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from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 11-5

Fight over blog comments hits NH high court (NHPR, ht AK) Aaron Krowne is fighting the good fight for bloggers everywhere.

FHA delays release of financial audit (ElBoghdady, WaPo) The dog ate my homework...

Wells Fargo defers reckoning on troubled mortgage balances (Eckblad, DJ) Wells' book of option ARMs threatens to blow up in the next few years as the loans recast, forcing borrowers to start paying down principal, not just making a minimum payment as they might on a credit card. Turning them into 6-10 year interst only loans pushes back the pain for the borrower...extend and pretend. The example used in the article notes that as part of the modification, this borrower gets a $100k reduction in principal owed. That's not nothing. Writing down principal reduces the borrowers leverage, and it means the bank is taking a loss on part of the loan balance. Call it a silver lining.

Mirabile Dictu! Goldman lost money one day last quarter (Yves Smith) In its quarterly filing with regulators, Goldman published a "frequency distribution" for daily profits. That's a fancy way of describing the average amount of money it made each day last quarter. Out of 65 trading days, only once did it lose money. And a pittance at that. (Alphaville published the chart yesterday.)

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 11-4

BofA's counsel had no legal authority in Merrill deal (DeCambre/Wilner/Whitehouse, NY Post)

Congress agrees to keep homebuyer tax credit (NYT)

Fitch downgrades Ireland (Kennedy, Marketwatch)

Berkshire may lose AAA rating from S&P on Burlington deal (Frye, Bloomberg)

The deferred tax asset disaster (Tracy Alloway, Alphaville) A very helpful reminder from Tracy about DTAs. Banks still count these as capital (and yes, it's included in TCE) even though, in a stressed situation, they don't provide any cushion whatsoever to absorb losses.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Evening links 11-3

It's Japan we should be worrying about, not America (Evans-Pritchard) There's no pretty way to de-lever...

Buffett splits "B" shares 50:1 (Jonathan Stempel/Lilla Zuill, Reuters) This will put shares in reach of regular folks. Look for index funds to load up. Oh and by the way, this should make it easier to short Buffett too...

from Rolfe Winkler:

Afternoon Links 10-29

(Reader note: from here on out, instead of citing the publication in which a piece appears, I plan to cite the writer....where possible anyway.)

Goldman sends back some collateral to AIG (Liam Pleven) Interesting. Recall that AIG served as a slush fund through which the Fed sent money to banks that had been AIG's counterparties. Goldman was the biggest recipient of this cash with $13 billion (though as Barry Ritholtz would be quick to point out, they got additional collateral before the government takeover). With asset prices climbing, some of the collateral has returned to AIG.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Afternoon Links 10-28

Apollo shares plunge on government inquiry (Bloomberg) The for-profit education industry is shady in the extreme. Fully 86% of Apollo's revenue comes from student loans financed by the government. It's a great scam. Find a warm body that qualifies for federal student aid, and then sell 'em as much education as they're willing to borrow against. And when the government offers to increase aid, companies like Apollo (and private universities) just raise their prices, forcing students to take on more debt for the same education. In the end, its taxpayers that take the hit when student loans default...

Stressful jobs that pay badly (CNN, ht Rej) #2 has a funny anecdote.

Goldman's lies of omission (Janet Tavikoli, ht Jesse)

Couple alive after car pins them to bed for almost an hour (CNN)

Extension of homebuyer tax credit not a done deal (CR)

A drop in the wrong bucket (David Leonhardt) Pandering to seniors.

Cell size and scale (Utah.edu) Ultracool. Zoom in slowly by scrolling to the right.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Morning Links 10-26

Detroit house auction flops (Reuters) "Despite a minimum bid of $500, less than a fifth of the Detroit land was sold after four days." The article notes that "total vacant land in Detroit now occupies an area almost the size of Boston."

Underpricing risk: Rescuers fear Yuppie 911 (MSNBC) A parable for risk management in the modern age. Since the government has proved itself adept at rescues, folks across the investing spectrum end up in sticky situations they were never prepared to handle on their own. What happens when so many people end up in the same situation that the government's rescue facilities are overwhelmed? What happens when contingent liabilities break the federal government's balance sheet?

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 10-23

Macklowe's Worldwide Plaza Successor wrestles towering dilemma (Bloomberg) "The partnership [that bought Macklowe's busted property] paid $370 a square foot for Worldwide Plaza, while competitors paid $1,000 a foot or more for similar buildings at the height of the five- year U.S. property boom." That means they can drop rents to $30-$50 per sq foot from $80-$100 that was common not long ago. That's bad for CMBS holders and banks who own the debt on busted properties, but fantastic for folks in the real economy who suddenly have much more money to spend on things besides rent. But instead of allowing price adjustments like this to happen, policymakers scream "deflation" and institute all manner of spending schemes to prop up asset prices.

The payroll hidden in plain sight (AAO) A rare blog entry from accounting expert Jack Ciesielski.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Afternoon links 10-22

CFPA clears house panel (Bloomberg) A step in the right direction.

More aid for Pakistan (Newsweek) But is the money doing any good?

Why mortgages aren't modified (Ed Harrison)

How the current economy has affected dentists, vasectomies, guns and shark attacks (CoinbyCoin) A good video, though be careful re: his chart of "leverage," which looks to me like excess reserves in the banking system. A better measure of the economy's leverage is debt to gdp.

The problem is not TBTF, it's TDTR (NakedCapitalism)

Court deals blow to owner of huge apartment complex (NYT)

Pay curbs are not the answer (Reuters) Ken Feinberg's pay restrictions feel awfully good, but they aren't enough (not least because only TARP assistance counts as extraordinary. What about TLGP!) What we need is a wholesale redesign of the financial sector. Probably impossible, unless the biggest banks actually fail and have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 10-19

Stopping by the Value Investor Congress today....still getting over the Bears' ATROCIOUS loss last night....

MUST READ: How Moody's sold its ratings -- and sold out investors (McClatchy) Great stuff from Kevin Hall.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 10-17

Quote of the day. Terry Teachout, the WSJ's theater critic, commenting on John Stamos' performance in the Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie: "Mr. Stamos couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with the lid welded on."

Harrods moves into flourishing gold market (Reuters) At 14% over spot, you're probably better off working with a reputable dealer.

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