Former Merrill brokerage chief Bob McCann discussed everything from the future of wealth management (“very positive”) to client portfolios—underweight equities, hold some cash—while attending the Global Irish Economic Forum over the weekend.
McCann, from the video footage, looked relaxed and pleased to be talking about these things in his first public interview since leaving Merrill. He still had no comment on when/if he was going to take a job at UBS but did say he expects the judge to rule this week on whether the non-compete clause in his Bank of America contract is fair or not.
Also over the weekend, Jim Grant turned bullish. Grant, the editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer and the book The Trouble With Prosperity, is highly regarded by many in the investment community for his musings on the market. Alas, many of his fans were shocked by his optimistic predictions for the economy and markets just as others see a lot to worry about in the current rally. (Grant is so often bearish he was once called the Marquis de Sade of investing.)
Gluskin Sheff economist, David Rosenberg—who calls Grant “a true giant in the industry”—writing in his daily missive, “Breakfast with Dave,” and bloggers Bill McBride of Calculated Risk and Michael Panzner of Financial Armageddon, all registered surprise at Grant’s forecasts and laid out their reasoning for why they disagree with any near-term rosy forecasts.(Panzner was featured in Registered Rep.’sGurus column in June 2008.) John Hussman of the Hussman Funds sounds a similar tone of caution in his weekly market comment this morning, titled “Strenuosly Overbought,” in which he compares the look and feel of today’s markets with 1930.
However, if the Fed keeps interest rates low as expected, and continues to pump money into the system through “quantitative easing” the rally could still have legs. Of course, that might bring other consequences, according to Bill King of M. Ramsay King Securities. In his King Report published last week, he writes, “If QE [quantitative easy], which is due to expire, is renewed, stocks should rally but commodities, gold and inflation plays should rally far more. The dollar should tank. China should go apoplectic. Benito [as he derisively refers to Ben Bernanke] will look foolish for saying ‘the recession is likely over.’ Bonds might rally initially but then look out below.”
Over in the legislative branch, our duly elected representatives are offering up alternatives to the Obama Administration’s plans for financial regulation. Connecticut Democratic Senator (and special “friend” of Angelo Mozilo’s), Chris Dodd, has proposed a bill which would require the merger of the four banking regulators—the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency—into one “super regulator” with a diminished role for the Fed.
Simon Johnson, an MIT economics professor, former economist at the IMF and co-founder of the blog, Baseline Scenario, co-wrote a harsh opinion piece on the Fed with Peter Boone, in the New York Times this weekend. Meanwhile, his blogging partner, James Kwak, lays out an optimistic and pessimistic view for financial reform’s chances.
Lastly, on a much lighter note, here’s another song about the bailouts—there have been many—that’s pretty clever and won’t hurt your ears.