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Archive for March 2009

Pension’s Target Equity Allocations Shifted Down

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While stated equity targets have not declined significantly, actual equity allocations at year end were much lower. For the 83 companies that provided data, the average target equity allocation is 55 percent for 2009, compared with 58 percent for 2008. However, actual equity allocations fell over the year, to 48 percent at the end of 2008 from 59 percent the year before.

Watson Wyatt Worldwide

So although the 2008 market meltdown brought actual equity allocation in pension funds down below 50%, employers have not materially altered the target equity allocations under their pension plans’ investment policies?

If that were true, it would not be a trivial observation. Not very trivial at all. For decades, the typical pension fund held its equity allocation target steady near something like 65%, through bear and bull. Which then automatically drove an ongoing buy-low-sell-high strategy: if a bull market drove the equity allocation toward 70%, then the fund would sell stocks (at relatively high prices) to bring the equity allocation back down toward the target; conversely, if a bear market drove the equity allocation down toward 60%, then the fund would buy stocks (at relatively low prices) to bring the equity allocation back up toward the target. So if pension funds were truly holding their targets in place in the face of the meltdown, then we could expect to see some rather heavy duty cash moving into the market. Which was largely behind my bloody spring followthrough hopes, thinking that maybe just maybe I might consider heading back into the market myself as early as Memorial Day, to join the parade of all that new money coming in, instead of waiting until late 2009 or early 2010.

Except, Wyatt is wrong. And not just on the numbers, but on exactly what those numbers mean regarding the commitment of pension funds to their stocks.

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Written by macheide

26 March 2009 at 4:55 pm

Posted in άctuary

Bloody Spring

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I know I’m a bit of a crank to leverage pension policies so heavily into my own personal investment outlook and strategy. Even so, that’s never failed me, not once. I pulled out of the market completely just before Black Monday 1987 and stood back that very morning laughing about what was about to happen, simply because I didn’t want to be buying across the aisle from what then was one of the largest pension fund sales in history. And the few individual stock purchases I’ve made during my life all made very heavy earnings from short-term knowledge of the pension plans of the companies (none of them clients, of course – I do steer very clear of using any insider information for my personal investing). I can’t even begin to count all the times I’ve watched new cash head to the market from pension plans anxious about accounting rules, riding the buying up in my own 401(k) equity investments. Then this past year, I had no interest in being among those having to balance out all the selling that pension investment reallocation strategies had been necessitating, so I’ve been happy to have not lost a dime in the market during its recent meltdown.

So let’s point out yet another potential pension influence: those 2009 pension cost figures about to be revealed in the first quarter financial statements about to be issued by companies with calendar fiscal years. One speculation pegs the increased pension cost at a level that would pretty much wipe out 2009 earnings for pension sponsors (those that don’t sponsor pensions being untouched by the higher pension costs, of course, so only suffering earnings erosion from the general economic malaise). My own personal estimate looks for a pension cost increase of only half that speculation, but even that more favorable expectation would hit corporate earnings like a sucker punch . . . . delivered by a wrecking ball!!

And much the same way as earnings estimates in early 2007 and early 2008 failed to anticipate pension cost decreases those two years, so too even the most dire earnings estimates making the rounds on the street these days have not yet taken those significantly higher pension costs into account.

Aside from several obscure pension forecasters whose word has not yet been recognized, so far the only indication of this wrecking ball has come in the form of some early warnings from du Pont and one or two other companies, but with none of those early warnings having yet put the dent that will have to be made in earnings projections. By the end of April, the naked truth will be hitting hard. And I believe we’ll see blood flowing through the ditches. And be hitting that basement floor like we were thrown down at it.

But even if many of the pension plans that have survived this ugly decade close their doors or freeze their benefits, the market meltdown of the past two quarters has hit an important wall: either more pension funds follow the lead of GM and others into permanent reallocation; or else pension plans take a temporary reprieve from their investment policies (not unlike how the stock markets have granted grace periods on otherwise applicable delisting requirements) . . . or we’re about to see an acceleration of the leveling out and turnaround in pension fund equity investment that I had originally anticipated coming in the final quarter of 2009 or early 2010.

