Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Financial Sarcasm Roundup for 12/26/12

It's one day after Christmas and I'm not any less sarcastic than I was yesterday.

The fiscal cliff is approaching and the relevant parties just can't stop launching trial balloons to impress the folks back home.  Both parties want to lower corporate tax rates in the name of competitiveness.  There's no way such a complicated reform will get done this year but that won't stop the preening and posturing.  Lowering the corporate tax rate while eliminating deductions probably won't raise revenue but it will make CFOs' jobs easier, so maybe some grateful corporate treasuries will step up their giving to super-PACs.

Japan is going nuts.  Their ruling political coalition has voted specifically to destroy the yen with monetary stimulus.  That's like putting some anemic patient on a cocaine diet in the hope that it will accelerate their metabolism.  Forget about structural reforms.  I'm so glad I don't own Japanese stocks or yen.

Some New Jersey union pension fund is suing to block the NYSE-ICE merger.  Come on already.  They should be grateful anyone wants to buy an American exchange at what is likely the high point of the U.S. equity market.  That means ICE is probably at its high-water mark too, and competition from dark pools and internal crossing networks make this merger all the more fortuitous for both exchanges' shareholders.

Here comes the mother of all re-fis.  The Administration is considering a refinancing handout to even more borrowers, along with nationalizing the rest of the secondary mortgage market.  I knew all along that Washington was going for it but it's still thrilling to see my suspicions confirmed in print.  I invite my readers to search my blog articles throughout 2011 and 2012.  You'll find several articles where I propose that large-scale mortgage modification programs would be a transmission mechanism for a wage-price spiral if the federal government flooded them with cash.  If this latest policy boondoggle is enacted, the necessary mechanism to launch hyperinflation will be in place.

The primary Treasury dealers are dumber than ever.  They're hoarding bonds and reducing sales to the Fed. This is the wrong thing for a dealer to do with the U.S. bond market at an all-time high.  The smart thing to do is unload winning positions onto the last sucker in the room - the Fed, of course - and shift the bank's business lines into things like non-dollar debt from emerging markets.

Shoppers didn't come through for retailers this year.  I've been waiting for a downturn in retail activity and this one's been a long time in coming.  Better late than never.  The average American probably has enough unused stuff in their closets and storage sheds to equip several emerging market households, and yet buying more stuff is in our cultural DNA.  The silver lining to any hyperinflationary period is that ordinary folks will be cured of their impulse to consume with abandon.

Finally, the SEC gets my Alfidi Capital award of the day (okay, there's no such thing but it sounds generous) for innovation.  The agency charged with regulating our capital markets is finally acquiring a system that allows it to watch the capital markets.  Funny, I've been using ordinary financial websites and online brokerages for almost two decades.  In true government contracting fashion, they bought a complete system rather than subscribe to terminals and feeds from Bloomberg and Dow Jones.  I recall reading during the financial crisis of 2008 that the Treasury Secretary had the ability to monitor credit markets in real time from his desk.  I don't have to name the Wall Street players who have a vested interest in the keeping the SEC blinded, in exchange for future private employment for the agency's top investigators.  In that context, I expect the SEC's new market monitoring system to work exactly as intended, especially since initial access to the system will be limited to a handful of people.  Read between those lines.