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Archive for the ‘Bank Stress Test’ Category

Will ‘Too Big to Fail’ Banks Charge for Deposits?

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 25th, 2013 9:38 AM |

$82 billion.

What does that figure represent? The subsidy (aka competitive advantage) that accrues to our major banking institutions from favorable borrowing rates given their status as ‘too big to fail.’

Those tens of billions of dollars truly represent a nice, big head start for a handful of banks, and a withering assault on the precepts of free market capitalism for the rest of us.

As if $82 billion were not enough of a subsidy, let’s not forget that these banks pay you, as a depositor, virtually zero interest for the ‘privilege’ of holding your money there. Well, that may be changing. How so? How would you like to actually pay interest to the banks in order to keep your money in their institutions? Really? No way?

Yes way.  (more…)

5 Years Later: Banks Still Too Leveraged

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 12th, 2013 9:09 AM |

Do you think there is a reason why bank balance sheets are so convoluted and opaque? Of course there is.

The lack of meaningful transparency allows the banks to continue to employ excessive degrees of leverage across a widely disparate array of businesses and with a paucity of competition all in the hope of generating outsized returns. But who do you think bears the ultimate risk?

They pursue these paths with the support of the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy and a regulatory system that belies meaningful oversight despite those who might want us to believe that Dodd-Frank brought reform to the system.

Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair does not leave much to interpretation on these topics.  (more…)

European Bank Stress Tests Confirmed as Shams

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 7th, 2010 6:53 AM |

I have long since given up the belief that our government officials and financial regulators will demand real transparency and full disclosure in the pursuit of unquestioned integrity across our economic landscape. While some may deem me overly cynical for that statement, too much proof and too many situations leave me no other choice. Where do we witness more financial artifice this morning? Let’s look across the pond.

In late July, I questioned the integrity of the European Bank Stress Tests and wrote, Will European Bank Stress Tests Be “Garbage In, Garbage Out?”:

All eyes will turn toward Europe this afternoon for the much anticipated release of the Euro-style Bank Stress Tests. Those who truly embrace real ’sense on cents’ know that the process and the data are far more important than the actual results. Why is that? If these tests are charades or nothing more than ‘garbage in,’ then the results will most assuredly be ‘garbage out.’

Well, while gullible investors and government officials worldwide may not care to know the real state of the European banks, those of us who truly treasure ‘sense on cents’ are not surprised to now see European financial sewage streaming across the newswire. (more…)

Will European Bank Stress Tests Be “Garbage In, Garbage Out?”

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 23rd, 2010 6:52 AM |

All eyes will turn toward Europe this afternoon for the much anticipated release of the Euro-style Bank Stress Tests. Those who truly embrace real ‘sense on cents’ know that the process and the data are far more important than the actual results. Why is that? If these tests are charades or nothing more than ‘garbage in,’ then the results will most assuredly be ‘garbage out.’

On this note, let’s review a few comments from a Bloomberg preview of these tests. Bloomberg reports, Success for Stress Tests Hinges on Data, Not Failures:

1. The success of the European Union’s bank stress tests hinges on how much detail regulators provide about the basis for their conclusions, not on the number of lenders that fail, investors said. (more…)

Elizabeth Warren Calls for New Bank Stress Tests

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 11th, 2010 9:34 AM |

The initial Bank Stress Tests run by Treasury Secretary Geithner were largely a sham. I questioned as much last April in writing, “Bank Stress Tests: Major Sham?”:

As with any test, the results are only meaningful if the process and proctor have unquestioned integrity. The proctors for the Bank Stress Test are none other than Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed chair Ben Bernanke. Why is a testing authority of the magnitude of FDIC, led by Sheila Bair, not more involved in the process? Ms. Bair is the one individual in our country with the greatest level of interaction with and understanding of the student body, that being the banking industry as a whole and individual banks specifically.

What does the FDIC, led by Ms. Bair, have to say about the upcoming Bank Stress Tests? The New York Post provides a CHILLING perspective: (more…)

Wall Street Plays Washington

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 7th, 2009 5:15 PM |

Is the charade played out on Wall Street and in Washington anything more than the equivalent of a dinnertime show at a casino complex?

