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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Futures Are Up!

And what are they up on? The tax cut compromise, that's what they're up on!

"What compromise?" you ask. Well, let me tell you...

At 6:32 PM last night, President Obama announced the details of the compromise between the Democrats and the Republicans on the subject of whether or not the Bush tax cuts will expire. As a reminder, the Democrats wanted to extend the tax cuts for anyone making less than $200,000 (about 96.9% of the populace, according to my calculations from IRS figures[1]) while the Republicans wanted to extend the tax cuts for everyone (about 100% of the populace, according to IRS figures).

How did the compromise work out? In the words of the President, "we have arrived at a framework for a bipartisan agreement. For the next two years, every American family will keep their tax cuts -- not just the Bush tax cuts, but those that have been put in place over the last couple of years that are helping parents and students and other folks manage their bills.... Now, under this agreement, unemployment insurance will also be extended for another 13 months, which will be welcome relief for 2 million Americans who are facing the prospect of having this lifeline yanked away from them right in the middle of the holiday season."

In other words, the compromise boils down to "the Republicans get everything they want, and the Democrats give it to them." An interesting definition of compromise, don't you think?

But surely that's not it? What else is driving futures?

Well, Reuters is reporting that China's central bank is getting ready to tighten the yuan by raising interest rates. Their CPI has hit a 27-month record high of 4.7% and this, combined with fears driven by US market concerns about the Fed possibly buying more than $600 billion in Treasuries, has China concerned about inflation. Rising interest rates are the universally-accepted cure for inflation, so get ready. Asian markets were down initially on the news, but recovered somewhat (mostly because the markets have already priced in more tightening).

And, of course, there's the Treasury announcing an underwritten public offering of it's remaining 2.4 billion shares of Citigroup common stock, at $4.35 per share. Once these are sold, that will eliminate the Treasury's full position of Citigroup common stock, although it will continue to hold warrants for more common stock as well as $800 million in TruPS[2].

[1] The President puts it at 98% in his speech, but what's 1.1% between friends?
[2] TruPS? Investopedia (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trustpreferredsecurity.asp) defines them as "trust preferred securities), securities similar to debentures and preferreds that are generally longer term, have early redemption features, make quarterly fixed interest payments, and mature at face value. They also maintain the appearance of equities in a company's accounting statements, which sounds to me like an accounting trick to make the company look like it has less liabilities than it really does, but it is in accordance with GAAP. So it's legal.

Statement by the President on Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/06/statement-president-tax-cuts-and-unemployment-benefits)
China rate rise talk builds as loans and inflation rise (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B60XG20101207)
Treasury Announces Public Offering of Citigroup Common Stock (http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/TG994.aspx)

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