<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Category: Investments
 

Viewing the 'Investments' Category

Need for Rebalancing

October 7th, 2009 at 05:51 am

I thought I would follow up on a point I made yesterday concerning rebalancing. Everyone understands the reason for diversification and dollar cost averaging. Basically, don't put all your eggs in one basket and no one can market time.

Think of it this way. Over the past 2 years you had a top and bottom. The top occurred in October 2007 and the bottom occurred in March 2009. If you were out of the market from March 2009 to September 2009, you missed about a 37% return. If you had dollar averaged you would been buying all along the way. At the top, you would have been buying less shares in your mutual funds and the bottom you would have been buying more.

Now, I rebalance my portfolio twice a year – March and September. I could have picked once a year or and other 2 months in the year that are 6 months apart. I just like March and September.

With rebalancing, you need to have an allocation in mind. Let's say simply that you are 60% stock and 40% bond. In the above example as we approach September 2007, my allocations might be approaching 70% stocks and 30% bonds. The first thing to note is that my portfolio is riskier then my original allocation. In this case, I would sell my stock and buy bonds to get the allocation back to the original 60/40.

The second thing I am doing here is taking some profit and investing into my other asset classes. I am doing the opposite of chasing performance. I am buying into asset classes underperforming and selling the hot classes.

So, in March 2009, my portfolio might be 60% bonds and 40% stock. This portfolio is a lot more conservative then my original allocation. So, I sold the stock and bought bonds to get back to the 60/40 split. Last month, I rebalance where I sold so stocks and bought bonds because of the run up from March to September.

To illustrate my point about asset classes, I have attached the picture below. Noticed in 2002, the best performer was Lehman Agg (bond index) and the worst was Russell 2000 growth. And in 2003, Lehman Agg was the worst performer and the Russell 2000 was the best. By rebalancing in 2002, you would have been selling your Lehman Agg (your hot mutual fund) and purchasing Russell 2000.

The other great thing, much like dollar cost averaging, rebalancing on set dates takes the emotion out of your investments. It just something you do.



Source: http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Bible/Callan.htm

Gamecock.. Just my thoughts

October 23rd, 2008 at 08:14 am

Personally, I think we have hit the bottom. And the technical analysis I have done seems to support it. Does this mean the technicals will start breaking down in the future? No. It means I have some expectations of what is occurring and so far the market is behaving the way I thought.

There is a concept in investing called capitulation. This is when everyone throws in the towel and gives up. In September, there was tremendous fear in the street. The pros were bailing out and moving to cash. Hedge funds were going under because they couldn't get there inventory out of Lehman. You might of heard something about prime brokers or other risks with Lehman. This is what they are talking about.

If you believe in Elliot Wave theory and how it pertains to the market, the last wave is when retail gives up. The Q3 statements hit people's mailboxes about 10/10. So I believe that we are seeing the last of the liquidations from the retail.

Now, I mentioned 8,451 on the dow. This was the low close. Sure the lowest point was 7,773 but in technical analysis it is the close that is important. Right now, I have support at 8,451. If you look at the chart, we keep bouncing off of 8,500. This is good, because to me it seems that the market has hit a bottom.



Now if you look at the VIX, it starting to top out. In other words, the markets are not getting more volatile, just the same highly volatile level.



With these signals, I have starting buying into the market. Did I lose a ton of money this year? You betcha.

The last is a little qualitative analysis. When Paulson handed all the money to the banks, he basically signaled that the banking infrastructure will not fail. This has in my opinion started to loosen up the credit markets. Right now, all I hear about is lower profits and recession. This is a far cry away from a global problem with the banking infrastructure.

But as I have said before, you this as an opportunity to assess your risk tolerance. Do not let fear drive you to a decision. What ever you decide is your investment philosophy, that philosophy should be followed in good times and bad.

As of this posting, the market is up 200 points.

Buy American. I Am.

October 17th, 2008 at 09:29 am

By WARREN E. BUFFETT
Omaha

THE financial world is a mess, both in the United States and abroad. Its problems, moreover, have been leaking into the general economy, and the leaks are now turning into a gusher. In the near term, unemployment will rise, business activity will falter and headlines will continue to be scary.

