Thursday, October 20, 2011

Citi, Bank of America in Massive Fail Mode; Euro Leaders Diddle Over EFSF

The European mess got so badly confused it crashed this writer's browser and about half the post was washed into the ether. In any case, conflicting reports from the Eurozone make this weekend's EFSF-fest look something like this: Finance ministers of the various Euro nations will meet on Friday; German Chencellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet on Saturday; the rest is somewhat hazy due to conflicting reports, but the whole she-band of the 2 trillion Euro bailout fund (which may include 5:1 leverage) should be wrapped up and delivered to the panting, waiting world on Sunday, or Wednesday, maybe.

That is the kind of music the Europeans are playing above the din of Wall Street's stressed markets, making them zig-zag with even more amplitude than under the normal rigging of the HFT computers. Stocks were down, then up, then sideways, then finally finished mostly flat.

What is on one hand frustrating and on the other wildly amusing is that all the nations of Europe don't have 2 trillion Euros to rub together, much less 10 trillion once the fund goes the leverage route. Get ready for massive currency devaluation and market disruptions as the Eurozone embarks on an experiment in quantitative easing (money printing) that makes Ben Bernanke's Federal Reserve look like amateurs.

While all the noise and fury from Europe was making trading something resembling a kindergarten face-painting class, a couple of items concerning a couple of US banks the media forgot to mention appeared on the web.

Apparently aiming for the honor of headline of the month, the New York Post reports, Citi fined $285M for selling dog$#!t paper.

It appears that the SEC stopped watching porn for a few minutes to slap a fine on Citigroup for selling mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to their clients they knew were dog$#!t and, a la Goldman Sachs, bet against them in the derivatives market. The fine amounts to a small fraction of the beating investors continue to take and a spec of dust compared to what Citi and the other TBTF banks did to the US and global financial and housing markets.

Good for those few non-porn-addicted officials at the SEC for finally waking up, albeit three years late, and doing somewhat of the right thing, though, as usual, Citi admits no wrongdoing and no executives have been fined, jailed or slaughtered for public delight... yet. That's why we have the Occupy Wall Street movement. They may not have defined demands, but, in general they hate the mega-banks and the people who run them.

Then there's Bank of America, which has been shuckin' and jivin' so much they seem to be shadowboxing with themselves in a mirror inside a kaleidoscope. Their recent maladies are summed up in an article by the erudite by barely comprehensible Chris Whalen of Risk Analytics, in an article entitled, Is Bank of America preparing for a Chapter 11? published by Reuters UK, because apparently the average reader in America probably won't understand a word of it, though we are pleased to give everyone a try.

Basically, BofA is getting rough press over their recent decision to charge debit card users a fee for the service and now, they're making it harder to avoid the $5/month fee.

Additionally, the $8.5 billion settlement the bank had worked out with various MBS trusts, including Pimco and the NY Fed, has unraveled and is being sent to a federal court. Boo-hoo.

And, completing the trifecta, Bank of America has moved Merrill Lynch derivatives into it's banking unit, putting over $1 trillion of deposits at imminent risk.


Dow 11,541.78, +37.16 (0.32%)
NASDAQ 2,598.62, -5.42 (0.21%)
S&P 500 1,215.39, +5.51 (0.46%)
NYSE Composite 7,273.90, +33.64 (0.46%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,095,450,875
NYSE Volume 4,870,291,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3404-2984
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 26-71 (finally, something that makes sense)
WTI crude oil: 85.30, -0.81
Gold: 1,612.90, -34.10
Silver: 30.28, -1.00

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