Thursday, July 21, 2011

GOP's "Cap Cut and Balance" Plan/Intel/Sold 300 MMT at 6.89/Added 50 FNFG at 12.8/Added 50 MFA at 7.78 in Roth IRA/Bought 50 GSPRA at 20.86

This is a link to an interview with Rob Arnott, well worth the time to read: Arnott

As noted in the column written by Anthony Mirhaydari at MSN Money, the day of reckoning for the U.S. will be on August 15th when 1.1 trillion dollars comes due.  A default would trigger far reaching and catastrophic effects, far worse than anything that happened after Lehman's failure.

The WSJ summarized the spending cuts proposed by the GOP's "cap, cut and balance" plan in an article last Monday. Non-security discretionary spending would have to be cut 33% by 2021; Medicaid would have to be cut by 1.4 trillion over the next decade and cut 50% by 2030; and Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay substantially more in premiums. As noted in prior posts, the CBO and the Kaiser Foundation have estimated that a typical 65 year old person, purchasing health insurance from a private company as provided in the GOP plan, would be paying about twice as much as under traditional Medicare. (;  Ryan's radical plans for Medicare - CBS News; Ryan_Letter.pdf;  Fortune Magazine)

The spending cuts envisioned by this GOP plan are called "draconian" by its supporters and opponents.  Draconian to the poor and the middle class, not to the benefactors of the GOP.  The GOP members in the House have shown no inclination of backing down as noted by POLITICO.

This plan would also make it virtually impossible to increase taxes by requiring a super majority to approve any tax increase. Since this would be in an amendment to the Constitution, the GOP's benefactors would not have to be concerned about paying more in tax, unless their bought and paid for representatives are reduced to a fringe party.

The GOP's budget plan passed the House on Tuesday. This is how the representatives voted:  Final Vote Results for Roll Call 606 or  NYT

As previously mentioned, the Ryan budget plan gives the wealthy additional tax breaks, bringing their top marginal rate and that of corporations, down to 25%.  Although the middle class is under no treat of a tax increase, even from liberal Democrats, the middle class base of the GOP is, so far, fully behind this effort to tap into retirement savings in order to support even more tax breaks for the "Job Creators". Austerity will be imposed only on those in the middle or the bottom of the economic pile, the wealth gap between the top 1% and everyone else will inevitably continue to expand which has to be the desired objective since that would be the natural consequence.

When asked what programs would be slashed, Senator Orin Hatch (R-UTah) responded that he will identify the cuts after the balance budget amendment passes. Bloomberg Other republicans refuse to identify the cuts as noted in the forgoing linked article published by Bloomberg. They know what they intend to cut now but intend to keep it a secret to themselves until after their balanced budget Constitutional Amendment passes that will require draconian cuts in non-defense spending. In order for them to disclose their intended cuts in popular programs, the voter will first need to know the secret password and handshake. That is really slick considering the number of programs that would have to be slashed to meet the artificial limit imposed by the Amendment.

The House Republicans are very clear in their desire that the wealthy deserve more tax cuts however, and those citizens will not be sharing in any austerity program. Share the burden includes everyone below the top 10%.  Senator Hatch is up for reelection in 2012, and the Tea Party crowd wants to retire him in favor of a zealot which has already happened to the former Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett.

Eric Cantor calls the "cut, cap and Balance" plan a common sense approach,  NYT, which it very well may be for  old white men who are filthy rich. I did not mean to say old. I meant middle aged white men over 55.  The approach is also satisfying to those middle class, angry white men and women who are being thrown overboard by the GOP, who are unlikely to protest, being conditioned to ignore accurate information as liberal propaganda.

Another reactionary zealot Jim Jordan (R-OHIO), who calls himself a conservative and heads the Republican Study Committee, referred to the plan approved by the House as "the only compromise".  He wanted to cut 9.5 billion, which was more than the plan actually adopted by less radical GOP members on Tuesday. That is what Jordan and his fringe call compromise.  Jordan proposed a budget that appealed to his extreme right wing colleagues that required 9.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade, and that proposal received over 100 GOP votes. Jordan and his Republican Study Committee have already released a statement opposing the bipartisan plan originating in the Senate:  Republican Study Committee (RSC) That is to be expected.

Paul Ryan, another reactionary zealot, also released a statement opposing a balanced approach toward deficit reduction. Gang Of Six.pdf  Ezra Klein pointed out Ryan's hypocrisy on this issue in his column in the The Washington Post.

