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You never want to buck the financials. I have said over and over again that the group is too important to let go. Can we really envision a world without
Bank of America
common stock? Can we envision a world where
Bank of New York
are no more? A world where
don't make it?
It's funny when you put it that way, because we know that if those stocks weren't in the
, if we just took them out, we would be feeling like we should be buying, buying, and buying judging from the very nice pullbacks we have had to above the lows of October and November now that we are oversold.
Tons of charts, from
, all sorts of charts from all sorts of industries, charts like
, if they hold here, will embolden people to come in. As will
The problem is those banks and what they mean to the psyche of the market. We know, for example, that the government's not going to let any fail because Tim Geithner, who will be approved, knows (without ever admitting it) that when
went under, we began to get the sickening sound of an industry cascading, one that now has banks down 50% from where they were before the Troubled Assets Relief Program money began to be distributed.
At the same time, not all of the bank stocks have been created equally. The banks that have not taken out their lows --
-- are in particularly good shape compared with then, because they have much less to no mortgage exposure, although GS and MS were trading as if they have huge exposure to the custodian banks like State Street.
I know that Citigroup, PNC and
have similar asset-backed conduit problems that exploded on State Street. Bank of New York has asset problems too. But State Street has $23 billion in off-balance-sheet conduits used to manage other peoples' money and Bank of New York only has $4 billion. We don't know the true extent of PNC and State Street's exposure to these conduits, although they have from time to time told us not to worry about them. That's exactly what State Street had said. Citigroup? Always
, as we have to believe that its off-balance-sheet conduits, which it has tried to put on balance sheet, are the worst of all.
PNC's situation is complicated, as is Wells Fargo's, because they bought banks where the bad loans were supposed to go to TARP. Even with the deal PNC got it is perceived as making a bad move, as is Wells with
All of this is to say that these banks are all candidates to have their common wiped out if they are going to be bailed out, which is what the market is saying. We see in Britain and Ireland that the common wipeout is taking place, and it feels like every bank over there is headed to
-dom, zombie-like, with receivership being the target.
What's needed is this. First, we need a cooling-off period where we can't destroy these banks' common through endless shorting through the use of the
ProShares UltraShort Financials
. (I suggest you read
about this on
. He is the best there is.) Secondly, we need a solution where the government doesn't destroy the rest of the shareholders by injecting common stock in while preserving the companies' other securities.
Finally, we need to have the market recognize that the problems involve mortgages and off-balance-sheet exposure, something that we know Goldman and Morgan Stanley say they don't have and JPMorgan says is a problem, but a problem that can be dealt with.
In other words, we need some differentiation.
Differentiation was so hard to get Tuesday because we had cordoned off the custodial banks, which are not supposed to have a lot of mortgage exposure -- they are just supposed to be investing, not gambling -- and we discover that the cordon is bogus.
That then left the presumption that any assurances by any bank will be bogus, complicated, again, by the silence of the
and the lack of a Treasury head who could say, "We will invest in banks that make it so the problems can be handled and the bad assets absorbed by the government without subsequently wiping out the common if you can prove that you haven't bitten off more than you can chew -- Bank of America and Citigroup --
plans were announced to have a TARP that would buy bad assets."
After all, I do not believe that people would be crushing the acquiring banks of Wells, JPM, PNC, and
if they had been able to put their acquired problematic whole loans to the TARP plan as it was originally conceived.
I distinguish Bank of America and Citigroup only because they have to be considered either legacy reckless, a la Citigroup, or actually misleading, a la Bank of America. They need
treatment at this point, something that, if it isn't as bad at BofA and Citigroup as management says it is, won't necessarily be their destruction. In
one of these cases it is imperative, no matter what, that the government make it clear that the preferreds and corporate bonds will be honored, because that was the real crime of the Lehman destruction, not just common stock. Hopefully, the charmed Geithner, who will of course be approved, recognizes that.
Oddly, what might keep any further differentiation between good and bad banks from happening is, again, something that Oberg's been explaining:
covered by the SKF. If Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, in reverse TARP-style, could simply buy Eaton or
, they would be saved from common stock destruction by being booted out of the index!
: I don't care for the
common stock, but it does seem like the
should investigate the Fraud Discovery Institute work by Barry Minkow. The Christopher Cox SEC subpoenaed me to see who I told when I told people to sell
in the $50s on TV. I hadn't told anyone. They quashed the subpoena anyway. Minkow, according to Lennar, actually sold the information that he was going to put a hit job on Lennar. If true, shouldn't the SEC be following up on that transgression, considering that it might have done the same thing against
than admitted it got it wrong? Right or wrong, anyone who profited from Herbalife made a lot of money. Or is it OK just to hit common stocks with fraud charges and then if things go down, so be it? Interesting case.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long BP, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo
. Jim Cramer is co-founder and chairman of TheStreet.com. He contributes daily market commentary for TheStreet.com's sites and serves as an adviser to the company's CEO. Outside contributing columnists for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com, including Cramer, may, from time to time, write about stocks in which they have a position. In such cases, appropriate disclosure is made. To see his personal portfolio and find out what trades Cramer will make before he makes them, sign up for
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