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02 December 2008 @ 10:14 pm
Auto sales for November were horrible as expected. At the current sales rate,  both American and foreign auto makers will be bleeding cash at an alarming rate.  GM says it needs $4 billion this month be able to fund its operations to March of next year, another $8 billion would be needed at that point, another $6 billion would be on stand by. Democrats are talking like it is a done deal but  it is not clear they have the votes in the Senate to pass a bill and it is not clear that stll-President Bush would sign the bill. Even after they get loans from the government, they have to hope that car sales return to something like recession levels.

I don't think Chrysler is viable. The best we can hope for is that they can sell some of their stronger brands and shut down the remainder of the company cleanly. GM, because of their large dealer network, is a much stickier problem. Current state law requires GM to buy out the dealer if it can no longer provide them cars. This makes eliminating brands like Saturn very expensive. Ford is in the best shape relatively speaking. It has cash and credit lines to keep running until the end of 2009 by which time the market will have improved or one of its competitors will be out of business.

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15 October 2008 @ 11:05 pm

The combination of rising mortgage interest rates and worries about unemployment will continue to weigh on the housing market. With more price declines next year, expect more foreclosures and more losses at banks and at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Obama team should plan for another bigger bailout next year when the current bailout proves ineffective.

Technorati Tags: Housing
10 October 2008 @ 09:27 pm

The G-7 finance ministers met and released a statement promising coordinated global inaction to deal with the credit crisis. Fortunately, the crisis is about to play itself out soon. Credit markets will begin to reopen; stocks will stabilize. People who have been frantically doing things will take credit for the calm. Of course, the real economy is about to get much worse but it will be much less visible than the stock ticker, so politicians will get back to the more sedate bickering about which brand of snake oil to give to the patient. There are remedies that are clearly called for but we are most likely going to get all the old pet causes (unemployment insurance, capital gains tax cut) dressed up as solutions for the new illness.

09 October 2008 @ 08:33 pm

The Treasury is considering buying preferred shares in U.S. banks in a style similar to the United Kingdom's bank plan. But don't call it partial nationalization, because that's what it is. Besides being ideologically unsound, it won't by itself fix the current crisis.

The key problem at the moment is the snarled Credit Default Swaps. Part of the problem will be resolved when the Lehman Brother CDS are settled tomorrow. But I am sure that many parties are reconsidering the risk they took on when they sold credit default swaps to companies formerly rated very secure. The government should sell credit default swaps to companies that can prove they have a net short position in CDS, but covering no more than 80% of the net short position and of course at current market prices. This could be very profitable for the government if the company the CDS covers does not go bankrupt. And it would free up more capital due to the leverage involved in the swap.

Technorati Tags: Credit Crunch
07 October 2008 @ 10:36 pm

It is times like this that you appreciate the fractional reserve banking system in the electronic age. If the U.S. was on the gold (or other hard money) standard, then the current crisis would have been much worse. Some argue that there would be no crisis if we were on a hard money standard, but that argument overlooks the evidence  from history. The U.S. was on the silver standard during the 1929 crash and the 1932 banking crisis; England was on the gold standard duiring the South Sea bubble, etc. Bubbles occur because  people emulate the behavior of the people arround them.

Now that we are in a panic, Money Velocity (the average number of hands a unit of money passes through in a given period) is  dropping. This requires the money supply to expand enormously in order to support the same level of economic activity. Fortunately, a computerized banking system means the Federal Reserve can create unbelievable amounts of money. But so far it has only been willing to do so much.

The Commercial Paper Funding Facility is a big step forward that should allow companies to meet their short term funding needs until banks and markets return to their more normal in providing credit to the real economy.

Technorati Tags: Credit Crunch
04 October 2008 @ 11:03 pm
Brad Setser is right. The dollar is a funding currency that is de-leveraging. How long this goes on and where we will be afterwords is unknown. If the credit crunch bites into trade financing, then countries that are dependent on exports (you know who you are) are going to have a very rough time. A credit related disruption of trade could have the same effect as Smoot-Hawley.
03 October 2008 @ 11:13 pm
California is beginning to feel the effects of the grow credit crunch. While not a model state government, California still has a good credit rating. But as investors head for the hills, even safe investments are being spurned. The recently approved rescue plan will probably not have an immediate effect on the market. Per Brad Setser, the Fed is now providing about $1.25 trillion in liquidity support to the global financial system. Yet even this amount is not enough to return markets to a functioning state. Short term credit has disappeared. The only question is when a major corporation will have to make cuts in investment and payroll due to a lack of access to credit.
02 October 2008 @ 08:40 pm
McCain pulling out of Michigan. Unless Obama has a heart attack before the election, there is no way for McCain to get a majority in the electoral college without winning Michigan. It was always going to be up hill for McCain but the disastrous choice of Sarah Palin as VP and the credit crisis have put this election out of reach already.
01 October 2008 @ 09:14 pm
Is Georgia ready for a black governor? The state is already facing the prospect of a black president. I didn't this would be more than an academic question until I saw this poll result
<br /> State   Democrat 	D-pct Republican  	R-pct  	Start  	 End  	 Pollster<br />Georgia Jim Martin 	44%   Saxby Chambliss* 	46% 	Sep 28 	Sep 29 	SurveyUSA<br />

The idea of a democrat defeating Chamblis given the edge in money that the incumbent has seems preposterous in a heavily Republican leaning state. But if you're sitting in a line at an Atlanta gas station hoping to get enough gas to go to work, you might think "This country is going in the wrong direction." You might even be angry enough to vote against the incumbent. If the Democrats can win a state-wide election for Senate, then they may be able to repeat that in a state wide race for governor.

Vernon Jones, who came in second in the Democratic primary, might be in the race for the nomination in two years. Or more intriguing, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond may run and he has already won some state-wide races, having been re-elected as Labor Commissioner several times.

30 September 2008 @ 07:27 pm

It is an article of faith for economists that government can and should prevent economic crisis. It has to be an article of faith because there is no evidence that the belief is true. While it is known that governments can destroy a flourishing economy, the process of restarting a stalled economy is shrouded in superstition and conjecture. A gardener may plow, feed and fertilize but it is up to the seed to sprout. Sometimes it does without any care and sometime it doesn't despite great efforts.

Prosperity is build on a web of relationships. Businesses learn to trust their suppliers as they convince their customer to trust them. Banks trust their borrowers and become trusted by savers. Government can encourage and reinforce these relationships, but when an event comes along to bat away this trust as a man might treat a cobweb, then there is little government can do. No laws can compel co-operation; no amount of money can replace that willing suspension of disbelief that is at the heart of all economic bubbles.

Government, at times like these, must learn to be humble. Better to promise little and deliver than to paint utopia and add to the disillusionment. When government begin to rebuild trust, they must first regain the trust of the governed. The vote in the House shows that we are currently far from that ideal.