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Archive for March, 2008

Spotlight on ‘The Secret History of the Authority – Jack Hawksmoor ‘WildStorm Comics. Written by Mike Costa. Art by Fiona Staples

Posted by Adrian on March 31, 2008

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THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY: JACK HAWKSMOOR #1 (OF 6)

The Authority is probably the closet thing you can get to a truly modern day, or contemporary type super heroes. In fact, any writer that has written stories for the Authority franchise, is forced to elaborate and experiment with the characters in the book. It’s a way the characters have developed or evolved. Unorthodox type heroes, in unorthodox situations. The Authority as a concept is a post modern, revolutionary type idealism mixed with a casual cynicism for the human race, but nevertheless trying to protect humanity from various foes and enemies.

The Authority team just has so much personality and good writers are able to reflect that personality from each of character’s in the story telling. Because each character has a quirk, a characteristic that makes them unique and as I said contemporary. Which is essential, if the reader is to relate to stories and character interaction in the book.

Jack Hawksmoor is at times the default leader of The Authority, and if anyone has followed the Authority and their stories. You would know that the Authority reside on a huge spaceship (The Carrier) that travels in the bleed of space, the Authority operations are staged from the Carrier using portal doors. Jack Hawskmoor in a lot of ways have not really been a stand out character of late. The recent Midnighter series, which I might add has been excellent, has taken the Authority’s residential homosexual and killer of bad guys into new ground. There is a steady development of the Midnighter, in which writer Keith Giffen is crafting and adding a lot more depth and interest into the Midnighter character. Please refer to ‘Overview on Spotlight ‘Midnighter’ #11 and #12 (writer Keith Giffen)‘ for review.

So finally we get see the Authority’s Jack Hawskmoor get his own comic book series, written by Mike Costa and art by Fiona Staples. Issue #1 starts of with the Authority trying to take down some ancient manifested Slavic God inside the city of Kiev, but something occurs in the time line and we see Jack Hawskmoor back in 1994, in San Fransisco before he joined the Authority; and apparently unaware to him any events that occurred in the future, or did they occur?

I think Jack Hawskmoor could be portrayed as that inner urban modern day super hero I mean the way he dresses, Georgio Armani pants no shoes, bare feet (with surgically enhanced soles – built in traction), Ermenegildo Zegna shirt and jacket. I alright I am guessing what brands he wears, but he has that dress/casual look going. No tie though. Point is, with the powers he has, which he is able to command cities, hence the pseudonym God of Cities. Unable to draw power outside from a city, his powers are magnified within a city. The pollution, the concrete, metal construction all represent a power source to the character. So it’s a cool concept, especially with the 1st issue showing a gigantic robot out of control in San Fransisco bay, trying to tear down the Golden Gate Bridge. For the first time in a series independent from the Authority, we get to see why Jack Hawskmoor is called the God of Cities. Commanding old (earth quake of 1906, at the bottom of the bay) San Fransisco city to hold the feet of the maniacal robot.

The art for The Secret History of the Authority – Jack Hawksmoor is handled extremely well, good fluid and expressive art. Drawn by Fiona Staples, she has shown a unique style and perspective on the Authority and the characters. But god is in the details and Staples is doing an excellent job. Keep an eye out for her work.

I remember the Daredevil DVD and it had some commentary and extra footage of the characters and writers of DD. Kevin Smith who wrote Daredevil at some point, mentioned that Daredevil is the ‘Grateful Dead’ of comics. I am not too sure what he means by that, but he is saying that Daredevil represents the cool or underground style comics from a major comic company (Marvel), maybe. But as an urban, or underground type characters with a loyal core following, DD is a depressive comic, dragged down by writers that can’t seem to pull the character out of the hole he has been written into.

Jack Hawksmoor, as an independent character to the Authority could be that quintessential urban style hero (with out the depressive Daredevil tinges), in a sci fiction type of way. Already Mike Costa is creating an impression of a story unfolding, that has a modern ‘noir’ and jazzy, misanthropic feel. If the art can back this up (which it currently is), in my opinion, you are going top have a classic book here. A truly underground style comic under a major company banner (DC/Wildstorm)

You gotta love the beginning of a story when it’s ‘the strange girl, but strangely familiar’ scenario and ‘her perfume’ theme (and this is said twice at the start and the end of issue #1), how can you go wrong with that?

