Monday, April 12, 2010

"The Unhappiness Of The Seller Does Not Mean That There Is No Market."

As always superb "Anti Spin" from Hussman.....Long read but with all markets at new highs & on a global scale well over 1 trillion in taxpayer money for the still ongoing bailouts , QE, ZIPR etc it is more important than ever to ask what happened to "the toxic assets" ..... Hussman focusses mainly on US mortgages but i think it is safe to say that similar things are true globally when it comes to CRE, corporate loans etc... Fits nicely to Fridays post "Surprise, Surprise....." Big Banks Mask Risk Levels - Quarter-End Loan Figures Sit 42% Below Peak .....I have to repeat myself when it comes to the ÜBERBULLISH Cramer´s Bull Case For Banks
"Would at least be honest if he mentioned the "ultimate moral hazard trade" & the "Enron-esque characteristics" when it comes to accounting as the two main reasons behind the motives to own banks.. ;-)"
Dringend benötigter "Anti Spin" vom gewohnt erstklassigen John Hussman....Recht ausführliche aber im Angesicht der neuen Markthochs aber unbedingt lesenswerte Ausführungen wenn es um das von einigen bereits als "gelöst" bzw. verdrängt geltende Problem der "Toxic Assets" geht....Schon erstaunlich ( einige würden auch sagen schockierend...) was weltweit gesehen wohl locker über 1 Billion an Steuergeldern die noch immer weiter fliessen ( siehe "The Rolling Bailout Bus" ) , QE, ZIRP usw bisher beim Kernproblem der Krise bewirkt haben.....Obwohl Hussman hier in erster Linie Hypotheken abhandelt ist es sicher keine Übertreibung zu behaupten das weltweit ähnliches auch für gewerbliche genutzte Immobilien sowie Firmenkredite gilt....Wie gemacht als perfekte Ergänzung zum letzten Posting "Surprise, Surprise....." Big Banks Mask Risk Levels - Quarter-End Loan Figures Sit 42% Below Peak ......Muß mich leider erneut wiederholen wenn es um zunehmend bullische Bankempfehlungen ( für ein besonders krasses Beispiel siehe Cramer´s Bull Case For Banks ) und damit indirekt auch für den Gesamtmarkt geht.....

"Wäre zumindest ehrlich gewesen wenn er in seinen 10 Gründen die unbedingt dafür sprechen sofort massiv Bankaktien zu kaufen den "ultimativen Moral Hazard Trade" sowie die kreative Bilanzierung die stark "Enron-esque characteristics" aufweist als die Topgründe aufführen würde.... ;-)"


Extend and Pretend John Hussman

With regard to credit conditions, the U.S. financial system continues to pursue a strategy of "extend and pretend." A year ago, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) suspended rule 157, which had previously required banks to mark their assets to market value when preparing balance sheet reports. The basic argument was that fair values were not appropriate because there was "no market" for troubled assets. Certainly, the FASB could have implemented something at least modestly reasonable, such as 2-year or 3-year averaging, but instead, they changed the rules to allow "substantial discretion" in the valuation of bank assets in their financial reports.

To a large degree, the idea that there was "no market" for troubled assets was false even at the time.
Last year, Dean Baker of the well-regarded Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) testified before Congress, observing "There has been considerable confusion about the nature of the troubled assets held by the banks. While banks do hold some amount of mortgage-backed securities, these securities are in fact a relatively small portion of their troubled assets. The troubled assets on the banks' books are overwhelmingly mortgages, both first and second or other junior
liens, not mortgage-backed securities. The FDIC has acquired large quantities of mortgages from its takeover of several dozen failed banks over the last year. It auctions these assets off on an ongoing basis. The results of these auctions are available on the FDIC website. Non-performing mortgages typically sell in these auctions at prices in the vicinity of 30 cents on the dollar."

