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JakilaTheHun (99.91)

Commodities, Rent, Safety, and Insurers



May 12, 2011 – Comments (36) | RELATED TICKERS: HIG , PHM , OLP

I have disappeared from the world of CAPS blogging, and even from Seeking Alpha over the past few months.  It's been due more to lack of time than anything.  So I thought I'd do a quick summary on some of the interesting things I've been observing recently and some of the trends I think we'll see over the next 12 months. 


(1) Commodities bust.  I've been predicting this for a bit, but I think it's finally starting to gain some momentum.  Commodities have been setting record highs based on loose Chinese monetary policy, coupled with massive numbers of speculators entering the markets.  Yet, there's no fundamental economic reason why this is sustainable long-term.  Many of the speculators are buying based on a poor understanding of monetary policy.  There has been virtually no inflation in the US for the past four years and the inflation that does exist only exists because of the two aforementioned currents (loose Chinese monetary policy and speculators).   

Silver was the most inflated of the precious metals for awhile, but it's retreated a bit.  It still might have further to go.  I'd be afraid of holding palladium, platinum, copper, rare earth elements, and many agricultural commodities, as well.  The rare earth elements, in particular, are out of this world right now.

Margin hikes and increased regulatory scrutiny are likely to accelerate the commodities bust.  Also, I wouldn't completely dismiss the idea that the Chinese economy is starting to slow down. 


(2) Rental supply shortage.  Speaking of inflation, there's really only one area of the economy where there is legitimate inflation issues:  rental prices.  As very little real estate has been constructed since 2008, we are starting to see a rental supply shortage in many urban and inner suburban areas.  Here in the City of Atlanta, we've seen rental rates climb from about 8% - 15% in the past year in prime areas.

This is a bad thing if you're a renter (like me) and a good thing if you own homebuilding stocks (like me).  So, it's a mixed bag for me personally.  But I think rising rental prices, coupled with falling housing prices, will eventually meet up and create a bottom for the housing market.  At some point, it's simply going to be more economical to buy rather than rent.  I think we might actually be at that point in some submarkets, but we're not that far away on a broader level.  

While we can talk about "shadow inventories" all we want, once buying becomes more economically desirable than renting, we will start to see a pick-up in building activity.  I'd also take a guess that much of the "shadow inventories" are in areas where the market will never recover; as opposed to the higher-growth markets (multi-family, urban, infill).  So the "shadow inventories" might not be as huge of a deal as people believe.  


(3) Flight to Safety.  With the Eurozone issues, falling housing prices in the US, sovereign debt issues, austerity, and a potential slowdown in China, I think the markets are starting to look a lot riskier, especially considering the run-up in prices over the past few years.  So I've started increasing my cash position and increasing my commodity-related puts.  Perhaps more importantly. I've started shifting towards stocks that pay very large dividends.  I part like a few mortgage REITs and some commercial REITs that I believe are undervalued and have good upside potential (FUR, ROIC, OLP). 


(4) Insurers.  This isn't so much a "market current", so much as a sector I like right now that I haven't mentioned.   I think many of the insurers are very attractive right now.  I particularly like the Hartford (HIG).  Once we see earnings recover to more normalized levels, I think we'll see a lot of appreciation in some of the insurance stocks.  


So my portfolio can be thought of as a collection of homebuilders, insurers, dividend-paying stocks, coupled with some commodity puts and an increased cash position.  I've begun scaling back on my bank holdings, focusing more exclusively on banks with very high capital ratios in the Northeast and the West Coast.  I've pulled out of Southern banks almost completely. 


So that's what I've been up to investing wise.  What are your throughts right now? 



Disclosure:  I am long stocks in sectors I've commented on favorably in this article (including FUR, ROIC, HIG, PHM, and OLP) and own long-dated puts on certain commodity related securities. 

36 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 12, 2011 at 2:26 PM, MegaEurope (< 20) wrote:

Speaking of HIG, HIG-WT and LNC-WT (insurance TARP warrants) are quite cheap.  They are well in the money so the leverage is fairly low, around 1.5x if I remember correctly.

