Category Archives for "Credit Crunch"

Bull Market or Dead Cat Bounce?

The stock market has rebounded quite well since it hit the 6,000 range (Dow). The question is, will the rise continue, or will it stall. OR worse yet, is this the classic “dead cat bounce?”

It all remains to be seen, of course. Too soon to tell. But I’m going on record to say that this, even with today’s announcement by the Fed that it’s officially fueling inflation by printing money, is not a dead cat bounce.
Dead Cat Bounce
Oh, the market may tumble for a few days. But I think we’ve bottom. Just note that the bottom of the ocean has peaks and valleys, too, and that we might see 6,000 again. We may be here a while. But we’re not gonna go any lower than 6k.

In fact, it is my gut feeling that we’re on the upswing. I believe the end of this decade and the first few years of the next decade will be banner years for stock markets all across the land.

After all, we’re at levels here in the US that we haven’t seen since the mid-90s. The housing, credit, and mortgage messes weren’t even in place then.

So we’ve fallen further than logic would dictate. John Hussman, in his newsletter, says,

As for the stock market as a whole, I continue to view the market as undervalued, but not deeply undervalued. So over the course of a 7-10 year holding period, I do expect passive buy-and-hold investors in the S&P 500 to achieve total returns somewhat above 10% annually.

But he also says,

Shorter-term, however, investors may demand much higher prospective long-term returns in order to accept risk, and that’s a problem, because the only way to price stocks to deliver higher long-term returns is to drive prices lower.

After all, even a dead cat will bounce.

Money isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. Wait. That’s only for football.
Enjoy life. Spend time with your family.






What Really Caused the Recession?

I've seen a lot of stories about what caused the Mortgage Meltdown, the Credit Crunch, and the recession (some are even calling it a depression). On the drive in today, the REAL answer finally came to me.

As in all complex things in life, there wasn't one specific cause. Here's my general thought process on this topic.

People who want to get to the root of any cause always use a root cause analysis to determine the true cause of any issue. One of the practices that process improvement folks use is the fishbone diagram, where if you keep asking "why?" to a question you'll get to the root of it.

But this simple approach often neglects the contributing factors to an issue or a failure. For example, a barn might have caught fire and burned to the ground. The root cause might have been determined to have been a spark from a passing-by freight train.

But the contributing factors were that there was damp hay in the barn, along with kerosene, dry timber, a poorly-maintained exterior, and weeds that had grown rampant over the course of several years.

All of these things led to the fire. Of course, the fire could not have started if not for the spark. But the weeds, hay, timber, etc. allowed the fire to spread at such a rate that the fire crew could not stop it before the entire barn burned down.

Such is the case with the economy. There were many contributing factors: Declining home values, rising bad debt, companies trying to stay afloat cutting staff, phoney financial instruments dreamed up by mathematicians rather than business folks, etc. The list is literally endless.

But what was the root of it all?

As in any mania, it was the madness of crowds. Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and "pursuit of self interest" was the downfall.

Home buyers thought, "If I don't buy this house now, somebody else will."

"Or, if I don't buy this house today, it will cost me $60,000 more to buy this house in 6 months." (By the way, this was the rate of price appreciation for a below-median home price in the Bay Area in California in 2003-2006.)

Lenders said, "If I don't fund this mortgage, somebody else will."

Insurers surmised, "If I don't insure this asset, somebody else will."

Bottom line:

If I don't _____ this, somebody else will!

It was all about getting "it" before somebody else got "it." Or, in other words, what I call "relative greed." It wasn't that everybody was greedy, in and of itself. It was more along these lines:

Scenario 1
You get a 10 percent pay raise. Your neighbor gets a 15 percent pay raise.

Scenario 2
You get a 5 percent pay raise. Your neighbor gets nada.

Do you know which one most people would take? Yeah, #2. It's getting "more" than your neighbor, co-worker, competitor. That's what happened here, in my humble opinion.

It's also "the market" filling in voids. If Bank of America doesn't do this mortgage, Wachovia will. And Wachovia did. And did, and did and did and did.

BofA saw this and said, "We're losing market cap. And we're the biggest and baddest bank around." So, they got into the game, and then some!

People did it, too. If I don't buy a house now, I may never be able to afford one.

"Investors" did it, too. If I don't buy this duplex now and flip it, I may never get another golden opportunity like this.

Do yourself a favor: Read Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

You only really need to read any one of the stories. They're all the same, really. Market goes up and up, creating self-fulfilling prophecy. Something happens. Market goes down and down, creating self-fulfilling prophecy. What stops it? Who knows?

