like.  Yes, it does strengthen the point that this rule is for show, especially after the Massachusetts’ loss.  However, Volcker’s insistence on this issue has a point: it takes 5% of their revenue.  However, these banks are using depositors’ money to play these large bets, using FDIC’s insurance to back themselves up, and twisting their risk adjusted return on capital (RAROC).  Here is an example:  How much can $1000 bet if you were to trade on currencies?  Answer: with $1k, you can trade the equivalent of $100k of Japanese yen, British pound, Euro and so on.  If the currency fluctates 1%, the $1k is already gone.  If the market swings more than 1%, the bank has to lose all of its money (the $1k depositors’ money) and more.  So, these banks are misappropriating depositors’ money (which would be illegal in insurance laws), making taxpayers pay for their risk, and presenting themselves before the eyes of investors. 

What it really does is to draw out a lot of hot money from the market: less money will change hands on a daily basis.  That affects all industries.  Investors (institutional espeically) will have to play with real money, if this works.  Retail investors will make up a greater proportion of money in the market than before.  Market will be more difficult to be manipulated than before by a few players.  Will that shrink the whole market? Probably.  However (or hopefully), it will mean everyone will be trading with a saner head since no one will be playing with free money.


January 25, 2010 Posted by | banking, Current Events, Investment, legislation, market, Money, obama, opinion, Palin, politics, Thoughts, trading, US politics, wordpress-political-blogs | 3 Comments

Market Concurs Pollsters

It is now less than 3 weeks to the voting day.  Electoral vote spread is 128 (Obama vs McCain : 286 vs 158).  Even if McCain takes the rest of the toss up states, he is still 34 votes behind (94 toss up).  Short of Osama (not a typo) surprises, opposition dramatic tricks and voting irregularities, Obama’s path is fairly clear.  In fact, Obama has to tell his supporters not to be “cocky.  


Obama’s searches at google are already double of McCain’s.  Of course the news volumes of the two are about the same.  People are already expecting the result. 


The market seems to suggest the same.  Yesterday was the final debate.  Today would be a check to see if the market likes what the pollsters are saying.  Pollsters are saying Obama won.  Market finally went up for a bit.    


The next check is November 5’s market closing.  What industries go up on that day?  What industry do down on that day?  These would directly reflect the market sentiments regarding the new administration’s policies.  


However, given the state the economy is in, everything should go up, not only because of Obama, but some sense of certainty.  


A lot of commentators gave out long to do lists for the next administration.  This is only an example.  However, I have not seen one mentioned about America’s future creditors.  What future creditors, you ask.  Well, someone has to finance the $700B.  Half of the US bonds are bought by foreigners.  China takes 10%.  Gulf states take another 8, 9%.  With the saving rate close to 0% in America, these foreigner lenders will work like credit card companies.  How much flexibility will the next administration have? 

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, John McCain, market, mccain, obama, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

The Danger Of The Merrill Purchase To You

Thank God, they bailed out AIG”?  Can we say “Thank God, Bank of America bought Merrill”?

Do you think the Merrill (NYSE:MER) take-over by Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is better than the bankruptcy of Lehman (NYSE:LEH)?  Because at least the company is saved?  Not really, unless you are an employee of Lehman.  In fact, the Merrill take-over by Bank of America is worse to all tax payers and to anyone who is a depositor of Bank of America (Bank of America has overseas operations).  


Investment banks take high leverages.  Investment banks have a different nature in their business from retail or commercial banks (or wholesale banks).  That is why investment banks have a much more volatile nature than other banks.  For instance, take the year 2000 instead of 2008.  The market capitalization variation of Citi (NYSE:C) is only 29% while Goldman (NYSE: GS) is 62%.


The danger of this merger is that since investment banks are a lot more volatile, having a deposit bank and an investment in the same balance sheet puts the retail depositors’ money in danger.  It comes down to one question: what if the hole of investment bank is big enough to suck out all the depositors’ money?  Exactly for this reason, America got a thing called Glass-Steagall: separating investment banks and deposit banks.  This requirement is removed by another law Gramm-Leach-Bliley during Clinton Administration.


Glass-Steagall was created to contain the risks from the investment banking industry, preventing their risks to spread out to all over the place.  Investment banks make loads of money during the good time, i.e. high M&A seasons.  During the bad times, like we have now, investment banks sink harder than Titanic. 


