Saturday, February 27, 2010

For those folks who think Cleantech stocks Correlate with Oil prices--pthhhhhh. (PBW; USO)

A graphic comparison of Friday mid-day action. USO is the United States Oil Fund, PBW is the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF. From Schaeffer's Research:

...Most of the sector action is quiet as well. Today's strongest group is the US Oil Fund (USO). The PowerShares Clean Energy ETF (PBW) is the weakest area. Those are the only two areas from my list to move 1%.

"Short-term Bottom for Euro "

Although we've been bearish on the Euro since November it might be time for the buck to take a breather before resuming a run up to EUR/USD $1.25 from the current $1.3632.
From The Market Oracle a big old chart:

...That said, we all recognize that within such a powerful intermediate-term downtrend that fundamental surprises likely will trigger euro selling, which has been the case for the past two weeks – within the oversold condition. Nonetheless, the short euro trade is becoming increasingly crowded and vulnerable to a sharp, quick short-covering spike towards 1.3800 and possibly 1.4000 prior to the sustained resumption of the dominant downtrend.

Gold should benefit as the euro strengthens, as we noted in detail in our Charts of the Week this week and in our chart analysis of the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE: GDX) and SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE: GLD).

MarketBeat's Energy and Metals Monthly Wrap-up

From MarketBeat:

Nymex crude for April delivery rose $6.77 per barrel this month, or 9.29% to $79.66.

  • Biggest monthly dollar and percentage gained since May 2009.
  • This week, it is down 40 cents, or 0.50%
  • Today, it is up $1.49, or 1.91%.
  • Intraday, it traded as high as $80.05, and as low as $77.82.

Nymex natural gas for April delivery lost 31.80 cents per million BTU’s this month, or 6.20% to $4.813.

  • This week, it is now down 24.4 cents, or 4.82%.
  • Today, it is up 4.6 cents, or 0.96%.
  • Year-to-date, it is down 13.62%.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Have a Great Weekend--"And other peoples, they have to work"

Our readers can kick back,

Enjoy your blood money Monopoly Man.

While I'll be in the office, quoting a line from Sweet Jane:

Standing on the corner,
Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset, and Jane is her vest,
And me I'm in a rock'n'roll band Hah!
Ridin' in a Stutz Bear Cat, Jim
You know, those were different times!
Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse
And those ladies, they rolled their eyes

Sweet Jane! Whoa! Sweet Jane, oh-oh-a! Sweet Jane!

I'll tell you something
Jack, he is a banker
And Jane, she is a clerk
Both of them save their monies, ha
And when, when they come home from work
Oh, Sittin' down by the fire, oh!
The radio does play
The classical music there, Jim
"The March of the Wooden Soldiers"
All you protest kids
You can hear Jack say, get ready, ah

Sweet Jane! Come on baby! Sweet Jane! Oh-oh-a! Sweet Jane!

Some people, they like to go out dancing
And other peoples, they have to work, Just watch me now! ...

Australia: "Ex-rocker Garrett demoted to 'minister for fluffy animals'"

For folks who haven't been following the anti-podal version of cash-for-caulkers here are some bullet points:

* many of the untrained workers who rush to install the insulation turn out to be backpackers and foreign students.

* four of the workers die

* they lay foil insulation that turns the ceilings of an estimated 1000 homes “live” with potentially deadly currents

* they set fire to more than 80 houses

* at least half the insulation is actually imported, stimulating foreign companies instead

* some of the imported insulation is impregnated with potentially haxardous levels of formaldehyde

* an estimated 400,000 homes have insulation installed that is so sub-standard that it’s useless

* taxpayers must now repay not only the $3.7 billion spent on the scheme, but the millions it will cost to fix the damage

The current [pun? -ed] estimated cost to fix the mess is another 80-100 million Australian dollars. The government shut the program down and will now spend A$10mil. to retrain insulation installers.
Here's the headline story from Earth Times:
Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, former lead singer with 1970s rock band Midnight Oil, was Friday demoted over his handling of a disastrous home insulation programme. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who removed climate change from Garrett's responsibilities when taking office in 2007, bowed to political pressure to strip the lanky left-winger of most of the rest of his portfolio.

An opposition Liberal Party member of parliament joked that the 56-year-old former anti-nuclear campaigner had become the "minister for fluffy animals."

Garrett spent a decade as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation before standing in a safe Labor seat in the 2004 election. The millionaire ex-rocker has proved a better performer on stage than in parliament. He always had difficulty squaring his portfolio responsibilities with his political beliefs. "I have long been opposed to uranium mining and I remain opposed to it," he said in 2007. "I'm unapologetic about this. In fact, I'm proud of it."Just two years later he found himself approving a new uranium mine 550 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in Melbourne in 1973, reaching a worldwide audience with Beds are Burning, a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in 1987. The band played at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, splitting two years later.

Rudd scrapped free home insulation last week after new entrants drawn to the industry by easy money left a trail of disaster in what was part of a government economic stimulus programme. Four installers lost their lives, there were 96 house fires and up to 1,000 roof cavities may have been left with live electricity connections because of shoddy workmanship.

"There's no point sugar-coating this," Rudd said when announcing Garrett's demotion. "This does mean a different range and reduced range of responsibilities for Minister Garrett. I believe it's now important for Minister Garrett to concentrate on core responsibilities of environmental protection and, of course, in heritage and the arts."
The last time I heard of Midnight Oil was last October when Beds'r Burning was covered by about sixty musicians including members of Duran Duran, Bob Geldorf (of course) the Scorpions and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Fergie and Jet Li. Here's the vid:

Wikipedia says Beds are Burning is #95 on VH1's list of the top 100 One Hit Wonders

"Bespoke's Commodity Snapshot; Year-to-Date Change"

From Bespoke Investment Group (we love their simple little charts and graphs):

Below we highlight the year-to-date change for ten key commodities. As shown, orange juice has gotten off to a nice start (+13.15%), while natural gas has once again resumed its seemingly perpetual decline (-13.75%). Platinum is the second best performing commodity shown with a gain of 5.34%, followed by gold at +1.59%, and oil at +0.34%. While gold and platinum are up in 2010, silver is down 2.69%.

Below we provide our trading range charts for the ten commodities highlighted above. For each chart, the green area represents between 2 standard deviations above and below the commodity's 50-day moving average. As shown, oil has been trading sideways between about $85 and $70 for a few months now, and it is currently closer to overbought levels than oversold levels. Natural Gas is once again in extreme oversold territory, and the same goes for coffee. After reaching oversold territory, gold, silver, copper, wheat, and corn have all seen nice bounces....MORE

"Alcoa Inc. Sees Heavy Out-of-the-Money Call Volume" (AA)

From Schaeffer's Research:

Call volume has spiked today on Alcoa Inc. (AA), with roughly 39,000 of these bullishly oriented options crossing the tape. By contrast, the commodity issue was only expected to see call volume of about 7,400 contracts. The day's most active strike by a mile is the July 15 call, where 30,588 contracts have changed hands so far.

AA price chartTaking a closer look at today's trading, most of these calls crossed the tape in a single block of 27,600 contracts. These calls traded shortly after the open, just above the ask price at $0.74. Implied volatility rose 1.9% following the transaction. With volume easily outstripping open interest at this strike, it's safe to assume that these are newly opened long calls.

AA is trading near $13.31 at last check, which means those July 15 calls are out of the money. In fact, the shares are currently pinned beneath suddenly staunch resistance from their 10-week and 20-week moving averages. The latter of these trendlines has kept AA suppressed below the $14 neighborhood since mid-January....MORE

"Grantham’s ‘Horrifically Early’ Calls Challenge GMO"

A nice follow-up to the Arnott piece. (immediately below)
Definitely worth a weekend bookmark. From Bloomberg:
Jeremy Grantham warned in January 2000 that U.S. equities were “more overpriced than at any time in the last 70 years due to the massive overpricing of technology and especially dot-com stocks.”

By the end of 2002, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had fallen 40 percent and technology shares were down 73 percent. The forecast didn’t help his firm, Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo Co., because he’d been bearish since 1997. Assets declined 45 percent in the late 1990s as customers sought out better- performing mutual funds that liked the technology stocks Grantham disdained.

Grantham said in an interview that his negative calls are often so early that investors who acted on them gave up gains before prices peaked. He recommended avoiding Japanese stocks more than two years before they started falling at the end of 1989. While his timing doesn’t deter fans like former Harvard University endowment manager Jack Meyer, it requires a delicate balancing act by GMO, which oversees $107 billion.

“We lost business like it was going out of style,” the 71-year-old Grantham said of his dot-com prediction at a Jan. 28 speech to investment advisers in Boston, where GMO is based. The firm, which he co-founded in 1977, had net mutual-fund inflows of $12.9 billion in 2003 and 2004, according to data compiled by Morningstar Inc.

GMO’s funds usually don’t fully adopt his recommendations, or hedge their bets, underscoring the difference between being a star strategist and successful money manager. That’s true for the fund Grantham works most closely with, GMO Global Balanced Asset Allocation, which oversees $3.1 billion.

Setting Off Alarms

The tension between acting on a long-term vision and keeping clients happy in the short run is a fact of life for all money managers, said Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer at Advisors Capital Management LLC in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, which oversees about $190 million. “The issue is: Are you willing to stick your neck out and how far?” he said in a telephone interview.

The tension is heightened at GMO, where Grantham’s warnings of investment bubbles have at times sent customers packing for firms with a more upbeat view of the markets.

“If we are too aggressive, and we don’t get it right, we run the risk of being fired,” Ben Inker, GMO’s head of asset allocation, said in a telephone interview.

Two of Grantham’s most recent forecasts were right -- and timely.

Emerging Markets

In 2007, he wrote in his newsletter that all asset classes were overvalued and it was time to sell high-risk securities. GMO’s $2 billion Emerging Country Debt Fund, which held high- yielding securities from countries such as Venezuela and Argentina, decided to stick with those investments in 2008.

“Every bet we made turned out to be wrong,” Thomas Cooper, the fund’s co-manager, recalled in an August interview, pointing out that investors sought out safer securities during the financial crisis. The fund lost 33 percent in 2008, and the following April GMO was fired by the Massachusetts state pension system as manager of $230 million in emerging-market debt.

The fund bounced back, returning 50 percent in 2009. Its 14 percent annual return over the past 10 years made it the best performing bond fund, according to Chicago-based Morningstar.

“Jeremy has been a great long-term investor,” said Meyer, who ran Harvard’s endowment for 15 years until 2006, when he left the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university, to start Convexity Capital Management LP, a Boston-based fund manager. Grantham was ahead of the pack in the 1990s identifying the value of emerging-market stocks, inflation-adjusted securities and timber, Meyer said in a telephone interview.

‘No Justice’

In March 2009, when the S&P 500 index bottomed out at 676, Grantham wrote that fair value for the benchmark of the largest U.S. stocks was 900, or 33 percent higher. By July, with the index above that mark, Grantham concluded U.S. stocks had become too expensive again.

“After 20 years of more or less permanent overpricing, we get five months of underpricing,” he told newsletter readers. “There is no justice in life.”

The fair value of the S&P 500 is 850, 23 percent below today’s 1105, said Grantham. He arrives at that valuation by assuming a long-term average price-to-earnings ratio of about 15 for U.S. stocks and applying it to a long-term average for profit margins.

Grantham is chief investment strategist at GMO, whose assets have risen almost fivefold since 2000. Its more than 40 mutual funds usually require a minimum investment of $10 million and are aimed mainly at institutions such as pension funds and endowments, according to the firm’s Web site. The firm also acts as a sub-adviser on several retail mutual funds.

Drawing A Crowd

In his appearance in Boston, Grantham, who is whippet-thin with a full head of gray hair, wore a dark suit and a pink tie with giraffes. Until the past few years, he played in a weekly soccer game to stay in shape.

Over the course of 45 minutes, he poked fun at the investment business and himself. Recalling the five-month period in which he considered U.S. stocks inexpensive, Grantham said, “I refer to it as my very short life as a bull.”

After the speech, more than a dozen advisers gathered around Grantham, peppering him with questions about everything from China to the U.S. budget deficit.

“He’s got the perspective of someone who has been in the battle for a long time,” said Robert Henkel, an adviser from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, explaining why he sought out Grantham for a private conversation.

Current Outlook

Grantham’s favorite asset class today is high-quality U.S. stocks, companies defined by high, stable returns and low debt. The allocation fund had 31 percent of its money in that category at year-end, sometimes called blue chips, according to the GMO Web site. In the interview, he said he expects such stocks to return an average of 6.8 percent a year over the next seven years, compared with 1.3 percent for all large-cap U.S. stocks.

Emerging-market stocks may rise about 4 percent annually in the next seven years, as investor enthusiasm for economic growth in developing countries carries the stocks to unsustainable levels, Grantham said.

“Why not go along for the ride?” he said. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index returned an average of 22 percent in the past seven years, compared with a gain of 5.5 percent by the S&P 500 index.

U.S. government bonds will return 1.1 percent a year over the seven-year period, according to the latest GMO forecast. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. Treasury Master Index rose 4.3 percent from 2003 through 2009.

Grantham said he expects a difficult, not disastrous, period for the economy and investments.

“It will feel like the 1970s,” he said. “One step forward, one step back.”>>>MORE

Up and Down Wall Street: Rob Arnott "After Lost Decade, It's Still Tough to Find Returns "

I became familiar with Mr. Arnott's work when he was editor of the Financial Analysts Journal. He is one of the best on expected returns.
From Barron's:

Low yields, rich valuations point to continued paltry returns from stocks and bonds.

AFTER THE JUST-ENDED LOST DECADE of making nothing from equities, you'd think investors ought to be entitled to count on high returns from the next 10 years. Just as buying high at the peak ensures punk future gains, the opposite ought to follow after a long period of weak returns.

Don't count on it, say some insightful investment pros. Investors can't expect much more than 2%-3% in excess of inflation over the next 10 years from balanced portfolios. And fixed-income, which helped cushion the negative returns from stocks in the past decade, may be a loser in the coming decade.

In the 10 years ended last Dec. 31, the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.95% a year. The taxable bond benchmark, the Barclays Capital (formerly Lehman) Aggregate Index, returned 6.33% per year.

But even with that fixed-income shock absorber, the traditional 60%/40% mix of stocks and bonds utilized by institutional investors such as pension funds and endowments, produced negative real returns for the decade (that is, less than the rate of inflation.) That's something that's never happened, writes Rob Arnott, the head of Research Affiliates, Newport Beach, Calif., consultants, in his recent missive to clients.

Actually, Arnott observes, it wasn't a Lost Decade for those who eschewed these conventional approaches. For instance, simply avoiding the capitalization weighting of the S&P 500 would have returned 5.38% per annum in the past decade, or nearly 6.5 percentage points more than the cap-weighted measure as dictated by S&P.

Other ways investors could have earned robust returns would have been to diversify into other asset classes, including real-estate investment trusts, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities and emerging-market bonds.

The MSCI US REIT index returned 10.43% in the 10 years to Dec. 31, while the Barclays TIPS index returned 7.69%. The big winner of the decade was the JP Morgan EMBI, which showed emerging-market debt returning 10.94% a year over the span. Junk bonds didn't do too shabbily either, returning 6.83% a year, according to the Merrill High-Yield index.

These asset classes produced sterling returns in large part because they started out the past decade with high yields, which were the main drivers of returns. But now, emerging-market bonds, REITs and TIPS provide about half the yields they did on Y2K, Arnott observes: 6.3% now from emerging-market bonds vs, 12.4% then; 4.6% on REITs vs 9.0% and 2.0% on TIPS vs. 4.2% then. Junk yields at the turn of the century were a relatively low 11.1% because of the frenzy for tech and telecom credits, but they have fallen into single digits, at 9.1% currently.

Future returns, by Arnott's reckoning, consist of three basic components: current yield, growth in income and changes in valuation. With yields on these asset classes relatively low, "the fat pitch of diversification in risk premiums beyond mainstream stocks and bonds is largely gone."

As for conventional stocks and bonds (as represented by the S&P 500 and the Barclays Aggregate), Arnott doesn't see the new decade being much better than the last.

The dividend yield on the S&P is up to 2.11% as of the end of 2009, low by historical standards but nearly twice where it stood near the peak of tech bubble on Dec. 31, 1999, at 1.13%. Add in annual growth in dividends of 1.2% (the average from 1900 to 2009), and the prospective return from equities is an unexciting 3.31% annually, absent changes in valuations.

On the latter score, the market's price-earnings ratio (as calculated by Yale's Robert Shiller, based on trailing 10-year earnings), is back to the 20s, a 25% premium to the historical average, after a quick foray below that average for the very long run (1871-2009), Arnott continues.

Only in the 1990s did stocks produce strong real returns when P/Es started in the 20-22-times range. For the 10 years after the 1992-95 period, stocks returned 10.6% while inflation averaged 2.4% as multiples moved even higher during the tech boom. Ah, yes, those were the days.

But during other periods with high starting P/E multiples, the future real returns were distinctly mediocre.

In the 1960s, equities returned 6.3% vs. inflation of 4.7%. In the 10 years beginning 1936-37, stocks returns 6.1% but inflation was 3.7%. And starting with the 1928-30 peak, stocks lost 1.6% a year, a slightly positive real return against deflation of 1.9% annually....MORE

Climateer Line of the Day: Commercial Real Estate Due Diligence Edition

From the Minyanville post "Commercial Real Estate: Five Facts from a Broker":
...The lenders’ “due diligence” has changed from “What’s the building worth? $100 million? Okay here's a loan for $120 million,"


“...and our 30-day ransacking of your offices by our team of forensic accountants, will conclude with a rectal exam of all the “C” level officers in your firm."

"AIG Gets The Dreaded "Going Concern""

In pre-market trade the stock is down 8% at $27.31. Our last post on the former behemoth was Jan. 27's "How's That "Short AIG Working Out?" "Back-month bears bet on an extended slide for the insurance issue" (AIG)".
From The Market Ticker:

Gee, who saw this coming... oh wait - not in the press release, is it?

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- American International Group, Inc. (AIG) today reported a net loss attributable to AIG common shareholders of $8.9 billion for the fourth quarter of 2009, or $65.51 per diluted common share, compared to a net loss of $61.7 billion or $458.99 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2008. Fourth quarter 2009 adjusted net loss was $7.2 billion, compared to an adjusted net loss of $38.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Blah blah blah blah look at the 10Q filed with the SEC:

AIG has been significantly and adversely affected by the market turmoil in late 2008 and early 2009, and, despite the recovery in the markets in mid and late 2009, is subject to significant risks, as discussed below. Many of these risks are interrelated and occur under similar business and economic conditions, and the occurrence of certain of them may in turn cause the emergence, or exacerbate the effect, of others. Such a combination could materially increase the severity of the impact on AIG. As a result, should certain of these risks emerge, AIG may need additional support from the U.S. government. Without additional support from the U.S. government, in the future there could exist substantial doubt about AIG's ability to continue as a going concern. See Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Consideration of AIG's Ability to Continue as a Going Concern and Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a further discussion.


That's not a sentence you ever want to see in a quarterly report. It winds up in there because the auditors essentially make you do it - that is, the bean counters think you're a few beans short of a box....MORE

Berkshire Hathaway's "Buffett Picks Insurer Cooperation Over Competition " (BRK-B; BRK-A)

This is worth keeping an eye on. After a hurricane season with no U.S Atlantic or Gulf landfalls catastrophe bonds scored big and the reinsurers pocketed a bunch of premiums. The state of Florida's decision to self-insure also worked out.

This year may not have as favorable a El Nino/Southern Oscillation, I'll post the latest NOAA advisory after the headline story.
From Bloomberg:
Warren Buffett, who cut back sales of protection to insurers because prices were too low, is betting on a rate increase by investing in the only two firms to write more reinsurance than his Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Buffett has more than $4.5 billion invested in Munich Re and Swiss Reinsurance Co., choosing to put Berkshire’s cash in two companies that account for more than a third of the global market instead of using the money to compete against them. Had Buffett, as Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, directed a part of that capital to his own underwriters, he could have pushed down the price of coverage, analysts said.

“This is a move to increase that exposure without disrupting the pricing,” said Craig Fehr of Edward Jones & Co., who has a “hold” rating on Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire’s stock. “It’s likely a reflection of the fact there aren’t an abundance of opportunities to write new business.”

Buffett’s biggest takeovers in the last decade have boosted Berkshire’s energy and freight businesses, reducing his company’s reliance on insurance. Two years ago, he warned of an industry slump after underwriting results slipped from a record. “That party is over,” Buffett wrote in his 2007 letter to investors, and Berkshire’s underwriting profits have since slipped about 60 percent.

Appetite for Risk

The 2009 letter is scheduled to be released tomorrow with fourth-quarter results. Meyer Shields, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co., expects Berkshire to post net income of $1,354 a share, compared with $76 in the year-earlier period, according to Bloomberg data. Berkshire stock has risen 23 percent since the end of 2008 as Buffett purchased railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe for about $27 billion in his largest takeover.

Berkshire, which sells protection through General Re and Berkshire Hathaway Reinsurance Group, scaled back on the coverage of large risks to conserve capital in the first half of last year. The company said in August it had recovered its appetite for new business, while adding it would wait to increase sales until prices improved.

“Due to the restoration of net worth that occurred during the second quarter, management’s willingness to write large catastrophe risks has increased, but to date rates have not warranted such writing,” Berkshire said in a regulatory filing.

Catastrophe Coverage

The price for catastrophe reinsurance fell for the third time in four years when insurers renegotiated their annual contracts on Jan. 1, according to Guy Carpenter & Co., a unit of brokerage Marsh & McLennan Cos. Prices typically fall when the economy declines, as companies have less to insure. Rates also slide when an increase in industry capital gives carriers the capacity to sell more protection than the market needs.

Reinsurer capital rose in 2009 as stock and bond market rallies boosted investments and the quietest Atlantic storm season in more than a decade reduced claims costs. In 2008, catastrophes including Hurricanes Ike and Gustav cost property insurers $52.5 billion worldwide, according to a Swiss Re study.

“We’ve seen a global easing of rates in the reinsurance market,” said Bryon Ehrhart, CEO of Aon Benfield Analytics, the reinsurance arm of Aon Corp., the world’s largest insurance broker. “There’s never been more capital in the reinsurance business than there is now.">>>MORE

From NOAA's National Center for Environmental Prediction:

issued by
4 February 2010

ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Advisory

Synopsis: El Niño is expected to continue at least into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010.

A significant El Niño persisted throughout the equatorial Pacific Ocean during January 2010 (Fig. 1). Although sea surface temperature (SST) departures in the Niño-3.4 region decreased to +1.2oC in late January, SSTs continued to be sufficiently warm to support deep tropical convection (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3). Over the last several months, a series of oceanic Kelvin waves contributed to the build-up of heat content anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific (Fig. 4). The latest Kelvin wave was associated with temperature departures exceeding +2oC down to 150m depth across the eastern half of the equatorial Pacific (Fig. 5). Equatorial convection over the central Pacific remained enhanced during the month, while convection over Indonesia exhibited considerable week-to-week variability. While the low-level winds have been variable, low-level westerly and upper-level easterly wind anomalies generally prevailed during January. Collectively, these oceanic and atmospheric anomalies reflect a strong and mature El Niño episode.

