Waddling Back To The Trough

Here comes a squealing Fannie Mae, begging to suck on the taxpayer teat yet again. Hey, I know, let’s throw some more good money after bad.

Fannie Mae Seeks $8.5 Billion in U.S. Aid After Reporting Loss

Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance company operating under U.S. conservatorship, will seek $8.5 billion in Treasury Department aid to balance its books after reporting a $6.5 billion loss in the first quarter.

Fannie Mae is requesting the money to eliminate a net worth deficit of $8.4 billion for the three-month period that ended March 31, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today. The $6.5 billion loss for the quarter compares with an $11.5 billion shortfall in the same period a year ago.

. . .

Fannie Mae’s smaller rival, Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia, posted a $676 million first-quarter profit on May 4. Freddie Mac reported a net worth of $1.2 billion and didn’t request additional aid.

The two companies, which own or guarantee more than half of U.S. single-family mortgages, have drawn more than $160 billion in Treasury aid since September 2008, when they were seized by the federal government amid losses that pushed them to the brink of insolvency.

See also:
Fannie Mae Falls Back Into the Loss Column
Fannie Mae to ask $8.5bn of Treasury
Fannie Mae seeks $8.5 billion from taxpayers
Fannie Mae Posts Deep Loss
Fannie Mae requests additional 8.5 billion dollars in government aid
Fannie’s Friday Earnings Release: $8.7-Billion Loss

And who’s responsible for this financial black hole?

Why are we continuing to prop up this bull[expletive deleted]? Let Fannie Mae fail. How much worse can the housing market get? In fact, the government’s insistence in meddling in the housing market. led by the Democrats, only prolongs the inevitable and prevents the free market from sorting itself out.

/take away the trough, wean Fannie Mae from the taxpayer teat, vote Republican in 2012, it’s the only way to be sure

What The Hell Happened?

It’s been over 24 hours now and still no one has any idea as to what caused Thursday’s bogus market plunge. Needless to say, that’s not good.

Yesterday’s market swerve: fat fingers, glitch, or cyber-warfare?

Theories about yesterday’s stock market swoon, where within a matter of 20 minutes, the stock market plunged by 1,000 points and then nearly completely recovered, are abounding. Fortune asked Rishi Narang, founder of the hedge fund Telesis Capital and author of Inside the Black Box, to share the theories he’s heard and handicap them in terms of likelihood and plausibility.

Narang, who uses high-frequency trading techniques, explains why high-frequency traders got out of the market during the dive, and why the catalyst for the drop is far more important to understand than the drop itself:

What happened yesterday?

There are two points to understand. First, what catalyzed the activity? What was the reason for the market wanting to fall? It might be that the catalyst was of such size that it overwhelmed all other factors. There are three plausible theories:

1) The fat finger. Plausible, but unlikely. Typing in billions with a “b” versus millions with an “m” seems impossible. Trading systems don’t work that way. More likely, the trading system accepts the sell/buy amount in thousands. Some trader in the heat of the moment forgets it’s in thousands, types in an order for 16,000,000 instead of 16,000. That kind of thing seems far more plausible.

But even then: why on Earth would the trading entry system not have a sanity check? For almost no one in the world is a $16 billion sell order okay to send out as soon as it’s entered. The trader should be fired, along with everyone in the IT department. If this happened, most likely, it was something along those lines. If it wasn’t all one order, maybe it was meant to sell just $1 billion shares but was sent 3 or 5 times instead of once.

2) Software error. Plausible, likely, but doesn’t fit the facts. Here, the trading software is in a recursive loop, pounding out sell orders due to a bug somewhere in the software. In a sense, this is more plausible, more likely, but doesn’t seem to fit the facts well enough.

The speed of the decline in the market just doesn’t seem to fit — should be a series of small orders, not a series of large orders. In 7 minutes we saw a 580-point drop. That doesn’t look like a recursive loop. But there is a lot of software, and somewhere a bug is bound to exist. You can easily imagine a software glitch happening. Things go buggy. Like the Toyota [accelerator] problem, at heart a software problem. Technology is a two-edged sword, and this is the other edge of the sword. We rely on software, but it’s not always written well enough.

3) Computer hacking. Implausible without proof, but possible. This is the most interesting theory because we know terrorists are interested in cyberterrorism. We know they would target the financial markets. We know a great day to launch an attack would be one with a mild bit of panic [due to the Greek crisis and sovereign debt downgrades].