This merger means more of FDIC’s money is now exposed to a greater risk, the hole of Merrill.  Bank of America’s Tier 1 capital is now at best 7.4% Once we see formal filing, we will probably see that the Tier 1 will be even lower than 7.4%.  What is the cost to the depositors?  What can be done about it?  The fed can actually give Bank of America a greater pressure on the Tier 1 capital requirement.  It cannot fix everything, but something. 


Bank of America already swallowed LaSalle and Countrywide.  However, Countrywide is more about swallowing client list.  LaSalle is more about geographic expansion.  Merrill is about a new business line and new clientele.  This will be a great test of Bank of America’s management.  It’s just that Bank of America is not known for management integration.


Certainly Bank of America got the biggest brand in the investment bank.  What is the price in addition to the stock swap?  What is the management cost of this merger?  This will take years or even a decade to work out the integration.  How long will it take to get a divorce out of this one?


September 17, 2008 Posted by | banking, Barack Obama, business, Current Events, Democrats, economics, finance, Investment, John McCain, market, mccain, Money, obama, opinion, politics, Regulation, Republican, Sarah Palin, wordpress-political-blogs | Leave a comment

The Common Interests of BP and Georgia, And Your Money

Ever since the Russia-Georgia conflict became the hot news item, the share prices of British Petro moves as CNN news stories are read.  BP almost became the barometer of this crisis.  Why BP?  They got their pipelines there.  BP is also having a power struggle from Russian government which wishes to take more control of BP’s operation in Russia.  Therefore, if Russia will occupy the land where BP’s pipelines are, it will carry more political risk to BP.   


Therefore, any news of resolution will help BP’s price.  The closing price of BP on 08.08 F is US$60.86 at LSX.  The closing price on Monday is 58.7701 down 3.4%.  The good news on Tuesday brought up the price to $59.32.  Just now, Bush’s announcement helped bring up the price to US$59.60.


BP is not traded in the US.


However, all US oil companies are going up, exactly because they are away from the conflict area, consistent with the argument from Friday’s post: political risk of this conflict was already being priced in the currency market.


So in the short run, Chevron, Exxon, Petro Canada, Marathon and ConocoPhillips are all going up.  Of these 5 companies, 4 are US and 1 is Canada.  The other oil company that is falling is of course Shell which is much closer to the conflict area.


Is the cease fire going hold?  First of all, here is the six point agreement:

1)       Negotiate the status of the 2 separatists provinces

2)       Non violence

3)       Ultimately stops military actions

4)       No interruption against humanitarian aids

5)       Georgian forces returned to permanent positions

6)       Russia returns to pre conflict positions


Now, Russia’s intent is on regime change because the sitting Georgian president is pro West and took Georgia to NATO.  Nothing here actually addresses the core issue.  If there is more information to what is public available, then a cease fire will actually take place.  Else, this is to buy time.  Aljazeera confirms (in addition to US/UK media) Russian troops are still moving.  Therefore, EU or France actually got a worse deal than staying silent.  A broken deal just proves than EU/France is an irrelevant and ineffective broker.  

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, 石油, 美國, economics, Investment, market, middle east, opinion, politics, stock | 1 Comment

Obama And Stock Expectation

Economy is the top concern for voters.  In theory, Democrat contender should have an easy win.  However, poll shows Obama has only a small margin.  Is race really the open question?  Since this race is about Obama vs. anti-Obama, let’s check if Obama’s fiscal policy is giving any hint about his performance.


Considering seniors constitute the biggest voting block, attention should be placed around this block’s interests. 


The flagship item of Obama’s fiscal policy toward seniors is the elimination of income tax among seniors of income less than $50,000.  However, a good portion of seniors’ income, in addition to Social Security, originates from pension funds, individual investment or through downsizing their real estate since most of them generate very little income tax. 


Obama, at the same time, wants to increase capital gain tax from 15% to 28%.  This impacts seniors’ income.  How will this off set Obama’s first $50,000 tax free income for seniors?  No one has the figures yet.  However, let’s see how much hard that will make for the seniors’ stocks (pension plan, IRA, 401k…). 


If the stock is expected to generate 10% after tax growth with 15% capital gain, the stock value has to grow 11.76%.  This is computed by 10% / (1 – 15%).  If the capital gain tax rate is raised to 28%, then the stocks have to grow at 13.89%.  Don’t think the difference is only 2.23%.  Think how much harder the companies have to work in order to generate this 2.23% extra growth:  (13.89% – 11.76%) / 11.76% = 18.06%!  Companies have to work 18% harder to find the growth investors (in this case, seniors) are expecting / dependent on. 


