Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Volatility Remains, Stocks Struggle

[Editor's note: The Update is going to be taking a break over the next few days and will publish only on the days that give us a reason to write. The market is in a place that does allow for that possibility so if you see a day that has a dramatic move please come here to view the Update. The Update will return on January 1st for your reading pleasure on January 2nd. We'll see you on the other side.]

Top Line: Wednesday's action seemed a little less volatile than Tuesday but remains a part of the day to day trading. Right now the market is eyeing a couple of near term events, Friday's option expiration and next week's Christmas holiday, yes and New Year's. The Update is still on the bearish side with a run down to Dow 12,500 in mind. This is not a commitment because the possibilities are still that the market doesn't have the downside power required. We will deal with that if we have to. For now, we're looking down the pipe to 12,500.

In our last post we neglected to mention the news from Hovnanian, another homebuilder with bad results. This company has now recorded five quarters of earnings under water. This report said losses were $7.42 a share--ouch. There is a followup article on Wednesday where the company is just sure things would be ok if only the housing market would pick up again.

On Wednesday the world awoke to more writedowns for mortgage debt. This time it was from Morgan Stanley to the tune of $5.7 billion and by the way that is on top of the $3.7 billion it already said it was going to writedown. (There is a front page WSJ article on Friday on Morgan Stanley, too.) That's a total of $9.4 billion--doesn't sound so bad when you can stay under $10 billion. $10 BILLION...

Morgan Stanley said it was taking a loss due to these writedowns of $3.61 a share, its first loss since it came public back in 1986. Oh, but don't worry about their capital situation because they received $5 billion from China. From our perspective, these are big numbers coming out of various finance companies and...

With that news comes, yes, government or Fed intervention. Not anything new on Wednesday but there is something new. The public is getting less and less convinced that the powers that be (PTB) can actually turn this around. The headlines are not pretty. As we look at the CNN Money Real Estate page we see do see one positive title: Foreclosures in November declined. Of course, the subtitle says that foreclosures are 68% higher than last November. The other headlines are grim...and we're not talking about the fairy tales of Grimm...Mortgage apps tumble, Hovnanian loss quadruples, Homebuilders' index scraps bottom, and New home construction drops, and more. All of this even as the PTB chase their respective tails in order to find a politically correct solution.

Just so you know, the Update believes that the situation is much bigger than the PTB can deal with effectively. This is going to get worse before it gets better. This is not something new to the Update if you take a look at our archives. Now, you are finally hearing others start to say the same things we have been predicting for the past year or two. We are not trying to gloat but urging people to take shelter by anticipating some trouble ahead in the economy.

The last item of interest is the downgrade of bond insurer ACA. This is not our area because it is outside the housing scene but this is how the mortgage problems can seep into other areas. The mortgage problems started a chain of events and no one knows where it will lead. We think a recession is assured in 2008 even as the election bears down on us.

We want to wish you all a joyous holiday season with lots of time to spend with the people you care most about.

FSI: 102.16

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Volatility" or "Are the Horses Out of the Barn?"

Top Line: The stock market spent some time doing big zigzags on Tuesday which represents extreme volatility. To us, this is not a bullish sign. People don't like to see this type of action because they think the market should only go up, not down up down up. Our position did not change on Tuesday and it says that the Dow is headed towards 12,500.

In our last post we mentioned that the ECB (European Central Bank) was offering unlimited funding to the banks in the Eurozone. When we read unlimited we thought maybe that was a little far fetched but today's report that the banks eagerly scooped up over $500 billion proved that they weren't kidding. The ECB is providing funding for needs over the critical year end reporting period.

That news set the US stock market on fire at the open on Tuesday and the Dow jumped nearly 100 points at the outset. By midday, the gains vanished and the Dow sported a 75 point loss before going on a 180 point tear before losing a little steam going into the close, up about 65. This journey logged about 500 points and is the definition of intraday volatility. We have seen more intense volatility but Tuesday showed how fickle the market can be.

The other news was from Goldman and Best Buy which should have been well received by the market but really wasn't, at least not right away. When volatility gets going, the sins of the past hour can quickly be transformed. The market has little awareness of what was going on over an hour ago. But, we digress...