Politicians and bankers work the stage while the media maitre’d pretends to care how you really feel. Ultimately, the curtain goes down, the lights go on and you’re stuck with a bill that leaves you aghast.

Welcome to the Brave New World of the Uncle Sam economy 2009.

Today Bloomberg releases news that Delinquencies on U.S. Home-Equity Loans Reach Record:

Late payments on home-equity loans rose to a record in the first quarter as 18 straight months of job losses and a slumping economy left more borrowers unable to pay their debts, the American Bankers Association reported.

The ABA is not exactly timely with this news in regard to home equity lines of credit; Sense on Cents shared similar color on May 20th in “Bank Stress Tests: Vigorous or Sham? Let’s Review HELOC Losses”:

For those not aware, Turbo-Tim Geithner’s Bank Stress Test utilized an assumed cumulative loss on this product of 6-8% in the base case. The most adverse scenario assumed cumulative losses on HELOCs of 8-11%.

What did our 12th Street Capital friends learn in their analysis? KD writes:

What I find very interesting here is comparing the Cumulative Loss numbers on these deals versus the Government’s assumption of losses in the stress test. As a reminder, our friends in D.C. assumed in a More Adverse Scenario that Helocs on bank balance sheets would generate losses of 8% to 11%. Now I know their numbers represent the projections going forward for the next two years, but when you take a look at numerous ‘06 and ‘07 deals already ringing up losses north of 20% I find it hard to reconcile. I think the Treasury has a very rosy picture of the loss curve going forward.

This brings us to the topic of losses within the banking system and the integrity of the Bank Stress Tests. The Wall Street banks were more than happy to “put on a show” with Secretary Geithner leading the orchestra and the FASB in a supporting role given their relaxation of the mark-to-market. Now we get to revisit the fact that banks are still sitting on hundreds of billions in embedded losses. (more…)

Bank Stress Tests? Take Home Exams and Partially Self-Graded

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 24th, 2009 3:10 PM |

The Treasury just released the methodology used in assessing the vitality of the 19 largest banks via the Bank Stress Tests. The market took the release of this methodology as a big yawn. Treasury offered that the capital at some banks has been “substantially reduced.”  Please tell us something we don’t know.

The worst case scenario used by Treasury still falls into the camp of what most analysts view as the expected scenario.

In reading deeper into some of the reviews of the methodology, I am struck by the leeway provided to the banks in measuring the credit quality of loans on the banks’ books and the likelihood of deterioration on those loans. I view that as the wiggle room described by Meredith Whitney earlier this week.

As Bloomberg reports, Fed Says Capital at Some Major Banks Is Substantially Reduced:

“Firms were allowed to diverge from the indicative loss rates where they could provide evidence that their estimated loss rates were appropriate,” the study said.

Regulators used the market shocks of the second half of 2008, when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. declared bankruptcy, as the model for testing banks with trading portfolios of $100 billion or more.

As they pored over banks’ loan and securities portfolios and off-balance-sheet liabilities, examiners increasingly focused on the quality of credits. They were concerned about wide variations in underwriting standards, a regulatory official said this week.

Supervisors concluded that banks’ lending practices need to be given as much weight as macroeconomic scenarios in determining the health of each bank, the official said.

The goal of the reviews is to keep the major financial institutions lending over the next two years, and to determine how much capital they may need if the economic slump worsens.

Supervisors will weigh how much capital each company holds, its ability to retain earnings over the next few years, future access to private capital and the extent any asset writedowns.

The Bank Stress Tests are not only largely a take home exam, but now we discover they are partially self-graded.

Call me suspicious.

In speaking with friends on Wall Street, I have heard from a number of individuals that there is still a large short base in a number of the financials. The short base is providing a strong cushion to that sector specifically and the market in general.


