Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Everyone is all smiles over the Philly Fed State Coincident Indicators[pdf] and this map showing "green shoots."

Unfortunately a bit of green in Montana doesn't mean much when there are 36 million people in California and a whopping 950,000 in Big Sky Country. Here's a population adjusted cartogram:

A GDP adjusted chartogram would be even less encouraging.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

California Default Watch Initiated

I've been quiet about California just because there hasn't been anything to add. The State went into a terminal dive last summer as covered by the Daily California Watch Series.

Now even the longtime insiders are seeing all other possibilities foreclosed:
Dan Walters in the Fresno Bee:
If some of the bleaker economic forecasts kicking around are accurate and/or the state doesn't act quickly to close the gap, Taylor's $20.7 billion problem could easily balloon to $25 billion or more. Even more ominously, as temporary tax increases expire and deferred spending promises come due, the state faces annual deficits in the $20 billion range for many years to come, Taylor says.
The battle lines are already forming on whether to deal with the crisis with more spending cuts, more new taxes and/or more gimmicks.
They've scraped the bottom of the gimmick barrel, voters are livid and new taxes are functionally off the table. This will be one of the bloodiest skirmishes the Capitol has ever seen — with the only option being that the most populous state in the nation default on its debts.

And Federal receivership won't fly either. The terms will prove intractable and the other States will howl.
And vat does our Leader, da Governator haf to say?:
As pieces of the July state budget solution begin to unravel, the Republican governor said judges – especially on the federal level – are preventing California from solving its problems.

He complained in particular about judicial actions that have struck down some state worker furloughs, required reductions in the prison population, imposed restrictions on water delivery in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and this week blocked cuts to in-home care services.

"They are going absolutely crazy," Schwarzenegger said of judges. "So we have to have a very serious conversation with the federal government, because they have to let us run the state." [from Fresno Bee last month.]

Want an example of "out of control" judges? This also from the Fresno Bee:
Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009 - 2:43 pm
The California Redevelopment Association filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court today to block the state Finance Department from carrying out a $2.05 billion shift of tax increment funds from local redevelopment agencies over a two-year period.

California's adopted budget for 2009-10 seeks 1.7 billion in funds from the state's redevelopment agencies to help finance schools and calls for shifting another $350 million in the next fiscal year. The suit challenges the constitutionality of the budget language and cites state plans to use the money for non-redevelopment purposes.

The association prevailed in an earlier lawsuit challenging 2008-2009 budget language that would have shifted $350 million in tax increment funds to the state.

Yeah, stealing and getting caught is the judge's fault.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Amazing Divergence

This is Anadarco Petroleum [red] and the UNG natural gas ETF [blue] from Nov '07 to Nov '08:

This makes sense seeing as APC is very much a natgas company.

Now look at what's happened Nov '08 to Nov '09:

This is where you are left scratching your head. Why is a nat gas company up 60% when its product is getting 60% less when sold?

Unless you think natgas prices are going to return to and blow through last summer's highs I see a fundamental disconnect.

Traditions Best Preserved

The President of The United States of America bows to no one and the US Flag is dipped in deference to none. It isn't arrogance or hubris or bravado. It is homage to and acknowledgement of a revolutionary concept that has changed the face of the world several times over.
That this fundamental precept of our raison d'etre has been abandoned by the office holder of the moment is personally deeply painful. Sorry. I cannot go on without violating decorum.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Price Drop La Loma