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#2) On May 12, 2011 at 4:25 PM, EnigmaDude (51.43) wrote:

It's great to hear from you, and nice to read a blog that is actually about investing!

I tend to agree with you on the housing market sitch.  Seems like rents are going up all over the country while housing prices are still mostly falling.  At some point it will make more sense for people to buy than rent (unless Congress decides to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction!).  Might not be until next year but that does seem to be the trend.

I also agree that insurers seem to be lagging the broader market and should start to catch up again.  I am still liking BDCs though, and I think they offer a better value opportunity than insurers for the long-term investor.

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#3) On May 13, 2011 at 3:21 AM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

I don't buy your long term thesis on commodities.  While certain commodities did rise too far too fast (like silver), long term they will continue to rise.  If you believe in the emerging market thesis, demand will rule in the end.  That means higher prices since supply is inevitably limited, until we start mining on the Moon or Mars.

I do like some of your conclusions regarding dividend stocks and puting commodity stocks, however.  But despite recent short term trends, long term I do like energy plays (especially mlps and integrateds), financials (BDCs and REITs), commodities (pretty much anything) and  technology.

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#4) On May 13, 2011 at 4:53 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:


I wouldn't necessarily disagree about MLPs long-term.  I'm actually not nearly as bearish on oil/gas as I am other commodities.  And I think long-term, natural gas producers are in a great spot. Many oil related companies are likewise good long-term investments.

I was actually heavily long on oil/gas stocks until the past couple of months, and I've slowly been exiting my positions as we've seen Brent oil climb over $110.  Many of the stocks I exited, I still think are reasonable long-term investments; but I worry about a near-term pullback enough to reduce my exposure significantly. 

I'm not as crazy about the integrated oil plays. With the exception of BP, I think most positive future developments are already priced into the stocks.   The energy market will shift significantly over the next decade and the real money is to be made picking the winners in that shift.  


However, based on supply, demand, and costs of extraction, I see $80 - $90 per barrel as a more appropriate trading range for oil, so I expect somewhat of a pullback.  If we see that pullback or even overshoot, I will probably slowly start to re-enter oil/gas positions.


I am considerably bearish on metals for the next 5-10 years.  The demand is being driven by a lending boom in China that will eventually collapse.  It's not sustainable at all. Prices are going to have to correct dramatically for me to jump into metals. 

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#5) On May 13, 2011 at 7:35 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

Eurozone issues

Eurozone's growth surprises as UK lags behind

good old eurozone, hehe ...

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#6) On May 13, 2011 at 12:23 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:


Unless Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland all start experiencing 4%+ yearly GDP growth, it really doesn't matter all that much.  Germany's growth is irrelevant, because it's coming at the expense of the PIIGS. 

Germany will eventually be forced to absorb some of the beating, as well.  Most of its export-led growth is a result of its undervalued currency (Euro is undervalued relative to German assets, but overvalued relative to the PIIGS).  If Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland leave the Eurozone, it's likely that the Euro would appreciate significantly and hamper Germany's growth. 

Also, Germany can't afford for Greece to default, because Deutsche Bank will be forced into state support.  The German banks are actually in very dismal shape; much worse than US or UK banks.  Greece defaults and they're screwed.  

Except, Greece is basically insolvent right now, so the only way for Germany to keep its bank solvent is to keep feeding Greece. 

It's not a pretty situation.  You can invest there all you want, but I own only one Eurozone stock (Banco Santander) and I intend to keep it that way until something changes significantly. 

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#7) On May 13, 2011 at 5:28 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

While China has been the biggest driver behind commodities, I wouldn't exclude countries like India and Brazil and elsewhere.  In the past, the US ruled the commodities world since we were expanding our infrastructure and personal consumption.  Now it is starting to become many other countries' that are using and needing metals and energy to expand their infrastructures and consumption.