It looks to me like the only bipartisan proposal to emerge, which relies some on raising revenues by cutting tax loopholes, will not be acceptable to the GOP representatives in the House and is DOA. It is still far from clear to me that anything can be done to satisfy the fanatics before August 2nd.  I do not believe default is off the table. The market is still acting as if a deal will be struck.  I do not believe that is entirely rational when you take a hard look at the flagrant irresponsibility and recklessness of the House GOP members.

Hopefully, before the next election, independents will focus more on what the new GOP representatives are trying to do to both the poor and the middle class, while of course enriching their benefactors. At the moment, few are even aware of the GOP's effort to bankrupt the middle class with their Medicare proposal while proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy. Item # 1 GOP's Plan To Bankrupt the Middle Class That proposal has receive scant attention in the mainstream media and most voters are unaware of it.

If that is what America wants, then so be it. If the voters in about 70 to 100 congressional districts were paying attention now, I suspect that there would be a massive swing in the next election away from reactionary radicalism toward a more centrist, mainstream House of Representatives. For those who are not TBs, the first sign of enlightenment will be a recognition that the current crop of GOP House members are reactionaries,  way outside the mainstream of centrist American principles. As this fight goes on, and more people pay attention to what is happening, I suspect some opinions will change about giving power to reckless zealots who wish to turn back the clock in this country to the balmy days of the 19th century.  In my congressional district, there would be majority support for ending programs like food stamps, Head Start, school lunches for under privileged children, and Medicaid, but I believe that is not the case in 70+ districts that elected an extremist in the last election.

It is interesting that Senator Hatch (R-UT) has had to apologize to the Tea Party crowed for his TARP vote, groveling for their forgiveness. The TBs are furious that the U.S. government successfully intervened to avert a financial collapse and another Great Depression, even though the treasury may come close to breaking even on that successful program.  The Economist

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is in favor of phasing out social security, repealing the 16th Amendment permitting federal income taxes, and for abolishing the education department. NYT Along with fellow reactionary Senator Ron Paul (R-KY), Lee recently sponsored legislation to gradually increase the retirement age for social security to 70 by 2030. MSNBC It is not surprising that he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Alito, one of the newer reactionaries on the Supreme Court. I suspect that their motive is to end social security down the road.  

This is a link to the increasingly common fraud involving the short sale of homes whose value is less than the outstanding mortgage balance. Short sale fraud plagues the housing market - Jul. 14, 2011 The victim of the fraud is the bank and the usual perpetrator would be a real estate agent.

1. Intel (owned): J P Morgan cut his revenue and EPS estimates for 2011, based at least in part on lower than normal 3rd quarter notebooks sales. The new estimate is for a 2011 E.P.S. of $2.30 from $2.35. A snapshot of my Intel purchases can be found at Snapshot of Intel Purchases with Cash Flow.

2. Renasant (RNST-own)(Regional Bank Stocks'basket strategy): Renasant reported net income of $5.757 million or  23 cents per share for the 2nd quarter, up from 18 cents in the 2nd quarter of 2010. The consensus analyst estimate, which includes 10 analysts, was for 22 cents per share. RNST Analyst Estimates

As of 6/30/2011, the tangible common equity ratio was at 7.11%; the tier 1 leverage capital ratio was 9.1%; the Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio was at 13.58%; the total capital ratio was 14.83%; the net interest margin was 3.76%; the efficiency ratio was okay at 68.59%; the allowance for loan losses as a percentage of non-performing loans (NPLs) was at 91.52%; and the NPLs to total loans was at 2.38% based on assets not subject to FDIC loss sharing agreements. This bank has expanded its territory with FDIC assisted acquisitions of failed banks.

I have book a profit on a 50 share trade, and currently own 100 shares. Bought: 50 RNST at 13.70 Added 50 RNST at 15.85

3. Bought 50 GSPRA at 20.86 on Tuesday Coping with the Federal Reserve's Jihad Against Savers Strategy and the Inflation/ or Deflation strategy)(see Disclaimer): This is another security that I have bought and sold many times.  The last few transactions were for small profits plus dividends. Sold 100 GSPRA at $21.9 (October 2009); Bought 50 GSPRA at 18.8 (May 2010); Sold 50 GSPRA at 20.03 (July 2010); Bought 50 GSPRA at 21 (December 2010); Sold 50 GSPRA at 22.44 (March 2011). I have also bought and sold the functionally equivalent security GSPRD. Bought 50 GSPRD at 21.58

I am not excited about owning this security. It does have the advantage of paying a qualified dividend. The coupon is the greater of 3.75% or .75% over the 3 month LIBOR rate.  This kind of security therefore possesses some inflation and deflation protection in the same security. The minimum payment is the deflation or low inflation component of that protection, while the LIBOR float provides a measure of inflation protection when that inflation results in higher short term rates.  Given the Jihad by the Federal Reserve against Savers, short rates are abnormally low now, hugging zero for 3 month treasury bills (.025%) and around .25% on the 3 month LIBOR.  WSJ Both of those rates are substantially below the inflation rate producing strongly negative real rates of return before taxes.

