Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solar; Wind: China moves to address overcapacity in emerging sectors like wind power (And Polysilicon)

Update, immediately above.
Original post:
First, some talk (Aug. '09) From Xinhua:
China's State Council, the Cabinet, warned Wednesday of overcapacity in emerging sectors such as wind power, saying the country would move to "guide" development troubled by overcapacity and redundant projects.

Overcapacity has persisted in the steel and cement sectors, while redundant projects have surfaced in the emerging sectors of wind power and polysilicon, said a statement issued after an executive meeting of the State Council, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.

"Overcapacity and redundant projects remain prominent because of slow progress in industrial restructuring in some of these sectors," the statement said.

"Guidance" would be particularly enhanced on the development of steel, cement, plate glass, coal chemical, poly silicon, and wind power sectors, it said....MORE

Now some action. From Reuters:

China vows to crack down on industrial overcapacity

China's cabinet has laid out detailed plans to curb overcapacity in industries such as steel, aluminum, cement and wind power, warning that the country's economic recovery could otherwise be hampered.

In a reiteration of existing policy targets, the State Council said meeting the government's long-standing goal of reducing overcapacity was urgent because the result of inaction would be factory closures, job losses and rising bad bank loans.

"What especially requires our attention is that it is not only traditional industries such as steel and cement that suffer from productive overcapacity and are still blindly expanding," it said in a notice posted late on Tuesday on

While highlighting overcapacity in sectors such as steel and cement -- both energy-guzzling and polluting --, it also aimed at new industries such as wind power equipment and silicon....MORE

HT: for both links, Greentech.

Berkshire Hathaway: "Landmark Agreement to Remove 4 Klamath River Dams " (BRK.A)

Pacificorp is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy which is in turn majority owned by BRK. There is a bit of irony in the destruction of this cleanest of energy sources. It will be good for the salmon though.
From the New York Times:
In a development that could herald the largest dam removal in modern history, 29 parties signed a draft agreement today to destroy four dams on the Klamath River to restore salmon and steelhead runs that have been partially blocked for the better part of the past century on the California-Oregon border.

The agreement is the product of years of often bitter negotiations among electric utilities, government officials, commercial fishers, farmers, native tribes and environmental groups. It calls for the breaching and removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric plants owned and operated by PacifiCorp.

PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., appears ready to go along with the agreement when -- and if -- officials from Oregon, California and the Interior Department make the pact official through a number of policy measures.

"If the federal government and the states of California and Oregon sign onto this negotiated final settlement, then we will join with them and all the other stakeholder groups that may choose to sign this agreement," said Greg Abel, chairman and CEO of PacifiCorp.

Abel went on to say his company's top priority is "to keep our customers out of legal harm's way and keep their costs and risks as low as possible when compared against the option of relicensing the dams."

Translation: PacifiCorp executives appear ready to remove the dams rather than pursue expensive fish-saving modifications that would have cost the utility more than $300 million. A study by the California Energy Commission determined that dam removal would cost about $100 million less than the modifications....

...Under the agreement, PacifiCorp's ratepayers in Oregon would foot much of the bill, contributing up to $200 million for dam removal and river restoration. The agreement calls for proceedings at the Oregon and California public utilities commissions to raise money for removal through customer surcharges.

Oregon ratepayers would be responsible for up to $184 million of the project's cost. California ratepayers would be on the hook for far less, at no more than $16 million of the total cost.

If the project's costs go higher, the California Legislature would be expected to pass a bond for an additional $250 million, which is no easy feat in Sacramento's budget-constrained environment. Most estimates peg the cost of dam removal at no more than $200 million, making the bond issue unlikely....MORE

Live-blogger Extrordinaire: Maril Hazlett PhD, of the Climate+Energy Project

Update below.
Original post:
We've mentioned Doc Hazlett a few times. In "Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City..." I said: for Topeka, er, you decide. I would lose my mind doing MH's job.

Here's Maril Hazlett, PhD, of the estimable CEP and CEP blog...

...I could not do this task. I could not do it behind a mask. I would Ebonic/Teutonic ax and ask.
("Yes your Honor, I pead guilty to legicide, and if I could ax the Court...)...

...How can you do it, write policy suggestions (demands, diktats, I don't know how far you push them) for a state legislature and then live-blog the results...
...For the proceedings as they - proceed (sorry, my brain’s not in gear yet, late night) - please read more. Once things get started around 9:00 a.m.

Ack! They moved straight to final action! Ack! MH was not ready....
It's a really good thing the post was headlined "Live Blogging: April Fools, a carbon tax proposal! — actually, not a joke " or I'd have thought the Kansas House and Maril were having some fun at my expense.

Nope. That's real, live state-house politics as can be seen at one of fifty-odd (and I mean odd) venues, if not now, coming soon to a Capitol near you .

For some reason I am reminded of this story from the New York Times:

SANG TO AVOID A FIRE PANIC.; Opera Company Members Showed Presence of Mind at Syracuse....
Anyhoo, that long and disjointed intro leads to this, from Kansas City's The Pitch, Best Of Issue:

Best Topeka Correspondent

Maril Hazlett
Climate and Energy Project blog

Starting with packed public hearings in 2007, the controversy over new coal-fired power plants in Holcomb galvanized Kansans like no other environmental issue. As the political drama played out in Topeka, outraged citizens followed all the twists and turns like celebrity devotees itching to know who was heading to rehab. Maril Hazlett was Kansas coal's Perez Hilton. On the Land Institute's Climate and Energy Project blog, Hazlett has continued to monitor the pulse of a legislative battle that's still going on, sitting in every public meeting, updating her faithful with live coverage of key votes and committee showdowns. She captures lawmakers' dialogue and translates, into a layperson's terms, all the complicated jargon and institutional wrangling that go into public policy. And unlike her snarky and partisan brethren on the Internet, she plays it straight. Just the facts, from a friend in the know.

Update: It's not just Maril getting a little recognition. From the Columbia Journalism Review:
Journalism in the Heartland

A shout out to the Kansas City Star and the Salina (Kan.) Journal
Good journalism doesn’t just grow on the right and left coasts. Two papers in America’s middle show that good reporting is still possible in this Age of Decline. So we offer another kudos to the Kansas City Star for further exploration of the individual mandate—the requirement that every man, woman, and child in America must carry health insurance....

