Saturday, August 28, 2010

Do Women Writers Get a Fair Shake? plus SHEWRITES

A controversy has broken out in the literary world about whether women writers get the attention they deserve? Read about it here on the HuffingtonPost.

Better yet however is read what Deborah Siegel has to say about it! Deborah is the not only one of my most favorite people on the planet, she is also the writer of one of my favorite books that every man, woman and young person should read. The book is "Sisterhood Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrrls Gone Wild." It walks you through the history of feminism, bridges the intergenerational issues that plague the movement, and explains why feminism (and sorry if you really don't like that word ) is till relevant today.

Last year Deborah, and another totally fabulous woman Kamy ( pronounced Amy with a K ) Wycoff, started

"She Writes is a community and a workplace for women who write, with over 10,000 active members from all fifty states and more than thirty countries. Right now, emerging writers and established bestsellers are finding services, support and actionable advice on She Writes. In the future, the site will empower women writers further by connecting them directly to readers in a marketplace distinguished by its commitment to the production and distribution of high quality content. ..It is a mission-driven company, based on the belief that writing is life- and world-changing for women."

I am thrilled, honored, blessed to serve as an Advisory Board Member for SHEWRITES not only because of how much I adore the founders, but because their emerging business model is fascinating. Historically writers, and especially women writers, operate from a rather powerless position. They write something, and hope they can find an agent, a publisher, an audience.... SHEWRITES is trying to change that. It has created a powerful community of writers that are helping each other do all of the above and more. Love it.... If you are a writer, join and spread the word.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Women's Equality Day - Part TWO

A big thank you to all of you who read our "Women Call Obama to Act" opinion piece today in honor of Women's Equality Day. The piece was shared, linked to, and tweeted! A special thanks to Talking Points Memo and for featuring the article. Also special thanks to Nick Kristof for the tweet, The National Council for Research on Women for the blast email, the many women's foundations who posted it.. and more. Of course thanks to Bloomberg for publishing it.

Someone asked me today, "Jacki - why are you so passionate about trying to create a more gender balanced world?" The answer is simple - I truly believe that if men and women more equally shared power and decision making, we would have a more just, equitable, peaceful and prosperous world for all. If you believe something so strongly and purely, then you have no choice but to act upon it. "Be the change you want to see in the world."

I was hoping to put together a whole list of fabulous articles in honor of today, but so far I have two... just not enough hours in the day.

Article on by the most fabulous Gloria Feldt - click here
Essay by Rita Henley of Women's ENEWS - click here

Special thanks to my co-writer Linda, and the most fabulous NINA.

Women's Equality Day. Reason to celebrate? Not quite yet...

Today is Women's Equality Day, the commemoration of women’s suffrage achieved in 1920. Is there a lot to celebrate? Yes and no. Yes there has been much progress since 1920, but no, as we are far from achieving anything close to equality in this country. Is it not time, I mean really, to ask ourselves why not? I can sort of see why it might not matter to men, but to women? To girls? If you think we have arrived, then please feel free to quote me the statistics to prove it. Yes women are over half the college graduates, but we still make 77 cents to the male dollar. Women are still so far from being equally represented in leadership positions and in elected positions. Far. We are way more likely to be poor, to experience violence, to be exploited. A better world for women is a better world for men too. It is not a win lose.

To commemorate this special day I wrote this article that appears on BLOOMBERG with the most incredible Linda Tarr-Whelan, author of "Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World." We put forth a call to action -" We need a national conversation led by the White House to explore how women decision-makers can help achieve better economic performance and a more prosperous future for all. It is time." It is time to take the matter of gender equality in this country seriously. It is time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Existing Home Sales Drop 27% plus tomorrow is Women's Equality Day!

WOW. Scary number. I mean truly scary number for the US economy. This is the lowest number recorded in the series history! The main reason it seems was due the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. Without a financial incentive to buy a new home demand collapsed. It truly seems like the US economy is going to struggle in this second half. The employment picture continues to be grim as well. This all plays in to how much people have to spend. Expect retail sales to be soft which of course feeds in to corporate earnings. Stocks have reacted with the DOW well off it's recent (52 week) high of 11,309 to now below 10,000. Uhg....

