The UAW says it will try to claw back benefits it gave up when the U.S. auto industry nearly went under. Great. Just when there’s a glimmer of hope that at least two of the U.S. auto makers – Ford and GM – will survive (I’m still not sure about Chrysler), here comes the United Auto Workers with their old-thinking. The global auto industry is in such flux, the post-crisis UAW needs to be a partner, not a problem. Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, visiting our newsroom this week, spoke of the multi-billion-dollar bet his firm is placing on the advent of electric vehicles. I can’t tell you if electric cars will take off in a big way or experience a slow climb in popularity. What I do know is there will be more electric cars on the road in coming years, just as there are increasing numbers of hybrids. It’s also clear that the established auto makers face mounting competition from upstart rivals, including a surging Hyundai and a pack of Chinese up-and-comers. Let’s hope the latest UAW rhetoric is simply a cheap effort to excite the rank and file rather than a sign the leadership has learned little from the American industry’s near-death experience.
Archive for May, 2010
Crude Oil, Natural Disasters, Other Alleged Schemes, Securities & Exchange Commission, Wall Street, Washington / 1 Comment
Fraud is fraud, so it’s silly to try to decide on degrees of venality amongst the various types.
Still, it seems particularly loathsome to try for ill-gotten gains off the back of disasters and the tragedies of others.
Case in point: the Securities and Exchange Commission today warned investors to be wary of scams that seek to exploit the big oil spill in the Gulf and the efforts, which no doubt will be expensive and time-consuming, to clean up.
“While some of the companies touting their role in the cleanup may be legitimate, others could be bogus operations that are only looking to clean out unsuspecting investors,” The SEC and market regulator FINRA said in a jointly issued press release.
It’s ghoulish enough that some investors, upon their hearing of some unexpected tragedy, quickly turn their attention to the business, and therefore investment, implications of the disaster.
That’s the way of the world. Still, scamming off tragedy seems beyond the pale.
The SEC and FINRA provided a list of what to look for in potential Gulf oil spill-related scams. The list includes:
Company claims to have products that effectively help clean up oil spills and/or fix ecosystems. Company claims to have contracts or an expectation of contracts with BP for the cleanup. Or that claim some involvement with one of the federal government agencies on the scene.
China / Comments Off
One of the reasons the Euro was weaker versus the dollar on Wednesday was concern and rumors that the Chinese government, a huge global investor, had decided to stop buying sovereign debt of European governments. In other words, they didn’t want to be exposed to potential losses that could arise if Spain or other countries couldn’t get their financial houses in order.
So, here’s the what the Chinese said, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report:
Crime, Earnings, Insider Trading, Securities & Exchange Commission / Comments Off
One of the cases the Securities and Exchange Commission filed today against alleged insider traders just leaves you wondering where have people been the past few years. This is the case involving a Disney administrative assistant who apparently had access to press releases before they were distributed – and in particular, earnings releases. So, she agreed to pass them along to her boyfriend who ahead of time would contact 20 or more hedge funds to see if they were interested on trading on inside information. He contacted them via anonymous letters. One of the funny things about the SEC press release on this is that it talks about how 20-plus hedge funds were sent the letter but how only several of them contacted the SEC. Hats off to those several but what about the others?
The SEC refers to this as a brazen insider trader case. I suppose one could find stronger words: maybe dumb? Glad the Feds nailed these guys but if you want a good read about “Amateur Hour Comes To Wall Street,” well, here it is. See the SEC complaint and press release by clicking here.
Asia-Pacific, Currencies, Emerging Markets, Financial Markets, Government, North Korea / Comments Off
The problem for financial markets when it comes to North Korea is knowing when things have gone from bad to nuclear.
All too often we have witnessed an episode of barb-throwing between the North and South, accompanied by any number of threatening or retaliatory measures: Withdrawal of aid, testing of missiles, testing of nuclear weapons, border skirmishes and such.
Over the decades that Pyongyang and Seoul have remained in limbo from a war that never officially ended, one feels we’ve seen it all.
That makes this week’s events sound a bit like the boy who called wolf.
The markets that are crucial places for banks to borrow money are starting to get a little cautious and nervous.
As Newswires reporter Deborah Blumberg reported earlier today, the Euro zone sovereign debt crisis in recent weeks has led to a rise in short-term rates as banks are looking to take on less risk. With banks in Spain coming under pressure, there is more concern about counter party risk.
