Thanksgiving Day Weekend Linkfest: Review/Preview

Saturday, November 24, 2007 | 12:30 PM

Hope everyone enjoyed their Turkeys, be they stuffed, deep fried, or made of (blech!) Tofu.

Hotnot_20071123That may very well be an apt description of markets of late: its a mix of volatility, conflicting      and some new age hope.

Friday's half-day rally prevented an otherwise ugly week from becoming even more so. By the numbers, Gold once again was the big winner, gaining near 5% for the week; Crude Oil was right behind, plus 4.6% on expectations that a panicky Fed will cut rates  gain, further devaluing the greenback. Crowded short or not, the dollar lost another 0.4% this week.

Traders are rotating from equities to bonds, helping U.S. Treasuries and investment grade bonds rally -- they gained 0.8% and 0.4% respectively -- and driving rates down further.

The big losers? Gold's gains were Emerging markets losses -- down about 4.8%. REITs also fell about 2.6%. The Russell 2000 fell nearly 2%, while Nasdaq, the Dow and Global stocks all slipped about one and half percent. The best index was the S&P500, losing only 1.2% -- after Friday's gain of +1.69%.

Barron's Trader column points out that:

"At their lowest point midweek, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor's 500 were about 10% off their October records. More than two-thirds of New York Stock Exchange stocks were slumping below their 200-day averages. The Dow had fallen through its August low, while the S&P 500 slipped into negative territory for the year."

That suggests a market becoming increasingly oversold -- though Friday's light volume rally may alleviate some of that condition.

That was the week that was -- the upcoming will be chock full of fun for traders ands investors alike: Earnings season limps to a close, with several big reports due out this week: Dell reports Q3 results Thursday; we will find out how much of HP's (HPQ) growth has been at Dell's expense. My favorite toy TiVo, reports on Wednesday. (Those of you with Cablebox DVRs, you don't know what you are missing).

Several more retailers report this week: Sears Holdings (SHLD) is wearing some of the luster off of Eddie Lampert's reputation, as both Sears and K-Mart continue to underperform the rest of their retail brethren. It turns out that slapping two pigs together does not create a beauty queen -- you just end up with one large pig.

Several other retailers report next week: Staples (SPLS), American Eagle Outfitters (AEOS) Tuesday, along with recession discounters Dollar Tree (DLTR) and Big Lots (BIG).

Plenty of economic data on the calendar this week: On Tuesday, we get Consumer Confidence; Wednesday, with Oil tickling $100, you should pay attention to the EIA Petroleum Status Report at 10:00am. Also that morning: Durable Goods Orders for October, with a surprisingly broad range of estimates: -2.2%  to  1.4%. Also up: Expectations are low for Existing Home Sales: About a 4.950M  annualized rate.

Thursday, we get the 2nd (Preliminary) GDP data. The prior announcement of 3.9% is not only ancient  history, but it was mostly artificially driven by inflation.   

Speaking of artificial: September  New home sales appeared to rebound -- but only because of the sharp downward revision to August sales. I expect the same misleading data points this month. The September gains will look much worse once they are revised, and the same collection of clowns will discuss the October rebound (based on the prior month revisions). Idiots . . .

Friday we get Personal Income and Outlays, as well as Construction Spending.

Its a full calendar of Fed speechifying: Tuesday we hear from Philadelphia Fed President Charles PlosserCharles Evans;  Wednesday, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher. Thursday, grand poobah Fed Chair Ben Bernanke discusses how he has been hopelessly painted into a corner by his predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Friday, more Plosser -- and, Saint Louis Fed President William Poole and Fed Governor Randall Kroszner. and Chicago Fed President

Due to the holiday, and an excess of caloric intake, this is a single combined Preview/Review posting. This is your one and only linkfest this weekend, so you best enjoy it!

Enough Ben Steinery! On with the linkfest:

INVESTING & TRADING

•  A Turkey of a Market (Barron's) vs  A Post-Thanksgiving Rally (WSJ)

•  Big Buybacks Begin to Haunt Firms: Driven by billions of dollars in share buybacks, record-setting buyouts and a wave of mergers, the amount of stock in the market shrank by hundreds of billions of dollars in the past four years. With the supply of stock down and demand strong, the market rallied. Now, as the economy slows and credit markets buckle, high-profile companies are cutting back on buybacks, and some wish they held on to the cash they gave back to shareholders. "In an environment like this, stock buybacks take second place," said James Dimon, chief executive of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., in a conference call last month. (WSJ)   

The Abysmal Track Records of Moody's, Fitch and S&P   

Technically, a Challenge for Blue Chips: A century-old market-timing theory suggests stocks could fall more. It's called Dow Theory and it tracks two market gauges, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Dow Jones Transportation Average. Based on the writing of Charles Dow, a Wall Street Journal founder, Dow Theory holds that when both indexes move in the same direction, they signal the market's long-term trend. The latest signal flashes red. The transportation average, which follows airlines, railroads and truckers, has tumbled 20% since hitting an all-time closing high July 19. The industrial average has dropped 9.6% since its record close reached Oct. 9.Dow Theory holds the combined weakness of transports and industrials could signal a bear market. (WSJ) see also Barron's Mike Santoli on the excess of Dow Theory chatter

• Hope you followed our Sell advice last week on Fannie Mae: Ouch!   

Fascinating Michael Lewis article: The Evolution of an Investor: "He quit Lehman Brothers and took a job at the Los Angeles office of Bear Stearns. But Bear wasn’t any better. He says he was pressured to make transactions rather than give good advice. The nicest thing he could say about himself was that he hadn’t broken the law. He hadn’t bankrupted anyone or anything like that. But when he stepped back from his job and really looked at it, he realized that a huge amount of his time and energy went into making people feel happy about his advice when they should have been furious. The problem was the constant tension between company and client, caused by the firm’s inability to know what the market or any particular stock was going to do next. And these weren’t bucket shops; they were Wall Street’s most distinguished firms." (Portfolio)   

S&P 500 Profit Flips Negative for Q3: Friday's Rally rescued the SPX, which was (briefly) negative YTD.

Cohen, Bianco See Biggest Gain Since 1971; Dow Theory Disagrees: What do Abby Joseph Cohen, Jason Trennert and David Bianco know that the Dow Theory doesn't? The strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Strategas Research Partners LLC and UBS AG say the Standard & Poor's 500 Index will climb 9.7 percent to 1,600 in the final six weeks of 2007, the steepest gain since 1971. This month's drop in transportation stocks suggests equities may decline instead. With FedEx Corp. and Ryder Systems Inc. leading the Dow Jones Transportation Average to its lowest level this year, the rest of the U.S. market may slump too, according to the 123-year-old theory that says truckers, railroads and airlines lose business before the economy slows. (Bloomberg)

GS: Our Bonus Pool is Bigger than Bear Stearns' Market Cap   

Tax Tips: How You Can Avoid the AMT's Nasty Bite: As tax time approaches, we're looking at ways to minimize your 2007 tax bill. Now it's time to look at the federal alternative minimum tax, or AMT, which has become a bane of taxpayers. The AMT was created to make sure that the wealthy pay taxes. It parallels the regular income tax; taxpayers whose AMT liability is greater than their regular tax liability pay the difference as AMT. That means they lose some popular -- and significant -- deductions, including the standard deduction and the deductions for mortgage interest as well as the state and local taxes you pay. (TheStreet.com)

Tech Internals Struggle; see also Large-cap US multinationals: From darlings to dogs      

Wall Street Plans $38 Billion of Bonuses as Shareholders Lose: Shareholders in the securities industry are having their worst year since 2002, losing $74 billion of their equity. That won't prevent Wall Street from paying record bonuses, totaling almost $38 billion. That money, split among about 186,000 workers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos., equates to an average of $201,500 per person, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The five biggest U.S. securities firms paid $36 billion to employees last year. (Bloomberg)

Wall Street's money machine breaks down: Two things stand out about the credit crisis cascading through Wall Street: It is both totally shocking and utterly predictable. Shocking, because a pack of the highest-paid executives on the planet, lauded as the best minds in business and backed by cadres of math whizzes and computer geeks, managed to lose tens of billions of dollars on exotic instruments built on the shaky foundation of subprime mortgages. Predictable because whether it's junk bonds or tech stocks or emerging-market debt, Wall Street always rides a wave until it crashes. As the fees roll in, one firm after another abandons itself to the lure of easy money, then hands back, in a sudden, unforeseen spasm, a big chunk of the profits it booked in good times. (Fortune) see also Merrill, Morgan, Citi Get Help From Clients' Cash

Last bull abandons China: The old market adage that things that can't last don't, has finally caught up with China. The top-performing investment letter finally has turned decisively bearish on the Middle Kingdom. Cabot China & Emerging Markets Report is currently the top-performing letter according to the Hulbert Financial Digest, up an astonishing 90.29% over the past 12 months vs. a mere 15.06% (phooey!) for the dividend-reinvested Dow Jones Wilshire 5000.  (Marketwatch)

Hedge Funds Bounce Back -- In a Big Way: During the summer, hedge funds were back on their heels. Some big names closed down, others were startled by sudden losses and some investors questioned whether juicy opportunities were a thing of the past. Now, with notable exceptions, hedge funds are storming back -- and pulling in more money than ever from investors.  Leading in market performance are old-school stock pickers, some of whom anticipated the subprime-mortgage mess and have won bets they made against financial companies and lower-rated slices of debt. Unsettled markets also have helped hedge funds. That is because many of them buy certain shares while wagering against others. Some hedgies also are scoring from big moves in oil, gold, currencies and emerging markets. (WSJ)


ECONOMY

The Wall of worry continues to build:

Thanksgiving Inflation: 11% Better enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers -- your big meal cost a lot more than last year!

• Here's a recession 3-fer:

- Economists think U.S. can dodge recession: A panel of prominent economists sees sluggish near-term growth but believes the U.S. economy can dodge a recession, although there were widely divergent views. While the U.S. economy faces a higher risk of recession from credit markets, housing and energy prices, the economists surveyed "still do not see a recession as the most likely outcome," said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, the president of the National Association for Business Economics, who conducted the survey. The median forecast expects the economy to slow in the fourth quarter to a 1.5% GDP growth rate and then gradually improve over the next year. (Marketwatch)

- If the US has a Recession, Who is to Blame?

-Greenspan `Mess' Risks U.S. Recession, Stiglitz Says: Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist, said the U.S. economy risks tumbling into recession because of the "mess'' left by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. "I'm very pessimistic,'' Stiglitz said in an interview in London today. "Alan Greenspan really made a mess of all this. He pushed out too much liquidity at the wrong time. He supported the tax cut in 2001, which is the beginning of these problems. He encouraged people to take out variable-rate mortgages.'' Stiglitz said there is a 50 percent chance of a recession in the U.S. and that growth will certainly slow to less than half of its 3 percent potential. A worldwide jump in credit costs following the collapse of the subprime mortgage market is choking off finance to American consumers. (Bloomberg)

The Weak Dollar Isn't the Inflation Driver It Once Was: The plunging dollar has sent inflation alarm bells clanging across the U.S. But they may be false alarms. A battery of research has been building over the years that the dollar doesn't drive U.S. inflation like it used to.  A key reason: Foreign exporters are so keen to keep U.S. market share that when the dollar weakens, they often lower their prices to keep them constant after the currency effect. That's especially true when the economy is slowing and consumers are less willing to pay higher prices. (WSJ)

Thinking about the dollar (Krugman) 

Slowing Economy Proves Fitzgerald Wrong: Rich Aren't Different: F. Scott Fitzgerald had it wrong: In a slowing economy, the rich aren't that different from everyone else. Affluent consumers, pinched by shrinking stock portfolios, falling property values and smaller bonuses, are behaving like their less-well-off peers: They're reining in spending. That portends a steeper slowdown than originally forecast for the U.S. economy, or even a recession, because the richest fifth of American households accounts for almost 40 percent of consumer spending, the main engine of economic growth. (Bloomberg)


RETAIL/SHOPPING

Black Friday

Bargains Draw Crowds, but the Thrill Is Gone: American consumers flooded stores yesterday on the traditional first day of the holiday shopping season, but the irrational exuberance of the Black Fridays of the last five years has been replaced by pragmatic restraint. With an uncertain economy, a slowdown in the housing market and high gas prices hanging over their heads, consumers flocked to discount chains like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy, brandishing bargain-filled fliers. In a reversal from years past, they largely bypassed more expensive retailers, including such powerhouses as Nordstrom, Coach and Abercrombie & Fitch, according to shoppers and merchants interviewed around the country. This shift has prompted industry analysts to christen this the “trade down” holiday season.  (New York Times)

How Festive are Consumers?   

The Insatiable Consumer: Ignore the naysayers. Nothing can stop the American holiday shopper:  The Christmas season brings out the gleeful child in adults. At dusk, harried Midtown Manhattan office workers pause to gaze in delight at the Saks window displays. After Thanksgiving, world-weary grumbling gives way to sincere protestations of good will. But among one subset of adults, the advent of the holiday season seems to inspire only fear and loathing. For as soon as the Christmas sales start (this year some commenced so early that clerks tripped over Easter eggs as they stacked up the merchandise), the doomsayers of the dismal science emerge from their caves to spread seasonal gloom.  This year, as they do every year, economists are highlighting gale-force headwinds: the insanely high price of oil, the poor housing market, a slowing economy, the credit crunch. What's more, they note, noneconomic factors ranging from concerns over the war in Iraq to the drought in Atlanta might depress spending. Hanukkah almost always comes too late to spur Christmas sales—except in those years, like 2007, when it comes too early. (Slate) 

Holiday Sales May Be Worst Since '02 as Retailers Cut Forecasts: The holiday sales season may be the grimmest for U.S. retailers in at least five years as reduced profit forecasts by J.C. Penney Co., Starbucks Inc. and FedEx Corp. show the effects of a slowing economy. "The reports this past week indicate that things are really bad,'' Patricia Edwards, a Seattle-based money manager at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich, said Nov. 16. Her firm manages $11.9 billion in assets, including shares of several store- chains. ``Early indications are this is going to be a much slower time going forward than previously expected,'' she said. (Bloomberg)

The WSJ Holiday Sales Blog

Retail Desperation on Display in Early Hours: Bleary-eyed shoppers descended on suburban malls and downtown shopping centers across the country this morning in an annual retail ritual that appeared to break records for consumer sleep deprivation. Several major chains, like J.C. Penney and Kohl’s, opened at 4 a.m., an hour earlier than last year, dangling half-price discounts and coupons offering $10 off to lure customers out of bed.  Most discount chains, like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, Toys R Us and Sears, opened at 5 a.m., with department stores such as Macy’s waiting until 6 a.m. and Saks Fifth Avenue holding off until 7 a.m. The extreme hours highlight how desperate stores are to win over consumers this holiday season, which is expected to be the weakest in five years because of rising energy prices, falling home values and a tight credit market. (NYT) see also Toys `R' Us, Retailers Offer Discounts for Holidays   



HOUSING

2008 Housing: Increased Defaults, Decreased Prices   

Housing permits drop to 14-year low: The number of housing permits issued nationwide fell to a 14-year low in October, although housing starts edged up slightly, according to the government's latest reading on the state of the battered home building market released Tuesday. Permits, a less weather-impacted measure of building strength that are used to gauge builders' confidence in the market, fell to an annual pace of 1.18 million from 1.26 million in September. It's the lowest seasonally-adjusted level of permits in a month since July 1993. (CNNMoney.com)  see also Housing Construction Posts Unexpected Rise         

Not-so-dynamic duo: The mortgage market's supposed saviours are its latest victims WHEN it comes to nasty surprises, this is the credit crisis that keeps on giving. Until a few weeks ago it had been assumed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) that tower over America's $11 trillion mortgage market, could survive the storm with at worst a few bruises. (Economist)

Commercial Property Now Under Pressure: The value of commercial real estate, which nearly doubled in the past seven years, is now starting to decline due to the credit crunch, according to a report set to be released today by Moody's Investors Service. The report found that the value of commercial property declined 1.2% in September from the previous month. Particularly hard hit were apartments in the West and office property in most states other than California. (Wall Street Journal)

Fannie and Freddie pullback would devastate economy


WAR/MEDIA/POLITICS/ENERGY

Bye-bye embargo? THE American businessman at this month's international trade fair in Havana was full of excitement about the communist island's investment prospects as its long-serving president ails. “It's a perfect storm,” he enthused: “Fidel will soon be gone, and a Democratic president will be in the White House. Bye-bye embargo!”  Few of the foreign investors who have spent years struggling to make money in Cuba, caught between American trade restrictions, communist bureaucracy and preferential deals for key allies such as China and Venezuela, see it quite so simply. But even the most jaded are wondering whether things might be looking up. Hopes have been raised by news of a huge deal in the making. It could be the shape of things to come. (Economist)

Ethanol Bust Makes Loser of Bush, Gates, Archer Daniels Midland: Ethanol, the centerpiece of President George W. Bush's plan to wean the U.S. from oil, is 2007's worst energy investment. The corn-based fuel tumbled 57 percent from last year's record of $4.33 a gallon and drove crop prices to a 10-year high. Production in the U.S. tripled after Morgan Stanley, hedge fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co. and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla helped finance a building boom. Even worse for investors and the Bush administration, energy experts contend ethanol isn't reducing oil demand. Scientists at Cornell University say making the fuel uses more energy than it creates, while the National Research Council warns ethanol production threatens scarce water supplies. (Bloomberg)

Former aide blames Bush for Plame leak deceit:  Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan blames President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for efforts to mislead the public about the role of White House aides in leaking the identity of a CIA operative.  In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recounts the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were "not involved" in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame. "There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes. (AP)

More Than Half of Online Financial News Readers Are Over 45 lots of interesting data here . . . 

Most at NYU say their vote has a price: Is it the triumph of gadgetry over freedom? Two-thirds of NYU students said they'd give up various things in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found. 


TECHNOLOGY & SCIENCE

Latest Cut in DVD-Player Duel: Prices Deals Rev Up the Blu-ray, HD DVD Battle: That picture is starting to change this holiday season since retailers began slashing the price of HD DVD players to a level much lower than anyone had expected. Makers of Blu-ray players are responding with their own price cuts. Analysts say they don't expect the format battle to be decided until late next year at the earliest when more consumers will have high-definition TVs, prices on players will likely come down further, and more movies will be available. Nonetheless, while Blu-ray clearly led the race until recently, the aggressive holiday-season pricing could help bolster HD DVD's position, they say. (free Wall Street Journal)

Dell Targets Apple iMac With XPS One   

Super-scorpion lifts lid on prehistoric creepy-crawlies: Ask people about the biggest animals that have lived on earth and they will probably name something with a backbone. But the discovery of a giant sea scorpion that was longer than a man demonstrates that it is not always necessary to have a spine to be big. The sea scorpion's fossilised claw, unearthed in a quarry in Germany, reveals a beast that was around 2.5 metres (eight feet) long, showing that the invertebrates were able to grow just as big as some of the largest vertebrates. (The Independent)

The 20 Worst Venture Capital Investments of All Time   

America's Most Obese Cities: We are heavier than ever. Once considered an affliction of the lazy and indulgent, obesity now affects about one-third of Americans. The epidemic has swept up the wealthy, middle class and the poor; city dwellers, suburbanites and those in rural areas; and people of all races and ethnicities. The causes, researchers say, are numerous. These include a diet of calorie-dense but nutrient-deficient food found in grocery and convenience stores, public planning strategies that favor motorists over walkers and cyclists, and simply bad habits. (Fortune) Oh, and its Memphis, Tenn. at 34%. 

Human Skin Cells Given Stem Cell Properties   

The BBC counters the top 10 objections of climate skeptics:  What are some of the reasons why "climate sceptics" dispute the evidence that human activities such as industrial emissions of greenhouse gases and deforestation are bringing potentially dangerous changes to the Earth's climate?      

•  Publisher Gets Web Readers to Fill the Pages of Its Magazines

 



MUSIC BOOKS MOVIES TV FUN!

The Panic of 1907: I previously mentioned The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market's Perfect Storm before. The book, published exactly a century after the original event, to have some rather interesting parallels to today. The significance of the 1907 Panic as an economic event went far beyond the mere crash and recovery.  It eventually led to the creation of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Long excerpt (with permission) here.

• Friday Night Jazz/Rock: Guitar legend Jeff Beck

• Our hand chosen Favorite Holiday CDs   

Don't Give Up on Vista Ad: very funny!

Your Everyday, Run-of-the-Mill Lamborghini:  The supercar you can drive to the supermarket.   

Ad of the Week: Buckley's.   


 

That's all from blustery Chicago, where weather is blustery, the folks are sports crazy, and the food is delicious. Its Superdawg time!

~~~

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, send email to thebigpicture [AT] optonline [DOT] net.

Saturday, November 24, 2007 | 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
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« What do Abby Joseph Cohen, Jason Trennert and David Bianco know that the Dow Theory doesn't? The strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Strategas Research Partners LLC and UBS AG say the Standard & Poor's 500 Index will climb 9.7 percent to 1,600 in the final six weeks of 2007, ,?? »

Could it be this in community?

Source Comptroller of the currency
« Derivatives activity in the U.S. banking system is dominated by a small group of large financial
institutions. Five large banks with the greatest notionals represent 97% of the total industry notional
amount, 80% of total trading revenues and 88% of industry net current credit exposure. « 


Or this?

Source Risk magazine

A report released by the British Bankers' Association (BBA) in September, meanwhile, says full index trades will represent 30.1%, or $6.1 trillion, of the market by the end of 2006, compared with just 9% in 2004"We worry about how much the apparent liquidity in the credit derivatives market is being driven by structured trades," says a New York-based senior risk manager at a US securities dealer. "Our sense is the active trading of structured credit is actually confined to a fairly small number of market participants.

There are not hundreds and hundreds of people trading tranches. Quite a lot of that trading actually happens on banks' proprietary desks as far as we can see, and that's a little weird."
What's more, there is considerable disagreement among academics and quants about the best approaches to modelling correlation, with little in the way of consensus

Or an other unforeseen event with an infinitisimal probability of occurrence (one other 1000 years?) which the value at risk deny every day based on the past Gauss curve.

Posted by: Philippe | Nov 24, 2007 1:14:52 PM

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