Dec

8

 The market contest on Friday, December 5th had all the elements of the greatest contests played out in our favorite sport or war. The Lakers versus the Celtics playoff or the Memphis Tennessee NCAA championship, or the New York Giants win over the Boston Patriots or the Tiger Woods - Rocco Mediate or Roger Federer - Rafael Nadal match of this year — or from previous years, the Ali - Foreman boxing fight, the Giants versus Baltimore Colts Super Bowl, or the Dodgers - Giants pennant playoff. The Borg - McEnroe match, as does the battle between Achilles and Hector in the Trojan war, comes to mind. (I would be interested in some nice additions to this list).

It had everything. Magic and disbelief. A beautiful exposition, climax, and resolution. A complete recapitulation of the range of the previous week, a 8% move in the four climactic hours, 880 to 813, in just one day, an earth shattering opening of down 3%, the fourth such 3% or more in five days, a buildup of tension with the worst employment report ever, the lowest oil price in 4 years, the lowest bond yields ever, all following by a day the backdrop of the NBER finally calling it a recession, retail sales falling off a cliff, and news that the automobile bailout was going under and over, the steady drumbeat of negative reports and news, building up to a climax when Hartford forecast better earnings and rose 100%.

The resolution of the climax occurred in the last hour as if following a script from a great story or symphony with the market rising to the week's high, very near the magic 900 level that it started the week at. One should note "that with long term interest rates at 3%, ceteris paribas, the value of mortgage assets held by banks has to have risen by 100% from the levels of a year ago when 6% long term rates were the norm. This has to counterbalance the increase in default rates to a large extent, and increase the return from holding mortgages so that they're much more attractive than most say they are. This has to be counterbalanced by the acceptance by the populace of an industrial policy program by the US, as if the public servants are a better steward for our money than the hedge fund managers, and investment advisers. And the idea that spending on building roads and computerizing hospitals, and making public buildings use solar power, and have grassy knolls and bicycle racks (as Henry Gifford has limned) is a better use for creating jobs than what would have emerged from allowing voluntary exchanges and incentives to take their course. I can only sit back and say, "what a great game it was" after pointing out that the decline in interest rates has to be remarkably bullish, and I predict a Lobagola move back up.

Alan Millhone adds:

On Friday I noted the Market was up even with dismal job reporting. I heard something about a job lost in the US every five seconds! I hope we see many more up tic Fridays as the US economy improves.

You show many comparisons based on battles in sports, the ancients, etc. Makes me think of our national Checker Tournament of 2007 held in Vegas at the Plaza Hotel. The Master's group battled all week back and forth on round points and on the final day of play it boiled down to Dr. John Webster of N.C. and Lubabalo Kondlo of South Africa fighting for the lead. After the last round was played and the smoke cleared we found that both men had the same match points. The referee was Tim Laverty and Tim keeps most meticulous hand written records all week of the player's scores. After careful mathematical calculations it was determined Lubabalo won the Masters and the ACF National Championship by one honor point! Another thin skin of the finger example.

Edward Talisse remarks:

Lower mortgage rates are a boon to the homeowner but a nightmare for the banks. The banks are all short refinancing options as rates move lower and reinvestment options are limited. The banks make money where they underwrite new products. Also, loan assets are on accrual basis rather than mtm so until the securitization markets reopen, its tough to lock in gains. Lower leverage will cap ROE, so if we move back up, it won't be the banks that lead in my view.

Craig Bowles writes:

2008's rallies have come after basic materials and energy have become the weakest sectors and that happened on Thursday when viewing short-term growth rates. Interest rates have shown a lot of relative weakness to stocks, so can move up a bit without being a problem. One fundamental change is inflation indicators have fallen earlier than in the 1973-75 recession. Generally, economists are focusing on economic negatives but none is talking about the positives of low prices. There aren't many economists around who talk up Austrian economic theory anymore which is probably why they all focus on stimulus to support prices rather than the positives of less inflation and declining prices.


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