The upheaval in the financial markets in recent days has been treacherous. The 4% swings of multi-trillion dollar markets is both unprecedented and unsettling. But we have to take some solace in the fact that the indices ended this past week virtually unchanged, thanks to a lot of help from the
, the Treasury, the White House and even Congress.
You know all the numbers: the $700 billion Treasury wants to use to rescue our financial system by buying bad mortgage-related debt, the $85 billion loan to AIG, etc.
Of all the week's events, Tuesday morning stands out most in my mind. With
on the verge, I called my friend and broker Bobby at
. I asked him how UBS stood given the fact that over the last few days, one investment bank after the other had been targeted by aggressive short-sellers. He said his firm was in very good shape. My concern was that after the shorts were through with all the U.S. banks holding mortgage derivatives, they would turn to the international banks with similar exposure. I instructed Bobby to but the full value of my portfolio in Treasury bills. He said the rates were really low and I instructed him to do it anyway. I was worried that my 23 years of blood, sweat and many tears would get swallowed by short-sellers smelling blood. I have no issue with legal short selling; I just did not want my portfolio to be chum for their very successful campaign.
Turns out Hank Paulson saw the same thing I did and headed it off before the impending run on the banking system was able to take hold.
I applaud those actions and those only. I am a free market advocate and have a hard time justifying some recent Fed and Treasury actions, but the protection of our deposited money in the various money market funds was brilliant. It differentiates the Wall Street risk from Main Street fallout. I agree that most on Main Street could care less if Lehman bankers are out on the street looking for work. I agree with them: That's the nature of risk and working for a company dealing in risk as its business model.
But when Mom and Pop on the corner of Main and Elm are worried about their cash deposited in the bank, we come face to face with the possibility of a a run on the banking system. We
lose in a run on the bank. Wall Street freezes and Main Street panics. The scary thing is that the panic would be justified as no one knows what ends a run on the modern bank. I certainly don't and haven't heard anything out of the government regulators and lawmakers that addresses a run on the banking system.So I bought 3-month T-bills for almost no yield. 80 basis points! I did not care that I would be getting three times that amount in normal times. Last week was not normal.I have no gut feeling what the next few months will bring. As my pal Dennis Gartman would say, if you put a gun to my head to guess what is next, I would choose "just pull the trigger" option. Its the safest!
My bottom line here is to keep calm, be nimble and this is not the time to take risks that haven't been fully vetted. I have reduced my exposure across the board, moved cash into T-bills and am waiting for a more clear sign of stability before putting more money to work.
As an update, I am long
, the dollar index, gold,
. I am also looking for an entry point into natural gas futures. I haven't added new positions and am playing very close to the vest right now.
This means more now than any other time I have written it:Trade with your head and not over it!
Eric Bolling is a host on the new Fox Business Network. Bolling was one of the developers and original panelists (nicknamed "The Admiral") on CNBC's "Fast Money."
Bolling is an active trader specializing in commodities, resource trades and ETFs.
Bolling is a member of several exchanges including The New York Mercantile Exchange (NMX), The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and The Commodity Exchange of New York.
After spending 5 years on the Board of Directors at the NYMEX, he became a strategic adviser to that Board of Directors where he assisted in bringing the company (NMX) public. He has been included in Trader Monthly Top 100 in 2005 and 2006. Bolling was the recipient of the Maybach Man of the Year Award in 2007 for his contribution of philanthropy and willingness to de-mystify investing to Main Street.
Bolling graduated from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and was awarded a fellowship to Duke University. Bolling was an accomplished baseball player. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates where he played before his career was cut short due to injuries. He honors his baseball past by sporting the NYMEX trader badge, R.B.I.