Tuesday, December 28, 2010
At a hastily arranged press conference this evening NAMA chairman Mr Frank Daly said, "We have hired over one hundred mostly Italian guys to seduce these ladies."
Mr Daly was speaking in the wake of revelations on Irish television's Prime Time program that many Irish developers transferred property and other assets to their wives to avoid their debt obligations. This was done with intent of preventing the Irish taxpayer from recovering the assets, which include mansions, land and apartment complexes. The assets may now be legally out of reach.
"Don't worry, we'll get a lot of these assets back. Most of these developers are wrinkly old geezers," continued Mr Daly, "What's more, now they are broke. As soon as Giovanni comes a-calling, Mrs Developer is out of there. I guarantee it."
Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said: "NAMA's gigolos are the best in the world. Within a 12 month period they will seduce, romance, marry and then divorce these developer's wives, thereby recovering at least half the assets for the Irish taxpayer."
Sources in the Department of Finance said that they have contracted with the gigolos to pay them a percentage of the assets ultimately recovered.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
In a few of months when the payment is due, Ireland can tell the ECB that it will keep the gold to start a new gold-backed currency and the ECB can keep the IOUs. That would get the ECB and IMF talking about haircuts in short order.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
HOW did foreclosures go, in a matter of weeks, from just another miserable statistic in America’s housing bust to the subject of a scandal with its own “-gate” suffix? The answer is a combination of sloppy (and possibly fraudulent) paperwork, a securitisation process that is even more broken than anyone imagined and a febrile political environment.
“Foreclosuregate” flared up when an employee at GMAC Mortgage, part of Ally Financial, admitted to having approved thousands of repossessions without properly reviewing the documents. The company responded by halting sales of seized homes in the 23 states where court approval is required to foreclose while it gets to the bottom of its “robo-signing” problem. JPMorgan Chase and several other servicers (which manage loans and distribute payments to investors in mortgage-backed securities) quickly followed suit. Bank of America has called a stop in all 50 states.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Let's look at the reality. What I want to focus on here is the issue of re-mortgaging, equity release and the deluge of cash borrowed against houses, which made us feel richer but which was ultimately wasted. This is the reality and this is why we will default, because the money is gone. The internal default is what drives the external default, not the other way around. The ability of the Government to pay its debts is only the amalgamated ability of us to pay our debts. The "Irish sovereign", as it is so grandly termed, is only the agglomeration of us.
The amount of outstanding mortgage debt at the start of January 2004 was €54.6bn. It is now €118bn. So mortgage lending went up by close to 120pc in five years.
It could be argued that there are many more houses in Ireland since the beginning of 2004, so maybe those numbers are not as bad as they seem -- because at least we have houses on the other side of the balance sheet.
But this is not the case, because on the other side of the balance sheet are cars, second houses, fields, fancy kitchens, flat-screen TVs and holidays on the Algarve. This is what we borrowed for and we used our houses as a large ATM machine, and the banks eagerly facilitated.
At the beginning of 2004, 16pc of our housing stock (by value) was mortgaged; by mid-2010 that number stood at 39pc.
It is important to remember the majority of houses in the State are not mortgaged, or have very small mortgages on them. So a huge amount of the mortgage debt and the re-mortgaging is centred on a certain part of the population, which is likely to be young couples -- the backbone of the society and the generation supposed to drag us out of the pit.
Their plight is now evident. Recent Central Bank data shows that of the €118bn in mortgages outstanding, €6.95bn are more than 90 days in arrears, with €4.8bn of those more than six months behind.
For these people in arrears (there are 36,620 of them) there is no way out, as property price falls mean that they cannot sell their property to relieve their debts (negative equity) and they cannot earn more money to pay off their debts (due to the economic collapse). Essentially, when these people most need money, they can't get it.
So the financial markets are looking at the internal situation and concluding that -- unlike the Greeks who had a government borrowing problem that became a banking crisis -- we have a bank borrowing problem which has become a government problem. If the guarantee was lifted today, a huge part of the State's burden would be lifted.
