The Invisible Handout

Yay, unfettered capitalism:

Bear Stearns, pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by what amounted to a run on the bank, agreed late Sunday to sell itself to JPMorgan Chase for a mere $2 a share, narrowly averting a collapse that threatened to cascade through the financial system.

The price represents a startling 93 percent discount to Bear Stearns’ closing stock price on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Bankers and policy makers raced to complete the deal before financial markets in Asia opened on Monday, as fears grew that the financial panic could spread if Bear Stearns failed to find a buyer.

The deal, done at the behest of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, punctuates the stunning downfall of one of Wall Street’s biggest and most storied firms. Bear Stearns weathered the vagaries of the markets for 85 years, surviving the Depression and a dozen recessions only to meet its end in the rapidly unfolding credit crisis now afflicting the American economy.

***

The companies said that the Federal Reserve would provide special financing in connection with the transaction and that the Fed had agreed to fund up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns’s “less-liquid assets.”

Bailouts suck. The GOP should do something about welfare moms with widescreen televisions and Cadillacs.






82 replies
  1. 1
    Mithras says:

    Invisible Handout! You rock.

  2. 2
    ACK says:

    Ahh, GOP capitalism — where profits are privatized and losses are socialized.

  3. 3
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    Man – is there no way for the Democrats to tie funding the Federal Reserve to, say, a $30 billion increase in, I dunno, healthcare for the poor or public education?

  4. 4
    sglover says:

    Man – is there no way for the Democrats to tie funding the Federal Reserve to, say, a $30 billion increase in, I dunno, healthcare for the poor or public education?

    Oh sure, let’s encourage a lot of doctor visits and book learning by irresponsible social parasites. Communist!

  5. 5
    ACK says:

    And to think, it was less than a week ago that Bear Stearns’ CEO said “There is absolutely no truth to the rumors of liquidity problems that circulated today in the market,” and that “Bear Stearns’ balance sheet, liquidity and capital remain strong.”

    The stock was trading at around $62 on Monday. Unbelievable.

  6. 6

    But, you see, the CEO of Bear Stearns was telling the truth: there was no truth in those rumors. He knew that his firm was going to get the bailout it needed, and so the liquidity rumors were not true.

    Nobody lost money here, except a few welfare moms and other freeloaders.

  7. 7
    redterror says:

    Modern Capitalism rocks! Who wants to bet whether this makes it into Jim Kunstler’s weekly missive tomorrow?

  8. 8
    Ninerdave says:

    …and yet people are getting their houses foreclosed at record rates. Way to go!

  9. 9
    p.lukasiak says:

    Call me naive, but I was shocked to find out that B-S was so “leveraged” that its debt obligation is 30 times its actual assets.

    Right now, the smartest investment is in big, thick, bulky matresses — at some point the whole house of cards will come crashing down, and the people who get out early are gonna need somewhere to keep their cash!

  10. 10
    jake says:

    Ahh, GOP capitalism—where profits are privatized and losses are socialized.

    Couldn’t be said better, ever. May as well shut down the comments for this post.

  11. 11
    TR says:

    You dirty hippies just don’t get it.

    We can give billions to the airlines, oil companies and Wall Street businesses, because they understand what the free market is all about!

    But if we give a poor child lunch money, he’ll just grow up all warped and socialized!

  12. 12
    jake says:

    Since both the WaPo and NYT have gotten all tight ass about unregistered views, here’s a link to the AP story.

  13. 13

    We can give billions to the airlines, oil companies and Wall Street businesses, because they understand what the free market is all about!

    But if we give a poor child lunch money, he’ll just grow up all warped and socialized!

    Well, if anybody understands perverse incentives, it’s the big boys on Wall Street.

  14. 14
    AkaDad says:

    Thanks to jake, everyone is now going to miss out on my incredibly witty and profound comments.

    Would you believe semi-coherent and marginally amusing?

    How about barely comprehensible and somewhat annoying?

