Showing posts with label Freddie Mac. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freddie Mac. Show all posts

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nice Day for Dow Industrials, Thanks to IBM; Housing Fix Not In

Stocks continued their happy saunter through the cold of January, with the Dow Jones Industrials posting another nearly-100-point gain, thanks in large part to IBM (up 7.98 to 188.50 (+4.42%) on solid 4th quarter earnings reported after the bell Thursday), which accounted for half of the Dow's gain all by itself.

The other indices lagged far behind the Blue Chips, courtesy of Google's (GOOG) worst earnings miss in six years, reporting a profit of $2.7 billion on revenue of $10.6 billion, well below Wall Street non-GAAP estimates of $9.50 per share versus an estimate of $10.46. Whoops! Shares of the internet behemoth were down 53.58 points, a loss of better-than eight percent.

Two other tech titans - Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) - reported excellent quarters, helping to keep the montl-long rally going. The Dow, S&P and NYSE Composite were up each of the four trading days this week; the NASDAQ fell just short, losing 1.63, despite a valiant, last-half-hour rally.

Despite the outstanding gains from the last half of December through today, there are signs of trouble, and the fact that today marked options expiry, may lead to declines next week as more companies report. With just about 20% of the S&P 500 having reported, only 55% have beaten expectations, a ten year low. The average for the past ten years has been that 62% of companies beat street estimates. Considering that the big banks have all reported already - and all of them matched or beat - this does not bode well for the bulk of reporting companies which are set to report over the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Dow is back at levels last seen in mid-July, today's close just missing (four points) making a six-month high. It will be interesting to see if the Dow can crack through next week and continue onward toward exceeding the 2011 high of 12810.54 made on April 29. Yes, it's getting a bit frothy. The word for next week is likely to be "overbought," as in "we're market pumping day-traders who don't give a hoot about fundamentals, just making a profit."

So far, the advance-decline and new highs-new lows indicators are showing no sign of an impending correction, but, with the Dow up nearly 1000 points in just the past four weeks, a short correction would be something a healthy market would fully appreciate.

One other item that may be a canary in the coal mine is the nice rise in gold over the past few weeks, including a healthy advance today, and, finally, silver caught a bid over the past few sessions, finally breaking and holding over the artificial resistance at $30/ounce.

On CNBC today, the network featured a series of reports on housing, calling it, somewhat inappropriately, "The Big Fix." Hottest among the topics was the government plan to sell off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's inventory of foreclosed homes (REO) to investor groups which will turn these single-family homes scattered across the country into rental units.

As is usual with government's half-baked plans, there are a rash of questions and arguments against, primarily centered around the whole fairness issue of kicking families out and then reselling - at what should be huge discounts - to well-heeled investors more concerned with turning profits than restoring blighted neighborhoods. The plan is still in the formative stages, but there are indications that the government will allow the investors to rent to whomsoever they please, which would include welfare and other social program recipients, meaning that homeowners ought to be on guard for the ghetto-ization and balkanization of their McMansion neighborhoods, such as is the case in other socialized nations, notably France, where the ghettos are in the suburbs, far from the uber-rich in the well-maintained cites.

One other problem is that the banks - if they actually do the right thing and write down these loans - will be facing far larger write-downs on bulk sales than anticipated. Since the US economy has been predicated for the past six years on keeping the banks free from losses, the government plan looks like a classic election-year crash and burn before it even gets going.

Dow 12,720.48, +96.50 (0.76%)
NASDAQ 2,786.70, -1.63 (0.06%)
S&P 500 1,315.38, +0.88 (0.07%)
NYSE Compos 7,829.34, +9.97 (0.13%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,979,837,250
NYSE Volume 3,911,913,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3289-2274
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 182-26
WTI crude oil: 98.46, -1.93
Gold: 1,664.00, +9.50
Silver: 31.68, +1.17

Monday, January 9, 2012

Euro a Bit Higher; Stocks Barely Respond as Sinking Feeling Persists

After the first week of trading turned out to be one big cork pop on January 3rd - when the Dow soared 180 points, mostly at the open - and a slow melt lower, the first Monday of the new year was more evidence of just how sick, tired and moribund global markets have become. It's as though everybody is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, that some seismic implosion - most likely in Europe - is about to send stocks into a prolonged tailspin that ends in repudiation of sovereign debt and another huge blow to the fiat-based banking system.

