Even More Once in a Lifetime Scenes
Last night I put up a small list of one in a lifetime events going on in the world in general. Today we have another great example. Morgan Stanley reported their WORST quarter ever and will post their first operating loss ever this year. For a firm as old as MS, that is a big news item. Even more troubling is the story behind the company:
Morgan Stanley write-downs grow by $5.7 billion
China sovereign fund invests $5 billion; CEO Mack will forego a bonus
By John Spence, MarketWatch
Last update: 2:42 p.m. EST Dec. 19, 2007
BOSTON (MarketWatch) -- Morgan Stanley said Wednesday it's writing down an additional $5.7 billion of mortgage-related assets, taking the total fourth-quarter loss to nearly $10 billion in the latest sign that the credit crunch is worsening.
On another front, the Wall Street giant joined a string of rivals announcing investments from foreign governments as it unveiled an agreement with a Chinese sovereign fund that will inject $5 billion in fresh capital through equity units with mandatory conversion into common stock.
Morgan Stanley shares rose 3.6% to $49.81 in afternoon trading. The China investment helped buoy the stock, along with hope that the big fourth-quarter write-down may leave fewer nasty surprises for 2008.
Morgan Stanley's management essentially "kitchen-sinked" the quarter, according to analysts at Banc of America Securities.
"The bull case is that the company now has just $1.8 billion in reported net ... subprime exposure, having taken their medicine, and now it can look forward to a clean 2008," they wrote in a report to clients.
"The bear case is that this magnitude of loss impairs investor trust and raises questions about the judgment and competence of the leadership.," the analysts added.
What a mess! By now the numbers are so large and so hard to wrap your head around 10 Billion may seem like no big deal. Maybe it is not, as the stock rose in the face of what the CEO called "embarrassing" earnings. As always, I use this article to show what kind of things to look for and ask yourself when reading any news piece. Based upon my red highlighting, there are a few things that bother me here:
- Another foreign government steps in and provides capital. China in this case. I have written before about the major problem China represents, and how we may have to let Taiwan be destroyed by the Chinese due to how much of our debt they hold. A cash infusion from a COMMUNIST COUNTRY is nothing to be proud of. The selling off of major stakes in a US company is nothing positive.
- Again we are hit with the "worst is over" line. Commentators note that MS has only 1.8 Billion of subprime paper left, so the worst might be over. Wait, that's 1.8 Billion of REPORTED subprime exposure, and that is a big difference. Also, it has been shown beyond all doubt that the mortgage meltdown is affecting all paper, not just subprime. The worst is over? Doubt it.
- Analysts say there is a chance of reduced confidence in management and a possible perception of a lack of competence. You think? I can lose 10 Billion dollars easy, that is why I am not a CEO. It takes real genius to lose that kind of dough! I have every confidence that MS will continue to lose money, so there is no uncertainty there.
Loans Gone Wild - The Frustration is Starting to Show
Folks, we have a rare treat today. There will be very few times that you will get to see how public officials and business leaders really think and feel. Today Sallie Mae, a student loan service company (yes, also backed by the good old USA) reported a truly terrible quarter. The company had a failed buyout a while ago, and of course loan losses are mounting! You didn't think it was just mortgages did you? Anyways, the CEO of SLM, Albert L. Lord, was on the conference call today and lets just say it did not go very well. After a tough session, a lull occurred near the end of the call. Turn up your volumes and listen to the last 40 seconds for pure comedy:
In case it was hard to hear, the direct transcript is Lord saying to the investor relations head named Steve "There's no questions. Let's get the fuck out of here." At least he was honest! This encapsulates the usual problem big CEO's have. They think they know everything and should not be bothered by questions from the peanut gallery. It is always revealing to see such frank moments. Frustration across all lending areas is now showing. I predict conference calls will be listened to in record numbers from now on by people looking for that special "Lord" moment!
You want more problems in the loan repayment area? No problem, coming right up!
Here is a bunch of headlines that should send shivers down the spine of the financial world:
S&P cuts ACA to "CCC" junk, acts on 6 bond insurers-Your Insurance called and said he can't pay you for any of the mortgages you thought were insured. He left no call back number.
D.R. Horton Credit Ratings Cut to Junk Status by Moody's-The bad news is your credit is JUNK, the good news is so is everyone Else's!
S&P Cuts Alt-A Mortgage Bonds; Analysts Warn on Prime-Wait a second! That is not SUBPRIME? What is going on here? I accepted the August is the worst of it baloney, fell for the subprime will drag to the end of 2007, but now the ALT-A and PRIME paper may be no good too? OOHHH the HUMANITY! (Exploding Hindenburg reference)
When loans go wild it is far worse than seeing your daughter (or wife) flashing some strangers with cameras on vacation (girls gone wild). In a debt based economy money velocity is key, and debt must constantly be expanded. Credit expansion gets pretty iffy when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will not ever be paid back. We are getting to that point.
The FED and the ECB can pump whatever amounts of funny money into the system they desire. The problem is that when even funny money cannot be paid back by other funny money things get REAL serious quick. The acceleration of events is amazing given the end of the year timing. Prepare accordingly for 2008.
I propose the mortgage industry start practicing their proverbial death scene, like in the films or plays. Here is some inspiration:
moar funny pictures
Or perhaps waiting for Santa on Christmas is your thing:
moar funny pictures
Thanks for all the comments on last post. I know everyone is pressed for time, but even a few observations and comments really helps me try my best.
Have a good night.