October 20th, 2008

That's a lot of pictures of Chairman Mao.

From http://www.chinataiwan.org/english/News/NaT/200810/t20081009_758883.htm:

Taiwan police officers check the amount of counterfeit money that they confiscated from a criminal gang in the Gaoping Region of China’s Taiwan Province, Oct. 5, 2008. Taiwan police and the local Procuratorate cracked down a criminal organization making counterfeit money and seized over 100 million fake Renminbi notes.

(more pictures of cops in front of piles of counterfeit cash at the link.)

GM Lacks Investors to Fund Deal With Chrysler

From http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122447134901349421.html?mod=googlenews_wsj:
General Motors Corp.'s hopes of buying longtime rival Chrysler LLC are floundering because the auto maker remains unable to secure the financing necessary for the deal, say people familiar with the matter.
Now word comes that GM cannot get the money to close a merger. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Outside money is needed to fund the cost-cutting -- especially buyouts and severance packages for tens of thousands of hourly and salaried employees."

Leaving aside GM's balance sheet, the extraordinary aspect of this story is that deals which had much less merit could get cash from a number of sources two years ago. Now, one of the largest companies in the world cannot get what would be a relative modest sum, perhaps $10 billion. That would indicate that the M&A and IPO markets are virtually gone for the next quarter, the next two quarters, or longer.

What they said, and when they said it.

A couple of years ago, Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture blog posted this 1927-1933 Chart of Pompous Prognosticators:

Chart locations are an approximate indication only

Here are some of the accompanying quotes:

1. "We will not have any more crashes in our time."
- John Maynard Keynes in 1927

5. "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months."
- Irving Fisher, Ph.D. in economics, Oct. 17, 1929

7. "The decline is in paper values, not in tangible goods and services...America is now in the eighth year of prosperity as commercially defined. The former great periods of prosperity in America averaged eleven years. On this basis we now have three more years to go before the tailspin."
- Stuart Chase (American economist and author), NY Herald Tribune, November 1, 1929

"Hysteria has now disappeared from Wall Street."
- The Times of London, November 2, 1929

"The Wall Street crash doesn't mean that there will be any general or serious business depression... For six years American business has been diverting a substantial part of its attention, its energies and its resources on the speculative game... Now that irrelevant, alien and hazardous adventure is over. Business has come home again, back to its job, providentially unscathed, sound in wind and limb, financially stronger than ever before."
- Business Week, November 2, 1929

8. "Financial storm definitely passed."
- Bernard Baruch, cablegram to Winston Churchill, November 15, 1929

9. "I see nothing in the present situation that is either menacing or warrants pessimism... I have every confidence that there will be a revival of activity in the spring, and that during this coming year the country will make steady progress."
- Andrew W. Mellon, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury December 31, 1929

"[1930 will be] a splendid employment year."
- U.S. Dept. of Labor, New Year's Forecast, December 1929

15. "Gentleman, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over."
- Herbert Hoover, responding to a delegation requesting a public works program to help speed the recovery, June 1930

20. "All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed... and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S."
- President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

(The above link has the full list of quotes. While the quotes and their accompanying identifing blurbs are from the original site, I added links to Wikipedia articles for more background.)

My thinking on this is that it's not necessarily the case that if you say something foolish it means you're a fool. Rather, it's that smart people can say things that look very dumb in retrospect.

In the current situation, some people are likely saying things that will end up looking pretty silly.

Why I never want to be a pundit.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:
What is the problem with people simply saying, "You know what, I don't know the answer to that." It's why I never want to be a pundit. The entry requirement seems to be that you have to act like you have an answer to everything, when sometimes, you just don't have a fucking clue. Is "I don't know" outlawed or something?
What's more, that requirement interacts really poorly with financial prognostication.