Bob Brinker's November 8, 2008 stock market-timing comments: "In reference to your investment portfolio, as regards the stock market, what I would be doing right here would be taking a dollar-cost-average approach at this time especially during periods of weakness and there's been no shortage, no shortage of periods of weakness the last several weeks. Especially during periods of weakness I would be willing to dollar-cost average money to add that to your stock market portfolio within the context of your tolerance for risk and your asset allocation......
.......But I have not yet reached a point right now where I have been willing to upgrade the recommendation on the stock market right now from dollar-cost-average to buy. I do anticipate as we move forward that there will be an opportunity to upgrade the stock market recommendation, which is currently for new money -- we are talking new money -- as you have, which is currently dollar-cost-average, I do expect there's going to be an opportunity to upgrade that to buy a recommendation. But until those conditions fall into place, I would remain on a dollar-cost-average approach........" (Honeybee EC: Brinker repeated these same comments almost verbatim on Sunday, November 9th, 2008.)
JOB REPORT Brinker reported that the jobs report came out on Friday as dismal as expected in this bleak economy. The jobless rate increased to 6 1/2% -- not especially notable, and not close to the highest jobless rates around the world. But the number of lost jobs is notable at 240,000 in October -- on the heels of 284,000 jobs lost in September, which is over 1/2 million in two months. Total unemployment has risen by 1.2 million this year -- to slightly above 10 million.
CREDIT MARKETS and T.A.R.P: Brinker opined that the new president-elect will have to get to work right away because the situation right now tells us that "he will inherit a United States of America that is in shambles." Credit markets are strained and it doesn't stop there, the housing recession has caused millions of foreclosures. And no significant program has put into place to do anything about the problem of people struggling to stay in their homes. Notice the lightning speed that the Trouble Asset Relief Program was put into place to help banks and financial companies with toxic loans. A big rush to get it through because it was money aimed at helping Wall Street institutions that were responsible for creating the problem in the first place --it was the "securitization process" that paved the way for what happened with the bad loans being packaged and winding up on the balance sheets of these banks and insurance companies -- that's what happened. They have done essentially nothing with the authorized $700billion, except for the $250Billion that was designated to be invested in banking capital -- it's all just "setting there."
(Honeybee EC: In my opinion, Brinker leaves out a whole lot of important people and things that contributed to this mess. And he forgot to point out that some of the same foxes that were guarding the hen house before this financial crisis are now in charge of repairing it.)
BANKS AND TAXPAYERS CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Brinker said that based on the Merrill Lynch "fire sale" of "toxic assets" at 22-cents on the dollar, the gulf is huge between what these bad loans are worth and what the banks are carrying, which may be an average of 60-cents on the dollar. Brinker has described this as a "conflict of interest" between the banks and the taxpayers and he thinks this is the reason why there have been no reports of massive transactions -- they don't know how to resolve it, so it festers. Brinker thinks the situation with the credit crisis is still outstanding but that there has been significant improvement -- this is a global situation and has caused tremendous problem in places like the United Kingdom where some banks have been nationalized. The ninety-one day (three month) Treasury Bill rate is down to 0.28 annualized rate of return. Three month LIBOR rate is 2.29.
I am going to cover the call from Ken in depth because the subject is very important and I know that some of you are concerned. I have included excerpts from Brinker's very interesting comments:
Caller Ken said he had met Brinker a few years back in San Jose at the Lukemia "Curathon" and had been a Moneytalk listener since 1986. He thanked Brinker for making his road to CRITICAL MASS very smooth. (Honeybee EC: That's about the time that I began listening to Moneytalk -- late 1986 or early 1987). Ken asked Brinker about the House of Representative plan involving George Miller and Jim McDermott to eliminate the 401K system and replace it with a mandatory federal program.....
