It's mid-March, which means it is time for the annual confidence boosting theatrical spectacle known as the Fed's stress test (for those who may have forgotten last year's farce when Jamie Dimon preempted the Fed by announcing a dividend in advance of the results, can read here). And like in the past, there were absolutely no surprises with 29 of 30 banks passing with flying colors. Of course, since it is a "test", and someone has the be sacrificial calf, this year that honor falls to Zions Bankshares. Last year its was Citi, SunTrust and MetLife. In both years the results are completely meaningless, as the Fed neither then, nor now, has any methodology for how to calculate capital in case of the same kind of counterparty failure chain as happened during Lehman, and when no amount of capital would have been sufficient to preserve the financial sector. Like we said: theatrical spectacle. But at least everyone's confidence has been boosted. So Buy stawks, and build your paper wealth!
The Federal Reserve's annual test of big banks' financial health showed the largest U.S. firms are strong enough to withstand a severe economic downturn, potentially clearing the way for banks to reward investors with dividends and stock buybacks.
The Fed said 29 of the 30 largest institutions have enough capital to continue lending even when faced with a hypothetical jolt to the U.S. economy lasting into 2015, including a severe drop in housing prices and a spike in the unemployment rate.
The results will factor into the Fed's decision next week to approve or deny individual banks' plans for returning billions of dollars to shareholders through dividends or share buybacks. The Fed's annual "stress tests" are designed to ensure large banks can withstand severe losses without needing a government rescue.
Under its "severely adverse" scenario—which projects a deep recession with surging unemployment, a steep drop in housing prices and a nearly 50% drop in equity prices over nine quarters—the Fed found the 30 banks would suffer loan losses of $366 billion. The Fed said banks are "collectively better positioned" to withstand such losses.
Bank of America was the lowest performer among the big banks, with a Tier 1 common ratio that dropped as low as 6% under the Fed's hypothetical scenarios. Bank of America would have lost $49 billion before taxes, the highest of any of its peers.
As always, our condolences to the bank that picked the short stick this year:
Only Zions Bancorp, a regional lender based in Salt Lake City, posted capital levels during the two-year downturn scenario that failed to meet the Fed's minimum standards. The Fed said Zions had a Tier 1 common capital ratio of 3.5%, below the Fed's 5% minimum. Zions has said previously it will likely resubmit its capital plan to the Fed in light of its selling certain debt securities as a result of the Volcker rule, which the Fed and other regulators adopted in December
And here is the truly funny part: in the baseline stress test scenario, the Dow Jones "plunges" to 11.4K in Q3 2014, and then somehow surges back to all time highs by Q4 2016! Does the Fed understand the word Stress?
And while the entire test is a farce, as the testing methodology is completely flawed, the following can not be good for HSBC...
... or for Discover and State Street:
Full CCAR below: