Hence we hear much about easily manipulable and manageable accounting earnings, revenues, operating margins, earnings per share, etc. These measures are highly flawed in a variety of ways, with the primary flaw being that they do not account for the efforts both required and undertaken to achieve them. Basically, they measure JUST HALF (and coincidentally, the positive half may I add) of the risk/reward equation that should be at the root of every investors move. Long story short, they do not account for, nor do they EVEN RESPECT, the cost of capital. This concept ties in closely with Chairman Bernanke's current course of action as well as the ZIRP discussion later on this missive demonstrates (capital offered at zero cost causes reckless abandonment of risk management principles which eventually causes crashes - yes, more crashes). Acknowledgment of the cost of capital enforces a certain discipline on both corporate management and investors/traders. Without respect for such, it is much too easy to create and portray a scenario that is all too rosy, since we are only looking at rewards but never bother to glance at the risks taken to achieve said rewards. I reviewed this concept in detail as it relates to bonuses and compensation on Wall Street in The Solution to the Goldman (and by Extension, the Securities Industry) Compensation Dilemma.
Net revenues, net profits, and earnings per share are totally oblivious to what took to generate them. As a result, anyone who adheres solely to these metrics is probably oblivious as well to what it takes to generate these measures. It's really simple, put more money into the machine to get more money out - damn the risks taken, or the cost of the monies used. This has been the bane of Wall Street for well over a decade, is the direct and sole reason for this current crisis, and is the reason why bonuses based upon revenue generation alone engender systemic risk. Just sell more, do more, to get a bigger bonus. It doesn't matter what you sell or who you sell it to, as long as it blows up AFTER the bonus is paid. This short term-ism is now so deeply ingrained within the investor psyche as to allow companies' to rampantly destroy economic shareholder value with the abject blessing of the shareholders, with cheer leading by the analysts - as long as those accounting earnings per share keep rolling in higher and higher!
Ignoring the cost of capital inflates returns by default, because those returns were never costed in the first place. The problem is, ignoring something does not make it go away. Capital does have a cost whether you acknowledge it or not, and if you ignore that cost you may skate for awhile but eventually it will come back to reassert itself, and often with a vengeance towards the wayward investor. On that note, here is JPM's return on average equity - and here's JPM's return on average equity less the cost of said equity. It's negative, very, very negative!!!
FACT TWO: ZIRP is Literally Starving JP Morgan
Even as the Fed tries to reduce the cost of debt capital to damn near zero, bad things are still happening to those this exercise was meant to save. Why??? Because the responsible world wants capital to have a cost, for if it does, it enforces discipline upon those who use it - whether they acknowledge that cost or not (here's to you Wall Street).
In regards to JP Morgan and despite zero interest rate policy (ZIRP), fed funds as a proportion of interest bearing assets have increased due to lower risk appetite. The proportion of fed funds to interest bearing assets have increased to 12% as of end September 2010 from 7.7% as of end March 2009 while proportion of loans have declined to 35.8% from 38.9% in the corresponding period. Lower interest rates together with a higher proportion of lower interest bearing assets have taken a toll on banks spreads and net interest margin.
ZIRP, low demand, plus the slow investment banking environment is what forced a disgorging of reserves and provisions by management. In a catch 22, ZIRP is not so slowly starving the patient it was intended to save. This is analogous to the use of chemotherapy in treating cancer. The treatment needs to eradicate the disease in confined period of time or the patience is at risk at succumbing to the treatment, itself.
FACT THREE: The JP Morgan Foreclosure Pipeline is Not Only Packed Tight, It Is Progressively Getting Much Worse As The Time To Foreclosure Extends AND the Delinquency Rate Continues to Climb At The Same Time That Real Economic Housing Sales Value Is At An All Time Low As Well - and Getting Worse!!!
Future Losses Are Mounting at an Incredible Pace Yet JPM is reducing provisions due to improving credit metrics. See JP Morgan’s 3rd Quarter Earnigns Analysis and a Chronological Reminder of Just How Wrong Brand Name Banks, Analysts, CEOs & Pundits Can Be When They Say XYZ Bank Can Never Go Out of Business!!! and JP Morgan’s Analysts Agree with BoomBustBlog Research on the State of JPM (a Year Too Late) but Contradict CEO Jamie Dimon’s Conference Call Statements
JP Morgan’s average delinquency at foreclosure is 448 days (with Florida and New York having a record 678 days and 792 days of delinquency at foreclosure). Average delinquency for the industry is about 478 days and is increasing consistently since the start of the crisis. During 2009 the average days from delinquent to foreclosure process was 223 days while as of August 2010 average days from delinquent to foreclosure process is 478 days. A very important, yet often under appreciated fact is that although serious delinquencies are still climbing, the lengthening of foreclosure process has resulted in these loans still being classified as delinquent. The difference between delinquency rates and foreclosure rates has increased to 5.3% (9.8% delinquency rate vs 4.6% foreclosure rate) in August 2010 from 3.6% in March 2002 (5.1% delinquency rate vs 1.5% foreclosure rate). As the difference between delinquencies and foreclosure rates normalizes, and shadow inventory overhang moves to further depress real estate prices, real estate related write-downs could further balloon. So, you see, the marginal improvements in credit metrics that JP Morgan's management has used to justify the releasing of provisions (which also just so happened to have padded a weak quarter of accounting earnings) is really kicking the can of reckoning down the road...