...This is not the time for editors to say “we’ve already done that story.”

Kudos to the Salina Journal and reporter Duane Schrag for showing that the government’s “more data, more transparency” mantra needs more critical scrutiny. Schrag stumbled on to an important story about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal watchdog for the Medicare program and the country’s nursing homes. They may not be doing much watching....

Is Switzerland trading Polanski for banking leniency?

Although it sounds like a DealBreaker headline, it's actually from Foreign Policy's Passport blog:

The L.A. Times' Joanna Neumann has a round-up of speculation that Switzerland's decision to finally arrest director Roman Polanski may have been a bid to earn leniency from U.S. legal authorities, who are currently investigating Swiss Bank UBS in an ongoing tax-evasion investigation.

On Sunday the AP accidently sent out an internal communication between two staffers speculating about the connection. The Swiss Justice minsitry has denied any connection between the arrest and any other issues.

The theory seems a bit unlikely. Despite the L.A. prosecutor's office's protestations, it doesn't really seem like pursuing Polanski has been a major priority for the justice department over the years, certainly not compared to the Obama administration's the high-profile crackdown on tax evasion....MORE

ReneSola Tumbles; Prices Secondary At 10.7% Discount (SOL)

We've said a few times, "Watch the balance sheets". With projections that up to half the solar players will fail in the next 1-2 years, liquidity is crucial.
From Tech Trader Daily:
ReneSola (SOL) shares are taking a hit today after the China-based solar company priced an offering of 15.5 million American depositary shares at $4.75, a discount of 10.7% to yesterday’s close at $5.32. The company has granted underwriters the option to sell another 2,325,000 shares to cover over-allotments....MORE

Financing Heating Up For Solar Industry

From Investor's Business Daily:

Lending is starting to flow a little more freely toward solar-power projects and providers, after a stall.

The industry, still beset by oversupply and reliant on government perks for survival, could use the help.

Financing "is one of the most important issues — maybe the most important," said John Hardy, a Broadpoint AmTech analyst.

It's all some projects need to move forward, he says. "For the most part, the (financing) math makes sense on good-quality projects," with a key tax credit's availability extended through 2016. On the other hand, he says, interest rates for funding solar projects are as much as 2% higher than a couple years ago.

On Tuesday, the top installer of solar power systems for U.S. homes, SolarCity, said it's doubled to $100 million a financing arrangement it has with U.S. Bancorp (USB). The tax-equity plan lets privately held SolarCity provide nothing-down "solar leases" to customers, who pay back over time as their new solar systems save money vs. old electric bills.

While banks remain selective, financing in the solar industry is better than it's been the past year, says Lyndon Rive, CEO of Foster City, Calif.-based SolarCity....MORE

Goldman Sachovia Would’ve Happened If Warren Buffett Hadn’t Stepped In And Pointed Out The Obvious (BRK.A; GS)

From DealBreaker:
The Oracle of Omaha. He’s not just good for marrying folksy business wisdom with aberrant sex fetish. He can also be counted on to bring up the pink elephant in the room (it helps if said elephant has huge cans) when no one else will. According to Andrew Ross Sorkin’s new book on the weeks following Lehman biting the big one, everybody was ready to sign off on a merger between Goldman and Wachovia until Buffett knocked his cane against some foreheads while asking, “Who does Hank Paulson work for? Think, McFly, think!”
Sorkin reports that the deal, which was nearly consummated, would have merged Goldman Sachs and Wachovia. Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary and former C.E.O. of Goldman, was deeply involved in the process, contacting both Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s current C.E.O., and a Wachovia board member, and strongly urged both to consider it. Wachovia’s C.E.O., Robert Steel, was a former vice-chairman at Goldman Sachs and Paulson’s former number two at the Treasury Department.

Sorkin reports that Warren Buffett was also contacted about investing in the merged company, but told a banker at Goldman that it would never happen. “By tonight the government will realize they can’t provide capital to a deal that’s being done by the former firm of the Treasury secretary with the company of a former vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs and former deputy Treasury secretary,” Buffett said.

“There is no way. They’ll all wake up and realize, even if it was the best deal in the world, they can’t do it.”

David Bowie’s Role in the Credit Crisis

We touched on this last year in "Grid: Lights Out: Five Years On, Is Another Big Blackout Likely?":
As David Bowie, electrical engineer and financier*, said in TVC15:

From Minyanville:

The financial crisis that began in August 2007 had relatively little to do with traditional bank lending…Its prime cause was the rise and fall of "securitized lending," which allowed banks to originate loans but then repackage and sell them out.
-- Niall Ferguson, The Ascent Of Money

The dust is still settling from the great market crash of 2008-09, and we still don’t know exactly who or what to blame. It might have been securitization, but it probably wasn’t David Bowie.

Securitization is the process of taking a group of assets and transforming them into a tradable security. By aggregating them into one large pool, investor risk is, in concept at least, distributed more evenly. Asset-backed securities resemble bonds in that they pay a fixed amount of interest over a specific time period.

These securities can be backed by mortgages, credit card debt, car loans, or anything else that will (theoretically) generate future cash flow.

Like song royalties, for instance.

In 1997, a fellow named David Pullman introduced the world to Bowie Bonds.

Bowie Bonds were securities backed by the future revenues from 25 David Bowie albums -- 287 songs in all -- that David Bowie recorded before 1990.

Pullman arranged to sell $55 million worth of 10-year bonds to Prudential, in what was the first high-profile case of securities backed by intellectual property.

What was in it for Bowie?

Oh, just $55 million upfront, as opposed to waiting for the gradual accumulation of his royalty income to reach that level -- plus, the rights reverted back to him after 10 years.

Prudential (PRU), which bought the entire issue, received the revenues generated by those 25 albums until the principal plus 8% interest was repaid. Pullman, of course, got his cut, as well -- about $6 million.

Some in the British press have accused Bowie Bonds of being the catalyst that brought the entire banking sector down.

Come again?