So ... I’ve been buying American stocks. This is my personal account I’m talking about, in which I previously owned nothing but United States government bonds. (This description leaves aside my Berkshire Hathaway holdings, which are all committed to philanthropy.) If prices keep looking attractive, my non-Berkshire net worth will soon be 100 percent in United States equities.

Why?

A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors. To be sure, investors are right to be wary of highly leveraged entities or businesses in weak competitive positions. But fears regarding the long-term prosperity of the nation’s many sound companies make no sense. These businesses will indeed suffer earnings hiccups, as they always have. But most major companies will be setting new profit records 5, 10 and 20 years from now.

Let me be clear on one point: I can’t predict the short-term movements of the stock market. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether stocks will be higher or lower a month — or a year — from now. What is likely, however, is that the market will move higher, perhaps substantially so, well before either sentiment or the economy turns up. So if you wait for the robins, spring will be over.

A little history here: During the Depression, the Dow hit its low, 41, on July 8, 1932. Economic conditions, though, kept deteriorating until Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in March 1933. By that time, the market had already advanced 30 percent. Or think back to the early days of World War II, when things were going badly for the United States in Europe and the Pacific. The market hit bottom in April 1942, well before Allied fortunes turned. Again, in the early 1980s, the time to buy stocks was when inflation raged and the economy was in the tank. In short, bad news is an investor’s best friend. It lets you buy a slice of America’s future at a marked-down price.

Over the long term, the stock market news will be good. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.

You might think it would have been impossible for an investor to lose money during a century marked by such an extraordinary gain. But some investors did. The hapless ones bought stocks only when they felt comfort in doing so and then proceeded to sell when the headlines made them queasy.

Today people who hold cash equivalents feel comfortable. They shouldn’t. They have opted for a terrible long-term asset, one that pays virtually nothing and is certain to depreciate in value. Indeed, the policies that government will follow in its efforts to alleviate the current crisis will probably prove inflationary and therefore accelerate declines in the real value of cash accounts.

Equities will almost certainly outperform cash over the next decade, probably by a substantial degree. Those investors who cling now to cash are betting they can efficiently time their move away from it later. In waiting for the comfort of good news, they are ignoring Wayne Gretzky’s advice: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

I don’t like to opine on the stock market, and again I emphasize that I have no idea what the market will do in the short term. Nevertheless, I’ll follow the lead of a restaurant that opened in an empty bank building and then advertised: “Put your mouth where your money was.” Today my money and my mouth both say equities.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/opinion/17buffett.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And that's what I am doing!!! I have been purchasing leaps (call options longer then a year)on companies that are down 80% but still have strong cashflows and balance sheets.

I just purchased some Jan 2011 call options on VMWare. I have also bought call options on some beat down financials.

If you want to be a long term investor, why not listen to greatest long term investor and a disciple of Graham?

As Buffet says, in the short term, no one knows where the market is going to go. It could drop another 1000 or go up another 5000.

But don't be foolish!!! "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

General Investing

October 8th, 2008 at 06:18 am

I thought I would blog a little about by investments and how I invest in general. So be forewarned.

Generally speaking, 85% of my portfolio is diversified as the experts say. I have a mix of large, small, and mid size companies. I have a mix of domestic, foreign, and emerging market. I have a mix of asset types bonds, stocks, money market. I have a mix od index funds and actively managed funds

I rebalance my allocations once a year in the first quarter. This in essence rebalances my risk. If emerging markets has a great year, my portfolio may be taking on bigger risks because a greater percentage is allocated to emerging markets then I initially thought should be. The other thing is that the market goes in cycles and by rebalancing, you are selling you winners to buy out of favor assets. In the longer term, rebalancing and dollar cost averaging outperform just dollar cost averaging.

What about the other 15%?

Well 10% of the 15% is allocated towards sector funds and is a little more speculative. These are funds that I think the pendulum has swung too far. In this case, I am investing in REITs and financials/banking.