In English? Like I predicted verbally three weeks ago and reiterated in writing earlier this week, I see the current “rally” as only a temporary bounce. So then when I refer to blood in the ditches and being thrown at the basement floor, I believe we still have a real chance of seeing the Dow cross below 6k before Memorial Day. But whereas earlier this year I anticipated steering clear of equity investment until late 2009, if not until 2010, I might now be making my turn as early as Memorial Day. Especially if the bottom has dropped out between now and then. And although I do look beyond pension policy – to the global economy and to technical factors and to a host of other influences – like so many times before, pensions will play a major role in my decision if I do move then: the worst of the info on pension cost increases will have been fully factored in by then; but we might then be seeing some serious money come to the demand side of the markets in the form of pension investment rebalancing back up to some higher equity mix. Meaning we might then see the market leap off a bloody spring and head straight up.

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Written by macheide

25 March 2009 at 3:15 pm

Posted in calls & puts

Coincidence? Doubtful

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Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a consulting firm, estimated pension assets declined 26 percent in 2008. The firm also reported the 100 largest US pensions were just 79 percent funded in 2008, compared with 109 percent funded at the end of 2007.

Boston Globe

For the group [of 100 companies with largest pension plans], funded status decreased to an average of 79% from the prior year’s 105.2% . . . .

Milliman

Just a coincidence, that a newspaper carries a story citing Wyatt for a figure based on the “100 largest US pensions” the day after Milliman produces a full report on what seems to be the same set?

I don’t believe in that kind of coincidence.

For the past 9 years, Milliman has produced the best annual report of pension funded status – by far the earliest (usually at least two months before the next competitor in line, and typically about six months before most others), by far the most complete (covering every main element including cost and contributions, measurement assumptions, asset allocation, and even OPEB funding, whereas many of the competitors venture little beyond reporting on pension funded status), the most accurate (definitely more credible than what sometimes seems the most cited competitor’s report, one from a credit rating agency, a report typically containing crucial data and analysis errors in as many as a third of the study’s companies’ numbers), and by far the one with the best insights (several of the competitors’ studies suitably illustrating the value of actuarial advice via the weakness of their analysis). At best, competitors have only found room to chase Milliman in the selection of the study’s members – Milliman increased its study size, from 25 the first year and 50 the second year, to settle on 100 companies for all remaining studies; competitors pretend to have more complete data by reaching for the S&P 500 or the Fortune 1000, or even sometimes pretending to show results for the S&P Composite 1500. But just as the Dow Jones Industrial 30 can serve as proxy for the S&P 500, or as one need not know where the Russell 5000 might be valued if one has the S&P 500 in hand, so too the Milliman 100 has slowly but surely become an acceptable standard that adequately reflects broad trends that are only echoed when results for the “broader” sets are eventually published.

So then, has Wyatt finally realized that stretching to the Fortune 1000 or faking the S&P Composite 1500 wastes precious resources without adding sufficient insight to their investigations? Even if that is so, why not then come out with their 100 last week or several weeks ago, when I myself had already started poking similar numbers out into this blog? Or why not next week, when the Enrolled Actuaries Meeting could have given them a springboard for further discussion? Why the very morning after the Milliman report? Again, I really don’t believe in such coincidence.

But I must say, that “109 percent” cited in the Globe article is either a misprint (did the fax blur Milliman’s 105 into a 109?) or an outright blooper. I hereby give myself this exercise, but from extensive experience in the numbers I suspect it to be a failed exercise: find any 100 companies of any size from any set that would average a 2007 funded ratio as high as 109. For smaller sets of a few dozen companies at most, sure, throw in the very small handful that are over 109, and you can pull that average; but not for 100 companies. Heck, even for 2007, when funded ratios reached the highest peak for the millennium, only 123 companies among the S&P 500 had assets in excess of liabilities; and by far, most of those companies were funded closer to 100 than as high as 109. Not that anyone much cares: bad pension numbers like the Globe’s 109 get passed along all the time, are left uncorrected, and pretty much pass into practice as if they are truth, without so much as a shrug, just because it has been supposedly credited to an “expert.”