Rancho Margarita - A rare find in Somis! This 4BR/3BTH home sits on 11.66 acres with spectacular ocean and valley views from nearly every room. Open floorplan with common areas upstairs and three of four bedrooms downstairs. Numerous balconies, large windows and sliding doors bring the outside in. Large master suite with private patio and ocean/island views from the bathtub. Pool, spa and BBQ area are set to the ultimate backdrop. Four car extra-deep garage with additional work area. Large downstairs laundry room could be second kitchen to create potential inlaw unit. The hilltop home is surrounded by stately pine and sycamore trees, providing ultimate privacy from the few neighbors. A paved private road winds through the orchard, giving direct access to La Loma Ave; stop at the 2-stall barn with separate tack room and outside pen area - ideal for your farm animals. Nine shares of Del Norte ag water and private reservoir irrigate approx 800 avocado trees.
Nov 10, 2009 Price Changed $1,449,000 -- SoCalMLS #F1804770
Oct 13, 2009 Listed $1,550,000 -- VCRDS #90016961
Aug 13, 2009 Price Changed $1,550,000 -- SoCalMLS #F1804770
Apr 12, 2009 Listed $1,750,000 -- SoCalMLS #F1804770
Fifty thousand dollars off. $301,000 off original price. Sorry but 3% doesn't freshen the listing. Hat tip to "Effective Demand" who noticed the price drop. Maybe 20% more and I can afford it and it makes sense.

Backing out the taxable basis ($2100/yr) it looks like a 1989/1990 sale for approximately $160k. Nice.

Tuition Fee Rose Smell

Why Are We Destroying Public Education?
University of California Students and Staff Prepare for System-Wide Strike to Protest Cuts
The governing body of the University of California system, the Board of Regents, is preparing to vote on a major tuition hike for both undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate tuition would rise an average 32 percent, while some graduate schools would begin charging thousands of dollars for programs that are currently tuition-free. The Regents are meeting Thursday at UCLA, where students from across the state are converging for what organizers have dubbed a “Crisis Fest,” including mass protests, civil disobedience and teach-ins.

Regents bring debate to campus
By Laura Belyavski
Nov. 17, 2009 at 3:38 a.m.
Beginning this afternoon, Covel Commons will host a three-day UC Board of Regents meeting.
The board is scheduled to vote on the budget proposal that goes through the 2010-2011 fiscal year and includes the controversial 32 percent student fee increase.
The initial 15 percent rise in fees would take effect winter quarter, and a second increase of the same rate would take place fall 2010. Since the second hike would be based on the increased winter quarter fee level, fees would rise a total of 32 percent from their current level.
UC Board of Regents Meeting
The regents will meet at UCLA from Tuesday to Thursday at Covel Commons.
Tuesday, Nov. 17
• Vote on external financing for the Santa Monica/Orthopaedic Replacement Hospital and a parking structure at UCLA
• Vote on the proposed 2009-2010 state capital investments budget
Wednesday, Nov. 18
• Vote on 2009-2010 midyear and 2010-2011 fee increases
• Vote on 2010-2011 professional school fees Thursday, Nov. 19
• Agreement with Los Angeles County on the Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital
Compiled by Samantha Masunaga, Bruin senior staff.
Both UC spokesman Peter King and student regent-designate Jesse Cheng said they expect the proposal to pass.
“I would be surprised if it didn’t pass, but I’ve been surprised in my life many, many times,” King said.
“They need to do what they’re going to do,” King said.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SoCal ROI for Sept '08 to Sept '09

First some background and the results for July:

40 years ago Ventura and Orange counties were virtually identical. Obviously they've taken different paths to get where they are today. In one respect however they have roughly paced each other; median housing prices. For one month at the peak the Ventura median exceeded Orange. With the smaller base Ventura is more exagerated and quicker to respond.
Here are the "returns" for your housing investment purchase of the median house in SoCal Jul '08:
Los Angeles $80k down payment $6600/mo equity decline -99%/yr return
Orange $92k down payment $3400/mo equity decline -44%/yr return
Riverside $52k down payment $6200/mo equity decline -144%/yr return
San Bernardino $46k down payment $7500/mo equity decline -195%/yr return
San Diego $44k down payment $3700/mo equity decline -61%/yr return
Ventura $64k down payment $3800/mo equity decline -56%/yr return
I'd like to call your attention to what happened to the knife catchers in the Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino) last year. Now, extrapolate. The IE has in the past been a leading indicator of the Coast. Ruh roh. I expect another leg down in the coastal communities but with substantial local variations.