The remaining 5% is more short term trading I do. I go long stocks, short stocks, and play in the option market. I have developed some quantitative models that narrow down the stocks that I research. Then I use technical analysis and fundamental analysis to determine when to make the trade and what to finally trade. So after everything is done I usually end up with a watch list of 10 stocks that I'll follow for months before trading.

One example is GS where I have been playing the volatility. I keep tight stops on this and so I don't lose much money. In general, I usually set up my day trades for the late afternoon. I try to determine what the day traders are doing and do the opposite. In other words, if I feel the day traders are short, I'll buy the stock around 1:30 or 2:00 and end the position before the market closes.

I have been following NCC trying to figure it out. I have been filling out an excel sheet detailing when I would trade it and if it would be a profitable trade. I am still not ready to trade it and may never trade it.

But let's go back to my sector funds. How do I determine whether to get into to what when?

Well I first start looking at the major indices. I try to start determining support. I had support of the Dow at 10,750 then I had it at 10,000. Now? I am still trying to figure it out. What I am looking for is the indices to find support and hold it. What this means to me is that the big players are done selling.

I also look at the VIX, which talks about fear on the street or volatility in the option market. Usually high volatility signals tops and bottoms. So, I am looking to see if the VIX starts to retrace (go down).

Now I start looking at my industry charts and I start looking at sector funds and ETFs. In the REITs, I am in a sector mutual fund. I bought ETFs for banking and financial services.

Basically, split my buys into 3 baskets. I start with a 25% investments and then a 50% investment and then another 25% investment. So let's say I am going to invest 10,000 in banking ETFs. My first invest would be 2,500 then 5,000 and then 2,500.

This year I did my initial investment of 25% in banking and financial ETFs in March. I have been waiting to put in by second allocation. I will wait until the VIX retreats and the sectors start rebounding before the second investment.

This is an over simplification, but it is a general overview of the large things I look at around investments. Also, I small percentage of my portfolio is in trading/speculative investments. And only 5% is in single names.

U.S. options fear gauge soars to record close

October 7th, 2008 at 01:29 pm

I won't be buying stocks until the VIX starts moving down. For those of you who don't know, the VIX is basically a fear measure. It looks at the volatility of options; and besides 1987, it's at an all time high.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By Doris Frankel

CHICAGO, Oct 6 (Reuters) - An index regarded as Wall Street's fear gauge surged to a record close on Monday as investors clamored for protection in anticipation of more stock market turmoil on worries over the widening credit crisis.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index .VIX, or VIX, surged to a record high of 58.24 before easing back to close up 15.31 percent to 52.05.

"This is absolutely amazing. The elevated VIX is reflecting that people are unsure about every financial relationship they have ever known not only in the U.S. but worldwide," said Joe Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at thinkorswim Group.

Persistent strains in the credit markets added to nervousness about the wider economic outlook, while a spate of bank rescues in Europe heightened worries about the stability of global financial institutions.

"Not only are the U.S. banks in financial trouble but it appears that the European and foreign banks may be in worse trouble due to the credit crisis," Kinahan added.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 369.88 points to fall below 10,000 for the first time in four years. The Standard & Poor's 500 index .SPX fell 3.85 percent to 1,056.89.

The VIX, which reflects investors' consensus about anticipated stock market volatility over a 30-day period, tends to move inversely to the S&P 500 benchmark, and spikes upward when the market posts sharp losses.

The record level in the VIX on Monday reflects a change in the index made by the CBOE in 2003 to provide a more precise reading on stock market conditions, basing the index on the prices of the more popular S&P 500 options.

The old VIX, introduced in 1993, is based on S&P 100 options, a smaller basket of stocks. That index, the VXO .VXO ,also hit a multiyear high on Monday, closing up 14.95 percent at 59.50, after scoring a new peak of 66.42.

"With today's high on the VXO of 66.42, it is safe to say the uncertainty now exceeds all times in recent history, with the exception of the crash of 1987 when the old VIX hit 150.19 briefly and remained above the current levels until about Oct. 29, 1987," said Randy Frederick, director of derivatives at Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

From a contrary view of the markets, the spike in the VIX is possibly a sign that investors have overreacted and the equity market is oversold.

But being a contrarian during the recent stock market decline has not been a winning strategy, said Frederic Ruffy, options strategist at website WhatsTrading.com.

