End of Summer Linkfest: Week in Preview

Sunday, September 23, 2007 | 06:30 PM

Yesterday, we looked at the week that was. Today, we preview the week that will be.

In my mind, the shock & awe move by the Fed made a few things very clear:

1) The Fed is VERY concerned about a recession in general, and the credit freeze in particular.

2) Inflation -- whether it moderates or not -- has become less of a concern to the Fed;

3) The US dollar has become a sacrificial virgin.

That 3rd issue may be quite telling: Jack Ablin notes that "growth in the S&P 500, up almost 8% in dollars year-to-date, dwindles to 1% when denominated in euros. If the dollar falls further, U.S. markets become much less compelling for overseas investors."

We get some noteworthy economic news this week: On Tuesday, weekly same Store Sales and Conference Board's consumer confidence index are released, followed by Existing Home Sales. New Home Sales data is released Thursday. The Housing issue has two problems: There's too much inventory, and prices are too high. (Gee, do ya think these problems are related?).  Also on deck this week: earnings reports from both  Lennar (LEN) and KB Home (KBH).

Wednesday we hear the Durable Goods Orders data, and MBA Purchase Applications fdor mortgages. On Thursday, the Final Q2 2007 GDP data is released (old news). We also get Jobless Claims and the Help Wanted Index. Friday sees 4 minor reports, all of which are liekly to contradict each other: Personal Income and Outlays (mediocre), NAPM-Chicago (pretty ok), Construction Spending (good) and Consumer Sentiment (could be good).

As if we haven't heard enough from the Fed, this week brings speeches from: Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, St. Louis Fed President William Poole, Boston President Eric Rosengren, Chicago President Charles Evans, Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen. Then, just for shoots & giggles, both Poole and Mishkin speak again on Friday (whew!).

Finally, Q3 earnings pre-announcement period is upon us. We could hear some interesting items, both positive and negative, from quite a few belwhethers.

We have links to get at, and sins to atone for. Time to get busy:

INVESTING & TRADING

A Big Lift, or a Sign of Trouble?:  TRADERS were ecstatic when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point instead of the quarter-point move that many had expected. Whether the good times keep rolling or slow to a crawl as second thoughts emerge may become clear this week. It could go either way, said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. It depends on how much largess Wall Street is counting on from the central bank, and for how long.  (New York Times) 

• The usually soberJon Markman asks: Are we headed for an epic bear market?:  Rather than joining the crowd that blames the mess on American slobs who took on more mortgage debt than they could afford and have endangered the world by stiffing lenders, he points a finger at three parties: regulators who stood by as U.S. banks developed ingenious but dangerous ways of shifting trillions of dollars of credit risk off their balance sheets and into the hands of unsophisticated foreign investors; hedge and pension fund managers who gorged on high-yield debt instruments they didn't understand; and financial engineers who built towers of "securitized" debt with math models that were fundamentally flawed. (MSN)

Fear of a Dollar Collapse, part II    

Why Firms Like Smucker May Feel Pinch of Debt Crunch: In recent years, Smucker joined the ranks of other nonfinancial companies such as Garmin Ltd., Microsoft Corp., Netflix Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. by investing in what had been viewed as relatively safe investments that produced slightly better returns than cash and government bonds -- and could be sold quickly if needed. Many of these companies are cash-rich, looking for a secure place to park their millions. And none are expected to cash out any time soon. The issue for investors is how these companies determine the "fair" value of their mortgage-backed securities in the current environment, and whether they are telling the whole story about how easily these assets can be liquidated -- and for how much. (Wall Street Journal).

Mark Hulbert asks, How Many Quarters in a Row Can Earnings Really Grow?: A new study has found compelling evidence that companies often tinker with their earnings to make themselves look more attractive.The study found nearly 600 companies over the last four decades that at some point reported earnings increases for at least 20 consecutive quarters — far more than would be expected if no earnings manipulation had taken place.  (New York Times) 

How Does the S&P 500 Respond to Rate Cuts?   