If the seniors are not checking these numbers, fund managers certainly are.  This bit of information probably does not change every voter’s mind.  It certain would help prioritize which stock sits in the parking lot for a while and which queues in the drop list.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Current Events, 美國, Democrats, economics, election, Election 2008, Investment, John McCain, market, mccain, Money, obama, opinion, politics, Republican, stock, wordpress-political-blogs | 10 Comments

Senate Banking Cmt: Mortgage Bill on Thursday

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) yesterday said that his panel on Thursday will consider a draft housing bill that would allow the Federal Housing Administration to insure up to $300 billion in refinanced mortgages, and create a new regulator for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Under the legislation, lenders would, among other things, volunteer to substantially reduce the amount of the original mortgage note. In exchange, the FHA would insure a new loan at a 30-year fixed rate that the borrower could afford. The House last week passed a housing package with some similar measures.

This is not the version of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. 

This plan is more consumer-centric than that of Henry Paulson, although improvements can still be made.  For instance, the mortgage write-down has to be initiated by the lender in this version.  For that reason, the lenders have the strongest incentive to unload the riskiest mortgages first.  However, the riskiest mortgages may not be the neediest. 

This riskiness may be perceived as loan by asset.  The lender may also see that as mortgage payment by burrower’s income.  However, the most desperate burrowers usually would see the need as payment by income.

Burrower’s consent is not needed.  The house has to be owner occupied.  The gov’t will also own part of the house’s equity (proceed upon sale).

Bush has threatened veto this legislation.


The text can be found in the Banking panel of the Senate website.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | banking, business, Current Events, economics, Investment, law, legislation, market, Money, politics, Regulation, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment

China Earthquake And Your Money

CNN continues to report the newest death toll caused by China’s earthquake.  What stocks are affected by this earthquake?  This natural disaster in China is a lot closer to America than Myanmar’s simply because China is a lot more involved in the global economy.


More than 2 dozens of Chinese public traded companies can be found in the States either as stocks or as ADR.  The PetroChina (NYSE: PTR) is the first one to be affected because it has fields in Sichuan, the province where the quake occurred.  Those oil wells are now shut.  This company is the largest oil company in China.  Nippon Oil (TSE only) has a joint venture with PetroChina.  


China Telecom (NYSE: CHA) may get the worst hit since it has 10% of all land lines in the region.

Sinopec (NYSE: SNP), which is developing a field in Sichuan may see decrease in revenue.  Damage to this gas field is unknown.


China Life (NYSE: LFC) is also dropping since it is expected to have a lot more life insurance claims.  This life insurance company is the largest in China.  The selling pressure is short term since the life insurance penetration in that area is low.  In fact, the price has come back up after the initial drop.  This selling pressure only lasted for 1 day.


PICC Property & Casualty (other-otc: PPCCF) may actually get a bigger hit than the life insurance companies.


Negative impact on HSBC will be minimal since this bank has very exposure to this geographic area.


Qingling Motors (OTC: QGLHF) will get negative impact.  This area has some exposure to auto factories and circuit design.  However, the foreign trade is not concentrated here. 


Huaxin Cement’s price is going up already, in anticipation of more infrastructure projects.  Huaxin is traded in Shanghai only.  Lafarge SA (OTC: LFRGY), of France, is the parent company of Huaxin.  Cement company Anhui Cement is other-otc: AHCHF.


Construction equipment companies that have a presence in China will do well.  Check Caterpillar’s (NYSE CAT) exposure in China or Hong Kong.  Its competitors are Deere, Gehl.  Astec builds road construction equipements and components (NASDAQ ASTE).  Check its exposure in China or Hong Kong.  A strong exposure will be a good sign.   

All medical supplies companies are going up in China and Hong Kong.


Foreign companies such as IBM, Intel, Wipro (NYSE: WIT) have sites here.  Japanese Toyota and Hitachit also have sites here. 

This earthquake will drive up inflation in China.  Given the tourism brought by Olympics, Chinese yuan is expected to appreciate until the end of the games.


