Showing posts from June, 2013

Moodys is Right On

Moodys released a report on state pension funds today that implied that such funds currently hold only 48 cents out of every dollar needed to properly fund their obligations.  Three cheers for Moodys!

For decades, state and local pension funds have released grossly misleading and inaccurate figures suggesting that they are better funded than is merited by the facts.  Politicians have acquiesced in this charade since it was inconvenient, to use Al Gore's phrase, to speak the truth.

The chief method of disguising the truth is to make over-optimistic assumptions about future asset returns and unrealistic assumptions about the contributions that will be forthcoming in the future.

Based upon false information, state and local governments have touted reforms that hardly make a dent in the real problems.  Virginia is a great example.  The so-called pension fund reforms enacted by the Virginia General Assembly and backed by Governor McDonnell were misleadingly hailed as a 'major' imp…

GDP Revised Downward

Instead of 2.4 percent as originally advertised, the US GDP grew at a revised 1.8 percent during the first quarter of 2013.  Consumption spending fell off the cliff, which was unexpected.

So, the stock market rallied...big time.  Why?  Because the bad economic news suggested that the Fed might continue its bond purchases indefinitely.  "Long live QE3" was the rallying cry.

Meanwhile the President and his cronies were busily designing more strategies to lengthen unemployment lines: increase minimum wage, bury the coal industry, continue down the road on Obamacare, push for higher taxes, and stall the Keystone pipeline.

Nothing discourages this White House.  They will not likely be satisfied until unemployment gets back into double digit territory (so they can match their heroes in Europe) or until millions more Americans give up on working and move into disability or off into the black market.

On the ObamaCare front, the Administration is now recruiting Hollywood types and NFL s…

Unilateral Energy Disarmament

As the rest of the world gears up to massively increase their carbon footprint, Obama is moving to put the US out of the coal business.  That won't keep worldwide coal production from soaring.  It just takes the US out of the coal business.  Obama has made no effort at all to get global partners to sign on board.  Instead, the US is walking this plank all alone.

This is in keeping with the Obama strategy of strangling the US economy to gain accolades from the Harvard coffee houses.

Once again, American workers will bear the brunt of the Obama agenda.  It is not enough to have the worst economic recovery on historical record (at least since 1850).  Now, with Obamacare on the horizon, Obama provides one more nail to the coffin of American prosperity with his arbitrary EPA war on the American worker and energy user.

The route to third world status is paved with good intentions and truckloads of hubris.

Why Employment Problems Aren't Going Away

Suppose you had a business that would improve revenues by $ 60,000 per year if only you could add one additional employee.  Should you add that employee?
That depends upon what the employee costs.  It does not depend upon what you pay that employee.  Is there a disconnect here?
Yes.  What an employee costs in modern America is a far, far greater number that what an employer might pay that employee.
If you hire an employee these days, the costs, beyond salary, are enormous.  In some states these extra costs can make the overall costs nearly double the wage or salary that the employee is paid (before tax).  Why?
You can begin with social security taxes, medicare taxes and workmen's compensation.  If the company offers a health care insurance plan, you can add that in.  Under ObamaCare, you must add something in for health care insurance. 
What about complying with various federal rules?  OSHA?  Disability Laws?
What about potential lawsuits for "protected" employees?  If you hir…

Elizabeth Warren and the Minimum Wage

The newest Senator from Massachusetts is Harvard faculty member -- a native American according to her resume (as opposed to her true heritage) -- Elizabeth Warren.  Her main claim to fame is villifying Wall Streeters for lining their pockets, a practice she seems especially adept at.  No wonder she notices it in others.

Senator Warren was singing the praises of the minimum wage last week during Senate hearings.  According to Senator Warren, increasing the minimum wage actually increases jobs.  Employers, I presume, get excited, knowing that employees now cost more than before and therefore expand their hiring.  I guess that's Senator Warren's logic, since she didn't offer any logic during the hearing.

Using Senator Warren's logic, I propose we cut to the chase.  Increase the minimum wage to $ 1,000 per hour.  That way, it will impact fat cats like Senator Warren, not just minorities and high school graduates. 

People like Senator Warren have a noblesse oblige approach to …

Understanding US Treasury & Yields

Just when the whole world coming for a rout, only US treasury yields shoot up to multi-months high. Investors might wondering why this happen. Some of our readers are posting these kind of question to us. We think this article might helps.

US Treasury = US Government Bond
Actually, we are referring to US Government 10 Years Bond. Generally, a government bond is issued by a national government (in this case US) and is denominated in the country's own currency (USD). Bonds issued by national government in foreign currencies are normally referred to as sovereign bonds. The yield required by investors to loan funds to governments reflects inflation expectations and the likelihood that the debt will be repaid.

Also, government bonds were usually referred to as risk-free bonds, because governments could easily devalue their currencies or raise taxes to redeem the bond at maturity. 

The Story of US Treasury Yields... Just like Base-Lending-Rate (BLR) for Malaysia, everything from mortgages to…

"Our Work Is Not Yet Done"

So said President Obama speaking in Berlin earlier today.  The president referenced unemployment and poverty as items left undone.

What the president meant, of course, is there is more for big government to do.

It was appropriate that the president's venue was Europe.  Europe, by policy, has ruled out any hope of full employment or prosperity.  Creating 'justice' and 'fairness' in the labor market has meant that, for European youth, there is no economic future.

Unemployment is above 12 percent, on average, across the Eurozone and over 25 percent in the hardest hit areas.  Youth employment (18-25) is rarely below 25 percent even in the best of times in Europe.  This is the new European reality.  The Eurozone GDP has been mired in recession for more than two years and there is little prospect for the European recession to end.