  15. 15
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    In a Friday speech to the Economic Club of New York, Bush cautioned about over reacting to the economic crisis, He is opposed to further measures such as funding large scale infrastructure projects or even extending unemployment benefits. He reiterated that the taxpayer rebate should turn the economy around by summer.
    On the other hand, his administration did find it necessary to bail out Bear Stearns with an amount equal to 21% of said taxpayer rebate. Typical of Bushenomics, his solution is to put a large amount of money into the pockets of a few rather than a small amount into the pockets of many.
    Now to see what kind of golden parachutes the failed execs of Bear Stearns get as they leave – assuming that they don’t grant themselves bonuses and salary increases for staying.

  16. 16
    myiq2xu says:

    Robin Hood was a liberal.

    Robbing D. Hood is a conservative.

    “Take from the poor and keep it!”

  17. 17
    myiq2xu says:

    Call me naive, but I was shocked to find out that B-S was so “leveraged” that its debt obligation is 30 times its actual assets.

    Around here BS is heavily capitalized and has a corner on the market.

  18. 18
    Zifnab says:

    Right now, the smartest investment is in big, thick, bulky matresses—at some point the whole house of cards will come crashing down, and the people who get out early are gonna need somewhere to keep their cash!

    I wish that were true, but – crazy as it sounds – I think the markets are about as safe a place as you can keep your money. Once Bernenke is finished with us, the dollar won’t be worth the paper its printed on. Bastard is crapping cash into the market like an elephant with the runs.

    1929, here we come.

  19. 19
    Pseudofool says:

    The Free Market (a lot like Free Will) is a myth that’s being sold and has been sold for mass consumption for 200 years. It’s a defining metanarrative of our time and is much more insidious than the overt hegemony we can detect in our day to day interactions. I’m not sure why the particulars make people angry any more, it really shouldn’t be surprising or shocking. The nice thing about capitalism is its hardly sustainable, cheap labor will run out long before cheap resources. It will be a lovely shitstorm if we get to live to see it.

  20. 20
    Nancy Irving says:

    I’d like to see what kind of bonuses Bear Stearns’ top execs took last Christmas. They should have known what was in the cards by then.

  21. 21
    myiq2xu says:

    It’s the Clintons fault!*

    (*This statement is now mandatory on both right and left-wing blogs whenever reporting bad news.)

  22. 22
    montysano says:

    Call me naive, but I was shocked to find out that B-S was so “leveraged” that its debt obligation is 30 times its actual assets.

    Would you be shocked to learn that the global value of derivatives (a type of uncollateralized debt) is 10X global GDP, or 5X global real estate? It could make the sub-prime debacle look like good times. According to this Marketwatch article, the value of derivatives may be $500T or higher (they were only $100T just 5 years ago).

    This may be simpleminded, but: take your annual income (your GDP) and add in the value of your real estate. Now, imagine being leveraged for 5X-10X that amount. You’d never dig out, and neither, I fear, will they.

    Those Wall Street Wonder Boyz have been very busy and very creative these past few years; now we’re gonna pay for it.

  23. 23
    Gemina13 says:

    Back in December 2000, a co-worker gave me a mock-up of a TIME cover showing Shrub, with the caption, “WE ARE FUCKED.”

    Truer words, etc., etc.

    And I agree with leaving your money in the markets. The Fed is pumping so much cash into the system that the dollar may soon be worth little more than a six-pack of Charmin.

  24. 24
    Punchy says:

    I’m too drunk and lazy to read all the previous posts. but I’ll say that this is a big, BIG fucking deal. This is the harbinger for a royal fucking Wall Street salad tossing of biblical proportions.

    I simply cannot fathom that there’s 60+ year olds that went to bed on Friday hoping to retire on next Friday with their nest egg of BSC stock and have just got rusty tromboned into a hell’s wrath of complete shittatude.

