The Buffett Bailout

For those who haven't seen it already, Berkshire Hathaway agreed to invest $5 billion in Bank of America this morning. The pop in stocks lasted all of 30 minutes.

But I wanted to discuss the last Buffett Bailout - of Goldman and what it may portend. My operating thesis is that WB has morphed into a completely political creature and will only make big, publicized investments for propaganda purposes. That certainly was the case with GS in 2008.

But like any actor, he has to receive something in return for the use of his name and image. That something is a political guarantee for his "investment" and the history of 2008 supports this. Buffett's deal with Goldman was announced before the US market opened on September 23, 2008. But behind the scenes a lot of political moves were being made that he obviously knew about but few others did at the time.

The Fed of course was involved. Over the next few days (through 9/29) they established or increased swaplines with a large number of foreign central banks. In effect they lent out $360 billion to foreign banks. The FDIC closed Wachovia and WaMu - pushing them to merge into the already bloated and insolvent Citibank and JP Morgan respectively. Wells ultimately outbid Citi for Wachovia. The Treasury moved to guarantee all money market funds and the TARP bailout was cooked up as a bill and submitted to the House over the weekend prior to initial rejection on the 29th.

The Bottom Line

My point is this. Last time Buffett was part of a full-court press designed to fool people into investing their earned money right along side his borrowed bank credit. Every lever was pulled by Wall Street and the Government in order to "restore confidence" and as the price of his participation, Buffett was given the privilege of front running virtually every central bank and government policy change.

I expect this time will be no different. The Fed is likely to announce something desperate and stupid tomorrow morning. It will likely be accompanied by something out of the Treasury and/or FDIC shortly thereafter if the Fed move proves insufficient to pump asset prices higher and bail out Warren after he stuck his neck out financially for favorable propaganda effect.

Of course the bad news if you're a bull is that it didn't work in 2008 despite truly extreme measures. Stocks, after a short sharp bounce continued to fall for another 6 months and housing prices merely rebounded slightly before resuming their decline. In 2008, stocks had already been falling for a year and had nearly been cut in half before they got that desperate. This time, we are 3.5 months past the rebound high and six weeks from the secondary peak. We are also only 15% off those highs - not 45% like in 2008.

There is probably a trading opportunity on the long side for the next week or two but I'm not going to get greedy or stupid. History indicates that Buffett is likely front-running SOMETHING here. But it sure as hell isn't fundamentals.

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