If your desired company cannot be found in the States, find a proxy company in Hong Kong stock exchange, or ADR in the states.  If you are interested at funds, then get an Asian (or Far East) fund that has a heavier emphasis of infrastructure and medical supplies industries, a heavier emphasis in Hong Kong.  A lot of companies in China may get suspended if it has a big swing in price.  Hong Kong does not have such restriction.  This gives your mutual fund manager a greater flexibility.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | banking, business, China, Current Events, economics, 香港, finance, Investment, market, opinion, politics, stock, Thoughts, trading, wordpress-political-blogs, 国事, 中國 | 2 Comments

India Still Has Potential

India held its last election in 2004 and due for another one in 2009 or earlier.  The party in power is Congress and they won primarily for their agenda for the lower castes and/or the poor.  India has been having great economic performance as well.  India still has potential to be exploited.  This potential can be achieved when the social integration of the untouchable is successful.  And investments in that area require a tacit knowledge. 


CNN made a mistake in using the word class.  It could have been a typo if class were used consistently through out its content.  However, class and caste are used inter-changeably in the content.  That seems to suggest the difference between caste and class is misunderstood.  Class can be ascribed, as Plato suggests.  Caste is innate.  


Prior to Congress’ victory, many foreigner investors considered the previous government led by BJP as more investor friendly.  This is to argue otherwise.  


BJP’s core value was Hindutva.  That was to ask: who is Indian?  That came as polarizing as Bush was to the States.  Yes the poor were ignored and that constituted as a block of votes for Congress.  However, investors need this much needed Congress for political stability is the first requirement for any investor into long term investment cycle.


Violence in the rural areas can be instigated by religion as well as by caste differences.  This is only one case that gets to the media.  


Labour upgrade is difficult because education is not as accessible to the lower castes as the upper castes, not necessarily just the untouchables.  Jobs, lending practices are sometimes not favourable to the untouchables in some areas.  


Although the federal government has strong affirmative action laws for the lower castes since the first legislature, social inequality continues.  And sometimes it can turn violent with great organizational support.  


Differences in religion can be just as problematic.  And with the separatist movement at the far corners, although calming down in recent years (or decades now), managing such a diversity requires great political skill.  


Having investments in that area requires all this local knowledge.  The current Congress is just as pro-economic growth as BJP.  In fact the current government is much better equipped than anyone else to manage growth in India.  They have a good finance minister from a major seaport of India.  They have a long history of governance.  In a country where they have strong regulation and a lot of oligopolies, this is an important asset.  The current government is also the party that can unite different castes, religion, promote peace in the region and continue its relationship building effort with its greatest perceived threat of China at the same time.  


April 30, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, economics, India, Investment, market, opinion, politics, stock, wordpress-political-blogs | 22 Comments

From Zimbabwe, Kenya, To Madagascar Oil, China and India

Zimbabwe got a new twist.  CNN reports Mugabe decides not to atten the submit to be held in Zambia, its neighbour.  However, the opposition (Tsvangirai) is attending.  This will give the Tsvangiraia great opportunity to sell his plan of stabilization and strengthens Tsvangirai’s edge both internationally as well as domestically. 

The instability in Zimbabwe affects copper’s prices.  However, the copper price has been receding from its historical high.  This Zimbabwe episode will provide a support price level to copper.  So, this price will probably slow down.

Further down, Sino Union Petro & Chemical secured an oil field with Madagascar, expected to be worth 2B barrels.  China will own 50% of the venture. 

Chinese oil exploration firms have been trying to secure sites overseas with little success.  This is a firt major break not only for them, but also to Madagascar as well.  Madagascar has not produced oil for 60 years, reports Reuters! 

This company is not traded in LSE nor NY.  It is traded in HK only. 

This will also strench India’s resources as well.  Although India is not in as an urgent need as China in terms of resources.  Over the years, China is slowly moving in East Africa (more so than Africa in general), the traditinoally perceived sphere of influence by India.  Not that India has navy bases all over the place, but it has a lot of migrants and control a big portion of trade in East Africa.  It will only be a matter of time for India to express its security concern not only about the Himalaya border and Parkistan, but also about pan India Ocean security issues with China.  These oil exploration companies will have to learn that getting listed in London and NY helps them mitigate political risks.

For India, issues such as Kenya and Zimbabwe will have to become the leverage points for it to enter the stage.  It is probably too late for this episode.  But next time.

