Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stale News Remains Important

Some things to remember if you want to anticipate the future:

1. In the United States, the financial services sector is and will remain until recapitalized, insolvent. This is a solvency problem, not just a liquidity problem. 6 of 19 per the leaked stress test results, need additional capital. And that's the official story. We need to learn how to get along without those guys.

2. U.S. house prices are and will continue to decline, making it impossible to value a huge chunk of assets critical to financial services sector liquidity. The sociological consequences of unemployed company store peons trapped in real estate they don't own are interesting. And, commercial real estate is in the early stages of joining the residential stuff in a revaluation. While the trajectory is the same, the commercial stuff will be, ah, lumpy, and less suceptible to smoothing.

3. The regulatory apparatus has been captured by the financial services sector. Whatever squabbling is under way within the political classes (viz., the competitive outing of Raul Emmanuel and Larry Summers this month, and the Thain/Lewis catfight, with Paulson calling the count), has yet to metastize into a purge of the financial elite. While bullets in the head aren't called for in America, a rather less drastic purge in, ahem, called for. This is, incidentally, a global issue.

4. The epicenter of this particular crisis was in at the heart of the developed world, and that is where the pain is most likely to be felt most intently. Countries like China, India and Brazil have an opportunity to, if not displace their betters, at least join them at the high table. If that happens, look for some changes in the menu.

And that is the way it looks from here, today.

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