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Overview of countries effected by credit, liquidity and inflation; recession conditions – Japan, Spain, Iceland – Update 1

Posted by Adrian on March 31, 2008

Overview of countries effected by credit, liquidity and inflation; recession conditions – Japan, Spain, Iceland – Update 1

Spanish property bubble and inflation, from Bloomberg March 2008

“The slowdown can be seen on the streets of Madrid, where buildings are plastered with “For Sale” signs and it’s getting easier to find a seat in the normally packed cafes.

“People just don’t have any money,” Antonio Romero, a taxi driver, says. “With so many people on low wages, the price rises are really being felt and people are cutting back on unnecessary expenses.”

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UBS capital issues, interbank blame games and legality, risk aversion will be in full force

Posted by Adrian on March 31, 2008

As mentioned in ‘commodity markets and slight correction March 2008 (prior to easter 2008)’ , the big Swiss bank (UBS) is undoubtedly in trouble with capital problems due to the massive write-downs in the last quarters and panic withdrawal from local depositors. There is talk of investigations, new regulations, transparency on accounts from investment banks to retails banks; which has caused a blame game to occur (not to mention the rumours going back and forth), so responsibility for the schmozzle of the financial markets is being handed around. Hedge funds are being attacked as the stock markets are being shorted (short sold). Suing is also the rage, from the Bear Stearns mess to Lehman suing a brokerage firm in Japan. Possible legal issues with Australian broker Opes Prime going bankrupt. Also, the Hedge Funds are getting blamed for Iceland economic woes. The market is in panic mode and so it should be, risk aversion will hit like a vengeance. I suspect we will see the USD rise from this (on a temporary basis), the high yield currencies may lose somewhat, and the short selling to continue on stocks. Then there is global inflation.

It pretty much leaves the commodity markets as havens

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Overview of countries effected by credit, liquidity and inflation; recession conditions – Japan, Spain, Iceland

Posted by Adrian on March 28, 2008

There is now a growing list on countries that have been effected and are currently being effected by the global credit crisis, liquidity crisis and inflation. The press is slow in reporting, but from time to time an article will appear in a financial publication whether online or in print of various countries that are struggling in tandem with the US economic woes. If other countries (outside from the US) are any indicator, or bellwether to a global economic downturn; all indicators are suggesting that this is going to be synchronized as a harsh global bust.

Apart from the US, that has filled the press with the invertible economic situation. Other countries have also appeared to hold a similar problematic situation, or are vulnerable to the tightening of the credit markets, which in turn is effecting the local financiers (Banks). Not to forget inflation, which in someways is being overlooked (not by the populations though) – which will destroy a countries wealth capacity even faster. The list below will be tracked by morbius glass, the US economic situation is obvious and dire, so this won’t be looked at with these blog posts (but tracked in the other posts) .

The countries (Japan, Spain and Iceland) below are shown as coupling to the current US economic recession.

Japan

Japan as the worlds second largest economy, is almost intrinsically joined to the hip on the US economy. With the US in recession and eventually moving into a harsh prolonged recession. Japan is showing the signs of it’s own vulnerability. Although exports have been picking up, namely to China and Russia on the back of car and other durable export’s. But it must be noted that the Japanese economy has suffered from years of deflation (hence interest rates being so low at 0.5%), the economy has struggled with growth and job creation, also should be mentioned that Japan has a stagnated wage growth. In some ways, the tipping of the US into recession will only further slow and already slowing Japanese economy. Japan could already be within recession bounds. So mixed with a possible beginnings of a recession, Japan (like the rest of Asia) is suffering from rising costs of food and oil.

The Japanese stagnant labour growth is at it’s 3 year low of 60.4% below average to most developed nations.

Spain

Spain has been covered in morbius glass, there have been brief flashes of media coverage of Spain. But the outlook is always the same. A massive property boom, inflated and tight rental market, particular Barcelona – now on the verge of collapse.

The Spanish housing bubble grew significantly between 1997 and 2007, at the same time as most developed nations property booms. Wolfgang Munchai for the Financial Times 8 March 2008 has written an excellent overview of the Spanish economy, particular the housing situation, some exerts from that article,

“I have become a collector of scary housing statistics of late. One of my favourites is a chart from the Bank of Spain, which shows that building approvals and permits* have fallen off the edge of a cliff since the end of 2006. At their peak, building permits were rising at an annual growth rate of 25 per cent. In the autumn of 2007, their annual change was minus 20 per cent – probably still going down. House prices have not fallen nearly as much, but this is only a matter of time, as sellers tend to suffer from a collective delusion at this stage in the housing cycle.

