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Macro Level Resolution Strategies per the Ongoing Financial Systems Crisis of 2008

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Just a few thoughts and possible resolution strategies (in outline format) to consider per the current financial system crisis from a concerned long-term investor, citizen, and voter.  And from an Independent’s perspective, the political players from both parties don’t seem to be focusing on real solutions, just the problems and the resulting finger-pointing (or “blame game”) that occurs.  Note: In terms of presenting a macro causal analysis for this financial crises, private sector lenders issued risky home loans to buyers who could not afford them, which they then sold to Wall Street financial institutions as bundled, mortgage-backed securities that eventually became worthless with the downturn in the housing market. As a result, the heavily leveraged financial institutions became overly susceptible to the collapsing asset class, leading to a liquidity crisis, a disturbance of bank lending, and an overall global contagion.

I. Short-Term Macro Level Strategies to Mitigate Current Crisis (note that some of these strategies are now being implemented in some fashion) –

1). Continued Implementation of timely “lender-of-last-resort” measures by central banks are needed in order to mitigate the current credit crisis before it spirals completely out of control.      

1a). Immediate, large-scale damage-control measures are needed in order to restore the public’s confidence in financial markets and institutions.            

1b). Organized bailout programs by central banks across the globe are needed in order to reduce the overall amount of help and costs involved (i.e., the quicker the better in terms of lowering costs).

2). Aggressive actions required on the part of central banks and governmental agencies in order to mitigate the seizing global credit crisis include the following:

2a). Continued cutting of short-term interest rates and increasing the amounts of loans made available to banks via auctions in order to maintain fluid liquidity levels.            

2b). Force remaining lenders to extend low “teaser” rates on ARM based loans that have been given to sub-prime borrowers.           

2c). Force remaining lenders to restore partial homeowner equity to sub-prime mortgage holders having negative equity in order to forestall the foreclosure rates.           

2d). Continued swapping of Fed funds (e.g., Treasure bills, etc.) for “Level 3” securities from struggling financial institutions in order to provide them with necessary liquidity.            

2e). Permanent providing of emergency loans to the remaining investment banks, with the resulting increase in regulation that should go with it (i.e., like that required for commercial banks).           

2f). The establishment (ASAP) of an organization similar to the former Resolution Trust Corporation of the S&L days to use taxpayer funds to buy out the worst sub-prime loans.  Note: When the current credit crisis finally does ease up, central banks will then need to expedite reverse monetary actions designed to prevent the reintroduction of market speculation using “cheap” money.  

II. Long-Term Macro Level Strategies & Proactive Regulatory Measures –

1). Implementation of  stricter governmental regulations for securitized mortgage loans.            

1a). SEC directed revamping of underwriting standards to reduce the chances that credit risks will be underestimated, which in turn will reduce the overvaluing of securitized sub-prime loans.            

1b). SEC led mitigation of regulatory capital arbitrage attempts in the securitization process by enforcing the maintenance of minimum capital requirements by financial entities.            

1c). SEC led mitigation of “safety net” and risk transfer abuses in the securitization process.

2). Require that mortgage loan originators hold bigger equity positions in the securitized packages and that banks issue “covered” bonds backed by securitized mortgage loans in order to keep the risks on  their balance sheets.

2a). Increase involvement of criminal investigation agencies in the securities arena to mitigate the misrepresentation of the quality of mortgage loans in securities filings by financial entities. 

2b). Implementation of more stringent licensing requirements for mortgage brokers and tougher mortgage lending standards, including enhanced risk management practices by lenders.

2c). Implementation of more stringent disclosure and write-down requirements for financial institutions, as well as an increase in the monitoring of their “capital adequacy”.

2d). Consolidation of the different governmental finance agencies into a financial oversight “super” agency designed to rate sub-prime mortgages and financial securities per their safety levels.

2e). Establishment of well defined roles for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in terms of its serving as a bailout agent for emerging market countries experiencing financial difficulties.            

2f). Need to mitigate any moral hazard issues that could arise due to IMF intervention (e.g., an increase in risk-taking activities by the governments of the countries being assisted, etc).            