He continued, "It is not clear on what basis these auctions can be said not to constitute a market. While the downturn and the constricted credit conditions affect the market, it is simply inaccurate to claim that there is no market for these assets. The major banks are undoubtedly not pleased at the prospect of having to sell off their loans at these prices, but this merely indicates that they are unhappy with the market outcome, just as a homeowner might be unwilling to sell her house at a loss. However, the unhappiness of the seller does not mean that there is no market."

The impact of "extend and pretend" is to create a gap between the reported value of assets and the value they would have on the basis of the cash flows that those assets can reasonably be expected to generate over their maturity. In order to avoid having to restate assets, banks have allowed an increasing gap to develop between the volume of delinquent loans and the volume of loans actually in foreclosure, creating a growing "shadow inventory" of impaired but unmodified and unforeclosed loans.

Moreover, regulatory changes over the past year have affected what actually gets reported as "troubled." As the New York Times recently observed, " A bank owed, say, $4 million on a property now worth $3 million would previously have had to classify the entire loan as
troubled. Now it can do that to the $1 million difference only." In effect, even though impaired loans tend to sell at only 30-50 cents on the dollar (reflecting a modest haircut to the amount typically received in foreclosure), banks can choose the amount of assets it reports as troubled simply by choosing what value to assign the property while it holds the bad loan on its books.

While it's interesting that credit card delinquencies have eased off modestly in recent months, this is not necessarily a healthy sign. Even in the third quarter of 2009, TransUnion reported that consumers delinquent on their mortgages but current on their credit cards increased by 6.6%. In effect, people have been choosing to pay their credit cards in priority to their mortgages.

As for policy efforts to reduce delinquencies, I've long argued that it is a bad idea for policy makers to announce delinquency prevention plans that have, as their centerpiece, publicly subsidized reductions in mortgage principal.
It's one thing to extend the loan in a way that preserves its present value, by swapping a claim on future appreciation in return for principal reduction, but it's quite another to offer to cut the principal outright. The reason ist that instead of confining the assistance to presently troubled borrowers, you create a whole new set of borrowers who then choose to be troubled in order to get the assistance. According to a University of Chicago study, "strategic defaults" - where people choose to default on their mortgages even though they can afford to pay - accounted for 35% of all residential defaults in December 2009, up from 23% in March 2009. Offering public subsidies for this behavior, when too many homeowners are already legitimately struggling, does not smack of a bright idea.

The New York Times recently provided a good picture of how the delinquency situation stood at the end of 2009 (based on FDIC data):


Bad Bank Loans Soar


In short, my impression is that investors are deluding themselves about the solvency of the banking system. People learned in the 1930's that when you don't require the reported value of assets to have a clear and tangible link to the value that the assets would have in liquidation, bad things happen. Yet this is what regulatory and accounting rules are allowing for the banking system at present. While I do believe that bank depositors are safe to the extent of FDIC guarantees, my impression is that the banking system is still quietly insolvent.

Will it work? Will it change?

Regardless of whether the U.S. banking system would not presently be able to meet its liabilities with its assets, there is another question: assuming that banks are allowed to extend and pretend for a long enough period of time, will they ultimately be able to accumulate enough retained earnings in the years ahead to cover eventual loan losses? In other words, is it possible that everything will be OK if we just look the other way long enough?

From my perspective, it depends on what "OK" means. Simply in terms of long-term solvency - assets being ultimately able to meet liabilities - my impression is that yes, given enough time, retained bank earnings should cover the losses on existing loans. Indeed, it's possible that banks might be able to report fairly healthy "operating earnings" to investors, and then somewhat more quietly write off losses as "extraordinary" charges over a period of years. This type of outcome is beginning to look possible, because investors evidently don't mind repeatedly having their pockets picked as long as "operating earnings" come in above analyst estimates.

Unfortunately, in that sort of world, the economy would likely be hobbled for a long period of time, as Japan has discovered over the past couple of decades. With banks focused primarily on survival and recapitalization, retained earnings would be directed to making the existing liabilities whole, rather than contributing to productive new investment.