Whatever. OK, so the Boston Globe ain’t the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal or Pensions & Investment Age or Bloomberg or any source that many business people might go for their pension information, so does it much matter that this blurb credited to Wyatt should have given the nod to Milliman? In the greater scheme of things, probably not. It’s still irksome.

(As I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

25 March 2009 at 8:43 am

Posted in άctuary

preparing long defense

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impromptu baseball, two per side, set up in a steeply slanted room at th western edge, with a chute set up leading down to a hole torn out for th ball to be pitched through. a dog stepping up to help th other team pitch. my side did get one out, and my first hit was only a single instead of th homers my partner was swinging, but it started to appear we might continue to bat our side all night. i felt somewhat frustrated at having to use a pencil for a bat, switched to using a comb – shorter, but more face to th ball

looking up before one of my at-bats, in a clear blue sky i saw a very strangely designed cloud. looked around for my camera, before realizing that all th busy scurrying of everyone else indicated that th pattern was not a cloud, but rather a message to us posted in th sky by aliens, an ultimatum and a warning. left our baseball game to proxy players to finish off, driving away in a bus i looked back to what turned out to have been a coal pit where we had been playing, thoughts of our play leaving fresh artifacts for later generations to find in th pit

heading down to th lower level to seek my things for departure, but all th power had been turned off with th emergency at hand, so it was completely dark. feeling around in one of th lockers, i could find only a few clothes and books of others in our party, nothing of mine. went around through th hallways toward my room hoping to get enough things there to carry me through. came across another group that was separately meeting in th hotel. one of their name tags had fallen from th bulletin board where they were setting up, i picked it up for them, many other name tags appeared dropped on th floor

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Written by macheide

25 March 2009 at 4:04 am

Posted in oneirra

Pension Funding Domestic v Foreign

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domfor2008As we always point out, and as is at least footnoted in the better among the published reports, pension numbers reported in corporate financial statements of publicly traded U.S. companies include both domestic and foreign pension plans. And as we’ve always observed, but is inadequately examined by any of the published reports, foreign pension plans are typically significantly less well funded than are domestic pension plans (even when unfunded supplemental executive retirement programs are included with the domestic numbers).

One important trend which so far has been overlooked by published reports and the business press: although foreign pension plans shared the hangover from the 2008 market meltdown, relatively they lost less in funded status than did domestic pension plans. Credit four primary reasons:

  • Underfunding Shifted Emphasis to Liability Changes – Although not universally constant across the board, companies generally increased discount rates used to measure pension obligations, reflecting higher interest rates in corporate bond markets. Higher discount rates tempered pension liability growth or even led to declines in pension liability. For all pension plans, the effect of those pension liability changes tended to move counter to losses suffered by pension assets. But since foreign pension plans tend to hold less assets, the pension liability changes were more pronounced for 2008. Particularly representative of this effect were pension plans for subsidiaries in Germany, where pension plans are completely unfunded in the traditional U.S. sense – there, only the effect of liability changes prevail.
  • Lower Equity Investment for Funded Plans – Particularly for pension plans in subsidiaries in England, but elsewhere as well, foreign pension plans that are backed by pension assets overall have lower equity investment allocations than remains present for U.S. pension funds. So although foreign equity markets overall dropped more during 2008 than did U.S. equity markets, foreign pension funds generally saw lower investment losses than did their U.S. counterparts.
  • Dollar Muscle – Thank the strength of the U.S. dollar against other currencies for a healthy share of the relatively lower loss of funded status experienced by foreign pension plans during 2008. All things considered, a strong U.S. dollar helps the funded status of underfunded foreign pension plans that are then converted back into dollars for U.S. reporting. (I’ll come back to this with more detail in a future post.)
  • Persistent Employer Contributions – This isn’t a distinction for each and every company, but it remains so for enough of the elephants in the bath to be worth note. For some companies, whereas employer contributions for qualified pension plans for U.S. employees remain low or zero due to credit balances accumulated several years ago (then largely in response to an accounting rule that has since been eliminated), employer contributions for foreign pension plans generally increased during 2008. So relatively speaking, asset losses were offset by employer contributions more so for foreign pension plans than for domestic pension plans.

