15 September, 2008

Finance Fails Again! Dow Drops 500 points

Monday started poorly and ended worse for Markets as the weekend turmoil of Lehman Brothers (LEH) and AIG (AIG) weighed heavily on the financial sector and stocks as a whole. As hope for a bailout of Lehman, or at least heavy asset sales dwindled Sunday, leading suitors heading for the exits, the company had no choice but to file for the bankruptcy protection.

Still standing, but sharing the negative spotlight is AIG, the insurance giant, which said that it may need $40Billion to keep moving forward. A remarkable number, when considering the company is reportedly backing nearly $60Billion ($57.8Billion according to Bloomberg) in sub-prime mortgages. AIG is looking to raise about $20Billion in capital and sell off another $20Billion in assets. New York has allowed the company special permission to access $20Billion in an effort to shore up some liquidty. The mathematics are still working heavily against AIG as shares plunged 60%, cutting half of AIG's market cap. Still not as bad as Lehman though, which lost 95% of its value due to its bankruptcy plans.

As Bank Of America (BAC) and Barclays (BCS) walked away from Lehman bailout talks on the weekend, BAC was busy getting another deal done as it agreed to purchase Merrill Lynch (MER) for about $50Billion, valuing the firm at $29/share. While Merrill jumped at the open the market's selling sentiment dragged it down to $17 from a high of $22.

And the rest of the financial doghouse followed:

Citigroup (C): down 13%
Bank Of America: down 21%
Wachovia (WB): down 25%
Washington Mutual (WM): down 26%
JP Morgan Chase (JPM): down 10%
Goldman Sachs (GS): down 12%
Morgan Stanley (MS): down 13%

The markets have seen down days like this before, albeit not to this extent, and many traders start talking themselves into the so-called bargains, but as former Fed chariman Alan Greenspan put it, and I paraphrase, 'This is the worst economic situation I've ever seen'.

Even the strongest of financials can still go lower from here, but for the ones who can ride it out, show they can stay afloat and show they can stay profitable, bargain basement prices wont be around for that long. That's a big reason why the Street will be looking so closely at Morgan and Goldman earnings.

Disclosure: Author owns C, GS

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