Here's October:
Los Angeles $72k down payment $2500/mo equity decline -42%/yr return
Orange $85k down payment $340/mo equity increase +4.7%/yr return
Riverside $47k down payment $4375/mo equity decline -114%/yr return
San Bernardino $41k down payment $4580/mo equity decline -134%/yr return
San Diego $66k down payment $250/mo equity decline -3%/yr return
Ventura $77k down payment $1100/mo equity decline -43%/yr return

So much for buying at the bottom. This is definitely a metric worth watching.

Beach Weather

October 3rd Coolest on Record

The Bastards can't even bring themselves to say "coldest" opting instead for "coolest." Excerpt:
The October 2009 average temperature for the contiguous United States was the third coolest on record for that month according to NOAA’s State of the Climate report issued today. Based on data going back to 1895, the monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis is part of the suite of climate services provided by NOAA.

The average October temperature of 50.8 degrees F was 4.0 degrees F below the 20th Century average. Preliminary data also reveals this was the wettest October on record with average precipitation across the contiguous United States reaching 4.15 inches, 2.04 inches above the 1901-2000 average.

This puts a chill into the Copenhagen party scheduled next month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The LA Times has the story:
Borrowing $1.9 billion Tuesday via bonds that mature in June 2013, the state was forced to pay a 4% annualized tax-free yield to lure investors to the deal.

Just last Friday the brokerages underwriting the deal, led by Goldman Sachs, had estimated that the bonds could be sold at a yield of 3%.

4% tax free is roughly equivalent to 7.5% taxable. Sad.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rumblings and Ramblings

900+ events is rather a lot really. Predicting earthquakes is what gets even fake psychics discredited but I cannot help wonder if a 7+ someplace won't be trigger event for an already fragile economy. Even the usual home price drop near the epicenter in these conditions could empty out an entire city with walkaways.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The CalPERS Crush Part 1

The CalPERS financial bomb has gone off. The blast wave hasn't arrived to knock us all down is all. Revenues are falling further, unemployment is out of control. The UE fund is projecting a $23.7b deficit.
Employers, who support the fund through a tax on each worker, are expected to contribute $4.3 billion this year but that is nowhere near the $12.5 billion that is projected to be paid out in benefits. After eking out a $326.2 million surplus in 2008, the trust fund is expected to be $7.4 billion in the red by the end of this year.

Hey, no big deal. Nothing a one time $1500 surcharge for every remaining worker wouldn't cover. Right? The big news however is all the rotting fish at CalPERS. The consulting fee scandal. The ignored overpaying for financial services report. The failure to pursue specific performance clauses. CalPERS now even has a special blog to refute the lies being told about it.

CalPERS "stuff" following is intended to be backgrounder for those interested in saying "I saw all this coming." It's like decoding the Japanese diplomatic transmissions in Nov '41. We know lots of things but it all isn't in one place. THe insolvency crisis is long term. Let's talk liquidity. Because of muni pressures and the rats leaving the ship and a demographic bulge and recent "flexibility" granted end of career calculations a lot more people are retiring than was planned. That on top of a contributor (State, munis, districts) cash crunch that has them not making full contributions. Indeed some are reacting like the US at the United Nations. Years behind full dues. This was okay as long as the CalPERS was raking in cash. Those same years also made the watchmen lax in making sure they could met future promises.
Then the cash squeeze arrives. Lots of the crap on their books is so complex it can't be unwound. The people who set it up are gone and the counterprties are out of business. Trying to sell a large complex security in this market and they honestly won't get fair value. At least they have that part right.

List of $100,000 retirees:
California Pension Reform's 'The CalPERS 100K Club'
Plug in you favorite city/district and read the list. Shocking.

CalPERS resorts to counter propoganda:
CalPERS tweets back at 'misinformation' - Los Angeles Business from bizjournals:
The propoganda itself:
CalPERS Responds
Funny relations:
CalPERS reviewing tie with Apollo Management after steep losses --
More funny business:
He earned $53 million opening doors to CalPERS money --
CalPERS discloses more fees paid to Alfred Villalobos --
Calpers Knew of Foreign-Exchange Trading Hits -

I'm still working on evidence of massive overpaying to retirees and the instances of outrageous double dipping.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Technological Leadership

Was at Disneyland yesterday. Fun, short lines, etc. Went to the ASIMO demo. Honda in 1950 made motors for bicycles. Today FCX and Hondajet and a robot that can actually run. GM? They have GMAC and an iPod jack in their Buicks.

