Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ben Franklin Report: Questions, Questions Everywhere

Unfortunately, due to the arcane nature of economic measurements and a desire on the part of the elite to remain elite, there is an entire market around attempting to provide answers to clients and predict near- and long-term economic phenomena. So, in an effort to help you from wanting to go spend money on overpriced financial services, here are some questions you may be asking, and some answers.

  • How much will this crisis cost the economy in the long term? According to JP Morgan Chase, the overall costs could be as much as $1.2 trillion.
  • How is the crisis being felt in other markets? Europe's economy is resilient against the contagion, thanks to the rising Euro and sound monetary policy of keeping interest rates stable, which, in turn, draws available capital into the Eurozone. Head of the European Central Bank President, Jean-Claude Trichet remains skeptical if the worst has yet to come. Canada's CIBC still is working through at least $25 billion in exposure to monoline insurers.
  • Is there more unwinding yet to happen in bad loans? The simplest way to answer this would be to say, "Yes." However, as details are still emerging about the prevalence of home equity loans, or other liens placed on homes in addition to the traditional first lien, mortgages, there is still a lot of red ink to be spilled.
  • Is the stock market going to be a viable investment anytime soon? Perhaps, but not for the next few years. In the cyclical nature of business, the stock market traditionally sours for a decade after a decade of strong trading. So if this trend continues, the market will probably not begin to make lasting gains until approximately 2012.
  • With increasingly visible protests against financial corporations receiving bailouts from the Federal Government, are there any other potential targets of popular discontent? As all politics are local, one need look no farther than the financing of your local Wal-Mart. Does your local community allow 'tax increment financing?'
  • The employment outlook is souring, but was there any good news in the latest batch of GDP data? Not really, almost every number on the page is down in comparison to the quarter before, with a very precipitous drop in government spending. Also of note, exports are declining at the same time as imports are decreasing, which is a reflection of real consumer spending. Also of note, the value of real residential fixed investments, that of houses and such, fell by 25.2%.
  • With all of the concerns about moral hazard, is there really a bad way to intervene in the marketplace? Yes, there is. For instance, pushing Fannie and Freddie into buying bad loans and then holding more capital in reserve against this new volume of bad loans. Businesses and executives that made bad decisions need to face the consequences of their decisions. The government has enough work to do to get its own house in order. I'm not alone in thinking that with this bailout will come a spiraling dollar.

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