An American Prius? Here's how U.S. carmakers could catch up: When it comes to hybrids, the heavyweight tussle between American and Japanese automakers appears to be a hopeless mismatch. Toyota introduced its gas-electric hybrids in 1997 (when regular was $1.18 per gallon), and in June announced its 1 millionth hybrid sale. In the first eight months of this year, Toyota sold 189,945 hybrids in the United States, with Honda notching a respectable 24,000. As for the Americans? Don't ask. Ford doesn't break out sales of Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids. At General Motors, hybrids—like long-promised market-share gains—are mostly concepts. (Slate)

Gold, Again, Becomes a Shield Against the Unknown: GOLD is supposed to be a destination for scared money, but as the credit crunch intensified last month, this presumed haven lost value along with many other assets. Only after the worst of the crisis had passed did traders return to gold, sending its price sharply higher. The metal has gained about $80 an ounce, or 12 percent, since mid-August, around the time the stock market reached a trough. While share prices have since had ups and downs, gold’s ascent has been nearly uninterrupted. (New York Times) 

New rich storm into Forbes 400: Victory lap or last hurrah? Buy-out titans and hedge fund managers stormed the citadel of US wealth last year, barging their way into the Forbes 400 annual list of richest Americans on the back of buoyant capital markets and record merger activity. Nearly half of the 45 new entrants in the magazine’s latest tally of US billionaires – which was topped once again by Bill Gates – came from the neighbouring worlds of private equity and hedge funds. (FT)

What the big banks aren't telling you -- yet: With credit markets still largely frozen, unemployment rising and major corporate expenditures slowing to a halt, every indication suggests that a surprising number of major financial firms, including Wachovia (WB, news, msgs), Washington Mutual (WM, news, msgs) and Bank of America (BAC, news, msgs), will come up short of expectations in October, kicking off an unpleasant autumn for investors.Investors need to care more about financial stocks than any others because they make up more than 20% of the broad market indexes. So let's get some clarity on exactly what they're facing.At the moment, the estimated growth rate for all S&P 500 Index ($INX) companies in the third quarter is clocking in at 5.1%. That's down sharply from the 6.2% growth rate estimated two months ago and half last year's growth rate. The funny thing is that most of those downward revisions of estimates have come in the industrial, consumer staples and retail sectors of the economy. Yet the financial industry, which has undoubtedly experienced the worst business shortfall, has barely received any material earnings-estimate cuts yet. (MSN)

Wary Buyers May Scuttle Two Deals: Two more private equity deals showed signs of unraveling yesterday, as buyers and bankers grow increasingly wary of the multibillion-dollar purchases they rushed into only months ago. In the $8 billion buyout of Harman International Industries, the buyers — the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the investment bank Goldman Sachs — announced yesterday that they intended to walk away from the deal.  (New York Times)


ECONOMY

• A FESTIVAL OF GREENSPAN:

-Greenspan's Memoir Shows Dangers of Irrational Book Advances (Bloomberg)
-William Greider looks at The Lies of Alan Greenspan (Nation)
-Greenspan Media Blitz!   
-It's Not His Economy (TIME)
-Greenspan's Miscues Haunt Bernanke Fed (Bloomberg)
-Greenspan was more a rock star than a feared Fed sage (UK Telegraph)
-GREENSPAN DISCOVERS THAT HUMAN BEINGS ARE … IRRATIONAL!  (Slate)   

FedEx Forecasts Bumpy Road for Economy: FedEx Corp. threw some cold water on hopes that holiday shoppers would give the uncertain economic outlook a boost. The Memphis, Tenn., shipping giant -- regarded as an economic gauge because it handles an average of more than six million packages a day across the world -- reduced its profit target for the year because of an economic outlook pinched by the weak U.S. housing market and higher energy prices. The company said that as a result, it would ratchet back on capital spending. (Wall Street Journal)

Reports of the Death of Inflation Have Been Greatly Exaggerated   

Next to Downsize on Wall Street? The Exchange Floor:  When the latest retreat is complete, the exchange floor will be half the size it was at its peak. The “crowd” — the brokers and clerks on the floor — has dwindled to about 1,700 from a high of more than 3,000. Before the exchange became a public company in 2005, its members controlled 1,366 seats, or licenses to trade. Now, about 800 brokers pay the annual $50,000 fee for a license. (New York Times)