America is learning the European way.  The unemployment rate in the US is kept below double digits only by the fact that millions of Americans now…

The Rise of Financial Planner

As promised, Finance Malaysia blog would like to educate public at large on the importance of personal financial planning, after knowing that most Malaysians falls into debt traps because of this poor financial planning. After finding out, we're surprised that actually not many of us knowing this NEW distribution channel in financial markets --- Financial Planner.

The NEW Alternative...
Traditionally, when we sourced for financial products or services, we normally go to either agent or bank. Example, for life insurance or unit trust, we buy from life insurance agent or unit trust consultant or banker.

This trend continues few years back, when Securities Commission of Malaysia and Bank Negara Malaysia comes out a framework or guidelines introducing financial planning industry. Then, financial planning firms emerge, until only recently some of us would have heard about its existence in the market place. Of course, financial planners came into picture too.
Role of a Financial Planner? By …

Why so FEAR if US Federal Reserve stop QE ?

Global shares tumbles to multi-months low, especially in Asia whom did well year-to-date thanks to Japan's Abenomics. Commodities and gold also can't spare from the bearish sentiment across investment markets. Reason? US Federal Reserve may stop/scaling down their bond-purchase program. Huh!!!

Is this the real reason? Like what I always said, analysts always give a reason for whatever bull or bear markets (after it had happen). For me, the main reason was (again) profit-taking activities took place in view of the good performances during first half of this year.

How about Federal Reserve's QE ? It's funny to blame Federal Reserve for the corrections. First, why Fed want to stop QE at the first place? It's because US economy is recovering well. Wasn't this a good news to global markets? Definitely. Then, why we're so fear if Fed stop QE ? Doesn't make sense, right?

Anyway, like what I said, the real reason was profit-taking activities which is normal after a …

Crummy Numbers - Big Rally

As expected, the economy continues to limp along.  The jobs report this morning showed 175,000 new jobs.  With net downward revisions for the prior months, the number was barely above the 150 K mark.  The result -- 7.6 percent unemployment unchanged.  Five years after the bottom, still a pitiful recovery.  But, that's good news for Wall Street because it suggests that expansive liqudity provision by the Federal Reserve will remain the policy.

For a while, higher stock prices will paper over the continued stagnation of the American economy.  But those looking for jobs and wage gains have all but given up hope in this tepid recovery.  The economy figures to soon be body slammed by Obamacare, so don't expect a healthy economy for quite a while.

Hoping for Bad Economic Numbers

World stock markets appear to be hoping for a bad employment number this morning.  Why?  They want Bernanke to continue QE3.  That's why.  Global markets reflect the new wave:  hope for bad economic news and expect a bailout.  This mentality encourages homeowners to borrow more than they could ever afford to pay back.  Student borrowers are encouraged to do the same.  Gaming the system by behaving economically foolish pays off because of the expectation that the government will step in.  At the end of the day, that is what Obamacare is all about as well.

In the bad old days, we expected free markets and incentives to fuel economic growth to raise living standards.  That is no longer the plan.  Now, it is all about slicing up the pie, while the pie no longer grows.  The taxpayer is assumed to have endless resources.  A bad assumption.

The 'entitlement mentality' has permeated every level of society and has infected global equity markets as well. 

Those who are hoping for bad e…

The Equity Risk Premium Puzzle

One of the more interesting, yet to be explained, facts in finance is the fact that common stocks perform so well, as compared to less risky assets.  Treasury bills are earning almost nothing these days, but stocks are on a tear.  Why?

The same pattern has held historically.  The gap between what stocks earn and what much safer assets earn has been much, much bigger than could possibly be explained by aversion to risk.  Something more is afoot.

The question is front and center today.  Usually the question is posed as: "why are short term rates near zero, but other assets -- stocks, housing, e.g. -- doing so well.  Why don't people simply shift from treasuries to stocks and housing?"  Apparently folks are doing just that, but not by enough to narrow the return gap.

You could argue that there is not enough investment by ordinary folks in stocks.  That means that stock prices never get quite high enough to deflate their long run return prospects.  But, what about housing?  It …

Bad News is Good News

Stock markets rallied yesterday upon learning that US factory activity plunged to new lows.  The factory activity index reached a low of 49, where anything below 50 is considered a sign of economic contraction.  Three cheers!  Weak economic news means the Fed will continue its QE3 purchases of more than $ 80 billion of debt each month.

Stock market mavens no longer hope for good economic news.  That seems an unlikely prospect.  Instead weakness suggests more aggressive Fed activity, so market prognosticators stay tuned in to see how bad it can get.  The more the economy worsens the better.

Maybe the Obama Administration is long the stock market.  If so, that might explain policies that seem designed to prevent the economy from what should have been a strong economic recovery.

So, instead of jobs and economic growth, we get higher stock prices.  At least for a while.

New Fund: AmIncome Flexi 3 Bond Fund

Following the success of the 1st and 2nd tranches of AmIncome Flexi, which were launched on Sept 18 and Dec 12 last year, with Rm100mil and Rm250mil in asset under management respectively, AmInvest once again would like to satisfy investors appetite.

"Given ample liquidity from the various central bank easing measures, the bond market is expected to be well supported in 2013". The 3 year closed-ended fund, targeted at investors seeking regular income and potentially higher returns than fixed deposits but with lower risk than equities.

How to do that? To achieve the investment objective, the fund intends to invest its NAV in a portfolio of domestic and/or foreign sovereign issued bonds and corporate bonds, with minimum 'A' credit rating. The manager will purchase bonds which will generally have shorter or same maturity to the fund's maturity. The fund employs a flexible investment strategy as follows:-

Will not actively adopt a trading strategy unless there are decrea…