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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Nouriel Roubini throws a little cold water on the premature celebration of the big banks "passing" the stress test
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nouriel Roubini throws a little cold water on the premature celebration of the big banks "passing" the stress test

roubini points out a fact that's also occurred to me, namely, that of COURSE some of these godzilla banks are passing the stress test after the u.s. has thrown gazillions of dollars at them... shit... i'd be looking pretty good too if somebody showered me with money and then made a judgment call about the strength of my bank account...
According to preliminary results leaked to the New York Times, all 19 banks with assets above $100 billion that are subject to the Treasury’s ‘stress test’ are bound to pass the test. The official results are due by the end of April but the upbeat mood in the banking sector was already reflected in the 30% stock price rally in the run up to the Q1 earnings season. The major three commercial banks had already noted that they were profitable in the first two months of the year, and Wells Fargo announced that it expects to post a record net income of $3 billion when it reports results on April 22 (with combined net charge-offs of $3.3 billion for both Wells and Wachovia from $6.1 billion in the fourth quarter). Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs reported larger than expected Q1 earnings (ex December loss due to earnings calendar move) while at the same time raising fresh capital through a $5 billion stock sale in order to pay back the $10 billion in TARP money received last year.

A look below the surface reveals some caveats to this positive picture. As Nouriel Roubini points out in a recent writing: “In brief, banks are benefitting from close to zero borrowing costs and fewer competitors; they are benefitting from a massive transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers given a dozen different government bailout and subsidy programs for the financial system; they are not properly provisioning/reserving for massive future loan losses; they are not properly marking down current losses from loans in delinquency; they are using the recent mark-to-market accounting changes by FASB to inflate the value of many assets; they are using a number of accounting tricks to minimize reported losses and maximize reported earnings; the Treasury is using a stress scenario for the stress tests that is not a true stress scenario as actual data are already running worse than the worst case scenario.”

Other commentators also point to the fact that many of these banks were among the main recipients of AIG bailout funds in previous months, e.g. Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion), Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), Bank of America ($5.2 billion), Citigroup ($2.3 billion) and Wachovia ($1.5 billion), according to New York Times data. The firms involved dismiss this factor as immaterial for Q1 earnings. Nevertheless, the GAO noted in a report at the end of March that Treasury should require that AIG seek additional concessions from employees and existing derivatives counterparties.

i refer interested readers to the post from hernando de soto about toxic derivatives i put up just the other day...

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