I have been tossing and turning for most of the night. Something has been bothering me all day, and as it seems most of the night. You see, the Dutch NOS reported on Saturday 9th of March an interesting footnote in their newscast. They suddenly had this short part on the news on how this is possible. (Source: NOS http://nos.nl/artikel/482586-record-op-record-voor-dow-jones.html)
This is interesting, as I asked pretty much the same questions in an earlier blog called “It hurts every time, but we love it”, which I published on Feb 6th, so slightly more than a month earlier. The Dow index is currently at 14,397 (which was a 2007 record). The issue is that we had the crash of 2008; one in six in the US lost their house. So, the economy is not in a good place. There was also the mention in their radio cast (English and Dutch). They seemed to focus on two parts. First was the fact that Economic recovery is gotten through revenue recovery without staffing (so 5 do the work of 10, and they are happy to have a job). Second is that the Dow is based on only 30 companies. Yet, when we look at the number I wonder what game is being played as I look at a 2 year index graph. This graph is Stellar. My issue is twofold. One I am NOT an economist, but a data miner. Second is that the given ‘excuse’ feels wrong. Especially given that the news had this production line backdrop of cars, and none of the 30 seems to be in the car industry. So why not present this with a pharmaceutical backdrop?
So let us take a look at some of these Dow Jones Index companies.
1. Bank of America. A bank, and after 2008, we could wonder in what state it is in. This quote comes from Forbes and was written by Halah Touryalai, one of the Forbes Writers “No bank knows that better than Bank of America which has agreed to pay a jaw-dropping $42 billion, settling credit and mortgage-related legal battles in just the last three years“.
OK, if we take that into consideration, then seems a little weird that their stock graph has the same shape as that of the DOW. (As one of the 30, it would make sense that the graphs are shaped similar, however, such confidence after such a legal fee settlement bill?)
2. JP Morgan Chase. Another Bank! It had two more dips then BofA, yet overall it is in an upwards movement as well. It was also mentioned in the same Forbes article as before on settlement fees, but those fees were a lot lower. The Bank of America had to chew on 66% of the total settlement fees by itself, so for the other 5 big banks, the damage was relatively small in that regard. However, In April and May 2012 they had lost more than six billion dollars on derivative trades that had gone bad. There was a report of 9 billion in total, which also involved Bruno Iksil for part of the mentioned amount, he is also known as ‘the London Whale’. The numbers and the names vary when we look at UK and US papers, but overall they pretty much tell the same story. It is interesting that JP seemed to bounce back within 6 months to stock values higher than before the June 4th 2012 dip. Last on my list is Boeing. It is a giant, but we have all heard of the 787 issues and it’s now named ‘Nightmare liner’. The issue is all about batteries, yet the news from January as reported by Reuters : The new production forecast raised some eyebrows. Russell Solomon at Moody’s Investors Service was forecasting 100 787 deliveries and said Boeing’s forecast of more than 60 was “significantly weaker than we had expected.” Interesting that what analysts expect and what the vibe says Boeing will be delivering is off by almost 40%. Suddenly NOT meeting expectations has almost no impact? 40% less on a firm the size of Boeing should have a very visible effect (imho).
Now the DJI is about 27 other companies and there are only two banks in it. It is also a fact that these banks work with securities and values in the hundreds of billions, so are my concerns just a storm in a teacup?
It is a valid question, and I also ask myself this question. Let us take a look at the two following thoughts.
1. US debt. It is set at 16.6 TRILLION dollars. The total US debt is a lot higher. That one is $59.1 TRILLION.
Can anyone even imagine those numbers? Now consider that someone has that kind of money. To be honest is that really true? Is there a group of nations with that level of wealth? the only nation capable of owning that much is one with an abundance of oil, so basically the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the only one that wealthy. Either the US is labelled UAE-west, or my thoughts are not that correct in this instance. So perhaps I am wrong (I will be the first one to admit that).
We know that most value trades are now done digital. It is the only way for the market to move such amounts of wealth. However, who checks this?
I have seen my share of digital forms of miscommunication by loads of people in several fields. Often they seem connected to the corporate headquarters of Bloated, Botched, Bungled and Baboon. An always newly formed enterprise, coming to a local public stock market near you. Consider that this is done on the electronic super highway. Now consider that Hackers come at a dozen a dime and greed is eternal, these last two are given facts. Also realise that ANY system can be gotten at. DARPA and the NSA proved that more than once.
The valid question loudly remains: “Who truly checks the validity of trade and the numbers they are traded at?”
2. LIBOR scandal. I wrote about it, the news has talked about it in abundance. Last week in an article by Mark Scott in the NY Times on March 5th the following was stated “The review published by the Financial Services Authority, the country’s regulator, said there had not been a major failure of oversight by local authorities, but it added that officials had become too focused on containing the financial crisis to analyse information connected with the potential rate-rigging”
This is a fair enough statement (it did seem shallow in relation to the handed fines), and them be hefty fines, so why are these two events related? Well, in my mind there are two parts of the LIBOR that were in play. From my point of view there are two variables that might be played with. The first one we know. It is the interest rate; the second one is the bigger issue. You see, those percentages are linked to a total sum of $350 trillion in UK registered derivatives. That is 20 times the US national debt. If people play with one, there is every reason to suspect that they might have played with the other. So again, who controls those totals that are being traded in? If derivatives include hedge funds, swaps and forward rate agreements then we should be worried. Consider as well that the US Bank for International Settlements holds almost twice the value the UK seems to be registering.
So, we are now confronted with just in excess of 1000 TRILLION dollars. How can this even be monitored? Now let us add one more part. The US LIBOR rate is set by 18 banks. The two banks in the DJI are members. Are we all on the same page now? The third bank (Citi) is to be given a fine in regards to percentage ‘tweaking’. According to Reuters, later this year, a new set of settlements will be ‘delivered’. In their publication of March 8th by Kirstin Ridley and Philipp Halstrick it states that: “Deutsche, Citi and JPM are the banks named in regulatory circles as those candidates near the next settlements,” said the second source. So now we have both a DJI member and libor member in this illustrious ‘donation’ scheme. What else is at play?
What if the total value is not correct? What if they did not just play with the percentages, but the total package of the trade able amount? Let’s just take a fictive 5%. Mainly because I feel not so comfortable with the value they say they have and in part because I cannot even comprehend that much, as we get above the $200 trillion range. So, if 5% is taken off the total amount of over $1000 Trillion, would mean that we might all be devaluated by a total of 50 trillion dollars. That comes down to $8400 for every citizen on the planet. Did we sign up for that invoice?
It might be just be me (and I can happily live with that notion), but can bankers and financial corporations be allowed to continue on this track? We have seen clear evidence that those places cannot be trusted with even a small speckle of such amounts. Even though they NEVER broke any laws initially, LIBOR shows that some are very willing to do that. With the US on the edge of bankruptcy (or on the wrong side of a fiscal abyss), with the financial industry in such disarray, what can be done?
So when this all falls over (not if it falls over), what will we be left with?