TARP Tax More Politics Than Economics
U.S. President Barack Obama today (Thursday) unveiled the widely anticipated "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee," which effectively amounts to a tax on banks to pay back money the government lost on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
The fee would apply to financial firms – both domestic firms and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies – with more than $50 billion in consolidated assets, and equate to 15 basis points, or 0.15% of a company's covered liabilities each year. Deposits assessed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) would not count toward those liabilities.
The tax, which must be approved by Congress, would go into effect on June 30, 2010, and earn about $90 billion over 10 years, but could go on longer. The White House said collecting $117 billion would take about 12 years.
Will China Supersede Saudi Arabia as the Key to U.S. Oil Prices?
I bought a Toyota Prius last Saturday.
The signs are everywhere that oil is headed for stratospheric highs – $200, $250 or even $300 a barrel. Some of these signs are just plain obvious. But even the subtle indicators are telling us that some very expensive energy costs headed our way.
Let me tell you about one such indicator that I came across over the New Year holiday. A tiny news item said that Saudi Arabian oil concern Aramco is abandoning a lease on Caribbean oil storage, and further reported that PetroChina Co. Ltd. (NYSE ADR: PTR) is moving in to take Aramco's place.
Most investors here in the West – if they even read the item – would've dismissed it as just another minor business transaction, one among the thousands that take place each day. But this particular deal was much more than that. It's another indication of China's continued global emergence. And it also underscores this country's relegation to the growing legion of "former" world powers that have been eviscerated by the financial crisis that they created.
In case you missed the story, let me share the details, and then explain what I believe those details actually mean.
Banking's Bigwigs Called to Carpet as Obama Prepares New Bank Tax
Four prominent Wall Street executives testified on Capitol Hill yesterday (Wednesday) about errors they committed during the financial crisis. But no amount of contrition or case making will be able to spare the financial services industry from the wrath of public opinion and a new tax to be imposed by President Barack Obama.
The bigwigs from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) were called on yesterday (Wednesday) to explain themselves to the U.S. Congress' Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) – the ten-member commission appointed with goal of investigating the causes of the financial crisis.
"Over the course of this crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage," Brian Moynihan, chief executive of Bank of America, said before a standing-room only crowd in the House Ways and Means Committee room, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Obama Bank Tax No Reason to Flee Financials
U.S. President Barack Obama plans to implement a tax on financial institutions to offset taxpayer losses stemming from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and help reduce the deficit. But Obama's new bank tax is no reason to turn bearish on financials, which staged an impressive comeback last year.
At a time when many financial companies are gearing up to announce fourth-quarter and full-year earnings, as well as details regarding employee compensation and bonus payments for 2009, the government is considering charging banks fees to recover as much as $120 billion in lost taxpayer money.
While most of the big banks have started paying back their TARP investments, the government has yet to recoup large swathes of money that went to American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), General Motors Corp., and Chrysler LLC. Last month, the Treasury estimated that the net cost of TARP to taxpayers would be $41.4 billion.
Shareholders – Not Obama – Should Be Curbing Wall Street Bonuses
Wall Street bonuses are back in the news again, as the Obama administration scores cheap political points by bashing bankers.
Wall Street's investment-banking houses correctly claim that they are paying out a much-lower-than-usual percentage of their profits in the form of bonuses – in some cases, less than 50%.
After all, Wall Street earned the money legitimately (aided and abetted by foolishly lax monetary policy, which will come back to bite us). So these firms should have the right to pay out lots of those profits as bonuses – so long as shareholders don't object.
The problem is that shareholders ought to be objecting – and objecting loudly.
You see, the money that Wall Street is using to pay those big bonuses rightfully belongs to the shareholders.
Wall Street Scrambles its "Contango Convoy" to Capitalize on Higher Oil Demand
A 26-mile-long line of idled oil tankers, enough to blockade the English Channel, are firing up their engines and jockeying for position in a race to cash in on the bone-chilling deep-freeze plaguing the North America, Europe, and Asia.
The supertankers, each of which can hold over 2 million barrels of oil, are steaming "all ahead full" to deliver their stores of crude, heating oil and other distillates to the United States.
Their clients – which include several huge Wall Street investment firms – are eager to unwind what's become known as the oil storage trade.
Two Ways to Profit From Wall Street's "Soft Commodity" – Cotton
Some of the best investment opportunities can happen simply by ignoring the Wall Street herd and venturing onto the road less traveled.
Take such traditional "breakfast club" commodities as sugar, cocoa, coffee and orange juice. They all enjoyed a great year, despite bearish forecasts of doom and gloom. Sugar and cocoa even traded at multi-decade highs.
Similarly, cotton got a bad rap going into 2009, though it motored into the end of the year with a tidy profit, rising on the standard laws of supply and demand.
The New Oil Index is About to Create Even More Opportunity for Investors
Speculators in New York won't be calling the shots anymore. Not in oil, anyway.
The way we price it. The places we trade it. The companies that stand to profit most.
It's all about to change.
This was confirmed at a meeting I just attended in The City, London's financial district. I arrived from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport for an unusual Saturday morning gathering of bankers, traders and analysts called only days before.
The subject? A new oil-pricing index.
This is huge.
More oil-project funding is raised within a three-mile radius of The City's Liverpool Street train station than anywhere else on Earth. And now they're preparing to control the oil trade, as well.
This will create all kinds of new ways to make money in oil. Not just with fancy financial instruments designed for the "big boys," but with retail investments, too. So there's money in this for you.