Between 1995 and last year, Spanish house prices tripled in nominal terms, and doubled in real terms. Several explanations have been offered: a trend for young people to leave their parental homes earlier; a rise in immigration; and the country’s popularity among northern European homebuyers. But beware of demand-side arguments. They are usually cyclical, and the cycle is just turning. Also, as supply increases with demand, there is now a glut of unsold homes.”

he goes on to give the example of falling of GDP with falling equity prices on property, in respects to the Spanish market and equity withdrawal on homes

“When house prices fall, GDP will be hit in two ways: the first is the direct effect of a fall in construction investment, and the second is the indirect consumption effect, as people cannot extract new liquidity from their homes, which they could use for consumption spending. If the construction sector’s share of GDP were to shrink to 10 per cent gradually over a period of, say, four years, the direct effect on growth would be close to 2 percentage points per year.

Add the consumption effect from lower house prices, and you easily get a half-decade of zero growth – perhaps longer, perhaps worse, perhaps both.”

and in regards to the Spanish banks,

“Spain has a modern and robust banking sector that has avoided some of the pitfalls of modern credit markets. Yet Spanish banks will have problems once mortgage default rates are rising. And in terms of structural reforms, Spain ranks low in league tables on product market and retail regulation, and in terms of competition policy.”

I would add the inflation spectra to falling equity as a speedy decent into a recessionary conditions. Spain, with a collapsing property market, no matter how cashed up the banking sector is (sounds like Australia) will be reluctant to lend out money on falling equity markets. Inflation and credit tightening with a receding property market – is a death throe for any economy. Spain is showing all the indicators of an economic meltdown.

Iceland

This has been sudden for Iceland, the main contributor for a pending economic ‘crisis’ is the funding problems for banks as the credit markets becoming tighter. The currency has collapsed and the Icelandic banking sector is on the verge of insolvency, from Financial Times 25th March 2008,

“The bank said “deteriorating financial conditions in global markets” had contributed to the emergency move. Confidence in the krona, Iceland’s currency, has been shattered this year because of perceived economic imbalances in the economy and fears the banking sector is in danger of collapse. The krona has weakened by 22 per cent against the euro so far this year.”

Regarding banking stress, inflation

“The bank last raised rates in November 2007 and said then it would leave them unchanged until the middle of this year, but was prepared to take extraordinary action if the krona depreciated severely. Inflation was 6.8 per cent in February and has outpaced the central bank’s target of 2.5 per cent since 2004.

“It will be necessary to continue to pursue a very tight monetary policy in order to bring inflation and inflation expectations under control, and increase confidence in the krona,’’ the central bank said. Thor Herbertsson, co-author of an influential report in 2006 on Iceland’s economy with Fredric Mishkin, a member of the US Federal Reserve board, said Iceland could be thrust into crisis as a result of the global economic situation. “Let’s say Iceland is not in more danger than some Wall Street banks,” he said.

morbius glass blog will keep updates on the countries covered in this post.

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Interpol – Slow Hands clip

Posted by Adrian on March 25, 2008

very good.

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World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Worldwide economic depression.(update 13)

Posted by Adrian on March 25, 2008

World Crisis scenarios for the 21st century – Worldwide economic depression. (update 13)

The US Federal Reserve current policy of buying debt, offering cheap loans (to banks and brokerage firms) and generally pushing amounts of cash into the banking system – has ensured short periods of calm , then panic sets in again. When a financial system freezes up, or is loosing money (on depreciating assets) and at the same time systemically unwinding (credit markets) in a dramatic way – this is worrying.

Are we heading for a worldwide depression? A real possibility. Can China and Asian withstand a severe global recession? From the perspective that the US has already entered a recession and will fall into a severe recession. The severe recession probability will effect Asian countries, at this point the degree of effect is speculative. But, global inflation is a concern mixed with slowing/recession economies. America and Europe may be on the verge on a harsh case of stagflation, slowing economy/rising prices. Asian could also show the hall marks of stagflation too, namely japan and Singapore.