While there is nothing wrong with taking profits, I have a long term outlook and try to accumulate assets that I think will be worth holding longterm.  Basically I suck at trading since my timing is late and I have other things to do than look at a computer screen all day.

I argee that oil over $100 was not sustainable and that speculation moved it there, but oil $80-90 is still a healthy price for the energy sector.

Since I am an accumulator and not a trader, I take advantage of all corrections to add to my holdings.  "Buy in May and stay I say."

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#8) On May 13, 2011 at 6:34 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:

Brazil's contribution to the commodities boom is very minimal.  Likewise, in spite of a massive population, India's service-oriented economy isn't consuming nearly as much commodities as China's maniufacuting and construction-driven economy.

The commodities boom is being driven almost exclusively by China and other East Asian nations with manipulative currency practices.  That's why it's very dangerous to buy in.  This might be like buying commodoties in 1980. 

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#9) On May 13, 2011 at 7:33 PM, MKArch (99.82) wrote:

Good to see you posting again Jakila, I look forward to your latest thoughts. The home builders are my favorite sector for the next decade and a sector I follow pretty closely. I agree with you that not every foreclosure needs to be sold for the home builders to rebound in fact LEN has mentioned in previous cc's that most of the inventory out there is in inner cities and the far outskirts of communities they do compete in. In regard to rent vs. own I think rising rents is good for single family home sales but I think people make a mistake when evaluating home builders based on rent vs. own dynamics. Rental units don't build themselves. In the end new home construction and sales is all about home formation not home prices, rent to own dynamics or government policy. There were about 14.5M homes built in the decade of the 90's and that decade began with slow construction in the aftermath of a bubble in the late 80's. While we certainly over built in the first half of the decade of the 00's we completely offset this by under building at the end of the decade to finish the decade having built almost the exact same 14.5M homes of the previous decade and this also tracked home formation. Even though we are only on a pace to build about 5M homes in the coming decade we will build about 14.5M by the end of the decade due to home formation.

In the previous decade the large public home builders far outpaced new home construction in general with new home starts in general up ~30% from the start of the decade to the mid decade height of the bubble. The large public builders revenues were up ~300%-400% over the same period. Some of that is due to higher sale prices but most was due to them taking serious market share from traditional smaller regional builders. That should play out again as new home construction rebounds as large numbers of regional builders went under in this downturn. I think the large public builders already own a larger proportion of a tiny pie than they did in 2000 so I'm not sure if they can outpace the industry in general by the same magnitude but with the industry in general as measured by home starts set to triple just to get back to it's long term average and natural demand what ever outperformance you get on top of that from the large public builders continuing to take market share will be huge. I think they are mid teen to twenties market share right now.

As to foreclosures I think there is a lot of misconception about their impact on the home builders. First of all a foreclosed home adds nothing to the housing stock and doesn't negate the need for homes due to new home formation (natural population growth, immigration, lost or torn down stock). Second foreclosures selling for less than the cost to build a new home are definitely weighing down new home construction and sales right now but as you point out a lot of inventory is never going to sell and will be torn down. I don't know what the latest figures are but in the past I've seen figures of ~2M homes including the dreaded shadow inventory. To put this in perspective in a typical year there are ~6M homes sold ~85% of which are existing homes. Even counting the dreaded shadow inventory the numbers are not insurmountable. In fact by definition the shadow inventory is waiting for a better market to sell into.

That brings me to my next point, contrary to popular belief new homes can compete with existing homes on price they just can't compete with fire sales on price. A large part of a home price is land cost which the builders have already hit the reset button on. Although material costs have remained stubbornly high, IMHO due to the same commodity speculation you note in your post, there is plenty of room for home sizes to come down and designs to be simplified and rationalized in order to get new home prices into a range where they can compete with existing home prices. This is exactly what the builders have already done.