  25. 25
    AnneLaurie says:

    Bailouts suck. The GOP should do something about welfare moms with widescreen televisions and Cadillacs.

    Those welfare moms are sooo 20th-century. I believe the RNC’s New, Improved Society-Destroying Monster is “those greedy fools & NINJAs (No Income, No Job/Assets) who let the poor, innocent megabanks generously grant them 17% ARMs and 21% home-equity credit lines so the fools would be able to commute to their brand-new McMansions in DVD-equipped Hummers.”

    If the NINJAs can be further identified as probably-illegal immigrants, or at the very least blue-collar workers who should have been content driving junkers to their trailer parks, all the better for the WSJ and the NYT. “Greedy latte-sucking post-college kids” — i.e., anyone under 40 who doesn’t have a traditional marrige and preferrably a trust fund — will be blamed for ‘gentrifying’ urban centers and thus driving the Greedy NINJAs out into the McMansioned, Hummer-intensive suburbs.

  26. 26
    Bucky says:

    I’m a current MBA student that was set to take a job with Bear Stearns in the fall. Last summer, the treasurer met with the MBA interns and assured them that Bear had enough reserves to withstand basically anything.

    Makes you wonder.

  27. 27
    jake says:

    Let’s see how the news is going over in Japan

    Ew.

    Look! Britney Spears!

  28. 28
    John O says:

    I’m no financial whiz, but can someone confirm for me my perception that only rich people invested with Bear Stearns?

    If I’m right, mattresses are a good place for your money, unless the Village Kings can keep things afloat, at least until around January of ’09.

    Bad Moon Rising.

  29. 29
    p.lukasiak says:

    Those Wall Street Wonder Boyz have been very busy and very creative these past few years; now we’re gonna pay for it.

    Well, those of us who have been socking away money in 401ks and other assorted investments have been reaping the (illusiory) benefit of the bizarro world that is the stock markets. For the last couple of decades, these scheduled investments vehicles have provided the markets with a steady stream of new cash every week—doing as much, if not more, than the Wall Street Boiz to encourage the kind of insanity that is now being revealed.

    The cost in government bailouts is going to pale in comparison to what is going to happen to peoples’ retirement accounts — the debt incurred by bailout can always be billed to future generations, but when my generation realizes that that all of our retirement plans have gone up in smoke, there will be hell to pay.

  30. 30
    Gemina13 says:

    when my generation realizes that that all of our retirement plans have gone up in smoke, there will be hell to pay.

    Suddenly, I’m glad I emptied my 401K to pay for a biopsy and thyroidectomy. At least I know where that money went.

  31. 31
    Ross says:

    Question for the folks saying that the market is just as good as savings accounts, because of inflation. What’s your take on investing in foreign currency?

  32. 32
    TenguPhule says:

    1929, here we come.

    But this time with a populace that can easily learn how to make bombs over the internets. And has stockpiled more weapons per person then anywhere except Iraq.

    We live in interesting times.

    Now you know why that’s considered a curse.

  33. 33
    TenguPhule says:

    Question for the folks saying that the market is just as good as savings accounts, because of inflation. What’s your take on investing in foreign currency?

    Yen: Avoid.

    Euro: Too late to buy.

    Yuan: Buy and pray for mercy from the new Chinese Overlords

    Loonies: Buy and suffer the mocking from the mooses in silence.

    Shekels: Fucked to the Dollar.

    Most everything else: Fucked to the Dollar until they decide we’re a lost cause.

  34. 34
    TenguPhule says:

    I simply cannot fathom that there’s 60+ year olds that went to bed on Friday hoping to retire on next Friday with their nest egg of BSC stock and have just got rusty tromboned into a hell’s wrath of complete shittatude.

    I comfort myself with the knowledge that most of them voted for Bush and Republicans.

    Karma is a bitch.

  35. 35
    Martin says:

    I simply cannot fathom that there’s 60+ year olds that went to bed on Friday hoping to retire on next Friday with their nest egg of BSC stock and have just got rusty tromboned into a hell’s wrath of complete shittatude.