Nearly all models predict decreasing SST anomalies in the Niño-3.4 region through 2010, and model spread increases at longer lead times (Fig. 6). Nearly half of the models indicate the 3-month Niño-3.4 SST anomaly will drop below +0.5oC around April-May-June 2010, indicating a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions during Northern Hemisphere spring. However, predicting the timing of this transition is highly uncertain.

El Niño impacts are expected to last into the Northern Hemisphere spring, even as equatorial SST departures decrease, partly due to the typical warming that occurs between now and April/May (Fig. 3). Expected impacts during February-April 2010 include drier-than-average conditions over Indonesia and enhanced convection over the central equatorial Pacific Ocean, which will likely expand eastward and influence portions of the eastern tropical Pacific, as well as coastal sections of Peru and Ecuador. For the contiguous United States, potential El Niño impacts include above-average precipitation for the southern tier of the country, with below-average precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley. Below-average snowfall and above-average temperatures are most likely across the northern tier of states (excluding New England), while below-average temperatures are favored for the south-central and southeastern states....

Cree Inc. CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO Charles M Swoboda sells 77,500 Shares (CREE)

In other news "Is Brigantine Advisors Analyst Ramesh Misra (PhD.) the Dumbest Guy on the Street? (CREE; FSLR)"
Original post:
In early pre-market trade the stock is down a penny at $66.95.
Speaking of CREE (post immediately below), here's Guru Focus:
CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO of Cree Inc. (CREE) Charles M Swoboda sells 77,500 shares of CREE on 02/18/2010 at an average price of $64.19 a share....
Here's the one year price action (via Yahoo Finance):
Chart for Cree Inc. (CREE)

As I said in last December's "Call Volume Escalates as Cree, Inc. Extends String of New Highs (CREE)":
A long time favorite, see links below. The stock is trading at $51, even....
..."A trend appears to be emerging"
Grandmother, a sharp-tongued woman, used to compliment my "remarkable grasp of the obvious".

Management may be great at growing a tech company but market timers they ain't.
Continuing at GuruFocus:

CEO Recent Trades:

  • Sell:: CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO Charles M Swoboda sold 65,000 shares of CREE stock on 12/01/2009 at the average price of 49.4, the price of the stock has increased by 31.72% since.

  • Sell:: CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO Charles M Swoboda sold 332,060 shares of CREE stock on 10/23/2009 at the average price of 44.52, the price of the stock has increased by 46.16% since.

  • Sell:: CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO Charles M Swoboda sold 75,940 shares of CREE stock on 10/22/2009 at the average price of 44.41, the price of the stock has increased by 46.52% since.

CFO Recent Trades:

  • Sell:: EXECUTIVE VP, CFO, TREASURER John T Kurtzweil sold 12,000 shares of CREE stock on 12/01/2009 at the average price of 49.58, the price of the stock has increased by 31.24% since.

  • Sell:: EXECUTIVE VP, CFO, TREASURER John T Kurtzweil sold 12,000 shares of CREE stock on 10/22/2009 at the average price of 44.27, the price of the stock has increased by 46.98% since.

Is Brigantine Advisors Analyst Ramesh Misra (PhD.) the Dumbest Guy on the Street? (CREE; FSLR)

For what it's worth, the fact that I'm posting this probably indicates that FSLR is due for an uptick and CREE a down. Karma and all that.
Plus First Solar has the largest percentage short interest of any stock in the S&P 500, so an up-move could be pretty dramatic.

On January 19 Mr. Mishra went bearish on CREE with earnings due after the close. The stock closed at $54.21. Cree reported, we posted "Cree Crushes Street Estimates; Stock Leaps (CREE)" (lots o'links) and the next day the stock closed at $63.59, up 17.30%.

Eric Savitz reported the call at Tech Trader Daily in "Cree: Brigantine Cuts To Sell Ahead Of Earnings Tonight" with the lead sentence:

Well, here’s a nervy call....

Although we saw the TTD post we chose not to link to it, it made no sense.

Two days later, we posted "Is Cree, Inc. (CREE) Likely to Burn Out?", linking to a piece by Tom Konrad at AltEnergyStocks, "Pioneering light-emitting diode (LED) maker Cree Inc. looks overvalued".
I commented on Tom's propensity to be early and mentioned Mishra:
...That said, he [Tom -ed] is a very good stock-picker and knows his stuff, the PhD notwithstanding. Here's what he wrote three days ago. We sat on it to get through the earnings report (just as we sat on the Tech Trader Daily post "Cree: Brigantine Cuts To Sell Ahead Of Earnings Tonight").

In the case of the Brigantine analyst we figured he had flipped a coin in an attempt to get some publicity, something that is contrary to any reading of fiduciary law and philosophy that I've ever seen.
In Tom's case I just figured he was early. The stock was up almost 17% yesterday....
Despite the gyrations in the market over the last five weeks CREE closed Thursday at $66.96, up 23.51% since Mr. Mishra said sell it.

On February 18 First Solar was due to report their earnings after the close and, you guessed it, heeeeer's Mishra. I posted "First Solar: Brigantine Upgrades Ahead Of Earnings (FSLR) Options 'Max Pain' at $120" with this comment:
Remember, the company has a two year string of earnings beats that have fed into the "buy on mystery, sell on history" price pattern for the stock. With options expiring tomorrow the maximum pain is at the $120 strike price.*...
The stock was at $125.66 as I wrote that. It closed at $126.29.
The company reported and I posted "First Solar Reports Utility-type Earnings Growth, Stock Drops (FSLR)". The next day the stock closed at $116.00 down 8.14%

Ya gotta ask yourself "Who is this guy?" Here's his Brigantine bio.

It's not like this stuff is rocket surgery. Your humble blogger managed to post "First Solar Earnings: "Trading the Main Event" (FSLR)" two days before the earnings release:
First solar will be reporting their fourth quarter and year end after the close on Thursday February 18.
The only surprises I can envision would be negative. The December 16th 2010 outlook conference call was the high water mark. No one was impressed. The stock had an intraday high of $142.66 the day before and made a double top on January 7, trading as high $142.46.

