There's a lot that can be determined about the health of a company from the trades linked to it in the financial markets.
A lot... but only so much.
JP Morgan, a stalwart of Manhattan's Wall Street, yesterday had a 'buy' recommendation on GM shares. Despite this considered verdict, GM's share price has been resolutely flat... unless you click on the five-day, one-month, three-month, six-month, year-to-date, one-year, two-year, five-year or max (back to 1962) charts, in which case it tends to fall away slightly on the right-hand side.
Essentially, JP Morgan reckons that the upside is more likely than the downside, if you'll pardon the technicalities.
Other industry analysts, such as KDP Advisors, say, 'Hold'. Don't buy, don't sell. The theory is that there will be a government rescue package to help the company, but that it will dilute the value of GM shares and bonds.
Many analysts believe that, contrary to some expectations, GM has little to gain from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows the company to restructure with protection from its creditors.
It has already renegotiated its healthcare obligations and relationship with the all-powerful UAW, and whatever extra financial benefits that could be wrung from these two sources might be wiped out by the impact of a bankruptcy on sales.
Financial markets determine their own likelihood of GM going bust and not honouring its debts. They call them credit default swaps (CDS). Essentially investors can buy and sell the likelihood of a particular company defaulting on its obligations.
GM CDSs (please, stop the initials) for a one-year default have peaked so high, that a year's protection on GM debt costs around 75 per cent of face value.
That's an incredible amount. But if that doesn't surprise you, then why does five-year protection currently cost around 50 per cent? Anyone?