Tarot Card Reading Says Citi Will Lose $3 Billion, UBS Will Also Have Run of Bad Luck

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Analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. predicted today that Citigroup may lose between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion on loans to buyout firms and somewhere in the range of $500 million and $1 billion on subprime mortgages in the third quarter. Could things turn out better—2 billion? Worse—20? Analysts Howard Mason and Michael Howard said in a note to clients, “The key question is how the market absorbs deals coming in September, when spreads may widen out to July levels or worse, or may renormalize, with spreads coming in to June levels.” We hear Howard Mason also added, “In the event of a civil union, please do not call me ‘Howard Howard’.”
Shares of Citi are down 16 percent this year, making the company a $231.5 billion value, yours free with the purchase of one disassembled umbrella that Sandy Weill’s wife vetoed as instillation art for the living room and that even a bunch of New School punks, fully versed in the reputation of Shitay Citay, turned down. (Weill’s pitch that “it’s an ironic shitay” did not pan out well).
A 79% rise in second quarter profits at UBS were overshadowed by predictions of a drop for the second half of 2007 (and a history of managing the private wealth of Adolf and his groupies). The company warned that if choppy market conditions continue, its investment bank will “see a very weak trading result.” Shares of UBS are currently at their lowest level in 2007, and the Swiss also reported additional losses at Dillon Read, its boarded-up hedge fund. Some face was saved when Marcel Rohner noted, “I’d like to point out that compared to Bear Stearns, you’re pretty much looking at Hedge Fund of the Year, right here.”

Citi May Lose $3 Billion in Debt Rout, Bernstein Says
UBS blames poor outlook on market volatility [FT]


Maddeningly Bad Luck

March Madness has been a disaster: two of my best customers, who know each other, combined to go 2-for-39 on the first two weekends. Faithful Assistant has been laughing at their tought breaks, but I've been trying to soothe them. I need these guys to keep playing, losing, and paying. Their luck really has been atrocious. 18 of the losses have been by three points or less. One of them asked me if I'd ever heard anything worse. I guess there's Tsotomu Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the A-bomb dropped. Wounded, he figured he'd better get out of Dodge ASAP, so he barrelled home the next day – to Nagasaki. I reminded the client that his bad luck paled in comparison to Yamaguchi's, and that Yamaguchi lived another 65 healthy years...plenty of time to make more bets. But now I'm dealing with more than bad luck. These guys have now declared that sports are rigged. This month's point-shaving scandal at Auburn hasn't helped, and it brings others of recent years to mind. The NBA has Tim Donaghy. Overseas, it looks like half the Turkish soccer league is going to jail, and half of Italy has already been. I actually believe that most of sports are on the level. Disagree if you want, that's OK. But what really gets my goat are the people who think the bookies want the games rigged. We don't. If people think the games are fixed, and thus become afraid to bet, I'm out of business. It's the same story for the guy running a poker game or the CEO of a retail brokerage. No faith, no business. There's a really simple reason somebody with the available cash or credit can get down a $500,000 bet on the NFL, but might not be able to easily bet $50 on Wrestlemania: the market can take the $500,000 football bet, adjust the price slightly, and bettors will come for the other side. There is no market for Wrestlemania, because nobody trusts it. So these clients are generally miffed, but also fixated on one game: Syracuse vs. Kansas State. The price started moving 20 minutes before tip when a K-State star was ruled ineligible. These guys took the new price on K-State thinking they got a deal, when it was just the market reacting to information. Well, Syracuse rolled and now it's allegedly a “fix”. Of course it's not a fix—it's just betting dumb with less info than everybody else. They should have checked why the spread was moving. Emotion trumps reason, though, and there was no reasoning with these guys. And maybe that's why these guys bet with me instead of going online somewhere—they're so Old School, the building probably only had one room. If you want to be a pro gambler these days, there's a ton of free information all over the Internet. I'm not saying it's easy to win over time—it's not. But there's a bucket of info out there on any game you want to study, and all sorts of arcane stats to help inform your decisions. And since everyone else is studying, you better too. When I worked in Chicago, we had a good customer who worked at O'Hare. He would bring us out-of-town sports sections that travellers left behind as they boarded planes. We got useful injury information from beat writers in other cities that the rest of the Chicago market just didn't have. That was 20 years ago, but when I tell that story to Faithful Assistant, he usually asks if Orville and Wilbur Wright were flying the planes. He's been on the Internet since middle school, and pretends he can't remember life without it. So I'm not sure what to do with these guys—they bet six times a day, but haven't called since Saturday. I think I'll give them a free bet equivalent to what they lost on Kansas State. I know I don't have to, but I'm not willing to risk losing the business. That's the worst part of all this—and the reason why I'm trying to get out of this racket. I don't just need the customers to lose, I need them to lose slowly and have fun doing it. I'm not a psychiatrist trained to actually convince people that betting really is a random thing for the vast majority of gamblers and losing streaks just happen. I wonder if I should join the Army. I'm not much for getting shot, but I hear the poker games are good. Baseball starts next week and the guys who just bet bases are much easier to deal with. They understand the nature of a game where the very best teams win 65% of their games and the absolute worst teams still win 35% of the time. I can't wait. Anybody know if Tim Tebow needs someone to take his action? He's on every channel, everywhere.