In Christmas week, if at no other season, a pessimist owes his fellowmen an accounting. . . .
Although crooked, the City of New York is solvent, and it has been paying its debts since it briefly stopped paying them a dozen years ago. Only the older New Yorker will remember the funk of the mid-1970s -- the fiscal crisis, political crisis...
John Dizard writes:
The force of gravity made its expected comeback in the LDC debt market, with prices for the Latin American loans giving up some of the gains they made this fall. The big news, though, or at least the big talk, was about the Bank of Boston's action in charging off $200 million in loans to less developed countries...
An arbitrage opportunity in the personal credit of Donald Trump, tycoon, has presented itself in the junk market (Grant's, December 14)...
At market turning points, absurdity gets up a head of steam. People lose their perspective, and the extreme reading -- gold at $850, the Dow at 2,700, U.S. Treasury bonds at 15% -- comes to seem reasonable instead of unreasonable.
Like young German marrieds, dollars refuse to procreate, and the decline in their rate of expansion is troubling to monetary observers.
The new Grant's Stub Stock Index debuts in this issue on page 11. A stub is a stock in an ultra-leveraged company. In the palmy days of summer, stubs were also known by the dignified term "residual equity interests." Our index is an average of the prices of eight such specimens...
Now that Bank of Boston is telling the truth (as it sees it) about Third World lending, there's no telling where quoted debt prices, or bankstock prices, may wind up...
A reader writes:
One of the more gratifying side effects of the crash is the almost biblical exposure of faked, or manipulated, assets. It's always nice to see justice done in an economic sense.
Heeding the lesson of the perennial Third World crisis -- a problem may be old hat but still financially potent -- one must listen when the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas reports ...
For 1988: Long the dollar
Franklin Savings Association, the biggest thrift in Kansas and a leader in the Midwest school of zaitech, or financial technology, proposes to offer a few billion dollars of "mortgage-backed zero coupon equitable redemption notes."
The only eight consecutive, readable pages in The Incredible January Effect, a new book on stock-market seasonality by a pair of finance professors*, are the pages that constitute the bibliography.
For the desperate, banks are now offering "two generation" mortgages in which the eldest son or another heir is expected to assume payments after the owner retires.
Was it an accident that the New York Stock Exchange Financial Index was peaking last year as the World Financial Center, the optimistically named office village rising from landfill near the Hudson in lower Manhattan, was opening? If so, it was an accident of poetry.
When Moody's Investors Service said it was warming up to lower the boom on the debt ratings of a dozen money-center banks, it cited, among other reasons, "the sharp decline in secondary market prices for LDC bank debt." Grant's, too, has had its eye on LDC prices. We have noticed that they have gone up.
By coincidence, news from Beatrice Cos., the ultimate leveraged buyout success story, and Southland Corp., the fledgling LBO problem child, arrived simultaneously...
The United Nations is nearly out of cash, and Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Secretary General, has proposed a plan of action.
Balance-sheet ratios are conventionally computed at book values. Why? For years, Drexel Burnham Lambert has sponsored a market based measure of corporate capitalization. Its idea was the market-adjusted debt, or MAD, ratio. Let the market decide what a company is worth. Take the debt portion of that valuation and divide it by the overall market cap. The answer is MAD.
It is not quite that simple, of course, and Drexel from time to time has introduced statistical refinements and caveats to the basic idea...
Crash or no crash, the personal stock of Donald J. Trump, the New York real-estate celebrity, is up. Up is Trump's favorite direction...
Many would like to forget 1987 -- tap water so quickly followed the champagne -- but how? It is as hard to put out of mind as the year of the lesser crash, 1929. What follows is a list of some emblematic events, miscues and achievements...
Now that the Federal Reserve Board has apparently swung around to the commodity-watching school of monetary management, what will become of the old-fashioned M's? For the time being, they have almost melted away.
Commodities: a crash in reverse
People will dispute the significance of the stock-market collapse to the national economy, but no one in public so far has called it inflationary. Maybe that is worrisome...
