Friday, December 24, 2010

Kraft: 3.6% Yield + Plus Emerging Market Synergy

Kraft will be absorbing its acquisition of Cadbury. Should you buy the stock?

It yields 3.64% and sells about 13 times 2011 estimated earnings according to
Barron's Dimitra DeFotis. Is the stock undervalued or is the market discounting lousy prospects? Cadbury certainly offers opportunities for synergy. Kraft is strong in countries Cabury is not and vice versa. With the emerging market econnomies providing the world's economic growth, this is important. Hanging over that rosy scenario is the question of whether Kraft can digest iCadbury's sweets. Managements in more than one industry have gotten indigestion from such major mergers.

Still DeFotis explains that mixing Kraft cheese with Cadbury chocolate should sweeten investor returns in this video.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The "Scarbus" 380: Rolls Royce Engine Explodes Forcing a Quantas Jet to Land In Singapore

Quantas Grounds its A380s

Airbus touts the A380 as the plane of the future. In this News Corp. video you can see the first Qantas airbus A380 touch down in Sydney, October 2008:

Quantas is quite proud of its safety record. What other major airline can brag of never having lost a jetplane? Keen on keeping that reputation, Quantas grounded its A380s after the emergency landing of its "scrabus" flight QF32.

Thus the planes of the future is having problems in the present.

News on Airbus's big one, the A380, first. Singapore Airlines found oil leaking from its Rolls Royce engines (courtesy of News Australia):

And yet more on SKYNews:

The Fallout for RollsRoyce:

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Future of Natural Gas

Oil prices make headlines; Solar and wind power are sexy, yet natural gas is the real news.

While U.S. oil production has been declining since the 1970s and the peak of world oil production is continually predicted, natural gas looks like the rabbit we are pulling out of the hat.  And the future is paved with shale.

It took companies like Mitchell Energy twenty years to figure out how to extract natural gas from the Barnett shale formation in Texas.  The technology having been mastered, we now realize that there is an abundance of gas in shale formations around the country and the globe.

Interestingly enough the home of the Whiskey Rebellion and the first U.S. oil rig, Pennsylvania, is home to one of the biggest.  The Marcellus shale formation in western Pennsylvania, west Virginia and western New York has been estimated as having natural gas equivalent to the nation's energy needs for twenty years.

Chevron's 4.3 billion Shale Bet

As iStockAnalyst put it, [C]onsider this number: 4.3 billion.That is what Chevron offered to pay for Atlas Energy.  As Bill Wince of Chesapeake Energy points out the big integrated oil companies are used to dealing with huge fields and negotiating with governments. Unlike America, in many countries the state not the landowner owns the mineral rights.   The independents can field an army of land men who track down tittles and negotiate drilling rights.  The Chevrons of the world have decided if they do not have a distinctive competence, they can always buy it. 

Platts tells us, "Chevron's first deal in a US gas shale play dovetails nicely with the
company's plans to increase its proportion of gas production from 31% of total
output currently to 41% in the next seven years," according to Atlas' Indian joint venture partner, Reliance Industries, CEO John Watson who spoke at a Bank of America
Merrill Lynch's Global Energy Conference.

This is Not the Last Big Buy

Platts further reported, "Watson said he expects Chevron's Marcellus Shale production to grow from Atlas' 63,300 Mcf/d to more than 500,000 Mcf/d in the next decade and that, combined with the play's proximity to premium markets in the northeastern US made it fit into Chevron's plans.

"The cost per well in the Marcellus Shale are about half that in other
major shale plays such as the Louisiana's Haynesville and Texas' Eagle Ford
because vertical drilling distances in Appalachia are about half those in
rival plays.

"Atlas wasn't the first shale producer Chevron looked at and it probably
won't be the last, Watson said."

Heard on the Street: IEA's Energy Outlook Forecast 11/9/2010 5:42:06 PM
Forecasting the next quarter is perilous.  Forecasting the next 26 years is both easier and riskier.  Few will remember your forecast after the twenty six years pass and the fundamentals assert themselves over the long run.  Still, you have no idea where in the crazy commodity cycle you will be nor what the value of a dollar will be.

The International Energy Agency's 26-year forecast for the energy industry

The Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street columnist, Liam Denning, talks to the Journal's Lee Hawkins:

Lee Hawkins and Liam Denning also discuss Chevron's "We Agree" Campaign.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Business Jets and Elections

Molly Mullins reports on a talk by Michael Scheeringa of Signature Flight Support, which operates 103 fixed base operations around the world. At the today’s Wichita Aero Club meeting, Scheeringa reassured her that “It’s a very resilient industry.”  She blogs, "The good news is that the market has begun to recover, although recovery has been muted.

"But Fortune 200 companies are flying as much today as they did in 2008, he said. It’s the small business owners who are not using business aviation as much."

That sounds like good news, but we need to see the orders before we know the rebound is truely here. Wichita needs a business jet revival.

Furthermore, she relates his judgement that "The political climate has caused uncertainty in the tax structure of smaller businesses. And that leads to uncertainty about income and generates a lack of confidence." Moreover, "That lack of confidence impacts the business aviation industry in Wichita and elsewhere."

Which brings us to the mid-term elections. The pundits are predicting big Republican gains, perhaps recapturing the House, picking up a half dozen Senate seats, and assorted governorships and state ledgislative seats. The latter is especially important given the redistricting that follows the decinimal census.

The economy hit bottom in June, 2009, but the unemployment rate is actually above where it was at the trough. Economic growth ahs resumed, but Americans are still mired in misery.

Comes November 2nd, the President will be blamed.

But is it just?

