Explaining Southern California's economy

Carlyle Group buys TCW, and the Euro crisis comes home

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TCW was just bought by the Carlyle Group, a huge private-equity firm. The sale could helo TCW and former parent, struggling French banking giant Société General.

The Carlyle Group, one of the world's biggest private-equity firms, is buying TCW, an institutional investment management firm based in L.A., with roughly $130 billion on the books and a good reputation for fixed-income. In fact, the bond side of what TCW does is such a big part of the business (about 60 percent) that David Lippman, who ran fixed income for TCW, will become CEO of the new, Carlyle-owned enterprise. 

The last thing that popped TCW onto the radar was a meltdown in 2009 that involved its star bond trader, Jeff Gundlach. But there's a meltdown behind the Carlyle deal, as well. And it's all about how TCW former parent, French back Société Générale, is suffering from the ongoing eurozone crisis and from the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Banks around the world are now required to basically keep more money in the vault (so to speak). It's called the "Basel Accord," and it's now up to its third iteration, Basel III. SoGen, France's number two bank, is in the process of bolstering its balance sheet and cutting lines of business in order to comply with Basel III. It's been a rough time for the bank, which is suffering from its exposure to Greek debt — it wrote off three-quarters of its investment last year.

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Eurozone crisis: It's baaaccckkk!

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Men look at the IBEX-35 index curve on April 23, 2012 at Madrid's stock exchange. Top shares on the Madrid stock exchange slumped 3.24 percent in early trade, hammered by concerns over Spanish sovereign debt and the French presidential elections.

Well, it was only a matter of time before the zombie plague that is the European debt crisis once again lurched toward global markets, hungry for brains....brains...brains... I mean bailouts...bailouts...bailouts.... That's what Spain is now telegraphing, as the yield on the country's 10-year bond edged closer to the critical 7-percent mark, the point at which a bailout by European banking authorities would be necessary. 

Spain's woes are very different from Greece's. Spain has a banking crisis that was brought on by a property boom. Greece borrowed to build a welfare state. For this reason, it's critically important that Spain's crisis be contained, because other banks have exposure to Spanish banks. Banks outside Spain. 

Here's some insight from (of all places) Bermuda's Royal Gazette:

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Where is the January Effect in the stock market?

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We got a nice bump in the markets at the dawn of the new year, but ever since then, results have been...well, pretty unremarkable. The Dow has been bumping along in a fairly narrow range, around the 12,400 level. So where's the vaunted "January Effect"— the idea that people sell stock in December to book some tax losses, then pile back in when the markets re-open after the holiday season.

The answer comes in one word: Europe.

Wall Street isn't going to budge until it either gets some great earnings news from U.S. companies or sees some progress on Europe righting its listing financial states. This is from AP, via the Washington Post:

Greece, Ireland and Portugal have all been bailed out but the fear in the markets is that much-bigger Italy and Spain may end up needing financial assistance. The yield on Italy’s benchmark ten-year bonds on Monday continued to hover around the 7 percent mark, widely considered to be unsustainable in the long run.

On the growth front, the two leaders told reporters that European nations should compare the continent’s best labor practices and implement them, as well as figure out how to use European funds to create jobs.

Their focus on the wider economy has come as mounting signs the 17-nation eurozone is heading for a recession have emerged over recent days, including figures Monday showing a bigger than anticipated 0.6 percent decline in German industrial production in November.

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Eurozone Crisis: Hunker down and suffer time

People stand next to a stand as newspape

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People stand next to a stand as newspaper bearing headlines on the greek crisis, are on display on November 7, 2011 in Athens. Greece's top politicians put the finishing touches to a unity government and begin talks on a new prime minister as markets react cautiously to a historic power-sharing deal to stave off bankruptcy and keep the country in the euro. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Martin Wolf is, according to many, the best finance and economics journalist in the world. From his perch at the Financial Times, he dispenses regular wisdom and concise opinion. And it's wisdom and opinion that's backed up by having done time on both sides of the major economic divide of the age: free markets versus central governments.

The ongoing eurozone crisis has involved all sorts of deep-dish coverage, ranging from sovereign debt bond-yield spreads to debates about tax policies and budget cutbacks, with gobs of court-intrigue political analysis and EU-ology thrown in. It's frankly dizzying. Also, the debate has gone exactly nowhere. The eurozone remains in crisis. Whatever political will is being deployed has been, it seems, devoted to perpetuating rather than resolving the problem.

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Eurozone Crisis: How do you solve a problem like Germany?

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) give a press conference after a working lunch at the Elysee palace on December 05, 2011 in Paris. France and Germany want summits of leaders of eurozone states to be held 'every month, as long as the crisis lasts,' Sarkozy said.

UPDATE: Well, that was brief! Reuters is reporting that S&P is back in sovereign-credit-downgrade mode. The agency has threatened to pull an America on the six eurozone countries currently in possession of an AAA rating — including France and Germany. We'll see how long this rally holds.

The latest surge in hope the Europe will be able to manage its debt crisis has caused the markets to rally over the past few trading sessions. However, the latest kinda sorta deal also reveals the schizophrenic situation that Germany keeps backing itself into. 

On the one hand, Germany doesn't want to throw its weight behind a plan to make the eurozone work more like the U.S., where the Federal Reserve can function as the (nearly) undisputed central authority on matters monetary. On the other hand, Germany wants to call the shots of fiscal issues, compelling everyone else to act more like...Germany! 

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