Monday Morning Market Roundup: FED begins 2 day meeting on rates…next stop, Less Than Zero??..Jamie Dimon on 2009 and Housing…WH on Big 3…

Markets opened mixed, have all turned negative.  DOW down 77 to 8552; NAS down 33 to 1507 and S&P down 11 to 870, the 10 yr is at 2.54% WOW!!

As the Federal Reserve begins a two day meeting expected to culminate in a rate cut of 50 bp tomorrow, consider recent comments by various former Fed Governors alluding to our ability to operate in an effective negative interest rate environment. Once they go to zero some think they are out of bullets. Less Than Zero…sooner or later we will pay the piper in inflation…

From the WSJ:

…The market expects the Fed to cut its key lending rate to 0.50%. But, more important, investors want to know whether there “are more aggressive quantitative moves soon to come, or are they further down the road,” said Rick Klingman, managing director of Treasury trading at BNP Paribas in New York.

The Fed is scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday, with its interest-rate decision coming Tuesday at 2:15 p.m. EST.

Aware that its scope to cut interest rates is limited, the Fed already has tiptoed into the arena of quantitative easing, essentially printing money and using the cash to fund lending…

The EU nations are already making noises about ceasing interest rate cuts, remember their mandate is solely to manage against inflation. Our FED does full employment AND inflation, and frankly I have always found that to be a conflict, since economists feel full employment leads to …yes inflation…

On the auto bailout news,  the White House is behaving rather strangely, floating various rumors. Fox reports Bush says, no bailout deal anytime soon, which would IMHO be deadly for the markets. Then we had a report on CNBC saying the bailout could be as high as 40 billion, which is more than double the amount that failed in the Senate. No one knows where it is coming from. We only have 15 billion left in TARP tranche one. A Treasury/Fed combo loan/guarantee program was the assumption the talking heads are making.

Perhaps the reason the WH is playing coy is b/c they are trying to get Congress to be more amenable to accessing TARP tranche deux (I don’t think POTUS’ trip to Afghanistahn would preclude Paulson from putting a package together) ..I don’t know but I do know if they don’t come out with a definitive plan very soon, the markets will begin to respond negatively…

Via Fox:  The administration, following the legislative defeat, said it was considering several options, including using money from the $700 billion financial bailout fund to provide loans to the carmakers. Bush reiterated Monday that tapping the financial bailout fund remains an option. ..

Via CNBC: U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday an announcement on a auto industry rescue was not imminent, leaving the industry’s fate clouded in uncertainty for a little longer..”We’re not quite ready to announce that yet,” Bush told reporters on Air Force One during a flight from Baghdad on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.

Updated POTUS report: 11:25am EST: GOOD NEWS! Phil LeBeau on the Auto Beat reports POTUS said on AirForce One:

“This will not be a long process because of the economic, the fragility of the auto industry”

The US Dollar is continuing to drop, and no one can agree where it is headed next, I say Rick Santelli has it right and it has topped, we shall see:

The dollar fell to an eight-week low against the euro and dropped versus the yen on speculation the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates and the U.S. will bail out General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC.

The greenback approached a 13-year low against the Japanese currency after U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday he may use funds meant to shore up banks to keep the automakers out of bankruptcy. The Fed is forecast by economists to cut its benchmark rate tomorrow.

“There is dollar weakness in anticipation of this week’s meeting, where it’s widely expected that the Fed will cut the benchmark rate,” said Lee Hardman, a London-based foreign- exchange strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi…..

Anywho, markets expect 50 bp and for the first time I can recall the markets don’t really seem to care what the FED does.  Sentiment is just that negative.

You wouldn’t know that based on the parade of talking heads who seem to be tasked with ‘talking up’ 2009. I will stick with what Jamie Dimon (JPM Chase CEO) told Erin Burnett on December 11th. Remember, only Jamie got it right on the housing meltdown. One of the comments he made was that he expects housing values to drop another 20%-OUCH!:

Video here and here and here

Transcript here (CNBC did it in caps)

-snip-

BURNETT: JAMIE, I GUESS THE BIG QUESTION EVERYONE HAS IS HOW BAD IS IT OUT THERE FOR THE ECONOMY?