    The word you are looking for is ‘bootstraps’.

    Serves them right for being lazy and stupid. The smart ones got themselves a no-bid contract and overcharged the government 1000%.

    And just to demonstrate how lazy and stupid we continue to be, I predict at least 47% will vote for John ‘Economics Is Hard’ McCain simply because he’ll bomb our problems away and make sure no zygotes get harmed in the process (unless they are in the people being bombed, in which case the terrorist zygote deserved it)

  36. 36
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    TenguPhule Says:

    Question for the folks saying that the market is just as good as savings accounts, because of inflation. What’s your take on investing in foreign currency?

    Drive around to every liquor store in town, and buy as much foreign made beer as you can fit in the back of your pickup.

    Remember, liquidity is everything!

  37. 37
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    The companies said that the Federal Reserve would provide special financing in connection with the transaction and that the Fed had agreed to fund up to $30 billion of Bear Stearns’s “less-liquid assets.”

    Does anyone else think that between this and the games they are playing with the TAF, that the Fed has decided mark-to-model is the new black.

    Whee! I think I’m turning Japanese! I really think so.
    Let’s party like it’s 1999 (in Tokyo).

  38. 38

    I was thinking I had a pretty good stock of bullets; the price of lead has skyrocketed so I’ve been a little light on buying components; I’m not so sure, now.

  39. 39
    Randolph Fritz says:

    See Paul Krugman’s column Desperately seeking traction. The problem is, the Fed can’t do much else but lend money, arrange bailouts, and ask Congress to step in. They’re holding things together until after the election.

    In terms of investments, it’s really hard to say. (And I’m not an expert, so don’t take this for gospel.) Speculating in currency is highly not likely to do much good. Investment in mutual funds that invest in reliable European firms is probably not too bad of an idea. Oil, maybe. I doubt very much that precious metals will outperform European stock funds. US stock funds are also probably a good idea–at least they are likely to be resistant to inflation; the problem is that the rot has gone pretty far and it’s hard to say who’s got the bad paper. On the other hand, inflation is good for people who owe money on fixed-rate loans.

  40. 40
    Randolph Fritz says:

    Oh! Krugman has another column on this, today. It’s not good. I think it’s entirely possible that Bush & the congressional conservatives will let things go smash until after the election. Or, perhaps, arrange something that transfers even more money to the hot little hands of their cronies, while letting the guilty off.

    …boy, are we in trouble…

  41. 41
    Rick Taylor says:

    I don’t have any objection of bailing out the fat cats, if it really does help the whole economy. But if we’re going to do that, let’s hike those top income taxes accordingly. The rich get the lion’s share of government handouts, let them pay for it without whining.

  42. 42
    Make7 says:

    I don’t think this is true, but it’s probably worth a read for the comedic value of the comments anyway:

    I BOUGHT 10,000 SHARES AT 32.00 ON FRIDAY

    on mrgin

    what do i do now????

    The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. – Yahoo Group

    Seriously, who would buy that much on margin without hedging their bet with options?

  43. 43
    Ross says:

    Those Krugman articles were pretty depressing.

  44. 44
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    Looking at the insider transactions at BSC, it is clear something was up on December 21st. I noticed that BSC director Paul Novelly has bought 75,000 shares since March 20th, 2006, for a total cost of $10,806,900.00. His average share cost was $144.092. He recently sold 50,000 shares for a return of $4,339,000.00. His average share value had dropped to $86.78. Ouch.

    At least he did better than everyone else did in this ‘sale’. The $2.00 a share price was still too high for worthless paper. The fat lady is nowhere near singing yet, this has a lot more to go as it unwinds.

    Capitalism my ass. Yup, cause that is where it will get you, every single time. The rich assholes just find some way to exploit the system, and we end up paying for it. This time there are so many crooks that it will be impossible to prosecute them.

