Weil on Finance: Messing With Texas
Happy Friday, View fans. Did you ever hear about the Texas Longhorns fan who was four days late to the game in Colorado? When he pulled out of Austin he saw a road sign that said "Clean Restrooms Ahead." So he did! But enough kidding around. Here are your morning links.
Texas Monthly got all cranky at Bloomberg Businessweek for an article that "manages to couch their findings in breathtakingly condescending terms, running its report under the headline, `Austin or Bust: America's Biggest Cities Lose People to the Urban B-List.'" (Disclosure....I work for Bloomberg!) And I understand: Texans are a proud people. (Disclosure....I have a Texas law license.) But come on now. Look at what the big story in Austin is at the moment: "President Barack Obama's visit to the University of Texas in Austin could be overshadowed by the emergence of a scandal of potentially epic proportions. Maroon bluebonnets are taking over flowerbeds below the school's iconic tower. Officials fear their landscape has been infiltrated by longtime rival Aggies." It seems some deranged horticulturalists from Texas A&M created maroon-bluebonnet seeds in a lab for the express purpose of spreading them around the UT campus and ticking off Longhorn fans. And the truth is that most snobs who live in first-tier cities have better things to do with their lives than get all worked up about a football rivalry between two schools that aren't even in the same conference anymore and don't play each other. So take that, Texas Monthly. You think I care if that's condescending? Fuggedaboutit!
California tech companies held a "Rally in the Valley" some 20 years ago to protest the Financial Accounting Standards Board's proposed rules for stock-option expensing. Likewise, in Oklahoma City this week, about 1,000 people gathered for the "Rally for the Rigs," organized by the long-oppressed Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association. I love this placard one of them was holding: "Don't be a fracking idiot. Support the oil & gas industry." Nice touch. And in a semi-related development, you know there are a lot of IPOs coming to market when there are two by Oklahoma City companies scheduled for the same day. The Oklahoman said it's the first time this ever happened and called it "historic." Or maybe it's just a sign that Wall Street is rolling out too many IPOs.
OK, got that off my chest, on to stuff about banking.
Christopher Whalen says "the next bubble is in mortgage servicing." As usual, it's the Federal Reserve's fault.
Some company named Imperva fell 44 percent. I don't know why, but mainly that's because I hadn't heard of Imperva before. You can read about it at Motley Fool, which says it knows why. Herb Greenberg describes what's going on out there as "the reverse of short-squeeze giddiness" and rattles off a list of those stocks getting hit hardest: "Topping the list: Education Management (EDMC), off 67%. That may not be the best example, but then right below it: 3-D Systems (DDD), Conns (CONN), NeuStar (NSR), Nu Skin (NUS), Groupon (GRPN), Overstock (OSTK) and ITT Education (ESI). Others in the top quadrant include Best Buy (BBY), Potbelly (PBPB), Twitter (TWTR), Stratasys (SSYS), Herbalife (HLF), Amazon (AMZN) and Ubiquiti (UBNT)."
There's no better financial writer in the world than Floyd Norris.
I've been eagerly awaiting his take on Michael Lewis's new book and high-frequency trading: "It is possible that the problems Mr. Lewis identifies are not as large as he thinks. There are reports that high-frequency electronic trading firms are making less money than they used to make, presumably because competition has pushed down the profit margins and because other traders are finding ways -- like the new stock exchange Mr. Lewis celebrates -- to avoid such costs. But the solution his heroes advocate -- more computerization to drive out middlemen -- risks making the market even more vulnerable to disruption as it becomes less attractive for anyone to provide liquidity. What is needed is a way to require those who profit from providing liquidity in good times to continue to provide it when times are hard. And, if something goes truly haywire, to let humans call a halt until the wild computers can be tamed."
Bitcoin is crashing.
Down to less than $400, more than 60 percent off its all-time high. What a shocker.
One is about how China keeps faking its trade data and why that matters a lot. Another tells how Blythe Masters tried to stay on as boss of the powerhouse commodities business that JPMorgan Chase & Co. just sold; her strategy didn't work out.
Stephen Gandel came away thinking that maybe Citigroup had engaged in selective disclosure. I'm not so sure. If a shareholder calls up a company's investor-relations department with a question, and the answer can be found in public disclosures that the company already has made, isn't the investor-relations representative allowed to direct that person to those prior disclosures and explain their significance? Especially if the person is too dense to figure it out without help? I thought yes, but it seems other people might disagree.
Need a laugh?
Check out the French
From the Guardian: "Employers' federations and unions have signed a new, legally binding labor agreement that will require staff to switch off their phones after 6 p.m. Under the deal, which affects a million employees in the technology and consultancy sectors (including the French arms of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC), employees will also have to resist the temptation to look at work-related material on their computers or smartphones -- or any other kind of malevolent intrusion into the time they have been nationally mandated to spend on whatever the French call la dolce vita. And companies must ensure that their employees come under no pressure to do so." Good luck with that.
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