Some other really crazy things happened with stocks, like Accenture and Exelon. [Both stocks traded for one cent for short periods of time.] Two parties really transacted on these trades [at one cent], even though they were later busted and cancelled. If it was just high-frequency traders bailing out, why wouldn’t [that drop] happen on every stock? It just doesn’t add up. Things are too idiosyncratic and that feels uncomfortable. This also happened in the options markets, but again, only on a handful of options.

And the second point to understand?

That’s the question of the enabler. What, if anything perpetuated the selloff? And did so in seconds? There’s a lot of speculation about high-frequency traders vanishing from the marketplace.

The consensus is that high-frequency guys didn’t provide the liquidity and that’s what allowed for prices like one penny on Accenture. I do know for sure that high-frequency traders backed off, but old school market makers would’ve done the same thing, in a little bit different way. They just would’ve created super-wide market spreads. Same thing.

We shouldn’t be so sanguine about taxes and impediments to high-frequency trading if we are upset when high-frequency traders leave the market. Those are incompatible ideas.

As a side point: traders have stop loss levels; one big move triggers other moves. There are systematic, discretionary, and plain-old panic trades.

But for all of those styles and programs, once they see the stock market fall 6%, a liquidation effect takes hold. That’s just a function of people. Someone screams fire, and if enough people start running, everyone will. Those are the dynamics of computer software, people, animals, fires, whatever. It’s how we work. That kind of stampeding effect could easily be part of the response.

But the speed of the market falling down, going back up, and partway back down again? If this was really a stampede, why not repeat the 1987 crash [which kept going]? Nothing ‘stopped’ this crash except that the catalyst seemed to have ended.

If it was an error or a software bug, it stopped. If it was a hack, the hackers left. In other words, the enabling side of this drop is totally irrelevant [to the catalyst]. The only interesting thing here is the catalyst. If this was a gas pedal that was stuck, it would’ve looked differently, kept going.

Whether this was intentional or unintentional, it happened all at once. If it was an intentional [attack], then the question is, was it a demonstration, a test, or the attack itself? Whatever it was, we didn’t stop it. It stopped itself.

See also:
Regulators Are Stumped by Drop
NYSE, Nasdaq bicker over stock-market drop
Plunge highlights fragmented markets, fast traders
Stock Market Crash? Or Trading Error?
Theories abound about how the 1,000 point Dow drop occurred
UPDATE: Everyone Seeks Answers Behind Stock Market’s Rout
Programs, NYSE Circuit Breakers Contribute To Market Plunge
Nasdaq cancels the trade of 296 stocks after Thursday’s Wall Street stock market crash
SEC reviewing Thursday’s sudden stock market drop
SEC Said to Outline Possible Causes of Market Plunge (Update1)
House panel to hold stock market inquiry

All I can say is that the investigators at the SEC had better get off their asses, take a break from their prodigious porn surfing, and get to the bottom of what exactly caused Thursday’s bogus market plunge. And they had better come up with a definitive answer quickly.

/the ongoing inability of exchange operators and regulators to pinpoint the problem is beginning to shake market confidence even more than the bogus plunge itself

Unfair Advantage

This shouldn’t be allowed, period.

SEC Probes Flash Orders to Ensure Fair Access to Data (Update3)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is examining so-called flash orders to ensure equity markets aren’t putting investors at a disadvantage by giving some brokerages advance knowledge about trades.

“The SEC staff is specifically examining flash orders to ensure best execution and fair access to information for all investors,” John Nester, a spokesman for the regulator, said today.

Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, told the SEC to review flash orders in a July 24 letter. Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., Bats Global Markets, Direct Edge Holdings LLC and the CBOE Stock Exchange give information to their clients about orders for a fraction of a second before the trades are routed to rival platforms. The systems are meant to give investors an additional opportunity to complete a trade.

Last month, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said the agency is concerned that electronic indications of bids and offers are being disseminated to a select group of brokerages. She also said it would examine dark pools, private electronic markets operated by brokerages that don’t publicly post quotes.

The review appears unlikely to lead the SEC to impose curbs on other forms of high-speed trading, NYSE Euronext Chief Executive Officer Duncan Niederauer said today, citing discussions with regulators. NYSE Euronext, the world’s largest owner of stock exchanges, told the SEC in May that flash orders result in most investors getting worse prices.

No Fear

“I don’t think there is any fear of them doing something that would severely damage the displayed liquidity on U.S. equity markets,” he said today in a conference call with analysts to discuss the New York-based company’s second-quarter results. “High-frequency trading is actually the most consistent source of liquidity.”