Yes, the London’s Daily Mirror claims the Thin White Duke (and David Pullman, by association) are responsible for the financial doldrums through which the world has been slogging for the past two years by creating the idea of securitization....MORE
*In 1997 Mr. Bowie sold the cash flow from his pre-1990 back-catalogue to Prudential et al via the Pullman Group for $55 million. Here's Fortune in 2003:
Wall Street's Green Genie

David Bowie cashed in at the perfect time. But what's the real story with his bonds now?

...Bowie and his deal were considered cutting-edge at the time (isn't he always?), but in retrospect the Diamond Dog is looking positively clairvoyant! (Bowie declined to speak to Street Life for this article, which is too bad because I had some fantastic ideas for costumes and such....) Think about it. Bowie sells the rights to his catalog in January 1997, before most of humankind had ever heard the little phrase "file sharing." (I call it file stealing.) How smart or lucky was that?...
Here's one of the songs that was included in the deal:

Solar: "Trina Solar Extends Contract; Suntech Completes Utility-Scale Solar Plant; LDK Solar Loses Ground" (TSL, STP, LDK)

Snappy headline eh? It's from 24/7 Wall Street. I'd try to adopt the tempo but there's a real risk it would just degenerate into the Daily News style: "Bar mitzvah perv jailed".

From 24/7:

Chinese solar PV maker Trina Solar Ltd. (TSL) has announced a five-year contract extension with another Chinese company that produces polysilicon and solar wafers. Trina plans to use the materials to produce about 8,500 megawatts of solar modules over the next 13 years.

The original contract began in April 2008 and was to run for eight years. This extension does not change any terms of that contract; it adds five years beginning in 2016 at already agreed-upon volumes and prices, though a price adjustment is possible based on market prices.

Meanwhile, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (STP) has completed a 10 megawatt PV solar generation plant in the Nigxia Autonomous Region of China. This is the first utility-scale PV plant in China, and Suntech plans to expand capacity to 50 megawatts by 2011. The newly-started plant will displace about 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually...MORE

Jesse Livermore: Lessons From A Legendary Trader

Sorry about the disappearing act, reality, in the form of a 30 minute 1% drop in the markets, intruded.
I told my favorite Livermore story last year during the hubbub of September '08: "Making Money the Jesse Livermore Way"
No, not short selling, that's socially unacceptable at present.
Today, the Jesse Livermore way is: GET LUCKY!...
It went on to relate the story of Jesse shorting Union Pacific during the spring of 1906 and having the stock move against him.

Today's piece is from Investopedia via Yahoo Finance:
Born in 1877, Jesse Livermore is one of the greatest traders that few people know about. While a book on his life written by Edwin Lefèvre, "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator" (1923), is highly regarded as a must-read for all traders, it deserves more than a passing recommendation. Livermore, who is the author of "How to Trade in Stocks"(1940), was one of the greatest traders of all time. At his peak in 1929, Jesse Livermore was worth $100 million, which in today's dollars roughly equates to $1.5-13 billion, depending on the index used....

...Price Patterns
Jesse did not have the convenience of modern-day charts to graph his price patterns. Instead, the patterns were simply prices that he kept track of in a ledger. He only liked trading in stocks that were moving in a trend, and avoided ranging markets. When prices approached a pivotal point, he waited to see how they reacted.

For instance, if a stock made a $50 low, bounced up to $60 and was now heading back down to $50, Jesse's rules stipulated waiting until the pivotal point was in play in order to trade. If that same stock moved to $48, he would enter a trade on the short side. If it bounced up off the $50 level, he would enter long at $52, closely watching the $60 level, which is also a "pivotal point." A rise above $60 would trigger an addition to the position (pyramiding) at $63, for example. Failure to penetrate or hold above $60 would result in a liquidation of the long positions. The $2 buffer on the breakout in this example is not exact; the buffer will differ based on stock price and volatility. We want a buffer between actual breakout and entry that allows us to get into the move early, but will result in fewer false breakouts.

While Jesse did not trade ranges, he did trade breakouts from ranging markets. He used a similar strategy as above, entering on a new high or low but using a buffer to reduce the likelihood of false breakouts.

Price patterns, combined with volume analysis, were also used to determine if the trade would be kept open. Some of the criteria Jesse used to determine if he was in the right position were:

  • Increased volume on breakout.
  • The first few days after the break prices should move in the breakout direction
  • A normal reaction occurs where prices retrace somewhat against the trend, but volume is lower on retracements than it was in the trending direction.
  • As the normal reaction ends, volume increases once again in the direction of the trend.
Deviations from these patterns were warning signals and, if confirmed by price movements back through pivotal points, indicated that exited or unrealized profits should be taken....MORE
Here's an online version of Reminiscences of a Stock Operator.
And how did Jesse's short of UNP work out?

...Then, at 5:12 AM - April 18, 1906- this happened:

San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 Earthquake.
San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 Earthquake.

Hurricane Watch: Berkshire, AIG Benefit From Drop in Atlantic Storms (BRK.A)

From Bloomberg:
Insurers including Warren Buffett’sBerkshire Hathaway Inc. and American International Group Inc. benefited from the absence of third-quarter storms this year after paying $12.5 billion in claims on Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The hurricane season has yielded a single U.S. landfall, Tropical Storm Claudette, which struck Florida last month. By this time in 2008, Hurricane Dolly had hit Texas, Gustav came ashore in Louisiana, Tropical Storm Hanna swiped the Carolinas and Ike lashed nine states, killing more than 100 people.

The calmer quarter will boost results for insurers after the recession eroded the value of their holdings and caused customers to reduce spending. The storms last year contributed to the industry’s $9.9 billion net loss in the third quarter, according to Insurance Services Office Inc.

“The insurance companies are going to have just phenomenally good earnings this quarter because of the lack of hurricanes,” said Michael Paisan, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Also, he said, “you are going to get some boost from the financial markets” as insurers’ portfolios recover.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, with the greatest activity usually in September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on its Web site. The season has so far defied NOAA’s May prediction of four to seven hurricanes. Bill and Fred have been the only hurricanes to form in the Atlantic this year. Both missed the U.S.

“The last time we had a year that quiet was in 1997,” said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground Inc., an Internet weather service based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “As far as damage goes, you can pretty much say coastal erosion from Bill is all we’ve had.”