But that would mean defining reality and our leaders couldn't do that.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
BRUSSELS—Two months after Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall of 2008, a small group of European leaders set up a secret task force—one so secret that they dubbed it "the group that doesn't exist."
Its mission: Devise a plan to head off a default by a country in the 16-nation euro zone.
When Greece ran into trouble a year later, the conclave, whose existence has never before been reported, had yet to agree on a strategy. In a prelude to a cantankerous public debate that would later delay Europe's response to the euro-zone debt crisis until the eleventh hour, the task force struggled to surmount broad disagreement over whether and how the euro zone should rescue one of its own. It never found the answer.
A Wall Street Journal investigation, based on dozens of interviews with officials from around the EU, reveals that the divisions that bedeviled the task force pushed the currency union perilously close to collapse. In early May, just hours before Germany and France broke their stalemate and agreed to endorse a trillion-dollar fund to rescue troubled euro-zone members, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told her delegation the euro zone was on the verge of breaking apart, according to people familiar with the matter.
The euro zone's near death had stakes for people around the world. A wave of government defaults on Europe's periphery could have triggered a new crisis in the international banking system, with even worse consequences for the global economy than the failure of Lehman.
The dangerous dithering was driven by ideological divisions that continue to paralyze the currency union's search for solutions to its structural flaws. Deep differences on economic policy between Europe's frugal north and laxer south, between Germany and France, and between national governments and central EU institutions hindered an effective early response to the crisis. Only when faced with calamity—the collapse of the euro zone—did leaders put aside their differences and reach a compromise.
Complicating matters: The two most important politicians deciding the fate of the euro often had conflicting agendas—and much at stake personally.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, known in France as the "hyper-president" for his relentless flurry of new initiatives, faced declining approval ratings as his domestic economic overhaul stalled. The excitable 55-year-old leader saw that Greece's woes could rock the euro zone. Mr. Sarkozy seized on the issue as an opportunity to prove his leadership chops and thus shore up his popularity.
For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, 56, the crisis was the biggest test of her career. A trained physicist known for her cautious, deliberative style, she feared a backlash from German voters and lawmakers, and defeat in Germany's supreme court, if she risked taxpayer money on serial deficit-sinner Greece. Despite pressure from Mr. Sarkozy, she fiercely resisted a quick fix.
Wall street Journal
Friday, July 30, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Asia has been at the forefront of such interventions. In February Singapore’s government raised down-payment requirements and imposed stamp duties on all residential properties sold within a year of purchase in a bid to curb speculation. Despite these steps prices in the island nation rose by nearly 40% in the year to the end of the second quarter, after a rise of just over 25% in the year to the end of the first quarter. Singapore has overtaken Hong Kong to become the frothiest housing market among those we monitor.
House prices in Australia rose by 20% in the year to the end of the first quarter, faster than the 13.5% recorded in the 12 months to late 2009. More concerning, however, is our analysis of “fair value” in housing, which is based on comparing the current ratio of house prices to rents with its long-term average. By this measure Australian property is the most overvalued of any of the 20 countries we track. A frothy property market was one of the reasons for the Reserve Bank of Australia raising interest rates six times between October and May. Since then, the bank has become more sanguine about the state of the market. It cited “some signs that the earlier buoyancy in the housing market was easing” when keeping interest rates on hold in June.
China’s property-cooling measures, meanwhile, which were similar to Singapore’s, were announced in April. Our house-price figures for China now extend to the end of May. They help explain why the Chinese government had become more concerned. Year-on-year house-price inflation peaked in April at 12.8%, but has since moderated a bit.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
IT’S a $2.6 trillion mystery.
That’s the amount that foreign banks and other financial companies have lent to public and private institutions in Greece, Spain and Portugal, three countries so mired in economic troubles that analysts and investors assume that a significant portion of that mountain of debt may never be repaid.