Evidence exists that all is not well in Euroland, while pundits here in America point to the only positive metric they can see, higher corporate profits, though even there, signs are beginning to emerge that the record profits from 2011 are as fleeting as the passage of a few moments in time.

Estimates for 4th quarter corporate earnings have been slashed, and the number of pre-announcements from companies is at a three-year high, harkening back to the dismal days of early 2009, when there was nothing anybody or any company could do to halt the continuing downturn.

Even today's rather slow-moving market was full of tepid trading, highlighted by fractional moves in the averages, suggesting that nothing short of a complete overhaul of Europe's finances - and maybe even our own - can provide the kind of stimulus needed to restore investor confidence, which has waned severely since the middle of last year.

Even the bold joint pronouncement today by France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel failed to inspire any confidence. The two leaders set a timetable of March 1 for Euro-zone leaders to detail a plan of stricter budgetary restraint among member nations. Of course, critics and skeptics claim to have heard that song before. In the original agreement, a nation's current deficit was not supposed to exceed 3%. Any claims that sovereign states will clean up their balance sheets and act responsibly is met with jeers and, soon, tears.

America met a seminal moment in its own history today, as the nation's debt equalled its GDP, putting the world's powerhouse economy on a level approaching that of Italy, Greece or Portugal.

For its part, the White House appears ready to jettison all the bad residential loans held at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by turning them over to investors in bulk, with an eye toward turning over two million foreclosed and now-delinquent homes into rental properties, overseen by a hand-picked, large, well-capitalized property management firms.

The plan was first introduced by the Federal Reserve last week, though our friend Jim Willie, aka, the Golden Jackass, has been predicting such a move for the past two years, with deleterious effects abundant. The problems, from even a casual point of view, range from traditional homeowners being shut out of owning affordable housing and being forced to rent at increasingly-expensive rates, to the potential of default on property taxes should one of these "well-financed" firms going bust. It's almost the sub-prime crisis in reverse and is a radical departure from the American dream of home-ownership.

The property managers will likely receive sweet-heart deals from the government, slashing the prices to be paid on the homes instead of offering principal write-downs to strapped homeowners or new, qualified applicants because banks have been steadfastly denying mortgages and credit to even the most risk averse individuals and families.

We are quickly heading into a bleak, black hole of socialism, wherein the next shoe to drop won't be a ballet slipper but rather the boot of the storm trooper landing squarely on the necks of millions of tax-and-debt slaves, while the rich get bailouts and the poor get handouts.

Fairness is a word that seems to have permanently departed the American scene. Economic ugliness and despair approaches at breakneck speed all in the name of keeping up appearances.

After the closing bell, Alcoa (AA) kicked off earnings season with a disappointing, yet fitting, loss of three cents per share.

Dow 12,392.69, +32.77 (0.27%)
NASDAQ 2,676.56, +2.34 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,280.70, +2.89 (0.23%)
NYSE Composite 7,583.76, +26.08 (0.35%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,777,449,250
NYSE Volume 3,248,196,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3385-2189
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 170-62
WTI crude oil: 101.31, -0.25
Gold: 1,608.10, -8.70
Silver: 28.78, +0.10

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Despite Positive Data, Market Rally Fizzles; Something About Ties Is Untrustworthy

You might as well call this a down day for the US markets.

Stocks were up at the open on some positive economic data, but, thanks to Christine Legarde, head of the IMF, the fear of Europe sent traders scurrying for the sell buttons.

Hop-scotching the Headlines (trust, this will all tie together):

Initial unemployment claims reached a level not seen in 3 1/2 years, falling to 366,000, though, as expressed in a post a few days back, government numbers may not be the most trustworthy. Unadjusted figures totaled 433,287 in the week ending December 10, a decrease of 95,506 from the previous week, which implies that last week's numbers may have been abnormally LOW. Some people are paying attention to the unadjusted, non-politicized data.

PPI for November was up 0.3%. Core PPI was up 0.1%. No surprises there.

