Commentaries

Now raising intellectual capital

from Rolfe Winkler:

Afternoon Links 1-20

Must Read -- Short sale fraud + follow-up (Olick, CNBC) Great sleuthing from Diana Olick. Sounds like outright fraud being committed by big banks. One follow up question: In many cases, the second-lien holder is also the first lien holder. How is that impacting short-sales?

Buffett opposes bank fee (CNBC) See 2/3rds down the page. Obfuscation worthy of a banker. This should come as no surprise as Buffett is Wells' top shareholder. He previously opposed the bank stress tests because it diluted his shareholdings. Nevermind that the stress test forced the bank to raise desperately needed capital. It's a shame, really. As his career winds down, he's sacrificed his reputation as a financial straight-shooter to protect his wealth.

In other Buffett news: He's opposed to Kraft's bid for Cadbury (he's a big Kraft shareholder) and he split his shares, something he never wanted to do. So not a great day for the Oracle.

FT as shameless Fed booster (NakedCapitalism) Yves takes down the FT piece that said the Fed has made a killing on its AIG holdings.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Afternoon links 1-13

Must Read -- Kyle Bass: Testimony before the FCIC (fcic.gov) Bass is a hedgefunder that made big profits betting against subprime. His testimony has many fascinating facts and figures. [The pie charts on page 9 look familiar.]

Obama to push tax on too-big-to-fail banks (Nasiripour) Not a lot of details: "the planned tax would be imposed in a way that targets firms' riskiest activities, such as proprietary trading. It would be crafted in a way that doesn't affect a financial company's retail banking, so that the cost theoretically would not be passed on to retail customers -- but it wasn't clear exactly how that would work." And will it tax other TBTF firms besides banks? What about insurers? What about GE? Update: WSJ says the tax will target bank liabilities.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 1-12

China surprises with bank reserve hike (Xin/Rabinovith, Reuters) The Fed could learn something from the PBOC. This sudden move to tighten bank lending maintains the PBOC's reputation for acting without warning. If the Fed had a similar rep, U.S. lenders wouldn't be so cavalier taking interest rate risk.

Special bankruptcy court for banks mulled in Senate (Younglai, Reuters) Interesting proposal for Dodd's Senate financial reform bill. Can't really comment until details are made available.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 12-18

(Reader note: still working on

MUST READ -- Strict framework leaves room for maneuver (Masters/Jenkins, FT) While this subject may seem a little dry, it's the Basel Committee in Switzerland that will lead the way when it comes to how banks measure capital and how much they need to have. I'll offer more detailed thoughts on this later today.

Saab to be shuttered (Reuters wire) More creative destruction in the auto industry. In the end, the best Saab could do was sell the intellectual property for the 9-5 and 9-3 sedans...

Don’t worry about the weak dollar

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By John M. Berry

There’s no way to shut off the incessant warnings about a weak dollar from foreign officials and some economists, but it’s perfectly safe to ignore them.

You can also yawn the next time Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner repeats the mantra, “It is very important to the United States that we continue to have a strong dollar.”

China can be smarter on reserving more resources

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China might have good environmental reasons to restrict the production of rare earth metals, but export quotas and duties are not the way to do it.

Instead, it should raise environmental standards which will force consolidation in the production of these metals, which are key to green technologies. That will improve China’s environment, give it greater control over output, but reduce the risk of a trade battle.

Bankers leave little upside for new Hong Kong IPO

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A dozen or so companies have raised money in Hong Kong over the past month to cash in on rebounding equity markets, but that window is threatening to close after a string of poor debuts.

   Glorious Property was the latest, falling by 15 percent on its debut on Friday. Its poor performance came on the heels of China South City, a real-estate developer in Guangdong province, which had the worst trading debut in Hong Kong this year by falling 23 percent.
 
  Even companies in more stable businesses, such as men’s clothing retailer Lilang and sports shoes maker Peak Sport, also fell below their offer prices last month.

China might keep the weakest bank all to itself

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Faced with a backlash against foreign investors, Beijing may
be tempted to offer shares in the last of its big four banks to
a domestic audience.

That decision may reflect China’s new found confidence in
the wake of the credit crisis. But it also means Chinese investors
will retain full responsibility for the country’s weakest bank.

Imagine when China runs a trade deficit

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If current trends continue, China might swing to a trade deficit
in the not-too-distant future. Given that China has enjoyed more
than a decade of strong exports, this may sound a bit far-fetched.
But even if it happens, this would not necessarily be something for
the world to worry about.

Some economists have recently sounded alarm bells about the
possibility of a Chinese trade deficit. They argue that if the
Chinese current account surplus shrinks, it would leave Beijing
with less spare cash to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. Then who would
fund the U.S. budget deficit — and, by implication, U.S.
consumers?

West raises stakes over Iran nuclear programme

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big-3President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain have deliberately raised the stakes in the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme by dramatising the disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant. Their shoulder-to-shoulder statements of resolve, less than a week before Iran opens talks with six major powers in Geneva, raised more questions than they answer.

It turns out that the United States has known for a long time (how long?) that Iran had been building the still incomplete plant near Qom. Did it share that intelligence with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and if not, why not? Why did it wait until now, in the middle of a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, to make the announcement — after Iran had notified the International Atomic Energy Authority of the plant’s existence on Monday, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had delivered a defiant speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and after the Security Council had adopted a unanimous resolution calling for an end to the spread of nuclear weapons on Thursday?

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