And doubt, as it always does during economic crises, has made Europe’s already vulnerable financial system occasionally appear to seize up. Early last month, in an indication of just how The problem is, alas, that no one — not investors, not regulators, not even bankers themselves — knows exactly which banks are sitting on the biggest stockpiles of rotting loans within that pile.dangerous the situation had become, European banks — which appear to hold more than half of that $2.6 trillion in debt — nearly stopped lending money to one another.
Depfa, a German bank that is now based in Dublin, is one of the few second-tier European banking institutions that have offered detailed disclosures about their financial wherewithal, and its stark troubles may be emblematic of those still hidden on other banks’ books.
Despite boasting as recently as two years ago of its “very conservative lending practices,” Depfa, which caters primarily to governments, has flirted with disaster. It narrowly avoided collapsing in late 2008 until the German government bailed it out, and today its books are still laden with risk.
DEPFA and its parent, Hypo Real Estate Holding, a property lender outside Munich, have 80.4 billion euros in public-sector debt from Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. The amount was first disclosed in March but did not draw much attention outside Germany until last month, when investors decided to finally try to tally how much cross-border lending had gone on in Europe.
New York Times
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Yet the hedge fund, named Magnetar for the super-magnetic field created by the last moments of a dying star, earned outsized returns in the year the financial crisis began.
How Magnetar pulled this off is one of the untold stories of the meltdown. Only a small group of Wall Street insiders was privy to what became known as the Magnetar Trade. Nearly all of those approached by ProPublica declined to talk on the record, fearing their careers would be hurt if they spoke publicly. But interviews with participants, e-mails, thousands of pages of documents and details about the securities that until now have not been publicly disclosed shed light on an arcane, secretive corner of Wall Street.
According to bankers and others involved, the Magnetar Trade worked this way: The hedge fund bought the riskiest portion of a kind of securities known as collateralized debt obligations -- CDOs. If housing prices kept rising, this would provide a solid return for many years. But that's not what hedge funds are after. They want outsized gains, the sooner the better, and Magnetar set itself up for a huge win: It placed bets that portions of its own deals would fail.
Along the way, it did something to enhance the chances of that happening, according to several people with direct knowledge of the deals. They say Magnetar pressed to include riskier assets in their CDOs that would make the investments more vulnerable to failure. The hedge fund acknowledges it bet against its own deals but says the majority of its short positions, as they are known on Wall Street, involved similar CDOs that it did not own. Magnetar says it never selected the assets that went into its CDOs.
Magnetar says it was "market neutral," meaning it would make money whether housing rose or fell. (Read their full statement.) Dozens of Wall Street professionals, including many who had direct dealings with Magnetar, are skeptical of that assertion. They understood the Magnetar Trade as a bet against the subprime mortgage securities market. Why else, they ask, would a hedge fund sponsor tens of billions of dollars of new CDOs at a time of rising uncertainty about housing?
Key details of the Magnetar Trade remain shrouded in secrecy and the fund declined to respond to most of our questions. Magnetar invested in 30 CDOs from the spring of 2006 to the summer of 2007, though it declined to name them. ProPublica has identified 26.
An independent analysis commissioned by ProPublica shows that these deals defaulted faster and at a higher rate compared to other similar CDOs. According to the analysis, 96 percent of the Magnetar deals were in default by the end of 2008, compared with 68 percent for comparable CDOs. The study was conducted by PF2 Securities Evaluations, a CDO valuation firm. (Magnetar says defaults don't necessarily indicate the quality of the underlying CDO assets.)
From what we've learned, there was nothing illegal in what Magnetar did; it was playing by the rules in place at the time. And the hedge fund didn't cause the housing bubble or the financial crisis. But the Magnetar Trade does illustrate the perverse incentives and reckless behavior that characterized the last days of the boom.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The first time I heard the term "Promissory note" was on a blog that I was following in January 2007. The blog was Iamfacingforclosure.com.You can see an overview of this at caseypedia.