The Red Sea

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 24th, 2009 11:26 AM |

While there is tremendous focus on the Bank Stress Tests, there remains limited focus overall on the centerpieces of our domestic housing finance industry. I am talking about Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. Some have categorized these institutions as “black holes.” I believe a more appropriate designation would be The Red Sea as these institutions are awash in losses and continue to bleed money.

We may never know the circumstances surrounding the death of acting Freddie Mac CFO, David Kellerman, but there is a lot of focus by government officials on these institutions. There has been much less focus by private analysts. To that end, I am most grateful to Bloomberg’s David Reilly for reporting on Fannie Mae Creates Housing Mirage With Bum Loans.

Effectively, Fannie Mae is giving funds away to very high credit risk individuals who would have otherwise most likely already defaulted on their mortgages. As Reilly reports:

Give money away. That was a solution to the housing crisis mortgage giant Fannie Mae hit on last year.

Faced with growing numbers of homeowners unable to make mortgage payments, Fannie decided to fund loans to borrowers that were instant losers.

The point was to buy time. Even though those loans resulted in a $453 million loss, they helped keep troubled homeowners from defaulting. That meant Fannie for now didn’t have to make good on loan guarantees that may have cost it as much as $2.4 billion.

Make no mistake, this Fannie Mae program was also being utilized by Freddie Mac. Reports have come out that Freddie Mac’s Kellerman was pressured by Freddie’s accountants to improperly report their financials. In a similar vein, Fannie is playing another version of the “shell game” in order to buy time and forestall losses. (more…)

Will Bank Stress Tests Be “Put on a Curve?”

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 22nd, 2009 9:10 AM |

Will the soon to be released Bank Stress Tests provide real clarity on the health of our banking industry or will the tests be “curved?” Meredith Whitney, highly regarded bank analyst, has indicated that the tests will provide plenty of wiggle room for the banks. Just yesterday Secretary Geithner “goosed” the market by indicating the majority of banks have sufficient capital. To what degree can we trust what Turbo-Tim is telling us?

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company) provides a blueprint for an honest review of the Stress Tests. Mr. El-Erian highlights the following in a Financial Times article:

First, transparency is key. Whether the government likes it or not, hundreds of analysts around the world will reverse engineer the stress tests. The government would be well advised to assist the process through clarity. Obfuscation would result in damaging market noise and further derail the real economy. At the minimum, policymakers need to provide credible details on the methodology, the underlying assumptions and scenario analyses.

To this point, neither the banks nor the government have provided real transparency. What are we to expect when Congress pressures the FASB to relax mark-to-market accounting thus forever clouding real transparency?

Second, the results of the stress tests must be part of a comprehensive, forward-looking package to resolve problems at banks. Out-performing banks should be provided with exit mechanisms from the exceptional government support that they have been receiving and, presumably, no longer need. At the other end, there must be clarity as to how capital-deficient banks that no longer have access to private capital will be handled. (more…)

Why Is the Market Selling Off Today?

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 20th, 2009 2:30 PM |

The broad equity market indices are down 3+% on the day. Why would that happen when the bulk of company news today was generally positive?  At least on the surface the news was positive:

1. Bank of America posted .44 earnings per share vs. expectations of .04
2. Eli Lilly earnings were up 23% outpacing expectations.
3. Halliburton disappointed with earnings down 35% but that is due to the massive correction in the price of oil from a year ago.
Merger Activity:
4. Oracle is purchasing Sun Microsystems in a $7.4 billion deal.
5. Pepsi is buying two bottling companies for $6 billion.
6. Glaxo is purchasing Stiefel for $2.9 billion.

Leading economic indicators declined by .3 but that decline is offset by an improved reading from the prior month.

Then, why is the market down so much? Two reasons are promoted, but only one of them is getting proper coverage.

Market analysts supposedly are focused today on the ongoing increases in chargeoffs and writedowns on the loan portfolios in the banking industry. These loans consist of credit card loans, residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, and corporate loans.

I don’t buy this line of reasoning for today’s selloff. Increased chargeoffs and writedowns have been widely expected for a while. The level of reserves taken by the banks has been widely panned as being insufficient. Then why is the market down so much? (more…)

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