Bank of America
There was a time when Jamie Dimon liked everyone to believe that his JPMorgan had a "fortress balance sheet", that he was disgusted when the US government "forced" a bailout on it, and that no matter what the market threw its way it would be just fine, thanks. Then the London Whale came, saw, and promptly blew up the "fortress" lie. But while JPM's precarious balance sheet was no surprise to anyone (holding over $50 trillion in gross notional derivatives will make fragile fools of the best of us), what has become a bigger problem for Dimon is that slowly but surely JPM has not only become a bigger litigation magnet than Bank of America, but questions are now emerging if all of the firm's recent success wasn't merely due to crime. Crime of the kind that "nobody accept or denies guilt" of course - i.e., completely victimless. Except for all the fines and settlements. Here is a summary of JPM's recent exorbitant and seemingly endless fines.
Back in May, when we coined the term "Taper Tantrum" before the infamous Hilsenrath article was released bringing with it famine, pestilence and a full rerun of the 1994 blow out in rates, and when the prevailing consensus was that Bernanke wouldn't touch the rate of monthly monetization until December or even 2014, we forecast that as a result of a the declining US deficit (primarily due to a brief spike in GSE remittances to the Treasury until the closed loop of lower monetization ends any myth of a "housing recovery" and pushes US deficits much wider again) Bernanke will have no choice but to taper QE by $20 billion (or else risk destabilizing an already illiquid TSY market even more) with the announcement due at the September FOMC meeting. Just to avoid any confusion, we also showed just what such a September tapering would look like in the grand context of QE. But when, and by how, much does Wall Street see the end of tapering, and what is the sell-side consensus? The list below summarizes the current view by bank.
If our leaders could have recognized the signs ahead of time, do you think that they could have prevented the financial crisis of 2008? That is a very timely question, because so many of the warning signs that we saw just before and during the last financial crisis are popping up again. Many of the things that are happening right now in the stock market, the bond market, the real estate market and in the overall economic data are eerily similar to what we witnessed back in 2008 and 2009. It is almost as if we are being forced to watch some kind of a perverse replay of previous events, only this time our economy and our financial system are much weaker than they were the last time around. We have been living so far above our means for so long that most of us actually think that our current economic situation is "normal."
In every era, there are certain people and institutions that are held in the highest public regard as they embody the prevailing values of society. Not that long ago, Albert Einstein was a major public figure and was widely revered. Can you name a scientist that commands a similar presence today? Today, some of the most celebrated individuals and institutions are ensconced within the financial industry; in banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms. Which is odd because none of these firms or individuals actually make anything, which society might point to as additive to our living standards. Instead, these financial magicians harvest value from the rest of society that has to work hard to produce real things of real value. Money is power. And history has shown that power is never ceded spontaneously or willingly. But the stability of this parasitical system begins to weaken quickly when the lifeblood it depends on begins to dry up. And that's when things can begin to go south in a hurry
"In the last week of June, the dollar value represented by ARM applications accounted for 16 percent of mortgage requests, the highest share since July 2008, two months before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, according to Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington." Oops.
Day after day 'positive' anecdotal data points are latched on to by a self-confirming media (and plethora of talking heads and asset-gatherers) unable to see anything but their 'it's all good in the long-term' thesis. The truth is, as Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone notes, there’s no way to assess last week’s economic data as anything other than poor. Chinese GDP continued to deteriorate, U.S. core retail sales and the index of leading economic indicators for June were flat, industrial production was at the same level as in March, and housing, the lone oasis of prosperity, slowed as new starts plunged nearly 10 percent from the previous month. Toss in the city of Detroit filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history and the tone of America’s economic outlook took a decisive turn for the worse. Of course, this is all good for stocks is our new (ab)normal reality of single-factor Fed-liquidity-driven mass hypnosis.
The chart below lays out what lies in store (no pun intended) second half earnings as indicated by companies themselves. What it shows is that optimism in corporate earnings (ignoring the persistent optimism in the economy which always without fail, leaves everyone disappointed despite the fifth ongoing year of QE) is once again misplaced and that EPS are set to disappoint, especially if the stock buyback wave - certainly not facilitated by the rise in interest rates - is finally over.