2g). Complete banning of Alternative-A type mortgage loans, which require little or no documentation on a borrower’s wealth or income, resulting in abuses on the part of mortgage brokers.

3). Establishment of new generally accepted auditing standards (new FAS rulings) designed to force financial entities to start valuating their investment instruments (e.g., CDOs) using market based measures rather than their own pricing models, along with the reform of the credit rating agencies.

3a). Mortgage based securities should be strictly booked as “marked to market” from an accounting standpoint instead of “book” value in order to help mitigate the blatant overvaluation of the underlying collateral assets.

3b). Mortgage securities packages should be categorized and split into different “tranches” based on their differing levels of certified risk for both investing and auditing purposes.

3c). Tighter regulation of credit rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s, S&P, et al.) by the SEC and Congress.

3d). Credit rating agency reform acts are needed to mitigate the overrating of tenuous capital structures being passed as investment grade securities &d to enhance agency quality control measures.

3e). Recourse measures should include the suspending of credit rating agencies that continuously propagate inaccurate (“pumped up”) ratings due to the conflicts of interest involved with the issuers.

3f). The compensation method for credit rating agencies needs to be changed from that of being paid by the issuers of structured debt products to that of being paid by investors to eliminate conflicts of interest.

3g). Credit rating agencies should be required to decline credit rating services for exotic types of securities that have no performance records to track.

3h). Credit rating agencies should also be precluded from having exclusive access to non-public investment information.

Agency Note:  SEC chief Mary Schapiro has now called for sweeping industry changes at a roundtable meeting as credit ratings agencies have been thoroughly blasted for not warning about the risks of subprime mortgage securities. Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch dominate the industry: one proposal calls for a governmental ratings agency that would compete with these three firms.

3i). Central banks should have quickly executable, pre-approved contingency plans “in place” for when unexpectedly large write-downs by financial institutions occur in the future.  The immediate availability of liquidity measures and the continued identification of potential merger partners for failing financial institutions is key here.

3j). Tighter regulation of the corporate auditing function by the SEC & Congress.  If necessary, the corporate auditing function may even need to be “nationalized” to become entirely a governmental function in order to eradicate the inherent conflicts of interest that currently exist between corporations & the private auditing/consulting firms that they employ on a high-fee basis (i.e., need to reduce the risk of over-inflated equity valuations based on creative accounting measures, etc).

Note: These macro strategies were initially conceived of as part of my section of responsibility for a group project/presentation in a graduate level finance course at the University of Houston (i.e., FINA 7340 – Financial Markets & Institutions).

Click on URL to link to a recently published NYU Stern working group paper that provides excellent insights on viable, real-time solutions for financial reform:

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

August 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Options Trading Advisory Services

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Looking for an options trading advisory service that provides consistently profitable option trades?  Schaeffer’s Investment Research is a very educational advisory service that also offers a gamut of different subscription services designed to enable the subscriber to mix and match different options trading styles.  I am currently a subscriber to Schaeffer’s “Super Trader” aggressive alert services package and its more moderate “Weekend Trader” bulletin service. Another good option advisory service to consider here is Option Monster, which also offers several subscription services tailored for one’s particular level of trading experience and desired level of risk.  Option Monster also has a very good education section within its website as well.  I am currently a subscriber to Option Monster’s aggressive “InsideOptions” alert service, which provides up to five Options trade ideas each week.  Schaeffer’s and Option Monster are two of the more popular options advisory subscription services out there, and they have both recommended some real winners for me in the past.  But my overall returns from both of these services have been tempered by the issuance of many additional recommendations that didn’t pan out too well (i.e., especially Schaeffer’s in the past); as a result, one needs to be aware of the overall picture here when striving to achieve a model of consistent profitability with these services.  In other words, additional technical analysis and fundamentals based research on the subscriber’s part is usually required in order to proactively eliminate most of the the additional recommendations that will not work out in order to increase one’s overall level of profitability.