I'm an architect that works with home owners all the time and have a decent appreciation for prospective home owners mind set. The first conversation I have is how much house and what is there budget. Most times they have already spoken with banks and builders and know what they can afford to build. when they haven't and expectations are too high it's almost always the case that they just ratchet down the amount of house they plan to build to suit their budget. IMO and from my experience the result of low interest rates on the home construction markets was not the numbers of homes built it was the size of homes and amenities in the homes. I got started in the business in the mid 80's and I ballpark a typical mid income families home was ~1,500-2,000 s.f 3 bed rooms 1.5-2.5 baths and a single car garage on a crawl space foundation with stock cabinetry and plastic laminate counter tops in the kitchen and baths. In the era of low interest rates home sizes have grown to ~3,000-3,500 s.f+  4 bed rooms 3-4 baths 2 car garage, basement foundation and custom cabinets with granite counter tops. IMO the results of higher interest rates will be home sizes moving back toward what they were in the 80's not less home construction.

IMO the home builders are about as safe a bet as you can get for a patient investor. Unless the U.S. population stops growing we have to build more houses and home prices are more controllable than the home building critics understand or are willing to give credit for. Long LEN and have already done very well, added KBH recently and expect to do well on there too.

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#10) On May 14, 2011 at 4:18 AM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

That's why it's very dangerous to buy in.  This might be like buying commodoties in 1980

I simply disagree.  Natural resources are finite, populations aren't. Time will tell who is right in the end I suppose.

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#11) On May 14, 2011 at 4:55 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:


Thanks for the insight.  Pretty interesting thoughts.  


You're ignoring the basic supply and demand fundamentals. It's folly to consider this a population issue.  Resources have extraction costs.  The higher those costs, the less those resources will be consumed.  Moreover, the higher the costs, the more incentive to seek out substitutes. It's basic supply and demand.

It doesn't matter how much population grows.  If more wealth isn't being created to pay for the commodities, then consumption will not grow. 

You're basically arguing "it's different this time", but this is how all commodity booms have played in the past, as well.  There's absolutely nothing particularly novel about this time around. 

Commodity prices are too high to support their current level of demand, without economic distortions. The idea that the Chinese, with a much lower per capital wealth than Americans, would consume more commodities per capita, is nonsensical. 

Rather, the Chinese are consuming more commodities, because a flawed government and regulatory appartus.  The government controls interest rates and has adopted extremly loose monetary policy in order to maintain its Dollar peg.

The result is negative interest rates, a lending boom, and a massive fixed asset bubble.  It's leverage that's allowing this commodity boom to occur and once that leverage is withdrawn, this is going to collapse just like the US housing bubble before it. 


If you want to talk about population, the population in sub-Saharan Africa is probably about 4x the population of the US and the US still consumes more commodities than Africa, I'm willing to wager.  The reason:  the US has more wealth.  You can't have consumption without wealth, and you can't have increasing wealth with rapidly rising commodity and energy costs. 

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#12) On May 14, 2011 at 5:16 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

The German banks are actually in very dismal shape


(from here)


End-February 2011 figures from the Bundesbank are here (xls).

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#13) On May 14, 2011 at 5:33 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

Germany can't afford for Greece to default, because Deutsche Bank will be forced into state support.

I don't think so, considering the numbers shown for End-February 2011 exposure of the German banking sector and considering that it is usually the Landesbanken that have the largest "trouble exposure" (hehe) and considering the data shown here.

April 28, 2011 - Interim Report 1Q2011 (pdf)

Financial Data Supplement 1Q2011 (pdf)

April 28, 2011 - Interim Report as of March 31, 2011 - Presentation for the Analyst Conference Call (pdf)

May 11, 2011 - UBS Global Financial Services Conference, New York - presentation (pdf)

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#14) On May 14, 2011 at 5:37 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

"The market" does not appear to consider them "in trouble" or close to "being forced into state support". It could be wrong of course ...


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#15) On May 14, 2011 at 5:40 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

You can invest there all you want

thank you.

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#16) On May 14, 2011 at 6:09 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

the population in sub-Saharan Africa is probably about 4x the population of the US

not quite.