President Obama campaigned on the need to fix the economy. That created expectations among the voters. Not surprisingly, the voters wanted those expectations to be met.

What happened?

The nation's economic problems were essentially long term in nature (huge and chronic trade imbalances, lack of domestic saving, misallocated resources from the credit boom.) Yet the President focused on short term solutions: fiscal stimulus. Worse, he delegated the job of designing the solution to Congress.

Then, with the economy being far from fixed, the President switched his priority to changing the health care system and its financing. Reallocating resources for a sector equivalent to 17% of the whole economy (four times the size of the auto industry) predictably set off a debilitating dog fight between the winners and the losers. To make matters worse, the President delegated the design to Congress.  Will Rodgers once predicted that "no one's wallet is safe when congress is in session."

If voters are angry with the President's economic policies, their anger is understandable.

After they express that anger on November 2nd, the President should address the source of that anger and ask the American people for a second chance. He should warn them that our problems are long term and there are no quick fixes. We must realistically face America's secular economic decline before it is too late and put forth the painful policies that will reverse our strategic decline. The tea party activists who are focusing on the size of the federal deficits have unwittingly brought to fore a very real problem. The U.S. can only use deficits to attack weakness of demand if the dollar remains the world's reserve currency. And the more it uses the deficits to stimulate the economy the closer we are to losing the dollar's reserve status. When foreigners stop taking our dollars, our options close and we start looking more like Greece and Spain.

Moreover, without significant policy changes there is a very real threat in the medium term. The perceived erosion of the rule of law (think of the treatment of GM's bondholders), the costs of the healthcare system reengineering, and the prospect of tax hikes if the Bush tax cuts expire have eerily recreated the conditions of 1936. These set the stage for the Roosevelt recession of 1937. We avoided the financial collapse that trasformed the recession of 1929 into the Great Depression. Now we have recreated the conditions for the 1937 recession, a recession whose severity was exceeded only by the contractions of 1929-33 and 1920.

President Obama should take advantage of his party's upcoming defeat to embark on a new program of economic leadership.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Economic Update: Wichita and the World

1) The world economy is eighteen months into an economic recovery. The U.S. economy lagged six months behind. Employment lagged another six months behind that and Wichita lagged yet further behind.  The most recent news is mixed.  the Commerce Department reported Housing starts were up.  Alan Rappeport writes in the Financial Times that "That was stronger than economists expected and marked the third month running that starts increased."  The Fed reported that September industrial production was down.  Rapeport tells us that "US industrial production fell for the first time in more than a year last month."

2) The U.S. unemployment rate is still at 9.5% reflecting the enormous dislocations caused during the bubble years of 2004-7. The administration's two top economists Larry Summers have retreated to academia.  CNN interviewed Peter Diamond the new Nobel Laureate who seems to see it differently.  He told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS: "The central focus of the problems in the economy right now is not that the labor market is working badly but the demand for labor is way down. ... I view the US economy as extraordinarily adaptive . . . I expect the economy to adapt this time as well."

3) Wichita and Kansas are seeing signs of recovery. Wichita's August unemployment rate at 8.2% is down a percentage point from a year ago. (August is the worst month each year.) For four straight months we have seen an improvement over the year before. A new state study shows job openings up and up relative to the number out of work. The Kansas Department of Labor reported, "There are more job vacancies in Kansas this year than last year, according to the 2010 Job Vacancy Survey. The survey, completed by employers during the second quarter of 2010, found there were an estimated 32,091 job vacancies statewide. This represents a 24.5 percent increase in vacancies from 2009." World trade is vital for Kansas and the world economy is pulling up the Kansas economy.

4) As for the aviation industry, it is a three legged stool: commercial, military, and general aviation. Commercial aviation is reviving. The lessors are back. The other two legs are weak.  Most countries are cutting military spending around the world. General aviation (business jets and private planes) is still in a big slump.

5) The business aviation industry has its big show in Atlanta while we speak. In connection with that, Honeywell's new forecast shows a 10% increase over the next decade, but tough slogging over the next two years. For 2010, Honeywell Aerospace estimates deliveries of 675-700 new business jets, down 16-17 percent from 849 in 2009 mainly due to continued global economic weakness as well as overarching concerns about government debt, austerity programs, export growth, financing costs, and general availability. Rob Wilson, President, Business and General Aviation, Honeywell Aerospace said "The industry should begin another period of expansion by 2012"  Molly Mullins reports on Hawker's new business jet, the 200 and on Cessna's new version of the Citation, the Citation X.

6) Hawker-Beechcraft's two lines of business are military and business jets: not a pretty picture. Kansas has put together a package to keep it from moving to Louisiana, but the union has now rejected the firm's proposed labor contract. This cloud remains over our economic horizon.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wichita's Unemployment Rate Rises Seasonally to 8.4 Percent; GDP Grows at 2.4 Percent; and Europe's Mercedes Reves Up

The Stock Market Falls Again

Here it is Friday afternoon and the U.S. Stock Market is down some more after a 144 point plunge yesterday. The Fed of Philadelphia's activity index took a dive and new claims for unemployment jumped over a half million. That latter is one statistic economists do not want to see rise and it is one of the Conference-Board's leading indicators. Yesterday's plunge turned a nicely developing  global rally into a global route.

Markets have been particularly spooked since the Commerce Department issued its GDP report a week a go.  The economy grew at a 2.4 percent rate in the second quarter.  This was seen as lack luster growth.  However the deceleration was not due to a lack of demand but to an over appetite for imports.  Real, domestic final demand grew at a 4 percent annual rate.  More economic stimulus would further aggravate our current account balance.