Yale, which lost to Harvard, 14-10, invests for perpetuity. Never mind sic transit gloria mundi. The endowment, which totaled a little less than $2 billion after the crash, is expected to last till Judgment Day.
The Monday after the crash, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story about irrepressible youth. "Markets May Sink/But for the Yuppies/It's Full Speed Ahead," the headline said, and an anonymous young person elaborated at length...
Two stories, inconclusive but provocative, about liquidity or the lack of it...
Domestic nonfinancial debt passed the $8 trillion mark in September, but nobody held a press conference. Is $8 trillion in borrowing -- corporate, federal, personal and state and local -- too much? It is just enough? Could it possibly be too little?
If a bull market is moonlight in Rio, a bear market is morning in Brooklyn. TVX Broadcast Group, a would-be issuer of high-yield bonds and a case study in financial optimism, looked fetching by moonlight. Then -- the date was October 19 -- the sun came up.
Marshall S. Cogan is the chairman and chief executive officer of Knoll International Holdings. He controls the board of directors. He controls the company (it used to be General Felt). In 1986, the company paid him $3.2 million, cash. Possibly nobody outside the Post Office is more securely employed.
John Dizard writes:
"That eccentric rally in less developed-country debt is slowing down somewhat. You'll recall that LDC paper was one of the few markets to rally in the week of the October crash..."
On November 17, the bank research department of Salomon Brothers figuratively pounded the table: 'Against the backdrop of massive industry restructuring, a modestly favorable economic climate and significant earnings momentum in 1988 and probably 1989, we believe that, for the first time in this decade, the money center banks are poised for a significant secular uptrend in valuation levels that could persist for several years."
Beleaguered property owners are losing their real estate to lenders faster than ever before, with foreclosures headed toward a record-shattering total.
Before the birth of Dan Rather; stock-market panics were outdoor events. Crowds milled around the Stock Exchange and lined the steps of the sub-Treasury Building, hatching rumors, planning bank runs and proving what misery loves. The 1987 collapse represented a technological breakthrough. The weather was perfect -- sunlight as thin as skim milk beamed from a clear blue sky -- but everybody was indoors watching a screen.
The global collapse of stock prices, though initially shrugged off at the White House and in the financial advice columns of the New York Post(hold on, the Post counseled its mutual-fund-owning readers under the postcrash headline, "Rally-ho"), was taken hard by the high-yield debt market.
The collateral value of high-yield bonds has entered a bear market, too. A brokerage firm (it will go nameless) used to lend $150 million against the collateral of junk bonds...
Edward I. Altman, professor of finance at New York University, co-author of Investing in Junk Bonds: Inside the High Yield Debt Market and consultant on high-yield securities, formerly to Morgan Stanley and currently to Merrill Lynch, has produced a new study that his clients may wish he hadn't.
Capitalized for prosperity
Whether a recession is likely or not is one of those questions that economists dispute on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour. What is almost beyond debate, however, is that an economic downturn would disappoint broad segments of the American public.
Fails-to-deliver plagued the government market last week, as credit worries prompted the customary lenders of securities not to lend.
What everyone knows about the Great Depression is that the nation's money supply collapsed.... Another "Great Contraction" as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz styled the Depression experience, is what nobody needs. How could it happen?
A friend called to make a suggestion.
John Dizard writes:
"Along with the Sri Lankan stock market and gold bullion, Third World debt prices rallied in the week of the crash. Among widely traded credits, prices rose by two and three points. Mexico jumped from a bid of 49-1/2 before the stock market break to a peak of 54 afterwards.
Now that Crash No. 2 is history, it may be useful to reconsider the career of Roger Babson (1875-1967), the man who called the first crash -- who called it, in fact, until he was blue in the face, starting in 1926.
The Babson story is an instructive and humbling one...
The Federal Reserve, obeying one central banker's precept (in a panic, create credit first and ask questions later), but not another (in a currency crisis, raise interest rates) created credit by the carload in the latest banking week.