Friday, October 16, 2009

Bank Earnings Reveal True State of Economy

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

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Consumer spending represented 72% of the U.S. economy before the Credit Crisis hit. During the 2000s, that spending was fueled by easy credit and free money thanks to Federal Reserve and legislative policy. The borrowing binge hid a deteriorating economy for years and alternative economic statistics indicate that the U.S. has really been in a recession almost the entire last nine years. The bill has now come due and it is going to take many years to pay it off. The economy can not have a sustainable recovery under such circumstances no matter how many times Ben Bernanke and mainstream economists say this is happening. Wishing just doesn't make it so.

Bernanke has repeatedly told the world how he and the other central bankers saved the financial system from disaster (modesty along with good reality perception are not his strong points). It would be more accurate to state that they postponed disaster with their actions. It addition to an almost unlimited amount of money pumped into the global financial system (much of it freshly off the proverbial printing press), the U.S. changed its accounting rules on the toxic debt held by the big banks so massive losses could suddenly disappear into thin air. Big bank earnings rose spectacularly last quarter as a result. This blog pointed out at that time that losses for the lending operations - the reason banks are in business - were deteriorating however. This deterioration was being hidden by big 'gains' in bank's trading operations (thanks to the change in accounting rules). Those losses have continued to grow this quarter and for many banks are now outpacing the phantom gains from accounting tricks.

The two biggest U.S. banks at the beginning of the Credit Crisis were Citigroup and Bank of America. Last quarter Citi lost 27 cents per share versus a 61 cents loss in Q3 in 2008. Citi had $8 billion in net credit losses and increased its net loan loss reserves by $802 million between July and September. Bank of America lost 26 cents in Q3 versus a gain of 39 cents a year ago. Bank of America's credit losses last quarter were almost $10 billion ( a billion higher than in Q2) and it added a whopping $2.1 billion to its loan loss reserves. Credit card losses for Bank of America were $1.04 billion last quarter versus only $167 million a year earlier.Supposed 'gains' from trading operations kept the top line numbers from being much worse.

Does this look like a banking system that has been saved? Does this look like what would happen in a recovering economy? If the government took back the $45 billion in TARP funds from Citigroup would it be in business the next day? If not, it is insolvent. Ditto for Bank of America. As long as these banks (and others) are in the too big to fail category, money printing is going to be necessary to pay for the continued bailouts that they'll need. Government largess is the reason the stocks of these banks have not collapsed back to last years levels. The same can be said for the stock market overall.

NEXT: Big Bust on Wall Street

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup
http://investing.meetup.com/21

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.






1 comment:

Mc said...

It's better to invest in Real Estate and
Foreclosure homes
, as of now the market in good and in future we all hope too.