In terms of specific options recommendation services that identify short-term opportunities that are about to “pop”, several alert services offered by Schaeffer’s and Option Monster immediately come to mind.  For instance, Schaeffer’s “Expiration Week Countdown”, “Overnight Trader”, and “Weekly Options Trader” alert services offer these aggressive short-term “pop” types of opportunities, as do Schaeffer’s “Event” and “Players” series.  Option Monster’s “InsideOptions” service also offers similar trade recommendations as those offered by Schaeffer’s, although Option Monster tends to curb the urge to flood the subscriber with recommendations that have not have been fully researched or scrutinized by its senior options analysts.  Furthermore, Option Monster recommendations issued by co-founder and “InsideOptions” lead analyst Pete Najarian have had the highest winning percentage (for me) of all of the advisory services mentioned here.  Pete Najarian does not issue direct recommendations too often for the “InsideOptions” service, but when he does they usually work out very well; as a result, I rate Pete Najarian as being the best of the options advisory analysts that I have been following for the past several years.  One additional options subscription service that one should consider here is the one being offered by, with which the folks over at Options Monster share a common history with.  In thinking in terms of comparing these different types of option recommendation services, I actually believe that quite a few of these advisory services “borrow” from each other to a certain degree and then repackage the information gleaned for their particular ongoing marketing models.  For example, Schaeffer’s and Zack’s seem to partner-up on some of the service recommendations offered by Schaeffer’s, as do Schaeffer’s and options research group What’sTrading.  In addition, Option Monster and seem to partner-up on some of their recommendations as well, which makes sense based on the above mentioned common history that they share.

In conclusion, I should reiterate that most of the popular options advisory services out there will recommend some big winners to you as a subscriber, but you’ll need to do some additional “homework” to weed out the non-winning ideas in order to make the service profitable on a consistent basis.  Again, my overall returns from the above mentioned subscription services are usually tempered with many additional ideas that do not work out, so I try to stay aware of the overall picture here in order to achieve a model of consistent profitability.  Additional technical analysis and fundamental based research on the subscriber’s part is necessary in order to proactively eliminate the additional ideas that won’t work out in order to increase one’s level of profitability.  Granted, these services will recommend a few nice winners for you per their advertisements, but you’ll definitely need to scrutinize their all of their recommendations with your own research (and closely monitor them) in order to make subscribing to the service worthwhile.  As an example of this, I have now gotten to the point with Schaeffer’s “Expiration Week Countdown” service recommendations where I weed out all but one or two of the ideas issued during options expiration week of each month.  For example, during options expiration week in August, 2010 I eliminated from consideration all of the recommendations made but one, which was one of the Netflix (NFLX) call options that was set to expire at the end of that week (Call -> NFLX -> AUG 21, 2010 -> Strike Price $110).  I selected this particular idea out of the overall group that Schaeffer’s recommended due to the recent high levels of volatility associated with NFLX’s stock price and volume at the time.  And this particular option call did very well for me that week (i.e., more than enough to cover the cost of my annual subscription).  So I have found that I am able to select one or two real winners to play with from the list of recommendations made by this particular service during options expiration week each month, and my experience has shown that the rest of the ideas are usually worth ignoring after doing the requisite research. Hope this all helps!

See link below for an enhancement of finance professor Peter Carr’s instructive paper on the implementation of the Black-Scholes call/put options pricing model on the HP-12C programmable finance calculator by Tony Hutchins.

Will Apple’s ‘Disruptive Innovation’ Product Strategy Continue On?

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The following is a very insightful ‘Disruptive Innovation’ genre quote per Apple Computers from the 24/7 Wall St. blog article ‘Apple Clobbers the Competition: The Carnage of Apple’s Spectacular Success’ (by Ashley Allen & Douglas McIntyre, 2010). 

“Apple is an anomaly.  It has the disruptive force of a startup and the consistent message of a mature company.  It is one of the largest tech companies, and yet it is a darling of Wall Street.  It is a hardware company that is also software company, content company and now consumer-electronics company.  It has manufactured not one but three revolutionary consumer products back-to-back, and all on a content distribution model that seems to evolve with the needs of the product.  It’s a killer because it continues to be the first to market and often times the only game in town”.

