Thursday, December 24, 2009

NYT article on Goldman Sachs and the housing meltdown - how they bet against us - Bonus - Christmas Eve.

December 24, 2009 Banks Bundled Bad Debt, Bet Against It and Won By GRETCHEN MORGENSON and LOUISE STORY In late October 2007, as the financial markets were starting to come unglued, a Goldman Sachs trader, Jonathan M. Egol, received very good news. At 37, he was named a managing director at the firm. Mr. Egol, a Princeton graduate, had risen to prominence inside the bank by creating mortgage-related securities, named Abacus, that were at first intended to protect Goldman from investment losses if the housing market collapsed. As the market soured, Goldman created even more of these securities, enabling it to pocket huge profits. Goldman’s own clients who bought them, however, were less fortunate. Pension funds and insurance companies lost billions of dollars on securities that they believed were solid investments, according to former Goldman employees with direct knowledge of the deals who asked not to be identified because they have confidentiality agreements with the firm. Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc., an investment company whose parent firm was overseen by Lewis A. Sachs, who this year became a special counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. How these disastrously performing securities were devised is now the subject of scrutiny by investigators in Congress, at the Securities and Exchange Commission and at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-regulatory organization, according to people briefed on the investigations. Those involved with the inquiries declined to comment. While the investigations are in the early phases, authorities appear to be looking at whether securities laws or rules of fair dealing were violated by firms that created and sold these mortgage-linked debt instruments and then bet against the clients who purchased them, people briefed on the matter say. One focus of the inquiry is whether the firms creating the securities purposely helped to select especially risky mortgage-linked assets that would be most likely to crater, setting their clients up to lose billions of dollars if the housing market imploded. Some securities packaged by Goldman and Tricadia ended up being so vulnerable that they soured within months of being created. Goldman and other Wall Street firms maintain there is nothing improper about synthetic C.D.O.’s, saying that they typically employ many trading techniques to hedge investments and protect against losses. They add that many prudent investors often do the same. Goldman used these securities initially to offset any potential losses stemming from its positive bets on mortgage securities. But Goldman and other firms eventually used the C.D.O.’s to place unusually large negative bets that were not mainly for hedging purposes, and investors and industry experts say that put the firms at odds with their own clients’ interests. “The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” said Sylvain R. Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.” Investment banks were not alone in reaping rich rewards by placing trades against synthetic C.D.O.’s. Some hedge funds also benefited, including Paulson & Company, according to former Goldman workers and people at other banks familiar with that firm’s trading. Michael DuVally, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, declined to make Mr. Egol available for comment. But Mr. DuVally said many of the C.D.O.’s created by Wall Street were made to satisfy client demand for such products, which the clients thought would produce profits because they had an optimistic view of the housing market. In addition, he said that clients knew Goldman might be betting against mortgages linked to the securities, and that the buyers of synthetic mortgage C.D.O.’s were large, sophisticated investors, he said. The creation and sale of synthetic C.D.O.’s helped make the financial crisis worse than it might otherwise have been, effectively multiplying losses by providing more securities to bet against. Some $8 billion in these securities remain on the books at American International Group, the giant insurer rescued by the government in September 2008. From 2005 through 2007, at least $108 billion in these securities was issued, according to Dealogic, a financial data firm. And the actual volume was much higher because synthetic C.D.O.’s and other customized trades are unregulated and often not reported to any financial exchange or market. Goldman Saw It Coming Before the financial crisis, many investors — large American and European banks, pension funds, insurance companies and even some hedge funds — failed to recognize that overextended borrowers would default on their mortgages, and they kept increasing their investments in mortgage-related securities. As the mortgage market collapsed, they suffered steep losses. A handful of investors and Wall Street traders, however, anticipated the crisis. In 2006, Wall Street had introduced a new index, called the ABX, that became a way to invest in the direction of mortgage securities. The index allowed traders to bet on or against pools of mortgages with different risk characteristics, just as stock indexes enable traders to bet on whether the overall stock market, or technology stocks or bank stocks, will go up or down. Goldman, among others on Wall Street, has said since the collapse that it made big money by using the ABX to bet against the housing market. Worried about a housing bubble, top Goldman executives decided in December 2006 to change the firm’s overall