• 17 Mar 2008 at 6:53 AM
  • FOREX

Opening Bell: 3.17.08

finpanic.jpgNikkei Down More Than 3 Percent (AP)
So the foreign markets did their whole dance last night, taking the brunt of our woes, just as they have been for days and days now. And interestingly, despite early optimism that “everyone but Bear” would have a good day today, that wouldn’t appear to be so. Index futures are already sharply lower. Bu-but… isn’t the latest intervention a sign that the Fed is willing to do anything to avert a crisis? Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve had for months now. If there’s one thing we know conclusively, it’s that the Fed will step in to avoid a short-term panic. That’s never really been in doubt. If the Fed has what it believes is a way to avert a collapse, it will. So eventually, that knowledge ceases to have the same currency as it otherwise might. Now what would be nice: some actual good news. Like, just plain old profits and stuff.
A Stake Through the Heart (WSJ)
We don’t get off on schadrenfruede too much, but WSJ does a good job of roundup the richers that have lost a whole lot of skrilla on the Bear Stearns collapse. Some names: (obviously) James Lewis, Dallas-based James Barrow, Legg Mason, and Bruce Sherman, who’s also lost a lot of money in the newspaper biz over the last few years. Lewis: he’s is the big one.
Things You Can Buy For $2 (Long or Short Capital)
This is a handy list of what you can do with each share of Bear Stearns that you sell to JPM: 2 limes. 1 organic avocado. 15% of a drink at a bar. A pound (sterling) {Ed note: that’s our favorite of the list, by far}. Anyway, lots of good stuff. What are you doing to do with your money?
Dollar Falls Below 97 Yen, First Time Since 1995, as Fed Cuts (Bloomberg) And the USD falls through yet another key Yen level. This time it's back to 95. Another key psychological level=we fell below parity with the Swiss Franc, whose official ticker is CHF (Something about the Helvetic Confederation). One bright spot: at least you probably didn’t transfer your dollars into Linden Dollars, a few years ago. That’s the currency of the virtual world Second Life, which few folks really talk about anymore. Alex Kirtland put together this chart, which shows that the Linden Dollar has sagged against the dollar over the last few years. How many currencies can say that!?
Japanese Managers Say Economy Is Deteriorating, Nikkei Reports (Bloomberg)
The real question has to be the Japan question: Is the best the US can hope for the Japanese experience of the 90s? A long slow, painful slog of wasted economic time? Are we destined to have zero growth rates and negative interest rates and soup lines in the middle of Manhattan? We’ll pass on that question. In the meantime, Japanese business leaders are not feeling good about the economy, which they deem to be deteriorating. Out of curiosity, we just did a Google News search for the term “soft landing” and found nothing, except this article about the Icelandic economy. Apparently, they don’t see a soft landing or a hard landing in their future.
Fed Chief Shifts Path, Inventing Policy in Crisis (NYT)
Years ago, when we first started reading about Ben Bernanke, we saw that his economic education was forged out of an interest in the Great Depression. His view: If you want to understand extreme situations then you have to study them, and not just assume that they’ll be rare. Or something like that. So now here he is, faced with an extreme situation, which may call for unusual Fed action. Stil: There’s a big part of us that wishes he’d get on the dais and sound the alarm about inflation and moral hazard. For real. We just know it’s never going to happen.
The New Committee to Save the World (Felix Salmon)
So some combination of Dimon, Bernanke and Paulson is the new Greenspan, Summer and Rubin. Okay. You know what’s great in times like these: Nobody really gives a damn about the President. Like seriously. In the constitution, the President has a few distinct roles:Commander in Chief is one. Head of the executive seems pretty clearly within his power. But over the years, the office has taken on all kinds of new functions, like: mourner-in-chief (after school shooting), environmental defender-in-chief (after oil spills), educator-in-chief (?), etc. But he’s never finance-minister-in-chief. When things are teetering on the edge, nobody looks to the President, at least not seriously. Sure, you’ll get a check for $400 in the mail, but obviously that’s a joke, and pretty much everyone knows it. So yeah, nice to get out from under the President every once in a while, even if it means bank failure. Anyway, besides the discussion about the various committees to the save the world, it’s obviously time to talk market for lemons again. Who else is worth $2/share? Funny (also via Felix): Nouriel Roubini is on the sanguine side of the Bear collapse.