Brinker said: "This basically started with hearings that were held by committees involving the politicians you mentioned....... And what they did, they had a witness come into the hearing from the New School in Manhattan, and her name was Theresa Ghillarducci. (Honeybee EC: Some are calling her the most dangerous woman in America.) Theresa's idea is to develop a program that would allow 401K members........to convert those accounts to government retirement programs. Now what that would involve, if you elected to convert your account, you would give all the money in your 401K to the United States government.......and in return for that, you would recieve a guaranteed retirement payout for the rest of your life once you became eligible........On the program........we suggested that one of reasons that you would invite Ms. Ghilarducci into your hearings to present this scheme would be that you think it's a pretty good idea. I think it's a reasonable leap of faith to think that some of the people, either chairing or on the committee, think this might be a pretty good idea, and that's the reason they invited Theresa Ghilarducci in to present her scheme -- and that's what it's all about."
Ken pointed out that even though they are saying it's not going to be mandatory, if it doesn't get much participation, they will turn around and make it mandatory -- that's scary.
Brinker responded: "I think that if it's not voluntary that you are absolutely right.......Not only would I oppose it vehemently, but I would expect that large numbers of 401K holders people across America would rise up in protest of a mandatory confiscation -- that's what it would be........If they made it mandatory that would mean that the United States Government.......would confiscate all assets in 401K and replace those assets with a guaranteed retirement payout. Now I think if they proposed that to be mandatory that would be a dramatic step toward basically a Socialist system in Washington."
Ken said that would be just like they did in Argentina.
Brinker replied: "Yeah, I wonder, and I don't know where Ms. Ghilarducci got her idea, but I noticed that her testimony occurred not that far away from El Presidente Christina in Argentina announcing that the government of Argentina -- and this just happened within the last several weeks -- has announced that they are confiscating all pension fund assets in the country of Argentina -- it is a government confiscation of funds."
Ken said that with all the programs that are currently being proposed, suddenly there is a $3Billion pot of money out there that they could go get, and that they have been saying we are all going to have our own little account in the Social Security Trust Fund, and we all know that is just a bunch of IOUs.
Brinker agreed that Ken was exactly right -- the Social Security "Trust Fund" is a pile of IOUs. He said this whole 401K thing does bear monitoring, but that he had not heard the president-elect give any opinion on it yet. Brinker said that he had done some research and the only connection he made was with the two House of Representative members and Ms. Ghilarducci -- but he found nothing coming out of the White House or White House-elect. Brinker repeated that he has no problem with it if it is voluntary, but mandatory is a different story.
Ken said that if they stop the tax breaks that you get with a 401Ks, and stop the tax-breaks to companies that do a match to 401Ks -- you are "out of luck."
Brinker told Ken that he thought there were two reasons that would make this an especially appealing option to members of congress. Firstly, if they make it mandatory, they could confiscate $trillions of dollars of 401K assets and put that money into the coffers of the United States Government. And Brinker said that you know "the government spends every penny it gets its hands on -- then they go out and borrow and spend more."
Brinker said: "I think there are members of congress who look at these $trillions of dollars of assets and they salivate at the thought of spending that money, which they would........The second thing that I think appeals to certain members of congress is if they establish a mandatory program, that would de facto eliminate your ability to deduct a portion of your income from your taxable income in the form of a 401K contribution. That means that would be an immediate increase in annual revenue for the federal government because you would no longer have that deduction. I think there are CERTAIN members of congress who salivate at the thought of spending that additional revenue."
(Honeybee EC: In my opinion, they will of course start out with a voluntary program to get their noses under the tent, but it won't stay that way. It's astonishing to read about the original Social Security Act and compare it to what it is now. Does anyone know what the original payroll tax withholding was?)
Brinker's Saturday guest-speaker was Ethan S. Harris, Ben Bernanke's Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan
Brinker's Sunday guest-speaker was Todd A. Knoop, Modern Financial Macroeconomics: Panics, Crashes and Crises
If you missed Moneytalk this weekend, I highly recommend that you go to KGO810 Archives. You can either listen or download programs to your MP3 players or Ipods and listen at your leisure. They have Moneytalk programs available for seven days after they are broadcast. IT IS FREE!