stance on the mortgage market, from positive to negative, though it did not disclose that publicly. Even before then, however, pockets of the investment bank had also started using C.D.O.’s to place bets against mortgage securities, in some cases to hedge the firm’s mortgage investments, as protection against a fall in housing prices and an increase in defaults. Mr. Egol was a prime mover behind these securities. Beginning in 2004, with housing prices soaring and the mortgage mania in full swing, Mr. Egol began creating the deals known as Abacus. From 2004 to 2008, Goldman issued 25 Abacus deals, according to Bloomberg, with a total value of $10.9 billion. Abacus allowed investors to bet for or against the mortgage securities that were linked to the deal. The C.D.O.’s didn’t contain actual mortgages. Instead, they consisted of credit-default swaps, a type of insurance that pays out when a borrower defaults. These swaps made it much easier to place large bets on mortgage failures. Rather than persuading his customers to make negative bets on Abacus, Mr. Egol kept most of these wagers for his firm, said five former Goldman employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity. On occasion, he allowed some hedge funds to take some of the short trades. Mr. Egol and Fabrice Tourre, a French trader at Goldman, were aggressive from the start in trying to make the assets in Abacus deals look better than they were, according to notes taken by a Wall Street investor during a phone call with Mr. Tourre and another Goldman employee in May 2005. On the call, the two traders noted that they were trying to persuade analysts at Moody’s Investors Service, a credit rating agency, to assign a higher rating to one part of an Abacus C.D.O. but were having trouble, according to the investor’s notes, which were provided by a colleague who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to release them. Goldman declined to discuss the selection of the assets in the C.D.O.’s, but a spokesman said investors could have rejected the C.D.O. if they did not like the assets. Goldman’s bets against the performances of the Abacus C.D.O.’s were not worth much in 2005 and 2006, but they soared in value in 2007 and 2008 when the mortgage market collapsed. The trades gave Mr. Egol a higher profile at the bank, and he was among a group promoted to managing director on Oct. 24, 2007. “Egol and Fabrice were way ahead of their time,” said one of the former Goldman workers. “They saw the writing on the wall in this market as early as 2005.” By creating the Abacus C.D.O.’s, they helped protect Goldman against losses that others would suffer. As early as the summer of 2006, Goldman’s sales desk began marketing short bets using the ABX index to hedge funds like Paulson & Company, Magnetar and Soros Fund Management, which invests for the billionaire George Soros. John Paulson, the founder of Paulson & Company, also would later take some of the shorts from the Abacus deals, helping him profit when mortgage bonds collapsed. He declined to comment. A Deal Gone Bad, for Some The woeful performance of some C.D.O.’s issued by Goldman made them ideal for betting against. As of September 2007, for example, just five months after Goldman had sold a new Abacus C.D.O., the ratings on 84 percent of the mortgages underlying it had been downgraded, indicating growing concerns about borrowers’ ability to repay the loans, according to research from UBS, the big Swiss bank. Of more than 500 C.D.O.’s analyzed by UBS, only two were worse than the Abacus deal. Goldman created other mortgage-linked C.D.O.’s that performed poorly, too. One, in October 2006, was a $800 million C.D.O. known as Hudson Mezzanine. It included credit insurance on mortgage and subprime mortgage bonds that were in the ABX index; Hudson buyers would make money if the housing market stayed healthy — but lose money if it collapsed. Goldman kept a significant amount of the financial bets against securities in Hudson, so it would profit if they failed, according to three of the former Goldman employees. A Goldman salesman involved in Hudson said the deal was one of the earliest in which outside investors raised questions about Goldman’s incentives. “Here we are selling this, but we think the market is going the other way,” he said. A hedge fund investor in Hudson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that because Goldman was betting against the deal, he wondered whether the bank built Hudson with “bonds they really think are going to get into trouble.” Indeed, Hudson investors suffered large losses. In March 2008, just 18 months after Goldman created that C.D.O., so many borrowers had defaulted that holders of the security paid out about $310 million to Goldman and others who had bet against it, according to correspondence sent to Hudson investors. The Goldman salesman said that C.D.O. buyers were not misled because they were advised that Goldman was placing large bets against the securities. “We were very open with all the risks that we thought we sold. When you’re facing a tidal wave of people who want to invest, it’s hard to stop them,” he said. The salesman added that investors could have placed bets against Abacus and similar C.D.O.’s if they had wanted to. A Goldman spokesman said the firm’s negative bets didn’t keep it from suffering losses on its mortgage assets, taking $1.7 billion in write-downs on them in 2008; but he would not say how much the bank had since earned on its short positions, which former Goldman workers say will be far more lucrative over time. For instance, Goldman profited to the tune of $1.5 billion from one series of