Wildfires, Tornadoes

The 2008 hurricane season was the most expensive since 2005, when Katrina, Wilma and Rita contributed to more than $60 billion in U.S. catastrophe claims, according to ISO.

The industry also paid out last year after wildfires in California and a record number of tornadoes in the first six months. This year, about 1,057 tornadoes have struck the U.S., down about 34 percent from the first nine months of 2008, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. This year’s tally may drop further when the service investigates storm data and compiles official statistics....MORE

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Options: "Beating the Odds - Susquehanna International - Jeff Yass"

Some after-the-close reading, recommended by Kedrosky. From Philadelphia Magazine:

Jeff Yass was always a little different from his peers — a brilliant young man taken with poker and horse racing and the power of rational decision-making. He’s used all of it to turn his company — Bala Cynwyd’s stealthy and mysterious Susquehanna International — into one of the world’s most lucrative and powerful financial firms

LET'S PLAY A game. Let’s say you’re a contestant on Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall’s game show from a generation ago. It’s your moment. There are three doors. Behind one door is a brand-new Camaro. Behind each of the other doors, there’s a goat. If you pick the right door, the Camaro is yours.

Silky-voiced Monty Hall gives you the big question:

“Do you pick door number one, door number two or door number three?”

The studio audience weighs in, and tension builds, as you think. Finally you pick, let’s say, door number one. But Carol Merrill, Monty’s assistant, doesn’t open it, not yet. Instead, Monty Hall directs Carol to open one of the other doors — door number two, say. Behind that door is … a goat. The audience titters nervously — that Camaro, still hidden, might yet be yours.

First, though, Monty is going to give you another choice. He’s going to give you both an option, and a dilemma:

“Would you like to stay with door number one,” he asks, “or would you like to switch to door number three?”

You ponder. But it’s a no-brainer, right? With two doors left, there’s a 50-50 chance the Camaro is behind either one. So you might as well stick with door number one.

Now I’m going to quote a man named Jeff Yass, from a book called The New Market Wizards. These words have made him very rich:

“The correct answer is that you should always switch to door number three. The probability that the prize is behind one of the two doors you did not pick was originally two-thirds. The fact that Monty opens one of those two doors and there is nothing behind it doesn’t change this original probability, because he will always open the wrong door.”

That’s what you didn’t consider: Monty Hall knows exactly where that Camaro is parked, and he wasn’t about to direct Carol to open a door that revealed it — no, he’s going to stretch out the game, to have fun with you, to see if, in your finger-crossed begging of the fates, you’ll switch doors.

And that’s the thing — your intuition is telling you, with two doors left, that the odds have got to be 50-50. But that’s wrong. The door you picked originally had a one-third chance of yielding that Camaro; Monty Hall picking a door he knows doesn’t hide the car won’t make it more likely that your door does.

Back to Jeff Yass:

“Therefore, if the probability of the prize being behind one of those [other] two doors was two-thirds originally, the probability of it being behind the unopened of those two doors must still be two-thirds.”

If this sort of thing makes you cross-eyed, suffice it to say that an empire has been built in Bala Cynwyd by Jeff Yass based not on numbers, but on a philosophy, a certain worldview. A world in which Monty Hall will always open the wrong door, so to speak.

But Jeff Yass isn’t just some numbers-obsessed geek — no, he honed his idea of the way things work playing poker and betting on the horses in college, then spent a year or so at the gaming tables in Vegas before he returned East, got a seat on the Philly stock exchange, and reportedly became the youngest trader there ever to make a million dollars in a year. Those who know him say he’s just about the most brilliant guy they have ever met.

One perspective of brilliance is to take something complicated and break it down to something quite simple. It would seem that Let’s Make a Deal could not possibly be in need of getting simpler. That’s where Jeff Yass sees something the rest of us don’t. He’s now the brains behind Susquehanna International, an options and equity trading company based in Bala that, on any given day, might trade the financial equivalent of three percent of the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Billions of dollars’ worth.

Yass learned to make utterly rational choices again and again and again and again, in a game fraught with as much desire and crazy behavior and silliness — with as much raw emotion — as rabbit-ear-wearing contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. That’s Jeff Yass’s brilliance. The world according to Yass runs on figuring out which door to open. While the rest of us might think we know the answer, he asks a question. The question is: What’s Monty Hall thinking?

very well be the biggest privately held options trading company in the world. Over two decades, Jeff Yass and five other founders and many people who work for them — they now employ 1,500, with offices all over the globe — have become very, very rich. Despite the size, secrecy pervades Susquehanna. Stealth is a word that former employees use often in describing the company m.o. A former trader defines it: If you have to choose between fame and fortune, choose fortune. Susquehanna buys and sells options and stocks quickly, in hundreds of thousands of transactions a day, yet it has remained largely below the radar even as it shapes the markets it plays in.....MORE

HT: Infectious Greed whose pitch was:
Stop whatever it is you're pretending to do and read this great new article on Susquehanna International.

GE Revives Indian Wind Business as Subsidies Improve

From Bloomberg:
General Electric Co., the biggest maker of power-generation equipment, is reviving its Indian wind-turbine business after a four-year absence because the government has improved incentives.

Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE said this month it will build wind turbines in south India with an annual capacity to produce 300 machines of 1.5 megawatts each. Customers have been lined up to buy some of these, Steve Bolze, president and chief executive of GE’s Power & Water business, said in an interview.

The Indian government has changed its subsidy program to favor wind-energy generation rather than investment in turbines, aiming to speed development of electricity from clean energy.

“As you shift more to generation-based, customers have greater incentive to produce power or to expand the number of wind turbines on a given farm,” Bolze said last week in New Delhi.

The move for GE is a way to reduce its dependence on the U.S. market, said Keith Hays, director of research at Emerging Energy Research in Barcelona, Spain.