Anyway I googled Casey serin Promissory note and found the comments from his "promissory note" post the date was January 5"th 2007. Read the comments some are hilarious,
Promissory note post
And now we have Brian Lenihan issuing Anglo Irish Bank with a Promissory note!
You could not make this shit up.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
“USING these instruments in a way that intentionally destabilizes a company or a country is — is counterproductive, and I’m sure the S.E.C. will be looking into that.”
That’s what Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said last week when lawmakers asked him about credit default swaps during his Congressional testimony. Concerns are growing about such swaps — securities that offer insurance-like protection and helped tip over the American International Group in 2008 when it couldn’t pay mounting claims on the contracts.
Now, there are fears that the use of these swaps may also help propel entire countries — think Greece — to the precipice.
First, Greece employed swaps to mask its true debt picture, with the help of Wall Street bankers, of course. And now it appears that some traders are using swaps to bet that Greece won’t be able to meet its debt payments and will face a possible default.
Mr. Bernanke is undoubtedly an intelligent man. But his view that it’s “counterproductive” to use credit default swaps to crash an institution or a nation exhibits a certain naïveté about how the titans of finance operate now.
High-octane trading may be counterproductive to taxpayers, for sure. But not to the speculators who win big when such transactions pay off. And in the case of A.I.G., the speculators got their winnings from the taxpayers.
The certainty that Mr. Bernanke expressed about the S.E.C.’s inquiry into credit default swaps is quaint as well. If the past is prologue, we might see a case or two emerge from that inquiry five years from now. The fact is that credit default swaps and other complex derivatives that have proved to be instruments of mass destruction still remain entrenched in our financial system three years after our economy was almost brought to its knees.
DERIVATIVES are responsible for much of the interconnectedness between banks and other institutions that made the financial collapse accelerate in the way that it did, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions in bailouts. Yet credit default swaps have been largely untouched by financial reform efforts.
This is not surprising. Given how much money is generated by the big institutions trading these instruments, these entities are showering money on Washington to protect their profits. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reported that revenue generated by United States banks in their credit derivatives trading totaled $1.2 billion in the third quarter of 2009.
New York Times
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Sunday Times Money section, 31 July 2005:
"The lenders who have come up with the 100% [mortgage] have balanced the risk. Of 100 people that take out these mortgages, maybe 95 will be okay and five will get in serious trouble and the banks can take care of that trouble."
AskAboutMoney.com post, 8 Nov 2006:
"You can find extensive, informed, articulate, balanced and entertaining commentary on the impending collapse of the Irish property market [at thepropertypin.com]."
AskAboutMoney.com post, 9 Nov 2006:
Further speculation about the future direction of house prices is banned on Askaboutmoney.
Irish Independent, 18 August 2007:
I would invest in AIB or Bank of Ireland rather than putting money on deposit with them.
AskAboutMoney thread, January 2009:
Pat Neary distinguished himself as the Prudential Director of the Financial Regulator before he was appointed. Had I been on the interview panel, I would certainly have chosen him ahead of a 27 year old recent PhD graduate.
The academic qualifications of someone at a very senior level are of little relevance.
Sorry, I pay no attention whatsoever to Morgan Kelly who suggested burning the €1.5 billion instead of putting it into Anglo.
Sunday Times Money, 8 Mar 2009:
If you’ve a real need to buy now – for example, if you are starting a family – don’t allow the fact that your job is a bit uncertain to put you off. If the worst happens, the government has ordered AIB and Bank of Ireland to lay off homeowners in arrears for at least a year, while other lenders must give them a six-month breather.
AskAboutMoney.com post, 3 June 2009:
I still believe, that as a general rule, it is a good idea to buy your own home. With the benefit of hindsight, this would not have been a good idea over the past 5 years.
[..] I have made it very clear that, with hindsight, it would have made much more sense over the past few years to rent rather than buy.
AskAboutMoney.com post, 11 Oct 2009:
"People ask now why did we not listen to the economists who warned of the housing bubble and the economic crash? [...]. Their warnings were dressed up in such stupid, sensationalist language, that it would have been like taking the economic forecasts of the Sunday World seriously."
