Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Drinking in Last Chance Saloon

Michael Panzner alerts us to an article by Martin Hutchinson in Prudent Bear, which explains how the rotten apples in the banking barrel can affect the others. Here's a grim tidbit or two:

... If as now appears likely the eventual losses in the home mortgage market do not total only $100 billion, but a figure much closer to $1 trillion, then the subprime debacle becomes something much more than a localized meltdown...

Hutchinson suggests that in a bear market, "Level 3" assets may actually be worth as little as 10% of the banks' own declared estimates, and:

This immediately demonstrates the problem. Goldman Sachs, generally regarded as insulated from the subprime mortgage problem, has $72 billion of Level 3 assets; its capital is only $36 billion. If anything like 90% of the Level 3 assets’ value has to be written off, Goldman Sachs is insolvent. [...] Only the bonuses will survive, paid in cash and draining liquidity from the struggling company.

I observed a couple of weeks ago that "the Dow and the FTSE rise towards the end of the year, when traders' annual bonuses are calculated" and guessed that "the Dow will rise until bonus time". Watch for a rally of sorts and a final, determined suckout of bonuses, ahead of a forced, sober reassessment.

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