“The U.S. wind market grew very quickly over the past couple of years but as the financial crisis set in, GE was particularly exposed to that regional dependence,” he said. “There’s been a steady shift over the last six to nine months of GE looking more and more at international markets.”>>>MORE

The ‘smoking gun’ in [natural gas]

From FT Alphaville:

Nymex natgas futures rolled from the October to the November contract on Monday. The effect of which was as follows:

Natural Gas - Nymex

Nymex nat gas 3 months

The above move comes despite more than ample supply in the physical prompt market, leading analysts to increasingly speculate that the price action must be linked to fears of very cold weather this winter — something which makes those mysterious January call options at $10, taken out last month by an unknown hedge fund, much easier to rationalise....MORE

We noted the weather angle earlier this morning in "Oil market "teetering on the edge," warns Verleger (44% Drop?!)". Just to emphasize:
Northeast-cold-fuel oil
Midwest-not so cold-natural gas
Stay warm.

Fertilizer Wars Heat Up Again (CF, TRA, AGU, MOO)

From 24/7 Wall Street:

Fertilizer maker CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (CF) said it has purchased 7% of the shares of competitor Terra Industries Inc. (TRA) on the open market. CF has also renewed its offer to purchase the remaining shares of Terra, this time for about $4 billion. The latest offer values Terra at about $40/share and includes a $7.50/share adjustment to pay for a special dividend that Terra proposes to issue to its shareholders.

CF Industries is itself trying to resist a buyout from Canadian fertilizer maker Agrium Inc. (AGU), which last week extended its exchange offer for CF until October 22nd. That offer includes $40/share in cash plus one share of Agrium stock for each share of CF stock.

Fertilizer shares have been climbing slowly since last December, but with the exception of Terra, share prices are either flat or down over the last 52 weeks....MORE

Fannie Mae Serious Delinquency Rate increases Sharply (FNM)

Housing is not out of the woods yet. From Calculated Risk:
Here is a hockey stick graph ...

Fannie Mae Seriously Delinquent Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

Fannie Mae reported that the serious delinquency rate for conventional loans in its single-family guarantee business increased to 4.17 percent in July, up from 3.94 percent in June - and up from 1.45% in July 2008....MORE

Carbon Trading: Al Gore No Score "Camco slumps after results; KBC cuts to hold" (CAO.L)

Mr. Gore's Generation Investment Management owns 13.76% of CAO.
From Reuters via Forbes:

Shares in Camco International fall 18 percent after the carbon offset aggregator says in its interim results statement it still expects a full-year loss despite seeing signs of recovery in its key markets.

KBC Peel Hunt cuts its recommendation on the stock to 'Hold' from 'Buy', citing a strong recent performance from the shares and the weak carbon price....

Reuters gave us a heads up three weeks ago:

Camco pursues other business amid uncertainty: CEO
Carbon offset aggregator Camco International (CAMIN.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is looking for other ways to make money due to poor market conditions stemming from uncertainties surrounding a new global climate pact, its CEO said on Tuesday.

Jeff Kenna expects a basic framework agreement to be reached at United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December, but said the exact details will not follow for at least another year, meaning more uncertainty for firms operating under the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

"To hedge against this uncertainty, we're building up a third wing of our business," said Kenna.

UK-based Camco is eyeing investment in clean energy projects to complement its existing business, which includes selling carbon offsets and advisory services.

Kenna said Camco helps project developers raise capital with a view to earning profit from the project's electricity and waste gas sales, as well as through selling offsets.

"Putting money into projects needs a lot of capital, which we don't have, so we work with the project developers to source that capital," Kenna said.

"Particularly in the U.S. there is a lot of activity but also a lot of a project developers who are under-capitalized.">>>MORE
Here's the full Reuters story on Camco's results:
Camco narrows H1 loss, sees signs of recovery
Here are our recent posts on Camco:
Carbon Trading-Al Gore, Score! "Camco says made 'solid' start to year'
Carbon: Al Gore, Score! Camco Int'l posts maiden full-year profit (CAO.L)

Al Gore. No Score: Camco shares fall on delay of '08 results release (CAO.l; CAMIN.L)

Al Gore: Score! Generation Investment Management ups Stake in Camco International (CAMIN.L; CAO.L)

Carbon Trading: Camco cuts 2008 outlook (CAMIN.L)

Hurricane Watch: "Slowest September in the tropics since 1997"

Worldwide, Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is approaching, and Northern Hemisphere is at, 30-year record lows, see second link*. From Ken Kaye's Storm Center:

Assuming no more storms form by Wednesday, this will be the slowest September, tropically speaking, in 12 years.

That would be since 1997.

Only two named systems have emerged this month, including Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Fred.

Pretty incredible, considering September is historically the most active month, seeing on average 4 named storms, including two hurricanes.

Again, the main reason this month – and the season so far – has been relatively calm: El Niño, which has created storm suppressing wind shear.

In September 1997 (another El Niño year, by the way), only one system developed: Hurricane Erika (pictured at right). Like this year’s Fred, it reached Category 3 strength.

All told, only seven named storms formed in 1997. Amazingly, no systems formed at all that August, normally a busy month....MORE

From Ryan N. Maue, Florida State University:
*September 11: After two years (2007-2008) of dramatically below normal Northern Hemisphere and Global hurricane activity, 2009 has actually (year-to-date) managed LESS Accmulated Cyclone Energy! 2009 is currently the second slowest Northern Hemisphere ACE year-to-date behind 1981 in the past 30-years. Here is a text list of the previous September 11 to-date totals for NH ACE. LIST

...Tropical Cyclone ACE Update

Figure: 24-month running sum of tropical cyclone accumulated cyclone energy for the entire globe (top black squares / time series) and the Northern Hemisphere only (bottom green squares / time series). The difference between the two time series is the Southern Hemisphere total. Data is shown from January 1979 - August 15, 2009 mainly because intensity estimates of SH cyclones are often missing in the JTWC best-tracks prior to 1980. See notes.

Figure: 24-month running sums of tropical cyclone ACE for a combination of basins of the Northern Hemisphere. The Western North Pacific, Eastern North Pacific, and the Northern Indian Ocean typically sees more activity than the Eastern Pacific and North Atlantic combined. However, during the strong La Nina event of 1998-1999, the very quiet WPAC TC activity was exceeded by the NATL and EPAC combined. The two time series are correlated at R = 0.56 but of course are not independent....MORE

Oil market "teetering on the edge," warns Verleger (44% Drop?!)

Note on weather below links.
We saw Mr. Verlager quoted at Bloomberg last week, here he is at Platt's The Barrel blog:
Are oil prices about to take a dive? Analyst Philip Verleger thinks so. "The oil market is teetering on the edge," Verleger said in a report. "Prices will fall sharply absent immediate and dramatic action."