Add to this the difficulty in getting rid of the properties once they are foreclosed upon and you will find that the big banks such as JP Morgan (or after looking at these numbers, particularly JPM (although I suspect BAC and certain others are worse off) will become the nations largest distressed residential housing REITs!!!
FACT FOUR: JP Morgan's Derivatives Portfolio Is STILL VASTLY Inferior To That of Bear Stearns AND Lehman Brothers Just Before They Collapsed!!!
The oft used chart below was created in the 4th quarter of last year.
Click graph to enlarge
Here is an update as of Q2 2010 regarding JPM's net derivative exposure...
As you can see, the AAA holdings have been trending down significantly, replaced by materially lower rated assets.
Cute graphics above, eh? When considering the staggering level of derivatives employed by JPM, it is frightening to even consider the fact that the quality of JPM's derivative exposure is even worse than Bear Stearns and Lehman‘s derivative portfolio just prior to their fall. Total net derivative exposure rated below BBB and below for JP Morgan currently stands at 36.9% while the same stood at 17.0% for Bear Stearns (February 2008) and 9.2% for Lehman (May 2008). We all know what happened to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, don't we??? I warned all about Bear Stearns (Is this the Breaking of the Bear?: On Sunday, 27 January 2008) and Lehman ("Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?": On February 20th, 2008) months before their collapse by taking a close, unbiased look at their balance sheet. Both of these companies were rated investment grade at the time, just like "you know who". Now, I am not saying JPM is about to collapse, since it is one of the anointed ones chosen by the government and guaranteed not to fail – unlike Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and it is (after all) investment grade rated - and we all know how prescient those rating have been. Then again, who would you put your faith in, the big ratings agencies or your favorite blogger? Hey, if it acts like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is it a Swan??? I'll leave the rest up for my readers to decide. On that note, below is a chronological reconstruction of the Bear Stearns/Lehman fiasco from the BoomBustBlog perspective...
Hey, Big Wall Street Bank Execs Always Tell the Truth When They're in Trouble, RIIIIGHT????
Here's more of Alan Schwartz lying on TV in March of 2008
Meredith Whitney downgraded Bear Stearns today Friday, March 14th, 2008: "Yep, she did it. The ratings agencies are considering a downgrade. I thought it was a joke when I first heard it. Let's just imagine that I used these wise sources as an info source to make my money! The ratings agencies and sell sides are jokes that I can no longer laugh at."
It's a good thing no one listened to that damn blogger who has the gall to charge money for his research and opinion. We had to listen to him bitch and moan for 2 months before... Is this the Breaking of the Bear? (January 2008)"
Bear Stearns is in Real trouble
Bear Stearns will soon be, if not already, in a fight for its life... the biggest issues don’t seem all that prevalent in the media though. Bear Stearns is in a real financial bind due to the assets that it specialized in, and it is not in it by itself, either. For some reason, the Street consistently underestimates the severity of this real estate crash. If you look throughout my blog, it appears as if I have an outstanding track record. I would love to take the credit as superior intelligence, but the reality of the matter is that I just respect the severity of the current housing downturn – something that it appears many analysts, pundits, speculators, and investors have yet to do with aplomb. With a primary value driver linked to the biggest drag on the US economy for the last century or so, Bear Stearn’s excessive reliance on highly “modeled” and real asset/mortgage backed products in its portfolio may potentially be its undoing. This is exacerbated significantly by leverage, lack of transparency, and products that are relatively illiquid, even when the mortgage days were good."
Notice how the worse case scenario is economic insolvency - as in less than ZERO!
Book Value, Schmook Value – How Marking to Market Will Break the Bear’s Back
... I can say that when I do watch it I hear a lot of perma-bulls stating that this and that stock is cheap because it is trading at or below its book value. They then go on to quote the historical significance of this event, yada, yada, yada. This is then picked up by a bunch of other individual investors, media pundits and other “professionals,” and it appears that rampant buying ensues. I don’t know how much of it is momentum trading versus actual investors really believing they are buying on the fundamentals, but the buying pressure is certainly there. They then lose their money as the stock they thought was cheap, actually gets a lot cheaper, bringing their investment down the crapper with it. What happened in this scenario? These investors bought accounting numbers instead of true economic book value. Anything outside of simple widget manufacturers are bound to have some twists and turns to ascertain actual book value, actual marketable book value that is. This is what the investor is interested in, the ECONOMIC market value of book, not what the accounting ledger says. After all, you are paying economic dollars to buy this book value in the market, so you want to be able to ascertain marketable book value, I hope it sounds simplistic, because the premise behind it is quite simple – How much is this stuff really worth?. The implementation may be a different matter, though. I set out to ascertain the true book value of Bear Stearns, and the following is the path that I took.
Then he had the nerve to come back with Bear Stearn’s Bear Market – revisited Friday, February 22nd, 2008
So, who was right?