AskAboutMoney.com post, 22 Dec 2009:
The paperwork for money laundering is hugely inappropriate. Under the law, Charlie McCreevy would have had to provide a passport and two utility bills. Everyone in the Irish Nationwide knew him. I would have no problem with them not complying with this law.
“It would be wrong to ring-fence the home and mortgage and do a debt settlement on the other debt. Permitting such a proposal would encourage people to allow their other debts to expand in advance of applying for debt settlement while making normal capital and interest repayments on their mortgage.”
“Calling it “the family home” in some way confers a sacredness on it. We should not be doing this. If people lived a very high lifestyle and are now overborrowed, then they have to pay the price.”
“People buying their first home have very big expenses in the first few years. I recommend that they start with an interest-only mortgage. ”
“Paying interest only, means that you have more money with which to adjust to the life of home ownership. If you are in the housing market for the long term, which most people are, then what happens in the short-term to prices is not very relevant.”
“For those, interest-only in the first few years of their mortgage makes sense. They don’t have to blow the repayments saved on new cars and drink. They can use it to improve their home. They can even save it elsewhere to rebuild a savings fund.”
“There is an old-fashioned idea that mortgages should be paid over 20 years and people should start contributing to a pension at age 21. These ideas need to be challenged and reviewed from time to time.”
“IF YOU are investing in property, you should take out an interest-only mortgage, unless you are not on the top tax rate. In particular, you should always pay off your home mortgage before making any capital repayments against your investment property. You should borrow the maximum amount possible, bearing in mind the usual warnings about borrowing to invest. If you have an investment property, you should have an indefinite interest only loan. In other words, you should never pay it off while you still own the property.”
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Bubbles remain hard to define, difficult to measure and, like recessions, can only be accurately assessed after they have burst. Economists have wrestled with bubbles for generations, but have yet to devise an adequate scientific means of analyzing them, comparing them or providing us with an early warning system that would safeguard from their worst effects.
But lately, bubbles – or bubble fears – seem to be everywhere. From Chinese real estate to U.S. Treasury bills to global commodities, analysts point to a flood of easy credit that has helped to inflate values.
Now, soaring prices are triggering bubble fright on the Canadian housing front.
For much of the global downturn and financial crisis – which was triggered by the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble – Canada stood as an island of calm. House prices never reached the stratospheric levels of the subprime era south of the border and their decline was nowhere near as precipitous when the Canadian economy weakened.
Most housing watchers insist Canada is not in a bubble just yet. But they acknowledge there is no precise science that determines exactly when a market shifts from merely heating up to bubbling over.
“If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … ” said David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist with Gluskin Sheff and Associates in Toronto.
Mr. Rosenberg pronounced Canadian housing in a bubble late last year, fuelled by the usual culprits: tight supply, extreme valuation, and dramatic credit expansion.
Mix in easy mortgage conditions luring more people to jump into home ownership – the current national rate of 68.4 per cent stands at an almost 40-year high and a full percentage point above the U.S. level – and you have the recipe for a classic bubble.
“Housing values are anywhere between 15 and 35 per cent above the levels that I would label as being consistent with fundamentals.”
When it comes to housing bubbles, Mr. Rosenberg's opinions carry some weight. He began his career as a housing economist.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit with the help of a derivatives deal that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules. At some point the so-called cross currency swaps will mature, and swell the country's already bloated deficit.
Greeks aren't very welcome in the Rue Alphones Weicker in Luxembourg. It's home to Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office. The number crunchers there are deeply annoyed with Athens. Investigative reports state that important data "cannot be confirmed" or has been requested but "not received."
Creative accounting took priority when it came to totting up government debt.Since 1999, the Maastricht rules threaten to slap hefty fines on euro member countries that exceed the budget deficit limit of three percent of gross domestic product. Total government debt mustn't exceed 60 percent.
