Well, it looks like Blankein, Dimon, et. al. really should have tried
harder to make that meeting with the President a couple of weeks ago.
It appeared as if he may have had something important to discuss. As my
readers and subscribers know, I have been very bearish on the big money
center banks since 2007, and quite profitably so. The last 3 quarters
saw a much larger trend reversal than I expected, that resulted in the
disgorgement of a decent amount of those profits - a disgorgement that I am still
beating myself up over. You see, as a fundamental investor, I don't do
well when reality diverges from the fundamentals for too long a period.
Luckily for me, fundamentals always return, and they usually return
with a vengeance. To keep things in perspective though, I am still up
on a cumulative basis many, many multiples
over the S&P (which is still negative, may I add) as well as your
average fund manager. Why? How was I able to do this? Well, its not
because I am supersmart, or well connected. It is because I keep things
in perspective. Those that look at the records that I publish say,
"Well he was down the last couple of quarters, so..." while
disregarding what happened the 8 or even 40 or so quarters before that.
Such a short term horizon will probably not be able to appreciate the
longer term perspective and foresight that enabled me to see this
entire malaise coming years ago and profit from it. No, I am not
perfect and I do mess up on occasion, but I also do pay attention to
the facts.

These facts pointed to a massive overvalutation in banks throughout the
bulk of last year, again! I made it clear to my subscribers that the
banks simply have too many
things going against them: political headwinds, nasty assets,
diminishing revenue drivers, over-indebted consumers, and a soft
economic cycle. I also warned explicitly that I didn't think Obama
would be nearly as lenient on the banks as Bush was. Well, the
headwinds are stiffening. On that note, let's take an empirical look at
just what this means in terms of valuation (note, I will following this
up with a full forensic re-valuation for all subscribers, incuding a
scenario analysis of varying extents of principal trading limits). Some
of these banks are I-N-S-A-N-E-L-Y overvalued
at these post bear market rally levels considering the aforementioned
headwinds. Methinks fundamental analysis will make a comeback in a big
way for 2010 as it meets the momentum and algo traders in a mutual BEAR
feast on the big investment banks cum hedge funds. I can't guarantee it
will happen, but the numbers dictate that it should. We shall see in
the upcoming quarters.

We have retrieved information about trading revenues for GS, MS, JPM and BoFA. We have also retrieved some balance sheet data to reflect the trend in investment holdings and the level of leverage, but I will address that in a future post for the sake of expediency. While the banks don't break out the P&L for principal trading, we can sort of back into it. Remember, traders are fed bonuses off of net revenue, not profit.

Published in BoomBustBlog

I have been advocating this limitation for some time.

For those that listen to CNBC pundits knocking the separation of deposit taking entities from trading risk assuming entities, here are some common sense rebuttals.

This proposal would not have stopped the AIG failure

No, it would not have. It would have prevented deposit taking institutions such as Citibank and JP Morgan from trading on a speculative basis with AIG though. Theoretically, it would have allowed those that would have got jerked on the AIG to have sunk or swam on their own accord. We never had to stop AIG, we had to stop the repercussions of what an AIG would have caused.

Published in BoomBustBlog

I really wonder what possesses people to believe these sales pitches, hook, line and sinker... Seriously, what the hell was this guy thinking??? From Bloomberg:

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- For California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, the offer from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. was too good to refuse.

If California were willing to forgo competitive bidding for a $4.5 billion bond offering, the banks promised more orders from individuals and a lower bill to the taxpayers. The firms insisted that by negotiating with them, the state would benefit from its special relationship with the Wall Street troika and wind up with what two underwriters called a salutary “buzz” to boost demand for the debt.

When the October offering failed to sell as planned, California was forced to accept 8 percent less money than it needed and to pay as much as $123 million more in interest than the banks said was sufficient for the market. And the threesome made $12.4 million on the deal, contributing to record bonuses in the securities industry a year after getting a total of $80 billion in a federal bailout.

“Just because someone earns a big wad of money doesn’t mean that they can do what they say they can do,” said Marilyn Cohen, who watched the sale unfold from Los Angeles as president of Envision Capital Management, which oversees $250 million in bonds for individuals. “And shame on the state if they were drinking that Kool-Aid.”