The Bust that Broke the Bear’s Back? Monday, March 10th, 2008: My ruminations on Bear Stearns look to come into their own…
It looks as if the prudent should start debating the ability of Bear Stearns to remain a going concern Thursday, March 13th, 2008
Despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts Wall Street fears a big US bank is in trouble Thursday, March 13th, 2008: While I can't know for sure which IB it may be, my studies tell me it is either the Bear with the Broken Back or the Riskiest Bank on the Street, and that's where I'm concentrating my bets…
From the London Business Times: Global stock markets may have cheered the US Federal Reserve yesterday, but on Wall Street the Fed's unprecedented move to pump $280 billion (£140 billion) into global markets was seen as a sure sign that at least one financial institution was struggling to survive. The name on most people's lips was Bear Stearns. [Hey, it pays to read the boombustblog.com. ...] “The only reason the Fed would do this is if they knew one or more of their primary dealers actually wasn't flush with cash and needed funds in a hurry,” Simon Maughan, an analyst with MF Global in London, said. Bear Stearn's new CEO states unequivocally that his balance sheet hasn't changed since November and that they have $17 billion of cushion. [He did not outright say that they were in good shape though. My concern was looking forward. They are a significant counterparty risk (along with Morgan Stanley) and they have significant illiquid level 2 and 3 assets as a percentage of tangible equity. In addition, 17 billion is not much considering the leverage and amount of illiquid assets held by this bank.]
And what happens after the fact? Yes, I can turn bullish as well...
Joe Lewis on the Bear Stearns buyout Monday, March 17th, 2008: The problem with the deal is that it is too low, and too favorable for Morgan. It is literally guaranteed to drive angst from the other side. Whenever you do a deal, you always make sure the other side gets to walk away with something. If you don’t you always risk the deal falling though unnecessarily. $2 is a slap in the face to employees who have lost a life savings and have the power to block the deal. At the very least, by the building at market price and get the company for free!
BSC calls are almost free and the JP Morgan Deal is not signed in stone Monday, March 17th, 2008
This is going to be an exciting, and scary morning Monday, March 17th, 2008
As I anticipated, Bear Stearns is not a done deal Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Reggie Turns Bearish on Lehman in February, before anyone had a clue!!!
Like I said above, it's not as if upper management of these Wall Street banks would ever mislead us, RIGHT????
Even if the big Wall Street banks would lie to us, we have expert analysts at hot shot, white shoe firms such as Goldman Sachs, who of course not only are "Doing God's Work" but also happen to be the smartest of the smart and the "bestest" of the best, RIIIGHT!!!??? Below we have both Erin from Lehman AND Goldman lying on TV in a single screen shot. Ain't a picture worth a thousand words???
We even had the inscrutable Meredith Whitney say "To suggest that Lehman Brothers is going out of business is a real stretch!" (She OBVIOUSLY DOESN'T READ THE BOOMBUST) as well as Erin Callan, the CFO of this big Wall Street bank on TV lying interviewing again...
But that damn blogger guy Reggie Middleton put his "put parade"short combo on Lehman right about that time, and had all of these additional negative things to say...
Lehman stock, rumors and anti-rumors that support the rumors Friday, March 28th, 2008
It appears that I should have dug deeper into Lehman! May 2008: I never got a chance to perform a full forensic analysis of Lehman, but did put a fair size short on them a few months back due to their “smoke and mirrors” PR (oops), I mean financial reporting. There were just too many inconsistencies, and too much exposure. I was familiar with the game that some I banks play, for I did get a chance to do a deep dive on Morgan Stanley, and did not like what I found. As usual, I am significantly short those companies that I issue negative reports on, MS and LEH included. I urge all who have an economic interest in these companies to read through the PDF’s below and my MS updated report linked later on in this post. In January, it was worth reviewing “Is this the Breaking of the Bear?”, for just two months later we all know what happened. I came across this speech by David Eihorn and he has clearly delineated not only all of the financial shenanigans that I mentioned in my blog, but a few more as well. Very well articulated and researched.
So, who was right? The Ivy league, ivory tower boys doing God's work or that blogger with the smart ass mouth from Brooklyn?
Please click the graph to enlarge to print quality size.
Learn more about BoomBustBlog here: Who is Reggie Middleton!!!
A very interesting question, Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best?,
More Reggie Middleton on JP Morgan
Subscribers should also review our forensic valuation reports, which have (thus far) proven to be right on the money in terms of JP Morgan:
Those that don’t subscribe still have a lot of BoomBustBlog JPM opinion and analysis to chew on, including a free, condensed (but still about 15 pages) version of the forensic analysis above. You can find it below this pretty graphic from “An Unbiased Review of JP Morgan’s Q1 2010 Results Yields Less Roses Than the Maintream Media Presents“…
- An Independent Look into JP Morgan (subscription content free preview!)
- If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 – JP Morgan
- Is JP Morgan Taking Realistic Marks On Its WaMu Portfolio Purchase? Doubtful!
- Anecdotal observations from the JP Morgan Q2-09 conference call
- Reggie Middleton on JP Morgan’s Q309 results
- Reggie Middleton on JP Morgan’s “Blowout” Q4-09 Results