- Earthquake Sends Kiwis Screaming From Wellington Buildings (BBG)
- China quake death toll more than doubles to 54, hundreds hurt (Reuters)
- In 2011, Michigan Gov. Snyder said bankruptcy wasn't an option for Detroit. Two years later, he changed his mind (WSJ)
- GlaxoSmithKline says Chinese laws might have been violated (FT)
- SEC Tries Last Ditch Move to Put SAC’s Cohen Out of Business (BBG)
- Detroit’s Bankruptcy Reveals Dysfunction Common in Cities (BBG)
- Obama to start new offensive on economy (FT)
- As WTI and Brent reunite, Gulf of Mexico faces squeeze, not glut (Reuters)
- Extended Stay Files for Public Offering (WSJ)
- Apple Developer Website Hacked: Developer Names, Addresses May Have Been Taken (MacRumors)
- Treasuries Not Safe Enough as Foreign Purchase Pace Slows (BBG)
In the classic fantasy rom-com The Princess Bride, the beautiful maid Buttercup orders the farm boy Westley to perform numerous tasks to test his servitude. No matter the magnitude of the request, Westley simply answers "As you wish" and makes it so. Buttercup eventually comes to view Wesley with similar devotion, and true love is born. Similarly, investors have fallen back in love with the capital markets, whose continual response their increasingly irrational hopes has been "As you wish." It's inconceivable!
Presenting default you can believe in, as the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, involing the one-time iconic "motor city" which now has a population of 700,000 and some $20 billion in liabilities, is about to become reality. But fear not: the Detroit bankruptcy, like rising rates, are entirely due to the economic recovery.
Stocks in Europe recovered from a cautious start to the trading session and gradually edged back into positive territory, though the DAX index in Germany under performed following less than impressive earnings by SAP. Company’s shares fell around 3% after the company trimmed its outlook for 2013 software revenue, blaming slowing economic growth in China. Elsewhere, Akzo Nobel shares fell 5% in early trade after the company said that its Q2 net profit almost doubled from the same period last year thanks to the sale of its North American paints division and a tax gain. Going forward, market participants will get to digest the release of the weekly jobs report, Philadelphia Fed survey for the month of July and earnings report releases from Morgan Stanley, Verizon, BlackRock and Google. Finally, today is the second day of Bernanke's semi-annual testimony.
Page 5 of BAC's Financial Supplement lays it out for all to see: the "Net change In available-for-sale debt and marketable equity securities" in Q2 was $4.233 billion. How does this compare to the firm's reported Net Income of $4 billion? It compares as follows: absent Mark-To-Unicorn, Bank of America's "Net Income" of $4 billion would have been a loss of $200 million. Which, incidentally, is what BAC reveals is its Comprehensive Income at ($209)MM. Of course, since every other firm is in the same boat of hiding epic losses the second the market stop acting according to every whim of the central planners, nobody cares and certainly nobody wants to bring attention to this little fact.
Moments ago Bank of America was the last TBTF bank to report earnings, which came in at $4 billion or $0.32 per diluted share compared to expectations of a $0.26 print. Revenue was $22.9 billion net of interest expense which was just a fraction above the $22.7 billion expected. The immediate reason for the beat: the usual accounting fudge to net interest losses which came in at $1.2 thanks to yet another $900 Million (well above the $804MM in Q1 and the same as Q4 2012) loan loss reserve reduction to the total net charge off number of $2.1 billion. And with $21.2 billion in credit loss "buffer" allowance still left on the books from those torrid days of 2008, expect the accounting fudges to continue for a long time.
Bernanke today testifies on monetary policy before the House Financial Services Committee (formerly the Humphrey-Hawkins). The testimony will be released at 8:30 am NY with Q&A after his testimony. Tomorrow he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee but the prepared remarks are the same for both days. Indeed it’s likely that the Q&A will be where all the fun starts. As DB says, he will likely try to pull off the trick of continuing to prepare the groundwork for tapering but try to give bond markets something to help them fight off the pressure of higher yields. With no post-meeting press conference planned for the July 30th/31st FOMC, and Bernanke not scheduled to speak publicly until he appears at the Global Education Forum event on August 7th, this week’s testimony may well be the only remarks we hear directly from the chairman for some weeks.
Call it what you will, a handshake or a parachute; the result is all the same. The rest of us just get elbow out of the way as we get pushed through the back door. The top executives leave by the front door and to boot they hop into a chauffeur-driven car (paid by the company, of course) as they drive off into the sunset. To parachute someone: send them elsewhere, relocate them, bundle them off, pack them off or dispatch.