The NYS Manufacturing Index came in at 9.53 for December, a dramatic rise from November's reading of 0.61. Similarly, the Philadelphia Fed's index read at 10.3, a majestic rise from November's 3.60. Those were somewhat of a surprise, though the data is supplied by the Federal Reserve. Trust them? Maybe. Maybe not.

Industrial Production: -0.2%; Capacity Utilization was 77.8%. Both of those figures were fairly static.

So, the markets opened with healthy gains until Lagarde, on her megaphone from Europe, said that no country was immune from Europe's crisis and that the outlook for the world economy was "quite gloomy." Her words. She's not very funny, which, being French, partially explains why French people think Jerry Lewis is a comic genius.

(In a conversation with a postal employee today, I joked that maybe I was getting so many orders from Europe lately because they want to spend their Euros before they become worthless. I may be on to something.)

No matter what, Lagarde's comments put the markets into a tailspin, from which they did not recover. Stocks ended the day down about 60% from their highs. It was not pretty, nor exciting. Volume was, using CNBC's Bob Pisani's word, "anemic."

Morgan Stanley plans on cutting 1600 jobs, which is about 3% of their workforce. That's limited in comparison to other cuts in the finance business. Globally, more than 200,000 wheeler-dealers are going to be slashed, downsized and dumped.

Freddie Mac (the firm which paid Newt Gingrich over a million dollar in consulting fees) says that mortgage rates have hit all-time lows, with 30-year fixed loans at 3.94 and 15-year fixed at 3.21, but, nobody's buying.

Really, nobody. The National Association of Realtors is going to revise existing home sales for the past five years, dating back to 2007 (incidentally, when the real estate boom went bust) on Hanukkah, which is December 21. If that's just bad timing on their part, well, Happy Hanukkah! But, but, but, maybe we can't trust numbers supplied by realtors, either. Add them to bankers, accountants, government officials, meteorologists (yes, the National Hurricane Center said recently that their last 20 years of forecasting seasonal hurricanes was rubbish. Look it up. ON BING.), judges and lawyers. Oddly enough, all of these types wear ties when they're working. As far as can be told, none of them sleep naked, either. Very strange.

In a grossly under-reported story, OPEC ministers set a production ceiling of 30 million barrels a day, which begs the question about oil prices in the $90+ per barrel range. There's enough and demand is slack. It should be cheaper and it got cheaper today.

And just in case anyone hasn't noticed, tomorrow is December options expiry, which usually implies a massive ramp up in prices for stocks leading into it, but, but, but, stocks have been getting beaten down mercilessly for the past week. Is that bullish? Probably not.

Oh, and the CME group wants to know where that missing money from MF Global (Does the MF really stand for that vulgar ghetto slang term? Probably.) is. Top executives of the firm are suing Jon Corzine and other top executives of MF Global for undisclosed amounts and damages. They are seeking class action status. According to Business Insider, the brainchild of former Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget (who wears a tie, but can probably be trusted since he is barred from all Wall Street trading and "official" analysis and probably sleeps naked on occasion) the suit was filed a week ago, on December 8, and nobody noticed until today.

So, that's what moved US markets today, except that the level of fear on Wall Street is probably at a point so high that Charlie Sheen, even on his finest cocaine-and-liquor float, couldn't get up there.

Psst, wanna buy some stocks?

Dow 11,868.81, +45.33 (0.38%)
NASDAQ 2,541.01, +1.70 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,215.75, +3.93 (0.32%)
NYSE Composite 7,217.12, +32.37 (0.45%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,750,499,375
NYSE Volume 3,767,349,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3399-2200
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 72-179
WTI crude oil: 93.87, -1.08
Gold: 1,577.20, -9.70
Silver: 29.27, +0.34

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stocks Slide on NFP ZERO JOB GROWTH; FHFA Sues Big Banks

The Markets

Once the August Non-Farm Payroll report was out, US equities were as good as done. The BLS reported - for the first time since February, 1945 - that no new jobs were created in the month. That's right. Zero. None. Squat.

