Sunday, March 8, 2009

The formula for a market rally

It's in the NY Times, written by Ben Stein, and it's painfully obvious to anyone in markets.

Markets and stocks are being torn asunder, because the ability to profit from it's fall has never been greater. So change the rules!

REIN IN A RULE Immediately end the near-universal applicability of the accounting rule formally known as FAS 157.

This is the “mark to market” rule that requires banks and other finance houses to value securities at current market prices, even when they may plan to hold those securities for some time.

The rule was intended to provide greater transparency. But its deficiencies are glaring. It allows short-sellers to basically price mortgage-backed bonds and to make them trade for pennies, even if the bonds are still meeting their payments. This “mark to market” price often does not come even close to the value of future cash flows that can reasonably be expected. The “mark to market” price is just the price at which the last short-seller made his sale.

This accounting rule kills banks and insurers, kills credit generally and makes taxpayers pay off the profits of short-sellers. It’s time to stop this giant gift to those sellers.

REVIVE A RULE End “naked short-selling” and bring back the “uptick” rule.

The naked short-seller can sell shares without having borrowed the stock first. This is like tossing great white sharks into the kiddie end of the pool.

And then there’s the mystery of why the Securities and Exchange Commission ever ended the rule that requires an uptick in a share price before a short sale. The elimination of that restriction brings a major downside bias into prices.

Mary L. Schapiro, the new chairwoman of the S.E.C., should bring back the uptick rule. Yesterday wouldn’t be soon enough.

ADD A RULE Don’t allow speculators with no insurable interest to buy credit-default swaps on bonds.

When used properly, these instruments can function as a legitimate kind of insurance. Yes, if you are a real buyer of the bonds of a given company, you should be able to buy insurance. But you shouldn’t if you are just a shark circling prey, bringing blood into the water.

Allowing speculators to buy C.D.S.’s merely to bet against a firm in difficulty just blasts the prices of bonds, kills the balance sheets of banks, insurers and hedge funds, and throws fear into the system.

There's also should be one more rule.


If the seller of CDS Insurance cannot make the payment when default occurs, the buyer takes the hit.

That's the formula for a gigantic market rally! It would clean up all the gaming of the financial system, and make credit default swaps insurance, instead of just a "prop" bet!

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