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#17) On May 14, 2011 at 3:08 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

Arguing Sub-Saharan Africa as an emerging market and saying India because of its "service" orientation means they don't need commodities implying they don't want to still grow out their infrastructure are silly statements.

Emerging countries NEED and WANT to build out their roads, railways, telecommunication systems, hospitals, housing, etc.  Certainly if prices run up too much, demand, while still there, goes on hold because of inability to pay.  At best you might be arguing price corrections, but long term worldwide growth will continue to put upward demand and prices on commodities.

And while poverty would prevent any such growth, we are talking emerging markets not impoverished ones.  These emerging markets are growing their wealth, not on par YET with the US, but that is why we call them emerging.

And even the US population is expected to continue to grow, putting even more pressure on natural resources.

And as for this being like the 1980s that ignores the impact of globalization and emerging markets of today.  Apples to oranges.


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#18) On May 14, 2011 at 3:12 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

Actually Porte regarding your chart in #14, you do see DB having lost almost 25% of its value since April of last year.  While I wouldn't say they will need State support, it does seem to indicate the market has concerns.

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#19) On May 14, 2011 at 6:54 PM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

#18 Then much of the rest is in trouble as well, I guess ...


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#20) On May 14, 2011 at 6:56 PM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

I just find the "Europe is in trouble" garbage a little annoying, I guess, hehe ...

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#21) On May 14, 2011 at 7:05 PM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

#17,20 "silly statements" and "annoying garbage"

poor jakilathehun ...


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#22) On May 15, 2011 at 2:14 AM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

Well of the bunch the xlf has been the least worse of the lot. 

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#23) On May 15, 2011 at 8:05 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:


Deutsche Bank has 51.6 billion Euros in equity and a Tangible Common to Total Assets ratio of 2.8%.  Even a 5 billion Euro hit would be very negative for them. 

DB's only real advantage is that they can churn out bigger profits than pure commercial banks, but DB is nowhere near where they need to be capital-wise. 

Also, their P/B ratio is about 0.8, compared to JP Morgan at 1 and Goldman Sachs at 1.1. So, to suggest that the market isn't pricing in some risk is a tad silly.  In fact, DB's P/B ratio is only slightly higher than Citigroup's, which was on state support for awhile. 



You didn't really respond to the brunt of my argument.  Population growth is only relevant to the extent that there are increases in wealth that increase consumer purchasing power.  You can talk about "desire to build infrastructure" all you want.  If there's no wealth to build that infrastructure, then you can't assume that commodity consumption will dramatically increase.

Right now, most of the growth in consumption is coming from loose lending policies.  This is not sustainable growth. 

Your argument is very similar to arguing that one should have bought real estate in 2005 in the US because US population would continue to increase, and therefore, housing prices would continue to rise.  It's an overly simplistic argument that ignores the drivers behind consumption. 

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#24) On May 15, 2011 at 8:10 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

So, to suggest that the market isn't pricing in some risk is a tad silly.

which is why no one is doing that ...

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#25) On May 15, 2011 at 8:11 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

at least none of the non-silly ones.

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#26) On May 15, 2011 at 8:15 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:


Also not sure how that chart helps your case.  The 33 billion Euros to Greece is problematic enough, but the 173 billion Euros to Ireland is pretty scary.  This isn't even to mention the fact that default would make other loans outstanding by the banks less likely to be able to service their debt. 

The Eurozone is in a very difficult situation.  Greece, Portugal, and Ireland are basically insolvent, and the consequences of default are huge.  So instead, they choose to keep them on life support, but that's a flawed strategy, as well, particularly since it's coupled with austerity, which then exacerbates the situation in those nations.  

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#27) On May 15, 2011 at 8:16 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

Even a 5 billion Euro hit would be very negative for them

Scenarios leading to that "5 billion Euro hit" are considered highly unlikely by them, I suppose.

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#28) On May 15, 2011 at 8:19 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

#26,27 So how large is that "trouble exposure" of DB? And if you consider it "relatively high", why do you think DB does not reduce it to "not so high" ...

