Posts Tagged ‘banks’

US Banks Resurgent

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported income of $37.6 billion in the third quarter, a 6.6 percent improvement over third quarter, 2011. This is the 13th consecutive quarter that earnings have registered a year-over-year increase. The other big news —  the decline in the number of banks on the FDIC’s “Problem List” from 732 to 694. This is the first time in three years that there have been fewer than 700 banks on the list

For the economy, this means more liquidity as loan balances posted their fifth quarterly increase in the last six quarters, rising by $64.8 billion . Loans to commercial and industrial borrowers increased by $31.8 billion (2.2 percent), while residential mortgages rose by $14.5 billion (0.8 percent) and auto loans grew by $7.4 billion (2.4 percent). The bad news? The nerves around the fiscal cliff may have caused home equity lines of credit to decline by $12.9 billion (2.2 percent), and real estate construction and development loans fell by $6.9 billion (3.2 percent). Remember that $2 billion of property construction and design would be eliminated if sequestration happens, cutting 66,500 jobs.

Still, the FDIC report is cause for optimism. Only 12 insured institutions failed during the third quarter. This is the smallest number of failures in a quarter since the fourth quarter of 2008, when there were also 12. An additional seven banks have failed so far in the fourth quarter, bringing the year-to-date total to 50. Through December 4, 2011, there had been 90 failures year-to-date.

“More than 55 percent of all banks reported loan growth,” Chairman Gruenberg noted. “Small banks are also increasing their lending, including their loans to small businesses.”

The complete Quarterly Banking Profile is available both here and at on the FDIC Web site.

TARP: Money Well Spent

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

A top Treasury official defended the federal government’s $700 billion bank bailout financial crisis-response program at a hearing where the effort was criticized by members of a watchdog panel insisting that it did more for Wall Street than Main Street. “The cost of TARP is likely to be no greater than the amount spent on the program’s housing initiatives,” said Timothy Massad, acting assistant secretary of the Treasury for the Office of Financial Stability, to the Congressional Oversight Panel that oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).  “The remainder of the programs under TARP — the investments in banks, credit markets and the auto industry — likely will result in very little or no cost,” he said.

Panel member J. Mark McWatters, a Dallas-based CPA ad tax attorney, argued that it is difficult to call TARP a success when the unemployment rate is still approximately nine percent and millions of Americans are fighting foreclosure.  Panel Chairman Ted Kaufman – who was Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff of 19 years and temporarily replaced him in the Senate – said that Wall Street bankers ended up in better shape than Main Street.  “It’s not a tough economy on Wall Street, it’s a tough economy everywhere else,” Kaufman said.

According to Massad, TARP will end up spending no more than $475 billion; 86 percent of which has been disbursed.  To date, Treasury has received $277 billion back, including $241 billion in repayments and $36 billion in additional income. The Treasury expects to receive an additional $9 billion, which will leave $150 billion outstanding through various investments.  The department hopes to recover those funds over the next several years.  “TARP helped bring our financial system back from the brink and paved the way for an economic recovery,” Massad said.  “Banks are better capitalized, and the weakest parts of the financial system no longer exist.  The credit markets on which small businesses and consumers depend — for auto loans, for credit cards and other financing — have reopened.  Businesses can raise capital, and mortgage rates are at historic lows.  We have helped bring stability to the financial system and the economy at a fraction of the expected costs.”

William Nelson, deputy director of the Federal Reserve’s division of monetary affairs, agrees with Massad. In testimony about the Fed’s program to restart the asset-backed securities markets with backing from the Treasury’s TARP program, Nelson said even that program is unlikely to experience any losses.  “The Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) program helped restart the ABS markets at a crucial time, supporting the availability of credit to millions of American households and businesses,” Nelson said, adding that of the more than 2,000 loans worth $70 billion that were extended through the Fed’s facility, 1,400 totaling $49 billion were repaid early.  Remaining loans are current, and the collateral backing the loans is retaining its value, “significantly reducing the likelihood of borrower default.”

“As a result, we see it as highly likely that the accumulated interest will be sufficient to cover any loan losses that may occur without recourse to the dedicated TARP funds,” Nelson said.  Europe, by contrast, did not act as aggressively to apply stimulus with the result that financial crises occurred in countries like Ireland and Greece.

Government Investigating Possible Law Violations in Foreclosure Crisis

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

 Feds are investigating foreclosure irregularities, searching for possible law violations.  The Department of Justice has opened an investigation to determine whether banks and other financial institutions broke federal law by using deceptive court documents to foreclose on homes.  Although the investigation is just underway, it will probe whether companies deceived federal housing agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which currently insure a large percentage of American homes.  The investigation will also examine whether firms committed wire or mail fraud in filing false documents.