Citing poor refinery margins, Verleger argued that producers need to cut crude production. "Some country or combination of countries needs to reduce output two million barrels per day," he said. "The cuts should take effect October 1, 2009."

Because margins are so poor, demand for crude will sink, and prices will not hold in the $65-75/barrel range cited by technicians. "OPEC, the IEA, and the 'experts' cited by the major financial newspapers may see balance in the world crude market. Refiners do not. To be exact, they see nothing but red ink," Verleger said. "In these circumstances they curtail runs."...MORE

HT: Environmental Capital

Here he is in Bloomberg, Sep. 21:

Oil Options Hit Highs as Verleger Predicts 44% Plunge

Oil traders are paying more than ever in the options market to protect against a plunge in crude prices.

The gap between prices of options betting on a decline and those that would profit from a rise in oil widened to a record 10 percentage points, according to five years of data compiled by Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch. Crude stockpiles in the U.S. are 14 percent larger than a year ago and OPEC is pumping 600,000 barrels a day more than the world needs, according to the International Energy Agency.

While the recovery from the first global recession since World War II pushed oil up 62 percent this year to $72.04 a barrel in New York, growth alone isn’t likely to erode the glut by the end of next year because production exceeds demand, data from the Paris-based IEA shows. A drop in prices would penalize companies from Exxon Mobil Corp. to BP Plc and exporters Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“If ever there was going to be a retreat below $60 a barrel, it is now,” Stephen Schork, president of consultant Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania, said in a telephone interview. “It was a very weak summer. We came out with more gasoline than we started.”...

...“There’s all this heating oil with no place to go,” Philip Verleger, a professor at the University of Calgary and head of consultant PKVerleger LLC, said in a phone interview. “I’m fairly certain we’ll see prices in the $30s this year.”>>>MORE
Some smart commodity meteorologists are forecasting the coldest winter in ten years for the U.S. Northeast, and a more moderate winter for the Midwest, which mainly heats with natural gas.

Natural Gas Feint Means Prices Poised to Plummet 19%

The "plummet" in the headline is relative. As the story says, the run-up has been dramatic. The futures were recently trading down a dime. From Bloomberg:
The steepest rally in natural gas prices since 2006 is coming to an end as the 400 salt caverns, depleted oil fields and aquifers used to store the fuel in the U.S. reach capacity for the first time.

Stockpiles may surpass the record of 3.545 trillion cubic feet by as much as 350 billion cubic feet this fall, Energy Department estimates show. Gulf South Pipeline Co. says its fields in Louisiana and Mississippi are so full that customers will have to pay penalties for exceeding their limits. With no place to go, producers will be forced to dump excess fuel on the market.

The worst economic slump since the 1930s will cut demand from chemical plants to carmakers to households by 2.4 percent this year, according to government estimates. The November futures contract will drop about 19 percent to near $4 per million British thermal units, said Stephen Schork, president of consultant Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

“I don’t know where all of this gas is going to go,” said Schork, a former natural gas trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange, who in June forecast inventories would reach near 3.8 trillion cubic feet. “We’re a month away from significant heating demand. Something’s got to give.”

The November contract has climbed 32 percent from its low of $3.662 per million Btu on Sept. 3, after economic reports signaled that the recession is ending and fuel demand will rebound in 2010. October futures, which expired today, gained 49 percent from a seven-year low of $2.508 in the same period....MORE

Monday, September 28, 2009

Earnings Revisions at a Two Year High

This is one of the reasons I said two weeks ago, in "Sign of a top? MarketBeat Asks: "Is the “Bear Market Rally” Theory Dead?":
Nah, not yet. Maybe S&P 1125 (currently 1065), sometime in October. (There! I said it)...
The earnings bar had been set so low that you could just step over it. From Bespoke Investment Group:
While the flow of earnings reports has been slow in recent weeks, analysts have become increasingly bullish on the companies they cover. Our daily tracking of analyst revisions for stocks in the S&P 1500 shows that over the last four weeks, 578 companies in the S&P 1500 have seen their earnings estimates increase, while 389 have seen their numbers cut. This works out to a net of 189, or 12.6% of the index. As shown in the chart below, this is the highest level since at least the start of 2008 (red line), and is a major improvement off of where we were six months ago, when the net earnings revision ratio was closer to "-50%". While analysts are typically thought of as being behind the curve, so far this year they have done a good job of leading the market. When equities bottomed in March (blue line), analyst revisions were already well off their lows of the year....MORE, including a chart of revisions plotted against the S&P (currently 1062.98)

Barclay’s Raises CSCO to Overweight; Target $28 (CSCO)

Long time readers know: we are fans. The stock was recently trading at $23.58, up 4.24%
From Tech Trader Daily:
Raising estimates on expectations of stronger spending by telephone companies, Barclay’s Capital analyst Jeff Kvaal today raised his rating on Cisco Systems (CSCO) to “Overweight” from “Equal Weight” and raised his price target to $28 from $24. Cisco shares are up $1.12, or 5%, at $23.75....MORE
Barclay's overweight/equal weight/underweight rating system gets kinda funny when they talk Weight Watchers, currently at "Underweight".

Solar: "Italy proposes policy changes: New FiT looms" (TSL)

Trina shareholders should keep an eye on this as TSL has an approximate 25% market share in Italy AND is not in the BIPV biz.
From PV-Tech:

Earlier this month, the two main bodies in the Italian renewable energy world, Gruppo Imprese Fotovoltaiche Italiane (GIFI), the Italian Photovoltaic Association, and Federazione Nazionale Imprese Elettrotecniche ed Elettroniche (ANIE), proposed a new set of Feed in Tariffs (FiT) for Italy, which are planned for 2011, according to a Barclays Solar report.

Adding to the list of countries that have recently made changes to PV incentive proposals, Italy has made the decision to lower the FiT rate depending on system size and type. The new proposal separates installations into two segments: Ground Mounted and Rooftop.

Within these two segments, installations are separated into five different categories depending on system size. The proposal lowers FiTs between 5% for the smallest installations and 30% for the largest installations.

