Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New York Times today, the business section and Thomas Friedman

The business section of the NY Times is so poor sometimes. Their gotcha journalism written by people with no business experience can be exasperating. Two big examples today:
---There is a front business section story on short sellers that goes on for well over a 1000 words, with quotes from perceived victims of short seller tactics to short sellers and market theorists who see the practice as just a manifestation of a free market. In all of that there is no mention of the biggest change in this trading in years. That was when in July of '07 the SEC somehow eliminated the uptick rule, which required that shorting only be done on an uptick in a stock. Dropping this long standing rule allowed short selling institutional day traders like the mammoth SAC to be relentless when they had found or created a wounded stock. It was a huge change, and it's never mentioned in the article. How and why this rule was changed and whether the SAC's of the world with their billions had any influence on this would have been an even more interesting aside.
---The lead article in today's business section discusses the mortgage market and how rules changes that were meant to loosen up the market are "so much of a failure that it's really unbelievable". I challenge anyone to read this article and find any commentary on why the rule changes are not working. Everyone quoted just observes that the rule changes on jumbo loans have not led to greater lending and lower rates yet, or they give self serving rants about the ineffectiveness of this unusual bi-partisan legislation. There is no insight anywhere in these 1,500 words. The fact is that until the securitization markets regain confidence, until investors globally investigate and understand the damage that has been done, and until it's clear what the new rules of the game are and whether Congress will legislate retroactive changes in asset backed securities as a matter of course, until all that happens, change will be slow. With the OCC and other regulators on the prowl and securitization markets slow, banks and thrifts are looking to protect their capital and get a return to compensate them for their risks. The legislation is fine but, to quote the President, "there is no magic wand" and this situation will not improve overnight because the Congress tells it to.
---The only insightful business article today is not to be found in the business section. It's Thomas Friedman's commentary on the Op-Ed page, "Dumb as We Wanna Be" about John McCain's summer gas tax elimination proposal and Hillary Clinton's pandering endorsement of the idea that throws in a windfall profits tax on the oil industry for good resentment building populist measure. The title reflects Friedman's responsible analysis of this proposal and the opinion piece then goes on to discuss the poor state of overall energy policy in this Republican administration and divided Congress. It's worth reading. But Clinton's windfall profits proposal is just another one of her attention getting ideas that is just so convenient but doesn't really stand up under analysis as sound policy. Are Monsanto, Caterpillar, Cargill, and ADM also up for windfall profits tax. Food prices are definitely higher and these firms are having great years. And look at Apple for God's sake, so many people being challenged by college costs and this firm is making a 30% ROE and has a 35% earnings growth rate as our kids buy their Ipods and Macs. Windfall'em dammit.


Anonymous John L. said...

Hillary's solution: cut gas tax to increase consumption and tax oil companies to constrain supply.

12:37 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home