This is part 3 in my quest for the truth in what lies off balance sheet of the big banks in America. Please reference If a Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It? and If a Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 - JP Morgan for the prequels. As was noted before, I also have a 30 part series on this Asset Securitization Crisis for those who are interested in my take on this from the beginning. It is a lot of reading, but it tells it like it is. Now, on to the bank to be owned by America - I'm sorry, that's Bank of America...
Bank of America Securitization Activities
Bank of America securitizes residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, credit card receivables, and home equity loans and automobile loans that it originates or purchases from third parties. As of June 30, 2009, the total principal balance outstanding of securitized portfolio was nearly 1.7 trillion (including 1.1 trillion of mortgage backed securities, securitized by Government sponsored entities). The total senior securities and subordinated securities held by BAC on its balance sheet amounted to about $27 billion (28% of tangible equity) and $10 billion (10% of tangible equity), respectively.
The other shoe is dropping on the banking industry, and market reaction seems muted. This is interesting, for the demands of cash, deviations from expected returns (the technical definition or risk) and murkiness in realistic valuation of assets and liabilities are all converging to a point that bank insiders fear to tread.
First we will go through yesterdays news, then prance through some BoomBustBlog.com exclusives in a separate post...
For those that need a quick giggle, or a basic walk through of the basics, I bring you Street Cred - the tutorial. You can use the controls in the right pane to navigate at will. Feel free to pass it around. The links below are the blog posts that substanstiate the "tutorial". I will be releasing some juicy stuff on Wells Fargo a little later on.
Relevant links of interest:
- The Fed Believes Secrecy is in Our Best Interests. Here are Some of the Secrets
- Why Doesn't the Media Take a Truly Independent, Unbiased Look at the Big Banks in the US?
- As the markets climb on top of one big, incestuous pool of concentrated risk...
- Any objective review shows that the big banks are simply too big for the safety of this country
- The ARE trying to kick the bad mortgages down the road, here's proof!
- Why hasn't anybody questioned those rosy stress test results now that the facts have played out?
- A Must Read: An Independent Look into JP Morgan. This contains the "public preview" document (JPM Public Excerpt of Forensic Analysis Subscription), which is free to download.
As explained in "The ARE trying to kick the bad mortgages down the road, here's proof!", the banks are delaying the inevitable. Here is more on the topic.
Debra and Arthur Scriven were served notice in June 2008 that their mortgage lender, a unit of Citigroup Inc., was preparing to foreclose on their home. Fifteen months later, the Scrivens are still in their home near Columbia, S.C., and battling to stay there, even though a dispute with the lender over how much they owe prompted them to stop making regular payments last year....
There have been a lot of theories and anecdotal evidence indicating that banks are letting defaulted mortgage borrowers stay in their houses in lieu of taking possession of said properties and recording the writedown on thier books, particularly once the property is sold at auction. The auction sale will actually set a hard market price for the property that cannot be fudged, and will reveal the amount of losses on said banks books from the (most likely severely underwater) mortgage.
Buffett Joins Call to End 'Short-Termism' in Markets: But Mr. Buffet, "short-termism" is how Wall Street makes most of its money. How in the hell do you fit long term thinking into quarterly performance reviews and annual bonuses? Mr. Buffet, are you DAFT? Don't you know what is important in life (on Wall Street)??? See Is a Crash Impending? as we wonder exactly what is keeping this market afloat.
Somebody in these stories is wrong. Who do you think it is??? Consumer Credit Plummets by Record $21.6 Billion vs Retail Hiring Study Shows Signs of Growing Confidence in U.S. Recover. On the same front page in Bloomberg - U.S. companies are still reducing the ranks of temporary workers, showing that any rebound in overall employment won’t happen soon, according to William Hester, an analyst at Hussman Econometrics...
...the number of temporary employees with nonfarm payrolls since 1990, according to data compiled by the Labor Department. Increases in the number of temporary jobs in 1991 and 2003 preceded similar recoveries in payrolls, as the chart illustrates.
“Temporary hiring is a reliable leading indicator,” Hester wrote yesterday in a report that featured a similar chart. Last month’s decline in these jobs was “one of the most discouraging data points” in the latest employment report, he added.
The number of temporary workers dropped by 65,000 in August to 1.74 million. The total has fallen each month since January 2008, a month after the current U.S. recession officially started. During the 20-month streak, temporary jobs have declined by 33 percent.
Further losses “would probably push back any recovery in nonfarm payrolls,” Hester wrote. “Temporary hiring will almost surely bottom prior to overall employment.”