The proposal states that the installations for the smallest rooftop and ground-mounted systems (ranging from 1-6kWp) would decline 5% vs 2010 feed in tariffs. For projects ranging from 6-20kWp, tariffs would decline by 7% from 2010 levels, and for 20-200kWp, tariffs would decline by 14%. Ground mounted systems tariffs for projects 200kWp to 1MW would decline by 16% while tariffs for rooftop projects would decline by 22.5%. For projects greater than 1MW, tariffs for ground mounted projects would decline by 30% while tariffs for rooftop projects would decline by 27% from 2010 feed in tariffs.

Similarly to France, Italy is placing emphasis on built in PV, as tariffs for BIPV systems are proposed to be 25% more than a non-BIPV equivalent project. A bonus is also proposed for projects located in non-ideal locations such as landfills. For these projects subsidies are proposed to be 110% of the project equivalent....MORE

A Serious Warning From the Federal Reserve about Interest Rates

From Economic Policy Journal:
This gets a bit technical, but the Federal Reserve is flashing that there could be serious, I am talking major league serious, interest rate hikes down the road.

The first clue to this was last week Thursday's report out of FT that the Fed may use mutual funds as a source to shrink Fed reserves by conducting reverse repurchase agreements with the the funds. When something like this is leaked by the Fed, they are trying to alert the markets so they won't be surprised by such a move when it occurs. As I wrote last week, I saw one reason for this move as the Fed:
...contemplating doing this, if banks start to lend against excess reserves, as a back up to Bernanke's plan to control money growth via the interest rate it pays on excess reserves.
Okay, so the Fed has a back up plan, but now there is an interesting story in WSJ's weekend edition headlined: Official Sees Aggressive Rate Boosts in the Offing....MORE

"Armageddon: Comets vs Asteroids" Plus a Special Bonus: "10 Ways the World Could End and How to Play Them"

From the Physics arXiv blog:
Should we be more worried about Earth-impacting comets than asteroids?

The three largest impact craters on Earth are Vredefort (250km across), Sudbury (200 km across) and Chicxulub (170km). Most astronomers assume that these were created by asteroids roughly 10 kilometers across. But what of the possibility that comets may have been responsible one or more of these impacts?

Today David Minton and Renu Malhotra from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona present some interesting calculations about the rate at which planet smashing asteroids are sent our way.

Contrary to the conventional view, the asteroid belt is a vibrant, dynamic region of the solar system with a complex structure. This is the result of the gravitational interaction of the major planets. This sets up orbital resonances which, over billions of years, have scoured the belt clean in various places. The famous Kirkwood gaps are one result of this process....MORE

From "10 Ways the World Could End and How to Play Them":

  • ...Biblical apocalypse. Hey, over 1 billion people on the planet believe this could happen so we have to take it seriously. News Corp (NWS Quote), which owns the largest bible publisher, Zondervan, would benefit....

Ill Winds: China’s Wind-Power Push Means More Coal

A follow up to the post immediately below, "China becomes world's largest energy producer". I saw the journal story on China wind/coal but spaced it. Here Environmental Capital does the intro:

Strange, but true: China’s explosive growth in wind power seems to be accelerating the construction of coal-fired power plants. The Wall Street Journal reports today:

[O]fficials want enough new coal-fired capacity in reserve so that they can meet demand whenever the wind doesn’t blow…”China will need to add a substantial amount of coal-fired power capacity by 2020 in line with its expanding economy, and the idea is to bring some of the capacity earlier than necessary in order to facilitate the wind-power transmission,” said Shi Pengfei, vice president of the Chinese Wind Power Association.

That doesn’t just mean more coal plants in one part of the country while other parts of the country build massive new wind farms. Coal is still king even in regions that are becoming poster children for China’s clean-energy push, such as Jiuquan. Adds the WSJ:

Wind turbines with a combined capacity of 12.7 gigawatts are due to be installed there by 2015—more than the country’s present nuclear-power capacity. But the Jiuquan government wants to build 9.2 gigawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity as well, for use when the winds aren’t favorable. That’s equivalent to the entire generating capacity of Hungary.

China’s increased use of clean energy wins no shortage of applause. But the reality is still coal-black, as Chinese officials themselves keep stressing. (Oh dear, does that count as panda-thumping too?)...MORE

Meanwhile, at Naked Capitalism, here's Yves Antidote du Jour from Thursday:

Antidote du Jour

Links return on Sept. 30….


China becomes world's largest energy producer

From Peoples Daily:
In the 60 years since the founding of New China, China's energy supply capacity has developed from weak to strong, and the country has become the world’s largest energy producer. This is according to Zhang Guobao, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and director of the National Energy Administration speaking at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on the morning of September 25.

Zhang said that in terms of energy supply, China has become the world's largest energy producer maintaining an energy self-sufficiency rate of over 90 percent, and safeguarding national energy security....MORE

Stimulus Funds Speed Transformation Toward 'Smart Grid' (CSCO)

From the Wall Street Journal:
After struggling to sell cutting-edge products to utilities, technology companies are sensing better times ahead with the influx of $4.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for so-called smart-grid projects....

...North American utilities are expected to spend $10.75 billion on computer hardware, software and services related to the smart grid this year, up from $7.56 billion in 2008, according to research company IDC Energy Insights.

The smart-grid market "may be bigger than the whole Internet," said John Chambers, chief executive of networking giant Cisco.

Federal assistance "will accelerate the progress of projects [for many utilities] from pilots to full-scaled deployments," said Todd Arnold, senior vice president at Duke Energy Corp.

The Charlotte, N.C., company started installing advanced meters in Ohio last year as part of the utility's five-year, $1 billion smart-grid initiative.

Duke in August requested $200 million in federal funds to cover a quarter of the cost of installing two million advanced meters in Ohio and Indiana. The meters transmit readings wirelessly to utilities and customers and allow the creation of data portals to monitor energy use.

Ambient Corp. of Newton, Mass., started working with Duke in 2005, suggesting ways the utility might use Ambient's communications modules to scoop up data from smart meters to boost grid intelligence. But activity picked up only recently. Ambient last month wrote a letter to the DOE supporting Duke's smart-grid application and this month inked a deal to sell large numbers of modules to the utility, said John Joyce, Ambient's president.

