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Heroic.

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The most successful heists are the ones that occur every day that we are not even aware of.  The Federal Reserve, the quasi-governmental agency run by ex-bankers, that controls the money supply, interest rates and manages the economy is an agency very few are familiar with.

Given the trillions of taxpayer dollars on the hook and the delicate state our economy is in, H.R. 1207 aims to audit the ongoing Federal Reserve activities.

For years, the author of this bill, Ron Paul, has spoken up and drawn attention to the importance of sound money (money with tangible value, like gold and silver) and an economy which is not micromanaged by ex-bankers or manipulated in a secretive fashion. Paul has always been a political outsider and it is good to finally see his attempts to uncover the truth finally gain some momentum.

Since politicians, like all of us, are self-interested, we need to exert our influence and let them know we expect this bill to pass.

Since this bill would expose a great deal of financial/governmental/corporate connections, it would not surprise me if there is another financial panic/disaster and this bill is pushed aside to give even more power to the Fed and Executive Branch.

The above video speaks volumes about the shape of our economy and the level of dishonesty that is fraught in our financial and economic system.

Takeaway:  As a man, it is imperative to be ever-inquisitive, curious and non-complacent.  Reading and questioning your beliefs can help you generate an Accurate Model of Reality and prepare better for your future.  Think for yourself and stand up for what you believe in, even if you stand alone.

hat tip:  Zero Hedge

Disgraced financial institutions Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and SmithBarney were all hours from keeling over last fall.

That hasn’t stopped them from publishing gaudy, chest-thumping ads about their own greatness.

Pen_ad

Since the coming together of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch1, we’ve emerged as a business of strength2, size and capability. Our two top-tier3 firms are now one financial powerhouse4, offering you an unrivaled range of financial solutions, and the ability to more efficiently structure and close deals5. In fact, we’re already doing just that with leading companies and institutional investors around the world. Our aim is clear: To continue delivering on the great potential of our union by helping to grow businesses like yours. And in doing so, build a shared prosperity for the future6.

  1. Thanks to an illegal shotgun marriage involving secrecy and corruption at the highest levels of the government.
  2. Please don’t make us mark to market because then we would be insolvent!
  3. Top tier firms in banking often need explicit and implicit bailouts…
  4. Dutifully leeching off the taxpayer…
  5. Do you have any deals?  Please let us know we are hurting!
  6. (Tear rolls down cheek)  Fin.

MorganStanleySmithBarney

This ad is just bizarre.  Standing on a ladder with binoculars in the middle of nowhere?  Well, you convinced me…

Please… take my money, charge me fees for your “research” and let me benefit from your years of experience.  Oh. Wait.  Nevermind…

Takeaway: Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and SmithBarney are only standing today because the taxpayer had to bail them out.  Their scorn is well-deserved.

My Darden Puts were heading into expiration this week and I elected to close out the position with a decent profit.  I sold for $2.85 and bought for $2.25 for a gain of $60.  The profits were not enough to cover the loss on the Nasdaq Puts, but I learned many valuable lessons, which I will share below.

There are several reasons why I decided to take my gains last Friday and not get greedy:

  • Even though I am still bearish, I feel uncomfortable spending money in a market that is as distorted and manipulated as our current one.  There are too many examples to go into right now, but there are excellent examples of overt manipulation here, here, here and here.
  • Maximum Pain dictated that I sell before expiration and lock in my gains.   In the option market, wealth transfer between option buyers and sellers is a zero-sum game. On option expiration days, the underlying stock price often moves toward a point that brings maximum loss to option buyers. This specific price, calculated based on all outstanding options in the market, is called Option Pain. Option Pain is a proxy for the stock price manipulation target by the option selling group.
  • Technical analysts were broadcasting a head and shoulders pattern break (see below), which leads me to believe a lot of CNBC followers (non-institutional investors) are piling onto the short side for the “easy money”.  It makes sense to bet against the “easy money” crowd and not expect a decline.  On Monday, the market rallied very sharply.  Glad I got out.
Head and Shoulder - DJIA
Head and Shoulder – DJIA
  • My price target had been hit and the price was unlikely to go much lower.  Darden filled in the “gap” between $29 and $33 like I thought it would.
Darden Restaurant Group Chart
Darden Restaurant Group Chart
  • As a wise man told me, you never go broke taking profits!

Epilogue:  I have decided not to continue buying options since the market is clearly not a normal, healthy one.  Unrealistic balance sheets, excessive program trading and monetary manipulation have turned me off from the market.

Options buying is extremely difficult since it involves both forecasting the market and timing it.  I am proud I made money on the Darden trade, but I realize I got impatient with my Nasdaq trade.  Overall, a great learning experience.