I jumped over to the PIMCO to see if investment guru Bill Gross had a comment on the continued houseing crisis, and YUP, he did. Better yet he recently presented to Treasury a solution to the Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac disaster. GO BILL! I like his plan, and if anyone knows alot about the mortgage market, it is Bill. I met Bill a very long time ago when I ran the mortage pass-through desk at Goldman, and he truly is one smart, and uber intense, cookie. ( can a cookie be intense?) I too recently went to Washington and had a meeting at Treasury and it is an incredible experience to walk in to that building to share ideas. It is awesome that Treasury is inviting the likes of Bill Gross to take part in solution building. Now will they listen? I hope so....

Tomorrow is a big day. Well yes, it is the first day of school in our new town for my children, but that is not what I meant. It is Women's Equality Day!!! I have co-written an OPED with the amazing Linda Tarr-Whelan, author of "Women Lead the Way" and former Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. A MAJOR news source is publishing it!!!!! Go team. I will post it first thing. Please put on your girl power, Wonder Woman, or Rosie Riveter T-shirts and say, GENDER EQUALITY MATTERs and a more balanced world, means a better world for ALL !!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Bonds as Lemons" - And US 10 Year Notes at 2.5%

Below is a comment on why US Gov't 10 year notes are at 2.5%. As a reminder I used to be a bond trader, and were I still one, I likely would have had my face handed to be for shorting 10 years long before they hit 2.5%. This piece comes from David Zervos at Jefferies. I hope he doesn't mind the reprint.

"Suppose the Congress controlled the production of all the lemons in US. Then assume the Federal Reserve decided that it was going to use its balance sheet to buy lemons as a means of adding liquidity into the market when times were tough. While the government ramped up lemon production during tough times, the Fed not only bought most of those lemons, but sent out a clear message that it stands ready to buy a whole bunch more lemons if the economy falters. Finally, suppose that the government started changing the rules and regulations forcing financial institutions to hold more lemons rather than limes - as lemons were deemed the only safe fruit. What happens to the price of lemons? The answer is a 2.50% 10 year note!

These are not “market prices”. The Congress, Fed and Treasury are controlling the supply, demand and the rules of the game in the US government bond market. And make no mistake – lemon production is ripping higher. Eventually people will realize there are not enough Corona bottles to stuff those lemons into and there will be lemonade all over the streets. Until then, please remember that this will go down as one of the greatest examples government price control and manipulation in history. Maybe soon we will be lining up at 15th and Constitution in DC - at the doors of the Treasury on odd and even days depending on our birthdays - in order to buy limited supplies of those precious lemons!! There is a great book by two gentlemen from the Hoover institution - The stories span 10,000 years but they all have one thing in common – when governments distort asset prices, bad things happen. It is an easy and fun read. I encourage you to grab a copy.

Finally, it has been a humbling summer watching 10 year rates move to these levels. I remain steadfast in the view that we are at least 75 to 100bps expensive in long term rates. But with the supply, demand and rules fixed by the Fed/Treasury/Congress Troika, I probably should have been more prepared for this – mea culpa. In any case, I’ll fall back on one of the better calls we have had and that is in MBS space where price manipulation is just as rampant. In fact, we can see that as the Fed has decided not to treat MBS like lemons anymore, they were quickly turned to lemonade. Once again my market screens are all red in MBS – days with 5yr futures down 5 tics and FBCL6.5s down 11 tics are amazing to watch. The 5.5/4.5 swap which peaked at 5-15 has fallen to 2 points since April. There is a lot of pain in the MBS world and it may be a good preview to what happens when government price manipulation schemes unravel. Good luck trading!"

David Zervos
Managing Director
Global Fixed Income Strategy
Jefferies & Co

As an add. US Treasury notes are a benchmark for all spread products. It you agree that these rates are low because of manipulation, then what is the right "spread" for anything? I argue that investors should be looking at absolute yield levels versus the risk of the bond and asking themselves, does this make sense? I don't follow debt spreads too closely anymore, but if I were an investor I would be careful. If treasury rates break down, so will spread product... bigtime.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"How to Measure Your Life"

I woke this beautiful Sunday morning to find this essay in my in box, sent to me by one of my best friends. This is yet another example, to me, of how I know God is real. Two days ago during our 17 hour car ride home, my husband and I talked about the following:

- Are we living our priorities? If not, why not, and how do we change it. Further to that, we asked ourselves what we care about and is how we spend our time and energy in alignment?
- Is our work aligned with who we are and what we want to be in this world?
- We both have SO MUCH we want to do, so how do we not feel overwhelmed and stressed about it all the time? How do we live in the moment more?
- We have two children. Are we doing a good job parenting them? Now that they are 13 and 10 how do we stop using the tools of reward and punishment, and encourage independent decision making and choices? How do we help them become good and moral citizens of the world?