    Anyone ever point out to rich people that there is only so much money in the world, and if you keep taking it all then there is less for everyone else? It seems like a simple bit of logic, that the masses support the economy, thus they need money to do so. If they don’t have a job because you exported it to save (make) more money, then how do you expect them to buy your product?

    When the $$$ stratifies to the top of the heap, the rest of the heap stagnates, rots, and collapses, bringing everyone down. Everyone wants to be rich in a capitalist market, but there are not enough resources or cash to do it. In the end, someone has to pay. Our economy is a nightmare version of musical chairs, and the music has stopped.

    Are you sitting or are you looking for a chair?

  45. 45
    jake says:

    Let’s see how that “Buy a huge company with chump change” plan to steady the market is working out, shall we?

    I’m sure markets in the rest of the world are rejoicing…

    Egads.

    Um. Look! Eliot Spitzer!

  46. 46
    DBrown says:

    The US Taxpayer puts up $30 billion in guarantee’s for JPMorgan’s purchase of BearStearns? So bush under the cheney presidency can provide welfare to a super rich corporation using American taxpayer money and where are the right-winger’s screaming about all the welfare at our expense? Capitalism is only a lie created by republicians to allow the American middle class to protect and fund corporations running this country into the ground. American soldiers die in Iraq for lack of equipment as the Iraq’s play games stealing oil to help fund the murder of these same Americans and cheney–bush provide risk free stocking to JPMorgan.

  47. 47
    Johnny Pez says:

    Does a Bear Sterns in the woods?

    (I apologize for that. I’m a weak man. A weak, weak man.)

  48. 48
    Johnny Pez says:

    Btw, I believe that $600 check from the government will just about pay for a high-powered rifle and a one-way bus trip to DC.

    Just sayin’.

  49. 49
    Sinister eyebrow says:

    I’m sure that the lovely folks who got the big wad of taxpayer cash to bail them out for their long string of crappy decisions are just going to be scrambling to pay back the taxpayers who put up the money. Not to worry.

    And, since they find themselves now on the losing end they will surely develop far more sympathy for the individuals who have lost their homes or healthcare or are otherwise suffering and begin advocating for more economic fairness, better regulation, universal healthcare, and short-term help for those people facing foreclosure. Because while it takes a self-absorbed moralizer to ignore the suffering of others and oppose efforts to help them, it takes a real hypocritical asshole to be someone who, after being saved from his own bad decisions by the helping hand of the government and taxpayers, opposes offering the same help to others who now face similar hardships (most of whom are suffering due to the bad decisions of the asshole who just got bailed out).

  50. 50
    DBrown says:

    So it gets better – the WP/Slate has pointed out that
    “Meanwhile, the Fed’s other major move of the day was no less dramatic or important, and the WSJ characterizes it as “one of the broadest expansions of its lending authority since the 1930s” because for at least the next six months securities dealers will be able to borrow from the central bank much like traditional banks. By making it possible for the investment firms to borrow money from the central bank as long as they put up collateral, “the Fed in effect is offering to be a lender of last resort for 20 major Wall Street firms, a role it has previously played only for commercial banks,” explains the WP.

    So the taxpayer is now the ‘bank of last resort” for the wealthy investor.

  51. 51
    Dork says:

    Btw, I believe that $600 check from the government will just about pay for a high-powered rifle and a one-way bus trip to DC.

    Just sayin’.

    Welcome to the No Fly List. And that new “click” you hear while making phone calls? Ignore that.

  52. 52

    Could someone please point me to the bailout here, because I’m not seeing it. The Fed certainly didn’t bailout Bear Stearns or its shareholders. They are getting $2 for shares that were worth $60 on Thursday. They aren’t even getting cash; for each share of BSC, they’re getting 0.05473 shares of JPM, which is likely to be worth significantly less than $2 when this is done. That isn’t bailing them out. That’s throwing them a bone to try to minimize the litigation and otherwise not gum up the system. The Fed told them that they’re screwed, and they get nothing.