The Greeks have never managed to stick to the 60 percent debt limit, and they only adhered to the three percent deficit ceiling with the help of blatant balance sheet cosmetics. One time, gigantic military expenditures were left out, and another time billions in hospital debt. After recalculating the figures, the experts at Eurostat consistently came up with the same results: In truth, the deficit each year has been far greater than the three percent limit. In 2009, it exploded to over 12 percent.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Chicago Spire developer Garrett Kelleher's effort to build the nation's tallest building in Chicago is threatening the viability of one of his Ireland-based firms.
Clarinabbey Ltd., a subsidiary of Kelleher's Shelbourne Property Group, lost $197.2 million for the year ended March 31, with much of the loss tied to an intracompany transfer of funds for the Spire. It compares with a loss of almost $11.4 million in March 2008.
The company said it made a provision of $187.8 million against money due it from sister companies because it was unsure that those funds would be recovered. That sum includes advances and loans made in 2008 totaling $153.4 million to Shelbourne entities associated with the Spire.
The annual financial accounting of the company was released Jan. 28 in Ireland.
The report said most of the covenants tied to the company's bank loans are "technically in breach" and that Kelleher and other directors are seeking a "standstill agreement" with its banks. Those lenders include Anglo Irish Bank Corp. Ltd., the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland Ltd.
If such an agreement cannot be reached, the directors' report submitted with the financial statements said "there exists a fundamental uncertainty over the company's ability to meet its obligations as and when they fall due."
Work on the Spire has been stalled for more than a year. In August, Bank of America Corp. sued Shelbourne Development Group and Kelleher, accusing the developer of defaulting on a loan and saying $4.9 million was due. Shelbourne since has countersued the bank.
Meanwhile, Shelbourne continues to seek alternative sources of financing to raise its Santiago Calatrava-designed twisting skyscraper from the hole in the ground at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive. Late last year, the company was seeking investment from the pension funds of construction trades unions whose members would directly benefit from the project.
Those discussions have yielded no agreements and ULLICO Inc., a labor-owned insurance and financial services firms with $5.4 billion in assets under management, turned down Shelbourne, confirmed Joe Harmening, the project's director of development.
Harmening said the company continues to have conversations with potential investors.
"The status hasn't changed," he said. "The conversations are continuing."
Monday, January 25, 2010
It's got to be one of the great ironies of the global property crash.
Allied Irish Bank, already hobbled with toxic debt from Irish property buyers, is now the partial landlord of some 25,000 people in 11,227 units in New York.
AIB is one of three banks which financed Tishman Speyer and Blackrock's $5.4bn acquisition of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the historic 80-acre apartment complex on the Lower East Side, in what was the most expensive real estate deal EVER in America.
The 2006 purchase sparked near revolt by the mostly rent-controlled residents at the two complexes over Tishman Speyer and Blackrock's planned high-end rental flip.
TS&B planned on renovating the apartments and building new amenities like a gym and gardens and then raising the rents substantially beyond the reach of the city's workers who made their homes there.
It would gentrification, high-end style.
However, the developers - who are supposed to be some of the cleverest people in real estate - bought at the very top of the market and have never been able to finance their vision.
They spent the past two months scrambling for a deal to cover their $3bn debt.
To add salt to their over-extended wounds, New York's highest court told them their "improvements" so far weren't enough to warrant rent increases.
AIB and the other two banks sent a formal letter to TS&B a few weeks ago warning that they could be subject to foreclosure.
Such a foreclosure would be the second-largest default of a US commercial mortgage-backed security.
Monday, TS&B said they would turn over the properties to the AIB and the other two creditors.
Of course, this is now uncharted water for AIB and its shareholders.