We actually know something about this name...
Followed by, "Solar Stocks Lift On Latest Twist In German Subsidy Saga" (FSLR)", a few hours later (and a couple points higher) :
The Grassy Knoll Theory of Investing posits that "There is a They; and They Know".

I sure felt like that this morning; put out a mildly negative piece on First Solar's upcoming earnings and watch the stock jump seven percent.

The stock has a pattern of running up into earnings and then trailing off.

The better to short you my dear....
Here's a Climateer Investing headline post-mortem:
Feb. 19
ThinkEquity, Merriman Curhan Ford Downgrade First Solar, Wedbush Lowers Price Target. Plus the Earnings Call Transcript (FSLR)
Feb. 19
"UBS Cuts First Solar to Neutral; Has Had a Buy Rating on the Stock Since Dec. '07" "Cowen's Stone Comments on First Solar Results" (FSLR)
Feb. 19
BARRON'S TAKE: "Don't Get Burned by First Solar-The stock may continue to fall as Thursday's earnings report does little to quell concerns..." (FSLR)
Feb. 22
"Solar Shrs Swoon; Barclays Cuts Ratings; Sees Trouble In 2011" (FSLR; SPWRA; SPWRB; STP: TSL)
Feb. 23
First Solar:" Wunderlich Launches With Sell Rating, $90 Target" (FSLR)
Feb. 23
Options Flash "First Solar Burns Out; Bears Taste Blood" (FSLR)
Feb. 23
More Bad News for First Solar (FSLR)

Topped off by yesterday's
"First Solar Chairman Bails on More Stock, Bringing Total Insider Sales to $2,394,069,745 Since Nov. '06 IPO (FSLR)"
FSLR closed Thursday at $102.97.
Here's the hourly price action (via BigCharts) since Ramesh made his upgrade, you'll note that the stock broke 100 on Thursday, a new fifty-two week low, one week since the pontification:

$126.29 to $98.71. Down $27.58 at yesterday's low, a loss of 21.83%.
Calls don't get any worse than his.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Qaddafi declares jihad against Switzerland"

From Foreign Policy's Passport blog:

This is getting ridiculous:

"Any Muslim in any part of the world who works with Switzerland is an apostate, is against (the Prophet) Mohammad, God and the Koran," Gaddafi said during a meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to mark the Prophet's birthday.

"The masses of Muslims must go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing, to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking, inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold," Gaddafi said.

For those not keeping score at home, this feud began when Qaddafi's son Hannibal was arrested for assault and dad expelled Swiss diplomats from the country in response. Qaddafi has also submitted a proposal to the UN general assembly to have the country abolished....MORE
Ah Muammar.
On September 16, 2008 (the day after Lehman failed and AIG was nationalized!) we posted:

Hank Paulson, AIG and the Line in the Sand
Paulson's Line In The Sand

Seattle Post-Intelligencer-
National Economy: Drawing the line

Financial Times-
Paulson sticks to firm line

Huffington Post-
Paulson Drew the Line...

Paulson, Bernanke Drew the Line...

In the 1970's Muammar Gaddafi claimed the Gulf of Sidra as territorial waters and declared the vector from Benghazi to Misratah his fearsome "Line of Death" and anyone foolish enough to cross said Line of Death would be met by the full wrath of the Libyan air force.

On Aug. 19, 1981 the U.S. Sixth Fleet was in the Gulf, the Libyans sent up their Air Force,
two F-14's from the Nimitz shot them both down and Robin Williams got a bit out of it:
...Here's a man who had the audacity to go:
"This is the line of death. You cross it, you die." {Pause}
"Okay, you cross this line, you die." {Pause}
"Okay, you cross this line, you die."
"This line, you die."
"Okay, you're knocking on my door,
I'm not coming out. Naaaaah"
Here's the 1986 performance, Live at the Met:
(the bit is 1:05 in)

Florida: "Freeze Warning"

Orange ya glad ya stopped by?
From the National Weather Service:
448 AM EST THU FEB 25 2010

448 AM EST THU FEB 25 2010



HT: Ken Keyes

"Madoff Daughter-in-Law, Grandchildren Looking To Ixnay On The Adoffmay Amenay"

Great headline from DealBreaker. Their take on the story:
It’s not that Stephanie Madoff, wife of Mark, sister-in-law of Andy, D-in-L of Bernie and Ruth isn’t proud of the name or family she married into. Far from it. It’s just that she’s been thinking about it and it just doesn’t “mesh” so well with the image she’s going for.

Stalin would be better. Or, hey, how about Hitler? Manson? Wouldn’t have to changed the monogrammed towels. That’s always something to consider. Think about it. Stephanie Madoff, who is married to the imprisoned moneyman’s son Mark, asked a court last night to let her and the children take the last name Morgan....MORE

"Carbon credits to replace US $ as global currency"

Please note the quotation marks in the headline, that's not my schtick.
It is however the second biggest fear (after the Amero, "the currency of the coming North American Union") of the folks who stay up at night worrying about Bilderbergers, the Council on Foreign Relations, Queen Elizabeth II and the Rothschilds.

I do subscribe to the "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you" version of open-mindedness and figure that if it does come to pass we can track down the prognosticator to see what his latest thinking is. Assuming he's not in a re-education center.
From Commodity Online:
SCOTLAND (Commodity Online):Till now the question was whether a group of currencies would replace the dollar or even gold? Now, here comes the prediction amidst global warming and cllimate change concerns that carbon credit will replace the US dollar as the currency of international trading within five years.

The forecast was made by research, development and advice consultancy Archial Sustainable Futures following the publication by Finance Secretary John Swinney of a Carbon Assessment of the Budget for 2010-2011 – making the Scottish Government the first administration in the world to produce a carbon assessment alongside its budget – which, according to John Easton, head of Archial Sustainable Futures, effectively makes carbon a currency for the first time anywhere in the world.

The Carbon Assessment, based on the expenditure data presented in the budget and a statutory requirement of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, provides an understanding of the impact of Scottish Budget expenditure on global greenhouse gas emissions as well as the carbon impact of Government spend.