The last item is from the bowels of the Fed. They are proposing changes to mortgage lending.
The changes are mostly things that should have been in place without government or regulatory intervention, like getting people into the right mortgage or house rather than setting them up for foreclosure--sort of like closing the door after the horses are already out of the barn. The bottom line is that the proposal is just one more reason for lending to slow down. The mortgage industry is not going to get a break.

FSI: 101.37

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just Waiting

Top line: The stock market gave up some ground on Monday but the Dow didn't participate on the downside as much as the NASDAQ indexes. We continue to keep our eyes on the downside strength for clues on the future move. The bulls seem to be content to buy these little drops which is why we don't see a collapse in prices just yet. Currently, we are still thinking 12,500. World markets are quiet this evening with US Futures up slightly.

For a Monday with a lot of price movement down, we don't seem to have a lot to say. The basic pattern is still in tack but the downside strength seemed to wane a bit on Monday. True, the NASDAQ did seem to drop a little harder but the power down is not here right now. This is options expiration week so we don't think people are gone but trading is fairly light as it usually is just ahead of the holidays so traders may be happy to let things drift here.

The only thing that went on Monday was the big auction--TAF. We should hear on Tuesday how that went. Meanwhile the ECB was set to guarantee loans for European banks for unlimited amounts and to take them through the end of the year. This article seems to be a WSJ exclusive again so find out about it in Tuesday's Journal.

There doesn't seem to be much urgent news or pressing issues for the market to digest. The drop on Monday does come without news so it is worth noting. The prices are in a down pattern and could continue to drop. This would eventually bring out sellers. We continue to watch.

The gold market is in an interesting situation right now with the gold mining stocks dropping and the precious metal itself kind of holding its own. We generally say that the stocks move in front of the metal so maybe we will see a drop in the metal coming up. This market is always on our radar screen even though we don't mention it every night. There is an opportunity coming but it's not here just now.

FSI: 100.89 (The horsemen did take a hit on Monday)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Further Weakness Directly Ahead

Top line: Our target for the Dow is 12,500 which is right around the August low. If the market can punch down to there, then we can see how much downside strength there really is in this current move. If we see any support between here and there, we may need to revise our outlook but for now the stage is certainly set for a run down to test the August low.

The stock market opened broadly lower on Friday due to C's news. We still think C is doing the right thing by taking these SIV assets onto its balance sheet, where they belong. Shortly after the open, C was trading down but soon rallied on a display of strength which failed by the end of the day. C had received an analyst downgrade after their news--good timing, strong analysis.

The stock market did have difficulty as the day wore on Friday and the Dow fell 178 points by the end of the session. This was not a very good showing but one that we think is justified. This move down is not over and we should see some more selling as the week gets going. The futures are down this evening as we write but this could be just a reaction to the weak Asian markets which is definitely a reaction to the US trading on Friday; as the world spins.

We don't want to bring this up but since it is the "biggest" news of the weekend we thought it should be mentioned. Greenspan has now become an "expert" in the field of guessing what's going to happen next. He's trying to figure out if the odds of a recession are more or less than 50-50: "Whether it's above or below [50 percent] is really extraordinarily difficult to tell," Greenspan said. We'll let you read for yourself some of the other things he said. Yicks.

FSI: 104.43

Thursday, December 13, 2007

C Doing the Right Thing

Top Line: The market found some footing on Thursday afternoon and the financials led the late day rally. We'll be watching to see if the market's strong down move will continue. Currently, our position has the Dow dropping to 12,500. If it can't make it to there, we will take another look. If it can make it, then there is more downside after that. We'll watch and see.

Lots of stories again this evening. Let's start with late breaking news from Citi (C). C appointed a new CEO this week and he is jumping on one of the glaring problems from the perspective of outsiders. Vikram Pandit, Citigroup's new chief executive as of Tuesday, decided to take the assets of some of its SIVs onto their own balance sheet. This effectively creates a loss for C that should show up immediately. While the SIV had the assets, and the problems, C could continue with business as usual.

One of the reasons these big banks have created SIVs (structured investment vehicles) was so they could be in the "game" of borrowing money in the commercial paper market and loaning money in the mortgage market. Not only could they be in the game, but they could also declare that the SIV is not on their balance sheet. That way, the bank could avoid the capital requirements for such investments.