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(Above graph reflects global headline inflation.)

Oil now at trading over $100.00 a barrel, and with demand increasing namely from emerging economies, South America and Asia; oil will continue to rise well into the 100’s. Emerging economies will add to energy inflation and demand, which will effect western recessionary countries (inflation), such as Europe and the US.

So if the world is heading for a severe global recession or depression, will it be a deflationary depression or a depression with rising prices/costs? Similar to Argentina in the late 1990’s and early 2001. When the economy collapsed and the Argentina currencies (Peso) loss significant value.

A country that has received little press, as far as a depressed economy, is Italy. This was discussed late last year on morbius glass filed under The Sadness of Italy. Italy is a good indication of a country that has a collapsed industry, rising prices, inflation and a poor ‘middle class’. The example of Italy is when an inflation is allowed to grow, the currencies and purchasing power is diminished. This is now happening in the US, apart from the denial of The Fed (including the chairman) and the US administration. But the US is not alone, Europe who has an artificially high Euro, is also vulnerable to a debasing of it’s currencies.

So, when countries find it hard to finance and find financial safe havens such as Government Treasury bonds we can use Italy again as an example, according to an article on the Telegraph 19th March 2008,

“Few noticed last week that the Italian treasury auction was also a flop. The bids collapsed. For the first time since the launch of EMU, Italy failed to sell a full batch of state bonds.

The euro blasted higher anyway, driven by hot money flows. The funds are beguiled by Germany’s “Exportwunder”, for now. It cannot last. The demented level of $1.57 will not be tolerated by French, Italian and Spanish politicians. The Latin property bubbles are deflating fast.”

So with falling markets such a property, rising inflation and reserve banks either cutting rates or keep rates on hold, may be at the detriment of the currencies. Apart from debasement of currencies and their value there is also a fall in global production, according to an article in the Financial Times (19th March 2008  ) global trade is slowing significantly,

“The equivalent growth rate in the three months to October was 6.9 per cent.

“This is a substantial deceleration,” the institute said. “World trade volume growth is on a downward trend.”

Trade figures tend to be volatile but even on a longer-term smoothed basis, comparing the three-month average with the same period a year earlier, the growth in goods trade is at its lowest since 2003.

The data appear to provide further evidence that global economic activity is slowing, as growth in emerging markets has failed to compensate for weaker demand in the US.

The last time annual growth in trade went negative was in 2001, when the shallow US recession that followed the bursting of the technology bubble and the shock of the September 11 attacks caused global commerce to contract.

Trade growth is consistently higher on average than overall economic growth but it also tends to be more variable, dropping sharply during recessions.”

Also, the Baltic Dry Index that tracks dry bulk shipping has declined

refer to graph

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With inflation now completely out of control, a global recession on the horizon and the real possibility that a depression could occur globally, dragging in emerging economies. Again the question has to be asked, what kind of depression will it be? A deflation or stagflation based depression?

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Commodity markets and slight correction

Posted by Adrian on March 20, 2008

The global markets are in such frenetic and panicky state, for the Dow Jones go from 420 points (after the Feds 0.75% rate cut), then plummet the next day to -293, Dow currently at 12.099.66 It shows the uneasiness of the markets, particularly in the stock market. With a long weekend looming, commodities went through a slight correction. The USD rose on the DXY:IND to close at 72.01, refer to graph:

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It still looks like a dying currency.

Gold dropped to 944.7 on the comex close of trade from record highs of 1033.35, refer to graph (Although gold has fallen further in current asian trading now at 930, could fall to 925 – now oversold). :

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Oil is still trading above 100.00 a barrel.

The general commodity correction is slight, and I suspect it was due to profit taking or to shore up accounts that have been hammered by massive losses on the stock market, option and FX markets.

Risk aversion is the current trading outlook, with the financial sector still in trouble. The rumours (apparently false) HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) could be in trouble have circulated. But never the less the banking sector may try and price down risky assets and get rid of them, and it is still plausible for a major institution, Wall Street Bank or otherwise to indicate to the markets that it’s in trouble. Any pricing down, dropping bonuses, asking for financial help, or approaching central banks discount windows for loans – will keep the market jittery.

The Feds bail out plans to protect the over levered high risk banking sector may stretch the capacity of the Federal Reserve. An eventual out come would be a bank, mortgage lender to officialy go bankrupt.

