Friday, September 26, 2008

WaMu becomes biggest bank to fail in US history

This is my "I told you so moment". I have warned people about WaMu for over 2 years. Urging them to get their funds over the FDIC limit out recently. Now the bank has failed....

WaMu becomes biggest bank to fail in US history

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fannie and Freddie

Obviously the biggest news on Wall Street this week was the Federal Government seizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before both of these mortgage giants failed in a catastrophic manner. These companies have been faltering for many months while looking for lines of credit to bail them out, the government went one step further and completely took over the firms while giving top executives the boot.

The entire situation is also another example of intervention not allowing proper capitalism to play out in the market. The term “moral hazard” comes to mind in which businesses do not take responsibility for their risky behavior; this only entices other businesses to take poor risks. Especially in an environment where it appears that “gains for privatized and losses are socialized”.

While the government takeover may have buffered the mortgage market in the short term and cheered up Wall Street on Monday, the long term picture is much less clear. The U.S. tax payer is going to be stuck with the tab. The question remains on just how big the tab will be – estimates range from $250 billion to $5 trillion. The actual cost is very dependent on how the housing market and associated credit recovers. One recent article outlined how the seizure of these mortgage giant is the taxpayer’s risk (If takeover tanks, we're holding bag).

Similar too many previous government interventions, this action with Freddie and Fannie may help alleviate the short term crisis, but the toll down the road will be much greater and more painful.

Monday, September 8, 2008

WaMu CEO given the Boot

Past HingeFire articles have outlined in detail the issues at Washington Mutual and urged banking customers to pull out funds over the FDIC limit. News today shows that Washington Mutual has ousted CEO Kerry Killinger. WM stock is down over 15% in mid-day trading.

It is also interesting that Washington Mutual agreed to further oversight by the Office of Thrift Supervision concerning aspects of its operations. This demonstrates the high level of concern regarding the solvency of the institution from a regulatory perspective.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are Banks at a bottom?

A recent Motley Fool article asks if it “Is It Time to Buy the Banks?” The KBW banking index is down over 40% from the year before levels. The constant stream of news from the banking sector appears to be negative; more FDIC takeovers, increasing write-downs, and larger banks as take-over targets.

One point of view says the entire banking industry will be in trouble for the next 12 months with increasing failures and negative headline press. The other side of the coin outlined by Motley Fool states that banks offer a compelling value purchase situation and the KBW index may have seen its trough.

Investors can look at yield, P/E, book value, Justified P/BV, or other ratios. Using the math, it appears that banks may be near a historic valuation low and are due for rebound. At minimum, it is time to start investigating stronger individual stocks in this sector for purchase.