What C is proposing to do at the moment is to take $49 billion of SIV assets with mounting losses and set up capital on these assets. The WSJ has described the situation in an article that should be on the front page on Friday morning. We're not sure where it will be but this is truly significant news and we applaud C for taking this step. The only thing is, banks typically are black boxes anyway so this transaction may not allow for perfect vision. On the other hand, there are reasons that banks will be more willing to be transparent. We are thinking of all of the current news related to the industry.

With this move by C, the big MLE SIV we have mentioned here will probably not be done. We looked back to our October posts that talked about the "Mightly Large Enterprise" and found a couple of comments worth mentioning here:

From October 15th:
C is the leader of the new deal and it has two big partners, B of A and JPM. These three banks were the center of the plan probably inspired by the Treasury department. The news was that the SIV would have funding of about $100 billion and an implicit government guarantee due to the Treasury's involvment up front.

From October 16th:
There seemed to be some speculation that the MLE SIV we mentioned in our last post was not going to be able to come to fruition. The banks involved expressed some doubt as to whether enough entities would come together to make it work. The uncertainty led to selling early and the financial sector felt it.

Lot's of other news to report so let's get to it. The first is the PPI reported at a whopping 3.2% for the month of November but of course the "core" PPI was only up 0.4%. Wait a minute, 0.4% means a rate 12 times that for an annual run rate of 4.8%. It's a good thing the Fed lowered rates on Tuesday before this number came out today. Speaking of the Fed, they are having a tough go of it with the economy seeming to be doing ok, check the retail sales up last month, and inflation running a little higher last month, PPI up 3.2% but they are telling us there is a credit crunch causing all sorts of problems so we have to set up TAF (see yesterday's post) and lower rates. One quote we read today was now we know why the Fed only lowered 25bps. Given this data, why did they drop rates at all? Here's the article we have wanted to see for months now.

FSI: 105.13

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

TAF To Save the Day

Top Line: Market is in a down phase with a Dow move to 12,500 expected.

How do you describe this day? We're not sure what the Fed was thinking exactly but the timing of this latest move seems highly coordinated with the rate cut of Tuesday. Was the move on Wednesday part of the reason for the 25bps instead of 50bps? Well, we'll never know about that but what we do know is that the market got a lift out of the news, at least initially.

Before the market opened on Wednesday, a consortium of central banks announced that they were going to provide global financing as a group. This is a big effort to provide some significant financing to increase the liquidity in the so-called credit crunch. We have another question, "What are the world's central bankers going to do when things get really tough?"

To answer that question, we take a look at the reason they are trying to pump liquidity into the system. Their hope is that they can avoid what is going to happen next, recession or worse. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve didn't get his nickname Helicopter Ben for nothing. His latest trick has Fleck has titled his Daily Rap "Ben's Choppers Get Airborne", perfect.

Here is where we find out just what the Fed can do by lowering rates and floating more liquidity than one can imagine, $40 billion in the TAF, term auction facility. The phrase "pushing on a string" comes to mind first. This is the time when the Fed wants to increase credit, which is really called debt. If the Fed can convince the world to borrow just a little more, then the global economy can continue down the path.

The problem with this thinking process is that we have done this so many times that it may not work this time. When people have limited resources and massive debt servicing to do, there is little need or reason for them to borrow More money that needs to be serviced. So, with loan rates even at very low levels, people can't borrow because they have no more ability to service their loans. They could borrow money to pay off higher interest rate debt but the Fed and other central bankers need them to Spend more money and take on more debt. This is what pushing on a string means. The Fed can lower rates but the borrowers will not spend any more money.

The other news is the Greenspan op-ed piece in Wednesday's WSJ. You may not be able to view this due to the subscription level but you probably have access to the WSJ where you can find this article. Greenspan makes some statements that indicate that he couldn't do anything more than he did and he didn't cause the housing problems with 1% fed funds rate. Please, he was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the most powerful position in the world.

Market action was certainly a sight to behold with the Dow almost covering the entire loss from Tuesday in the first minutes of trading. Tuesday, the Dow went down 294 points and at the open on Wednesday it was up about 275 points. Of course, from there it went straight down until it was down over 100 points and then it rallied into the close, finishing up 40. What a crazy ride we've been on for the last two days.

Clearly, the bulls are ready to jump on any hint of good news on a global scale but company news in the mortgage arena was not pretty the last couple of days. Wednesday's news was more of the same that we heard from Washington Mutual, the housing market is not going to improve anytime soon. Today's confessions were more on the lines of we can't believe how bad it's already become even though we thought it wouldn't get this bad when we were talking about it six months ago. We guess they didn't have time to read the Wednesday Update, too bad.

FSI: 105.04

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fed -25, Dow -294

When does -25 = -294? That would be on December 11, 2007 when the Fed ldropped the funds rate by 25bps and the Dow followed that with a drop of its own of 294 points. What caused the drop, was it that the Fed decided not to lower rates by 50bps?

Our answer to that is yes, the Fed might have disappointed investors with its shallow reduction in the funds rate, but their statement was pretty dismal compared to the last one, too.

Here is the meat of their statement:

"Incoming information suggests that economic growth is slowing, reflecting the intensification of the housing correction and some softening in business and consumer spending. Moreover, strains in financial markets have increased in recent weeks. Today’s action, combined with the policy actions taken earlier, should help promote moderate growth over time.

"Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year, but elevated energy and commodity prices, among other factors, may put upward pressure on inflation. In this context, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain, and it will continue to monitor inflation developments carefully.

"Recent developments, including the deterioration in financial market conditions, have increased the uncertainty surrounding the outlook for economic growth and inflation. The Committee will continue to assess the effects of financial and other developments on economic prospects and will act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth."

The initial shock of not getting 50bps was bad enough but for the Fed to say that economic growth was slowing And inflation could still be a problem was just too much for the stock market. As you look at a chart for the day, you can see a virtual cliff the market fell off right when the announcement was made.

You may be asking the important questions about how the Update might be thinking this evening. The past week or so we have been saying the 13,750 range was an important place for the Dow and should be near the peak in this rally phase. Well, the top of the range on Tuesday was Dow 13,777 just 27 points higher than our target.

Our impression is that this break Could be the break we are looking for but further downside pressure needs to present itself. Right now the market is ready to drop and it shouldn't find a bottom for a while. If it does find a bottom, it will be something we should notice and will bring it to your attention.

So much to talk about so little time...come back tomorrow for the Wednesday Update. Overnight US futures are strong and could lead to some buying in the morning but will it last?

FSI: 104.53

CM--thanks for the note on BofA. Another enhanced money fund is broken much like GE's move back in November (check the November 15th post "GE Breaks the Buck" in the archives to the left).

Monday, December 10, 2007

All Eyes on the Fed, Again

As the market awaits the next widely anticipated reduction the cost of funds to banks, the prices go up. We are ever so close to the 13,750 level we have been discussing for a few days. This is a plus or minus 150 points so the move should be fairly close to being over as the Fed manages to excite the crowd on Tuesday afternoon.

Today's news about housing came in three. The first was the news from UBS was good and bad but the market didn't think the net news was much of anything. The bad news was that UBS said it was taking a $10 billion writedown in the fourth quarter but the good news was that it was receiving $11.5 billion in a transaction that would in effect give 12.4% ownership to non-US entities. This is a front page WSJ article on Tuesday.

The second piece of news is that pending home sales were up for the second month in a row. Does this sound like there is a significant tightening in credit? We see UBS revaluing its mortgage portfolio to the tune of $10 billion and still there are mortgage lenders out there?

The last bit of news has to do with WaMu, Washington Mutual (WM). WM said it was cutting its dividend to 15 cents a share from 56 cents a share, cut more than 3,000 jobs because it is getting out of the subprime market entirely. Oh, and according to the WSJ, WM said it "would raise $2.5 billion in capital, all to address 'unprecedented challenges in the mortgage and credit market.' The company also said it expects a fourth-quarter loss on a $1.6 billion goodwill write-down on its home-loans business."

As these news items seem to conflict between continued financing of mortgages and huge losses for these companies, what should we believe is going on? Our position is that the housing market will drag the economy into recession and nothing the Fed can do will stop this from happening. How can another interest rate cut help when the last couple didn't help? In fact, how can it help when that was the cause of this situation in the first place?

These are problems for another day because the market still believes the Fed can "fix the problem" even though they really can't. There are more and more economists saying we are headed for a recession and all of them know the Fed will lower rates on Tuesday. They don't think the Fed will act urgently enough.