The result: As seen on this post’s chart of the past 10 years for S&P 500 companies that separately disclosed their domestic versus foreign pension plans, here showing pension funded ratios for domestic pension plans (higher blue circles) versus pension funded ratios for foreign pension plans (lower purple squares), the funded status for domestic pension plans remained above that of the foreign pension plans. However, as also is readily apparent from this chart, foreign pension plans did not suffer as badly during 2008 as did domestic pension plans, with the spread between the domestic pension funded ratio versus the foreign pension funded ratio squeezing down to a margin smaller than any experienced through the past decade.

But don’t expect the two lines on this chart to cross. Even if all four trends were to persist through 2009 – an unlikely scenario – at most we would see the spread narrow further, without merging or flipping.

(Remember, as I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

24 March 2009 at 4:16 pm

Posted in άctuary

As Expected

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Patterns shown by certain charts demonstrate once again that one need not collect all the stars in the galaxy to get a pretty good idea what the night sky looks like. As expected. In this case, meaning representational. Characteristic. Sufficiently typical. At least one of us will still find solitude in exploring stretches others never get around to visiting, but even the outliers we find won’t rewrite any books.

That doesn’t mean I have a clue where that $70 billion number for an increase is coming from. I still think somebody’s smoking something left over from the 60s. Does it not bother anybody that that’s completely off the current chart? And what became of smoothing, corridors, and expected service? Or are we phasing in phase 2 already? So let’s see now, what them quarterlies are leaking out to us. As expected. In this case, meaning that what some have called expected is not necessarily remotely realistic. Watch for something no higher than $40 billion increase for the galaxy, with maybe $30-35 billion for the constellation – still enough of a leap to give pause to any premature market recovery, since earnings forecasts have not yet factored these numbers in, but no more than half the $70 speculation. At least one of us is not all that surprised, although don’t hold your breath waiting for a corrected number to sneak into the final report.

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Written by macheide

24 March 2009 at 6:41 am

Posted in bedhead

Tagged with

Just a Bounce

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That dead cat’s even jumped a little, yes. But without much more than hedge fund money buying into it, it’s still nothing more than a bounce.

Yes, I came very very close to sending 10% across to equities two weeks ago. But I’m not into making 3-week moves. And another week is all I give this, even with today’s latest edition of rules from Treasury.

Today’s 497-point hop in the Dow wins Kelly a steak dinner, but I don’t expect Nat will have to wait more than another two weeks to pick up her Olive Garden outing from a comparable drop. Burn out the little bit of outside money that might be foolish enough to venture back in, and we’ll be back to the basement.

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Written by macheide

23 March 2009 at 6:09 pm

Posted in calls & puts

Elephants’ Pensions Fatter II

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frranked2008As I observed in yesterday’s aftermath post, the pension plans of the largest corporations with the largest pension funds are generally better funded than pension plans of smaller corporations with smaller pension plans. Whereas yesterday’s post illustrated that trend by grouping large companies versus smaller companies and charting them against aggregate assets, today’s chart looks at the funded ratio of the global pension plans of each and every S&P 500 pension sponsor, then simply plots those against the rank of the company in terms of pension assets as of the close of the 2008 fiscal year, from the largest pension sponsors at the far left of this chart to the smallest at the far right.

Were we expecting to see a more obvious decline, left to right? That’s not there, per se. But closer inspection of this chart does show the same trend as yesterday’s chart.

Let’s start by observing one somewhat remarkable thing that shows through on this chart – how very many of the companies have pension plans with a funded ratio between 70% and 75%, through the middle of the yellow zone on this chart. From nearly the largest through the smallest, the large number of companies at that level almost draw their own line across the chart, without necessitating having me do so. See that line, and the trend discussed in yesterday’s post emerges via the divergences from that line.

First, with the exception of Exxon and Caterpillar – the two “elephants” actually below the yellow zone – that yellow zone is empty at the far left edge of the chart, within the region enclosed by a red rectangle. And the thing is, since the companies within that red rectangle in the aggregate hold well over half of the pension assets for the entire S&P 500, those elephants drive the calculation of the aggregate funded ratio for the entire universe, since the aggregate funded ratio is essentially a weighted average, as if the entire universe of companies pooled everything into one gigantic single pension fund. That’s where yesterday’s graph – charted on the basis of aggregate assets – versus today’s – charted on simple ranking – better illustrates how the size of the pension fund, together with the higher funded ratios typical among the elephants, drives most of the results we were seeing yesterday.

But it’s not just the weight the elephants are throwing around. Look at the green band of the chart, left to right – the number of companies in that band tends to decrease as we reach the right side, the companies with smaller pension plans. In other words, even when we’ve left the elephants behind, we’re still seeing results that exhibit the trend we presented yesterday: lower funded ratios for the smaller pension plans.

And I’m still aiming toward getting around to an examination of why we’re seeing these results. Later.

(Remember, as I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

20 March 2009 at 9:54 am

Posted in άctuary

Elephants’ Pensions Fatter

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frsized2008The pension plans of the largest corporations with the largest pension funds are generally better funded than pension plans of smaller corporations with smaller pension plans. As illustrated by this chart of funded ratios for the S&P 500 as of the close of fiscal years ending in 2008.

The 22 elephants with pension assets in excess of $10 billion per corporation stake out the leftmost green square, comprising more than half of the S&P 500’s pension assets, measured along the chart’s x axis. In the aggregate, the funded ratio of global pension plans for those elephants was 81.2% at the end of 2008, above the overall S&P 500’s aggregate pension ratio of 79.1%, indicated on this chart by the higher heavy dotted line.

Almost three times as many beasts staked out the blue region, indicating corporations with pension assets between $3 billion and $10 billion per corporation. For those companies, the aggregate funded ratio of global pension plans was 79.2%, almost exactly equal to the S&P 500’s overall pension funded ratio.

The purple region then indicates the 87 corporations with pension funds of $1-3 billion each, with an aggregate funded ratio of 76.0%. The brown region indicates 53 companies with pension funds of $0.5-1 billion each, with an aggregate funded ratio of 68.9%. And the red region indicates 111 companies with pension funds less than $0.5 billion, with an aggregate funded ratio of 67.2%.

Several off-the-cuff observations –

  • Research Universe Will Affect the Results . . . Slightly. Various studies of these results are typically published by actuarial consulting firms, banks and rating agencies, and others. Each of those outfits typically uses a different research universe for its study – one firm using only the 100 largest pension sponsors; several using the S&P 500; and at least one purporting to use the S&P Composite 1500. As this chart indicates, research based on the 100 largest “elephants” can be expected to report higher pension funded status figures than the reports that use the S&P 500 set, i.e., several ticks above the 79.1% aggregate funded ratio indicated by the heavy dotted line. Even so, while stretching out to the S&P Composite 1500 or beyond will drag the pension funded ratio lower than the S&P 500 results, the pension funds for the additional companies are so small that the effect is diminished relative to the overall aggregate, yielding a funded ratio for the larger set that should be only slightly below the 79.1% S&P 500 level.
  • Median Results Mean Something! For the full S&P 500, in contrast to the aggregate funded ratio of 79.1%, the median funded ratio corporation by corporation was 72.3%, indicated on this chart by the lower, lighter dotted line. While the 79.1% number tends to get most of the press, that number essentially acts as though the companies with well funded plans could easily and would willingly share their pension surpluses (or lesser deficits) with the companies that have less well-funded plans. Which of course is not the case. Note that here, the research universe can make a huge difference: the median pension funded ratio for the top 100 pension sponsors is around 80%, essentially ignoring that well over a third of the S&P 500 plan sponsors have pension funds that may be facing legal restrictions and significantly higher pension costs and contributions due to severe underfunding.

And why are the elephants’ pension funds fatter than those of the smaller beasts? I’ll get around to that interesting “why” in a subsequent post.

(Remember, as I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

19 March 2009 at 5:20 pm

Posted in άctuary

2008 PBO FR 79% for S&P 500

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frpbosp5001999-20081For the S&P 500 as of 12/31/2008, the aggregate funded ratio of global defined benefit pension plans as of the end of fiscal years ending during 2008 was 79.0%, down drastically from 104.0% as of the close of the 2007 fiscal years, as measured on the basis of the ratio of market value of pension plan assets to projected benefit obligations.

We have yet to see whether 2009 will make this recent decline as severe as the 2001-2002 decline, although January and February certainly did nothing to stop the bleeding.

More details on funded status and other observations gleaned from corporate financial reports forthcoming soon.

(Remember, as I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

16 March 2009 at 5:31 pm

Posted in άctuary

subterranean sanctuary

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aware without being told that we had reached th final day before everything was to fall apart, i collected th papers for th major piece i was writing, as if that piece might still be worth preserving through th period we were all about to go through. i went up to say farewell to my writing prof, he understood and agreed that i had to leave immediately

after a long period of oppression, our people were to be hunted down and tortured and gassed

i decided that my best chance of escaping th genocide would be to dig a hole for myself in th basement of one of th top government officials. sure enough, i found a place where i could dig under th staircase leading down into th basement, although i worried about how it might affect me hiding in my hole for th years i knew i would need to avoid detection

th four children of th government official came into th basement to play, and th youngest one – about 2 years old – immediately sensed my presence under th stairs and came over to me, curious. i managed to befriend th child in a way so that when she told her siblings and parents and others of me, they thought of me as her imaginary friend under th stairs. even so, i worried that as she grew older they might realize th truth of her tales and find my secret hole. so since i needed a hiding place that might see me through years of hiding, i moved my efforts to th other side of th basement, where it was pitch black even when th lights were on

when i arrived at th dark side of th basement, soldiers were leaving a patrol, having sensed a danger from something they picked up upon rounding up th class i’d been in. one of th last two soldiers passed me without noticing my presence, but i knew th final soldier would trip over me, so in th dense darkness i attacked him and broke his neck. but i left him in a way so that when his body was found, th other soldiers thought he had just been careless, so they still did not come back looking for me

in that corner of th basement i then dug myself a large room below th basement, large enough to live in comfortably for th years i had to hide. because nobody suspected that any of my people had survived, i was able to venture above ground out in public more than i had thought i might – i had had visions of being in a much smaller hole for much much longer with no breaks. i picked up things to eat and other necessities during my excursions aboveground, so spent my solitary time in my subterranean sanctuary in relative comfort

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Written by macheide

16 March 2009 at 4:04 am

Posted in oneirra

forgotten necessities

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preparing to travel to a milliman tech session. i was mildly surprised that it would be in dallas again, was about to make a snide comment about th trieb mafia, it turned out that th meeting was to be up in minnesota, i shrugged and let th comment hang in th air anyway

meeting materials that needed to be brought were being shared among th various prospective attendees to bring, instead of being shipped there by th meeting organizers. i had two boxes assigned to me, was having difficulty getting everything into those boxes, although we did know it should fit if carefully arranged. i noticed my teeth and glasses sitting on th desk among th items being packed and made a mental note not to lose those in th clutter

rich berger sat in th seat next to me and struck up an intense business discussion with me. others eavesdropped nearby until it was time to head to th meeting rooms. as we headed inside, i poked at th ground with my umbrella, intrigued by holes where others had poked earlier – there was a large hollow area below th patio terrace, in threat of dropping into a sinkhole

as we clustered through th winding hallways toward th meeting room, i realized i had forgotten my teeth and glasses. it was too late to return to where i had last seen them, so i could only hope that they would be held for me in a lost & found. i then realized that i had forgotten my teeth and glasses because i had forgotten th two boxes i was supposed to have brought, together with anything else i was supposed to have. but now we were rushing through th halls like a train in a tunnel, and i simply figured i would go with what i had

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Written by macheide

11 March 2009 at 4:04 am

Posted in oneirra

scorpion sting

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only after it had been placed in my left hand did i realize i had been given a scorpion. before i could drop th creature, it had stung my hand several times. but although a creeping numbness eventually paralyzed as much as half of my hand, my work was not hindered

Bumper Sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com/] - oneirra

Written by macheide

9 March 2009 at 4:04 am

Posted in oneirra

2008 Pension Data Nearly Complete

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With GM finally releasing its bad-news annual financial statement for 2008, almost all 2008 GAAP data that has been publicly disclosed for pension plans is now available.