Since capital gains are difficult to lock in without being an active trader, I am considering doing covered call writing on certain stocks.  If I decide to buy some shares and write calls on them for income, I’ll post it here.

I will continue to add to my RWM position, which I feel comfortable holding for the long-term.

The problem with corporate welfare is that, unlike personal welfare, the most sinister elements go unnoticed.  A government subsidized contract, bailout or tax break which rips off the taxpayer is far less obvious than the person cashing their welfare check or food stamps.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare is Citigroup.  Aside from TARP funds and asset buybacks (taxpayer buying their lousy loans at full value), there are even more nefarious examples of how Citigroup is ripping off the taxpayer.

Below you will find the Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s credit ratings for Citigroup.

Further down, you can see how these rating agencies gave Citigroup very safe ratings days before Citigroup would have gone bankrupt and gone out of business if not for the bailout.

In other words, these rating agencies, Moody’s and S&P, gave Citigroup ratings of AA- and Aa3, respectively, while Citigroup was days away from dying.

In their own words…

Obligations rated Aa are judged to be of high quality and are subject to very low credit risk, but “their susceptibility to long-term risks appears somewhat greater – Moody’s

An obligation rated ‘A’ is somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligations in higher-rated categories. However, the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is still strong. – S&P

c

Current Citigroup ratings - click for a larger view

citi updates

Moody's ratings for Citigroup - note that the October 2008 bailout just put them on Credit Watch negative until December 2008

citi updates sp

S&P's ratings for Citigroup - again, only a slight downgrade before the 10/2008 bailout

You’ll notice that Citigroup’s ratings have never fallen below investment grade.  So, despite needing and continuing to need your tax money to operate, these credit rating agencies never saw the need to downgrade them significantly.

Normally an incompetent credit rating is nothing to get worked up about, however, Citigroup’s bogus credit ratings have consequences that ripple all across the capital markets, which subsequently affect the taxpayer.

Here is how:  With an artificially high credit rating and numerous government handouts, Citigroup’s cost of capital (the rate at which it borrows money), is artificially low. This allows Citigroup to borrow money at artificially low interest rates.

Since its credit rating and government handouts allow it to borrow money very cheaply, it sucks up productive capital from other enterprises competing for capital. This is called “crowding out“.

This means healthier companies and local governments have to pay higher rates of interest to borrow when they issue corporate bonds and municipal bonds, respectively.

Guess who pays the artificially higher interest payments on municipal debt?

The taxpayer.

So, in a sad way, Citigroup gets two forms of corporate welfare.  One is explicit, the other implicit.

Explicitly, your federal taxes pay to keep alive Citigroup via asset buybacks and other federal programs to “save the (inherently flawed!) financial system”

Implicitly, bogus credit ratings and government handouts give Citigroup a facade of safety, allowing it let it borrow cheaply, which force other, legitimate debt issuers (companies and municipalities) to pay more in interest to receive funding.

Even if the federal government were scared of a run on all the banks, they could have easily unwound Citigroup in a reasonable fashion.  They could have zeroed out all the equity (stockholders) and, in an orderly way, liquidated the firm to other institutions which could buy up productive assets cheaply and let the creditors take losses on the parts which no one wanted.

Since Washington is afraid to say no to the financial bozos that own Citigroup stock, this strategy was not employed.  Instead, they are flooding Citigroup with cheap money and hoping the money will be lent out or miraculously make Citigroup solvent.

A free market efficiently allocates capital and provides price transparency which allows individuals to make accurate decisions on how to best maximize their resources.  Government intervention is permanently damaging our economy by obscuring these valuable pricing mechanisms with bailouts, “liquidity facilities” and other forms of corporate welfare.

Intervention via corporate welfare all in the name of helping the little guy is a gross form of statism and market distortion.

Takeaway:  Government intervention to save banks is not a Democrat/Republican issue, it is a right/wrong issueMore intervention, bailouts and stimuli are not the answer.

Used to be we stole the trade secrets in the form of automated looms textile manufacture, or pillaged a patented steam harnessing device. This must be the ultra postindustrial state. Trade secrets are computer algorithms which make automated low latency entrance and exit to markets with no intent of ever taking delivery of any physical product nor are making purchases/sells based on any business, but are merely exploiting market rules to ratchet numerals to their gain.

How did we get here? How sick is that person who draws a paycheck and has neither produced, manufactured, distributed, or made any useful service? Isn’t that the very definition of a Babylon? An economy so distanced from agriculture, mining, manufacture that it provisions life with intangibles? Please wake me up. Please let me out of such a vacuous existence.

- Ben Frananke, Zero Hedge comment (emphasis Inthon)

“No warning can save a people determined to grow suddenly rich.” – Lord Overstone