mortgage-related trades by Mr. Egol with Wall Street rival Morgan Stanley, which had to book a steep loss, according to people at both firms. Tetsuya Ishikawa, a salesman on several Abacus and Hudson deals, left Goldman and later published a novel, “How I Caused the Credit Crunch.” In it, he wrote that bankers deserted their clients who had bought mortgage bonds when that market collapsed: “We had moved on to hurting others in our quest for self-preservation.” Mr. Ishikawa, who now works for another financial firm in London, declined to comment on his work at Goldman. Profits From a Collapse Just as synthetic C.D.O.’s began growing rapidly, some Wall Street banks pushed for technical modifications governing how they worked in ways that made it possible for C.D.O.’s to expand even faster, and also tilted the playing field in favor of banks and hedge funds that bet against C.D.O.’s, according to investors. In early 2005, a group of prominent traders met at Deutsche Bank’s office in New York and drew up a new system, called Pay as You Go. This meant the insurance for those betting against mortgages would pay out more quickly. The traders then went to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the group that governs trading in derivatives like C.D.O.’s. The new system was presented as a fait accompli, and adopted. Other changes also increased the likelihood that investors would suffer losses if the mortgage market tanked. Previously, investors took losses only in certain dire “credit events,” as when the mortgages associated with the C.D.O. defaulted or their issuers went bankrupt. But the new rules meant that C.D.O. holders would have to make payments to short sellers under less onerous outcomes, or “triggers,” like a ratings downgrade on a bond. This meant that anyone who bet against a C.D.O. could collect on the bet more easily. “In the early deals you see none of these triggers,” said one investor who asked for anonymity to preserve relationships. “These things were built in to provide the dealers with a big payoff when something bad happened.” Banks also set up ever more complex deals that favored those betting against C.D.O.’s. Morgan Stanley established a series of C.D.O.’s named after United States presidents (Buchanan and Jackson) with an unusual feature: short-sellers could lock in very cheap bets against mortgages, even beyond the life of the mortgage bonds. It was akin to allowing someone paying a low insurance premium for coverage on one automobile to pay the same on another one even if premiums over all had increased because of high accident rates. At Goldman, Mr. Egol structured some Abacus deals in a way that enabled those betting on a mortgage-market collapse to multiply the value of their bets, to as much as six or seven times the face value of those C.D.O.’s. When the mortgage market tumbled, this meant bigger profits for Goldman and other short sellers — and bigger losses for other investors. Selling Bad Debt Other Wall Street firms also created risky mortgage-related securities that they bet against. At Deutsche Bank, the point man on betting against the mortgage market was Greg Lippmann, a trader. Mr. Lippmann made his pitch to select hedge fund clients, arguing they should short the mortgage market. He sometimes distributed a T-shirt that read “I’m Short Your House!!!” in black and red letters. Deutsche, which declined to comment, at the same time was selling synthetic C.D.O.’s to its clients, and those deals created more short-selling opportunities for traders like Mr. Lippmann. Among the most aggressive C.D.O. creators was Tricadia, a management company that was a unit of Mariner Investment Group. Until he became a senior adviser to the Treasury secretary early this year, Lewis Sachs was Mariner’s vice chairman. Mr. Sachs oversaw about 20 portfolios there, including Tricadia, and its documents also show that Mr. Sachs sat atop the firm’s C.D.O. management committee. From 2003 to 2007, Tricadia issued 14 mortgage-linked C.D.O.’s, which it called TABS. Even when the market was starting to implode, Tricadia continued to create TABS deals in early 2007 to sell to investors. The deal documents referring to conflicts of interest stated that affiliates and clients of Tricadia might place bets against the types of securities in the TABS deal. Even so, the sales material also boasted that the mortgages linked to C.D.O.’s had historically low default rates, citing a “recently completed” study by Standard & Poor’s ratings agency — though fine print indicated that the date of the study was September 2002, almost five years earlier. At a financial symposium in New York in September 2006, Michael Barnes, the co-head of Tricadia, described how a hedge fund could put on a negative mortgage bet by shorting assets to C.D.O. investors, according to his presentation, which was reviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Barnes declined to comment. James E. McKee, general counsel at Tricadia, said, “Tricadia has never shorted assets into the TABS deals, and Tricadia has always acted in the best interests of its clients and investors.” Mr. Sachs, through a spokesman at the Treasury Department, declined to comment. Like investors in some of Goldman’s Abacus deals, buyers of some TABS experienced heavy losses. By the end of 2007, UBS research showed that two TABS deals were the eighth- and ninth-worst performing C.D.O.’s. Both had been downgraded on at least 75 percent of their associated assets within a year of being issued. Tricadia’s hedge fund did far better, earning roughly a 50 percent return in 2007 and similar profits in 2008, in part from the short bets.