He noted each time the VIX moved above key levels at 30, 40 and 50 readings, the stock market experienced a short-term bounce but the rally proved to be short-lived and the S&P 500 eventually faltered, falling to new lows.

Volatility remains exceptionally high and with the ongoing problems in the credit markets, many would-be buyers are likely to remained sidelined, Ruffy added.

"After being burned so many times during the recent market decline, very few investors are going to dive in and try to catch the absolute bottom," Ruffy said. "Instead, they might wait for signs that volatility is indeed falling and that stocks have found a solid leg to stand on." (Reporting by Doris Frankel; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idINN0633769120081006?rpc=44&pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

Sigh...Monster Up Day Setting up

September 19th, 2008 at 05:31 am

The futures are currently pointing to a huge up day today on top of the 400 point surge yesterday.

As I look premarket GS is up $32 to $140. STT is up $6 to $65. WM is up a buck to $4. Hell, Apple is even up almost $8. Oil is at $97.5 probably going down today. Gold is down $54.

So what happened? Is everyone drunk? Is it like someone about to jump off the ledge and the sun comes out?

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke proposed moving troubled assets from the balance sheets of American financial companies into a new institution. "

and

"U.S. officials are considering include establishing an $800 billion fund to purchase so-called failed assets and a separate $400 billion pool at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to insure investors in money-market funds, said two people briefed by congressional staff. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans may change. "

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=am.XqrSCUntI&refer=news

AIG Deal and Changes to Naked Short Rules

September 17th, 2008 at 08:18 pm

AIG Deal

Just to be clear about the deal. It's an $85 billion 2 year revolving credit loan at 3 month LIBOR + 850 bps.

The loan is collateralized by all the assets of AIG which is estimated to be be about $1 trillion. Just the air leasing and foriegn life insurance division are estimated to be worth about $94 billion.

The other piece is a 79.9% equity stake in AIG, where the government can veto dividends to common and preferred shareholders.

Now the 3 month LIBOR is around 2.88. Or, the interest on the loan is 11.38%. That ain't cheap money and the government has enough power to liquidate the company and get their money first. But it did this to give AIG time to unravel and not have to put everything on a fire sale.