NYSE is building facilities in Mahwah, New Jersey, and near London to boost its capacity to handle high-speed trades. The company is spending about $500 million, the Wall Street Journal reported today, citing people familiar with the matter.

Analysts including Raymond James Financial Inc.’s Patrick O’Shaughnessy said this week that regulators’ response to flash orders might result in restrictions on computer-driven trading, which could hurt profit for exchanges.

Bats, Nasdaq Support

Bats CEO Joe Ratterman said today in an e-mail to clients that the Kansas City, Missouri-based exchange would support an industrywide ban on flash orders. Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld told Schumer July 28 that his company would also support a prohibition, according to a statement issued by the New York senator’s office.

Both introduced the systems over the past three months to compete against Direct Edge, the trading platform that has gained market share through its three-year-old Enhanced Liquidity Provider program.

Direct Edge, which is not a registered SEC exchange, more than doubled its market share since November to 11.9 percent of the total volume in the U.S. in June by using revenue from its ELP program to cut other trading fees. The ELP program accounted for 8 percent of the shares handled by Direct Edge.

“If regulators get rid of it, or do anything to significantly circumscribe the program, it will hurt Direct Edge and help Nasdaq and NYSE,” Justin Schack, vice president of market structure analysis at New York-based Rosenblatt Securities Inc., said in an interview. “It takes away a big competitive weapon that Direct Edge used to gain market share.”

Wall Street and the World of Flash Stock Trades

High Frequency Trading

The computers have become traders in just the last few years, say market people. One particularly visible part of what they do is called High Frequency Trading, in which machines, programmed to look for market trends, may buy or sell a stock in milliseconds.

A subset of this phenomenon is known as “flash trading,” in which stock exchanges let firms place super-fast orders to buy or sell stocks — often based on information they receive a fraction of a second before the rest of the world does. Large firms pay fees for the advance information, and may be able to profit by moving so quickly.

See also:
ICE says it doesn’t allow ‘flash’ trading
Nasdaq backs ban on “flash” trading: Schumer
High-Frequency Trading Faces Challenge From Schumer (Update1)
Schumer wants to ban flash trading
SEC Examines ‘Flash’ Trading
BATS CEO Ratterman supports ban on flashed orders
BATS Exchange Supports Ban On ‘Flash’ Orders – CEO

And people wonder why the average investor distrusts Wall street.

/apparently all trades are equal, but some trades are more equal than others

The Banks And Car Companies Are Not Enough!

Obama must have more power, more control! He must reign over everything, the entire U.S. economy belongs to him! You cannot be trusted with capitalism and free markets. Obama knows best and Obama has spoken.

New Foundation, New Stability

Over the past decades, government has often haphazardly weakened and jettisoned the regulations on the financial sector that were designed to bring stability to the economy. The result has been what the President refers to as a “bubble and bust” economy, leaving American families at the whim of greed and excess far beyond their control and hundreds of miles away. As the President said today, it is indisputable that this peril was a leading contributor the economic breakdown America has seen over the past years.

Today marked a culmination of a months-long process in which the President consulted with the most expert and experienced regulators, leaders in Congress, and his entire economic team to craft a revamping of the system, a “new foundation” on which our economy can grow for decades to come. Many of them joined him today as he announced the principles they had agreed upon.

The President began his remarks by diagnosing the problem:

In recent years, financial innovators, seeking an edge in the marketplace, produced a huge variety of new and complex financial instruments. And these products, such as asset-based securities, were designed to spread risk, but unfortunately ended up concentrating risk. Loans were sold to banks, banks packaged these loans into securities, investors bought these securities often with little insight into the risks to which they were exposed. And it was easy money — while it lasted. But these schemes were built on a pile of sand. And as the appetite for these products grew, lenders lowered standards to attract new borrowers. Many Americans bought homes and borrowed money without being adequately informed of the terms, and often without accepting the responsibilities.

Meanwhile, executive compensation — unmoored from long-term performance or even reality — rewarded recklessness rather than responsibility. And this wasn’t just the failure of individuals; this was a failure of the entire system. The actions of many firms escaped scrutiny. In some cases, the dealings of these institutions were so complex and opaque that few inside or outside these companies understood what was happening. Where there were gaps in the rules, regulators lacked the authority to take action. Where there were overlaps, regulators lacked accountability for their inaction.

. . .