Market wrap - 2:40

Gap up, ramp up at open - day over for the most part. Yearly highs on the indexes - imagine that. Dow 10,521 +54 +0.52% Nasdaq 2,286 16 0.71% S&P 500 1,126 6 0.53% Gold 1,105 +11 +0.99% Oil 77.75 1.08 1.41%

Jobless claims - 8:30

Full report here UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE WEEKLY CLAIMS REPORT SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA In the week ending Dec. 19, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 452,000, a decrease of 28,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 480,000. The 4-week moving average was 465,250, a decrease of 2,750 from the previous week's revised average of 468,000. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 3.9 percent for the week ending Dec. 12, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised rate of 3.9 percent. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Dec. 12 was 5,076,000, a decrease of 127,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 5,203,000. The 4-week moving average was 5,233,000, a decrease of 90,000 from the preceding week's revised average of 5,323,000. The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 5.673 million. UNADJUSTED DATA The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 561,902 in the week ending Dec. 19, an increase of 6,492 from the previous week. There were 719,615 initial claims in the comparable week in 2008. The advance unadjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.1 percent during the week ending Dec. 12, an increase of 0.2 percentage point from the prior week. The advance unadjusted number for persons claiming UI benefits in state programs totaled 5,385,774, an increase of 193,030 from the preceding week. A year earlier, the rate was 3.4 percent and the volume was 4,594,820. Extended benefits were available in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin during the week ending Dec. 5. Initial claims for UI benefits by former Federal civilian employees totaled 2,117 in the week ending Dec. 12, an increase of 26 from the prior week. There were 2,150 initial claims by newly discharged veterans, a decrease of 261 from the preceding week. There were 26,320 former Federal civilian employees claiming UI benefits for the week ending Dec. 5, an increase of 142 from the previous week. Newly discharged veterans claiming benefits totaled 36,224, a decrease of 784 from the prior week. States reported 4,368,107 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending Dec. 5, an increase of 141,807 from the prior week. There were 1,482,317 claimants in the comparable week in 2008. EUC weekly claims include first, second, and third tier activity. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week ending Dec. 5 were in Puerto Rico (6.4 percent), Oregon (5.9), Pennsylvania (5.6), Wisconsin (5.6), Alaska (5.4), Washington (5.2), Idaho (5.1), Nevada (5.1), California (4.9), Michigan (4.9), and North Carolina (4.9). The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending Dec. 12 were in Puerto Rico (+1,260), Louisiana (+1,123), Nebraska (+941), Maine (+728), and the District of Columbia (+696), while the largest decreases were in North Carolina (-14,374), Pennsylvania (-14,302), New York (-13,432), Georgia (-11,142), and Wisconsin (-10,650).