The California sale helped send the municipal-bond market to its worst month in a year. It ended a rally that had pushed borrowing costs for cities and states to a 42-year low, as measured by the Bond Buyer’s index of 20-year general obligation bonds.

Mr. Lockyer, the next time someone promises you something, get it in writing, reviewed by competent counsel and independent financial advisors. Be sure to have the vendors supply a capital reserve to back up their promises. Most banks probably wouldn't do that, which should tell you something in and of itself.

Then there is "Goldman Sachs Driving Trucker YRC Into Bankruptcy, Teamsters' Hoffa Says":

Published in BoomBustBlog

It's bound to happen if regulators don't stop playing hide the sausage and don't start forcing banks to take their medicine. First, a quick recap of the nonsense currently taking place. This post is designed to convince banks that they are considerably better off taking their medicine now than going on with the government endorsed plan of pretending your not sick and risking major surgery, plus chemo and radiation just a year or two later. My next post will be a selection of REITs that didn't make my shortlist, followed by a new REIT report for subscribers that will explicitly show property values of each and every property in said REITs portfolio (and potentially the lender or CMBS/mortgagee pool collateralized by said properties - that's right, someone may be called out).

After dealing with European banks during my work with GGP, I have come to the conclusion that most regional, community and even global banks have no where near the capacity and/or expertise to properly evaluate and value the projects/assets that they have invested in. Well, if that is the case, this is your chance to rectify that problem - on the cheap, at least on a relative basis. So if you are in an appropriate position in your bank, fund or lender - read this evidence that supports the proactive behavior of snatching the big crumbs off the table before there is a mad dash for the micro-specs of bread that may or may not be left if one were to wait it out while playing "hide the sausage games". I'll give you the tools to make a convincing argument, trust me. Here is the broader macro argument for lenders pulling bad debt from under the REIT and CRE industry, thus supporting a bearish thesis for said players.

First: A picture is worth a thousand words...


Instance asset gains and market value stemming from just a small tweak of truth. Financial stocks fly, moving farther and farther from their fundamental values.

Second: We have the obvious manipulation that is occurring in the REIT space (see Here's a Big Company Bailout by the Taxpayer That Even the Taxpayer's Missed!). Zerohedge speculates "Is Goldman Preparing To Upgrade The REIT Sector?"

Third: We have government complicity in the purposeful opacity of the values of the mortgage assets (see the FDIC "Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts" guidance issued Oct 30th, as reported by the WSJ: Banks Hasten to Adopt New Loan Rules and the new FDIC guidance that states performing loans "made to creditworthy borrowers" will not require write downs "solely because the value of the underlying collateral declined").

Fouth: We have a false sense of security that nearly everybody believes should make us insecure, yet somehow we have those long in the markets feelng warm and fuzzy. See You've Been Bamboozled, Hoodwinked and Lied To! Here's the Proof. What Are You Going to Do About It?.

Now, for those of you who believe that the government's "pretend and extend" policy has any chance in hell of working, or better yet, that we are not following in the footsteps of Japan, let's take a pictorial trip through recent history. There are nearly no Japanese banks in the top 20 bank category on global basis by 2003 - NONE (save potentially Nomura, which arguably survived in name, alone). As you can see, they literally dominated 90% of the space in 1990!

Click to enlarge...


Source: Cap Gemini Banking M&A

I want the banks that read my upcoming real estate analysis to take heed to history. It truly does tend to repeat itself. If you are an officer in a bank with CRE exposure, reach out to me from your work email and I will supply you with an abbreviated copy of one of the recent reports, gratis. This should whet your appetite to subscribe for more.

Well, are we following the Japanese "Lost Path". Notwithstanding the damning evidence of hide the truth and hide amongst lies linked to above, ponder the following rather dated, but still quite poignant data...

Published in BoomBustBlog

Yes, you've been bamboozled! Hoodwinked! You're being taken for suckers that not only can't count, but whose memories have been washed away by threats of swine flu and reality TV shows. Do not fret, though. What I have is PROOF of the great Banking Bamboozle, for all to see. Now, armed with this proof, all I need for you is to go out and do something about it. Don't sit there staring at your screen, thinking "damn, he's got a point". Send a copy of this proof along with your comments to all of your elected officials, congressspersons, senators, bankers, insurers, business partners and the media outlet of your choice. The other alternative is... Maybe the powers that be have a point and threats of swine flu combined with the latest episode of survivor and flowery proclamations of "green shoots" amid 10.2% unemployment is all it takes to pull the wool over your eyes. We shall see, shall we??? This is a fact and figures packed blog post, complete with a plethora of downloadable models and references. Please do take the time to read through it before you return to your daily dose of government recommended "American Idol"... Yes, my goal is to piss you off! To goad you into action! To elicit a response.... and it gets worse as you read on.

I have compartmentalized this rather lengthy, yet interesting (to the right people) diatribe into major segments. Feel free to skip ahead or pick and choose the ones which most interest you - or if you have been freshly unplugged from the Matrix, I suggest you sit back with a good glass of wine and read through this entire missive:

  1. Social mobility: The reason why the big banks are being protected at all costs and on the breaking backs of the unemployed taxpayer
  2. The truth behind the Stress Tests and Unemployment
  3. The truth behind credit loss assumptions: Where the hell did the stress test numbers come from?
  4. The Grand Finale: So, what banks are in trouble and how much trouble are they in? A very granular and unprecedented look at the weaknesses of some of the anointed 19 that you cannot get from anywhere else!

You may have seen bits and pieces of stress test analysis in other blogs and news sites, but I doubt if you have seen all pieces of the pie stitched together, as below. You see, many complain about Goldman Sach's $40 billion of bonuses during a time of near depression, but as all who bother to even consider have probably summarized - this government is ran by, and ran for, the capitalist class. If you even have to ask a question after this statement, you can be rest assured you are not part of that class that the government truly serves. In preparation for the social mobility thesis behind the protection of the banks below, you should download this handy-dandy model that shows you (in full detail) where YOU stand in the grand scheme of socio-economic stratification, or to put it more simply, how much the powers that be believe CNBC can effect your behavior (quick registration is required, you may choose the free option to subscribe) - Socio-economic stratification model Socio-economic stratification model 2008-11-07 13:47:25 156.00 Kb. For many, going through this model is the equivalent of choosing between the blue and red pill in the Matrix, literally risking an unjacking from the network of make believe.

For those who feel you must get offended when social class is discussed, I strongly suggest you stop here and watch Cramer scream BUY! BUY! BUY! or otherwise get a solid dose of MSM, mind numbing programming. For the rest of you who choose to continue reading, you have just chosen the Blue Pill - prepare to be unplugged from the Matrix!

Published in BoomBustBlog
Sunday, 01 November 2009 01:00

The Future of Banking?

I saw this clip on Calculated Risk, and just couldn't resist. The Brits absolutly kill me Sealed.

It brings me to mind of Warren Beatty in "Bulworth" (1998), an absolutely hilarious movie based on what would happen if a politician were to actually tell the truth for any extended amount of time.


Full video - Banking with Bird & Fortune at the Financial Times.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 01:00

Deposit Insurance Arbitrage

I'll coin this term in order to explain the travesty that is being allowed in the banking industry. Institutions are literally paying little old ladies' less than a half a percent on their life savings and using said funds to gamble in the risk fraught derivatives market, with the risk being totally underwritten by the government through the:

  1. FDIC (deposit insurance and bond insurance - although to date this expense has been born by the industry, the FDIC is insolvent and may very well have to tap the Treasury, ie. the taxpayer: see I'm going to try not to say I told you so...),
  2. Treasury (via TARP and associate measures, see America, You have been outright lied to! Bamboozled! Swindled! Hoodwinked! The Worst Case Scenario) and
  3. Federal Reserve (ZIRP, QE, and a whole slew of programs I only wish I knew about - see The Fed Believes Secrecy is in Our Best Interests. Here are Some of the Secrets).

A perfect example of how the big banks are carrying this arbitrage out is outlined in "The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle???", but the global economy risking behemoths are not the only one's that arbitrage bank deposit funds via FDIC guarantees. Earlier this year, I featured research on a smaller bank, Bank of Oklahoma, which I found participated in some pretty suspect accounting moves. Despite these "gimmicks" the stock floated higher with the general market and particularly the banking sector. OF course, this does nothing to cure the ills that they have been papering over. Subscribers should reference:

BOK 1Q09 BOK 1Q09 2009-05-07 06:34:52 460.74 Kb

BOK 2Q09 review BOK 2Q09 review 2009-08-01 05:04:06 1.05 Mb

March Actionable Note - Banking Sector BK March Actionable Note - Banking Sector BK 2009-03-03 11:58:22 184.25 Kb

March 2nd Actionable Note Preview - banking March 2nd Actionable Note Preview - banking 2009-03-02 09:44:20 61.88 Kb

Well, one of my subscribers have pointed out another "gimmick" that they are into, and that is the FDIC arbitrage thing. That's right, not the giga-billion dollar Wall Street TARP babies, but the Bank of Oklahoma. Here's how it works:

  1. As a deposit taking institution, CDs and savings accounts are insured by the FDIC. The banks use the funds from these CDs and savings accounts to fund their operations, which use to be primarily loans and checking/cash management services.
  2. The Fed has enabled expanded margins for many of these institutions through ZIRP (zero interest rate policy), but that is not enough to help the truly sick banks. See "The Anatomy of a Sick Bank!".
  3. Thus, many banks have ventured off into the arcane world of derivatives to boost earnings, and avoid having to polish all of those toasters to offer to Grannie! These banks include JP Morgan, Citibank, and Bank of America (see The Next Step in the Bank Implosion Cycle???"), but also much smaller regional and even some local institutions. The Bank of Oklahoma is offering what appears to be option-embedded CDs that sport the FDIC insured moniker on them. These instruments allow the owner to participate in the equity markets while having the federal guarantee on the principal. So, you ask, what's so bad about that? Well, let's walk through what their marketing material has to say, "For discussion purposes only", of course...

Published in BoomBustBlog

I run a rather interesting site. I believe I provide uncommon analysis, and due to that fact it is not necessarily appreciated by the masses. Point in case: I say X company is fundamentally weak and the share price subsequently goes up and/or they report "record" earnings. There are some that then regard my analysis as wrong or irrelevant, or worse yet not applicable because it uses the fundamentals. It is unfortunate that such a large cross section of investors now truly believe that fundamentals no longer apply - or worse yet believe short term price movement is the grand arbiter of value! Fundamental analysis is basically the measurement of value against risk. When one believes these principals no longer apply, then one no longer has confidence in the capitalist system and/or one has been hoodwinked by the most recent bubble/burst. This is where I believe we are now, and so shortly after just three bubbles were blown and popped in the last decade. - with one just popping last year! That's right three, literally one every three years or so - dot.com/telecomm, real estate/credit, and now the government induced equity bubble. We can arguably throw 2007 oil in there as well. Those that follow me know that this is what I do for a living - see "The Great Global Macro Experiment, Revisited".

Understanding my proprietary investment style

As you can see, there is a reason why they call this BoomBustBlog! Many people believe we have hit that trough in March of this year. I don't. Even if we did, we have literally approached bubblicious territory again which sets us up for another spin at the asset cycle.

Alas, I digress... Back to the point. I am a capitalist and believe in the principals of capitalism. Thus, I do tend to adhere to the fundamentals. Sooner or later, the market always returns to the fundamentals. The ensuing ride may be rough, but it is also nearly always guaranteed. This brings us to Wells Fargo 3rd quarter earnings report and their "record" earnings. As a quick recap of where I am coming from re: Wells then on to a review of their Q3-09 results...

  1. Doo-Doo bank drill down, part 1 - Wells Fargo - I introduce Wells as a founding member of the Doo Doo 32 list of banks to encounter distress in the Spring of 2008. Here I was the first to introduce the blogoshpere to Wells extremely aggressive accounting games, namely extending the definition of the term delinquent in order to hide HELOC losses!
  2. The open source mortgage default model I released an open source spreadsheet that detailed defualts in almost all states sourced from independent government sources. Apply these loss rates to Wells portfolio and the truth is evident.
  3. Fact, Fiction, Farce and Lies! What happened to the Bank Bears? I attempted to stress the difference between economic and accounting losses. Yes, Wells has "record" accounting profits, but also has record economic losses as well.
  4. Beware of Bank Earnings Propaganda - They are still in BIG trouble!- self explanatory
  5. Wells Fargo reports in a few hours and I wonder how forthcoming they will be with their credit losses
  6. Wells Fargo Q2 2008 Highlights <!-- -->
  7. Green Shoots are Being Fertilized by Brown Turds in the Mortgage Markets

Subscriber links with the real heavy analysis can be found at the end of this article.

Reggie Middleton on Wells Fargo's 3Q09 Reported Performance

Results Review - 3Q09

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) reported higher-than-expected earnings for 3Q-09, beating consensus estimates for the second time in a row, primarily on back of increased revenues from mortgage banking. Although WFC's reported EPS at $0.56 was up 14.0% y-o-y, it declined 2.0% q-o-q in 3Q09. A y-o-y growth in earnings reflected strong growth in non-interest income (up 169.8% y-o-y) and net interest income (up 83.1% y-o-y) led by higher customer base and increase in product offerings to its existing customers, partially offset by increased provisions for credit losses (up 144.9% y-o-y and 20.2% q-o-q) during the same period. Excluding the impact of gains from mortgage servicing rights (MSR) and hedging gains (included in mortgage revenues and overall constituting a part of non-interest income), the Company's earnings declined in 3Q2009 on q-o-q basis. The contracting base of interest earning assets (q-on-q) along with higher loan losses provides a significant headwind to the company's valuation in the near-term.

In 3Q-09 WFCs' net charge-offs increased to $5.1 billion, or 2.5% of average loans (up 156.2% y-o-y and 16.5% q-o-q) primarily due to higher charge-offs from Wachovia's loan portfolio which contributed 33.8% to total net charge-offs. Wachovia's net charge-off rate deteriorated sharply to reach 1.66% in 3Q09 from 0.92% in 2Q09 while WFC's legacy loan portfolio charge-off rate rose 2 basis points to 3.37% in 3Q09 from 3.35% in 2Q09. Further, non-performing assets also rose 27.9% q-o-q to $23.5 billion as of September 30, 2009, or 2.9% of total loans, reflecting deterioration in the Company's consumer loans and Wachovia's commercial and commercial real estate nonaccrual loans.

Published in BoomBustBlog

This is the fifth in my series on what lies off balance sheet of your local big bank. Since the media doesn't seem to focus on these risks, and I have yet to see anything substantial from the sell side, I guess its left up to me to spread the word. The precursors to this are:

  1. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?
  2. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 - JP Morgan
  3. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 3 - Bank of America
  4. And the next AIG is... (Public Edition)
  5. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It? Pt 4 - Wells Fargo

Enter PNC Financial, the "off the books" edition!!!

Published in BoomBustBlog

Before I delve into specifically what makes Wells Fargo an ongoing Doo Doo list member, I urge those who do no normally follow me to read the precursors to this article:

  1. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?
  2. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 - JP Morgan
  3. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 3 - Bank of America
  4. And the next AIG is... (Public Edition)

After reading through Wells Fargo's numbers below, I want some of you guys (and gals) with calculators and spreadsheets to review "I'm going to try not to say I told you so..." and let me know the chances of the FDIC's absorbing a behemoth such as the CDO trading, CDS writing, off balance sheet VIE having, QSPE bulging, California and Florida Zero recovery 2nd lien sporting Wells Fargo in the case some of its arcane and non-performing assets really hit the fan. I am getting ahead of myself though. Let's take this from the beginning.

Subscription Analysis - The Heavy Stuff The Free Stuff

WFC Off Balance Sheet Exposure WFC Off Balance Sheet Exposure 2009-10-19 04:11:50 259.25 Kb - The complete off balance sheet review

WFC Research Note Sep 2009 WFC Research Note Sep 2009 2009-09-30 13:01:30 281.29 Kb - The Skinny on that CDS exposure. Are they doing the AIG thing too???

WFC Investment Note 22 May 09 - Retail WFC Full Forensic Analysis & Research Note 22 May 09 - Retail 2009-05-27 01:55:50 554.15 Kb

WFC Investment Note 22 May 09 - Pro WFC Full Forensic Analysis & Research Note with Anticipated Capital Requirements under revised SCAP/Stress testing 22 May 09 - Professional 2009-05-27 01:56:54 853.53 Kb This is the document that ties all of the ancillary research togther and includes our best estimate as to the amount of capital Wells Fargo will need to raise!

Wells Fargo ABS Inventory Wells Fargo ABS Inventory 2008-08-30 06:40:27 798.22 Kb

The open source mortgage default model

Fact, Fiction, Farce and Lies! What happened to the Bank Bears?

Beware of Bank Earnings Propaganda - They are still in BIG trouble!

Wells Fargo reports in a few hours and I wonder how forthcoming they will be with their credit losses

Wells Fargo Q2 2008 Highlights <!-- -->

Green Shoots are Being Fertilized by Brown Turds in the Mortgage Markets

Doo-Doo bank drill down, part 1 - Wells Fargo

When the ticker WFC came up as a short list finalist in one of our scans last year, I was able to hear the cackling of those name brand groupies and CNBC junkies literally leaping from my keyboard. This is an excerpt from a free piece that I released on them exactly a year and a half ago, before the days of TARP:

"Well, the first bank on the drill down list will also be 2nd of the banks that I will deliver a forensic analysis on (the first was PNC Bank). That bank is,,, (drum roll in the background, crescendo.... I know some of you hate it when I do this........) Wells Fargo! I can hear a few of you naysayers cackling behind your computer screens as I type this. Wells Fargo is a big name brand bank (cackle, cackle)! Wells Fargo has Warren Buffet as its largest investor (cackle, cackle)! Wells Fargo this and that and blah, blah and (cackle, cackle).... All I can say is, beware of name brands (I actually felt compelled to address this in earlier posts). I have made more than a couple of dollars benefiting from name brand hubris and smaller investors who would rather be told what to do than read a balance sheet! Time will tell if I am right or not on Wells Fargo, just be forewarned - several of the banks on the Doo-Doo 32 (32 banks in deep doo-doo) list have already taken a trip to the confessional!"

Well, fast forward a year and a half and we see who was right. I urge those who do not subscribe to my blog to reference "Doo-Doo bank drill down, part 1 - Wells Fargo". Wells Fargo was actually one of the original Doo Doo 32 banks (32 banks in deep doo-doo), a list of institutions quite likely to hit the fan from an investor's perspective. I welcome all to track the well being of the banks on that list from that period to date. As for Wells Fargo, even despite extreme efforts by the government to prop it up, it appears as if I was on to something back then. Although many pundits STILL believe that I am wrong, the more I dig into the innards of this bank, the more cracks I see in its armor.

The risks posed by the housing crisis and arcane financing vehicles are drastically under-appreciated by the sell side...

Wells Fargo's high risk from its exposure to some of the hardest hit regions like California and Florida was further enlarged through the acquisition of Wachovia's ailing portfolio. The surge in NPAs pushed up the Texas ratio of the Bank to 29.9% as of June 2009 from 19.1% in December, 2008. Wells Fargo Eyles Test exceeded the allowance for loan losses by $3.7 billion or 6.3% of the tangible equity as of June 30, 2009 as against the excess allowance for loan losses over ET of $3.4 billion or 7.5% of the tangible equity in Dec 2008. As the rise in NPAs is far from subsiding, the Bank is expected to feel additional the pressure from high charge offs and provisions (see the latest news on the housing front and proposed FDIC charges whose charges have already [within a month] seen the need to be modified, see "I'm going to try not to say I told you so...").

Published in BoomBustBlog
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