The President concluded by making clear the necessity of the solution:

There’s always been a tension between those who place their faith in the invisible hand of the marketplace and those who place more trust in the guiding hand of the government — and that tension isn’t a bad thing. It gives rise to healthy debates and creates a dynamism that makes it possible for us to adapt and grow. For we know that markets are not an unalloyed force for either good or for ill. In many ways, our financial system reflects us. In the aggregate of countless independent decisions, we see the potential for creativity — and the potential for abuse. We see the capacity for innovations that make our economy stronger — and for innovations that exploit our economy’s weaknesses.

We are called upon to put in place those reforms that allow our best qualities to flourish — while keeping those worst traits in check. We’re called upon to recognize that the free market is the most powerful generative force for our prosperity — but it is not a free license to ignore the consequences of our actions.

This is a difficult time for our nation. But from this period of challenge, we can once again tap those values and ideals that have allowed us to lead the global economy, and will allow us to lead once again. That’s how we’ll help more Americans live their own dreams. That’s why these reforms are so important. And I look forward to working with leaders in Congress and all of you to see these proposals put to work so that we can overcome this crisis and build a lasting foundation for prosperity.

And, of course, Obama has a detailed plan for tightening his grip on the free market system.

Financial Regulatory Reform: A New Foundation

We must act now to restore confidence in the integrity of our financial system. The lasting economic damage to ordinary families and businesses is a constant reminder of the urgent need to act to reform our financial regulatory system and put our economy on track to a sustainable recovery. We must build a new foundation for financial regulation and supervision that is simpler and more effectively enforced, that protects consumers and investors, that rewards innovation and that is able to adapt and evolve with changes in the financial market.

In the following pages, we propose reforms to meet five key objectives:

(1) Promote robust supervision and regulation of financial firms. Financial institutions that are critical to market functioning should be subject to strong oversight. No financialfirm that poses a significant risk to the financial system should be unregulated or weakly regulated. We need clear accountability in financial oversight and supervision. We propose:

• A new Financial Services Oversight Council of financial regulators to identify emerging systemic risks and improve interagency cooperation.

• New authority for the Federal Reserve to supervise all firms that could pose a threat to financial stability, even those that do not own banks.

• Stronger capital and other prudential standards for all financial firms, and even higher standards for large, interconnected firms.

• A new National Bank Supervisor to supervise all federally chartered banks.

• Elimination of the federal thrift charter and other loopholes that allowed some depository institutions to avoid bank holding company regulation by the Federal Reserve.

• The registration of advisers of hedge funds and other private pools of capital with the SEC.

(2) Establish comprehensive supervision of financial markets. Our major financial markets must be strong enough to withstand both system-wide stress and the failure of one or more large institutions. We propose:

• Enhanced regulation of securitization markets, including new requirements for market transparency, stronger regulation of credit rating agencies, and a requirement that issuers and originators retain a financial interest in securitized loans.

• Comprehensive regulation of all over-the-counter derivatives.

• New authority for the Federal Reserve to oversee payment, clearing, and settlement systems.

(3) Protect consumers and investors from financial abuse. To rebuild trust in our markets, we need strong and consistent regulation and supervision of consumer financial services and investment markets. We should base this oversight not on speculation or abstract models, but on actual data about how people make financial decisions. We must promote transparency, simplicity, fairness, accountability, and access. We propose:

• A new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect consumers across the financial sector from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices.

• Stronger regulations to improve the transparency, fairness, and appropriateness of consumer and investor products and services.

• A level playing field and higher standards for providers of consumer financial products and services, whether or not they are part of a bank.

(4) Provide the government with the tools it needs to manage financial crises. We need to be sure that the government has the tools it needs to manage crises, if and when they arise, so that we are not left with untenable choices between bailouts and financial collapse. We propose:

• A new regime to resolve nonbank financial institutions whose failure could have serious systemic effects.

• Revisions to the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority to improve accountability.

(5) Raise international regulatory standards and improve international cooperation. The challenges we face are not just American challenges, they are global challenges. So,as we work to set high regulatory standards here in the United States, we must ask the
world to do the same. We propose:

• International reforms to support our efforts at home, including strengthening the capital framework; improving oversight of global financial markets; coordinating supervision of internationally active firms; and enhancing crisis management tools.

Nowhere in the President’s remarks or in his new regulation plan will you find any mention, let alone an admission, of the government’s primary role in causing the latest financial collapse. Fortunately, IBD tells it like it was.

Regulation Nation

Regulation: The White House wants to impose sweeping new rules for the financial industry to prevent another meltdown. Unfortunately, it was government — not the private sector — that was to blame.