DIMON: YOU KNOW, IT’S REALLY HARD TO PREDICT. I’VE NEVER REALLY SEEN PEOPLE PREDICT THE ECONOMY SUCCESSFULLY.

BURNETT: I KNOW YOU ROLL YOUR EYES SOMETIMES.

DIMON: THAT’S ONE OF THE REASON WHY I DON’T REALLY LIKE TO GO ON TV. NO ONE REALLY KNOWS THE ANSWER. BUT WHAT WE HAVE SEEN IS A DRAMATIC DOWNTURN IN ALMOST EVERY SINGLE ECONOMIC INDICATOR THERE IS. CONSUMER SPEND, BUSINESS SPEND, FACTORY ORDERS AND IT’S GLOBAL. IT’S GOING TO SYNCHRONIZE. THE WHOLE WORLD NOW. JAPAN, EUROPE, AND YOU’RE GOING TO SEE A BIG SLOWDOWN IN INDIA AND CHINA. IT MAY NOT BE NEGATIVE, BUT A BIG SLOWDOWN. WE DON’T KNOW WHEN IT’S GOING TO LEVEL OFF OR TAKE OFF. I HAVE GREAT LONG-TERM FAITH IN THE AMERICAN ECONOMY. I JUST TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD AND PEOPLE THINK AMERICA IS ON ITS LAST LEG. I’LL MAKE YOU A BET WE’RE THE FIRST TO RECOVER. WE’VE BEEN THROUGH TOUGH TIMES BEFORE. GOOD COMPANIES AND GOOD COUNTRIES THEY REFORM, THEY GET BETTER, THEY LEARN FROM THE PAST AND MOVE ON. I’M CONVINCED WE’RE GOING TO DO THAT. BUT WE’RE PREPARED FOR A TOUGH ’09.

BURNETT: WHAT IS A TOUGH ’09?

DIMON: IT’S ALL GOING TO BE UNEMPLOYMENT DRIVEN. AND BY THE WAY, IT’S FAR MORE, OUT OF RESPECT FOR PEOPLE LOSING THEIR JOBS, I HAVE FAR MORE SYMPATHY TO THEM THAN THEY DO TO US AS A LENDER. BUT IT’S ALL UNEMPLOYMENT. UNEMPLOYMENT WILL DRIVE COMMERCIAL LOSSES, REAL ESTATE LOSSES, ALL CONSUMER PRODUCT LOSSES, THEY’LL FOLLOW THE UNEMPLOYMENT TREND. IF WE’RE LUCKY, IT WILL HAVE TWO MORE QUARTERS OF THIS AND WE’LL START TO SEE A RECOVERY. I WOULD PUT IT IN THE LITTLE LUCKY CATEGORY. IT’S POSSIBLE IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE AND WE’RE IN FOR A TOUGHER TIME. AS A BUSINESS, WE HAVE TO BE PREPARED. WE CAN’T RUN THE BUSINESS SAYING, WELL, IF IT DOESN’T GET BETTER, WE’RE IN DEEP TROUBLE. WE HAVE TO RUN THE BUSINESS SAYING, WE CAN HANDLE WHATEVER THE ENVIRONMENT IS GOING TO BE OUT THERE.

BURNETT: SO WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING AT UNEMPLOYMENT, I KNOW NOW THERE’S DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOOKING AT IT. IF YOU COUNT PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALREADY GIVEN UP LOOKING FOR JOBS, YOU’RE ALREADY LOOKING AROUND 10% AND IT COULD GET WORSE. THE GREAT DEPRESSION WAS 25%. WE’VE ONLY HAD ONE DEPRESSION. DEFINING WHAT A DEPRESSION IS HARD TO DO. IS IT FAIR TO SAY, JUST BEING A TRUTH TELLER HERE, THAT WE’RE REALLY ON THE VERGE OF THAT SORT OF A SIGNIFICANT SEISMIC EVENT?