Its Bureau of Economic Analysis revised the last two and a half years of national income accounts estimates showing, as I expected, that the recession was deeper and the recovery stronger than previously reported.

Good News From Germany

The global rally had been fueled by news that the Bundesbank had increased its forcast of German economic growth. Germany is the Eurozone's engine. Moreover the strength in the world economy is reflected in the new resource M&A boom according to Javier Blas and William MacNamara in the Financial Times. They report, "The rise of China and India has sparked a renewed surge in aggressive dealmaking in the resources sector, with more than $50bn in proposed take­overs this week alone wagering on continued strong commodities demand."

The American stock market is focused on the possibillity of a "double-dip recession."  As I said yesterday, "I don't see a double-dip recession, either here or nationally...It's too late for one to start. They need to happen within 12 months."  We had a  double dip recession in 1973-75.  The economy fell in response to the oil shock of the arab oil embargo.  The economy recovered in the first half of 1974, but as inflation artificially inflated manufacturing order books, firms soon found their perceived demand to be ephemeral.  Industrial activity plunged after June in the "second dip."  The recession of 1982 followed closely (fourteen months) on the heels of the 1980 reession leading some economists to argue it was really one double dip recession not two separate recessions.

There real recession threat for the U.S. is more medium term.  When tax hikes and the supply side effects of the new health care legislation hit in 2011 and 2012, we could see something like the "Roosevelt Recession" of 1937-38.

Wichita's Good Bad News.

Dan Voorhis of the Wichita Eagle reported, "The July unemployment rate in the Wichita area hit 8.4 percent — worse than June, but much better than the 10.3 percent in July 2009."   That compares with 8 percent in June.

The rise is seasonal.  As Voorhis points out, "The unemployment rate typically rises in July as thousands of students and school staff enter the work force looking for jobs."   Chris Moon in the Wichita Business Journal notes that "metro [Wichita] had 26,669 people who were out of work, up from 25,184 a month ago."

To look past the seasonal effects, compare July's unemployment rate to the same month in 2009 (10.3%.)  That is a big drop.   This is the third straight month that the unemployment rate improved compared to a year ago and that provides grounds for optimism.   The Eagle quotes this Friends University professor as seeing "encouraging economic trends that will soon translate into better employment.  'I can see the unemployment rate in the fall closer to 7 percent than where it is now.'
[and the] strength in commercial aircraft construction and a general demand for Wichita-made products in other parts of the globe.."


Seasonal factors drove the state unemployment rate up for July to 6.9 percent.   Kansas Department of Labor economist Tyler Tenbrink said "Kansas continued to see steady but slow job growth in July. An increase in goods producing jobs, like construction, are very important. We are still seeing a decline in some service providing jobs, like information services and financial activities. A bright spot this month within those declining industries was administrative and support services, which includes job placement services for temporary workers. We are particularly interested in job gains in this area because employers tend to use these services before hiring permanent workers. This industry saw its first over-the-year job gain since June 2008, a positive indicator that we may continue to see growth in other industries in the coming months."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sheila Bair, Financial Reform, and Fannie and Freddie: Of Sound and Fury

President Obama has signed into law the Dodd Frank financial reform law. 

The most needed provision of the new law is its authority to resolve failing non-banks procedures along the lines of the FDIC's bank failure resolution process when the non-bank poses systemic risk The FT's Tom Braithwaite interviews Sheila Bair, Chairman of the FDIC, in this video (10m 19sec) "about how she is going to implement the new powers that were given to her by the new legislation on financial reform."

In an unrelated(?) story, Congressman Issa has dug up some very interesting facts about two non-banks not covered by Dodd-Frank.  The Financial Times' Suzanne Kapner reports "Countrywide Financial made 153 “VIP” loans to Fannie Mae executives, in an effort to win goodwill from the giant mortgage finance company, according to a letter released on Tuesday by a US congressman.

"An additional 20 VIP loans were made to Freddie Mac employees, the other large government-sponsored buyer of home loans, according to the details released by Darrell Issa, a California Republican."

Senator Dodd was a recipient of two of Angelo's VIP loans.

Which brings us to the most interesting question about the financial reform package.  The President assures us this will end future bailouts.  Unfortunately, the President left the job of constructing a bill to Congress.  Congress gave us a 2,300 page rewrite of financial regulation and it contains is no solution to the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae problem.  Here is the biggest sinkhole in the federal bailout and not a word!  I guess Congress did not want to mess with the Financial Industrial Complex.  Incidentally (?), Senator Dodd and President Obama were the two biggest recipients of campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie sources.   Dr. Blair prudently sidestepped a question on this amazing omission.  Neil Murphy, an eminent banking authority, loved to ask "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"  I can hear him ask it again.

But do not worry!   Suzanne Kapner  writes, "Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, has said that he plans to start work on new legislation when Congress returns from its August recess. The White House is expected to submit plans for fixing the system by early next year."

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death."

Farnborough, Jobs, and Wichita

Wichita's unemployment rate is 8.0 percent.

The national recovery is starting to come to us. Wichita's unemployment rate was 8.0 percent June, down from 9.0 percent in June, 2009. Dan Voorhis reported in this morning's Eagle.   "'Given that it's for June, that's a positive sign for Wichita,'" quoting Mammon Among Friends' own Malcolm Harris, Professor of Finance at Friends University.

Note the data is not seasonally adjusted. The national unemployment rate, which is, fell to 9.5 percent (from 9.7 percent.) The national rate fell as fewer folks were in the June labor force. That was in part because of the seasonal adjustment and in part because those census workers who took the work for a few extra dollars but were not looking for permanent work left the labor force. He also quoted "Jeremy Hill, director of the center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, [who] said the bulk of the new jobs has come in the medical sector and professional and business services."