The probe is intended to send the message that banks will be held accountable for illegal foreclosures.  President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is also taking a look at the foreclosure mess.  “In more than 25 years dealing with major financial crisis issues, I have never seen this many agencies focused on a single issue,” said Andrew Sandler, an attorney who specializes in government investigations.  “We are beginning to see signs of extensive governmental investigation that may also have criminal law implications.”

With reports that big banks filed court documents without proper review, federal investigators want to know if similar paperwork was submitted to housing agencies to collect insurance payouts.  Bank employees have admitted to signing documents without reading them.  If similar filings occurred at the governmental agencies, that action could constitute a violation of United States law.  Although the investigation so far has no specific target, it could center on banks, independent mortgage servicers, law firms and other companies involved in the foreclosure process.  Shaun Donovan, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is working with other regulators to assure that all foreclosures are legal.  “We are working closely with others in the administration, as well as independent regulators and law enforcement agencies, in insuring that no one loses their home as a result of a mistake or criminal behavior,” Donovan said.

Banks Are Hiring as CMBS Restarts

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Banks are starting to hire again as they return to structuring CMBS, a sign that the financial markets are gradually returning to normal.  “I see lots of friends who used to be employed, and weren’t for a while, and are now being rehired by institutions,” said Jonathan Strain, debt capital markets director at JPMorgan Chase’s CMBS division.Banks rehiring staff to work on new CMBS.

This industry-wide hiring is evidence of the banking sector’s effort to recover from the depths of the Great Recession and rebuild the capability of providing liquidity to refinance commercial real estate owners who need to recapitalize their portfolios.  Industry leaders believe that CMBS may never recover to its 2007 origination peak of $237 billion.  So far this year, CMBS originations total just over $1 billion.  According to one banker, the CMBS market may eke out $10 billion in 2010; that could ultimately grow to a total of $100 billion annually several years down the road.

According to Lisa Pendergast, managing director with Jeffries Group, Inc., “Supply will be far less than what we were accustomed to.”  Pendergast also is president of the CRE Finance Council, the industry’s leading trade group.

TARP Banks Lending on the Rise

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Lending by banks that received TARP assistance rose 13 percent in December.  Eleven American banks that received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) originated 13 percent more loans in December than they had the previous month. The Department of the Treasury released this information in its monthly survey of loans made by recipients of the $700 billion government bailout money.

According to the Treasury Department, total loan balances fell one percent during the same timeframe.  This report does not include statistics from banks that repaid their TARP funds in June of 2009; future reports will not include data from banks that are exiting the TARP program.

A total of $178.1 billion in new loans was made during December, according to the Treasury.  Bank of America led the pack in originating loans, with $64.6 billion, an 11 percent increase over November.  Wells Fargo & Company occupied second place with a six percent increase, reporting $58.3 billion in new loans.  Citigroup lent $16.3 billion, an 11 percent increase.

Fed Proposing to Take a Hard Line on Bank Executive Pay

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Fed Proposing to Take a Hard Line on Bank Executive PayThe Federal Reserve is considering regulating banks’ pay policies to make certain they discourage employees from making the irresponsible gambles that led to 2008’s financial meltdown.  The Fed’s proposal would apply to thousands of banks, including some that did not receive bailouts.

Under the Fed’s proposal, the central bank would review – and could say “no” – to pay policies that might result in excessive risk-taking by executives, traders or loan officers.  The move marks the Fed’s most recent response to critics who say it didn’t crack down on lax lending, reckless risk taking and other practices that led to the great recession.  If the proposal is adopted, the 28 largest banks would develop internal plans to assure that compensation doesn’t start a new round of disproportionate risk taking.  Although the Fed declined to identify which banks would be required to submit plans, it’s safe to say that Citigroup, Inc., Bank of America Corporation and Wells Fargo & Company will be on that list.

“Compensation practices at some banking organizations have led to misaligned incentives and excessive risk-taking, contributing to bank losses and financial instability,” says Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.  “The Federal Reserve is working to ensure that compensation packages appropriately tie rewards to longer-term performance and do not create undue risk for the firm or the financial system.”

The key concept here is that of moral hazard – creating a correlation between performance and remuneration so that people are always compelled to act in the general interest.

Investors Still Wary of Distressed Assets

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Commercial real estate investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude before jumping in and buying distressed assets, according to an Ernst & Young study.  “We haven’t seen many portfolio transactions so far,” says the study’s author, Chris Seyfarth, who is national director of E&Y’s non-performing loans.  “Given the size and the magnitude of the untitledproblem with banks, I think the expectation is that at some point we’ll start seeing sizable portfolio transactions.”