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#29) On May 15, 2011 at 9:18 AM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

#5,12,13,14,15,16,19,20,21,27,28 I withdraw those comments. I usually refrain from these "discussions" ...

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#30) On May 15, 2011 at 2:28 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:

You didn't really respond to the brunt of my argument.  Population growth is only relevant to the extent that there are increases in wealth that increase consumer purchasing power

Actually you have been ignoring the brunt of my argument. Population growth in and of itself was never mine.  Ethiopia can grow its population all it wants and all that would mean is greater sufferage for that country.

But I was talking about emerging markets, not impoverished ones.  The basic definition of an emerging market is one that is growing or has grown out of impoverishment by HAVING grown its wealth.  While that doesn't mean that they are now on par with the US it also doesn't mean they wont be down the road. 

You are the one that has been trying to poo poo China, India and Brazil for example.You can play ostrich all you want, but these markets will continue to compete with the US for the limited world resources, as well as many others.

You are free not to invest in commodities.  That is your choice.  But I advise people to accumulate and hold shares in commodity producers and take advantage of corrections to add further.

As for your housing analogy it is really a non sequitur to the topic of discussion and an unnecessary digression.

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#31) On May 15, 2011 at 2:41 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:

#26,27 So how large is that "trouble exposure" of DB? And if you consider it "relatively high", why do you think DB does not reduce it to "not so high" ...

Kind of difficult to reduce billions in exposure.  Once the banks get in deep enough, it's difficult to get out.  Besides, how would they de-exposed themselves to problems that might be Eurozone-wide?

Santander has, to some extent, done this by investing so heavily in Latin America and even the US (more recently).  Santander also has fairly healthy capital ratios.  Even at that, I wouldn't say they are completely out of the woods.  Deutsche Bank doesn't enjoy these same benefits.  In order to make their position more stable, they're going to have to tap the capital markets and dilute existing shareholders.  New regulatory trends also don't favor DB at all. 

I'm not saying for sure that DB is in trouble.  But I sure as hell wouldn't invest in them right now.  Of all the major banks in Europe (outside of Ireland), I'd be most afraid of investing in DB. 

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#32) On May 15, 2011 at 2:51 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.91) wrote:

As for your housing analogy it is really a non sequitur to the topic of discussion and an unnecessary digression.


All I can say is that I'm glad there are people like you, because I couldn't make money otherwise. 


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#33) On May 15, 2011 at 3:11 PM, portefeuille (98.82) wrote:

results of a 10 s google search, hehe ...


Ackermann Says Restructuring Greek Sovereign Debt Would be ‘Huge Mistake’

... May 12, 2011 ...


Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest lender, had net sovereign risks tied to Greece of 1.6 billion euros at the end of last year, it said in March. German banks’ claims against Greek borrowers fell to $34 billion in the final quarter of 2010 from more than $40 billion, Bank for International Settlements statistics show.



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#34) On May 15, 2011 at 5:36 PM, awallejr (52.41) wrote:


All I can say is that I'm glad there are people like you, because I couldn't make money otherwise.

So rather than address my argument you take the last sentence which really wasn't germane and make an Ad hominem attack.

K gotcha.  Another one for me not to waste time with.

Now you have fun and short the commodities.

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#35) On May 17, 2011 at 7:21 PM, StockMillionare (< 20) wrote:

He's right she's right, in the end put up some dates and price targets, ex, Jan 2012 x will be up at least x amount etc, otherwise all just it's just I like pizza, I hate pizza, I like pizza, I hate pizza etc.

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#36) On May 17, 2011 at 7:23 PM, StockMillionare (< 20) wrote:

Another one:  Long term I am bullish on x.  Easy, so I am bullish long term on sectors, a, b, c, d, e, f, etc, eventually when then run maybe even decades later I will eventually be right on all of them at different times, or my football team will win the superbowl, just not sure, some year eventually, 1, no, 2, 5, maybe 15 yeah, see I called it lol.

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