This essay by the most incredible Clay Christensen answers all those questions and more. Coming from a business background with an obsession for leadership development, it could not have been written better. I had the honor of meeting Clay years ago while at Goldman and thought him incredible then, and incredible now.

For Clay, in case this blog entry gets back to you ( and I hope it does). Thank you for this gift. I share your faith and it has been the guiding force in my life as well. Your decision regarding not to play on Sunday was the right one indeed. I will share this essay with all I know, and in particular my children. We will be praying for you in your transition and for your ongoing good health. Blessings....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Market News not "Peachy"

It was a big week of market, economic and policy news, and none of it too positive. Here is quick summary:

- Quantitative Easing Continues - Federal Reserve to buy government bonds with proceeds from MBS. The FED has been on course doing exactly what they said they would do from way back. Money continues to flood in to the system seemingly with little effect. I continue to believe at some point inflation will be a problem.
- New foreclosure relief programs to help troubled homeowners announced – a few billion. ( $3 ?)
- Cash strapped states to get billions of federal funding.( $26 ?)
- Employment numbers not good.
- HUGE negative trade balance numbers.

Quote from David Rosenburg to finish up....

"The best way to describe the financial backdrop is that it is truly a meat-grinder market. The S&P 500 was at 1,090 back on October 14, 2009. It’s at 1,090 today. That means 208 trading days of doing nothing. Nada. While I am sure there were gems beneath the surface, we are talking about an entire asset class here — you were better off clipping coupons for the past nine months."

Sorry, not very perky. On a brighter note our peach crop is looking mighty nice so I thought I would include a photo from our orchard. (ABOVE) We are leaving BC and our beautiful orchard tomorrow to head back to the states to get geared up for school. Summer has gone by way to fast. Best wishes to all...

Monday, August 9, 2010

"The Time is Now For Women to Stand Up and Start up"

This is a great article about women and social media from the blog ComSCORE. Thanks to Linda Ambraham for the post.

"Now maybe this gender disparity is not particularly noteworthy or an issue even worthy of consideration. After all, technology has often been the purview of men, so doesn’t the composition of the start-up community merely reflect that fact? That may be the case. But it is only when you understand just how important women are to the fabric of the digital media landscape that you begin to see the opportunity for women in our industry – and why the time is now for women to stand up and start up."

Love that last line. I think we (the royal we) have been good about pointing out the challenges, barriers and inequities but Linda is right, ladies if we don't like the landscape, then it is up to US to help change it. Let's use our power to create positive change and break open the gates to opportunity and advancement for all. Gender balance. Shared power. Let's live it, breathe it, and act with that goal in mind in all we do.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


One of my best friends, Barbara, will be undergoing Breast Cancer Surgery today at 12:30 EST in New York City. My husband Greg will be there with Barbara's husband, and I will be praying for her from BC. Barbara circulated a devotional this morning before being admitted that I would like to share in honor of Barbara.

"Hold my hand, and walk joyously with Me throughout this day. Together we will savor the pleasures and endure the difficulties it brings. Be on the lookout for everything I have prepared for you: stunning scenery, bracing winds of adventure, cozy nooks for resting when you are weary, and much more. I am your Guide, as well as your constant Companion. I know every step of the journey ahead of you, all the way to heaven.

You don't have to choose between staying close to Me and staying on course. Since I am the Way, staying close to Me is staying on course. As you focus your thoughts on Me, I will guide you carefully along today's journey. Don't worry about what is around the next bend. Just concentrate on enjoying My presence and staying in step with Me."

John 14:6

I wrote the poem below quite a few years ago and it is one that means a lot to me and has guided my faith. It is about realizing you are never alone. Never. It is the same message and I take it as a sign from God that the surgery will go brilliantly. Barbara I love you. The poem is called "Walk With Me."

I am walking outside alone

And I begin to shake

I stop a sec and look around

Am I dreaming or awake?

The air it seems way too cool

For this time of year

I begin to get a sense

That the cool is my own fear

I keep walking straight ahead

Knowing not which was too turn

Thinking of all I have left behind

And all that I have learned.

I see something ahead of me

A bench is on the road

As if put there just for me

To help relieve my load.