Easton said, “The macroeconomic study undertaken for the Scottish Government shows Scotland’s public sector organisations their budgets for the year ahead in both sterling and carbon.

“Whilst this year this revolutionary Carbon Assessment has been a soft exercise to which public sector organisations will not be held accountable, the likelihood is that in subsequent year’s budgets they will be held accountable to the Carbon Assessment figures. This implies that, perhaps from as early as 2011/12, budget holders for Scottish Government funds will be permitted to spend up to their allocations in Pounds Sterling or Tonnes Carbon, for whichever limit they reach first.

“The implications of this measure have yet to be examined in detail yet I am certain that this measure will radically change how we procure and operate buildings in Scotland. It is my belief, too, that in five years the carbon credit will replace the dollar as the currency of international trading.”>>>MORE

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to adjust my chapeau.

EEEvil Conservative

"Don’t Hold Your Breath on Fannie, Freddie Overhaul" (FRE; FNM)

From the Wall Street Journal's Developments blog:

The Obama administration confirmed on Wednesday that it will wait until next year to put forward legislation on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That’s not a huge surprise: the administration has a lot on its plate, and some analysts have long said it was unrealistic to expect any action before midterm elections this fall.

Moreover, the mortgage market’s current arrangement, while far from an ideal long-term fix, appears to be holding together and helping to revive what had been a very sick housing patient. Even if Congress and the White House knew what it wanted to do with Fannie and Freddie (which it doesn’t), right now could be a dicey time to attempt anything terribly dramatic. The Federal Reserve is winding down its purchases of mortgage-backed securities in the next month, and the home-buyer tax-credit will expire after that.

Still, that doesn’t change the tough politics facing the White House in delaying action on Fannie and Freddie. (Last summer, the White House promised to put out something when it released its budget proposal earlier this month.)

On one hand, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has spent the better part of a year arguing that the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression demanded quick action to overhaul regulation for the financial-services industry. But at a congressional panel on Wednesday, Mr. Geithner invoked the housing crisis as a reason against moving quickly on Fannie and Freddie. “We want to make sure that we are proposing these changes at a time when we have a little bit more distance from the worst housing crisis in generations,” he said....MORE, including some of the proposals.

We linked to the Heritage Foundation's thinking earlier this morning in "Freddie Mac ‘may need’ support" (FRE; FNM)

Trina Solar: "Deutsche Bullish on Chinese Solar Sector: Upgrades TSL, YGE, SOL, STP"

From StreetInsider:

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said they are "positive on the China solar energy sector and expect Chinese solar PV module manufacturers to be the major beneficiaries of the global demand growth in 2010E." The firm calls the risk/reward profile among this group attractive given "low-cost structure and increasing brand recognition" which will allow "Chinese manufacturers to weather a likely ASP decline and capture more market share." Deutsche names its top picks Trina Solar and Yingli.

Deutsche Bank upgraded the following Chinese solar manufacturers this morning:

Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) from Hold to Buy, price target raised from $20.35 to $29.80. Deutsche notes that Trina has been a "significant outperformer" but also admits that valuation remains attractive. The firm said it believes "Trina's robust cost structure could allow it to weather a likely ASP decline and capture more market share from higher-cost western manufacturers." Deutsche sees Trina's module shipments remaining strong during the first half of this year, citing "rush orders from Germany ahead of an anticipated feed-in-tariff cut before June 2010.">>>MORE

"Freddie Mac ‘may need’ support" (FRE; FNM)

From FT Alphaville:
US mortgage giant Freddie Mac said on Wednesday it would probably have to take more taxpayer cash this year to offset continued losses in a fragile housing market. The warning by the government-run lender came as it revealed a Q4 loss of $7.8bn in 2009, compared with a year-earlier loss of $23.9bn. Its Q4 deficit in 2009 was inflated by a $1.3bn dividend payment to the US Treasury but is still up on the loss of $5.4bn in the previous quarter.
See also:

REPOST: "The Dead Shall Be Raised: The Future of Fannie and Freddie" (FNM; FRE)

First Solar Chairman Bails on More Stock, Bringing Total Insider Sales to $2,394,069,745 Since Nov. '06 IPO (FSLR)

In other news: "Is Brigantine Advisors Analyst Ramesh Misra (PhD.) the Dumbest Guy on the Street? (CREE; FSLR)"
Original post:
The line is always "The sales were made as part of a previously established plan" or somesuch.
The stock is trading down $4.20 at $100.93 in pre-market trade.

The $2Bil. figure comes from who inform us that the $141,767,086 proceeds bring Mr. Ahearns total take to $532,347,260. He has never made an open market purchase.

This is Mr. Ahearn's first sale since the May 15 and 16, 2008 sales, coincidently the dates of FSLR's all-time intra-day and closing highs, $315.43 and $311.14 respectively.
His highest executed price was $314.5.

As I said in another post, he should get down on his knees every morning to thank God for those German hausfraus who pay the solar feed-in tariff.
Here's the story from Tech Trader Daily:

First Solar Exec Chair Ahearn Sells 1.3M Shrs For $141.8 Million

First Solar (FSLR) Executive Chairman and former CEO Michael Ahearn over the last three days has sold 1.3 million of the company’s shares in the open market for gross proceeds of $141.8 million, according to a new filing with the SEC. The sales reduce his stake in the company to a little over 1.7 million shares.

The shares were sold at prices ranging from $104 to $114.81, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The shares sold represent about 1.5% of the company’s total shares outstanding.