Source: http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/other/20080916a.htm


~~~~~~~~
Naked Shorts - Technical

The Commission's actions were as follows:

1)Hard T+3 Close-Out Requirement;

Penalties for Violation Include Prohibition of Further Short Sales, Mandatory Pre-Borrow

The Commission adopted, on an interim final basis, a new rule requiring that short sellers and their broker-dealers deliver securities by the close of business on the settlement date (three days after the sale transaction date, or T+3) and imposing penalties for failure to do so.

If a short sale violates this close-out requirement, then any broker-dealer acting on the short seller's behalf will be prohibited from further short sales in the same security unless the shares are not only located but also pre-borrowed. The prohibition on the broker-dealer's activity applies not only to short sales for the particular naked short seller, but to all short sales for any customer.

Although the rule will be effective immediately, the Commission is seeking comment during a period of 30 days on all aspects of the rule. The Commission expects to follow further rulemaking procedures at the expiration of the comment period.

2)Exception for Options Market Makers from Short Selling Close-Out Provisions in Reg SHO Repealed

The Commission approved a final rule to eliminate the options market maker exception from the close-out requirement of Rule 203(b)(3) in Regulation SHO. This rule change also becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.

As a result, options market makers will be treated in the same way as all other market participants, and required to abide by the hard T+3 closeout requirements that effectively ban naked short selling.
Rule 10b-21 Short Selling Anti-Fraud Rule

The Commission adopted Rule 10b-21, which expressly targets fraudulent short selling transactions. The new rule covers short sellers who deceive broker-dealers or any other market participants. Specifically, the new rule makes clear that those who lie about their intention or ability to deliver securities in time for settlement are violating the law when they fail to deliver. This rule also becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Source: http://www.sec.gov/rules/other/2008/34-58572.pdf

Russian Markets Halted as Emergency Funding Fails to Halt Rout

September 17th, 2008 at 06:30 am

Could be worse....

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Russian markets stopped trading for a second day after emergency funding measures by the government failed to halt the biggest stock rout since the country's debt default and currency devaluation a decade ago.

The ruble-denominated Micex Stock Exchange suspended trading indefinitely at 12:10 p.m. after its index erased a 7.6 percent gain and plunged as much as 10 percent within an hour. The benchmark fell 17 percent yesterday, the biggest drop since Bloomberg started tracking the gauge in May 2001. The dollar- denominated RTS halted trading after similar declines.

The government yesterday injected $20 billion into the interbank lending market via central bank and Finance Ministry auctions in a bid to contain soaring borrowing rates as credit dried up in the wake of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy. The one-day MosPrime overnight rate, a gauge for monitoring liquidity demand, leapt 25 basis points to a record 11.08 percent today.

The Finance Ministry attempted to stop the selloff by offering 1.13 trillion rubles ($44 billion) of budget funds to the country's three biggest banks, OAO Sberbank, VTB Group and OAO Gazprombank, for at least three months. That measure came as KIT Finance, a Russian brokerage, said it's in talks to find a buyer after failing to meet some financial obligations related to repurchase agreements.

Bond Market `Closed'

``The bond market remains effectively closed and banks are reluctant to lend to one another,'' said Julian Rimmer, head of sales trading at UralSib Financial Corp. in London. ``The problems experienced by KIT Finance have heightened counterparty risk and reduced liquidity further.''

Finance Ministry Minister Alexei Kudrin said on state television that the decision to increase the amount of budget funds available to three state-controlled banks would ``smooth over the shock changes'' in the markets and enable the banks to make loans to smaller competitors.

``We must soften such shock changes connected with the market falling,'' Kudrin said. ``With foreign borrowing stopping, we must soften the impact with additional funds, then the situation will stabilize.''

Sberbank, eastern Europe's biggest bank, can borrow as much as 754 billion rubles, VTB has a limit of 268.5 billion rubles and Gazprombank can get 103.9 billion rubles. About 400 billion rubles more of unspent budget funds is available to other banks.

``These are market-making banks capable of insuring the liquidity of the banking system,'' the Finance Ministry said in a statement today. The government and central bank will take more measures to improve liquidity this week, the ministry said.

Sberbank dropped 2.1 rubles, or 6.1 percent, to 32.55 rubles. VTB sank 0.44 kopek, or 14 percent, to 2.73 rubles, a record low.

``The primary objective of these measures is to inject liquidity to calm nervousness,'' Alexander Morozov, chief economist at HSBC Bank in Moscow, said by telephone. ``Hopefully other banks will be able to get this money via the interbank market and this should prevent the rise of rates,'' he said.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aIRza4.azeC4&refer=worldwide

Russian Markets Halted as Emergency Funding Fails to Halt Rout

September 17th, 2008 at 06:29 am

Could be worse....

Sept. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Russian markets stopped trading for a second day after emergency funding measures by the government failed to halt the biggest stock rout since the country's debt default and currency devaluation a decade ago.

The ruble-denominated Micex Stock Exchange suspended trading indefinitely at 12:10 p.m. after its index erased a 7.6 percent gain and plunged as much as 10 percent within an hour. The benchmark fell 17 percent yesterday, the biggest drop since Bloomberg started tracking the gauge in May 2001. The dollar- denominated RTS halted trading after similar declines.