DIMON: NO. I THINK THE CHANCE OF A REAL DEPRESSION IS VERY, VERY SMALL. YOU NOW HAVE THE GOVERNMENTS AND THE CENTRAL BANKS OF THE WORLD PUTTING EVERY OUNCE AND EVERY FIBER TO STOP THE SNOWBALLING ECONOMY AND THEY’VE ALREADY PULLED OUT THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM. BUT IF YOU HAVE FISCAL STIMULATION AROUND THE WORLD, IT’S PRETTY POWERFUL STUFF. I THINK THEY’RE GOING TO DO WHAT THEY HAVE TO DO. WE KNOW A LOT MORE THAN WE KNEW THE LAST TIME WE HAD A DEPRESSION. I DON’T EXPECT A DEPRESSION.

BURNETT: WHAT ABOUT MORTGAGES? THERE’S ONE IMPORTANT STATISTIC HERE THAT EVERYONE HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT. THE MORTGAGES IN THE FIRST QUARTER, A LOT OF PEOPLE CAME OUT AND SAID THEY’RE GOING TO REWORK MORTGAGES. 60% OF THOSE MORTGAGES ARE COMING BACK INTO FORECLOSURE NOW. THAT’S A STUNNINGLY DEPRESSING NUMBER. AND THE PRELIMINARY NUMBERS WE HAVE FOR THE SECOND QUARTER ARE ACTUALLY A LITTLE BIT WORSE. YOU HAVE YOUR OWN PLANS. WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?

DIMON: THE FIRST THING IS, MORTGAGES CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE. THE CONSUMER SIDE, AND OBVIOUSLY THE VALUE OF THE HOMES, THOUGH IN SOME PLACE THERE ARE SIGNS, THERE ARE MORE SALES, THERE IS MORE ACTIVITY, THE ABILITY TO PAY IS MUCH HIGHER, MUCH EASIER FOR AMERICANS TO AFFORD AT THESE INTEREST RATES AND THESE LOWER HOME PRICES. THAT’S GOING TO GIVE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO A LOT YOUNGER PEOPLE, NEW FAMILIES TO BUY HOMES A LOT CHEAPER. WE HAVE A VERY CREATIVE FORECLOSURE PROGRAM, WHICH DOES NOT WAIT FOR YOU TO BE DELINQUENT. WE’RE TRYING TO, USING STATISTICS, ANALYZE TO SEE IF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HAVE A PROBLEM, CONTACT THEM AHEAD OF TIME, A LOT OF THEM DON’T WANT TO RETURN OUR PHONE CALL, AND SAY, LOOK, BEFORE YOU GO DELINQUENT LET’S TALK ABOUT WHAT WE CAN DO FOR YOU. WE THINK WE’RE GOING TO TOUCH 600,000 MORTGAGES WHERE WE WILL REDUCE THE INTEREST OR MODIFY THE MORTGAGE IN A WAY THAT THEY NOW CAN PAY. WE UNDERWRITE THE MORTGAGE AGAIN, WE REAPPRAISE THEIR INCOME, THAT THEY WANT TO STAY IN THEIR HOME, WHAT THE REAL VALUE OF THE HOME IS. WE GO THROUGH ALL OF THAT AND THE REASON YOU HAVE THE RE-DEFAULTS, I THINK, SOME OF THE STUFF WAS DONE SLOPPY. AGAIN, YOU’VE GOT TO DO LENDING INTELLIGENTLY. BUT EVEN AT DEFAULT RATE, IF YOU SAVE 50%, IT’S STILL OKAY.

BURNETT: SO YOU’RE NUMBER IS NOT 60%?

DIMON: I BELIEVE IT’S CLOSER TO HALF THAT.

BURNETT: SO — MEANING 30%?

