James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington


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Obama vs. the hedgie

Sep 21, 2010 16:53 UTC

Here is a bit-o-goodness from my Reuters Breakingviews column on the Obama-CNBC town hall yesterday .

The Sept. 20 exchange between President Barack Obama and Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital illustrates the severity of the rupture between the president and the financial community. … Scaramucci is a guy who was in on the ground floor of Hope and Change, Inc. He’s a former Harvard law school classmate of Obama’s who contributed early and often to Obama’s presidential campaign. …  But Scaramucci also gave the impression of a hedgie scorned, even though it’s debatable to what extent new financial regulations have “whacked” hedge funds. More funds must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, they’re subject to greater state supervision and they may have to give more info to the SEC. Then again, limits on bank trading desks should allow hedge funds to compete more effectively.

What may really be bugging Scaramucci and his colleagues is that when Obama speaks about the Wall Street “fat cats” who almost toppled the economy, the condemnation is sweeping. Hedge funds didn’t need a bailout like the big banks, used far less leverage and are almost always small enough to fail. … Wall Street is never going to get Main Street’s sympathy. Better to talk softly and carry a big wallet. And that seems to be just what Scaramucci is doing. Filings show he’s only contributed to Republicans so far this year, including $5,000 to Free and Strong America. That’s the political action committee of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate — and potential Obama challenger — Mitt Romney.

The midterms and the markets, take two

Sep 21, 2010 16:31 UTC

A bit more from Ed Yardeni on one of my favorite topics:

Yesterday, I reviewed the outstanding performance of the market three months after midterm elections. I also noted that the third years of the presidential cycle tend to be very bullish. The fourth year of presidential terms, along with first and second years, tend to be much less consistently bullish than third years.

Yesterday, I asked Joe, “How well does the S&P 500 perform from the midterm elections to the end of the third year of the President’s term?” The results are spectacular. Since 1962, there have been 12 such 14-month periods, and their average increase was 20.9%! Not one of them was down. Indeed, there are only two gains that are not in the double digits: 0.4% during 1986-1987 and 6.2% during 2006-2007. …  I suppose it could be different this time. Gridlock might block appropriate policy responses to revive economic growth, if necessary. Gridlock might mean that the Bush tax cuts won’t be extended for another year to avoid depressing a depressing recovery. Gridlock could stymie any agreement on measures necessary to narrow the federal deficit. Then again, a sweeping ouster of incumbents on November 2 might be a good start toward bringing back some fiscal discipline in Washington by newly elected legislators, who really want to do what’s good for the country rather than for themselves.

Me:  Gridlock is better than another wave of tax hikes and regulation — but not as good as spending cuts and pro-growth policies like cutting taxes on companies and capital.

The oh-so-slow recovery

Sep 21, 2010 16:25 UTC

A great chart from David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff showing just weak this recovery has been: