Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exxon Mobil - XTO Energy - Part II

Another part of the Outlook for Energy: A View to 2030, released by Exxon Mobil a week before the XTO Energy deal really bothers me.

"ExxonMobil technologies have unlocked vast new resources of natural gas that previously were trapped in dense rock formations, as well as other types of so-called “unconventional” natural gas. These technologies have resulted in a significant upswing in U.S. natural gas production, and may have similar applications in other parts of the world."

How about this instead:

"Exxon Mobil sat around and watched smaller companies enter these new plays and drill circles around us because we thought that they were too risky, and that North America was too mature an area to be bothered with."


"We had the technology to unlock these unconventional shale resources, but didn't have the balls to use it on a large scale, and sat around and bought back stock instead. Now we have to pay up for these resources."

Full Publication

Christopher H. Browne

Christopher H. Browne of Tweedy, Browne & Co. died a few days ago and in memory of this value investor, here are excerpts from a speech he made to the Graham and Dodd Value Investing Center at Columbia University in November 2000.

"A whole body of academic work formed the foundation upon which generations of students at the country’s major business schools were taught about Modern Portfolio Theory, Efficient Market Theory and Beta. In our humble opinion, this was a classic example of garbage in/garbage out."

"Investment performance is generally measured against a benchmark, and claims to being long-term investors aside, the typical institutional client tracks performance on a monthly or quarterly basis versus the benchmark. Performance that deviates from the benchmark becomes suspect and can lead to termination of the money manager. Consistency of returns relative to the benchmark are more important than absolute performance especially in a world dominated by the hypothesis that asset allocation is more important than stock selection."

Columbia Speech

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Exxon Mobil - XTO Energy

Exxon Mobil released a publication entitled Outlook for Energy: A View to 2030, about a week before the XTO Energy purchase. There was one part that caught my attention and gave a little hint of what they were planning:

"Natural gas supply to expand, particularly in the U.S. where unconventional gas supplies are expected to meet more than 50 percent of gas demand by 2030."

and later on:

"There will be an expansion of natural gas supply, particularly in the United States where unconventional gas supplies are expected to satisfy more than 50 percent of gas demand by 2030."

Full Publication

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Bad Could It Have Been?

A recent academic study called Financial Crises and Economic Activity, written by Stephen G Cecchetti, Marion Kohler and Christian Upper, has implications for the current strength and trend of the U.S. and Global economic recovery.

The paper examined 40 systemic banking crises since 1980 and evaluated the real output costs of these crises. The conclusion:

“First, the current financial crisis is unlike any others in terms of a wide range of economic factors. Second, the output losses of past banking crises were higher when they were accompanied by a currency crisis or when growth was low at the onset of the crisis. When accompanied by a sovereign debt default, a systemic banking crisis was less costly. And, third, there is a tendency for systemic banking crises to have lasting negative output effects.”

How bad could it have been for us this time? The mean peak to trough decline in GDP for the 40 crises was 18.4%, with a median decline of 9.2%. Also, in one crisis, it took seven years for GDP to get back to its pre crisis level.

Read the original study here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

FDIC Report

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently released its third quarter of 2009 Quarterly Banking Profile detailing a host of statistics on the banks under its jurisdiction. This report has been well covered, but one part I wanted to highlight was the section on the number of employees at the FDIC.

The number of employees has moved up from 4,476 in September 2006 to 6,298 as of September 2009. While this might seem like a lot, the total number of employees peaked at 22,586 in September 1991, during our previous banking crisis.

The point is that either current employees are much more efficient than they used to be back in the early 1990's, or the FDIC may be one of the few agencies to be adding jobs to the economy over the next few years. Just something to think about.