Top 10 at 10: GM bankruptcy beckons; Kiwi Ponzi scheme revealed; Ireland downgraded; The next credit bomb

Top 10 at 10: GM bankruptcy beckons; Kiwi Ponzi scheme revealed; Ireland downgraded; The next credit bomb

Here's my top 10 links from around the Internet at 10am. I welcome your suggestions in the comments below. Obama may let GM go bankrupt Barack Obama has finally said no to someone from corporate America asking him for money. And he has sacked the guy asking for the money to boot. GM looks like it will now go bankrupt. Anyone want to buy a Holden? Marketwatch says a GM bankruptcy would put 1 million out of work and push US unemployment over 11.5%. Dow falls 3% on GM fears The Dow fell its most since February 10 on the GM bankruptcy potential and news from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (in yesterday's Top 10 at 10) that banks may need more money. The deceased feline has ceased rebounding Alan Kohler has a nice piece at Business Spectator on how the market's dead cat bounce is ending because investors remembered what the economy was actually doing. The taste here:

US stocks have been slammed this morning because investors suddenly remembered GM. Oh yeah that's right "“ the real economy. They had been sailing along on a breeze of optimism about the banks, only to be brought up short by reality. None of the plans put in by General Motors or Chrysler are any good and President Obama has decided that both firms are insolvent and unviable. Another new plan is needed. GM chief Rick Wagoner is led away, mumbling, and his 2IC, Fritz Henderson, shuffles forward to take his place before the firing squad. Is this is another Lehman Brothers moment? Bankruptcy of the motor companies would have a huge impact on customers, since car buyers are concerned with after sales service, and a massive flow-on effect to parts suppliers. The effect on employment would be devastating.

Ireland downgraded and may be cut again S&P cut Ireland's sovereign credit rating to AA+ from AAA and put it on review for further downgrade as its budget deficit blew out to over 11% of GDP and unemployment is heading over 10%. There but for the grace of god go us. A taste of the pain. Let's hope Bill English is working hard right now so we avoid the same fate. Here's a taste at Bloomberg.

"The deterioration of Ireland's public finances will likely require a number of years of sustained effort to repair, on a scale greater than factored into the government's current plans," Trevor Cullinan and Frank Gill, analysts at S&P in London, wrote in a report today. Euro-region governments are increasing borrowing to bolster ailing economies and bail out banks reeling amid the fallout from the global credit crisis. S&P lowered the ratings of Spain, Portugal and Greece in January. The European Commission forecast in January that Ireland's budget deficit may widen to 11 percent of gross domestic product this year, almost four times the European Union's approved limit.

Our own Kiwi Ponzi A Jeff Lowrance looks like being the first Kiwi Ponzi scheme operator to take money off US investors. The NZ Herald reports that Lowrance was the sole director in a Tauranga company that operated a Ponzi scheme that took US$40 million off investors. This one has been bubbling along for a while. Here's an investor activist site. FASB prepares to cave in on 'mark to market' Bloomberg says it has an exclusive story that the Federal Account Standards Board Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is preparing to soften the accounting rules around 'mark to market' that could allow some banks to wriggle out of big writedowns of toxic debt. Here's a taste.

The changes proposed on March 16 to fair-value, also known as mark-to-market accounting, would allow companies to use "significant judgment" in valuing assets and reduce the amount of writedowns they must take on so-called impaired investments, including mortgage-backed securities. FASB's acquiescence followed lobbying efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association and companies ranging from Bank of New York Mellon Corp., the world's largest custodian of financial assets, to community lender Brentwood Bank in Pennsylvania. Former regulators and accounting analysts say the new rules would hurt investors who need more transparency, not less, in financial statements.

Even Iraq is cutting rates Iraq cut its Official Cash Rate by 200 basis points to 9% overnight in an effort to revive growth stalled by falling oil revenues. Lot of US dollars pumped into that country so they had a bit of an inflation problem, along with the other probelems... We're not a bunch of pansies Some of the bankers in London are bracing themselves for massive anti-G20 protests. Here's a taste from Bloomberg.

As officials in the City of London advise financial workers to dress down and avoid confrontation with demonstrators from groups such as the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination and Anarchist Federation, some bankers and brokers are pledging to keep their suits crisply pressed and ties firmly knotted. "Most us have played rugby or boxed," said Williams, 66. "If any of those guys do get violent against us individually because we're wearing a suit, we will take action."

Anti-Chinese tensions in Australia? Kevin Rudd's decision to block a Chinese bid for MinMetals appears to have awakened some ugly Australians. Are conduits the next time bomb? RolfeWinkler at the always excellent Option ARMageddon has a nice guest post on the potential risks in US$730 billion worth of 'multi-seller conduits'. This suggests they are the next CDOs and SIVs. Lord help save us from the offspring of investment bankers. It's a bit dry but no doubt prescient. A hint of what's in there.

Like so many other structured finance transactions, conduits are a ticking time bomb of credit risk.  We now know of course that securities backed by consumer related asset-backed securities are highly vulnerable when the credit cycle turns over.

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