The government yesterday injected $20 billion into the interbank lending market via central bank and Finance Ministry auctions in a bid to contain soaring borrowing rates as credit dried up in the wake of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy. The one-day MosPrime overnight rate, a gauge for monitoring liquidity demand, leapt 25 basis points to a record 11.08 percent today.

The Finance Ministry attempted to stop the selloff by offering 1.13 trillion rubles ($44 billion) of budget funds to the country's three biggest banks, OAO Sberbank, VTB Group and OAO Gazprombank, for at least three months. That measure came as KIT Finance, a Russian brokerage, said it's in talks to find a buyer after failing to meet some financial obligations related to repurchase agreements.

Bond Market `Closed'

``The bond market remains effectively closed and banks are reluctant to lend to one another,'' said Julian Rimmer, head of sales trading at UralSib Financial Corp. in London. ``The problems experienced by KIT Finance have heightened counterparty risk and reduced liquidity further.''

Finance Ministry Minister Alexei Kudrin said on state television that the decision to increase the amount of budget funds available to three state-controlled banks would ``smooth over the shock changes'' in the markets and enable the banks to make loans to smaller competitors.

``We must soften such shock changes connected with the market falling,'' Kudrin said. ``With foreign borrowing stopping, we must soften the impact with additional funds, then the situation will stabilize.''

Sberbank, eastern Europe's biggest bank, can borrow as much as 754 billion rubles, VTB has a limit of 268.5 billion rubles and Gazprombank can get 103.9 billion rubles. About 400 billion rubles more of unspent budget funds is available to other banks.

``These are market-making banks capable of insuring the liquidity of the banking system,'' the Finance Ministry said in a statement today. The government and central bank will take more measures to improve liquidity this week, the ministry said.

Sberbank dropped 2.1 rubles, or 6.1 percent, to 32.55 rubles. VTB sank 0.44 kopek, or 14 percent, to 2.73 rubles, a record low.

``The primary objective of these measures is to inject liquidity to calm nervousness,'' Alexander Morozov, chief economist at HSBC Bank in Moscow, said by telephone. ``Hopefully other banks will be able to get this money via the interbank market and this should prevent the rise of rates,'' he said.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aIRza4.azeC4&refer=worldwide

US Govt Owns 79.9% of AIG for 85 bill

September 16th, 2008 at 06:29 pm

WASHINGTON - In a bid to save financial markets and economy from further turmoil, the U.S. government agreed Tuesday to provide an $85 billion emergency loan to rescue the huge insurer AIG.
ADVERTISEMENT

The Federal Reserve said in a statement it determined that a disorderly failure of AIG could hurt the already delicate financial markets and the economy.

It also could "lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth and materially weaker economic performance," the Fed said.

"The President supports the agreement announced this evening by the Federal Reserve," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "These steps are taken in the interest of promoting stability in financial markets and limiting damage to the broader economy."

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the administration was working closely with the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government regulators to "enhance the stability and orderliness of our financial markets and minimize the disruption to our economy."

"I support the steps taken by the Federal Reserve tonight to assist AIG in continuing to meet its obligations, mitigate broader disruptions and at the same time protect taxpayers," Paulson said in a statement.

The Fed said in return for the loan, the government will receive a 79.9 percent equity stake in AIG.

Earlier, Fed chairman Bernanke and Paulson met with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, to brief them on the government's option.

"At the administration's request, I met this evening with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. They expressed the administration's views on the deepening economic turmoil and shared with us their latest proposals regarding AIG," Reid told reporters. "The Treasury and the Fed have promised to provide more details in the near future, which I believe must address the broader, underlying structural issues in the financial markets."

On Tuesday, shares of the insurance company swung violently as rumors of potential deals involving the government or private parties emerged and were dashed. By late Tuesday, its shares had closed down 20 percent — and another 45 percent after hours. Still, no deal emerged.

The problems at AIG stemmed from its insurance of mortgage-backed securities and other risky debt against default. If AIG couldn't make good on its promise to pay back soured debt, investors feared the consequences would pose a greater threat to the U.S. financial system than this week's collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers.

The worries were triggered after Moody's Investor Service and Standard and Poor's lowered AIG's credit ratings, forcing AIG to seek more money for collateral against its insurance contracts. Without that money, AIG would have defaulted on its obligations and the buyers of its insurance — such as banks and other financial companies — would have found themselves without protection against losses on the debt they hold.

"It might not just bring down other financial institutions in the U.S. It could bring down overseas financial institutions," said Timothy Canova, a professor of international economic law at Chapman University School of Law. "If Lehman Brother's failure could help trigger AIG's going down, who knows who AIG's failure could trigger next."

New York-based AIG operates an insurance and financial services businesses ranging from property, casualty, auto and life insurance to annuity and investment services. Those traditional insurance operations are considered healthy and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said "they are solvent and have the capability to pay claims."

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ap_on_bi_ge/aig