As I told Dan Voorhis, "We're 12 months into a national recovery and some of that is spilling into the local economy." One big area of improvement is the aircraft industry.  New aircraft orders are up for the five months through May according to Commerce Department data.   Although well below the boom years of 2007 and 2008, there is a distinct recovery showing up.  Both Boeing and Airbus have been conservative in their production planning.  Boeing is now slowly stepping up its 737 production, a sign it is growing confident.  Increased production also protects Boeing from potential cannibalization of the 737 market by its and Airbus's new planes.   Spirit Aerospace largely avoided layoffs by using a shortened workweek during the worst of it.  By thus spreading the work around, it conserved its younger workers who are the manufacturer's future.

Which brings us to Farnborough:

The Farnborough International Airshow is this week: 19-25 July 2010. The biennial show was last held at the peak of the boom in aircraft orders.  The 2008 show (pictured on the right) set a record of US$88.7 billion worth of orders announced during the show.  Note planes are priced in dollars not Euros.

Boeing's Dreamliner made a splash. The 787 flew into Farnborough Monday and returned home yesterday.  Gulliver, the Economist's Business Travel commentator blogged, "The Dreamliner is much more than just another incremental upgrade to Boeing’s fleet: its revolutionary lightweight carbon-composite wings and fuselage mean much-improved fuel efficiency (20% better than comparable planes made from aluminium, according to Boeing). This could well persuade airlines to open some direct routes around the globe that they previously deemed uneconomic."

Today's Eagle carries an AP report by Jane Wardell and Emma VanDore that orders have totaled $25 billion.

There is life among the aircraft lessors. Halleluja!

I knew the aircraft industry was in trouble when I learned AIG was Boeing's and Airbus's biggest customer.   AIG required a federal bailout, CIT entered bankruptcy and GE Financial was in trouble (the piggy bank that Jack Walsh built was broken.)  Lessors' share of aircraft orders dropped from 40 percent to 2 percent.

The Financial Times' Pilita Clark reported that "Steven Udvar-Hazy made a notable re-entry into the field.  He is one of the biggest names in aircraft financing who founded and ran ILFC, AIG’s aircraft leasing arm, until his departure earlier this year. He announced a $4bn order for 51 Airbus A320 family aircraft for his new leasing company, Air Lease Corporation."

"That news was swiftly followed by Boeing’s announcement that GE Capital Aviation Services, the aircraft leasing arm of General Electric, was ordering 40 of its best-selling 737 jets valued at around $3bn, according to the manufacturer’s published prices."

The A320s and the 737s are the workhorses of much of commercial aviation and seem to be commodity most easily leased.  Udvar-Hazy largely created the air leasing business with International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), now owned by AIG.  When AIG lost its AAA bond rating, ILFC got shut out of the commercial paper market and was hard pressed to buy new planes.  Udvar-Hazy's solution?  He left ILFC and started a new company and now he has ordered 40 Boeing 737-800s.  That should be good news for Spirit Aerospace here in Wichita which makes fuselages for 737s.

Is the market developing according to Boeing's view of the world or Airbus's?

The first step to understanding an industry and a company's business model is asking who the customers are. On the commercial side, Airbus and Boeing (and Bombardier and Embraer) sell to commercial airlines and air freight companies. The customers' business models will drive the demand for their planes. As the busiest airports get more and more congested, the airlines will either have to fly bigger planes with more seats into those hubs or fly longer point-to-point routes to relieve pressure on the hubs. Airbus in the A380 bet on the former, while Boeing in the 787 bet on the latter.

Pilita Clark reported from Farnborough Monday that "Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, on Monday announced a $9bn order for 30 Boeing 777 passenger jets, making it the biggest deal so far at the show."

This follows the the Berlin airshow where she reported on June 8th that "the Dubai-based airline, placed one of the largest civil aircraft orders in history on Tuesday when it said it would buy 32 A380 superjumbo passenger jets from Airbus in a deal worth $11.5bn."  That Airbus claimed was the biggest commercial aircraft order by dollar value ever.

At the time the FT's Clark further reported, "Emirates already had 58 A380s on order, with Tuesday’s announcement taking that number to 90, firmly cementing its position as the largest operator of the superjumbo.

"The deal is a big boost for Airbus, which now has 234 orders from 17 buyers. The programme is far from making a profit, however, after it was affected by numerous delays and cost overruns.
In addition to its A380 orders, Emirates has 70 Airbus 350s, 18 Boeing 777-300s and seven Boeing air freighters on order, totalling 143 wide-body aircraft worth more than $48bn.

"The world’s largest passenger jet, which typically has 525 seats, costs $346.5m at list prices, although large customers receive sizeable discounts."

While the luxury airlines can offer has been much commented on in the press, Airbus is stressing that the A380 is a money maker for airlines:  "The big news for operators is that the A380 is earning hard dollars at the same time. Introducing this next-generation jetliner is saving customers millions in operating costs annually while creating thousands of extra seats on long-haul routes. With the lowest cost per seat and the lowest emissions per passenger of any large aircraft, the A380 provides a competitive edge."

Molly McMillan reports in Air Capitol Insider, Hawker Beechcraft has found some business and Bombardier brags "it has captured 50 percent of net orders in the 100- to 149-seat marekt segment over the past two years. The program is on schedule for entry into service in 2013."