Being a technology driven company, Apple is driven by the technological challenges presented by the computer and electronics industry sectors.  But Apple is also driven by defining the new business models that need to be adopted in order to help propagate its disruptive-innovation based products.  Apple’s iTune has basically turned the recording (or record) industry on its head in that consumers can now purchase and download individual songs at home instead of having to pay for entire albums of songs bundled onto CDs at record stores.  As a result of this disruptive business model, record stores are now a thing of the past as iTunes has revolutionized the music industry at the retail level due to its lower costs, increased conveniences, and more desirable product selection changes.  As a response to this, many retail record stores then moved over to the movie/DVD side of the industry, but this extended business model has now met its demise as well due to the arrival of even more disruptive innovations in the movie industry per new online delivery technologies (e.g., better internet streaming methods immediately come to mind).

I’d now like to expound on the premise that Apple has been a real master at disrupting the environmental scanning attempts of its competitors via a “sleight of hand” (or misdirection) strategy favored by the late Steve Jobs.  This strategy has always caused much consternation with Apple’s competitors and industry analysts alike in their attempts to interpret and follow the product-line direction that Apple (as industry leader) is heading.  Apple is also willing to canibalize its own existing product lines as part of this misdirection strategy, which is disruptive from the standpoint that most competitors find themselves unable to continue following Apple’s lead due to the fact that they cannot cost-effectively canabalize their own product line while following and competing with the industry leader.  In effect, this “follow-the-leader” strategy becomes cost-prohibitive for Apple’s more cash-strapped competitors, who then either phase down or abandon entirely the particular product line that they are competing with for market share (e.g., HP’s Tablet product-line immediately comes to mind).  Apple’s huge cash position basically enables it to “toy” with its product-line competitors and weed out those who cannot afford to stay in the game with them (i.e., just about everyone). But I’m sure that the remaining competitors are now reassessing (i.e., retooling) their competing product-line strategies in the wake of Steve Jobs’ unfortunate demise as Apple may no longer be able to disruptively innovate without him.

NOTE:  Interested LinkedIn members are invited to join LinkedIn DT Group ‘Disruptive  Technologies’ .

The Great Sirius XM (SIRI) Stock Debate!

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More and more, Sirius XM stock (ticker symbol ‘SIRI’) appears to represent a good, low cost bet on making some attractive  gains in the not too distant future. Nothing is ever guaranteed in life (other than the two main stays), but now seems to be very opportune time to get on the train at the beginning of what could be a very profitable ride based on the increasingly cost-effective commercial uses of satellite-based technologies (led by SIRI, for one). In a nutshell, the currently low price of SIRI stock coupled with its promising future based on the vertical integration of its product lines makes it a very inviting bet in my book.  And the announcement today of the availability of Sirius XM’s new app for Android-powered smartphones (coupled with existing apps for BlackBerry and iPhone) is just the latest in a ever expanding portfolio of value adding products being offered.  Finally, SIRI is starting to  remind me of Apple’s stock in the late 1990′s, when it was priced around $2.00 per share and the introduction of Apple’s industry changing iPod products was just around the corner.  Stay tuned!

Click on URL for the latest on SIRI stock:

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

May 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Massive Government Control of Free Markets Debate!

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Quote of the Day  –
“The case for free markets never was that markets are perfect … [but] that government control of markets, especially asset markets, has always been much worse.”

University of Chicago professor John Cochrane, per criticism from Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and proponent of massive government intervention policies (click on URL below for his full rebuttal).

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

January 31, 2010 at 2:50 pm

The Proposed Financial-Transaction Tax Bill Issue!

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There is a financial-transaction tax bill being proposed by the U.S. Congress that intends to levy a 0.25% tax on all equity trading transactions.  The passing of this bill would severely marginalize the financial trading industry, making our financial markets even less efficient than they have already become.  The end result would be the loss of untold numbers of jobs, and financial markets would become even more susceptible to crashes due to the resulting lack of  liquidity. Obviously the passing of this absurd bill would negatively impact the financial trading (and related) industries; but it would also severely curtail a critical market capitalization vehicle used by small to medium sized companies, thus rendering them less able to compete and grow.  And with banks and other financial service entities either unable or unwilling to capitalize small to medium sized businesses these days (but able and willing to pay out absurd bonuses to undeserving executives), taxing financial trade transactions would only serve to make the current economic downturn more pronounced, possibly leading to even more disastrous consequences down the road. The resulting dissipation of market liquidity, trading volumes, and market price discovery, along with widened bid/ask price spreads, would destroy the positive aspects afforded by arbitrage and speculative trading.  Along with the addition of other possible government regulatory actions, this problem would then be further exacerbated by the resulting mass migration of American based trading volumes over to foreign (i.e., non-taxable) exchanges.