    This isn’t really a bailout of JP Morgan, either. If the Fed doesn’t provide a backstop by taking on $30 billion of the crummiest assets, Morgan simply walks away from the deal. By buying Bear, they are assuming all of its liabilities, which are large enough that I suspect are large enough to mean that Bear has substantial negative net value. No Fed; no deal.

    If it were the case of no deal, you’d have had the large problem of trying to deal with a company in receivership. No one trades with it. The debt on its books becomes worse. The clearing business is in limbo.

    If anyone was bailed out here, it was a bunch of other parties who had made trades with Bear Stearns that were going bad not because the other party had made a bad call on the markets, but because Bear couldn’t pay out what they owed on the trade. I don’t have a problem with the Fed stepping in to assume some counterparty risk in order to keep the markets moving. That’s inherent in the job of being the lender of last resort, which is explicitly a part of its mandate.

  53. 53
    Punchy says:

    By making it possible for the investment firms to borrow money from the central bank as long as they put up collateral,

    Why would they bother? What happens to them if they default? They’ll just get bailed out again. They have ZERO incentive to actually pay their loans back, do they?

  54. 54
    4tehlulz says:

    Btw, I believe that $600 check from the government will just about pay for a high-powered rifle and a one-way bus trip to DC.

    Just sayin’.

    Say hi to the NSA for me.

    ‘sup FBI?

  55. 55
    4tehlulz says:

    If anyone was bailed out here, it was a bunch of other parties who had made trades with Bear Stearns that were going bad not because the other party had made a bad call on the markets, but because Bear couldn’t pay out what they owed on the trade.

    What makes you think that wasn’t JPM?

  56. 56

    Would you be shocked to learn that the global value of derivatives (a type of uncollateralized debt) is 10X global GDP, or 5X global real estate? It could make the sub-prime debacle look like good times. According to this Marketwatch article, the value of derivatives may be $500T or higher (they were only $100T just 5 years ago).

    The $500 trillion figure is thrown around for the sole purpose of scaring people. Interest rates swaps make up more than 85% of all outstanding derivatives contracts. The notional value of an interest rate swap is based upon what its value would be if the relevant rate went down to zero. In the case of most of these swaps, the chances of the rate getting anywhere close to 3% is miniscule. It is also the case that the amount of net derivatives is substantially smaller than $500 trillion; a lot of open positions are held as hedges against nearly identical trades in the opposite directions. To use stock options as an example, if someone has sold 1,000 contracts of XYZ January $20 puts, and has bought 1,000 contracts of XYZ January $15 puts as a hedge, you have a notional value of 200,000 shares of the underlying stock, while, in fact, you have net exposure of $500,000 total. While the notional value of the derivatives is $500 trillion, what’s at stake is vastly smaller than that.

    It’s enough to be very worried, but not that much. Notional values are extremely misleading.

  57. 57

    What makes you think that wasn’t JPM?

    It’s conceivable, but I think that it’s unlikely. The only way to conclude that JPM got bailed out is if they were the counterparty on an enormous percentage of Bear’s bad loans. If that’s the case, then one can see that the $30 billion in assets that the Fed backstopped would otherwise have sunk JPM.

    If Bear’s liabilities were spread much further around the markets, JPM just assumed the liabilities that BSC had to a lot of other companies, that led it to conclude that the company had net negative worth. They paid $2 anyway because it avoids a lot of hassle, and is essentially meaningless at this point.

    If the Fed doesn’t provide the backstop, Morgan almost certainly walks away from the table, and does nothing. Why should they pay anything for something that has negative value, without any of the other people Bear owes money to pitching in?

  58. 58

    I should add that there is a good case to be made that the Fed is being incompetent in its efforts to stave off crisis. Being corrupt and funneling money to their cronies does not seem to be a worry.