In a video report, Richard Milne reports from the Farnborough Airshow on the rise of emerging market manufacturers and the challenge posed to Airbus and Boeing from the Bombardier C-Series.  (3m 5sec) 

Separately,Molly McMillan reported in the Eagle, that "Hawker Beechcraft is looking at states that might be suitable for developing facilities to build parts for the company and has narrowed the field to two — Mississippi and Louisiana" according to its CEO, Bill Boistur. Molly McMillin reports that he said, "'The market for our products has decreased dramatically over the last 18 months...Our view is that this is not a momentary decrease, and we believe strongly it's necessary to adjust the cost structure of the company to be able to be profitable in a small market.'"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Balance-Sheet Recession

The CFA Institute is holding it conference in Boston. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Donna Kardos Yesalavich, speaks with Nomura Research Institute's chief economist, Richard C. Koo, who describes the current recession as a "Balance-Sheet Recession." 6/4/2010 2:39:28 PM

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Banks and Risk

The Economist walks through how financial institutions misread the risks they were taking, and were more vulnerable than they imagined in this video.

Stephen Roach: Unconscionable Policy Blunders

Stephen Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia on the bittersweet taste of vindication and China's role in the economic crisis:

Myron Scholes on Financial Innovation and Regulation

Myron Scholes is a Nobel Laureate for his work in financial innovation, the Frank E. Buck Professor of Finance, Emeritus, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the chairman of Platinum Grove Asset Managemen. The seemingly esoteric mathematical model he and Fisher Black developed for pricing options is now checked on every trading floor and is used even by stogy accountants. The Economist interviews him on why innovation must lead, how markets should be regulated, and why taking huge risks became so comfortable going into the financial crisis.

The Economist on the The German Economy

What China Sees as Its Borders are not What its Neighbors See Them

In this video the Economist reviews the history that has led to suspicions between China and its neighbors that bedevil its boundaries to the east, south and west:

Please note that the Republic of China overthrew the last Chinese dynasty.  When Mao Zedong led the Chinese Communist revolution against the Republic, he eventually conquered the mainland after Japan withdrew.  Chiang Kai-Shek retreated to the island of Taiwan with his government.

Asia's growing economic power.

The Economist shows graphically that Asia is regaining the economic dominance it enjoyed a millennium ago - but it still has some way to go.

The "B" in BRIC is Brazil and Henrique Meirelles is Brazil's Banker

My four favorite central bankers are Thomas Hoerner, Glenn Stevens, Mark J. Carney and Henrique Meirelles.

Henrique Meirelles is the president of Brazil's Central Bank. In this video he has tea with the Economist and says there's no room for complacency despite Brazil's impressive economic performance.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Treasury Securities ar ethe Risk Free Asset...For Now

On, James Mackintosh, investment editor, explained in a May 27 2010 video how the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency despite the enormous US budget deficit. (1m 48sec)

But we can only print dollars to pay off our debt if countries take those dollars.  Can we fool all the countries all the time?

Apple vs. Microsoft II

Clare McKeen argues that you should hold both cool Apple and Stogy Microsoft.

Have Stocks Fallen Too Far?

On June 1st, 2010 Jennifer Hughes, senior markets correspondent for the Financial Times, asked whether the stock market sell-off overdone.  Looking at the ISM’s purchasing manager’s survey and anticipating  Friday non-farm payrolls data thought that a week of good news from big headline data could mark a turning point, and given the current pessimism pervading the market, the real tail risk might be a move to the upside. (2m 34sec)

Unfortunately, the BLS disappointed.

Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard

Jun 3 2010 Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, speaks to Richard Waters, FT West Coast editor, about acquiring Palm, moving into the smartphone market, vertical integration and the impact of the Foxconn suicides. (11m 24sec)

They discuss business models, vertical integration, and product innovation.

Can the BLS Move the Dollar? If So, Which Way?

On June 3rd, 2010, James Mackintosh, investment editor for the Financial Times, looked forward to the Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) monthly employment report from the US. He discusses how interest rates and the strength of the economy inter -react with foreign exchange markets in determining the value of the dollar. (2m 15sec)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

U.S. High Yield Default Spread Premia

BRIC Solid Growth For the P&Gs of the World

Apr 29 2010: Consumer goods companies are coming back.  Jonathan Birchall in this video, reports on solid results from Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, fuelled by demand in emerging markets. (1m 35sec)

Money Illusion

Bursting Bubbles Leave Their Marks

March 9 is the tenth anniversary of the crash of Nasdaq's bubble.

In this video,John Authers opines that we are still suffering consequences.

What a Difference a Year Makes: US TV networks

In this May 20 Video,Kenneth Li notes how TV networks are re-thinking business models. On and off screen, the media industry is returning to comfort zones disturbed in recent years by thousands of alternative sources of entertainment on the internet. Across the media sector, executives were eager to convince advertisers that television is as resilient as it was in the eras they are harking back to. (1m 54sec)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Your Typical CEO

The Wall Street Journal's Kaveri Niththyananthan talks with Virgin Atlantic's President Richard Branson about the future for Virgin, strikes at BA and price fixing allegations.  Branson is for competition in ways many CEOs are not.

Virgin's Jilie Southern Talks strategy and the Airline Outlook

The Wall Street Journal's Kaveri Niththyananthan interviews Virgin Airline's Chief Commercial and Financial Officer, Jilie Southern, about the outlook, the impact from volcanic ash and her opinion on new government policy:

Apple Worth More Than Microsoft?

The WSJ's Simon Cosnable and Dennis Berman joins the News Hub to discuss how last Wednesday (5/26/2010), Apple's market capitalization past Microsoft's:

When Earnings Go Up, Stocks Go Down?