Durable goods - 8:30

Full report here Advance Report on Durable Goods Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders November 2009 New Orders New orders for manufactured durable goods in November increased $0.3 billion or 0.2 percent to $166.9 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This was the second monthly increase in the last three months. This followed a 0.6 percent October decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 2.0 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased slightly. Computers and electronic products, also up two of the last three months, had the largest increase, $0.9 billion or 3.7 percent to $25.7 billion. Shipments Shipments of manufactured durable goods in November, up three consecutive months, increased $0.5 billion or 0.3 percent to $175.9 billion. This followed a 0.7 percent October increase. Machinery, up two of the last three months, had the largest increase, $0.4 billion or 2.0 percent to $22.6 billion. Unfilled Orders Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in November, down fourteen consecutive months, decreased $4.9 billion or 0.7 percent to $724.5 billion. This was the longest streak of consecutive monthly decreases since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.6 percent October decrease. Transportation equipment, down thirteen of the last fourteen months, had the largest decrease, $5.2 billion or 1.2 percent to $418.1 billion. Inventories Inventories of manufactured durable goods in November, down ten of the last eleven months, decreased $0.5 billion or 0.2 percent to $303.6 billion. This followed a slight increase in October. Computers and electronic products, down eleven consecutive months, had the largest decrease, $0.2 billion or 0.4 percent to $42.8 billion. Capital Goods Nondefense new orders for capital goods in November decreased $1.0 billion or 1.9 percent to $53.5 billion. Shipments increased $0.2 billion or 0.3 percent to $57.0 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $3.5 billion or 0.8 percent to $413.9 billion. Inventories decreased $0.1 billion or 0.1 percent to $132.4 billion. Defense new orders for capital goods in November increased $0.7 billion or 8.5 percent to $9.2 billion. Shipments decreased $0.2 billion or 1.4 percent to $10.8 billion. Unfilled orders decreased $1.7 billion or 1.2 percent to $135.6 billion. Inventories decreased $0.1 billion or 0.5 percent to $20.2 billion. Revised October Data Revised seasonally adjusted October figures for all manufacturing industries were: new orders, $360.7 billion (revised from $360.5 billion); shipments, $369.5 billion (revised from $368.0 billion); unfilled orders, $729.4 billion (revised from $730.8 billion); and total inventories, $494.2 billion (revised from $493.0 billion).

Pre-market - 7:45

Futures up slightly waiting on jobs data. DJIA INDEX 10,425.00 21.00 S&P 500 1,118.00 2.40 NASDAQ 100 1,855.25 Today's economic calendar: Durable Goods Orders 8:30 AM ET Jobless Claims 8:30 AM ET EIA Natural Gas Report 10:30 AM ET 3-Month Bill Announcement 11:00 AM ET 6-Month Bill Announcement 11:00 AM ET NYSE Early Close - 1:00 ET SIFMA Rec. Early Close 2:00 ET Money Supply[Bullet4:30 PM ET Today's earnings reports: NONE

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Market wrap - 4:15

Another up day on light volume. Junker stock the best performers. Dow 10,466 2 0.01% Nasdaq 2,270 17 0.75% S&P 500 1,121 3 0.23% GlobalDow 1,974 +13 +0.64% Gold 1,095 +8 +0.72% Oil 76.47 2.07 2.78%

New home sales - 10:00

New home sales NEW RESIDENTIAL SALES IN NOVEMBER 2009 Sales of new one-family houses in November 2009 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 355,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 11.3 percent (±11.0%) below the revised October rate of 400,000 and is 9.0 percent (±15.3%)* below the November 2008 estimate of 390,000. The median sales price of new houses sold in November 2009 was $217,400; the average sales price was $280,300. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of November was 235,000. This represents a supply of 7.9 months at the current sales rate.
This was a horrible number. They reported on TV this missed estimates by 11 percent. Market pretty much yawned.

S&P 50% Fib retracment - Today - 9:40

Key area here just before Christmas. Where do we go from here?

Personal Income and Outlays - 8:30

Full report here PERSONAL INCOME AND OUTLAYS: NOVEMBER 2009 Personal income increased $49.7 billion, or 0.4 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI)increased $54.1 billion, or 0.5 percent, in November, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $47.9 billion, or 0.5 percent. In October, personal income increased $33.6 billion, or 0.3 percent, DPI increased $50.2 billion, or 0.5 percent, and PCE increased $63.5 billion, or 0.6 percent, based on revised estimates. Real disposable income increased 0.2 percent in November, the same increase as in October. Real PCE increased 0.2 percent in November, compared with an increase of 0.4 percent in October. More at link with formatted tables

Pre-market - 7:45

Futures up today because it's Wednesday and we must rally into Christmas - I guess. DJIA INDEX 10,433.00 25.00 S&P 500 1,117.80 4.20 NASDAQ 100 1,846.50 5.50 Today's economic calendar: MBA Purchase Applications 7:00 AM ET Personal Income and Outlays 8:30 AM ET Consumer Sentiment 9:55 AM ET New Home Sales 10:00 AM ET EIA Petroleum Status Report 10:30 AM ET 2-Yr Note Announcement 11:00 AM ET 5-Yr Note Announcement 11:00 AM ET 7-Yr Note Announcement 11:00 AM ET Today's earnings reports; Before open: AM American Greetings Corp. Services Business Services After close: OHB Orleans Homebuilders Inc. Industrial Goods Residential Construction