We are almost ready to concede a 50bps move on Tuesday but we keep coming back to the last announcement that said this may be the last cut. What has happened to change their minds on this topic? Ok, we think 25bps is all they can do on funds. See you on the other side.

FSI: 107.60 (barely changed on a plus 100 point day--this is bearish)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fed to Lower Rates on Tuesday

As we look at the coming week, the possibility exists that we will get to see the top of the recent rally. The runup from the lows of a couple weeks ago has now pushed into our target range near 13,750 and we are very alert to a reversal. Friday's trading did little to change the view that the market is now finding a top. The problem now is not that we have a top in place so much as if the next move is the one we have been anticipating for a Long time.

The big news this week will be the reaction to the Fed's move on Tuesday, not the move they make. We should know by now that the Fed will be lowering rates and by how much but the market is a little ahead of itself as it tries to figure out a way to get them to move down 50bps. The latest guess has them lowering the discount rate by 50bps and the funds rate by 25bps. The jobs' report on Friday was strong enough to give participants a pause to consider that 50bps in the funds rate may not be something the Fed can do.

Our position is that the Fed will cut 25bps on Tuesday for a couple of reasons, none of which makes too much sense. At there last FOMC meeting, the news was pretty strong that the cut they were making should be enough to take care of the problem. Now, the credit market isn't behaving the way the Fed would like it to so they probably need to lower again but they don't want to because of the recent prior statements they made. As we see it, they have room to move a great deal given the short rates on the Treasury curve.

Here at the Update, the news is the same. The economy is suffering from the letdown of the housing boom. As the houses go down in value, people have more difficulty financing their lifestyle. There is some optimism being mentioned but for the most part the media is telling the story that the economy is now weaker than they thought. While many thought the housing market and the rest of the world could go in opposite directions, there has been some recent comprehension that the two are going in the same direction.

The investment community is trying to bail itself out of the mortgage problems that it is in. That effort has now gone to the President with a plan to reduce the possibility that the US doesn't have more homeless people. The plan has drawn much criticism from a variety of sources even though the actual plan is not so much a plan to help people with upcoming resets but a plan to get people to pay attention to the politicians again. But, we digress...

The important idea here is that the government has just announced a plan to help the people right around the time where we think the market should be topping. The move over the next few days should tell us what the market intends to do. Then we will see how strong the move down is to see if it's strong enough to make some lower lows. This is the important focus.

FSI: 107.51

Friday, December 07, 2007

13,750 Give or Take

We had technical difficulties last night--internet was down--so no Update.

The market has come up to the area we have been talking about, give or take. With the FOMC next week, it might try to hold on until then with an upward bias toward that 13,750 mark in the Dow.

The jobs' report came in just a bit over expectations but not much. As expected, at least as we envisioned it last night, the market didn't react much to the news. Now, as we write, the market is pretty flat.

We'll be back Sunday evening for Monday's post.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

News Day

The market makes a big up push on Wednesday which should be the start of the "fill" we have been discussing recently. There is a problem with this thinking process, the move wasn't big enough on Wednesday. It failed to get above the highs of the last week in the indexes we follow which leaves the door open, at least, to a total upside failure. We see the futures are trading higher this evening offering the possibility of higher prices than last week.

The problem remains that the major indexes are weak. Normally we would see a stronger push than we did on Wednesday leading to a full move up to the 13,750 we have been mentioning. If the market can not get over last week's highs, the stage will be set for a huge drop. We don't see that happening because of all of the possible bullish news items due out over the next week. Weakness is clear but how weak is it, really.

The news is thick with Wednesday Update type items. The first is the front page article on Thursday's WSJ, a story on Auto-Loan delinquency. You may ask, what does that have to do with the Update? Well, this one of the fallouts from the housing situation and the WSJ seems to connect the dots:

"Car loans differ from home loans in one crucial way. During 2004-06, many home loans were made to speculators on the assumption that the underlying asset -- the home -- was sure to keep rising in value. Many people, inspired by fervor in the market, took out home loans that in retrospect they had little hope of paying back.

