Tag: Federal Reserve

Fannie, Freddie, and the Fed: Robbing Paul to Pay Peter

From the Economist (emphasis mine):

After a headlong plunge in the two firms’ share prices (see chart 1), Hank Paulson, the treasury secretary, felt obliged to make an emergency announcement on July 13th. He will seek Congress’s approval for extending the Treasury’s credit lines to the pair and even buying their shares if necessary. Separately, the Federal Reserve said Fannie and Freddie could get financing at its discount window, a privilege previously available only to banks.

The absurdity of this situation was highlighted by the way the discount window works. The Fed does not just accept any old assets as collateral; it wants assets that are “safe”. As well as Treasury bonds, it is willing to accept paper issued by “government-sponsored enterprises” (GSEs). But the two most prominent GSEs are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In theory, therefore, the two companies could issue their own debt and exchange it for loans from the government—the equivalent of having access to the printing press.

That would certainly solve the problem of fewer open-market buyers for the GSEs’ paper.

Federal Reserve goes Web 2.0

They aren’t twittering and they don’t have a room on Friendfeed, but they are offering RSS feeds for a good portion of their data. (h/t The Big Picture)

Foriegn bankers blast Fed

Gloom and doom compliments of Barclays Capital, with fingers pointing at Ben Bernanke. The tsunami is not here yet, but some are certainly testing the early warning system.

Speaking of gloom and doom, here’s a ten best websites list under the same moniker. A hat tip goes to Barry Ritholtz, who couldn’t decide whether to be miffed by his blog’s inclusion, or to rejoice. Personally, I think the collective intellect of the authors is off the charts, and their penchant for telling it like it is firmly grounded.  In other words, worthy of attention.

When Should the Fed Crash the Party?

Peter Bernstein pits Mellon against Keynes (and Greenspan and Bernanke against the tide). The tome is shutting off the open bar to prevent the hangover.

(h/t to The Big Picture)

Editor’s Note:

Bernstein is author of two books I’ve read, The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession and Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. They are both quite worthy, and both certainly relevant to our “inflation ex-inflation” (quote pilfered from Barry Ritholtz) times. However, I found The Power of Gold more enlightening than the latter – Bernstein waxes poetic on the history of the metal, and concludes its worth is only in the eyes of the beholder. Against the Gods, on the other hand, won’t hit you like a Louisville Slugger unless you have some minimal exposure to elementary statistics. I’ve long since passed “Gold” on to a commodities trading friend, but Against the Gods still sits on the shelf. And if someone can develop a salient, but not necessarily completely risk-averse, argument as to why the Fed (and Congress, and the Treasury, and the rest of the Administration) should play hands off here, invariably allowing the meek to inherit (or at least take full economic advantage of) the scraps, I’ll send them my un-abused copy of Against the Gods for their reading pleasure.

Post your thesis in the comments, or put it on your blog and post a link down yonder. In addition, rationale to the contrary (why governmental bodies should step in and start paying your neighbor’s mortgage) will also be accepted, although taking that path may be fraught with risk.

Fed opens Yahoo Lending Facility

They’re bailing everyone else out, so why not?

Humor abounds:

In response to recent events Federal Reserve Board voted unanimously to authorize the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to create Yahoo Lending Facility (YLF) to avoid significant stock market distruption and to support Yahoo! Inc shares. Yahoo! Inc and its authorized agents will be able to borrow from the facility to support stock price.

This facility will be available for business on Monday, May 5. It will be in place for at least six months and may be extended as conditions warrant. The interest rate charged on the credit will be the same as the primary credit rate, or discount rate, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In addition, Yahoo! Inc shareholders who are unable to sell their shares at or above Friday, May 2 closing price, will be able to swap Yahoo! shares for the US Treasuries at the set price of $29.70 per share.

Via the Yahoo! message boards (with h/t to The Big Picture)

I figured Yahoo! would just issue some upper DECS equity units, but maybe the Fed found out there were already puts on the negative equity certificates, or something like that.