  59. 59
    zsa says:

    4tehlulz, I believe it’s the Secret Service which will be visiting our young Mr. Pez. They used to be under Treasury, but are now apparently part of DHS, or some such shit. I, for one, welcome our new homeland security monitors.

    More on topic … here’s my question … the Fed will “fund” 30 billion-with-a-motherfuckin-b of Bear’s crappy assets. But Morgan is paying less than 300 million for Bear itself. What’s up with that? What does “fund” mean in this context? Is this a fed guarantee that the assets won’t go tits-up? Or that the fed will reimburse the asset holder if they do? If so, why isn’t Bear worth 30 billion here?

  60. 60
    The Other Steve says:

    Do not worry!

    Bush will solve the problem with a tax cut!

  61. 61
    Scrutinizer says:

    This will be bad for the Democrats.

    Really.

  62. 62
    jon says:

    Bear Sterns is pennies on the weakened dollar compared to our Iraqi Welfare State bills. Can someone explain how getting deeper in debt to pay for something that’s not going to have dividends will in any way help us to get out of debt? But of course, it’s not about Iraq, but our position in the world. (Precariously perched on a ledge?) Yeah, yeah: Iran, North Korea, and China won’t bow before us if we don’t stick our dick in their faces, or whatever. I understand the need for the GOP to do something that will somehow involve China getting blamed, since it’s obviously their fault that we’re selling ourselves and they’re buying. And sure, it’s important that we build up hostility to the only people in the world who seem to be willing to prop up our economy, mostly because they’re too deeply invested in our debt addiction to make a clean break.

    How can we break our debt addiction? First of all, don’t buy anything we can’t afford. Second, demand that businesses and governments do the same. Third, don’t buy from companies and vote out politicians when they don’t listen. Fourth, hope the next batch understands that we’re fucked and this will take some leadership and strength to get us out of our stupid past. It sounds so simple, but it will kill people to admit it: we’re broke and need to look at all the books to see what needs changing. Good luck with all that.

    I’m lucky since I declared bankruptcy a year ago. Now I have a positive cash flow, can spend my cold hard cash foolishly if I choose to, am not very worried about four-dollar gas, and am building an addition to my (paid-for) home. And I’m getting credit card offers by the ton. I’ve learned my lesson and haven’t started going into debt again, but I have little confidence that the banks and investment houses will catch on.

  63. 63
    Punchy says:

    Dont worry. Once that $600 comes sometime this summer, it’ll be worth about $563, which one can invest in a CD that makes 1.8%, even though inflation is 2.1% or so, such that in 10 years, it’ll be worth $230, at which time it should buy a couple of really good bottles of whiskey.

    Which you’ll need.

  64. 64
    Conservatively Liberal says:

    4tehlulz Says:

    If anyone was bailed out here, it was a bunch of other parties who had made trades with Bear Stearns that were going bad not because the other party had made a bad call on the markets, but because Bear couldn’t pay out what they owed on the trade.

    What makes you think that wasn’t JPM?

    Lets see, Wilmington Bank of Boston has over 27 million shares of BSC which was worth over $1.7 billion dollars last week (@ $63.00 a share), and now those shares are worth just over $54 million at sale. Oh, who owns a huge chunk of Wilmington Bank?

    JPMorgan. This is a face saving move, or more aptly put, a bailout of JPM.

  65. 65
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    The shorter Fed:
    “These lunatics have destroyed the economy! Quick, send them more money!”

  66. 66
    Kirk Spencer says:

    Jon, it’s not about the ego (mostly). It’s about the oil.

    No, not about Halliburton et al profits (again, mostly). I mean – it’s about the oil, and access thereto.

    Ignore for a moment the assumption that we can produce less and less oil per day (peak oil), and take only the current known situation that demand for oil exceeds production – and for at least the next five to ten years growth in demand will exceed growth in production. Now add to it the fact that our economy – and the economy of most of the rest of the world – relies on constant and increasing access to oil.