I weep for the Republic. Spend six minutes with Race Against Time to see what we've lost.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

House Prices in Gold

Feb '06 median Ventura County home: $680k
Price of gold: $560/oz.
Median home price in gold: 1214 ounces.

Oct '09 median Ventura county home: $419k
Price of gold: $1000
Median home price in gold: 419 ounces.

Value today of the gold you bought in 2006 after selling your house: $1,214,000.

Turn one house into 3 in 3 years. Sounds like something Casey would do (in reverse).

Monday, November 02, 2009

Better Than HSR

More pictures and a fun little website touting the future of air travel at Aeroscraft.

Quick write up at SonyRadio. Excerpt:
It's the Aero craft, and when it's completed, it will ferry pampered passengers across continents and oceans as they stroll leisurely about the one-acre cabin or relax in their staterooms Unlike its dirigible ancestors, the Aero craft is not lighter than air It's 14 million cubic feet of helium hoist only two-thirds of the craft's weight. The rigid and surprisingly aerodynamic body, driven by huge rear-ward propellers, generates enough additional lift to keep the behemoth and its 400-ton payload aloft while cruising During takeoff and landing, six turbo-fan jet engines push the ship up or ease its descent. This two-football-fields-long airship is the brainchild of Igor Pasternak, whose privately funded California firm, Worldwide Aeros Corporation, is in the early stages of developing a prototype and expects to have one completed by 2010 .

Pasternak says several cruise ship companies have expressed interest in the project, and for good reason - the craft would have a range of several thousand miles, and, wit h an estimated top speed of 174 mph, could traverse the continental United States in about 18 hours. During the flight, passengers would view national landmarks just 8,000 feet below, or, if they weren't captivated by the view, the cavernous interior would easily accommodate such amenities as luxury staterooms, restaurants - - even a casino.

To minimize noise, the aft-mounted propellers will be electric, powered by a renewable source such as hydrogen fuel cells.

What do I think?:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Starve The Squid