Does the latest financial crisis signal the end of a golden age of stable growth? IF ECONOMICS were a children's tale, a long period of rising incomes and improving living standards would always be followed by a big, bad recession. Rising unemployment, falling spending and contracting output—such is the inevitable reckoning for the good times of plentiful jobs and abundant earnings that went before. The hangover needs to be commensurate with the party.  No country has had it quite so good as America. For the past 20 years or more its economy has managed an enviable combination of steady growth and low inflation. To add to its good fortune, spending has routinely exceeded its income—leading to a persistent current-account deficit—without any apparent ill effects on the economy. The occasional setbacks have been remarkably small by historical standards. At the start of 1991, for instance, America's GDP fell for a second successive quarter (a common definition of a recession). But output soon recovered and by the end of the year had surpassed its previous peak. The next downturn, in 2001, was shallower still, with GDP dipping by less than half a percent. (The Economist)   

• I am required reading at NYU, in Prof. Nouriel Roubini's intro to Economics class!




HOUSING

How Low Will Home Prices Fall ?   

The Invasion of the Renters:   In another manifestation of the housing slump, thousands of property owners across the country are now renting out homes they cannot sell. As a result, developments and condos that once were largely owner-occupied are filling up with renters who some neighbors say are less engaged in their communities and less concerned about maintenance. Fearful of declining property values, some homeowner associations are fighting back -- targeting lax landlords and renters with "good neighbor" letters, limiting the number of units that can be rented at any one time, and, in some cases, banning investors from buying altogether. See also Late Mortgage Payments Continue to Climb   

Real Estate Inventory Still Building

• Here's a real estate related term I had never heard before: NINJA Loan - No Income, No Job or Assets   
   


TECHNOLOGY & SCIENCE

The Emoticon is 25 years old. Whoop-dee-frickin'-doo   :-0

Ice withdrawal 'shatters record' Arctic sea ice shrank to the smallest area on record this year, US scientists have confirmed.The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005. (BBC) see also: The North Pole Is Melting   

Look Who's Blogging: Paul Krugman   

Velociraptor dino 'had feathers'  (BBC)

Is The 'Surge' Working? Some New Facts (MIT Department of Economics)

 



MUSIC BOOKS MOVIES TV FUN!

• I'm always attracted to books that give insight into the investors mind. The newest outing from Harvard prof Steven Pinker looks to be just that sort of book: “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature” explores human cognition: the modesty of its construction and the majesty of its constructive power. Philosophical realists, for instance, think perception comes from reality. Idealists think it’s all in our heads. Its all the same reality, but is organized and reorganized by the mind. That’s why you can look at the same thing in different ways. Fascinating concept, completely applicable to the Bull/Bear debate. Here's the NYTimes review, a great video of Steven Pinker at TED on The stuff of thought, via Harvard, the Authors home page, and lastly, the book itself.

• This is still one of the funniest movie previews ever: Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedian."

• The NYT stops charging for older articles, and Jason Kottke discovers these Gems from the archive of the New York Times    

• Offline: Wired magazine (print only so far) has a long interview with Director Ridely Scott, all about the making and remaking of Blade Runner. (I'll post a link once it goes online). Great stuff.

 

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. My favorite quote on the subject comes from Jon Stewart, comparing Yom Kippur to Lent and, therefore, Jews to Catholics, Stewart said, “You give up something for 40 days. We go one day without eating. Even in sin, you pay retail.”

~~~

Got a comment, suggestion, link idea? Or do you just have something on your mind? The linkfest loves to get email!  If you've got something to say, then by all means please do.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 | 06:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
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Comments

Thanks Barry for highlighting Jon Markman's MSN article and thanks to the original poster of the link in comments from a few days ago.

The house of cards appears fragile indeed.

Can the powers that be prop up the markets until the 2008 elections?

Thank you also Barry for an incredible site. I can't believe how much time and effort you put into it. Well done.

Posted by: PeterR | Sep 23, 2007 7:06:24 PM

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