April 11, 2008 Posted by | business, China, chinese, Current Events, economics, finance, market, Money, opinion, politics, stock, Thoughts, trading, wordpress-political-blogs | 5 Comments

Zimbabwe and your $$

Wall Street reports (print version) that Zambia President and SADC Chairman Levy Mwanawasa invited 15 South African countries for a submit on the Zimbabwean crisis.  How does Zimbabwe affect your $$?  Zimbabwe itself does not cause that much of a problem.  When the political instability gets Zimbabwe’s neighbour Zambia nervous, then it will affect your $$.  





Zambia and Zimbabwe shares a long border.  Zambia would get nervous because it sees a refugee crisis down the road.  And that is where the problem begins.  Zambia is still a major producer of copper.  This Zimbabwean political instability may create political instability in Zambia as well.  This will drive up the prices of copper.  And from there goes into your alloy producers, manufacturing, construction tools, …


Copper prices have been falling lately (as in days).  However, copper is around the historical highs (2008.04.09’s LMX cash ~8650/MT vs. 2006.05’s LMX cash ~8800/MT).


In addition, this Zimbabwe will increase pressure to push up inflation.  And the inflation effect may not be a cascading effect by imports.  If the Chicago market recognizes this risk quickly, the price level may get worked into it fairly quickly.  That affects the bonds market right away.  And any movement in bonds affects stocks of FIs.  


This may lead people to think about the exchange rate of US dollars.  The exchange rate of US is not affected much by this crisis.  The US exchange may be experiencing some psychological sell off due to US’ recent fall against Chinese Yuan.  US has fallen across the psychological barrier of 1US vs. 7Yuan, read Forbes’ story here.  



AP reports the political story as follows:


The opposition party said Thursday it will not participate in a presidential runoff, while spokesmen for President Robert Mugabe and his chief rival said both will attend an emergency summit of southern African leaders this weekend.

The Movement for Democratic Change says its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the March 29 vote outright, and has accused Mugabe of delaying the results to give ruling party militants time to intimidate voters and ensure he wins a second round.

On Thursday, the opposition leadership met and resolved not to participate in any runoff presidential vote.

“We won the presidential election hands down, without the need for a runoff,” MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti told reporters at a news conference in neighboring South Africa. Party leaders had previously said they would not accept a second round, but the party had not taken a formal stance.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told CNN he believed opposition politicians would be “cowards” if they did not contest a runoff.

“They should come, they should face the music,” he said.

Twelve days after the vote, the results from the presidential race have not been released. The High Court will decide Monday whether to grant an opposition request for release of the election results.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has called an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community for Saturday to discuss the crisis.

“Such meetings are usually very healthy so heads of state can brief each other, not only us in Zimbabwe,” Zimbabwean Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told The Associated Press.

But he insisted the meeting wasn’t necessary. “There is no crisis in Zimbabwe that warrants a special meeting on Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mwanawasa originally planned to send a delegation of former heads of state to Zimbabwe but decided to hold an urgent summit instead, Zambian state radio reported.

Matonga confirmed that Mugabe would attend. “If there is a SADC meeting of heads of state, then obviously he will attend,” he told the AP.

Tsvangirai also will attend the summit, MDC spokesman Nqobizitha Mlilo said, calling him a “head of state.” Biti said the party would press SADC to urge Mugabe to step down.

Tsvangirai, who was traveling throughout the region to ask Mugabe’s peers to push him to end the standoff, was headed Thursday to South Africa to meet with President Thabo Mbeki, Mlilo said.

“If Mr. Tsvangirai is in town and before the president leaves for the next meeting and his program allows it, it is important to hear what Mr. Tsvangirai has to say,” said Aziz Pahad, South Africa’s deputy foreign affairs minister.

African leaders previously deferred to Mbeki and his strategy of “quiet diplomacy” on dealing with Zimbabwe. Mwanawasa has stood out as the only southern African leader to publicly criticize Mugabe’s policies, last year likening the country’s economy to “a sinking Titanic.”

Mugabe has virtually conceded he did not win the election and appears to be campaigning for a runoff by intimidating his foes and fanning racial tensions.

Desmond Mufunde, a newly elected MDC councilman from the rural Gweru district, said soldiers attacked some people in his district last weekend.

Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union accused ruling party supporters of forcing dozens of white farmers off their land and ransacking their homes. Farmers warned that continued chaos could endanger the wheat crop, vital to a nation that has grown deeply dependent on food aid during the worsening economic crisis.

April 10, 2008 Posted by | business, Current Events, economics, finance, market, Money, opinion, stock, Thoughts, trading, wordpress-political-blogs | 1 Comment