Thursday, October 09, 2008

The GM, Ford death watch - Oct. 9, 2008

The GM, Ford death watch - Oct. 9, 2008: "NEW YORK (Fortune) -- How bad is it going to get for automakers? Worse, much worse."

Say it ain't so. In a phone conversation with my dad this morning, he asked, "Have you seen what's happening with GM?" I clicked over to Marketwatch, and at the time we were talking, GM had lost 16% of its value in just the early morning trading.

At its peak in 2000, GM stock was trading at close to $95 a share. This time last year, it was trading around $45. Now it's worth little more than $5.

Watch for a potential merger or a brand spin-off with Hyundai, who is terrified of losing the lower end of the market to the Chinese manufacturers. Nostradamus has spoken.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Propaganda to get you to vote Democrat this year

Yes, I really sent this to my parents-- my dad, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and my mom, a true undecided.

Hey mom-- make sure dad reads this!

Here is my propaganda to get you to vote Democrat this year:

We get the government we deserve. In 2004 we re-elected Bush. In 2000, it could be argued that we didn't know better. Not in '04. We can't pin every problem we're facing on "W", but with hindsight, it is clear that some problems we're in were compounded by his actions.

* massive increases in government spending
* no more surpluses-- huge deficits in the budget as far as the eye can see
* doubling of the government debt
* Bin Laden and extremists of his ilk still out there
* un-insured's emergency room visits getting passed on to insureds in the form of increased costs. these people's conditions might be managed for pennies on the dollar with medicine before they need expensive E.R. treatments , but anything other than the status quo is resisted by the G.O.P. as "socialized medicine.

The Republican party used to be fiscally conservative. Not any more. That's why I am no longer a Republican. But I didn't leave the party. They left me. Say what you will about Bill Clinton's personal conduct, his successful battle against government budget deficits was masterful. Part of his effort was politically unpopular-- raising taxes, and trimming entitlements. But he turned around the budget deficits that were the legacy of the Reagan-Bush era. And the economy didn't self-destruct, even though he came to office directly following the recession of '91.

This election, I encourage you to re-evaluate how you look at things.

* Are we better off than we were four years ago? Eight years ago?
* What are the qualitative differences between McCain and Bush policies?
o I haven't seen much difference, other than a campaign promise about health tax company sponsored health benefits in exchange for a $5000 tax credit. This bill, if it even becomes a bill, will almost certainly die in committee on capitol hill.
* Has anyone talked about how to constrain these budget deficits, or the risks entailed to the economy if we don't?

My personal belief is that people will decide the presidential race based on the most important thing, something I haven't yet heard a debate moderator even ask!

Who will be the best unifier of the country? Who will bring people together to solve our common problems?

Think about it before you pull that lever or mark that ballot!

GE Capital--addendum

Here is a little follow-up to yesterday's story. Just talked to a trailer manufacturer in Michigan who told me that GE Capital's minimum FICO for loans is 750. This is pretty much their way of saying "Um, we're not loaning any money on trucks, sorry."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How the financial crisis affects car haulers

First of all, the scarcity of money-- the so-called "liquidity crisis" makes deals on major equipment harder to complete. You pay more for the capital you need to purchase new trucks. It becomes harder for you to sell your truck, because the person buying your truck has the same problem. There are fewer buyers that qualify as lending guidelines grow tighter. Some banks go into panic mode, and refuse to write certain loans, no matter how good your credit is. There is less competition among lenders for your business. That's never a good thing.

Consider the rates that GE Credit is offering today in their fleet credit program: 12% to qualified buyers. Three months ago, the rate was 8%. (As reported by Andrea West, owner and finance manager of West Coast Enterprises, the nation's newest Cottrell auto transport trailer dealership.)

Secondly, there is less freight to haul, because fewer people who want new cars qualify for credit. It becomes harder to "push that 4000 lbs of steel" across the sales desk at dealerships around the country. Less new car sales equals less used car sales. Less car sales means the auction freight slows down.

Thirdly, less POV freight as people cutback their spending, and as the housing crisis makes it harder to sell homes and move.

Disaster Economics 101

As with all things, the less there is of something, the more you will have to pay for it. The less money there is available to be loaned out (liquidity) the more you're going to have to compete for it. Also-- as more and more banks have to take crappy loans back onto their balance sheet, the less money they will have available to loan out, because of capitalization requirements.

And with banks uncertain about each others' willingness and ability to repay loans to each other, more and more banks here and abroad are having to rely on the central banks for overnight requirements.

The "seizing up" of the commercial paper market is happening in parallel with this, (in a huge oversimplification) pretty much because money market funds no longer want to buy the commercial bonds offered by businesses needing to raise large sums of money for short periods of time to meet their cash requirements.

Normally, banks perceive loans made to each other to be so "safe" that the spread between what the US Treasury pays and what a major bank pays for money is measured in tenths of a percentage point.
The current spread between the 3 month Treasury bill and the LIBOR (London Inter Bank Offering Rate) is almost four percentage points. This spread provides a pretty good index of liquidity within the economic system, and lower is definitely better.

This brings us to the final point, that most self-employed car haulers are already aware of...There is just less money "out there".