Mark Cuban sued

Blogger billionaire Cuban is being sued by the SEC over alleged insider trading. An interesting turn of events given his involvement in Sharesleuth.com.

Mr. Cuban stated, “I am disappointed that the Commission chose to bring this case based upon its Enforcement staff’s win-at-any-cost ambitions. The staff’s process was result-oriented, facts be damned. The government’s claims are false and they will be proven to be so.”

I wonder how he will fare.

Selling your soul at Moody's

Rating agency Moody’s employee emails:

Employees at Moody’s Investors Service told executives that issuing dubious creditworthy ratings to mortgage-backed securities made it appear they were incompetent or “sold our soul to the devil for revenue,” according to e-mails obtained by U.S. House investigators.

I love this one:

An e-mail that a S&P employee wrote to a co-worker in 2006, obtained by committee investigators, said, “Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.”

If you’re not sure about the role Moody’s and Standard and Poors played in the debacle, Barry has a good brief rundown:

The proximate cause of the Housing crisis were 1) Ultra-low rates; and 2) Abdication of traditional lending standards, thanks to 3) originators ability to resell mortgages for securitization purposes, and hence, 4) not have to worry about loan defaults.

The credit crisis was caused by 1) the above securitized mortgage paper, that was 2) rated triple AAA by Moody’s and Standard & Poors 3) Which was then “insured” by credit default swaps (CDS) — the unreserved for, shadow insurance products 4) whose exemption was made possible by the Commodities Futures Modernization Act.

That legislation exempted these derivatives from any supervision or regulation. The lack of reserve requirements is why there is now $62 trillion in CDS, many of which will never pay their counter parties the promised insurance.

He has more here, including IM conversations between staff at Standard and Poors.

Rahul Dilip Shah: btw: that deal is ridiculous

Shannon Mooney: I know right … model def does not capture half of the risk

Rahul Dilip Shah: we should not be rating it

Shannon Mooney: we rate every deal

Shannon Mooney: it could be structured by cows and we would rate it

Yahoo results

Well Mr Market has liked Yahoo’s decision to fire 1,500 workers. The shares are trading up by about 5% in after market.

The purge outlined Tuesday represents a 10 percent reduction in Yahoo’s payroll of about 15,000 employees. It’s the second time in nine months that Yahoo has resorted to mass layoffs in what so far has been an ineffectual effort to rebound from a financial funk that has left its stock price near a 5 1/2-year low.

Things got worse in the third quarter as Yahoo earned $54.3 million, or 4 cents per share. That was a plunge of 64 percent from $151.3 million, or 11 cents per share, at the same time last year.

Remember, Microsoft were prepared to pay up to $35 a share under the original deal. Yahoo now trades at $12.

"Buy American. I Am."

Is it time to start calling a bottom on the market when Warren Buffett tells New York Times readers that it’s time to start buying? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly worth a read. Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway, has recently been involved in purchasing stock in Goldman Sachs (albeit preferred stock) and General Electric.

Other holdings include Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, Nike and Burlington Northern.

I have seen some very low Price/Earnings ratios on some really good companies of late. And in the current climate, the wisest course of action might be defensive stocks. Johnson and Johnson stands out for me. That or stay out of the market altogether. For now.

Reuters have a report on Mr Market’s reaction.

HP cut 25,000 jobs

No word yet on whether the job cuts include Irish staff.

Hewlett Packard, which acquired Electronic Data Systems for nearly $14 billion this summer, plans to trim its company-wide workforce by nearly 8 percent as part of that acquisition.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP will announce restructuring plans for the EDS division to “streamline costs, invest in growth and drive shareholder value,” it said in a statement.

The company said 7.5 percent of the combined workforce, or 24,600 jobs, will be cut as part of the restructuring. Half of those cuts will be in the United States.

BizJournal.

Wall Street implodes

We started the year with five big investment banks. Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. Bear fell earlier this year. Now Merrill and Lehman have disappeared in a weekend. Only Goldman and Morgan remain.

How will the market react later today? Dow futures are off by 300 points, the dollar is weakening against the euro and we could be in for a world of hurt throughout the week.

Disclosure: At the time of writing I was long euro v dollar.

ETFs

The Sunday Tribune had a rather odd article today about commodity ETFs. Eddie Lennon seems to get his facts wrong, or at least misses the point with regard to the advantages ETFs provide:

ETFs are bought and sold on the stock market just like shares. They offer an easy, inexpensive entry to the markets and can be bought through a stockbroker for a standard brokerage fee or from an investment company, preferably for a flat fee. The minimum investment is usually €5,000, but can be as much as €20,000.

ETFs are listed on the stock market like ordinary shares. You can buy and sell them like you do with ordinary shares. They are also priced like ordinary shares. So where does this minimum investment of €5,000 come from? And a maximum? It makes no sense. (Though I guess he may be directing the article at the pensions market specifically) He goes on:

They can also be bought from the likes of Eagle Star, Irish Life, Canada Life and Rabodirect, which have their own commodity-linked investment funds. These companies buy commodities indices on the world’s stock markets.

Eagle Star’s Global Commodities Fund was the top Irish performer in this area over the past year, until last Wednesday. It rose in value by an impressive 48.16%. Next was Irish Life’s Commodities Index Fund, which grew by 20.19% over the same period, followed by Rabodirect’s BlackRock World Gold Fund (up 18.61%), Rabodirect’s BlackRock World Mining Fund (up 12.48%), Canada Life’s Quadrivium Fund (down 12.37%) and Rabodirect’s JPM Global Natural Resources Fund (down 16.79%).

Ah. Now I see. Let’s take the Eagle Star Global Commodities Fund as an example. According to the information in the prior piece, there is a minimum investment level of €5k. But that’s only if you go through one of this firms who are simply reselling ETFs. The one mentioned actually just tracks this. Which traded at $67.80 a share on Friday.

Why would I go through Eagle Star when I can just buy the ETF myself on the market? I could buy one share for $67.80, that’s the real minimum investment level. And the maximum? Well I guess I could theoretically buy all the ETF shares, but that would cost quite a bit of money. Or better yet I could dollar cost average my investment in ETFs, and buy at regular intervals. See here.

Strangely, expense ratios are nowhere mentioned. It is one of the biggest factors for anyone buying ETFs. Vanguard offer some of the lowest.

The Fool has a good roundup on the difference between mutual funds and ETFs.

I suspect all of these firms are simply reselling ETF products and taking a cut for themselves. If you want commodities exposure you would be better advised to avoid all of these firms. Technically the least you can invest is one share, not €5,000.

Just open a cheap online broker account with Firstrade or Zecco and do the buying yourself for next to nothing.

And no matter what you do, either doing it yourself or through one of these firms, you will be dollar exposed since the ETFs are listed on US markets.