The one thing that really irks me about the proposed financial-transaction tax bill is that it is being framed as a so-called “sin” tax by its partisan proponents in order to appeal to the current populist mindset that the financial industry as a whole is guilty for the current state of the economy (i.e., high unemployment levels, etc.). Basically, the transgressions of a few that were enabled by the lack of understanding by government officials and regulators per the complex financial-engineering instruments being utilized are the primary culprits here. The imposing of a financial-transaction “sin” tax by the government is not a good substitute for developing an understanding of the new financial order and obtaining the level of competency necessary to effectively regulate the industry, thus establishing a stable (level) playing field for the economy as a whole.  So in my mind, this proposed financial-transaction “sin” tax is nothing more than an attempt to sweep a certain portion of the blame (or responsibility) for the current state of the economy under someone else’s rug.  In addition, the potentially negative impact of this “sin” tax would be exacerbated by the resulting changes in premium requirements by investors across the board due to the tax costs being passed on to them.  The potential drain on market liquidity and the resulting decrease in the capital available for struggling small-to-medium sized businesses would be hard to justify, especially for reasons of partisan politics.  So this proposed tax is not a viable solution or option in my mind, as it conceivably could lead to even more problems down the road as the state of our economy continues to evolve (or unwind). 

Finally, perhaps the biggest question in my mind is why do some of our elected government officials seem “hell bent” at times to make things worse for us rather than better (i.e., at both the micro and macro levels) in order to pursue partison based agendas?  This potentially dangerous bill needs to be dismissed (or vetoed) ASAP before it has a chance to cause serious long-term damage to our still frail (and unwinding) economy.  Click on the URL below to sign the revised “Financial-Transaction Tax is Detrimental to Many Industries” petition and have it forwarded to your representatives:’

Need for Massive Government Intervention Policies?

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At a sporting event, having no officiating at all would result in a very chaotic situation, whereas having  too much officiating would result in a game that might as well not be played.  Extending this analogy to the regulation of the American economy and securities industry, we  will always need a certain amount of “officiating” in order to maintain a level (and efficient) playing field for all players and to keep things from getting chaotic.  But a “massive” amount of officiating on a permanent basis (per Paul Krugman’s latest mantra) can result in the total fettering of the financial systems and the capital markets that they propagate, possibly resulting in societal chaos. The governmental approaches of the late1920s through the entire 1930’s should serve as a good case study (in general) of what works and what does not work in terms of particular actions taken and not taken (Ben Bernanke’s expertise), while keeping in mind that the playing field is now a lot bigger, faster, and more complicated (which again reinforces the need for some officiating, but not “massive” officiating). The premise here is that we want to continue to propitiate the competitive creativiity within the American financial industry, but we also need to define and enforce certain reasonable boundaries at the same time in order to keep the markets as efficient and seemless as possible.  Overall, my basic premise is that “enough” regulation needs to be in place in order to keep the speculation side of the coin from overwhelming (i.e., destroying) the risk management side of the coin, but not to the point where the markets become grossly inefficient due to a paucity of speculation.  So Paul Krugman’s “throwing out the baby with the bath water” mantra is not a good policy mandate in my book.

Quote: “The case for free markets never was that markets are perfect … [but] that government control of markets, especially asset markets, has always been much worse”. 

University of Chicago professor John Cochrane, in response to criticisms from Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and proponent of massive government intervention policies (click on link to peruse “How did Paul Krugman get it so Wrong?”).

Written by Larry Fry, CCP, MBA

November 25, 2009 at 1:25 pm