Money isn't everything. It's the only thing. Wait. That's only for football.

Enjoy life. Spend time with your family.

Financial Calamity To End December 31, 2009


That’s my “bold” prediction. The basis for this? The increased FDIC insurance on bank deposits of $250,000 laspes on that date, as if everything will be fine by then.

Don’t count on it! There’s a lot more downside to this economy, I’m afraid. But now might be a great time to get your ducks in a row and be ready for the upturn. It will happen just as things look their worst.


Money isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. Wait. That’s only for football.
Enjoy life. Spend time with your family.

Did We Ever Fully Recover from the 2001 Recession?

With all the talk about the souring economy, job losses, bank failures, and the like, the recession of 2009 is on the minds of everyone.

But I’d like to posit that we never fully recovered from the recession that officially spanned 2001-2002. And that, my friends, puts us into a possible discussion of Great Depression proportions!

Now, before you run off and withdraw all your money from the bank and bury it in your back yard, hear me out!

Great Depression?

Typically, after a recession, jobs, sales, and revenues (as well as profits) rise, most often quite rapidly.

Didn’t happen last time.

Here’s a picture to illustrate what I’m trying to describe. The red arrows represent the year of the respective recession. See how unemployment rises after a recession, then drops until the next one, from 1991 to 2001? And see how the unemployment rate dropped below the rate during the year of the previous recession? That is the typical behavior of the labor market. But look at what happened from 2001 on.

Now, I’m not saying we’re in another depression. But we’re approaching Great Depression longevity, if not to the same depths. The Great Depression started in 1929, the economy made a few attempts at reviving itself, and then WWII came along. America wasn’t fully involved in war preparations until 1941. So we’re talking 12 years, at the most.

For this last round of economic downturns, the duration has been 9 years. We’re getting there.

Of course, we’ve yet to see 25 percent unemployment. But also remember that we fudge the numbers nowadays, and there’s a different sort of mindset for what constitutes “employment.” In the 30s, if you didn’t have a full-time job, you were unemployed.

Now, if you’re no longer looking for work, you’re not even counted. Perhaps you’ve been out of a job for 3 years, got fed up, and started selling all your worldly possessions on eBay. You’re no longer “unemployed.” This set of circumstances didn’t exist in the ’30s.

So, I’d say that whatever level of unemployment you see today, raise it by 30 to 50 percent. Yeah, I think it’s that bad. But even at an official 8 percent, we’re no higher than 12 percent. Not that that’s a good thing. But it’s not 25 percent, either.

However, for some pockets of America, where there’s 12 or 13 percent unemployment (take San Joaquin County, California, for example, where home foreclosures are at all-time highs), that figure could easily be over 18 percent. I submit to you that those folks feel like they’re living in a depression! If you don’t believe me, ask them!!!

One last thing: If we hadn’t spent $1 trillion on a war (or something else, for that matter), the economic picture during the 2000s would be even bleaker.

I said all that to say this: We got out of the last depression and we’ll get out of this one (whether you believe it’s a recession or depression).

But our way of life may have to change and that in itself may be the most uncomfortable part of it all.

Jobs you would have never considered before…you may now consider. Wages you hadn’t thought about since high school…you may now reconsider. Hours you thought were only for hookers and security guards…they may be under consideration!

Things “I cannot live without” – you may have to live without them (like computers, cell phones, video games, cable, the list is endless).

All of this will break up some families and ruin lives of countless people. But the silver lining is that dire situations may bring us closer, may give us thought for conserving what he have, and give us a greater appreciation for all those things “I cannot live without” once we get some of them back.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But swallow it we must.

One last thought: There may never be a better time to go out on your own. Consider starting your own business. The Internet being what it is, with low overhead costs, fast deployment capabilities, and only your own mental limitations (“I can’t do it,” “I don’t have time,” “I am not that smart” among thousand of other excuses), the sky literally is the limit to your income potential.

It may not come fast, but it will come. And in the end, you’ll have more time, more money, and less stress. Get some ideas here. No pressure, no strings.


Money isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. Wait. That’s only for football.
Enjoy life. Spend time with your family.

More Signs of the Times – Microsoft Seeking Money from Laid Off Workers

This is classic! Microsoft apparently “gave too much” in severance to some (all?) of the employees it recently laid off. Of course, this was the first mass layoff MS ever did, so they didn’t have any practice!

Not sure how I feel about this from the employees’ perspective…it would seem the ethical thing to do to give it back. But sheesh, MS, can’t you make your internal software work right?

Microsoft seeks money from laid-off workers – U.S. business- msnbc.com

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