The rate cutting policy will prove to not only solve nothing but instill the steady decline of the US dollar. How much risk the Fed will allow it’s self to take on, only time will tell.

At this point Thornburg Mortgages could be in trouble, looking for capital to shore up it;s accounts, from guardian.uk:

“One of America’s biggest home loan providers, Thornburg Mortgage, needs to raise nearly $1bn over the next seven business days in order to keep its creditors at bay.

“The New Mexico-based firm defaulted on $610m (£307m) in margin calls from lenders earlier this month and has been teetering on the brink of becoming the next American financial company to fall victim of the global credit crunch.

It has struck a conditional deal with five creditors for a further $5.8bn of financing – but the agreement depends on Thornburg raising $948m from other sources over the next seven days.

The five banks holding the keys to Thornburg’s future are Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, UBS and the troubled institution Bear Stearns.”

Sounds messy.

Regards to UBS and capital issues, as the chairman takes a cut from his bonus. A 90% cut, according to smh.com.au

“The chairman of UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, is taking a 90 per cent pay cut for 2007 after giving up his bonus – but still will make about $US2.5 million ($A2.8 million), the bank said in the aftermath of massive writedowns linked to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.”

Is this symbolic? Or an indication that accounts could be lower than expected?

I suspect the end of the assset writedowns haven’t finished for UBS and other big banks connected with the subprime mortagage mess.

All and all, with profit taking on commodities before the long weekend (easter), this could be interpreted as a slight correction in the commodity markets.

Although the whole market is in panic mode, on everything.

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After the Fed cut (0.75%), the market rumour mill has begun.

Posted by Adrian on March 19, 2008

I don’t like posting rumours, but the decaying credit market is still in vogue, despite the Fed’s out of control rate cutting policy.

 1) Rumours of emergency ECB and also BoE Meeting – leading to Rumours of Emergency rate cut possibly to ease credit crunch despite inflation concerns. 2) Rumours of another hedge fund in trouble (not surprised though). 3) Rumours of UK bank in trouble likely to be circulating again.”

And some hedge funds want to buy into the distressed mortgage market!

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The Feds coming rate cut 1.00% or 0.50%, does it matter?

Posted by Adrian on March 18, 2008

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have lost control of the markets. They have shown that they have little care for US economy, inflation, the US dollar and the unfortunate people that have lost their homes and their wealth.

The USD will be depegged form most currencies, stagflation will increase and the US will fall into a severe and deep recession. Asia will slow down to fight inflation, Bank of China will reveal it’s losses connected the subprime disaster. European banks UBS and HSBC may be in major trouble.

I can’t see oil dropping on any US slowdown at all, oil and all other commodities will be that hedge on inflation. So if you are in that market, watch your ‘buy’ signals.

Bloomberg March 18th 2008

“Recent economic data suggests the first recession since 2001 may have begun in December or January. Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein, a member of the committee that officially declares when a recession has started, said last week that he believed a recession was under way and it could be the most severe since World War II.”

devaluing assets, increased price inflation = a zero to negative growth for the majority.

A sad disposition.

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American tax payers bail out investment bank Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase buys it.

Posted by Adrian on March 18, 2008

The rumour that Bear Stearns was in trouble circulated early last week, in fact two banks appeared to be in trouble. Fannie Mae the mortgage bank and Bear Stearns the Wall Street investment bank. You could have tossed a coin which one was going to go belly up. But, the incredible thing is that a ‘solid’ old investment bank (Bear Stearns), was the one that was insolvent. Incredible in the sense that Wall Street a beacon of financial solidity is, in someways collapsing. A once independent bank Bear Stearns was bought by JP Morgan and Chase for just $2.00 a share. Apart from the astounding cheap price for an an 85 year old bank of Wall Street. The Federal Reserve also provided emergency bailout funds to keep Bear Stearns a float before the deal between JP Morgan Chase, and Bear Stearns could be finalized.

But with massive billion dollar losses of the global banks, it’s not surprising a bank was going to become insolvent. I speculated in morbius glass forecasts for 2008 that it would be a smaller bank to medium size bank that would get wiped out (with no return) from the global liquidity/credit crisis. To have a big bank go first (albeit rescued by a competitor) is very worrying, especially when Bear Stearns was sold at $2.00 a share.

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