Adding to the general jobs plight and blight in the US, July and June gains were revised lower. July was down to 85,000 from 117,000 previously reported and June figures showed that employers added just 20,000 jobs in June, not 46,000, for a net loss of 58,000 jobs from previously-believed figures.

Off of that kind of defining news on the economy, stocks dove at the open and stayed down all day long, finishing near their lows.

The other major market mover was news that the Federal Home Finance Agency (FHFA) - the agency tasked with overseeing the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - was in the process of suing as many as 17 major banks over faulty underwriting on - you guessed it, didn't you? - soured mortgage backed securities (MBS). This news was breaking all day, though details were trickling in at the market's closing bell.

The banks being sued were Bank of America, Merrill Lynch (a subsidiary of BofA) for $22.4 Billion, Citigroup, Barklays, Nomura, among others.

Dow 11,240.26, -253.31 (2.20%)
NASDAQ 2,480.33, -65.71 (2.58%)
S&P 500 1,173.97, -30.45 (2.53%)
NYSE Composite 7,250.73, -192.73 (2.59%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,582,149,000
NYSE Volume 4,363,518,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ advance-decline: 1075-5448
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 20-147
NYMEX WTI crude oil futures: 86.45, -2.48
Gold: 1882.50, +57.10
Silver: 43.25, +1.75

The big winners on the day were the prudent and astute conservative investors holding gold and silver, both of which were boosted significantly as the fear of a looming recession rises and problems in Europe escalate over the second Greek bailout.

Basically, anybody who doesn't believe either a) we're already in a recession; b) the first recession never actually ended; or c) we're about to go into a recession, simply has not been paying attention, or, is paying attention to the globalist media's consistent pleadings that the economy is doing just fine.

With the nitwits in Washington more intent on getting re-elected than fixing real problems, the United States, and by inference, the rest of the world is sinking deeper and deeper into a global depression which likely won't be resolved without drastic measures (war, currency debasement, bank failures on a grandiose scale).

With that in mind, let's party the three-day weekend away with the following:

IDEA: Don't Google it, Bing it!

Most of us use Google for searches, but Bing is better. Not only does Bing offer more options, better video and image coverage, but they have a rewards program by which users can accumulate points and eventually redeem them for some nice items (it takes a while, but if you search a lot, they add up).

What does Google offer besides a lot of ads next to search results? Nothing.

Try Bing. It's better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stocks Climb to Fresh Highs; Housing Still Slumping

I'll begin where I left off yesterday. My final words were:

"Wall Street will continue to trade in what it knows best: equities. And until there comes an alternative, they will continue to rise."

I have now no doubt attained the status of a genius, but I cannot explain the explosiveness of today's venture into equity-land, but I'll attempt to make some sense of it.

Stocks, without alternatives, will no doubt provide positive returns. Since there are few alternatives in today's environment - real estate is a mess, bond returns are paltry, art is illiquid, over-priced and risky - all the money is going into stocks.

Partially to blame for Wall Street's current bubbly stock markets is the near-complete meltdown in the mortgage securitization market. It's a two-pronged attack that has virtually frozen the market for what just 5 years ago was the whitest-hot money machine in the world.

First, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have already announced that they would be prepaying a large number of soured loans. In other words, investors will be paid a lump sum - the remaining principal - on loans delinquent by more than 120 days, decimating their long-term value and consistent cash flow. Once these and other quasi-federal agencies own the loans, they're combing through them, looking for discrepancies and hammering the banks that issued them. One such instance is a recently-filed lawsuit by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, seeking $5.4 billion from the usual suspects including Deutsche Bank; Bear Stearns; Countrywide Securities, a division of Countrywide Financial (now Bank of America); Credit Suisse Securities; and Merrill Lynch (also Bank of America).

So, where's the money? And, where's it going? Simply put, there must be a lot of mortgage investors out there sitting on large chunks of cash, because Fannie and Freddie have no doubt begun the process of prepayment. Stuck in the middle are the large banks which originated the mortgage melee in the first place, having first to pay back investors and then, sweat out the heat from the G-men scouring the bad loans for errors, omissions or outright fraud.

It doesn't require a huge leap of faith to believe that both the investors who have been made whole (Here's a dirty little secret, though: those investors, including the banks servicing the loans, don't get hurt from day 1 when a mortgagor defaults if it's a Fannie or Freddie loan. The agencies make the payments) and the banks, each looking for places to make money might dip a toe into equities. The banks would no doubt be the more aggressive and the parties with more money to move, which makes the recent rally all that more suspect.

Loads of liquidity are thus fueling the stock market rally, and, as usual, the Fed is sitting on its hands, watching the bubble inflate. With the NASDAQ already back to the level before the economic collapse of 2008 and the Dow and S&P fast approaching theirs, shouldn't the Fed be raising interest rates to slow down the rampant speculation?

You'd think so, but the Fed is in a box. Any rate hike - even a tiny 25 basis points - would kill the stock rally. Worse, it would likely touch off discussions of the broader economy and the unseemly truth that jobs aren't being created, banks aren't lending and most consumers are still stretched pretty thin. Even worse, all of the recently-issued government debt would begin to cost more to service. The Fed is quite literally dammed if they do and dammed if they don't, but the Wall Street money-grabbers are having a field day.

The sorriest part of the story is going to be the ending, other than the idea that most small investors haven't fully participated in the most recent money party. They are still too scared of the markets after the horrifying events of 2008.

Major banks and brokerages are now in nearly-complete control of the stock markets, so they're not trustworthy. Most of the current financial commentary resides somewhere below the ethereal, along the lines of, "this or that stock is up; it must be a good buy."

The oldest adage on the Street is to buy low and sell high. Since the Dow was languishing around 6600 a year ago and today its closing in on 11,000, even a third-grader would know that now is not the optimum time to buy stocks.

During the housing boom, the attitude filling the balloon was that housing prices would always go up. We know how wrong that was. Now, it appears that stocks will continue to rise. I remain on the bearish side of that statement, awaiting the eventual collapse. We have gone too far, too fast.

Dow 10,888.83, +102.94 (0.95%)
NASDAQ 2,415.24, +19.84 (0.83%)
S&P 500 1,174.17, +8.36 (0.72%)
NYSE Composite 7,478.76, +59.74 (0.81%

Advancers pounded decliners, 4550-1942. New highs exploded to 757, to just 73 new lows. Volume was actually good, especially on the NASDAQ.

NYSE Volume 4,955,676,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,305,962,750

Oil drifted 31 cents higher, to $81.91. Gold also was up $4.20, to $1,103.50. Silver gained 9 cents, to $17.01. All three commodities remain stuck in a range they've maintained for close to 9 months.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced that existing home sales slipped 0.6% nationally for the month of February, but that inventory of unsold homes rose 9.5%, the largest jump in 20 years. The increase is due to banks finally releasing some of their foreclosure inventory onto the market and the overall lack of qualified buyers.

The sales rate improved in the Northeast and Midwest, but fell in the South and West, which has generally been the story for the past two years.

Better? That's a no.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fannie and Freddie: America's Landlords?

After offering a fairly pessimistic viewpoint on what might occur should Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac become the de facto landlords of much of America, my thoughts continued to race on the topic. Being that the two troubled mortgage insurers are soon to embark upon buying up billions of dollars worth of defaulted residential mortgages by prepaying investors of packaged mortgage-backed securities (MBS), my research led to a couple of interesting observations.

First, whatever becomes of millions of defaulted mortgages, it appears that Fannie and Freddie won't be actually be issuing new mortgages - at least that's how the system is functioning at present. Fannie Mae's very own REO listings appear at a friendly-looking site called, where foreclosed-upon homes are listed for all parts of the country. In all instances, home are offered by local realtors and financing by banks, not the agency itself.

While this may be the case now, the future might be different. Fannie and Freddie, as unofficial branches of the federal government, might be able - in instances in which the current homeowner is offered a restructured payment regime and allowed to stay put - to forego the foreclosure process altogether by working with the affected parties through intermediaries or at their own pleasure.

This appears to be the prevailing direction of the feds, through programs such as Making Home Affordable and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Through these programs, the banks which are servicing the loans work with the defaulted homeowner toward a solution, though the programs - celebrating their one-year anniversary today - have not, to date, been very successful.

