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Red flags in Bear Stearns’ collapse

Bear Stearns Collapses, Sold to JP Morgan at $2/Share

Depression2.tv
March 17, 2008

Last Friday we got a taste of what the future is likely to be like as we make our way further into the belly of the second great depression. The Fed rushed to bail out a venerable Wall Street institution, which was rumored to be insolvent. Sunday evening, that rumor was confirmed to be true, as Bear Stearns agreed to sell itself to JP Morgan for a paltry $2 per share. Two dollars! This for a firm that was trading at $170 just over a year ago, and was as high as $54 just Friday! If Bear Stearns is only worth $2 per share, how can we possibly say with any confidence what other “investment banks” are worth?

While this bankruptcy comes as a shock to nearly everyone, it should be a surprise to no one. The global financial system has been teetering on a precipice for years if not decades, pumped up by unsustainable amounts of debt at every level of the economy, and is primed for a crash. That the crash has been postponed countless times by even easier money lent to yet poorer credit risks has served only to instill a false sense of confidence in markets and to magnify the impending calamity that seems finally to be at hand. Warnings that have been sounded on websites such as this one appear finally to be coming true, as confirmed by none-other than the venerable Wall Street Journal in a front page article titled, “Debt Reckoning: US Receives a Margin Call.”

The US is at the receiving end of a massive margin call: Across the economy, wary lenders are demanding that borrowers put up more collateral or sell assets to reduce debts.

The unfolding financial crisis – one that began with bad bets on securities backed by subprime mortgages, then sparked a tightening of credit between big banks – appears to be broadening further. For years, the US economy has been borrowing from cash rich lenders from Asia to the Middle East. American firms and household have enjoyed readily available credit at easy terms, even for risky bets. No longer.

Did you ever think news like that would ever make it off the internet and into the pages of the Wall Street J? Even I was beginning to have my doubts. But the news is seeping even further into the mainstream. This week’s Time Magazine has an article titled “10 Ideas that are Changing the World.” Idea 8 is “The New Austerity:”

Americans simply don’t have enough money to pay back the mortgage and credit-card debt they’ve run up. That reality is forcing banks to retrench as loans gone bad shrink their capital bases and falling house prices shrink the collateral that homeowners can borrow against. And it will presumably force chastened consumers to change their ways as well.

Americans simply don’t have enough money… What does it mean? It means defaults, economic loss and a spiral of fear and more loss. It means more Bear Stearns. Time’s article quotes David Rosenberg, an economist at Merrill Lynch: “I’m not saying we’re going back to our parents’ level of frugality, but what we have witnessed in the past 20 to 30 years – and especially the parabolic credit growth of the last five years – is going to be bursting in the next decade.” If not back to our parents’ level of frugality, then what? To our grandparents’ level? How can anything less be avoided, in an era when most people are already working full speed, maxed-out and yet still need credit to survive? And now they’re cutting off the credit!? The result for households will be the same as for Bear – massive liquidation. And the Fed is in no position to do anything about it. The Fed is currently operating in triage mode – desperately trying to aid the banks and save the global financial system as we know it. But what ammunition does the Fed have to save the average American working stiff, who is up to his eyeballs in debt?

Read Full Article Here

 

Wall Street fears for next Great Depression

London Independent

March 16, 2008

Wall Street is bracing itself for another week of roller-coaster trading after more than $300bn (£150bn) was wiped off the US equity markets on Friday following the emergency funding package put together by the Federal Reserve and JPMorgan Chase to rescue Bear Stearns.

One UK economist warned that the world is now close to a 1930s-like Great Depression, while New York traders said they had never experienced such fear. The Fed’s emergency funding procedure was first used in the Depression and has rarely been used since.

A Goldman Sachs trader in New York said: “Everyone is in a total state of shock, aghast at what is happening. No one wants to talk, let alone deal; we’re just standing by waiting. Everyone is nervous about what is going to emerge when trading starts tomorrow.”

In the UK, Michael Taylor, a senior market strategist at Lombard, the economics consultancy, said on Friday night: “We have all been talking about a 1970s-style crisis but as each day goes by this looks more like the 1930s. No one has any clue as to where this is going to end; it’s a self-feeding disaster.” Mr Taylor, who had been relatively optimistic, has turned bearish: “It really does look as though the UK is now heading for a recession. The credit-crunch means that even if the Bank of England cuts rates again, the banks are in such a bad way they are unlikely to pass cuts on.”

Mr Taylor added that he expects a sharp downturn in the real UK economy as the public and companies stop borrowing. “We have never seen anything like this before. This is new territory for us. Liquidity is being pumped into the system but the banks are not taking any notice. This is all about confidence. The more the central banks do, the more the banks seem to ignore what’s going on.”

Read Full Article Here

 

Bear Stearns Rescue Is `Finger in Dike,’ Scholars Say

Bloomberg
March 17, 2008

With Bear Stearns Cos.’ temporary rescue in place, the $200 billion subprime crisis joins the history of government bailouts to preserve jobs, homes and savings when economic disaster looms.

Ever since Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo shut the New York Stock Exchange for four months in 1914, to prevent foreign investors from cashing out and throwing the U.S. into financial chaos at the outset of World War I, American policy makers routinely have suspended their support for free markets when confronted by economic peril.

“I think the systemic risks dominate right now, which means you’ve got to put your finger in the dike,’’ says William Silber, a finance professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is the author of “When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America’s Monetary Supremacy’’ (Princeton University Press, 232 pages, $27.95).

Bailouts can buy time while policy makers try to defuse panic. Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York provided financial support for Bear Stearns, the fifth-largest U.S. securities firm. It faced eroding investor confidence in the fallout from losses related to securities based on mortgages to the least creditworthy borrowers.

Bear Stearns executives were striving today to strike an agreement to sell the firm to JPMorgan Chase & Co. before financial markets open tomorrow, people with knowledge of the talks said.

Read Full Article Here

Stunned Bear Stearns investors eye legal claims
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080317/us_nm/bearstearns_lawsuits_dc

Banks Face New World Order Consolidation
http://www.reuters.com/artic..743541720080317?sp=true

Stocks Widely Mixed on Bear Stearns News
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080317/wall_street.html

 


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