I sit down to rest and think

As I can no longer stand

Suddenly I’m scared and turn

For there is someone holding my hand.

Do not be afraid he says

I’m here to show you the way

I wake up, get out of bed

And get down on my knees to pray. (J Zehner 2002)

Bill Gross, Nouriel Roubini - The New Normal

The New Normal was an investment term first put out there by Bill Gross (picture left) of Pimco. ( Read Bill's most recent comments here.) Bill started talking about it a couple of years ago and it has developed in to a full investment thesis. Bill says - "Our New Normal, to repeat ad nauseam, is predicated upon deleveraging, reregulation and deglobalization, all of which promote slower economic growth and lower inflation in developed economies while substantially bypassing emerging market countries that have more favorable initial conditions."

This term was mentioned by another author, this time from one of the most well known economists, Nouriel Roubini, in his recent comments. I have met Nouriel and other members of his team many times and find them both thorough and thoughtful. Nouriel's website

Roubini -"Since the end of 2009 we have been emphasizing that the recovery would be multi-speed—or at least two-speed—with much of the advanced world displaying a below-trend, anemic growth pace and the emerging world showing a more V-shaped recovery. Now, the global macroeconomic deterioration that we still see emerging in the second half of 2010 increasingly is becoming the consensus view. In much of the advanced world this low growth will feel like a recession even if these economies technically avoid a double dip. Meanwhile, emerging markets are showing that even their more robust recoveries are not insulated from the slowdowns and structural adjustments in advanced economies. We have never been subscribers to the decoupling thesis and believe that emerging markets also will have to partially adjust to a "New Normal."

I agree with this New Normal view and it will remain challenging to construct an investment portfolio with strong positive returns. Personally I remain very cautious on developed country equites and bonds. I think it will pay to hang out on the sidelines and see how this theory plays out. That said, for how to invest with this investment thesis in mind, follow or invest with PIMCO. They manage over $1 trillion in assets. Yes, $1 trillion. I am not sure how that is even possible with just over 1300 employees. I have had the pleasure of meeting many folks from PIMCO and it is one impressive shop.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Goldman Sachs, FCIC Inquiry, What Caused the Crisis and more...

Goldman Sachs is in the news, again, well always, this time it is with respect to an FCIC inquiry for more information regarding the valuation and pricing of assets and liabilities related to transactions with AIG. Their detailed response provides an interesting overview of the mortgage meltdown and Goldman's participation in the CDO and other related markets. Did GS act appropriately? I am not aware of enough facts to comment, but the level of detail GS is able to provide seems to indicate to me that they were very careful about what they were doing and in line with industry business practices.

As a former trader of mortgage-backed securities, married to another former one (now ordained pastor), we have had many discussions about not just good, but ethical business practices in sales and trading. I do believe their is a strong distinction between retail ( you and me ) and institutional ( hedge funds, pension funds...) clients with respect assumed levels of understanding of product offerings. Honesty, appropriateness, and full transparency should always be governing principals for both. That said people will have differing opinions about whether a security is cheap or rich, and that is what makes markets. Valuation of securities, bonds, stocks or CDOs is ALWAYS based on assumptions regarding underlying cash flows, and people have different assumptions. So does all this mean that "SCF 8A A1NV an early 2006 vintage mezzanine super senior CDO" ( from GS press release) should have ever been created? Debatable. Arguably market forces should dictate what is created (with disclosure rules) and where there is demand, supply will follow.

The deeper question is what forces created the demand for toxic waste securities? I have a yet to be written essay on that topic but I believe the main, but not only reason, was the thirst for incremental yield. With interest rates so low for so long, and with Fannie and Freddie needing to grow earnings through expanding their investment portfolios and business lines, thereby collapsing spreads and yields, both the FED and these agencies played a major role in crowding out other investors and forcing them in to look for yield in all the wrong places. I am sure there are whole BOOKS dedicated to this topic that I wrote just three sentences on, but that is my premise.

As for Goldman they have done a heck of a lot in response to the crisis, as they should. They recently set up a committee to review their business practices, which will be made public and perhaps set a new industry standard. They have not been against financial reform, and in fact they outlined their recommendations here. Bottom line, I do not believe GS was doing anything most other firms were not doing, but that does not make it all ok. There was a massive train wreck and they played a role, as did so many others, and have to accept the consequences. Hopefully the outcome will be healthier and more sustainable financial markets. Time will tell.