Corporate profits are still posting positive surprises, but Alex Eule reports the market has seemingly lost interest. From's:

When the Euro Sneezes, Does the Aussie Dollar Catch Something?

WSJ's David Wessel joins the News Hub and discusses why Europe's problems threaten not just Europe. Note the great view of the Sydney Opera House seen from St. Aloyisius? The next building after that is the Parthenon in Athens.

Has Greece's Profligacy Made Some Top European Stocks A Buy?

The Euro crisis has driven the currency down versus the dollar making Europen stocks cheaper for those of us who buy with greenbacks. It has also driven European stock prices down in Euros.

Does this mean there are bargains?  Vito J. Racanelli, Barron's European Editor suggests some candidates:

As Australia Goes, So Goes the Global Economy?

Andria Cheng previews this week's news from Asia.

Australia's GDP and Rate Decision: Among the world's central banks, the Reserve Bank of Australia (the RBA) has aggressive withdrawing monetary stimulus The RBA is expected to keep its rates steady as European debt worries roil global markets.

China's Purchasing Managers' Index will show where the world's second largest economy is going.

Here is a Barron's video:

Ryan Air and Ahold to Report

Aude Lagorce reports on the forthcoming earnings reports by Ryan Air and Ahold:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Are Stocks Cheap?

May 24 2010:   On FT,com, investment editor James Mackintosh asks whether stocks are cheap.  In this video he compares European stock and bond yields and the basis point spread in LIBOR markets.

U.S. Retail Sales

Jason Weisberg of Seaport Securities talks about upcoming US retail sales figures and last week's glitch that saw equity markets sell off sharply(2m 39sec)

The Giant To The South: Prometheus Bound?

In this Financial Times video, Jonathan Wheatley reports on the colossal challenge facing Brazilian farmers and manufacturers because the country lacks the infrastructure, the roads and port facilities, to export its wealth.  (3m 24sec)

May 26 2010

Risk Aversion

Aline van Duyn reports that investors are running away from risk.  Could it be that we are mostly talking about speculators who being subsidized by too cheap money compliments of Chairman Bernanke? 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Voice Crying Out In the Wilderness

Maria Anastasia O'Grady normally writes about Latin America.  She is the Wall Street Journal's Americas columnist.  Perhaps her experience with Latin American inflationist policies and monetary proflicacy made her the appropriate person to interview Tom Hoenig, the one hawk on the Federal Open Market Committee, the only member who seems to think loose money sinks economies.  Ms O'Grady explains this is in part because Tom Hoernig learned bank supervision in the the 1970s in the mid-west when the energy and farmland bubbles burst in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  He saw the effect on the local economies, businesses, employment, and growth.  He is no stranger to the human costs of bubbles.

Yet our policy makers are once again pursuing a policy of negative real policy rates (i.e., the federal funds rate is set below what inflation is expected to be.  Investing in T-Bills is a guaranteed mug's game.  it would seem new bubbles are on the way. "But if it happens the fault won't lie with one stubborn voice of dissent, crying out in Missouri."

It is refreshing to hear Hoenig tell us that "'Monetary policy has to be about more than just targeting inflation. It is a more powerful tool than that. It is also an allocative policy, as we've learned. In other words, when we kept interest rates unusually low for a considerable period we favored credit and the allocations related to it over savings, and we created the conditions that I think facilitated a bubble."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here Is One Investor Who Thinks Fighting Bubbles Is In Dr. Bernanke's Job Description!

Many still think Alan Greenspan walked on water.  Jeremy Grantham is not one of them.  The good Dr. Greenspan seemed to think that preventing bubbles was neither part of his job nor realistically feasible. Having suffered thorough the aftermaths of the high tech bubble and the housing bubble, has thinking on Constitution Avenue changed?  unfortunately not.  Pauline Skypala writes that "Mr Grantham sees Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, following the same path as his predecessor." He and his firm have identified thirty two bubbles over the last ninety years. 

As to his own business, the investment business, does it add value?  "The business is a zero-sum game, he points out, and 'we collectively add nothing but costs'. Costs have grown because there is no fee competition, due to the agency problem and the information advantage the agent has over the client. Growing complexity has increased the client’s dependence on the industry."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Has Paris Got to Do with What My Lady Buys at Kohl's or Penny's?

While some of us ask whether the oddly proportioned ladies on the fashion runways were genetically engineered, a reader of the Wall Street Journal asks Teri Agins, the Journal's fashion editor, about "How Fashions Trickle Down From Runways to Stores."

Agins tells us, "Runway creations provide many ideas that trickle down to the masses. Alexander McQueen's low-riding 'bumster' pants [see picture by Rex] seemed downright radical in the mid-1990s. But the revolutionary silhouette inspired many interpretations—and gradually morphed into the low-rise jeans that are so ubiquitous in shops today. Of course, not every design has a runway origin; Capris date back to the 1950s but were revived as recently as a decade ago.

"The mainstream market offers a mix of original designs and runway interpretations."

Penny's, J. Crew, and the rest keenly follow the traveling fashion show as it goes from Milan to Paris to New York. They then design for their own customers. Agins writes that stores "have design teams who possess a keen sense of their consumer fans and give them what they want." Consequently, "what's offered in stores doesn't really change very much. Most customers gravitate to familiar styles that work on many body types, tweaked just enough to look new."

One of the cleverest firms is Zara which has honed the art of imitation and design. Its competitive advantage lies in the speed with which it can put trendy designs on the racks and turn over their fashions. Zara is headquartered in Coruña, Spain. It has ridden its design cycle and supply chain management to spectacular growth and profitability for its parent,Inditex.