DIMON: AND WE’VE HIRED 25 LOAN OFFICERS TO HELP PEOPLE. AND WE’RE DOING IT EVERY DAY TO TRY TO DO A BETTER JOB. IT’S PERSON BY PERSON. DO THEY WANT TO LIVE THERE – DID THEY LIE ON THEIR INCOME, TO REDO THE ABILITY TO PAY AND TO TRY TO MAKE A GOOD, SAFE LOAN. IF THEY CAN’T DO THAT, THEY SHOULD DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT, WHETHER IT’S RENT OR WHATEVER.

BURNETT: RIGHT. SO 30% OF THE ONES THAT YOU’VE REWORKED ARE GOING INTO FORECLOSURE AGAIN.

THAT’S MUCH BETTER THAN THE OVERALL MARKET. ONE THING YOU MENTION WHEN YOU REWORK, WE’RE HEARING FROM THE GOVERNMENT THAT SAYS YOU CAN PAY A MORTGAGE BACK OVER 40 YEARS OR 50 YEARS AND YOU GET A LOT LOWER INTEREST RATE. BUT THERE IS A BIG PUSH TO REDUCE THE PRINCIPAL. PEOPLE’S HOMES WILL NEVER BE WORTH WHAT THEY PAID FOR THEM. YOU HAVEN’T DONE THAT. DOES IT NOT MAKE BUSINESS SENSE? DO YOU THINK THE COUNTRY SHOULD DO IT?

DIMON: THE IMPORTANT THING IS THE ABILITY TO PAY. SO IF I REDUCE THE CASH FLOWS THAT YOU HAVE TO PAY, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF I’VE USED THE PRINCIPLE OF THE CASH FLOWS. AS LONG AS OVER THE NEXT FIVE OR TEN YEARS, THAT BECOMES AN AFFORDABLE LOAN. SO THE BANK’S TRYING TO KEEP THE PRINCIPLE WHERE IT IS SO THEY DON’T LOSE MORE MONEY. THEY’RE GOING TO LOSE MONEY, ANYWAY, BY REWRITING THE LOAN. SO IT’S KIND OF – MONEY’S – IF I CUT THE COST OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS BY $10 OR A CERTAIN PERCENT, THAT’S A SAVINGS —

BURNETT: SO YOU COULD CUT THE COST AT FULL?

DIMON: NO, YEAH, BUT WE PREFER IT TO DO IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND THIS WAY WE HAVE A CHANCE TO RECOVER –

BURNETT: AND YOU KEEP THE UPSIDE?

DIMON: WELL, WE KEEP SOME OF THE UPSIDE. REMEMBER, THE BANKS ARE LOSING ALL THE MONEY HERE. THERE ARE PEOPLE LOSING A LOT OF MONEY AND NOT ALL OF THOSE LOANS WENT TO PEOPLE WHO SHOULD HAVE THEM AND NOT ALL THE PEOPLE WHO TOOK OUT LOANS WERE GOOD BORROWERS. A LOT OF PEOPLE LIED ON THEIR INCOME. THEY LIED ON THEIR PURCHASE OF THEIR HOME. AND YOU KNOW, BAD UNDERWRITING BY BANKS THERE’S A LOT OF BLAME TO GO AROUND HERE. BUT I WOULDN’T FOCUS SO MUCH ON THE PRINCIPLE. YOU PUT SOMEONE IN A HOME THEY CAN NOW AFFORD AND THEY WANT TO STAY THERE. SO IF WE CUT THE INTEREST RATE, THAT CAN BE BETTER THAN CUTTING THE PRINCIPLE IN SOME CASES.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

BURNETT: WELCOME BACK TO “STREET SIGNS.” NOW AT THE YALE CEO SUMMIT AGAIN. WE’RE SITTING HERE WITH JAMIE DIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF JP MORGAN CHASE. TALKING ABOUT EVERYTHING JAMIE, HOUSING PRICES. NEXT UP, YOU HAD SAID A FEW MONTHS AGO, YOU THOUGHT WE HAD ANOTHER 25% OR SO TO GO DOWN. AND THAT WAS WHEN WE HAD ALREADY FALLEN 20% NATIONALLY IN THIS COUNTRY ON HOUSING PRICES. WHERE ARE WE NOW? HOW MUCH MORE ARE WE GOING TO SEE HOME PRICES DROP? I KNOW IT’S A NUMBER YOU MUST OBSESS OVER EVERY DAY.