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Existing home sales - 10:00

Full report here Another Big Gain in Existing-Home Sales as Buyers Respond to Tax Credit Washington, December 22, 2009 Existing-home sales rose again in November as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded tax credit, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.54 million units in November from 6.09 million in October, and are 44.1 percent higher than the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008. Current sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the rise was expected. “This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” he said. “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline.” An NAR practitioner survey2 shows first-time buyers purchased 51 percent of homes in November, compared with an upwardly revised 50 percent of transactions in October. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.88 percent in November from 4.95 percent in October; the rate was 6.09 percent in November 2008. Last month’s mortgage interest rate was the second lowest on record after bottoming at 4.81 percent in April 2009. NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said conditions are optimal for buyers in the current market. “Inventories have steadily declined and are closer to balanced levels, which indicate home prices in many areas are either stabilizing or could soon stabilize and return to normal appreciation patterns,” she said. “This means buyers still have good choices but are purchasing near the bottom of the price cycle with historically low mortgage interest rates. Throw a tax credit on top and it really doesn’t get any better for buyers with secure jobs and long-term ownership plans.” Total housing inventory at the end of November declined 1.3 percent to 3.52 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply3 at the current sales pace, down from an 7.0-month supply in October. Raw unsold inventory figures are 15.5 percent below a year ago. The last time there was a lower supply of homes on the market was April 2006 when it was at a 6.1-month supply. “Nearly all markets experienced a solid sales gain from one year ago,” Yun said. “The only markets with measurably lower sales were in San Diego, Riverside, and Sacramento, where inventory shortages for lower priced homes are limiting sales.” For the second month in a row, sales have risen in all price classes from a year earlier. Prior to October, the only consistent gains were in the lower price ranges. The national median existing-home price4 for all housing types was $172,600 in November, which is 4.3 percent below November 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 33 percent of sales in November, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area. Single-family home sales jumped 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in November from a level of 5.32 million in October, and are 42.1 percent above the pace of 4.06 million in November 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $171,900 in November, down 4.4 percent from a year ago. Existing condominium and co-op sales in November were unchanged from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 in October, but are 60.1 percent above the 481,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $178,000 in November, which is 3.1 percent below November 2008. Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 6.6 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are 52.7 percent higher than November 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $223,400, down 13.1 percent from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 8.4 percent in November to a pace of 1.55 million and are 53.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800, a decline of 0.4 percent from November 2008. In the South, existing-home sales rose 4.8 percent to an annual level of 2.39 million in November and are 44.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,400, down 1.4 percent from November 2008. Existing-home sales in the West increased 10.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.46 million in November and are 28.1 percent above November 2008. The median price in the West was $231,100, which is 4.1 percent below a year ago. The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

GDP & Corporate profits - 8:30

Full report here EMBARGOED UNTIL RELEASE AT 8:30 A.M. EST, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2009 BEA 09-57 * See the navigation bar at the right side of the news release text for links to data tables,contact personnel and their telephone numbers, and supplementary materials. GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT: THIRD QUARTER 2009 (THIRD ESTIMATE) CORPORATE PROFITS: THIRD QUARTER 2009 (REVISED ESTIMATE) Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the third quarter of 2009, (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter), according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP decreased 0.7 percent. The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.8 percent (see "Revisions" on page 3). The increase in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), exports, private inventory investment, federal government spending, and residential fixed investment that were partly offset by a negative contribution from nonresidential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. The upturn in real GDP in the third quarter primarily reflected upturns in PCE, in exports, in private inventory investment, and in residential fixed investment and a smaller decrease in nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by an upturn in imports, a downturn in state and local government spending, and a deceleration in federal government spending. _______________ FOOTNOTE.--Quarterly estimates are expressed at seasonally adjusted annual rates, unless otherwise specified. Quarter-to-quarter dollar changes are differences between these published estimates. Percent changes are calculated from unrounded data and are annualized. “Real” estimates are in chained (2005)dollars. Price indexes are chain-type measures. This news release is available on BEA’s Web site along with the Technical Note and Highlights related to this release. _______________ Motor vehicle output added 1.45 percentage points to the third-quarter change in real GDP after adding 0.19 percentage point to the second-quarter change. Final sales of computers subtracted 0.08 percentage point from the third-quarter change in real GDP after subtracting 0.04 percentage point from the second-quarter change. The price index for gross domestic purchases, which measures prices paid by U.S. residents, increased 1.3 percent in the third quarter, 0.1 percentage point less than the second estimate; this index increased 0.5 percent in the second quarter. Excluding food and energy prices, the price index for gross domestic purchases increased 0.3 percent in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 0.8 percent in the second. Real personal consumption expenditures increased 2.8 percent in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 0.9 percent in the second. Real nonresidential fixed investment decreased 5.9 percent,compared with a decrease of 9.6 percent. Nonresidential structures decreased 18.4 percent, compared with a decrease of 17.3 percent. Equipment and software increased 1.5 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 4.9 percent. Real residential fixed investment increased 18.9 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 23.3 percent. Real exports of goods and services increased 17.8 percent in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 4.1 percent in the second. Real imports of goods and services increased 21.3 percent, in contrast to a decrease of 14.7 percent. Real federal government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased 8.0 percent in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 11.4 percent in the second. National defense increased 8.4 percent, compared with an increase of 14.0 percent. Nondefense increased 7.0 percent, compared with an increase of 6.1 percent. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment decreased 0.6 percent, in contrast to an increase of 3.9 percent. The change in real private inventories added 0.69 percentage point to the third-quarter change in real GDP, after subtracting 1.42 percentage points from the second-quarter change. Private businesses decreased inventories $139.2 billion in the third quarter, following decreases of $160.2 billion in the second quarter and $113.9 billion in the first. Real final sales of domestic product -- GDP less change in private inventories -- increased 1.5 percent in the third quarter, compared with an increase of 0.7 percent in the second. Gross domestic purchases Real gross domestic purchases -- purchases by U.S. residents of goods and services wherever produced -- increased 3.0 percent in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 2.3 percent in the second. Gross national product Real gross national product -- the goods and services produced by the labor and property supplied by U.S. residents -- increased 3.0 percent in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of 1.0 percent in the second. GNP includes, and GDP excludes, net receipts of income from the rest of the world, which increased $25.7 billion in the third quarter after decreasing $7.4 billion in the second; in the third quarter, receipts increased $15.7 billion, and payments decreased $10.0 billion. Current-dollar GDP Current-dollar GDP -- the market value of the nation's output of goods and services -- increased 2.6 percent, or $90.9 billion, in the third quarter to a level of $14,242.1 billion. In the second quarter, current-dollar GDP decreased 0.8 percent, or $26.8 billion. Revisions The "third" estimate of the third-quarter increase in real GDP is 0.6 percentage point, or $17.3 billion, lower than the second estimate issued last month, primarily reflecting downward revisions to nonresidential fixed investment, to private inventory investment, and to personal consumption expenditures. Advance Estimate Second Estimate Third Estimate (Percent change from preceding quarter) Real GDP................... 3.5 2.8 2.2 Current-dollar GDP......... 4.3 3.3 2.6 Gross domestic purchases price index. 1.6 1.4 1.3 Corporate Profits Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) increased $132.4 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $43.8 billion in the second quarter. Current-production cash flow (net cash flow with inventory valuation adjustment) -- the internal funds available to corporations for investment -- increased $28.4 billion in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of $30.5 billion in the second. Taxes on corporate income increased $15.1 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $35.6 billion in the second. Profits after tax with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments increased $117.3 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $8.2 billion in the second. Dividends decreased $6.1 billion, compared with a decrease of $62.1 billion; current- production undistributed profits increased $123.5 billion, compared with an increase of $70.3 billion. Domestic profits of financial corporations increased $82.8 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $28.5 billion in the second. Domestic profits of nonfinancial corporations increased $27.6 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $29.8 billion in the second. In the third quarter, real gross value added of nonfinancial corporations increased, and profits per unit of real value added increased. The increase in unit profits reflected decreases in both unit nonlabor and labor costs that more than offset a decrease in unit prices. The rest-of-the-world component of profits increased $22.0 billion in the third quarter, in contrast to a decrease of $14.6 billion in the second. This measure is calculated as (1) receipts by U.S. residents of earnings from their foreign affiliates plus dividends received by U.S. residents from unaffiliated foreign corporations minus (2) payments by U.S. affiliates of earnings to their foreign parents plus dividends paid by U.S. corporations to unaffiliated foreign residents. The third-quarter increase was accounted for by a larger increase in receipts than in payments. Profits before tax with inventory valuation adjustment is the best available measure of industry profits because estimates of the capital consumption adjustment by industry do not exist. This measure reflects depreciation-accounting practices used for federal income tax returns. According to this measure, domestic profits of both financial and nonfinancial corporations increased in the third quarter. The increase in nonfinancial corporations reflected increases in utilities, information, "other" nonfinancial, retail trade, and transportation and warehousing that were partly offset by decreases in wholesale trade and manufacturing. Within manufacturing, the largest decrease was in “other” durable goods, and the largest increase was in motor vehicles. Profits before tax increased $157.9 billion in the third quarter, compared with an increase of $90.6 billion in the second. The before-tax measure of profits does not reflect, as does profits from current production, the capital consumption and inventory valuation adjustments. These adjustments convert depreciation of fixed assets and inventory withdrawals reported on a tax-return, historical-cost basis to the current-cost measures used in the national income and product accounts. The capital consumption adjustment increased $9.7 billion in the third quarter (from -$128.6 billion to -$118.9 billion), compared with an increase of $16.3 billion in the second. The inventory valuation adjustment decreased $35.2 billion (from $18.1 billion to -$17.1 billion), compared with a decrease of $63.0 billion. * * * BEA’s national, international, regional, and industry estimates; the Survey of Current Business;and BEA news releases are available without charge on BEA’s Web site at By visiting the site, you can also subscribe to receive free e-mail summaries of BEA releases and announcements. * * * Next release -- January 29, 2010, at 8:30 A.M. EST for: Gross Domestic Product: Fourth Quarter 2009 (Advance Estimate)

