The Stingy News Weekly (01/31/2010)
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5 Stingy Stocks for 2010
"It's been a good year for Stingy Stocks. The markets still have a way to go before breaking even from the big bust, but the Stingy Stocks are very close to staging a full recovery thanks to 64.5% gains this year."
A bust with precedent
"The original wave of securitizations took place in the 1920s, when the United States went on the greatest building boom ever. Many investors saw how rapidly real estate prices were rising and wanted in on the action. The builders and brokers were only too happy to oblige."
Selling puts naked
"Like other Canadian insurers, Manulife was sideswiped during the financial crisis due to its exposure to guaranteed annuity products it had sold to clients across North America and Asia. Most have issued significant amounts of new shares to raise their capital levels since stock markets plunged in the fall of 2008. A major player in the business, Manulife hadn't hedged its segregated funds. That exposure created a capital risk that attracted the attention -- and intervention -- of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Canada's financial services regulator."
Unlock the housing market
"In the United States, you can find and bid on a house using an iPhone. So why is it that in Canada, much of the information prospective home owners need is a tightly held secret, unlocked only by real estate agents? It's the question at the heart of a dispute between the industry and the Competition Bureau -- the resolution of which could radically change how houses are bought and sold"
Paying zero for public services
"For people to speak up against corruption that has become institutionalized within society, they must know that there are others who are just as fed up and frustrated with the system. Once they realize that they are not alone, they also realize that this battle is not unbeatable. Then, a path opens up - a path that can pave the way for relatively simple ideas like the zero rupee notes to turn into a powerful social statement against petty corruption."
$10 an hour with 2 kids? IRS pounces
"Rachel Porcaro knows she's hardly rich. When you're a single mom making 10 bucks an hour, you don't need government experts to tell you how broke you are. But that's what happened. The government not only told Porcaro she was poor. They said she was too poor to make it in Seattle."
A Greek bailout, and soon?
"In Brussels policy circles, the question asked about a bailout of Greece used to be: are European Union governments willing to do this? Now, I can report, the question among top EU officials has changed to: how do we do this?"
The restaurant-failure myth
"His research - consistent with similar studies - found that about one in four restaurants close or change ownership within their first year of business. Over three years, that number rises to three in five."
Why Canada's housing bubble will burst
"Reading the newspapers these days, you have to wonder whether Canada was on another planet when the global credit crisis hit. House prices have actually increased in some provinces and now there is a shortage of houses for sale in southern Ontario. Credit is flowing everywhere. But what few Canadians realize is that the housing market has avoided collapse (prices are down 32 per cent in the U.S.) because the Harper Conservatives directed the CMHC to change the mortgage rules to effectively make the Canadian government the biggest sub-prime lender in the world."
Ten stocks I wouldn't touch
"These companies, in my judgment, have some of the worst balance sheets in the U.S. The first five companies mentioned above have negative net worth; that is, their liabilities exceed their assets. Among the 727 U.S. companies with a stock-market value of $3 billion or more, only 17 have that unfortunate distinction. The next five companies have positive net worth (stockholders' equity) but their total debt is at least five times equity, a trait shared by 26 of those 727 companies."
"Waiting for the undiscovered, undervalued stock to approach intrinsic value can seem like you're a fisherman waiting for the fish to bite. Sometimes you just don't know when or how value will be realized but you suspect that dinner will eventually find its way into your boat."
Could California really default?
"One reason these investors had fled new issues, of course, is because munis are supposed to be conservative investments that offer only a modest return to their holders in exchange for being able to sleep peacefully at night. A loss of confidence in this market doesn't occur quickly but is a long-term process, and politicians can exacerbate the uncertainty when their rhetoric becomes more and more bombastic and their assurances steadily more unrealistic, something that's now becoming commonplace among California officials."
Hayek vs. Keynes Rap
"'Fear the Boom and Bust' a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem"
Leviathan stirs again
"The gap between American public spending and Canada's has tumbled from 15 percentage points in 1992 to just two percentage points today."
International housing affordability
"Vancouver remained the least affordable market of any size in the surveyed nations, at 9.3, worsening from 8.4 last year. Toronto joined Vancouver as severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 5.2. However, Barrie, within the Toronto region was moderately unaffordable, at 3.4. Victoria, Abbotsford and Kelowna (all in British Columbia) were also severely unaffordable. Housing affordability continues to deteriorate in Montreal (Median Multiple of 4.9), where an agricultural urban growth boundary has seriously constrained development on the urban fringe. The most affordable major market in Canada was Ottawa, with a Median Multiple of 3.8 (moderately unaffordable). However, housing affordability has deteriorated materially in Ottawa-Gatineau, which was affordable as late as 2007 (Median Multiple of 3.0). The most affordable markets in Canada were Thunder Bay and Windsor (2.2), followed by Moncton (2.5), Saguenay and Saint John (NB) at 3.0."
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