Fortress Balance Sheet
The last time the stock market reached a fevered peak and began to wobble unexpectedly was August 2007. Markets were most definitely not in the classic “price discovery” business. Instead, the stock market had discovered the “goldilocks economy." But what is profoundly different this time is that the Fed is out of dry powder. Its can’t slash the discount rate as Bernanke did in August 2007 or continuously reduce it federal funds target on a trip from 6% all the way down to zero. Nor can it resort to massive balance sheet expansion. That card has been played and a replay would only spook the market even more. So this time is different. The gamblers are scampering around the casino fixing to buy the dip as soon as white smoke wafts from the Eccles Building. But none is coming. For the first time in 25- years, the Wall Street gamblers are home alone.
Long before Virtu was forced to pull its IPO due to the backlash against HFT frontrunners in party due to being stupid enough to post its perfect trading record of 1 trading day loss in 5 years which could only be the result of a grossly rigged market, we pointed out that another entity, one having little in common with your garden variety HFT parasite, namely JPMorgan, had a 2013 trading record which could be summed up on one word only: perfection. Yet while one could simply attribute the same kind of market rigging to JPM as one can (and should) to the average hi-freak, it seems there may be more here than meets the eye so used to seeing manipulation everywhere it looks. According to Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, "a technical support person who worked for JP Morgan in Australia claims the bank regularly misled its New York parent and the US Federal Reserve by failing to report losing trades."
Following last year's realization that mortgage origination as a product line is effectively dead (which has forced such origination dependent banks as Wells Fargo to return to subprime lending in hopes of keeping the revenue stream alive, knowing full well how it all ends), and that only investors and "all cash" buyers are keeping the myth of the housing recovery alive on their shoulders, banks fired tens of thousands of workers in the mortgage business hoping to stem the bottom line bleeding from the collapse in revenues. It turns out that they didn't fire enough and/or that the housing market contraction was far worse than even the banks, in their most, pessimistic forecasts, had expected. Case in point: JPMorgan, which after firing 15,000 in its mortgage business, has just revealed it will fire thousands more.
JPM Hammered By Massive $9.2 Billion In Legal Expenses, Posts First Loss Under Dimon; Takes $1.6 Billion Reserve ReleaseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/11/2013 07:42 -0400
So much for the JPM "fortress balance sheet." Moments ago the bank which 18 months ago stunned the world with the biggest prop trading loss in history, just reported its first quarterly loss under Jamie Dimon, missing expected revenue of $24 billion with a print of $23.88 billion, but it was net income where the stunner was in the form of a $0.4 billion net income. The reason: the fact that from the government's best friend, Jamie Dimon has become the punching bag du jour, and having to pay $9.15 billion in pretax legal expenses, the biggest in company history. Considering that the other key component of Q3 net income was a whopping $1.6 billion in loan loss reserve releases, one wonders just how truly strong Q3 earnings really were. But of course, this being Wall Street, all negative news is "one-time" and to be added back. Which is why JPM promptly took benefit for all charges, which means adding back the $7.2 billion legal expense and $992 MM reserve release after tax benefit. In short: of the firm's $1.42 in pro forma EPS, a whopping $1.59 was purely from the addback of these two items.
"By late April 2012, JPMorgan senior management knew that the firm's Investment Banking unit used far more conservative prices when valuing the same kind of derivatives held in the CIO portfolio, and that applying the Investment Bank valuations would have led to approximately $750 million in additional losses for the CIO in the first quarter of 2012." Translated: Jamie Dimon lied to Congress.
JPMorgan Warns: Increasing Rates Have "Reduced The Remaining Refinance Opportunity By More Than 50%"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/09/2013 19:57 -0400
About an hour ago, Bank of America served the latest indication that the US housing "recovery" (also known as the fourth consecutive dead cat bounce of the cheap credit policy-driven housing market in the past five years) may be on its last breath. Namely, the bank announced that it will eliminate about 2,100 jobs and shutter 16 mortgage offices as rising interest rates weaken loan demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans and reported by Bloomberg. In some ways this may be non-news: previously we reported, using a Goldman analysis, that up to 60% of all home purchases in recent months have been, which of course shows just how hollow the "recovery" has been for the common American for whom the average home has once again become unaffordable. However, judging by an update presentation given earlier today by the CFO of none other than JP "fortress balance sheet" Morgan, things are rapidly going from bad to worse for the banking industry as a result of the souring mortgage market for which, absent prop trading, loan origination is the primary bread and butter.
"Mr. Martin-Artajo thought that the market was irrational."
- Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, US Senate, Report on JPM Whale Trades: A Case History of Derivatives Risks and Abuses, p. 104
Just like Breaking Bad, the most exciting trading drama of 2012 is coming to an end.
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.