DIMON: YEAH, I DON’T REMEMBER SAYING THAT NUMBER.

BURNETT: YOU WERE QUOTED. MAYBE YOU DIDN’T.

DIMON: AND I THINK, IT DEPENDS ON WHEN YOU GO BACK IN TIME, BUT THEY’RE GOING DOWN 3%, 4%, 5% A QUARTER NOW. YOU KNOW, IT IS POSSIBLE THEY GO DOWN 20% FROM HERE. IT’S POSSIBLE IT’S 10%. IT’S POSSIBLE IT’S – BUT I JUST DON’T REALLY KNOW. BUT THAT PROBLEM IS CAUSING A LOT OF PROBLEMS IN COMMUNITIES, OBVIOUSLY, FOR HOMEOWNERS, TO LENDERS. SO YOU KNOW, STOPPING PRICES GOING DOWN WILL BE A VERY BIG FIX TO THIS WHOLE PROBLEM AND LOW MORTGAGE RATES IS VERY BENEFICIAL FOR THAT.

BURNETT: AND RIGHT NOW, THE GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS WE’VE SEEN, DO YOU APPLAUD THEM? YOU’RE SUPPORTIVE? OR WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT YOU WOULD DO TO SAY THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO DIFFERENTLY, RIGHT NOW, TO STOP PRICES FROM DROPPING?

DIMON: YOU KNOW, I THINK — REMEMBER, THE FORECLOSURE, THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. THE REAL PROBLEM IS ABILITY TO PAY AND THE COST OF HOMES. THE COST OF HOMES IS COMING DOWN DRAMATICALLY AND THE ABILITY TO PAY, IF YOU HAVE A JOB — IF YOU DON’T HAVE A JOB, OBVIOUSLY THAT’S GOING TO HURT THE ABILITY TO PAY, BUT THE COST OF THE MORTGAGE. SO IF MORTGAGES COST YOU 6% VERSUS 5% VERSUS 4.5%, THAT MAKES ALMOST – THE 4.5% MAKES ALMOST EVERY HOUSE IN AMERICA REFINANCEABLE. THEY MAY NOT BE ABLE TO REFINANCE BECAUSE THEIR FICO SCORES OR THEIR HOUSE ISN’T WORTH IT —

BURNETT: BUT YOU THINK PEOPLE CAN PAY THAT RATE?

DIMON: YES. AND THE ABILITY TO PAY THAT RATE — IT ALSO MAKES THE HOUSE, BY OUR ESTIMATE, I FORGET THE EXACT NUMBER, SOMETHING LIKE 10% OR 15% MORE AFFORDABLE. SO A LOT MORE PEOPLE CAN NOW BUY THAT HOME. THEY CAN FINANCE FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. THEIR ABILITY TO PAY IS MUCH HIGHER AND EVENTUALLY THAT’LL STOP HOME PRICES FROM GOING DOWN, AND THAT’S THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO THE HOUSING MARKET, AND I THINK ULTIMATELY FOR THE ECONOMY. BUT I THINK SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS ARE DOING THAT INDIRECTLY. AND SOME OF THESE PROGRAMS, LIKE BUY MORTGAGES, WILL DO IT IN FACT DIRECTLY.

BURNETT: OBAMA’S STIMULUS PLAN AS PUT FORWARD. WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO ADVISE HIM IF YOU WERE TO SAY, “HERE IS THE SIZE I THINK IT SHOULD BE AND HERE IS SORT OF HOW I BREAK IT UP”?

