Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stocks rally, Wall Street in "fantasyland"

What a manic-depressive market we have.

Stocks soared today in US trading, erasing most of yesterday's losses in the Dow Industrials and S&P 500 index. What was the inspiration for this turnaround? Increased corporate profits? Surprising news of economic strength? Heavy fund buying of bargain shares?

No. It was a government plan to make things "all better".

Bloomberg has the story:

"U.S. stocks rallied the most in six years on prospects the government will formulate a ``permanent'' plan to shore up financial markets, while regulators and pension funds took steps to curb bets against banks and brokerages.

Traders erupted into cheers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 617 points from its low of the day after Senator Charles Schumer proposed a new agency to pump capital into financial companies. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 4.3 percent as 68 companies in the gauge rose more than 10 percent. "

It seems we've now had our Karachi moment, and we didn't even have to tear down the stock exchange to get those artificial market supports in!

Marc Faber spoke to Bloomberg today, responding to questions about the recent market declines and a supposed need for more government actions to "calm the markets".

He said that the markets may rally off an oversold condition, but if investors are looking for a new high and a resumption of the bull market, they are in "fantasyland".

Marc also noted that the AIG bailout is a nice deal for the Treasury, who can borrow money at "essentially no cost" by issuing Treasury bills, while lending that money to AIG at a ten percent interest rate. So the government can make a nice spread, while having first call on AIG's assets.

Despite the favorable terms of the AIG bailout, Faber feels that government interventions in the financial markets are interfering with the market's ability to wash out the excesses and frauds of the previous boom.

He notes that the best course of action is to accept the pain and allow a financial crisis to burn its way through the system, so that market readjustments can come about quickly and soundly.

Having no bank directorship or company stock options to protect, I'm in agreement with Marc Faber on this issue.

How about you? Do you feel that government plans to support the markets and failing companies inspire confidence and promote sound financial health? Let's hear it.