Eventually, what would be a workable situation should Fannie and Freddie find themselves burdened with defaulted mortgages, would be to hire (Yes, I'm actually advocating the creation of more government jobs.) their own team of specialists to accelerate the process or, as suggested by the eminent economist and forecaster Jim Willie's December 30, 2009 article, Fannie Debt Merger Monetization, become landlords themselves.

The latter seems less likely, though one can hardly argue the logic of Willie's argument that rental income would be a vast new source of revenue for the feds and actually help to stabilize some conditions, not the least of which being the negative effects on neighborhoods resulting from neglected, vacant properties. That the two mortgage insurers are deeply indebted and soon to be much further in the red is a concern for another discussion, but in terms of laying the groundwork for more normalized economic conditions, the F&Fs have the potential to do some good.

So, my assumption in yesterday's post that the feds would be quick to evict might not be all that accurate. At least the current climate seems to suggest quite the opposite. In any case, the prepayments to investors will make more money available to investors (they're getting their principal back) and markets. What they do with the re-found wealth remains to be seen. Whether they might be willing to slide right back into the MBS market or invest elsewhere definitely is up to the investor, though with the now-implicit guarantee from F&F, they might well do that.

Generally, what's happening is more kicking the can down the road a bit further, although the new securities should actually be improved, with better lending standards in place to prevent defaults. The whole securitization process is still at the root of what caused much of the economic woes of recent years, and eventually there are liabilities galore for all parties, especially the US taxpayer, who has to bear the burden of more and more debt.

In a scenario in the F&F become the actual investors, the returns to the taxpayer might be even greater over time, though that argument is debatable as well. The long and short of it is that the government obviously needs to step in to relieve the Federal Reserve of its MBS holdings and the current plan seems aimed directly at that result.

While that's good for the Fed and the dollar, how it plays out in the real estate market remains to be seen. The government surely has the intention of keeping real estate prices at some realistic or sustainable level, but the intervention of Fannie and Freddie can only add to the weight of deflation in the market. Sapped homeowners and smart investors may catch sizable breaks.

The two mega-insurers are soon to be deploying billions, so there's likely to be a noticeable change all along the real estate food chain.

As far as investors in equities were concerned, today was a day for nibbling and rounding out positions. Stocks barely budged after a small, quick opening jump. The carry-through from Tuesday's big leap was moderate. Many doubts still remain for investors of all stripes.

Dow 10,309.24, +40.43 (0.39%)
NASDAQ 2,226.29, +12.10 (0.55%)
S&P 500 1,099.51, +4.64 (0.42%)
NYSE Composite 7,035.20, +21.85 (0.31%)

Advancing issues outpaced decliners, 4136-2326; new highs reached 154. There were just 20 new lows. Volume was a little better than yesterday, which brings up the possibility of repositioning on today's trade. The downtrend short term is still in play and short-timers could be readying for an early exit, as in this week, which seems to be the currently favored play.

NYSE Volume 4,887,593,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,069,575,625

Commodities barely budged. Crude oil gained 19 cents, to $77.33. Gold dropped 20 cents, to $1120.00, and silver slipped 8 cents, to $16.07. Interest in the metals seems to have waned a bit, but, as we well know, that could change overnight. Much of the current weakness is due to the strengthening US dollar, which was higher again today.

While my outlook for the housing sector may have been softened a bit concerning Fannie and Freddie, my general conclusion is that complete debt default by nations is only a matter of time. Though Greece and other Euro-zone nations may have slid off front pages, their horrific fiscal conditions remain and are a proxy for a wide swath of national economies and central banks worldwide, including the United States.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tough to be a Bear

Days like today, when one feels like a lonely whisper in the wilderness, test the courage of one's convictions.

After carefully weighing all the evidence, poring over tracts and texts from sources far-flung across the internet and the spheres of influence in global economics, one cannot escape the thinking that the entire structure of capitalism, the integrity of institutions so revered as the Federal Reserve and market disciplines such as balanced budgets have been flung out the window by nefarious forces which seek only to obfuscate and delay the inevitability of mass defaults on everything from sovereign debt to credit cards in the coming months and years.