By contrast, everyone understands that the car behind a car loan is an asset destined to lose value. The typical delinquent borrower in a car loan isn't a speculator but someone who became unable to make what previously seemed like a manageable payment. That is why car delinquencies are closely linked to the health of the economy. "

Then, on Thursday, the Bush administration is unveiling a plan to help the homeowners who can make their payments under the pre-reset interest rate but not after the reset. The politicians want to swoop down and save the day. Unfortunately, the problem is Too big to solve. When the problem started everyone, including the politicians, were considering that home prices would naturally go to the moon.

The President's proposal is designed to help a small segment of the foreclosure pool. Not everyone can be satisfied but as Fleck reported this evening, there was a Contract signed at the outset of the mortgage. Contract law has a long history that is being questioned at this moment in time. Do politicians really think they can just wave their hands and break these contracts? If they can do that, they can do anything.

And, without much detail, MBIA dropped 16% to 27.42 which seems a little lower than its price back in early October, 68. (symbol MBI if you care to try it on From the WSJ: Moody's Investors Service said that it considers MBIA "somewhat likely" to fall short of its capital requirements. Investors seized on this wording, since Moody's put MBIA in the less-likely camp just one month ago.

And, last is the Fed outlook. On Wednesday ADP, the payroll company, said that their employment estimate had jobs increasing by 189K compared to an expected number of 60K. Still, the estimate for Friday's report remains closer to 60K, at 78K. Plus, the productivity number was stronger than expected, too. So, the economy seems to be percolating along and at the same time the credit market is in a crunch and the dollar is declining, or was going into the last few weeks.

What's the poor Fed supposed to do? As mentioned in our last post, the Fed has plenty of room to lower rates if they so choose but with the GDP up over 4% in the last quarter, the employment numbers in pretty good shape, and the stock market in pretty decent shape, an interest rate cut seems pretty self serving, for the banks only. We have yet to decide what the number will be but we will make a stab in tomorrow's post with an refined number early next week--before the number comes out. Our initial thought is, "How can they lower by more than 25bps?"

FSI: 104.70 (and RIMM is down four days in a row, not much but down???)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One More Rally Left?

The stock market attempted to go down on Tuesday but it didn't have much punch with fairly low volume and prices down about half a percent. Our opinion is that the wave c, Fill, is going to be right around the corner with a pretty good sized jump--a jump that should be sold. One other opinion would be that the market would just drop right now, but we think one more attempt to rally is probably the right outlook. The futures are up a bit this evening but we all know the significance of that.

The news at the start of the trading day was JP Morgan's downgrade of its competitors. This pushed stocks down generally but most of the damage was done before the market opened. After that announcement things were pretty quiet.

Canada decided to lower its interest rates due to their currency running strong. The officials want to continue selling their products to the world and they are much more expensive with a 20% higher currency. The magic potion is to lower rates and thereby lower the currency.

Here at home, the Fed is now expected to lower rates next week, too. Somehow, we don't think the driving force is the currency is too strong but we could be wrong. As many times as we read that the Secretary of the Treasury wants a strong dollar, there are as many times as we don't think he does. The actions by the Fed are very loud indeed and Fleck describes so of it in his latest Contrarian Chronicles.

Getting back to the interest rate cut due next week, there is some division on the subtraction. What we mean is that the opinion is divided whether the Fed will subtract either 25bps or 50bps from the current level. Recent action in the credit markets are pushing rates down on the Treasuries. The 3 month bill is very near 3% which is lower than it was in the mid-August credit crisis. With the fed funds rate at 4.5%, the Fed could theoretically lower by 150bps but they wouldn't do that next week, would they? We haven't decided what we think they will do next week but we will have an opinion sometime this week.

After the market closed the word from FNM (Fannie Mae) was that they would try to raise some capital, $7 billion, by selling some nonconvertible preferred stock and cutting its dividend by 15 cents or 30%. No one is too surprised by this news but it will be mentioned casually on page three of Wednesday's WSJ, yawn.

FSI: 102.92 (RIMM is down three days in a row, now down 17%)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hope Now

The stock market opened down a tad but soon the buyers were in there taking the market back up. The market then spent some time moving back down toward the close with most indexes closing near their lows of the day. One of the four horsemen, RIMM, has not fared well over the past two days dropping nearly 15%.

We still think the market is settng up for one more run up in what chartists would call "fill" as in fulfill. After the lows were set up last week, the stock market rebounded out and has now settled into a consolidation range. From here, the market should ful-"fill" some buy orders by jumping up another couple hundred points. Once these buy orders are "fill"-ed, then we should see the next event which is a major reversal into the abyss.