On Wall Street, they were all known as "quants," traders and financial engineers who used brain-twisting math and superpowered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market. Instead of looking at individual companies and their performance, management and competitors, they use math formulas to make bets on which stocks were going up or down. By the early 2000s, such tech-savvy investors had come to dominate Wall Street, helped by theoretical breakthroughs in the application of mathematics to financial markets, advances that had earned their discoverers several shelves of Nobel Prizes. PDT, one of the most secretive quant funds around, was now a global powerhouse, with offices in London and Tokyo and about $6 billion in assets (the amount could change daily depending on how much money Morgan funneled its way). It was a well-oiled machine that did little but print money, day after day. That week, however, PDT wouldn't print money—it would destroy it like an industrial shredder. The unusual behavior of stocks that PDT tracked had begun sometime in mid-July and had gotten worse in the first days of August. The previous Friday, about half a dozen of the biggest gainers on the Nasdaq were stocks that PDT had sold short, expecting them to decline, and several of the biggest losers were stocks PDT had bought, expecting them to rise. It was Bizarro World for quants. Up was down, down was up. The models were operating in reverse. The market moves PDT and other quant funds started to see early that week defied logic. The fine-tuned models, the bell curves and random walks, the calibrated correlations—all the math and science that had propelled the quants to the pinnacle of Wall Street—couldn't capture what was happening. At the time, few quants realized what was happening, but over the next few days a theory would emerge: The U.S. housing market was unraveling, leading to big losses in the mortgage portfolios of banks and hedge funds. One or more of those hedge funds needed to raise cash quickly to make up for the losses, and needed to sell assets quickly to do so. And the easiest-to-sell assets of all were stocks, those held in portfolios highly similar to quant funds across Wall Street.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Every air traffic controller will agree: the pressure is intense and each shift is underlined by the fear that one mistake could be fatal.
In Spain, however, there’s another worry on their radar. A storm has followed the discovery that some controllers are earning more than £800,000 a year.
The revelation that Spain’s air traffic controllers can earn ten times more than their Prime Minister — and more than 50 times the average salary — has provoked outrage, while presumably raising more than a few (concentrated) eyebrows among lesser-paid counterparts across Europe.
The soaring salary scale was revealed as the country’s socialist Government announced plans to cut the cost of its loss-making airports, run by the state operator Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA).
Of 2,300 controllers, ten were paid between €810,000 (£725,000) and €900,000 last year. A further 226 were paid between €450,000 and €540,000 and 701 were paid between €270,000 and €360,000.
The average basic salary is €200,000 but most double or triple this amount by working overtime.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
The art-deco icon, which won global recognition through appearances in movies such as Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" and on the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album "Animals", has been derelict for over a quarter of a century.
It has already passed through numerous developers' hands since stopping power production in 1983 as Britain shifted to oil, gas and nuclear.
Developers now are courting investors for a 5.5 billion pound ($8.9 billion) redevelopment just as banks remain focused on unscrambling exposure to commercial real estate. The market has shown signs of recovery recently but is still treacherous.
"The building is likely to suffer major structural damage in five years if full repairs don't start before then," said Jeremy Castle, chief planning director at Treasury Holdings UK, the power station's current developers, referring to damage sustained after the roof was removed 20 years ago.
"We need to move fast to redevelop the site because the building is deteriorating quickly," he said.
The two-year downturn in Britain sliced almost 45 percent off average commercial property values. The Power Station's owners, who bought it for 400 million pounds in 2006, say its value fell by 15 percent in the six months to end-June 2009, causing the company to breach terms on some of its loans.
Battersea's imposing white brick chimneys have been a popular feature of London's skyline for almost 80 years, but its brickwork is held together by metal straps. Many bankers and financiers say plans to redevelop it are a commercial anachronism in a city obsessed with skyscrapers.
Castle's employer Treasury Holdings is an Irish property firm that controls the Battersea site through a 67 percent share in debt-laden Real Estate Opportunities (REO.I) (REO.L).
REO says the debt taken out to buy the station is still performing, but part of it, along with the majority of its loan book, will be transferred to Ireland's bad bank, or the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) next year.
The Irish government is paying 54 billion euros ($78 billion) to buy risky commercial property loans with a combined book value of 77 billion from banks to clean up the legacy of excessive lending.