Why is the market so jazzed by the sketchy details we have over the “new” bailout plan? Buying bad assets, but at what price? Who is bearing the cost, the US taxpayer or the bank’s common stockholders and debtholders? Early handicapping is that the taxpayer is going to take it on the chin. This is bad for many, good for a few. Not much of an improvement over TARP: The Horror Movie. I just don’t get it.
Corporate earnings across most sectors have been awful with prospects that are not encouraging. Banks, even those that have been “bailed out” one or more times, are still posting stunning losses. The Fed and other central banks are getting cheers for pushing rates progressively closer to zero. Is this really the panacea that the equity markets have indicated over the past several trading days? I just don’t get it.
I eagerly await the details of the stimulus plan. $800+ billion is certainly a lot of money. But how much of this monumental sum will be squandered on projects that have little impact on job creation? How much horse-trading will be done on the floor and between President Obama and Congress to get something, anything, done? The stuff I’ve read so far is not terribly impressive. I am concerned that the incredible momentum of Obama’s electoral victory might be wasted if a more transformational plan does not emerge that receives bipartisan support. Yet the equity markets roll on. I just don’t get it.
Americans are, by nature, an optimistic people. This is a very fine attribute that has served us well at many points in our history. But there are times when an abundance of realism is called for, and when actions need to be strong, swift and transforming. But few of the steps we’ve witnessed to date fall into that bucket, except the sheer amount of money spent with little to show for it. I just don’t get it.
Many smart people have put forth ideas for dramatically re-shaping the financial sector and for using high-impact, high-ROI fiscal stimulus to get people working and to enhance the infrastructure and competitiveness of our nation. Yet precious few of these idea seem to be getting through. Maybe it is just too early in the new Administration to expect such things in our programs. But when $800 billion stimulus packages are getting approved by the House and there are few bold, sweeping moves contemplated by the legislation, it appears that our voices are falling on deaf ears. I just don’t it.
Just maybe the Fed can push rates to zero and China and Japan will continue buying Treasuries. Just maybe fear will keep the dollar strong while we run multi-trillion dollar deficits and keep rates across the curve low. Just maybe Citigroup and Bank of America can be bailed out without trashing common shareholders and certain debtholders, and cost US taxpayers less than if they were taken over and worked out. Just maybe millions will get back to work because low rates will help banks rebuild their balance sheets, enable businesses to borrow and invest, create a massive mortgage refinancing windfall and get consumers spending again. Just maybe we don’t need an upgrading of our physical and technology infrastructures; it’s good enough. Just maybe all of our dreams really will come true.
I just don’t get it.