DIMON: YOU KNOW, HE HAS A LOT OF VERY SMART PEOPLE WORKING FOR HIM NOW THAT KNOW MORE THAN I DO, INCLUDING TIM GEITHNER AND LARRY SUMMERS. AND THEY PUT IT THE BEST. I READ ONE OF THEM WROTE, “SIZABLE, SUSTAINED, SUBSTANTIAL, MEANINGFUL.” AND THEY – I’M NOT AN EXPERT IN THAT BUT, YOU KNOW, INFRASTRUCTURE IS SOMETHING TO CONSUMERS, THEY HAVE TO FIGURE THAT OUT. BUT I THINK WE SHOULD DO THAT NOW, MAKE SURE WE GET THE ECONOMY BACK ON A SOUND FOOTING. AND THEN, VERY IMPORTANTLY, FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET OFF OF ALL THIS AND HOW TO HAVE A REAL FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AGAIN, BOTH FOR THE COUNTRY AND ALL THE COMPANIES ON THE T.A.R.P., ETCETERA.

BURNETT: YOU SAID TO CONSUMERS, YOU’RE BEING A STATESMAN. THERE’S LOTS OF WAYS YOU COULD DO THAT. YOU COULD GIVE THEM CHECKS, YOU COULD CUT THEIR TAXES. DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD HAVE A MASS TAX CUT?

DIMON: I THINK THAT SHOULD BE IN THE TOOL KIT, YES. AND I THINK IT SHOULD ONLY BE FOR LOWER PAID PEOPLE. OKAY — YES, I THINK THIS AN IMPORTANT THING TO DO. PART OF THE PROBLEM WITH THE TAX CUT AGAIN YOU REALLY HAVE TO TALK TO THE EXPERTS. IF IT’S NOT SUSTAINABLE, AND YOU THINK YOU JUST GOING TO GET AN EXTRA $500, YOU MAY NOT SPEND THAT MONEY. BUT IF YOU THINK IT’S PERMANENT, YOU MAY LOOK AT IT A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY IN HOW YOU TREAT IT. I THINK THEY HAVE TO GO THROUGH THAT. AND I’M A STUDENT OF THIS. I’M NOT AN EXPERT IN HOW YOU STIMULATE ECONOMIES.

BURNETT: BUT TAX CUTS FOR LOWER INCOME. AND WHAT ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE? I MEAN, THERE IS A HUGE DEBATE THAT SOUNDS GREAT, BUT THERE’S THE QUESTION OF WHICH PROJECTS ARE READY TO GO. AND ARE THEY PROJECTS THAT REALLY DO HELP THIS COUNTRY IN THE FUTURE? ARE THEY KIND OF SILLY, FRIVOLOUS THINGS? DO YOU BELIEVE IN INFRASTRUCTURE AS A BIG PART OF A $500 BILLION PLUS PLAN?

DIMON: YEAH. THE POINT ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE – FIRST OF ALL, WE NEED INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING. OUR ROADS, OUR ELECTRIC GRIDS, OUR HIGHWAYS, OUR AIRPORTS. SO TO ME, WE NEED TO BE DOING SOME OF THAT. AND I DON’T KNOW HOW FAST THE WORKS ARE READY TO GO. SOME OF THE EXPERTS, I’VE SPOKE TO SOME GOVERNORS AND MAYORS WHO SAY, “WE’VE GOT PROJECTS READY TO GO. THEY’RE ON THE DRAWING BOARD AND THEY’VE BEEN STOPPED OR IF WE GET THE EXTRA MONEY, WE’LL DO IT.” SO I DON’T PERSONALLY KNOW, BUT IF THAT WERE TRUE AND THEY WERE GOOD PROJECTS, THAT WOULD GIVE YOU A GOOD SENSE OF COMFORT. IF IT’S A BRIDGE TO NOWHERE AND BECOMES PORK, IT WOULD BE ANOTHER HUGE MISTAKE FOR THIS COUNTRY…

December 15, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Big 3, Cabinet, CITI, Economy, FDIC, Finance, Foreclosures, Housing, Labor Department, Obama Administration, Politics, Popular Culture, Simon Pegg, TARP, Unemployment Statistics, Wall St.

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