I collect as much if not more than anyone else out there, businesses and governmental agencies included. But since my pension information spreadsheet is as much a hobby as stamp collecting used to be for me, it will take a bit of time for me to catch up with this past week’s deluge. I’ll start with PBO funded ratio – a tick or two below 80% instead of the tick or two above that I had anticipated – and move step by step through other available data elements: pension cost; asset allocations; assumptions; and so on.

(Remember, as I’ve previously disclaimed, posts such as this represent efforts of my favorite pastime. My formal work does not involve any of this, and none of it represents any position or comment that should in any way be attributed to my employer. Likewise, as always, it represents general personal impressions and should not be treated or used as formal professional advice.)

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Written by macheide

5 March 2009 at 8:18 am

Posted in άctuary

Avoiding NASA

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Forget trying to do anything down Baybrook way this weekend. If the Gulf Freeway south’s seemed bad the past several weekends, it’s about to get worse. To demolish the overpass at NASA 1, the freeway will be shut down both north and south from 9pm this Friday through 5am next Monday. NASA 1 itself shuts down at the freeway beginning 9pm tonight and won’t reopen until May 4.

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Written by macheide

4 March 2009 at 6:55 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Tagged with

Messing with Texas

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1130081610

Houston Chronicle to lay off 10 pct of work force; also looking at other cost cutting measures to save as many jobs as possible.

BreakingNewsOn

Suggestion: Start by laying off Chronicle employees who litter Houston area streets with unrequested, unwanted trash. Suggestion: Better yet, cut your costs by ceasing to even produce the trash you litter our streets with. Suggestion: And recognize that there are thousands of citizens out here who won’t come remotely close to touching your product as long as you really don’t give a damn how much litter you leave in our streets. Or try this: Go bankrupt and quit publication entirely; Texas would be the better for it without having your litter flying around all over Houston.

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Written by macheide

4 March 2009 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Houstonian

Basement Door

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We’re finally standing at the basement door.

Throughout our giddy ride down an elevator in near freefall, I’ve frequently looked out the window, not yet seeing the street through the fog, at best only speculating how far down I thought the ground floor might be. But yesterday’s thud sounds, looks and feels a lot like the hard concrete of street level.

I do still believe we’ll be giving the basement a lengthy visit, perhaps even take a mattress down there for want of a better place to sleep off our drunk.

And once we get down there and poke around a bit, it wouldn’t surprise me all that much if we were to find it to be like a building with a basement parking garage . . . that goes down into basement level two . . . and basement level three . . . and maybe even a dungeon below. Except if we spend too much time below the basement we can see from here, we’re going to come out of it looking like strange deep-sea creatures.

Meanwhile, I’m still hanging on tight to my wallet and my belt. Any bounce we imagine any time this spring still doesn’t have enough momentum to levitate, the elevator cable’s still snapped, and our legs are too damn tired to climb any stairs.

Yeah, at this level, we could easily have a short-term visit back up to the second or third floor, like what we saw last December, and that could so easily turn a month’s return of 15% or more given how far down we are. But I’m not into one-month horizons; and within the next three months, we’ll be well down the basement stairs. Yes, I believe we can see the floor of basement level one from here; but I don’t think we’ll be seeing the ceiling of the fourth floor or higher anytime before Labor Day; and I’m still of the opinion that I could sit tight the rest of 2009 without regret.

bumper sticker [www.internetbumperstickers.com] - calls & puts

Written by macheide

3 March 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in calls & puts