Separately, Manpower Inc. said today in a statement that its index of U.S. companies’ hiring plans set a record low for the third straight quarter. The latest reading was based on the outlook for fourth-quarter jobs. Manpower, the world’s second- largest staffing firm, began compiling the gauge in 1962.
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that that market neutral strategy illustrated through the blog research is working like a charm (I will be posting some results soon). The market has been on a massive bullish tear, to the dismay of market bears. Well, the new strategy works and it allows us to profit from both bullish and bearish moves. I have transformed my personal portfolio to the market neutral strategy. The bad news is that the problems that caused those of us who know how to count to be bearish are still abound and have apparently been conspired into the bin of ignorance.
Accounting boards, banks, media and sell side analysts in general appear content to ignore the facts, change the way we count losses (after all, losses are,,, well,,, losses. Right???!!!), and generally sweep the banking problems under the rug in anticipation of bubbling our way out of the problem or at least concealing it long enough through accounting shenanigans to allow accounting profits to somehow paper over economic losses. Good luck with that. Underlying fundamentals are still deteriorating, albeit potentially at a slower pace, as share prices are literally flying through the roof. Those who are in the market and are bullish or not market neutral are, in my opinion, playing with fire. It is gambling to buy stock just because the stocks prices are going up. I know it feels good when the prices go higher after you buy the stock, but the underlying fundamentals are atrocious and if one were to get caught in a nasty correction, one could not have said it was "impossible to see coming". This is exactly the same scenario that played out in the dot.com bubble. Bulls were justified because share prices went higher, not because underlying values increased. When reality hit (and it always does hit, that's whey they call it reality) folks were literally wiped out.
I will anecdotally illustrate some of that fire investors are playing with in the banking sector. While I was browsing through the extremely interesting, if not controversial Zerohedge.com blog, I came across this video of Elizabeth Warren, who heads the Congressional Oversight Committee's investigation of the banks. I will like my readers to listen to it then continue reading this post.
When a report emerged that nearly half of U.S. homeowners would be underwater by 2011, market analysts were, naturally, concerned. The report, released by Deutsche Bank's Karen Weaver, has drawn widespread attention, largely because few other firms have pursued the same data. "I think in fact not a lot of folks have tried to do this analysis," Weaver said to CNBC's Erin Burnett. By taking housing price data and seeing how that would affect negative equity, Weaver said, "it ends up with a pretty shocking statistic." In the first quarter the top five cities with the highest underwater rates all had underwater percentages above 80 percent. Click here to watch the video.
If this is anywhere near accurate, it will drag on the economy for a LONG time. It also maintains the spectre of a fall BACK into recession with just the slightest blip of a problem. Remember, the home is the average American's largest lifetime investment.
To highlight more of the damage to be done to TARP recipient banks such as Wells Fargo and PNC, I know turn my attention to the commercial mortgage sector (see the previous post BoomBustBloggers appear to be pressuring PNC for background info). We have already hashed out risk in the residential mortgage sector with valuable research that I released for free: see The Re-Release of the Open Source Mortgage Default Model and Green Shoots are Being Fertilized by Brown Turds in the Mortgage Markets for our in depth take on loan losses to come for all banks who participated in residential real estate lending. I have visited commercial lending risk many times before, starting with my work on GGP, which is now bankrupt, but not before I gave my readers a warning nearly a year in advance See my posts from 2007 and early 2008:
- Will the commercial real estate market fall? Of course it will.
- Do you remember when I said Commercial Real Estate was sure to fall?
- The Commercial Real Estate Crash Cometh, and I know who is leading the way!
Now that the nation's second largest mall property owner and REIT has just filed chapter 11, after I warned readers over a year and a half ago of this very distinct possibility, others are finally starting to jump on the bandwagon (See General Growth Files for Protection in Biggest U.S. Real Estate Bankruptcy then go on to read the 80 or so pages of research that I have generated to support riding the share price down from $60 to near zero: GGP and the type of investigative analysis you will not get from your brokerage house.)
You may read more about what is happening in CRE lending in A Micro View of the Macro Damage to be Caused by Imploding Commercial Real Estate, but for now, I want to drill down to what these banks are holding.
I have recently finished my scan of potential new investments and short candidates. I have started splitting the scans into financial and non-financial companies since the financial numbers have been looking so bad, they actually skew the scan. I am also relatively heavily weighted in financials, and am concerned about short term pops due to financials putting out accounting gains on top of significant economic losses, all allowable due to the government and the FASB succumbing to lobbying pressure. Economic losses will bear out in the end, but this seemingly highly manipulated market has shown a proclivity to part significantly from the fundamentals, dot.com era style.