So to the extent that "extend and pretend" is successful in averting insolvency concerns, it will also tend to weigh down lending activity, as resources are allocated toward servicing existing debt burdens on bad assets, rather than toward new lending for productive activity. The most efficient outcome is always for lenders who provide capital to take losses if the loans go bad. That sort of market discipline is the only way to ensure that capital gets allocated properly. This is not the world that we have lived in over the past year, as policy makers have pledged public money to make private bank bondholders whole, regardless of how irresponsibly the banks allocated the money. But it is important to recognize that this policy comes with longer term costs.

Needless to say that i think he is spot on....... It will be interesting to see how Mr. Market will react to the quality of ( bank ) earnings / balance sheets during the reporting season.....This could be at least a possible trigger to calm down the "somewhat elevated" risk appetite significantly.....

Überflüssig zu erwähnen das ich zu 100% übereinstimme..... Es wird spannend zu beobachten inwieweit in der jetzt startenden Berichtssaison die Gewinn und Bilanzqualität der Banken hinterfragt wird.... Sehe hier durchaus erhebliches Potential den "leicht erhöhten" Risikoappetit doch merklich zu zügeln.....

UPDATE:

Profit for Banks Dimmed by Home-Equity Loss Seen at $30 Billion
April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. may have to set aside an additional $30 billion to cover possible losses on home-equity loans, an amount almost equal to analysts’ estimates of profit at the three banks this year.
Global Banking System Extend and Pretend Insolvency Mish

I happen to agree with John Hussman on all points mentioned. Moreover, it is not just the U.S. banking system that is insolvent, the global banking system is nothing but a giant extend and pretend operation including the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain), China, the UK, and even Canada as soon Canada's gigantic housing bubble crashes.

Spot On Alex Cartoon :-)!

The DTA dodge FT Alphaville
The issue is that in order for banks to include DTAs in their Tier 1 capital, they need to be able to show regulators that they will generate enough income in the future to actually use them.

Citigroup, for instance, has been racking up enough losses in recent years to generate $47bn worth of DTAs at the end of 2009, about $21bn of which was included in their Tier 1 capital that year. So that’s $21bn coming out of years of losses, but based on the premise that the bank will soon be profitable.
They will find a "creative" way to reassure their future profibility..... The Treasury wants to sell a 7.7 billion shares within the next year... ;-)

Bin mir sicher das hier ein kreativer Weg gefunden wird um die zukünftige Profitabilität zu gewährleisten...Immerhin will das Finanzministerium noch 7,7 Mrd Aktien binnen 12 Monaten auf den Markt schmeissen ;-)

Foreclosure inventories hit record

February's foreclosure rate of 3.31% represented a 51.1% jump from February 2009
From Level I to Level III, the myth of fair value FT Alphaville

Lehman Channeled Risks Through ‘Alter Ego’ Firm NYT

Even now, a year and a half after Lehman’s collapse, major banks still undertake such transactions with businesses whose names, like Hudson Castle’s, are rarely mentioned outside of footnotes in financial statements, if at all.
"ENRON-ESQUE" .......

The search for Basel III loopholes begins Felix Salmon

Most of the arguments could be made only by banks who have been drinking their own kool-aid for so long that they no longer have any idea what sounds ridiculous and what doesn’t.

CHUZPAH!

Meredith Whitney vs the Banks Paul Kedrosky



She has not one single buy rating in the space she is covering.....

Eine der wohl besten Bankenanlaysten hat nicht eine einzige Bank auf "BUY".....

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2 Comments:

Blogger jmf said...

"Creativity" leads to profits....

A very depressing chart

Bank Profits are Ba-ack Kedrosky

11:02 PM  
Blogger Mr. Harbor said...

so is real estate going up a lot in Hong Kong. Is the inventory low? thanks JoelHarbor@gmail.com facebook joel a harbor. twitter.com/harborstandard

1:37 PM  

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