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Jim Cook

 

RUNAWAY SOCIAL SYMPATHY

Every once in a while I switch the TV channel from Fox to CNBC to see what the liberals are saying.  After listening awhile I get a deep sense of hopelessness and foreboding for our country.  The most important thing for the left is giving money to people.  They are happy to see the growth of food stamps, disability payments, housing subsidies, free healthcare and all the other welfare benefits.  They utterly fail to see the damage it is doing to the recipients.  Whole cities that once flourished have deteriorated into rotting eyesores populated with shambling hulks of chemically dependent drones.  These people are no longer employable.  They have become incompetent and helpless and the liberals can’t see that it’s their doing.

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The Best of Jim Cook Archive

 
Best of Doug Noland
February 1, 2008
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I’m not going to jump on the criticism bandwagon and excoriate Dr. Bernanke for his panicked 75 basis point inter-meeting rate cut. From my vantage point, the "wheels were coming off" and I would expect nothing less from our increasingly impotent central bank. Yet it is silly to blame today’s mess on recent indecisiveness. The Fed has not been "behind the curve," unless one is referring to the "learning curve." The unfolding financial and economic crisis has been More than 20 Years in the Making. It’s a creation of flawed monetary management; egregious lending, leveraging and speculating excess; unprecedented economic distortions and imbalances on a global basis. And I find it rather ironic that Wall Street is so fervidly lambasting the Fed. For twenty years now the Fed has basically done everything that Wall Street requested and more.

It is also as ironic as it was predictable that Alan Greenspan - Ayn Rand "disciple" and free-market ideologue - championed monetary policies and a financial apparatus that will ensure the greatest government intrusion into our Nation’s financial and economic affairs since the New Deal. Articles berating contemporary Capitalism are becoming commonplace. I fear that the most important lesson from this experience may fail to resonate: that to promote sustainable free-market Capitalism for the real economy demands considerable general resolve to protect the soundness and stability of the underlying Credit system.

And, speaking of the Credit system, some brief market comments are in order. Stocks generally rallied this week, yet it was a backdrop that provided little comfort that the system has begun to stabilize. Sure, the banks rallied 10%, the homebuilders 20%, the retailers 7%, the transports almost 7%, and the restaurants 5%. One could easily assume that the bears were squeezed and leave it at that. There are, however, surely more complex and problematic dynamics at work. Notably, many of the favorite sectors were hit this week – the utilities, technology and biotechs all posted notable weakness. Coupled with this week’s extreme volatility, I will assume that the huge "market-neutral" and "quant" components of the leveraged speculating community have suffered even greater losses so far this month than those from last August. It is also worth noting that some important Credit spreads have diverged markedly, most notably many corporate, junk and commercial MBS spreads have widened as dollar swap spreads have narrowed. The spectacular Treasury melt-up must also be causing havoc for various strategies, ditto the recently strong yen and Swiss franc.

I’ll stick with the view that an unfolding breakdown in various trading models and hedging strategies is at risk of precipitating a crisis of confidence for the leveraged speculating community. I suspect hedge fund trading was much more responsible for chaotic global securities markets this week than a rogue French equities trader. There is, unfortunately, little prospect for markets to calm down anytime soon. There is no quick or easy fix to any of the myriad current problems – seized up securitization markets, sinking housing prices, faltering bond insurers, counterparty issues, a crisis in confidence for "Wall Street finance", or acute economic vulnerability - to name only the most obvious. Again, they’ve been More than 20 Years in the Making.

Doug Noland is a market strategist at Prudent Bear Funds. Their website is www.prudentbear.com.