Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Headlines 12/8/2009

  • Both Fitch and Moody's out stating the obvious today, with massive downgrades of both Greece and Dubai. The Dubai downgrade is patently ridiculous. If there is anyone left out there that doesn't know that Dubai World defaulted on its debt and the Dubai government refused to step in to bail it out, Moody's is here to educate and protect those investors about to make a foolish decision. Maybe word hasn't reached those sitting in debtor's prison in Dubai? Who knows? Oh, and also, in a completely shocking development, Nakheel, Dubai World's real estate development subsidiary that owns all those half-built buildings on man-made palm shaped islands, lost a boatload of money, $3.65 billion in the first half of 2009 to be exact. As for the Greek downgrade? Rumors abound about the country's troubled finances. But don't worry. The Dubai crisis, much like the subprime crisis, is contained.
  • US consumer credit shrank for the ninth month in a row, by 1.7% in October. A couple of interesting highlights from the WSJ article: In 2005, over six billion credit-card offers were sent out to consumers. This year just 1.4 billion have been sent out. Also, Visa reported earlier this year that people for the first time were using their debit cards more than credit cards. The trend lower is likely to continue for some time in order to reverse the absolute explosion in consumer credit over the past few decades. What's shrinking along with consumer credit? The probability of a strong V-shaped recovery. Good chart at Calculated Risk.
  • Citigroup and Wells Fargo are getting in on the "We wanna pay back the TARP" action, according to the WSJ. The banks are wrestling with the US government over how much capital they need to raise to exit from the program so they too can "compete" with all the other large banks that have managed to negotiate an exit. The problem is that issuing more stock is expensive. Of course, with the strong market rally looking like its finally petering out, they'd better pick up the pace before it gets even more expensive. I'm all for paying back the TARP. Get on with it. Just as long as everyone agrees that there is no next time if you were wrong about your balance sheet being strong.
  • As if you needed yet more evidence that the government employees in charge of protecting our TARP dollars are a bunch of spineless twinkies, the Pay Czar actually caved in to AIG's general counsel's demands for no pay cuts for her and her cronies. It seems that the five employees who threatened to quit so they could collect a fat severance package will get to keep their over-$500,000 salaries. That's right, because without the right general counsel, there's no way that AIG will ever crawl out of that $100 billion hole.

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