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is at $2.
Bank of America's
at $3. Do you buy any of these midgets? Do you risk $6 and buy them all, some sort of distressed basket?
First, I think that Citigroup is the ultimate zombie stock, slightly better than
American International Group
, but slightly worse than all but GM. If we get a pronounced, quick recovery in the world's economy, this one could be a worthwhile play because it is
going to go out of business. This one's a long-dated call on the turn. It reminds me of
, which is also a long-dated call but a less likely one to be exercised because unlike Citigroup, which is owned by the government, Ford is still in private hands and therefore faces dilution from the government because those sales are so awful. Ford is more of a moving target than Citigroup, with sales down plus-40%, although Citigroup's situation is a capital-eating one and therefore most likely demanding more capital. It would not be this way if the government adopted the Federal Home Loan Bank Board folks' plan (key words Bowers Espy if you want to see it).
So, Citigroup's a reasonable spec and can be held, but I would not expect anything other than erosion. Ford's worse.
GM's going concern note is pretty much the death knell to the common. Here's a difficult one: The bondholders think they own the company, the unions think they own the company, and the government will most likely end up owning the company. That means the common is probably worthless, something that will become evident if, or when, the company files for bankruptcy. Put simply, bankruptcy crams down the common, and I wonder if it won't be outright canceled. There's way too much hope in this $2 stock, and it should be squelched, especially after this morning's news.
Bank of America intrigues. This one could be helped by the President' s mortgage plan, which really helps the servicers, one of Bank of America's biggest businesses, and will help keep one out of nine people in their homes, including, most likely, many Bank of America customers.
But Bank of America bought Countrywide too expensively -- it could have bought the company in bankruptcy, and it could have bought Merrill for a similar deal, with Bear on the high side and a similar deal with Barclay's on the low-side. I don't know what the intent of the Merrill buy was given that the due diligence was terrible. Yesterday TheStreet.com's flagship site had a terrific, in-depth
of Bank of America's problems and I would defer to that.
That said, if Geithner would adopt the bank plan I would like to see done, Bank of America's an interesting spec. But, let me make one thing perfectly clear: The buy in Bank of America is in the bonds, not the common, not the preferred, but the bonds. That's where the action is, if you want a good deal.
I could opine on a $6 stock,
, but this one's forever being involved in a Kesselschlacht war of annihilation involving the shorts, and the shorts are winning so it might not matter.
I would like to point out that there are so many high-quality companies with good dividends that would snap back first and there are so many cheap bank bonds that could really be great speculations that the basket of Citigroup, GM, and Bank of America, and let's throw in Ford, seems to me like a really bad poker hand, and I would throw it back and try to get a couple of face cards that might prevail in even these trying times.
The urban legend that I recommended Bear Stearns' stock and not that I thought Bear's brokerage accounts would be solid before Bear collapsed remains my so-called worst call ever.
, for the record, again, I was answering an e-mail from a viewer who kept his money at Bear and was worried about whether his deposits were safe. I said they were, and they were. (They weren't at
). My sole real recommendation on Bear was on the Friday before the collapse when the stock was in the $30s when I called into "Squawk on the Street" and said the darned thing might be worthless. It opened at $2 on Monday.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long General Electric and Goldman Sachs.
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