The rules of the accounting game may be relaxed, but does that mean the market will improve for toxic assets?
R.W. Baird analyst David George sees the changes approved by the
as a modest positive for banks.
The banks with large amounts of distressed assets -- like
Bank of America
-- would presumably benefit as they would be able to increase the value of the assets on the books.
, which has a relatively high amount of Level 3 assets like mortgage backed-securities or real estate, would experience an incremental benefit, according to George. These assets are hard to price and even harder to sell.
That's why the Treasury created programs for banks to unload these assets like the Public-Private Investment Program. But if banks are able to reclassify assets and price them at more favorable values, does that then lessen the need to unload the assets?
The pressure that Congress put on the FASB may be at odds with the Treasury plan to deal with toxic assets head on. So while it may be seen as a short-term stock boost, it isn't necessarily an outright win for the banks.
JPMorgan analyst Dane Mott says he has "significant doubts" that easing mark-to-market rules will ultimately be viewed by markets "as a significant long-term positive."
"Blaming fair value for the credit crisis is like going to the doctor for a diagnosis and blaming him for telling you that you are sick," he says.
Fair value has existed for some time, but what FAS 157 set out to do was standardize how banks valued assets so that there would be more consistency and transparency. By relaxing the definition, banks will have more latitude in terms of pricing, and the outcome still remains to be seen.
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