The influx of stimulus dollars "is clearly significant for a firm like Ambient" because it stimulates investment in general and "will make us bigger" as utilities add projects, he said. Ambient had 2008 sales of $15 million but declined to give the value of its deal with Duke.

Competition for the stimulus grants has been fierce. The DOE last month received roughly 570 applications from utilities requesting as much as $14.6 billion in smart-grid funds -- more than three times the amount available. Grants can be as much as $200 million per project and represent as much as half of a project's cost....MORE

Applied Materials: Upgraded to Buy at Citigroup; Added to Top Picks List (AMAT)

The stock is up 3% at $13.50. From Notable Calls:
Citigroup's Semi Equipment team is upgrading Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) to Buy from Hold and adding it to Top Picks Live (Citi’s focus list) based on significant new SunFab wins, upcoming cost savings and a renewed focus on silicon share....
...Positive Catalysts Align — Based on checks at the Hamburg solar show, Citigroup now believes AMAT is about to sign a significant second wave of SunFab lines including four new lines (~300MW total) in India. While the ultimate success of SunFab remains debatable given how fast pricing is collapsing, the addition of new customers, more clarity on its cost cutting and up to ~$1B savings (mostly focused in sales/service/solar), some undiscovered margin leverage headed into 2010 and its new-found focus on regaining silicon share should be enough to drive the stock higher. Lastly, as the largest equipment provider to the global solar industry, it should benefit from big MW growth in 2010 and simultaneously avoid most of the pricing compression that will continue to plague cell/module makers.....MORE

You Know You're in a Rent-Seeking Business When...

The headline is "Top 5 Tips for Cleantech Startups Headed to Washington" and the first tip is:
Don’t hire a lobbying firm first. Before ever stepping foot in D.C., identify which issues you think you can add value to...

Light Bulbs: "As C.F.L. Sales Fall, More Incentives Urged" (GE)

From the New York Times:

An official at the Department of Energy’s Energy Star program has issued a grim assessment of the market for compact florescent light bulbs, or C.F.L.s, and is urging that funding for utility incentive programs be intensified.

In a September 18 letter to C.F.L. industry stakeholders, Richard Karney, Energy Star products manager, said that national sales of the bulbs have declined 25 percent from their peak in 2007, with sales in some regions such as Vermont and parts of Massachusetts declining 35 to 50 percent. Further, he noted, shipments of C.F.L.s — which are supposed to last far longer than traditional incandescents –are down 49 percent in 2009 over 2007 levels.

“The market for C.F.L.s is far from transformed,” Mr. Karney wrote. “Based on additional data and analysis that D.O.E. has continued to gather, it’s apparent that the market is headed in the wrong direction.”

Even as sales drop, sponsors of incentive programs report they are facing “severe challenges” in getting continued funding for programs for basic C.F.L.s, according to Mr. Karney. “I am concerned, should these programs experience cuts in funding or outright cancellation, many of the gains we have achieved with this market in the last couple of years could be reversed,” he wrote.

Despite more than a decade of costly C.F.L. promotions — including giveaways, discounted prices and rebates — the bulbs have failed to capture the hearts (and sockets) of American consumers. Mr. Karney said that in regions where C.F.L. campaigns have been heaviest, 75 percent of screw-based sockets still contain incandescents. Nationally, about 90 percent of residential sockets are still occupied by incandescents, D.O.E. has reported....MORE
GE and Phillips mounted a huge lobbying campaign to outlaw incandescent bulbs in the U.S. GE is closing all their U.S. light bulb manufacturing and moving the jobs to China:

How many lobbyists does it take to change a light bulb?

Had Thomas Edison employed the same business strategy as his 21st-Century heirs at General Electric, he would have lobbied Congress to outlaw the candle in 1879 when he perfected and patented the light bulb.

He surely could have masked his self-interested lobbying in some public interest claim, such as fire prevention or the need for wax conservation. Today, the mask is environmentalism.

Earlier this month, Thomas Edison’s GE, together with Sylvania and Philips won a legislative victory when Congress passed an energy bill that would outlaw sale of the standard light bulb by 2012.

Sylvania is the leading light bulb maker worldwide, and GE is tops in America. These two companies, together with Dutch-based Royal Phillips Electronics, concede they basically wrote the new light bulb law. It goes without saying that they stand to profit from it — at consumer expense....

G.E. screwing the American worker one light bulb at a time

You probably missed it because these news items got no fanfare in our Jerry Springeresque corporate media's desire to distract us with inane stupidity like the unlovable loser's Mark Sanford and his wife. In small town America in places like Lexington, Kentucky, Winchester, Va. or Niles, Ohio G.E. continued the giant sell out of America by announcing plant closing of light bulb plants in these towns.

Oh its only 203 here or 125 there and besides the incandescent light bulb industry has been declining and by 2014 you won't even be able to use it. We will have to use more energy efficient CFL bulbs by then.

For years in places like Niles, Ohio jobs making light bulbs paid salaries that allowed Middle Class Americans to buy homes, put children through college, and create vibrant communities that taught us all real honest American values, like working hard and playing by the rules. Something lost on our ethically challenged corporate and governmental leadership.

Since 1980 employment at G.E, light bulb plants has been outsourced to the point that 68% of the jobs now are elsewhere. Most of that has gone to China. ...
GE to Ohio: Turn off your light-bulb factories

So much for "These are jobs that can't be outsourced..."

Iran Tests Longest Range Missle

From the BBC:

Iran has successfully test-fired some of the longest range missiles in its arsenal, state media say.

The Revolutionary Guards tested the Shahab-3 and Sajjil rockets, which are believed to have ranges of up to 2,000km (1,240 miles), reports said.

The missiles' range could potentially permit them to reach Israel and US bases in the Gulf, analysts say....MORE

From our July '08 post "Oil: Apparently There's Even More to the Iran Missile Story" (remember that missle test?*):

I may have been premature in posting "Oil: Iran has Photoshop, not afraid to use it"*
From a genius, cowicide, via flickr:

More Cowbell

Don't fear the reaper.

*I swiped that headline from the Waco Tribune. The Guardian asks "Has Iran joined the axis of Photoshop?" As the New York Times put it...