On Wall Street, ready for business after a three-day holiday, everything was bright and cheery and on the way up. Market participants acted as though stocks were difficult to find and hold at decent prices. Right off the opening bell, the Dow gapped up roughly 70 points and continued on a day-long trek to higher ground.

Unease over credit issues in Greece, Portugal and Ireland were treated as though they were old news, even though nothing but words have passed between the Euro nations. Unemployment, forecast by the Obama administration to be officially above 8% though 2012 (though unofficial, and probably closer-to-the-truth estimates say it's currently about 18%) only received passing glances. The ungodly mess that is the US housing market continues to crater into a morass of default, foreclosure, clouded titles and ruined families. None of this made one bit of difference to the titans of finance who lord over the markets. Stocks would rise; the economy be damned!

It's tough to keep a smile or a straight face through days like today. All anyone can effuse over are a couple of corporate earnings reports from some marginal players and one or two major ones, Kraft and Merck, both of which released 4th quarter earnings befor the bell. Merck did better, Kraft about the same. Meanwhile, the fates of millions of Americans are blowing in the wind, as corporations show not the least bit of interest in creating new jobs by expanding their businesses. No, the status quo will have to suffice for what we are forced into believing is a recovery.

Meanwhile, banks continue hoarding vast sums of money instead of lending it, congress bickers, stalls and does nothing, and middle America is supposed to sit back, watch the olympics and be content. Welcome to the fascist oligarchy.

Almost completely unnoticed was the announcement last week that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are going to buy back delinquent mortgages from investors, in effect, making the note-holders whole. This should come as no surprise - and even less surprise that it's not being widely reported - as the entire real estate boom and bust runs full circle. The banks got their TARP money, now the investors in all that worthless paper known as mortgage-backed securities (MBS) are getting theirs, and a whole lot sooner than anticipated. Though the investors will not reap the benefits of compound interest over many years has the mortgages been maintained, they will get their principal back, and probably some small gain, thanks to the friendly folks at Fannie and Freddie, two wholly-owned branches of the federal government, financed by taxpayer debt.

It will likely take a decade for the government to work out all the details of foreclosing on millions of homeowners, or they will claim the homes under eminent domain or through some other underhanded scheme that only the most corrupt government in the history of the world can devise. Clouding the picture further for homeowners in default is the risk of foreclosure by the wrong party, namely the mortgage servicer - the Bank of Americas, Chases and Citigroups of the world. Since the investors have been paid, the servicing banks are essentially out of the loop, having no standing in a foreclosure proceeding.

The important point is that, for the majority of mortgages in default, the only proper party to entertain a foreclosure proceeding would be Fannie or Freddie. The two have underwritten - or insured and subsequently paid for - about 9 out of 10 mortgages in the United States over the past thirty years. When Fannie or Freddie come calling, homeowners should expect to be out of their homes in record time. The government will probably have little patience with loiterers. They'll also likely not forgive the balances, either, especially in states which allow for deficiency judgments. It should prove to be a lovely decade for housing in America.

Dow 10,268.81, +169.67 (1.68%)
NASDAQ 2,214.19, +30.66 (1.40%)
S&P 500 1,094.87, +19.36 (1.80%)
NYSE Composite 7,013.35, +138.79 (2.02%)

Advancing issued trampled decliners, 4994-1564. There were 250 new highs to 54 new lows, a gap that's likely to widen in coming days as we approach the one-year anniversary of the market bottom on March 9. Expect the new lows to take away the edge by June at the latest as the market gyrates up and down. Volume was about as pathetic as ever. There's no impetus for this rally and it is probably going to be a one or two-day event. Economic reality will make an appearance before the week is out, though it should be mentioned that the same pattern has been playing out fairly steadily for weeks: On Monday, the dollar drops, free money is put into stocks and then gradually withdrawn - at a profit - as the week unfold and the dollar gains. That's the current game: week-to-week, day-to-day, hand-to-mouth.

NYSE Volume 4,737,764,500
NASDAQ Volume 1,954,910,875

Commodities rose without any compelling stimulus. Crude oil shot up to $77.01. Gold struck $1,120.00, a gain of $30. Silver rose 64 cents, to $16.09.

Sell the rally. It won't last.