Newswires reporters Daisy Maxey and Jon Kamp also reported that some money managers are beginning to get concerned as well. The commercial paper market in the U.S. is a popular place for banks to raise money. In some instances, money market funds here – big buyers of commercial paper – are letting the European securities mature. In others, investors are looking to own the securities for shorter maturities.
Watch these funding markets closely as they will play a key role for the banks and their governments as they try to figure out how to solve the sovereign debt problems.
Congress, Credit Crisis, Credit Markets, Europe, European Union, Germany, Government, Senate, United States, Wall Street, Washington / Comments Off
If we think about the financial crisis as coming in two distinct waves, this second and current wave highlighted by sovereign debt issues finds politicians around the world much less concerned about upsetting markets.
When the credit crisis settled into the scariest part of its first phase (financial sector distress) in late 2008, you’ll recall the U.S. Congress first saw fit not to pass the so-called TARP legislation that set aside vast sums of money to save banks and other financial institutions.
The U.S. stock market promptly swooned and the politicians collectively rethought their position. TARP passed and despite significant criticism the aid did the trick of keeping a credit squeeze and deep recession from turning into something worse.
Credit Crisis, Economy, Europe, European Union, Financial Markets, Government, United Kingdom, United States, Wall Street, Washington / Comments Off
This Dow 10,000 thing is getting very old.
The U.S. stock market slid below 10,000 as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average yet again. Piercing that level on the upswing happened for the first time back in 1999. That’s right, 1999.
Call me an optimist, but we’ll eventually again head through and above 10,000. Maybe even today, as the stock market slightly recovers from its worst intra-day levels.
The issue is Europe. First was the worry whether certain European countries, Greece prominently among them, would be able to to continue to sell debt and repay outstanding sovereign debt in full.
Australia, Central Banks, China, Currencies, Financial Markets / Comments Off
The Aussie dollar is falling sharply. It must be time to buy.
In the great currency smackdown of recent days, the Australian dollar has copped some of the worst of it. Partly because it was trading above where it should, but also because it is a key “risk” currency that tends to shine when the general market mood is better and investors are willing to enter carry trades to get yield.
The currency has fallen against the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen in particular, and even the Kiwi dollar, against which it normally commands a healthy premium. It is now down near US$0.8316, from around US$0.9260 only three weeks ago.
This column has argued before that the Australian dollar was overvalued. Certainly there was never a justification for it to go to parity.
Some of the factors underpinning its previously-lofty levels look less certain. China in particular has been the big shining light for Australia, buying up its raw materials and helping in no small measure to lift the Australian economy quickly from its slump, but there is the likelihood that China’s growth slows.
The Aussie until recently also benefited from a fairly protracted period of market calm; better stock markets equate to gains for riskier currencies. That has all changed.
Plus the rapid interest rate hikes from the country’s central bank have put it ahead of the curve in terms of yield appeal. Consider what you can get for your money in Australia, compared to the smaller return available in Japan or the U.S.
That’s why the Aussie was set up to fall hard. And fall it has. But the declines should probably be close to done.
The pace of the drop should have washed out a good amount of long positions. The currency has come back to more realistic levels. The reasons to like the Aussie–and there are a fair few–should become more apparent soon.
There should be some serious questions asked if the currency were to push much under the 80 U.S. cent mark; certainly the still-solid economy doesn’t justify such a drop. It would amount to cruel and unusual punishment for a currency that was overpriced for a while but has already corrected to a more reasonable setting.
Survey the landscape–what else is there to buy? The euro? The Thai baht? An already-stronger U.S. dollar?
Given the fairly unexciting alternatives, and the fact the Aussie economy is still in much better shape than elsewhere and rates are higher, there are liable to be some supporters. If the fall continues at a similar pace, one of those supporters could be the Reserve Bank of Australia, which rarely enters the market but may do so to restore order.
(This is a Money Talks column that first ran on Dow Jones Newswires)
Central Banks / Comments Off
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Tuesday announcement about the coming of individual stock circuit-breakers that are uniform across exchanges was welcome news after the debacle of May 6th’s market activity.
But the last line of the SEC’s press release wanders into the world of fixing an adjacent problem that likely doesn’t exist.
First, the headline news described in the first paragraph. With what must be studied understatement, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said, “We continue to believe that the market disruption of May 6 was exacerbated by disparate trading rules and conventions across the exchanges.”
Of course it was. Why one exchange (The New York Stock Exchange) was ever allowed to slow trading in particular shares if they fell a large amount in a short period of time while other exchanges were not so obliged is now a most appropriate question. Looking back to May 6, it in hindsight seems a practice destined to help cause disaster as liquidity dries up and stock prices briefly plummet.