Inditex earned €1.3bn on sales of €11.1bn over its fiscal year ending January, 2010, up from the prior year's €1.25bn. Retailers typically have fiscal year ends ending in January. This permits a general inventory after Christmas and January "white sales."  Mark Mulligan explained in the Financial Times that "sales rose 7 per cent," not bad in a global recession which hit particularly hard in Europe. Mulligan attributed it to "expansion in Asia [which] helped offset weakness in the domestic market and other faltering European economies. After stripping out currency factors, global revenues rose 9 per cent, the company said."

Friday, May 07, 2010

Payrolls Are Up, Employment is Up, and the Labor Force Surges Causing a 9.9% Unemployment Rate

BLS released its April jobs report. Unemployment hit 9.9% because the labor force jumped by 805,000 including almost 200,000 re-entrants. Payroll jobs were up 260,000. Private jobs up 231,000 including 44,000 manufacturing jobs.

Although the unemployment rate rose, the household survey showed employment growing faster than population for the fourth straight month.

As for Wichita's unemployment situation, aviation is the core of its economic base. There was no evidence of a rise in aviation jobs in the report motor vehicle manufacturing jobs rose by 4,100 jobs while other transportation equipment employment fell by 4,000.

Correction:  The last sentence should read: "There was no evidence of a rise in aviation jobs in the report: motor vehicle manufacturing jobs rose by 4,100 jobs while other transportation equipment employment fell by 400."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Zuckerman: Investing in an Age of Bubbles

Zuckerman: Investing in an Age of Bubbles WSJ 4/25/2010

Author of the Greatest Trade Ever, Gregory Zuckerman, explains to Simon Constable why he thinks the world of investing has changed and how small investors should be willing to try new tactics to make money.

What Paulson Taught Zuckerman About Investing

What Paulson Taught Zuckerman About Investing WSJ 4/24/2010

Author of the Greatest Trade Ever, Gregory Zuckerman, explains to Simon Constable how small investors can learn from the quirky outsider tactics of John Paulson, the hedge fund manager at the center of the Goldman Sachs subprime trading scandal.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Economy Hit Bottom, But It Is Still Not Official

June, 2009?

Here at Mammon Among Friends, you have been reading for some time that the recession of 2007-2009 ended last June (i.e., June, 2009.)  The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (the NBER) ducked the issue, although it looks like a consensus agrees with me.  Their caution flows from a fear that we might have a repeat of 1980 and 1982 when we had either back to back recessions or one double dip recession.   The committee's decision was for the former.

I have no doubt we are well into a recovery and that the trough was June 2009.

Robert Gordon agrees: "It is obvious that the recession is over. Real GDP has recovered strongly from a trough in 2009:Q2 and by 2010:Q2 (the current quarter) will have reached (or be very close to) its value reached in the peak NBER quarter of 2007:Q4...The traditional measure of production used by the committee is the Federal Reserve Board Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which reached a well-defined trough in June 2009. For those who object that the IIP refers only to about 15 percent of the economy, the broader monthly measure real manufacturing and trade sales also reached its trough in June 2009. The private firm Macro Advisers has constructed a measure of monthly GDP that is available back to 1992, and this also indicates a cyclical trough in June 2009. While real GDI is flat across 2009:Q2 and 2009:Q3, quarterly real GDP reaches its trough in 2009:Q2, as does the average of quarterly real GDP and real GDI. Thus we have three monthly measures that reach a trough in June, the average of two measures of aggregate economic activity which reach their trough in 2009:Q2, and no clearly defined troughs occurring later than that in any series other than the traditional lagging data on aggregate hours of work and total employment."

Gordon is the senior guy on the committee now that Victor Zarnowitz is dead.   I'm in good company!

Jeffrey Frankel seems to be in the same camp. On April 5th, he blogged, "The recession is over."

What is a Recession?

A recession is a broad, sustained decline in a wide range of economic indicators. The committee has put increasing stress on GDP over the years , although not as much as they did in 1966. Still the monthly indicators are decisive and most of the coincident indicators are measures of private activity: e.g., real retail sales, industrial production, personal income minus transfer payments.

The committee's actual statement was:

"The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met at the organization’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 8, 2010. The committee reviewed the most recent data for all indicators relevant to the determination of a possible date of the trough in economic activity marking the end of the recession that began in December 2007. The trough date would identify the end of contraction and the beginning of expansion. Although most indicators have turned up, the committee decided that the determination of the trough date on the basis of current data would be premature. Many indicators are quite preliminary at this time and will be revised in coming months. The committee acts only on the basis of actual indicators and does not rely on forecasts in making its determination of the dates of peaks and troughs in economic activity. The committee did review data relating to the date of the peak, previously determined to have occurred in December 2007, marking the onset of the recent recession. The committee reaffirmed that peak date."

Where Are We At?  Where Are We Going?

We certainly should have a strong recovery given how far the economy fell. The first part of a recovery is when things are at their worst. Places where the housing bubble was the worst will recover more slowly.

My greater concern is that the administration's health care payment "reform" and taxing will create a second recession much like the very severe Roosevelt recession of 1937-8.  That would not be pretty.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Jamie Dimon, the boy from Queens, Mammon Among Friends' 2009 Banker of the Year, and hero of the financial crisis, has taken on Washington.   "Mr. Dimon Goes to Washington" Robin Sidel and Damian Paletta wrote last Wednesday that far from keeping a low profile in our bankerphobic time, "he's spent the past year launching his own campaign to stave off government proposals that would rein in profits, boost consumer protections and impose new fees."

