Posts filed under “Finance”
Its an understatement to say these are difficult times for banks. Between the mortgage collapse, the Treasury recapitalization, and the recession, they are trying to do business — and that that involves some risk. But doing so without losing too much money involves doing less business.
They have become utterly schizophrenic. Whether its the TARP or the credit crisis or deleveraging or something else entirely, I cannot tell you. But damn, these guys have gotten weird.
Back in August, we noted that numerous banks and brokers were sending nastygrams to their HELOC clients telling them "Too Late!" Unused portions of equity lines were being withdrawn.
Our own Citibank HELOC, which was about half unused, was withdrawn 2 months ago. Yesterday, we received a letter offering us a new HELOC from Citi — for the same amount that was withdrawn in August.
Our Visa via JPM/Chase went through the same process. A short while ago, I had a month of extensive business travel expenses. Before we even got the bill (which was paid off in full) came a sort-of-odd, borderline rude letter about our (high) credit use. It was "Thanks for the business, but please use credit responsibly, ya deadbeat."
It was a strange letter. Any review of the charges could see it wasn’t frivolous, but were all business T&E. My solution was to switch to an Amex card, and not use the Visa for business expenses. That was September, and last week, we got a JPM letter — We want your business! We are raising our credit limit on the Visa.
I understand the fear that firms have when they are lending these days. As the NYTimes writes this morning (Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: Credit Cards), another credit crisis is on the horizon. But you guys better get a more coordinated message. You are confusing and self contradictory — and its easy to see how you could alienate some, less understanding clients.
NY Times Ubiq-cerpt:™
"First came the mortgage crisis. Now comes the credit card crisis.
After years of flooding Americans with credit card offers and sky-high credit lines, lenders are sharply curtailing both, just as an eroding economy squeezes consumers.
The pullback is affecting even creditworthy consumers and threatens an already beleaguered banking industry with another wave of heavy losses after an era in which it reaped near record gains from the business of easy credit that it helped create.
Lenders wrote off an estimated $21 billion in bad credit card loans in the first half of 2008 as more borrowers defaulted on their payments. With companies laying off tens of thousands of workers, the industry stands to lose at least another $55 billion over the next year and a half, analysts say. Currently, the total losses amount to 5.5 percent of credit card debt outstanding, and could surpass the 7.9 percent level reached after the technology bubble burst in 2001."
The mortgage collapse has changed my sense of what is a lot of money. $21 billion? That’s chump change…
graphic courtesy of NYT
Morgan Stanley HELOCs: Don’t Delay, Act Now! (August 06, 2008)
Consumers Feel the Next Crisis: Credit Cards
NYT, October 28, 2008
Speaking of anecdotal sentiment indicators: What does a Lehman Brothers’ broker do with his days now? Untucked Films found out. Directed by Chuck Divak and Jonathan Emmerling.
OMG, this is hysterical:
Perfect entertainment for a quiet Friday —
Hat tip: themessthatgreenspanmade
So far, we in the US have had an ad hoc, half-assed, on-the-fly approach to resolving the credit and financial crisis.
The smartest bailout approach to date has been the British/Swedish/Buffett approach: Inject capital at a corporate capital structure level by buying preferred stock, rather than at the balance sheet level by buying bad assets.
Now, we read that the Treasury is considering following these other, smarter approaches:
"Having tried without success to unlock frozen credit markets, the Treasury Department is considering taking ownership stakes in many United States banks to try to restore confidence in the financial system, according to government officials.
Treasury officials say the just-passed $700 billion bailout bill gives them the authority to inject cash directly into banks that request it. Such a move would quickly strengthen banks’ balance sheets and, officials hope, persuade them to resume lending. In return, the law gives the Treasury the right to take ownership positions in banks, including healthy ones.
The Treasury plan was still preliminary and it was unclear how the process would work, but it appeared that it would be voluntary for banks.
The proposal resembles one announced on Wednesday in Britain. Under that plan, the British government would offer banks like the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and HSBC Holdings up to $87 billion to shore up their capital in exchange for preference shares. It also would provide a guarantee of about $430 billion to help banks refinance debt."
Sure its a year late, and a trillion dollars short. Yes, this would have saved most of the firms that went belly up.
Better late than never . . .
UPDATE: October 9, 2008 2:18 pm
The way we have the government buys into a cop-any via prefereds is to match any private sector investment into banks on the same terms. So GE and Goldman Sachs get double the capital injection, and since Warren did it on those same terms, we know Uncle Sam isn’t getting ripped off.
If you cannot raise dollar one, Uncle Sam doesn’t waste any good money on you.
UPDATE 2: October 9, 2008 2:40 pm>
Greg Mankiw discusses a similar approach: How to Recapitalize the Financial System
5 Historical Economic Crises and the U.S. (February 09, 2008)
Global Financial Crises, Part II: Norway 1987 (February 10, 2008)
U.S. May Take Ownership Stake in Banks
EDMUND L. ANDREWS and MARK LANDLER
NYT, October 8, 2008
“Blaming fair-value accounting for the credit crisis is a lot like going to a doctor for a diagnosis and then blaming himfor telling you that you are sick.” -Dane Mott , JPMorgan Chase & Co. > The debate on fair value accounting, FASB157, and transparency continues apace. If you want to understand why this is…Read More
WaMu is now toast, forced into the waiting arms of JPM.
Here are the specifics from the Office of Thrift Supervision:
Receivership – With insufficient liquidity to meet its obligations, WMB was in an unsafe and unsound condition to transact business. OTS placed WMB into receivership on September 25, 2008. WMB was acquired today by JPMorgan Chase. The change will have no impact on the bank’s depositors or other customers. Business will proceed uninterrupted and bank branches will open on Friday morning as usual.
WaMu Fails, Is Sold Off to J.P. Morgan
Biggest Banking Collapse in U.S. History; Government Arranges a Deal to Safeguard Huge Thrift’s Deposits Branches
ROBIN SIDEL, DAVID ENRICH and DAN FITZPATRICK
WSJ, SEPTEMBER 26, 2008
JPMorgan Buys WaMu’s Deposits as Thrift Is Seized
Ari Levy and Elizabeth Hester
Bloomberg, Sept. 25 2008