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November 12, 2008



The guy who wrote Liar's Poker, gives an interesting follow-up:

One of his points is that Merrill always ends up taking a beating in every downturn:
>We have a simple thesis,” Eisman explained. “There is going to be a calamity, and whenever there is a calamity, Merrill is there.” When it came time to bankrupt Orange County with bad advice, Merrill was there. When the internet went bust, Merrill was there. Way back in the 1980s, when the first bond trader was let off his leash and lost hundreds of millions of dollars, Merrill was there to take the hit. That was Eisman’s logic—the logic of Wall Street’s pecking order. Goldman Sachs was the big kid who ran the games in this neighborhood. Merrill Lynch was the little fat kid assigned the least pleasant roles, just happy to be a part of things. The game, as Eisman saw it, was Crack the Whip. He assumed Merrill Lynch had taken its assigned place at the end of the chain."

Another one of his points was that when they were "shorting" the bonds, that money ended up keeping the system liquid, and when the hedge funds pulled out of their short positions, a significant amount of liquidity dried up.

I think there is too much existing debt out there, and far too much of it is frightfully opaque. Combine that with the spectacularly malevolent job that the ratings companies did, and the smarter money is staying out. It is a bad case of musical chairs out there, and anyone who managed to get out of the room is already a winner.

Most of my co-workers think that deflation is going to happen. I disagree as I think there isn't enough fat in the supply chain to support dropping prices for retail. My local Linens and Things is closing, and the prices are only down about 20% from the pre-closing prices (I haven't seen anything on their shelves that has a greater mark-down). I don't think prices *can* drop enough for deflation to be seriously considered. I *do* believe that we're going to see products disappear from the sheves. One might want to note the number of Chinese factories just locking their gates and going fly-by-night for an idea of why the supply chain is going to get really wierd before this is over.

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The fact that most of the world's trade and finances is denominated in U.S. dollars has greatly assisted the U.S. in playing this shell game much, much longer than almost all observers thought it could.

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It seems that there is a lot of debt existing over there.The bonds are also been shorted.The prices are also being dropped and the situation appears to be worst in the companies.

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