What the Moody's U.S. Bank Downgrades Mean for Investors
Moody's ratings agency issued five U.S. bank downgrades Thursday and a total of 15 cuts for global institutions, but markets shook off the news.
The ratings agency cited concerns about the stability of the global systems. Moody's said the banks are not as sound now as they were before the recent global financial woes and contagion.
"All of the banks affected by today's actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital markets activities," Greg Bauer, Moody's Global Managing Director, said in a statement Thursday.
Bank of America and Citi are now rated just two notches above junk status, while Morgan Stanley sits a hair higher at three notches above junk.
The cuts appeared to be a non-event in trading Friday. Shortly after the open, all three major indexes were modestly higher, with affected banks all in the green.
But Moody's U.S. bank downgrades could be a precursor to aggressive trading activity.
"It is a trading indicator that speaks to more volatility in the future for the banks as traders will be jumping all over earnings, derivatives moves, counterparty fears, correlation concerns, "negative watch" implications and regulatory impacts," said Money Morning Capital Waves Strategist Shah Gilani. "I expect the volume in financials to go higher as traders play them more and more."
JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) Stock Price Falling as Losses Could Hit $7 Billion
Since the company announced May 10 that it lost billions on a bad trade, the JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) stock price has dropped about 20%.
And it may have more to go.
CNN Money reported on Monday afternoon that the trading losses are closer to a range of $6 billion to $7 billion, citing several sources who work on trading desks that specialize in the derivatives JPMorgan Chase used to make its trades.
Investors at the Deutsche Bank Global Financial Services Investor Conference in New York drilled CEO Jamie Dimon with questions Monday about how the chief investment office (CIO) racked up the sizable losses.
The biggest U.S. bank by assets, JPMorgan is under pressure from investors and regulators alike to enlighten them on how the CIO, which is in charge of managing excess cash while minimizing risk, made dicey and costly bets on illiquid credit derivatives, some so big they misrepresented market prices.
The $350 billion portfolio managed by the CIO, Dimon reiterated, has a very short duration and an average credit rating of AA designed to "very conservatively handle" interest-rate risks. The heart of the losses, Dimon explained, was the synthetic credit derivative, and just "a part" of the broader portfolio.
The JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) Losses: Here’s What Happened
Yesterday's announcement by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) that it lost $2 billion on a "hedge" position is not only surprising, it's frightening.
I'll try and make this short and easy to understand, but the truth is that it's complicated. If we have a decent idea about what happened (and I do), it's bad. And if it's a tip-of-the-iceberg thing (which I don't believe it is), it could be really, really bad.
Investors put on hedges all the time. In fact, in our investment services like the Capital Wave Forecast we put on essentially the same type of "economic" hedges that JPM CEO Jamie Dimon is saying blew up on them. The economic hedges we put on are essentially hedges against long positions we hold.
For example, if I see some potential danger ahead, then I recommend we buy some protection, like buying the VIX in anticipation of rising volatility, or buying puts on broad market indexes.
The broad protective measures we take are economic hedges because they are not specific hedges designed to hedge potential loss in any one position. For example, if we owned JPM stock and we wanted to hedge our position, we might buy puts on JPM, or sell calls, or employ another specific hedge against our long position.
Five Cheap Stocks Under $15: BAC, NAK, SD, RIMM, ELN
A certain group of equities have been out of favor lately. Beaten down, they have landed into the cheap stocks barrel.
Yet some of the richest rewards come from these battered and overlooked stocks. So don't let a low share price deter you.
While it is not recommended that you fill up an entire, or even a major, portion of your portfolio with stocks under $15, the addition of a few carefully selected "cheap stocks" could be worthwhile.
Admittedly the odds of picking the next Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) are long, but the right low-priced stocks can be worthy as a trade with the prospect of a huge upside – if timing is right.
The following are five stocks under $15 that have taken a beating and offer the kind of potential that make them worthy of a closer look.
Here's the breakdown…
Should You Worry About Europe's Back Door Bank Run?
On Wednesday, Fitch Ratings Inc. downgraded its credit ratings on five of Europe's biggest banks, and while that decision made headlines, it's not the most important story to come out of Europe this week.
The real story, which the mainstream media is neglecting, is that there are signs of an underground run on Europe's banks.
Almost nobody's talking about it, but there are indications money is already moving out of the European Union (EU) faster than rats abandoning a sinking ship.
Not through the front door, mind you. There are no lines, no distraught customers and no teller windows being boarded up – not yet, anyway.
For now the run is through the back door, and there are four things that make me think so:
- Italy's planned ban on cash transactions over 1,000 euros, or about $1,300.
- French, Spanish, and Italian banks have run out of collateral and are now pledging real assets.
- Swiss officials are preparing for the end of the euro with capital control measures.
- Europe's CEOs are actively preparing for the end of the euro despite governmental reassurances.
Signs of a Run
Let's start with Italy and Prime Minister Mario Monti's plans to restrict cash transactions over 1,000 euros (down from the current limit of 2,500 euros, or about $3,200).
Ostensibly the move is about reducing tax evasion by prohibiting the movement of large sums of cash outside the official transactional system, but I think it speaks to something far more sinister – namely that the Italian government knows things are going to get far worse than they're publicly admitting.
Consider: Cash is a stored value mechanism. There's not a lot of it because at any given point in time, most of it is on deposit with banks in any country. That's as true in Italy as it is here in the United States when real interest rates are positive during "healthy" times.
But when real interest rates turn negative, people are likely to withdraw cash and stuff it quite literally under mattresses or in coffee tins. (Real interest rates are the official lending interest rates as adjusted for inflation.)
In such an environment, holding cash in a bank becomes nothing more than an imputed tax and a disincentive for deposits. It's also a significant thorn in the side of central bankers who want to control their country's money supply, because cash can operate outside the system and, specifically, logjam reform efforts.
The reason is really pretty simple. If you have negative real interest rates, and cash transactions are largely restricted or removed altogether, then the only way to effectively use cash is to withdraw it and spend it… immediately.
In other words, by limiting cash transactions to 1,000 euros or less, Italy is putting into place a punitive financial control fully intended to keep money moving in a system lest it become worthless or worse – hoarded and worthless.
Now let's move on to banks.
Many investors have never thought about it before, but there are really only three sources of funding for a bank:
- Money that's effectively "lent" to the bank by customers placing their assets on deposit;
- Short-term money market funds;
- And long-term bonds or securitized products based on long-term paper sold to bond investors.
Together, the three funding sources are like the legs on a stool – lose any one of them and the stool will topple over because it is no longer balanced. Cut the legs down and the stool collapses – that's what is happening now.