An analysis this week by TheStreet.com's Lauren LaCapra showed that aggressive markdowns of the value of some assets by Wells Fargo ( WFC) have positioned the bank to potentially profit more than rivals from the government's toxic asset plan. So why is the stock declining amid the recent rally and why are options pointing to lower prices for Wells Fargo? Maybe it reflects doubt about the $1 trillion public-private partnership the government is setting up to buy bad assets from banks. Perhaps it's no good to stand out from the herd. Or there may be lingering concerns about what other skeletons remain in the closet at Wachovia, which accounted for most of the charges for high-risk loans that contributed to Wells Fargo's $11.2 billion fourth-quarter loss. Most likely, though, investors have simply not realized or appreciated what Wells Fargo is doing to get its house in order and prove the value of buying Wachovia. Still, the company has many staunch supporters among its shareholders, who have frequently emailed me to complain when I have lumped Wells Fargo among the likes of Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America ( BAC) as I've railed about the billions of dollars in taxpayer money that flowed into their balance sheets without a noticeable return so far in terms of a return to normal flows of credit to consumers and small businesses, aka the bedrock of the U.S. economy.
It will be interesting to see whether the bulls or bears are right about Wells Fargo. For the record, I'm rooting for Wells. Call it a gut instinct. Call me foolish if you will. But I've come around to the position of the many shareholders who keep telling me that Wells Fargo doesn't deserve to be tarred with the same brush as the other banks. It looks like Wells Fargo played its hand well.