Here is Robin Sidel discussing what they wrote with Kelly Evans and Evan Newmark.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Junk versus Quality

Is it time to shift from the bottom fishing bargains to the solid investments?

How to Buy a Mutual Fund

A mutual fund is an open ended investment company.  Here Jonathan Burton tells us to look beyond just what the fund has done lately when picking which fund to invest in.

You should also carefully examine your own personal financial objectives in light of your own financial consideration.

Market Geeks and Gold

Gold at $1,127 an ounce?

Technical analysts predict there is more juice in the gold rally.

Technicians focus investment decisions on psychology and pure supply and demand considerations. Since they look at chart patterns, they are often called "chartists."

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Three Imbalances Threaten Long-Term Economic Stability

 You can may have read the following commentary in the Wichita Eagle(3/25/2010):

The Economic Recovery

We are emerging from a financial and economic crisis of historic dimensions. Unemployment reached levels not seen since 1982. America suffered the largest falls in industrial output and housing starts since the "Roosevelt Recession" of 1937-38

However deep the recession, the recovery is well under way. A long list of indicators hit bottom last year and are rising: auto sales (February), durable goods orders (March), real retail sales (April), housing starts (April), and industrial production (June). The fall in global industrial production ended in March as did world trade's in May.

Most economists are sanguine about the long term but judge the current recovery to be fragile and weak. The consensus is wrong. This recovery is solid and broad-based.

Emerging economies (particularly Brazil, China and India) are leading a worldwide expansion. America's longer-term prospects are the real worry.

The Reckoning

Three major imbalances threaten the country's long-run economic stability and prosperity. We went into this crisis with a trade deficit equal to 5 percent of GDP and savings rates near zero. Government deficits equaled 1.2 percent of GDP when unemployment was still only at 4.6 percent. We could finance these imbalances only because the rest of the world was willing to lend us trillions of dollars. That dependence is neither in our long-term economic nor geopolitical interests.

This overdependence on foreign credit led to massive misallocations of America's resources. The housing bubble grew from 2003 and peaked in August 2006. Over that time period, home-building sucked an extra $900 billion in real resources away from the rest of the economy.

Finance and real estate grew to over 20 percent of the economy. Our brightest young graduates found it more attractive to become financial engineers rather than build planes and invent new products. We will be paying for this deadweight loss in higher unemployment and lower economic growth for many years.

The Future

Correcting the imbalances means we must save more and use less of what we produce for ourselves. In other words, Americans face lower living standards

Lower standards of living and a falling dollar will translate into higher domestic prices. If policymakers misinterpret those rising prices and continue to fight structural change with the wrong tools, they will start a vicious policy cycle culminating in the loss of the dollar as the world's reserve currency and unpredictable turmoil.

Where are our policies now? This recession was global and induced a global response. Many nations including America have disinterred the theories of John Maynard Keynes to justify massive government spending programs ("fiscal stimulus") to fight the recent economic recession. Central banks have used the ideas of Keynes' nemesis, Milton Friedman, to justify vanishingly low interest rates ("monetary stimulus") and unprecedented financial market interventions ("quantitative easing") toward the same end. This focus on the short term is crowding out the need for correcting the economy's imbalances. I doubt either Keynes or Friedman would wholly approve of the sins being committed in their names.

And in the Long Run...

What makes a great statesman? Historian J. Rufus Fears found three essential elements. A great statesman clearheadedly identifies and analyzes a major problem. Then he implements a solution that works both in the short run and in the long run. Focusing on the immediate problems of the 1930s, Keynes dismissed "the long run, (when) we are all dead."

Yet in the 1940s, Keynes turned around and engineered a remarkably resilient postwar monetary system. That act of statesmanship produced peace and prosperity for generations. Contrast that with current economic policy, where "in the long run, we are all in the soup."

Friday, April 02, 2010

You Doubted that We Are in a Recovery? Jobs Up by 162,000 Confirming the Household Uptrend

Confirmation for the Recovery

Mammon Among Friends has been dating the cyclical trough at June, 20010. Skeptics can now finally find confirmation that there is indeed a recovery in the jobs data announced this morning.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced, "Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 162,000 in March, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent. Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month. Employment in federal government also rose, reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010. Employment continued to decline in financial activities and in information."

The Household Survey of Employment

I have been following the household data very closely.  While noisy and trend distorted by the Census Bureau's insensitivity to the need for useful time series, the household data do not suffer from the cyclical biases of the payrolls data.

The unemployment rate remained at 9.7 percent in March, below its cyclical high of 10.1 percent in October.  For three months, households have reported large increases in employment after a huge drop in December (During Christmas, retailers did not hire as many workers as the seasonal adjustment process projected.)  Labor force growth has been strong.

Employment increased faster than population again in March.  Common sense dictates that the employment ratio, which hit bottom in December,  should be a long lagging indicator.  Bottoming out six months after the cyclical peak would be consistent with that characterization.

The unemployment rate is now five months past its cyclical high and the employment ratio is three months past its cyclical low.  This reflects the global recovery.

The Economic Recovery

We are emerging from a financial and economic crisis of historic dimensions.  Unemployment reached levels not seen since 1982.  America suffered the largest falls in industrial output and housing starts since the “Roosevelt Recession” of 1937-8.  

However deep the recession, the recovery is well underway.  A long list of indicators hit bottom last year and are rising: auto sales (February), durable goods orders (March), real retail sales (April), housing starts (April), and industrial production (June.)  The fall in global industrial production ended in March as did world trade’s in May.
Aircraft orders were up sharply in February according the the Census Bureau for the second straight month.  The BLS payroll data indicated aerospace employment was level for March (it does not break out the detail in its monthly reports.)