Our Economy Is Not a Child’s Erector Set (Cafe Hayek)
True, true enough. Hopefully.
How Sex Is Different, Part I (The Fly Bottle)
Annoying part about the Bear collapse: less room for Spitzer talk. Of all the smart libertarians we read, WIll Wilkinson has certainly gone off (not surprisingly) on the most philosophical aspects of the prostitution legalization debate. This particular post doesn’t even mention Spitzer. It just, as the title implies, explains how sex is different than other human activities. We’d love to see some sort of fractal-like map of the whole thing. How various discussions have evolved and spun in different directions since the initial story broke. By the way, structuring? Ridiculous.
Pauly’s March Madness Betting Tips (Tao of Poker)
Today begins the most intense period all year, the gap between Selection Sunday and the beginning of the Big Dance. Pauly’s Tao of Poker blog is one of the best out there, since its written by a hardcore degenerate gambler who will bet on anything. And so naturally, he has lots to say about March Madness action. All kinds of betting tips. The great thing about gambling: there’s really no such thing as a bear market in gambling. Like, the odds are always tough, but that being said, they’re never terrible. Like, even in the most punk economy you could imagine, a top-notch poker player or sports better should do fine.
That pesky trust-based business model (Houston’s Clear Thinkers)
One of our favorite bloggers on all things corporate failure, mainly for his in-depth analysis of the Enron aftermath, draws the connection to the issue at hand.
You are Not Misreading. Bear Stearns Is Worth $2 Per Share (Deal Journal)
Apparently something about some bank being rendered almost worthless. Not sure what that’s about.
Fed Declares Itself Counterparty to U.S. Financial System (Infectious Greed)
I like the Onion-esque quality to that headline. Props for basically being true.
McGreevey aide says he had sexual trysts with ex-governor, wife (NJ.com)
Technically speaking, this doesn’t have much to do with Bear Stearns. But I think you could argue that its orthogonally related to Spitzer, in that it’s a story about an ex-governor. Anyway, an ex-aide to McGreevey is claiming to have had “relations” with both the ex-gov and the wife. Very odd.

15 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (15)

  1. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:09 AM

    seems like all the enviable stars of the early 2000s have fallen: carlyle capital, eliot spitzer, bear stearns, britney spears… who’s next?

  2. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:34 AM

    $2 for 15% – that’s £6.67 for a single drink? No wonder Wall Street is reeling – anyone who regularly pays £6.67 for a drink should not be trusted with more than the money to get a couple of pints of milk, and you should still count the change when they come back from the shops.

  3. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:39 AM

    Lehman down 32% in premarket. You guys hearing anything?

  4. Posted by modskool | March 17, 2008 at 7:43 AM

    as if anyone reading this has income low enough to get a tax rebate check.
    How about some AMT reform?

  5. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:44 AM

    rumors this morn that dbk wouldn’t deal with them as a counterparty today but dbk later came out and said not true they did trades with leh today.

  6. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:58 AM

    sorry, not dbk, dbs group holdings in singapore had a short ban on trading.

  7. Posted by diablo | March 17, 2008 at 8:04 AM

    I bet what’s happening to Lehman is some terrist plot. The CIC will step in this time. God help us!

  8. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 8:15 AM

    $2 also buys you 1.67 seconds with Ashley Alexandra Dupre.

  9. Posted by ab | March 17, 2008 at 8:38 AM

    Not to worry. CNBC’s already got a BSC failure special running tonight at 8. I’m sure Charlie will break it down for us.

  10. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 8:41 AM

    i believe it’s “schadenfreude”

  11. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    Thanks for linking up my March Madness tips.
    Cheers,
    Dr. Pauly

  12. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 9:31 AM

    NcGreevey is such a creep

  13. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 12:12 PM

    A couple of notes:
    * Sorry – correction: it’s Joseph Lewis, not James Lewis.
    * James E. Cayne, the chairman and CEO of BS who presided over this BS Mess, was a ~5% shareholder, and thus has lost perhaps as much as $1B over the last few months through today. (His outsized holdings were evidently not enough incentive to keep him away from the golf course and bridge tournaments as this shitshow unfolded over the summer; he’s already taken a ton of heat for that.) He also bought himself a $30M apartment in the Plaza this week.
    Arthur

  14. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 4:57 PM

    Joe Lewis is quoted on Bloomberg as saying $2 is a “derisory offer” for Bear Stearns and he doesn’t think JPMorgan can get it. The man rarely speaks. Well, we know how 10% of the stockholders is voting.

  15. Posted by guest | March 17, 2008 at 7:18 PM

    Bloomberg took down that quote from Joe Lewis. “No comment” is what Lewis said instead.