Are U.S. banks too big to fail, or too big to save?

Derivative headline for a derivative world.

Was discussing the same idea with a colleague just this morning…

And if another investment bank were to fall like Bear Stearns, there are no more J.P. Morgans to pick up the pieces. In addition, counting on foreign countries’ investment funds may be problematic, as many politicians balk at the fact that all but one sovereign wealth funds are from countries without a democratic system.

For the better part of a year there’s been play with banking shorts. Now there seems to be a lot of money sitting on the sidelines, persistent chatter that the bottom has been reached, and yet continued resistance towards the upside. Uncertainty is the prevailing wind.

The take over here is there are still a lot of writedowns left to go, and even more balance sheet games which will eventually exacerbate the situation. The Fed and the Treasury seem to have “blown their wads” too early. More obvious taxpayer funded/direct bailouts could create downright insurrection (or at least there are going to be a lot of pissed off renters rioting in the streets). The WSJ is correct in their assumption – there just aren’t many J.P. Morgans left to do the bailing. Then there is the offshore money. Politics aside, you have to wonder how much of it will be willing to chase financial assets of a dollar denominated nature – said assets may look cheap to them now, but may get a hell of a lot cheaper in the year to come too.

At the very least I suspect it is going to be an interesting summer.

Fed to start raising rates soon!

Headlines are sometimes veiled in sarcasm.

In the world according to this Bloomberg columnist, the Fed might start raising rates again really soon.

Sure they will.

In other news sure to make you feel warm and fuzzy, pharma company Bristol-Myers Squibb discloses they’re taking a hit from investments in sub-prime mortgages. And bond insurance big boy MBIA says it’s keeping its triple-A rating. S&P has other ideas.

UPDATE: I noticed the same Bloomberg columnist was recently tooting the horn of banking stocks. Of course, anything can look profitable when the SEC endorses your smoke and mirrors approach to loss disclosure.

Preliminary conclusion…the fed won’t be raising rates by summer’s end, and I wouldn’t own a banking stock if someone paid me to hold it Japan-style.

UPDATE 2: At least the analysts are getting a clue about those bank stocks.

Topping off a bubble with more bubbles

Negative real interest rates didn’t help Japan much either.

More Fed Opinions

The Economist calls the latest move desperation. With only a week to go until the next meeting, a 75 bip cut might make an investor think the Fed knows plenty they don’t.

UPDATE: It’s funny that oil for March delivery had punched 7-week lows when the Fed made the announcement – I’m not sure how long that will last now. You’d almost think the Fed wants $5 a gallon gas.

Fed moves early

Dow futures were off 500. The Federal Reserve Bank decided this was unacceptable, and cut rates 75 basis points.

Barry Ritholtz‘s crew calls the Fed the “Plunge Protection Team.” There is little doubt now that the “PPT” surely exists.

My call for the next asset bubble? Bread. Buy now.

As an aside, Donald Luskin of Smart Money proves some financial journalists don’t have anything intelligent to say. To propose that “bears” caused a panic that made individual investors run for cover is simply idiotic (h/t to Paul Kedrosky). “Bears” didn’t make anyone borrow money they couldn’t pay back (which is the primary cause of the present situation). Second, most individual investors likely have not gotten out yet – in fact they are probably still listening to folks like UBS.

UPDATE: The Fed move had not, as of 9:00 am, had it’s intended effect. S&P futures were trading down 60 and change versus fair value, essentially unchanged from from the 4.25% Fed Funds rate world. NASDAQ futures much the same – off roughly 84. Now we get $5 a loaf bread AND decimated equity markets. Maybe the Fed was taking cues from Larry Kudlow.

UPDATE 2: B of A is another recommending buying stocks during the panic. That of course comes after they just announced a 4th quarter hammering – net profit down 95%. This is reminiscent of the earlier part of the decade, when banks were making recommendations in the face of egregious fundamentals – and we all know how that one turned out…everyone lost their shirts, and then sued.