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. - Delaware
Goldman, Sachs & Co. - New York
Goldman Sachs (Asia) Finance Holdings L.L.C. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Paris Inc. ET CIE - France
Goldman Sachs Services Limited - British Virgin Islands
GS Power Holdings LLC - Delaware
Goldman Sachs (UK) L.L.C. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Group Holdings (U.K.) - United Kingdom
Scadbury UK Limited - United Kingdom
Scadbury Funding Limited - Cayman Islands
Scadbury II Assets Limited - Cayman Islands
Killingholme Generation Limited - United Kingdom
KPL Acquisitions Limited - United Kingdom
GS Killingholme Cayman Investments Ltd. - Cayman Islands
GS Killingholme Cayman Investments II Ltd - Cayman Islands
GS Killingholme Cayman Investments III - Cayman Islands
GS Killingholme Cayman Investments IV, L.P. - Cayman Islands
KPL Finance Limited - Cayman Islands
Goldman Sachs Holdings (U.K.) - United Kingdom
Goldman Sachs International - United Kingdom
Goldman Sachs Asset Management International - United Kingdom
Forres LLC - Delaware
Shire UK Limited - United Kingdom
GS Funding Investments Limited - Cayman Islands
GS Liquid Trading Platform II Limited - Isle of Jersey
GS Capital Funding (Cayman) II Limited - Cayman Islands
MLQ Investors, L.P. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Realty Japan Ltd. - Japan
Nephrite Equity Co., Ltd. - Japan
GK Blue Square (1) - Japan
GK Frangipani (1) - Japan
K.K. Minato Saiken Kaishu - Japan
GS Financial Services L.P. (Del) - Delaware
Chiltern Trust - Isle of Jersey
Laffitte Participation 10 - France
Laffitte Participation 12 - France
GS Longport Investment Corporation - Delaware
GSFS Investments I Corp - Delaware
GS Leasing (KCSR 2007-1) LLC - Delaware
GS Global Investments, Co. - Delaware
GS Global Investments UK, Inc. - Delaware
County UK Limited - Cayman Islands
County Funding Limited - United Kingdom
County Assets Limited - Cayman Islands
Goldman Sachs Global Holdings L.L.C. - Delaware
GS Asian Venture (Delaware) L.L.C. - Delaware
Brasilia Cayman Investments Limited - Cayman Islands
Goldman Sachs (Japan) Ltd. - British Virgin Islands
Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd. - Japan
J. Aron Holdings, L.P. - Delaware
J. Aron & Company - New York
Prop — GS Fundo de Investimento Multimercado Credito Privado - -  
Investimento No Exterior - Brazil
Goldman Sachs Asset Management, L.P. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Asset Management Co., Ltd. - Japan
Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Strategies LLC - Delaware
Goldman Sachs (Cayman) Holding Company - Cayman Islands
Goldman, Sachs & Co. oHG - Germany
Goldman Sachs (Cayman) Trust, Limited - Cayman Islands
Goldman Sachs Global Services II Limited - Cayman Islands
Goldman Sachs Services (B.V.I.) Limited - British Virgin Islands
Goldman Sachs (Asia) Corporate Holdings L.P. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Holdings (Hong Kong) Limited - Hong Kong
Goldman Sachs Foreign Exchange (Singapore) Pte. - Singapore
J Aron & Company (Singapore) Pte. - Singapore
Goldman Sachs (Asia) Securities Limited - Hong Kong
Goldman Sachs (Asia) Finance - Mauritius
Goldman Sachs Financial Markets, L.P. - Delaware
MTGLQ Investors, L.P. - Delaware
ELQ Investors, Ltd - United Kingdom
GS European Opportunities Investment Fund B.V. (1) - Netherlands
Matterhorn Acquisitions Ltd. - United Kingdom
NEG (TPL) Limited - United Kingdom
South Wales TPL Investments Limited - United Kingdom
Western Power Investments Limited - United Kingdom
Poseidon Acquisitions Ltd - United Kingdom
Goldman Sachs Lending Partners LLC - Delaware
Liquidity Assets Holding Limited - Cayman Islands
Liquidity Assets Limited - Cayman Islands
GS Macro Investments LLC - Delaware
GS Macro Investments II, LLC - Delaware
GS Mehetia LLC - Delaware
Mehetia Holdings Inc. - Delaware
Mehetia Inc. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Bank USA - New York
Goldman Sachs Mortgage Company - New York
William Street Equity LLC - Delaware
William Street Funding Corporation - Delaware
GSCP (DEL) Inc. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Credit Partners L.P. - Bermuda
Litton Mortgage Servicing, LLC - Utah
Litton Loan Servicing, L.P. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Holdings (Netherlands) B.V. - Netherlands
Goldman Sachs Mitsui Marine Derivative Products, L.P.(1) - Delaware
GSSM Holding II LLC - Delaware
GSSM Holding II Corp. - Delaware
GSTM LLC - Delaware
SLK LLC - New York
Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing, L.P. - New York
GS Financial Services II, LLC - Delaware
GS Funding Europe Limited - United Kingdom
Amagansett II Assets Limited - Cayman Islands
GS European Funding I LTD. - Cayman Islands
GS Funding Europe II Ltd. - Cayman Islands
Commonwealth Annuity and Life Insurance Company - Massachusetts
GS Diversified Funding LLC - Delaware
GS Diversified Investments Limited - Delaware
GS Capital Funding (UK) 1 Limited - United Kingdom
Reserve Liquid Performance Money Market Fund - New York
GS Ayco Holding LLC - Delaware
The Ayco Company, L.P. - Delaware
Rothesay Pensions Management Limited - United Kingdom
Eastport Capital Corp. - Delaware
EPF Financial, LLC - Delaware
GS Investment Strategies, LLC - Delaware
GS Mezzanine Partners 2006, L.P. - Delaware
Goldman Sachs Canada Credit Partners Co. - Canada -

(1) These entities are partially owned by third-party investors.