According to the E&Y study, 53 percent of respondents have purchased distressed or non-performing loans in the last 18 months.  Another 45 percent believe it is too early to even think of buying non-performing loans.  Distressed assets are “piling up faster than they’re being resolved,” Seyfarth says.  “The broad view is that commercial real estate assets are getting worse, not better, and that’s going to impact financial institutions.  The issue is that the price expectations are different between the two players, and in some cases significantly different.”

Only 35 percent of those investors claim to have return requirements above 20 percent, and an equal number actually are shooting for returns in the 10 percent to 15 percent range,” Seyfarth concludes.  Once the anticipated tsunami of distressed assets his the market, it could be met with a rush of pent-up capital, all trying to get the best deals at the same time – which may, ironically, further cushion price declines, resulting in a more competitive investment market.

News about the spike in housing starts and the buoyancy of the stock market, which has recaptured $3 billion in value in just a few months, suggests that the recession has at least stabilized and economic recovery is near.  This should encourage increased liquidity in the credit markets, eventually supporting the commercial real estate investment market.

One Year After Financial Meltdown, Obama Counsels Caution

Monday, September 21st, 2009

On the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the onset of the global financial crisis,  President Barack Obama used a Wall Street speech to call for stringent new regulation of United States markets.  After Lehman’s collapse, the American government infused billions of dollars into the financial system and took major stakes in Wall Street’s most famous names.  Although this action stabilized the system, it could not forestall a shrinking economy or the highest unemployment rate in 26 years.lehmanbros

“We can be confident that the storms of the past two years are beginning to break,” he said.  As the economy begins a “return to normalcy,” Obama said, “normalcy cannot lead to complacency.”

Lobbyists, lawmakers and even regulators so far have opposed proposals to more closely monitor the financial system. The five biggest banks – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America – posted second-quarter 2009 profits totaling $13 billion.  That is more than twice their profits in the second quarter of 2008 and nearly two-thirds as much as the $20.7 billion they earned in the same timeframe two years ago – a time when the economy was considered strong.

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is the point man for formulating new rules.  President Obama wants stricter capital requirements for banks to prevent them from purchasing exotic financial products without keeping adequate cash on hand.  It was precisely this type of behavior that caused last year’s financial crisis.

Don’t Want to Buy Distressed Assets? Then Try Insuring Them

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has started selling insurance coverage on foreclosed homes occupied by distressed borrowers with the goal of making money from banks hurt by the mortgage market collapse.  These policies are riskier than usual home coverage because the properties may be neglected or vandalized.

“It’s part of the standard practice of Berkshire, which is to respond opportunistically,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner Russo & Gardner, which owns shares in Berkshire.  “They have the capital to act and the credibility.”

mp_main_wide_warrenbuffett2Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway has $24.5 billion in cash, cut back on coverage of large commercial properties against catastrophes like hurricanes when the recession started and demand fell.  The home insurance venture positions Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway to benefit from the supply of foreclosed properties that has grown fourfold in three years.  Because Buffett came through the subprime crisis in good shape, he has been able to increase his holdings in companies hurt by the recession in markets where demand is growing.

Berkshire Hathaway’s expansion in the area of foreclosed and distressed property insurance is noteworthy.  What’s key is that they have been able to come up with some level of asset valuation (i.e., home price or home replacement cost) in order to be comfortable pricing such insurance.  This is a good signal which would indicate that, at minimum, smart money is comfortable with home valuations at some level, and is willing to underwrite to those values.

S. Jafer Hasnain is a Managing Partner of Lifeline Assets, a Chicago-based real-estate private equity firm which he co-founded in 2008. Mr. Hasnain was previously a portfolio manager and analyst at AllianceBernstein for 14 years with stints at Merrill Lynch, Citibank and Goldman Sachs prior to that.

Recession Coming to an End: The Fed

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Eleven of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks showed signs of a stabilizing or improving economy during July and August, according to the Fed’s latest Beige Book report.  The Beige Book’s anecdotal evidence found that the nation’s worst recession in 70 years is coming to an end.  The Fed expects the economy to grow by three or four percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.  That stands in sharp contrast to the one percent decline from April through June, and the 6.4 percent contraction during the first quarter of the year.good-business-growth-2

In the latest survey, the Dallas region reported that economic activity had “firmed”. The Fed regions of Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Richmond and San Francisco reported “signs of improvement.” In Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis and New York, the Fed reported activity as “stable or  showing signs of stabilization.  The St. Louis region was the exception, where the contraction’s pace “appeared to be moderating.”

“We are slowly on the road to recovery,” former Fed Governor Robert Heller told Bloomberg Television.  The Beige Book “confirms that we have turned the corner.”

Despite the Beige Book’s declaration that stabilization is occurring, it still found weakness in the commercial real estate market where little new construction is underway.  According to the report, “Several participants noted that banks still faced a sizable risk of additional credit losses and that many small and medium-sized banks were vulnerable to deteriorating performance of commercial real estate loans.”