By Chris Colvin, NBC News writer
Hi! Back from a lovely holiday, and lots going on in the financial world, politics, and right here in our own news media backyard.
Starting things off with the WSJ wrap-up of Citigroup's big cash infusion, which comes at a steep price (11%) that some analysts say reeks of desperation. The NYT's Dealbook blog crunches the numbers. And CalculatedRisk sums up nicely in a comment on his blog: "Citi clearly needed to raise capital. Their ratios are low - and they have more losses coming, and pier loans piling up, and - if the Superfund SIV fails - they might have to put the SIVs on their balance sheet. This was a needed move - although I'm surprised by the terms - clearly Citi is desperate." CR commenter mp is even more succinct: "Citibank has essentially become a subprime borrower!" And Fortune's Peter Eavis gets to the heart of the matter, Citi's SIV exposure. (Hat Tip: FFDIC)
The other big news today: Home prices plunged 4.5% year-over-year in the third quarter-- giving more credence to economist Robert Shiller's warning that prices will fall 30% nationwide before the housing market bottoms out. Of course some think prices need to fall even further to get back in line with incomes and take the bubble top valuations back to the point where the bubble started. More on the Case-Shiller numbers from Marketwatch, which focuses on the fact that prices declined in every region of the country. CalculatedRisk points out that the L.A. Times asked this very question this morning ("How Low Will Prices Go?")
And some discouraging news on retail sales: after a disappointing Thanksgiving week, stores are ready to slash prices. (Start looking for the term "Grinchmas.") Another sign of the times: Winnebago shipments drop for the first time in 6 years. Bloomberg says motor home/travel trailer shipments have been a reliable indicator of economic downturns for 3 decades.
And catching up son some stuff that happened last week: Alan Greenspan said he has no regrets about his term as Fed Chairman and that no one saw the subprime implosion coming. And a NYT front-page story about Goldman-Sachs got me thinking about those stellar Q3 results everyone's admiring now. Scroll down in this post from the Daily Reckoning to see one take on how Goldman made money the old-fashioned way: by shorting their own customers. The Reckoning's Adrian Ash doesn't see a problem with Goldman short-selling mortgage products even as they were selling them to other customers, but Marketwatch's Hank Greenberg does. And hey now that we know Goldman has been making a killing on the short side, what should we make of their forecast that the housing market is going down hard and lending will contract to the tune of $2 Trillion? But hey Goldman's not the only one making money being pessimistic. A California hedge fund has returned 1000% so far (yes that's 10 bucks for every buck you put in) shorting mortgage debt.. and psssst take a look at what this hedge fund manager thinks of this country's banking system right now.
But you know, it's not going to be a Grinchmas on Wall Street this year. Bloomberg reports that despite the fact that shareholder equity overall is down $74 billion, Wall Street bonuses are expected to hit $38 billion this year, an all-time record. On the other hand, in Cleveland, 6,000 people applied for 300 jobs at a new Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Now to the news media.. the Mainstream Media.. as it has become known, and an object lesson in how the blogosphere is changing the way the MSM operates. (And I say this at the risk of sounding hopelessly naive to the many people who think the "corporate media" exists to push a political agenda-- if that's true, I'm either too stupid or too low on the food chain to be able to actually demonstrate it.) Anyway. Salon's Glenn Greenwald has engaged in a fairly brutal takedown of something TIME columnist Joe Klein wrote about Congressional Democrats' updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act-- which turned into a series of posts that culminated with Greenwald today demanding answers from Klein's editor. (And incidentally, raising the issue of a false story one of our competitors ran with back in 2001, which had a particularly nasty resonance in our newsroom-- and for which there was never an apology or any accountability.) Believe me, I'm not pointing this out because it involves competitors. Browse around the archives of DailyHowler.com or MediaMatters.org if you want to see harsh criticism of us. The point is, journalists, particularly in Washington, aren't going to be able to repeat partisan spin that contains falsehoods as analysis without being called on it anymore. And as Greenwald notes, it's rather telling that the calling-out is coming from the blogosphere and not the actual Democrats who Klein misrepresented. Maybe that's why there is a blogosphere to begin with.
And here's an appropriate way to end today: you know that parallel universe you sometimes feel like you're living in? It might really exist! (Hat Tip: Raw Story)