This type of security has a number of advantages and several important disadvantages: Advantages and Disadvantages of Equity Preferred Floating Rate Securities; see alsoAnalysis of Prior Question about Goldman Sach's FloatersFloaters: Links in One Post; and Goldman Sachs Synthetic Floaters and Floating Rate Non-Cumulative Preferred

Prospectus:  SEC

4. Added 50 MFA at 7.78 in the Roth IRA on Tuesday Coping with the Federal Reserve's Jihad Against Savers Strategy)(see Disclaimer): This is a slight average down from a recent purchase of 50 shares at $8.  As noted in that post,  MFA Financial is a Mortgage REIT that uses a lot of leverage to buy mortgage securities.  I purchased the first fifty shares before the recent ex dividend date. Given the current favorable operating conditions for this type of company, it is able to offer a handsome quarterly dividend of 25 cents per share which equates to around a 12.85% yield.

Hopefully the Crazies will not cause the U.S. government to default or suffer a downgrade from a major rating agency. Mortgage REITs own a lot of mortgage securities originating from GSEs and who backs that debt now? You have to draw lines between the dots as an investor.

MFA, unlike several of the mortgage REITs, does own non-agency related mortgage securities which also adds a layer of risk, assuming the U.S. remains a triple AAA credit and continues to back Fannie and Freddie. According to this article in  Seeking Alpha, MFA also has a high percentage of its assets in adjustable rate mortgages that at least in theory provides more interest rate risk protection. This is a link to a recent  Seeking Alpha article just on MFA.

My general approach to Mortgage REITS will be to trade them for small profits. I am solely interested in the dividend yield provided by these securities when held in the ROTH IRA account.

5. Sold 300 out of 1000 MMT at 6.89 on Tuesday (see Disclaimer): These shares were bought in a satellite taxable account last March at $6.61. Generally, the two satellite taxable accounts are mostly devoted to savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market funds, and a few conservative mutual funds.  When the rates for maturing CDs fell, the abysmally low money market rates, and the low savings account rates payable even at online banks, I started to invest some funds in those accounts in dividend paying individual securities, primarily regional banks, CEFs,  electric utilities and a few preferred stocks. The purpose is simply to receive a few dividends and then to exit the position at a profit, no matter how small. Eventually, when the FED ends its Jihad against savers,  I will return to buying online certificates of deposit and leaving excess funds in money market and savings accounts.  This will most likely mean a money market yield in excess of 4%. Until then, I will be moving in an out of a variety of securities that pay me more, and I will be assuming of course more risk for that increased level of income generation.

I prefer to own this type of security in the ROTH IRA.

6. Added 50 FNFG at 12.8 on Tuesday (Regional Bank Stocks' basket strategy)(see Disclaimer): This purchase was made in the same satellite account as the sale of MMT mentioned in Item # 5 above. I now own over 250 shares of FNFG in that account with reinvested dividends. I own another 50 in the main taxable account:

50 Shares FNFG Average Cost 11.9

Before FNFG fell in price, I had intended to sell those shares at over $14 in August, to realize a long term capital gain. Now, I intend to hold onto those shares and to sell the 250+ held in the satellite account when and if the shares exceed $14.5.   I am now slightly under water on those shares: Bought 50 FNFG at 13.7 Added 50 FNFG at 12.62 Bought 50 FNFG at 11.7 Bought 50 FNFG at 11.74 Sold 50 of 250 of FNFG at 14.67 (February 2011 Post) Added 50 FNFG at 13.97 

First Niagara is a well capitalized bank with an extremely low Texas Ratio.  It recently completed the acquisition of another well capitalized bank, New Alliance, that I owned at the time of the merger announcement. Bought NAL at 11.76

While the shares have not performed well since I started my position, I do believe that this bank is well positioned for growth in the Northeast.

The quarterly dividend is currently 16 cents per share: First Niagara Financial Group  At at total cost of $12.80 per share, the yield is around 5%.

I discussed the 1st quarters earnings report at Item # 3  FNFG.  The press release for that earnings report can be found at First Niagara.

FNFG is expected to release second quarter earnings before the market opens. I will discuss that report in a post next week. I am running behind discussing my trades. 

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