Ahearn gave up the CEO job at First Solar last fall, in favor of former Honeywell exec Robert Gillette; the company had announced in April 2009 that it had begun searching for a replacement for Ahearn, who planned to focus on lobby for changes in government energy policy....MORE

Three weeks after those 2008 sales we posted:

Jim Cramer Blow's Smoke on First Solar (FSLR)

...As recently as May 28 Cramer was singing FSLR's praises.
"Applied Materials and First Solar: Jim Cramer Likes Both (AMAT; FSLR)"
Here's CNBC's recap of Mad Money, dated June 6:
First Solar [FSLR 243.40 -8.29 (-3.29%) ]: The CEO’s “massive insider selling” did “temper my enthusiasm for the stock,” Cramer said. He can’t recommend FSLR until the chief executive explains himself.
One problem: Insider selling is reported on Form 4 and any moron with a keyboard can check any public company. This is not new information. Either Cramer didn't check and only became aware of the issue when the media picked up on the story (I think it was Bloomberg that hammered the point home, although we had a mention a few days earlier) or it didn't matter to Crammer while the stock was going up.
The insider selling at FSLR has been going on for fifteen months without an insider purchase. For future reference FSLR's CIK is 000120919.
Here are the last 100 [!] sales, uninterrupted by a buy.

The next month is when we noticed FSLR's pattern of trading up into earnings, beating expectations and then fading:

First Solar to Beat and Raise, Market Yawns (FSLR)

UPDATE below
At least that's what the stock was saying today. Up $4.44 on a down 2% day. They report after the close Wednesday.
Sometimes it seems that the action is singing to you.

Note the sweet moves of the youthful Mr. Ahearn, before he is directed by counsel to resume insider sales.
Here's We Got the Beat

Remember that we have seen three reports* that were followed by downticks and believe it is the new trend in solar. "Evergreen Solar Q2 In Line, But Shrs Fall On Light Outlook (ESLR)"

ESLR- in line
MEMC- swing and a miss.
All three down. As grandmother used to say "Secular bear markets aren't just about declines [although they can be doozies], they're also about multiple contraction."

"Grandma, what's a doozie?"

"Should energy companies be worried about the SEC's climate change disclosure rule with EPA regulation on the horizon?" (CVX; XOM)

From the Houston Chronicle's NewsWatch: Energy blog:

The Securities & Exchange Commission's new climate change disclosure rule coupled with an impending Environmental Protection Agency cap on greenhouse gas emissions and climate bill could be harmful to some old-school energy companies, according to Energy and Capital contributor Nick Hodge.

Hodge had some interesting thoughts about how the SEC mandate, which requires companies to disclose potential risks from climate change, could alter the way companies calculate market risk. He says some energy companies should expect to lose investors to companies with better clean-energy strategies.

To see how this change will affect public markets, you needn't look any further than the response from managers of some of the biggest pension funds in the country who purchase billions worth of equities each year.

Nancy Kopp manages Maryland's $33 billion fund and called it a "big step forward."

Anne Stausbol, CEO of the $200 billion California Public Employee's Retirement System (CALPERS), said "Ensuring investors are getting timely, material information on climate-related impacts, including regulatory and physical impacts, is absolutely necessary."

She added, "Investors have a fundamental right to know which companies are well positioned for the future and which are not."

They are obviously looking to invest in companies with minimal climate risk. In other words, companies with high climate risk -- high emissions, energy-intensive products, insurance companies -- are less valuable to them....MORE

I had a comment that I couldn't get their system to take, here goes:
Those big public employee pension plans* who lobbied for this decision have a fiduciary duty to do their own due diligence and dump those positions that are at risk.

For example CalPERS largest equity poition as of their last annual report was XOM, around a Billion bucks worth.

The seventh largest position was CVX, $400Mil. or so.

CalPERS was also one of the largest counterparties to Goldman's scam of using their "commercial" standing with the CFTC to go long oil futures and synthetically transfer the positions to their "long only index investors" via swaps. These investors would otherwise had to disclose what were actually speculative positions, a great game.

At least until this, in November '08:
Goldman Backs Off Its Oil ‘Super Spike’ Theory

"That ‘’super spike” in oil prices that Goldman insisted would lift crude to $200 a barrel ….? Turned out to be a dagger that has pierced Goldman itself. It never really turned out to be that prescient: instead of the 50% jump in oil that Goldman anticipated back in May, when it made the call with crude trading at $132, the price of a barrel never got more than 11% higher. And has since, of course, lost fully two-thirds of that price in the intervening four months...."

“…And some traders are furious about it, comparing the maneuver to then-strategist Abby Cohen’s decision to abandon her targets for equity indexes in the fall 2001, citing the uncertainties abounding in the market.

Goldman specifically talked about four trade recommendations it previously issued, and said clients shouldn’t put any stock in them any longer. One particular trade, a Nymex-WTI swap on the 2012 contract, issued in September, when crude already had declined to below $70, suggested that the contract would reflate to a range of $120 to $140. Obviously, that hasn’t happened….”
So yeah, the investment professionals at CalPERS had better do all that Prudent Man/fiduciary stuff that they get paid for.

*Here are the members of CERES' Investors Network on Climate Risk:

Organization Name
AIG Investments
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
As You Sow Foundation
BlackRock Financial
Boston Common Asset Management
British Columbia Investment Management Corporation
Brown University
Bullitt Foundation
California Public Employees' Retirement System
California State Controller's Office
California State Teachers' Retirement System
California State Treasurer's Office
Calvert Group
Christian Brothers Investment Services
Christopher Reynolds Foundation
Climate Change Capital
Connecticut State Treasurer's Office
CWA/ITU Negotiated Pension Plan
Deutsche Asset Management
Domini Social Investments LLC
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Equilibrium Capital Group
Ethical Funds Company
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America- Board of Pensions
F&C Asset Management
Florida State Board of Administration
Fred Alger Management
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Generation Investment Management US LLP
Green Century Funds
Illinois State Board of Investment
Illinois State Treasurer
Impax Asset Management Limited
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Pension Plan
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Kolibri Capital LLC
Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)
Laird Norton Family Foundation
Lemelson Foundation
Local Authority Pension Fund Forum
Maine State Treasurer
Maryland State Treasurer's Office
Massachusetts State Treasurer
MissionPoint Capital Partners
Nathan Cummings Foundation
National Union of Public and General Employees
Needmor Fund
New Jersey Division of Investment