Pre-market - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Futures up a bit this morning, not sure why, maybe because it's Tuesday. DJIA INDEX 10,380.00 38.00 S&P 500 1,112.40 4.20 NASDAQ 100 1,835.50 10.00 Today's economic calendar: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales 7:45 AM ET GDP 8:30 AM ET Corporate Profits 8:30 AM ET Redbook 8:55 AM ET Existing Home Sales 10:00 AM ET 4-Week Bill Auction 11:30 AM ET Today's earnings reports; Before open: CMC Commercial Metals Company Basic Materials Steel & Iron CPY CPI Corp. Services Personal Services LNN Lindsay Corporation Industrial Goods Farm & Construction Machinery PKE Park Electrochemical Corp. Technology Printed Circuit Boards PRGS Progress Software Corp. Technology Application Software XNN Xenonics Holdings, Inc. Consumer Goods Home Furnishings & Fixtures After close: CTAS Cintas Corp. Services Business Services FINL Finish Line Inc. Services Apparel Stores FSII FSI International Inc. Technology Semiconductor Equipment & Materials MU Micron Technology Inc. Technology Semiconductor- Memory Chips RHT Red Hat Inc. Technology Application Software TIBX Tibco Software Inc. Technology Business Software & Services

Monday, December 21, 2009

Market wrap - 4:15

Just another normal Monday. Ramp up right from the bell, Dow as much as triple digit gains by 10:15, perhaps on an upgrade to Alcoca (AA). Healthcare stock were strong performers today, led by insurers, which should tell us something about the bill in Congress. Looking at the S&P, today was the 29th straight day, the index has traded between 1085 and 1115. Wow! Yet they tell us everything is better. Then why isn't the market breaking out above the 1115 level? Could it be, just maybe, the damn thing shouldn't be this inflated to begin with? Dow 10,414 +85 +0.83% Nasdaq 2,238 26 1.17% S&P 500 1,114 12 1.05% GlobalDow 1,951 +16 +0.84% Gold 1,096 -16 -1.40% Oil 72.73 -0.63 -0.86%

Pre-market - Monday, December 21, 2009

Futures: DJIA INDEX 10,312.00 41.00 S&P 500 1,103.40 5.70 NASDAQ 100 1,816.75 Today's economic reports: 4-Week Bill Announcement 11:00 AM ET 3-Month Bill Auction 11:30 AM ET 6-Month Bill Auction 11:30 AM ET Today's earnings reports. Before open: CAG ConAgra Foods, Inc. Consumer Goods Processed & Packaged Goods After close: JBL Jabil Circuit Inc. Technology Printed Circuit Boards