Captain's Blog, Stardate: 1/11/08
Wall Street consolidates - when it's not whining too much; the recession board equivocates; and Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer elucidates.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- MARKETS: Regarding Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) buying Countrywide (CFC, Fortune 500), we are now starting to see some of the deal making/consolidation that I have been talking about recently. (Leaving aside the issue, as Roddy Boyd points out, that this may be bad money after bad!) I would expect more of these (WaMu/JP Morgan has been on the table) although instead of major deals so far, we are seeing something instead, which is the flurry of capital of infusions from overseas investors into Wall Street investment banks and broker dealers. To wit: Watch Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500), where new CEO John Thain would like to match an announcement of a huge new multi-billion write-off with the announcement of more capital. I still think Bear Stearns (BSC, Fortune 500) may be dealt, although without question it could also scale back and live to see another day too. The other really big question on Wall Street is succession at Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), which also could end up happening in a deal. Really the best guy to take over from John Mack already has a job, Vikram Pandit is the CEO of Citibank.
MEMO TO WALL STREET: SHUT UP! I really am sick and tired of all this sanctimonious bitching on Wall Street. Puh-leeze! All these people saying that Bernanke isn't tough enough, or aggressive enough and that he needs to move FAST to stave off bad times. You know what Wall Street? YOU screwed up! You guys got yourself in the soup. So swim! Bernanke is not in the business of bailing out a bunch of pinstriped lollipop suckers. His job is to watch over the entire economy, and yes I know you won't like to hear this, but that includes such locales as Des Moines, Peoria, Oshkosh, and Apalachicola. That's right. Places you make fun of! If you all would say 'You know what, it's our bad. We messed up. We need help. We know we need to share in the pain - and the government can share in the upside (a la Chrysler back in the day), but some moolah just to shore things up would be nice. How can we make this happen?' That would be honest and okay. But you're not doing that. You are whining and not 'fessing up! And it drives me nuts! So hush up and go home to Greenwich tonight and drink a highball and think about taking some responsibility and stop pointing fingers. Do I make myself clear?!?
THE 'R' WORD: Is the economy R rated? Meaning, are we even ALREADY in a recession? Technically of course we aren't, there hasn't been enuff time yet. Just to review: In your macro Econ 101 class you were told that a recession had occurred when you had at least two consecutive quarters of decline in the nation's GDP. But in the UsofA we have this handy-dandy little outfit called the National Bureau of Economic Research that is officially in charge of calling a recession. The NBER describes a recession thusly: "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months." Ummm, gee, that is kinda, how do we say, ambiguous! By the way, who the hell is the NBER? Good question! Here's how they describe themselves on the ol' NBER website: "Founded in 1920, the National Bureau of Economic Research is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community." Yeah right. (Kinda like the NCAA or ETS - who put THEM in charge!??) The NBER's main office is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, (naturally) with additional offices in Palo Alto, California, and New York City (naturally). Martin Feldstein is the CEO (naturally). Here's their phone number: 617-868-3900. Call 'em up and ask Marty if he thinks we're in a recession, kinda seems that way to me!
LOOSE CHANGE: Is David Garrard, the Jaguars Quarterback, everyone's new favorite American? I love the guy! The moves, the threads! Enjoy it while you can David, it will be over Saturday night!!!!.....Did I tell you that I saw, 'The Birds' recently. Good one to see with your kids, (not!) You know how after you see that movie and you are walking in the park and the birds are all gathered in the trees and you just freak?!?!! That just happened to me today! Movie was shot up there in Bodega Bay in Marin. Who doesn't like Marin? Such a silly place (Tee Hee!)...Bought "Green Grass and High Tides Forever" by the Outlaws last night. Should be a fun nine plus minutes tonight, right?.....So Patty LaDuke and Jim Kelly sitting next to each other on a plane from SF? What a great combo!!!! Two of my favs!!! No snakes on that plane!.....Books: You know I always read three at a time!!! Is there any other way??? Doing Dylan's book "Chronicles Vol 1." Dude has got a serious "To the Lighthouse" Virginia Wolfe stream of consciousness problem...Also "Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw" by Mark Bowden, he wrote "Blackhawk Down." Pretty decent. And finally "Journals 1952-2000²"by the late Arthur Schlesinger. I really like this book. All the inside workings of Kennedy Administration and beyond. As Maureen Dowd of the Times wrote about it in October: "It's hard not to like a book that expounds on Marilyn Monroe on one page and the Monroe Doctrine on the next."....Hey was in Tahoe (Squaw Valley actually) last week for that MAJOR snowstorm. ("Over 7 feet of fresh snow in the past week.") WHAT a blast!!!!....And finally check out this pic of Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt of the "The Hills." You're in good company when you read FORTUNE! Yeah baby!!!!