Citing a “culture of irresponsibility” that it says helped cause last year’s financial crisis, the White House on Wednesday released an 88-page report that proposes major changes in America’s financial system. The Associated Press aptly called it “the greatest regulatory transformation since the Great Depression.”

Among the reforms put forward were a new, pumped-up Federal Reserve with greater powers to regulate and oversee the entire financial system, a new consumer credit watchdog to oversee home loans and credit cards, and new rules and oversight for hedge funds and exotic securities, such as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations, which some blame for making the financial crisis worse.

It’s nice to see that our government is so concerned about not repeating the errors of the past. But our advice comes from an ancient proverb:

“Physician, heal thyself.”

The White House’s financial regulation proposal blames “gaps in regulation” for our financial crisis. Wrong. It was in fact government misregulation and miscalculation that created our financial crisis — not private businesses. The record on this is quite clear.

As economic historian Lawrence White of the University of Missouri has written:

“The expansion in risky mortgages to underqualified borrowers was encouraged by the federal government. The growth of ‘creative’ nonprime lending followed Congress’ strengthening of the Community Reinvestment Act, the Federal Housing Administration’s loosening of down-payment standards, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s pressuring lenders to extend mortgages to borrowers who previously would not have qualified.”

Add to that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — created and regulated by acts of Congress — which together at one point controlled nearly half of the nation’s $12 trillion mortgage market. The two quasi-private entities served as the grand financial engine by which Congress would boost homeownership.

It worked well for a while. And we can’t fault the intent to help people. But the failure was one of too much government — not too little, which is the rationale for the new financial regulation regime sought for Wall Street and the banks.

As for the Fed’s new powers, we happen to believe the central bank has done a reasonably good job responding to this crisis — though as many others have noted, the vast expansion of the U.S. money supply in the last year poses a future inflationary threat.

But we don’t think the Fed needs enhanced powers. Far from it. It’s too powerful already. Giving it virtually unbridled control over our financial system without having to directly answer to the people is a danger to free market capitalism.

Many have argued that the Fed’s slashing of interest rates from 6.25% in 2001 to 1% in 2003 — following a stock market meltdown, a recession, the 9/11 attacks and the start of the War on Terror — was too much and led to the housing market bubble.

Now, strangely, many of the same people advocate giving the Fed even more power. It makes no sense.

If the White House really wants to fix our ailing financial system, it would do well to start by repealing what remains of TARP, undoing the government’s takeover of our auto industry and halting the fraudulent and wasteful $787 billion “stimulus” program.

Then you might see a real economic recovery take place.

See also:
Obama Defends Financial Overhaul
Geithner: Govt. Needs Better ‘Crisis Management’ Tools
In huge change, Obama’d strip Fed of credit card oversight
Obama: ‘A sweeping overhaul’
Historic Overhaul of Finance Rules
Obama Lays Out ‘Sweeping Overhaul’ of Financial Rules (Update3)
Not Everyone Is Cheering Fed’s New Role
New financial rules: Major changes for big, small
Obama unveils ‘sweeping overhaul’ of financial regulations

The truly ironic part is that most of Obama’s free market control plan has to go through Congress to become law, those most responsible for the financial mess in the first place. Can you just imagine what hideous manner of bull[expletive deleted] regulation will come out the other end? How much additional U.S. government oppression can free enterprise take before major corporations will just say enough already and reincorporate in another country with a more business friendly environment?

/one thing I know for sure from daily first hand stock trading experience, between Obama’s encroachment into the private sector economy and his out of control government spending, he’s spooking the ever loving [expletive deleted] out of the markets

Birds Of A Feather

Accused Financier Under Federal Drug Investigation

The SEC’s fraud charges may be the least of accused financial scammer R. Allen Stanford’s worries. Federal authorities tell ABC News that the FBI and others have been investigating whether Stanford was involved in laundering drug money for Mexico’s notorious Gulf Cartel.

. . .

A video posted on the firm’s web-site shows Stanford, now sought by U.S. Marshals, being hugged by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and praised by former President Bill Clinton for helping to finance a convention-related forum and party put on by the National Democratic Institute.

See also:
Texas billionaire accused of $8-billion investment scam
Who is R. Allen Stanford?
R. Allen Stanford’s Private-Equity Connections
R. Allen Stanford and the Democrats’ Culture of Corruption
Stanford Financial Group
Gulf Cartel
National Democratic Institute
U.S. Marshals Service

/surprise, surprise!