After the market moves up and the participants see there is no chance for a rally to new highs, the reaction will be to sell. This will be a time when the buyers disappear and the recognition of the down trend is finally accepted by many. When this happens, and maybe we are a bit premature with this talk, sellers are in control and prices should go into a freefall.

The stock market is finally working off its oversold condition and we have the appointment with a rally coming up in order to put the market in a bit of a neutral position or maybe slightly positive. This move should give us a good opportunity for further selling at pretty good prices. The trading over the next several days, probably until the FOMC meeting, should be viewed with the previous paragraphs in mind. We will be watching very closely.

As far as the news today, the biggest news continues to be the "government is here to help you" lines from the Secretary of the Treasury, Paulson. They even have a Name for their new plan, Hope Now. While the plan has received a lot of criticism, we are superficially in favor of it.

We have said many times how difficult it is assess blame in this mess, sort of like the chicken and the egg, which came first? Was it the Fed fearing a recession and lowering short term rates to 1% and holding them there for a long time? Was it Wall Street financing any type of mortgage just because it might have slightly better rates of return? Or, was it any number of other parties such as theregulators, the mortgage brokers, the appraisers, the realtors, the speculators, the builders, or who knows who else?

Hope Now gives a break to a small sector of home owners who should never have been allowed to buy a house in the first place due to the impending rate reset two years out. Some investor was silly enough to loan these people money through the magic of AAA credit ratings. Hope Now proposes to go find out who was given a loan that can pay the lower rate but not the reset rate, a process we think should have happened at the time of the mortgage origination. With the reset not happening, the investors will be receiving less than they "should" but more than they would if the mortgage defaults. This should put some of those black boxes to work pretty hard to determine what effect this will have on valuations.

We are trying to be sympathetic to the poor homeowners who are getting thrown out of their houses due to foreclosure but...We have said for a couple of years that the unwinding of this housing push would affect all homeowners even those that did not participate in the speculation or the option ARM's. The Fed has allowed, and Greenspan encouraged, the use of ARM's as a way for the public to buy houses cheaper. The consequences of overbuilding and speculation means that many will suffer and many are. We read about the neighborhoods that have empty houses that are being stripped of contents or boarded up and wonder if the Fed actually considered that could be one of the end results of their policies.

We are not trying to make a political statement here, we only have interest in the stock market and how it will react to the current situation. The politicians are trying to say the right things but there isn't enough money to "take care" of this problem. The stock market may think for the moment that the politicians can solve the problem so it can justify the rally phase its in but in a few days or a week the market will come to realize the problem is bigger than they first realized...that will be the start of the recognition.

FSI: 102.55

Sunday, December 02, 2007

California Real Estate Troubles

The stock market starts a new month with a bit of a rally just behind it. The current situation is giving a little time for the bulls to gather some steam for one last push. We think this should be a move that takes the Dow back up to around 13,750 give or take...

The next ten days have the possibility of a little volatility due to the position we find the market in currently. The first week of the month has the employment report on Friday and then there is the FOMC meeting next week on the 11th. With the market set up for a rally to relieve the extreme oversold condition the market was in the last couple of weeks.

The WSJ has another front page article, Monday, that talks about the higher credit score borrowers that decided to take out subprime mortgages for whatever reason. We recommend the article for your Monday reading. The article does suggest that with some of these higher credit score borrowers in the mix there might not be as much damage created by interest resets over the next few years. There are other interpretations.

The housing market is in a difficult situation and California seems to be the center of it. The Prudent Bear's Doug Noland shows the drop in the median price of a California home has dropped... from the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R): "Home sales decreased 40.2% in October in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 9.9%... 'Financing issues have dogged entry-level buyers since early 2007, but they spilled over into the middle and upper-tier markets in the last few months,' said C.A.R. President William E. Brown. 'The decline in sales at the upper end of the market contributed to a significant decline in the statewide median price as even well-qualified borrowers had difficulty securing financing.'”

Mr. Noland points out that...California's statewide median price was down $33,720 to $497,110, putting the two-month decline at a remarkable $91,860. The month's supply of home inventories was down slightly from September to 16.3 months, this compares, however, to the year ago 6.4 months.

FSI: 104.84