Following Barclays' fine of $453 million by FERC for manipulating electric energy prices in California (and other other Western markets), it seems the price of infamy is weighing heavy on Blythe Masters' overlords at JPMorgan in yet another derivative debacle for the "I invented CDS" queen. As we discussed in great detail here, FERC's investigations into JPMorgan's actions saw them pursuing actions against the firm and Ms. Masters. In recent weeks settlement rumors have been heard and now as the NYTimes reports, it appears - in light of last year's PR and P&L 'London Whale' disaster - the best-CEO-in-the-entire-world-so-there is preparing to settle to the tune of $500 million to keep Blythe out of jail. To settle Ms. Masters' alleged “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” and then her giving “false and misleading statements” under oath, must mean she has some serious dirt on Jamie (and his fortress balance sheet and best-in-class risk management).
When just one firm accounts for 99.3% of the physical gold sales at the COMEX in the last three months it’s not what most of us on this side of the rainbow would consider “broad-based” selling. Of course discovering this kind of relevant information requires an internet connection, 2nd grade math and reading skills, and the desire to do a teeny-weeny bit of reporting. Sadly they’ve wandered so far down the rabbit hole that the concept of “physical demand” (i.e. people actually wanting to take possession of the stuff) is puzzling to them because the vast majority of the world’s so-called “gold-trading” takes place in the realm of make believe (which is their natural habitat). It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their metal and “somebody” has lost one hell of a lot of metal in the last 90 days... J P Morgan has fumbled ownership of 1,966,000 Troy ounces of gold since February 1. That’s 74% more gold than the US mint delivered through the US mint’s American Eagle program in all of 2012. I mention this because there’s little doubt in my mind that the US government is one of JPM’s gold “customers.” So (if I am correct) the same US government who just let the Morgue dump its gold on the COMEX floor will once again be suspending gold sales to peasants.
JPM Beats Thanks To $1.1 Billion Reserve Release, Revenue Misses, Drops By $900 Million, NIM At Post-Crisis LowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/12/2013 07:41 -0400
If JPM and its "fortress" balance sheet and business model are supposed to represent Q1 earnings for US banks, it will not be a good start to the year. While EPS beat expectations solidly, coming at $1.59 on expectations of $1.39 print, this was largly driven by a bigger than expected loan loss reserve release in its real estate portfolios ($650MM pretax), and card services ($500MM pretax), which was the largest combined release number since the $2 billion reduction in Q1 2012. This took down total JPM total loan loss reserves to $20.8 billion, down from $21.9 billion in Q4, and down $5.1 billion from the $25.9 billion a year ago. This happened even though JPM's NPL declined far more modestly, from $10.7 billion to just $10.4 billion. It was the revenue of $25.12 that missed expectations of $25.85, down from $26.05 billion a year ago, and which is the bigger issue for the bank, driven by disappointing trading results with fixed income markets revenue of $4.8 Billion, down 5% YoY, equity markets revenue of $1.3 Billion, down 6% YoY, and Securities Services revenue of $974mm, flat YoY. Not surprisingly in order to maintain expenses, headcount continue to decline from 258,753 to 255,898.
Asia has badly lagged U.S. and European stock markets this year and over the past 12 months. We explain why it's happened and why it may continue.
Just under a year ago, when JPMorgan's London Whale trading fiasco was exposed as much more than just the proverbial "tempest in a teapot", Morgan watchers were left scratching their heads over another very curious development: the dramatic surge in the company's reported VaR, which as we showed last June nearly doubled, rising by some 93% year over year. Specifically we said that "in the 10-Q filing, the bank reported a VaR of $170 million for the three months ending March 31, 2012. This compared to a tiny $88 million for the previous year." JPM, which was desperate to cover up this modelling snafu, kept mum and shed as little light on the issue as possible. In its own words from the Q1 2012 10-Q filing: "the increase in average VaR was primarily driven by an increase in CIO VaR and a decrease in diversification benefit across the Firm." And furthermore: "CIO VaR averaged $129 million for the three months ended March 31, 2012, compared with $60 million for the comparable 2011 period. The increase in CIO average VaR was due to changes in the synthetic credit portfolio held by CIO as part of its management of structural and other risks arising from the Firm's on-going business activities." Keep the bolded sentence in mind, because as it turns out it is nothing but a euphemism for, drumroll, epic, amateur Excel error!
A few days after divesting its stake in the firm that started it all, AIG, and at a profit at that (ignoring that the risk has merely been onboarded by the Fed whose DV01 is now $2+ billion as a result), the US Treasury continues to divest of all its bailout stake, this time proceeding to GM, where the channel stuffing firm just announced it would buyback 200MM shares from the US government at a price of $27.50. More importantly, the "Treasury said it intends to sell its other remaining 300.1 million shares through various means in an orderly fashion within the next 12-15 months, subject to market conditions. Treasury intends to begin its disposition of those 300.1 million common shares as soon as January 2013 pursuant to a pre-arranged written trading plan. The manner, amount, and timing of the sales under the plan are dependent upon a number of factors." Assuming a price in the $27.50 range, this implies a nearly 50% loss on the government's breakeven price of $54. So much for the "profit" spin. One hopes all those Union votes were well worth the now booked $40+ billion cost to all taxpayers.