"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Monday, November 22, 2010

FBI Beavers and Irish Bailouts and Giving Thanks

Those of you who read it may have noticed this headline in the Wall Street Journal: "U.S. in Vast Insider Trading Probe" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704170404575624831742191288.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLETopStories). It's big, it's looking at multiple insider-trading rings, and the fallout could conceivably change the way the financial industry is allowed to do business. Some of the things the probes are looking at are:
* Was nonpublic information passed along by "expert network" companies to hedge and mutual funds?
* Did Goldman Sachs Group Inc bankers leak information about transactions that benefited certain investors?
* Have independent analysts and research boutiques been knowingly allowing clients to trade on inside information?
* Did traders at "a number of hedge funds and trading firms" improperly obtain and use nonpublic information about pending merger deals.

Ignites (http://www.ignites.com/c/124284/11924/insider_trading_probe_involves_funds_report, which may require a subscription to access) points out that currently "no mutual fund firms are identified by name as suspects, but Janus, Wellington and MFS are known to be among the clients of one analyst whom the FBI has accused of relaying inside information".

As of right now, no charges have been made, although a Federal grand jury is hearing evidence right now. Look for some indictments to be handed down in the next few weeks.

In world news, Bloomberg reports (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-22/ireland-seeks-european-union-rescue-as-outsized-crisis-overwhelms-nation.html) that Ireland has recanted its claims from a week ago that it does not need financial aid. On Sunday, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen formally ate crow and requested financial assistance from the EU and the IMF. There are no official numbers - the details are still being worked out - but Goldman Sachs Group estimates that they may be tapping 95 billion euros. To put that in the market-crushing perspective it requires, Greece borrowed about 47% of its GDP. Ireland will most likely be borrowing close to 60%. If you've noticed that the futures are down this morning (and they are), this is why.

With all that in mind, we don't really have any market moving reports due out on this, the first day of the Thanksgiving trading week. Tomorrow we get the release of the Q3 2010 preliminary revision for GDP (analysts are expecting to see real GDP revised upward to 2.4% from the initial 2.0% estimate, with no change in the price index) and existing home sales (the Street is looking for a drop of 30,000 from September's 4,530,000 units). Wednesday brings durable goods orders, personal income and outlays, first time jobless claims, consumer sentiment, and new home sales. All by 10 AM. Then the markets are closed on Thursday (for Thanksgiving generally and, it appears, specifically for giving thanks for not having been indicted yet), and they close early on Friday.

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