    There are several ways to ensure you have first access to what is becoming a high-demand asset. Our administration attempted to – if not own a production site outright, have the owner be completely under our thumb.

    I happen to think it was a stupid move. The intent was valid, the reality on the ground wasn’t what was expected, and the execution – if achievable at all – failed pretty much completely.

    It’s not about our position in the world. It’s about oil.

  67. 67
    Svensker says:

    And sure, it’s important that we build up hostility to the only people in the world who seem to be willing to prop up our economy, mostly because they’re too deeply invested in our debt addiction to make a clean break.

    But, wait, we’re also building up hostility towards Iran and Venezuela, two big oil producers. Lesseee, our economy is tanking and we’d like more and cheaper oil. What should we do? I know! I know! Let’s antagonize countries that sell oil. Do I get the neo-con How I F*cked Up the World And Got Rich Doing It! prize?

  68. 68
    Mugatu says:

    can someone confirm for me my perception that only rich people invested with Bear Stearns?

    Depends on if you think county governments, insurance companies, and pension funds are “rich people”.

    I liked the blurb I saw where the BS selling price was less than the estimated value of the midtown headquarters building. Wheee!

  69. 69
    montysano says:

    Would you be shocked to learn that the global value of derivatives (a type of uncollateralized debt) is 10X global GDP, or 5X global real estate? It could make the sub-prime debacle look like good times. According to this Marketwatch article, the value of derivatives may be $500T or higher (they were only $100T just 5 years ago).

    The $500 trillion figure is thrown around for the sole purpose of scaring people. Interest rates swaps make up more than 85% of all outstanding derivatives contracts. The notional value of an interest rate swap is based upon what its value would be if the relevant rate went down to zero. In the case of most of these swaps, the chances of the rate getting anywhere close to 3% is miniscule. It is also the case that the amount of net derivatives is substantially smaller than $500 trillion; a lot of open positions are held as hedges against nearly identical trades in the opposite directions. To use stock options as an example, if someone has sold 1,000 contracts of XYZ January $20 puts, and has bought 1,000 contracts of XYZ January $15 puts as a hedge, you have a notional value of 200,000 shares of the underlying stock, while, in fact, you have net exposure of $500,000 total. While the notional value of the derivatives is $500 trillion, what’s at stake is vastly smaller than that.

    It’s enough to be very worried, but not that much. Notional values are extremely misleading.

    Ummm…… yeah. Well, I said that my take was probably simpleminded, and apparently it was. However, I’m not sure that this makes me feel much better. “It’s enough to be very worried, but not that much”. OK: I’ll go with “very worried”. I mean….. I have a degree in mathematics, but still have a hard time getting my head around this shit.

  70. 70
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Calculatedrisk does an autopsy on the JPM conference call over the weekend:

    Guy Moszkowski – Merrill Lynch – Analyst
    Okay, so then just to cap it off, it certainly doesn’t sound as if when you went in there you found a massive problem with respect to risk management or hedging. It sounds like given that you’re saying that it’s very similar to your own, it sounds like you found something that you’re fundamentally comfortable with. Is that fair?

    Bill Winters – JPMorgan Chase – Co-CEO, JPMorgan Investment Bank
    That’s right. In fact what we’ve — we were very pleasantly surprised to see that it was a very well run, tight operation with good risk controls and a risk discipline that was very similar to our own.

    Crikey! Methinks these gentlemen are looking down the wrong end of the telescope. If their own risk controls are similar enough to what they found at BSC, shouldn’t that be telling them something (which they don’t seem to want to hear right now) other than “be comforted”. This is like watching a horror movie where the dumb teenagers wander around a blacked out house with flashlights saying “did you hear a noise? Maybe we should go check out the basement”.

  71. 71
    RSA says:

    I liked the blurb I saw where the BS selling price was less than the estimated value of the midtown headquarters building.

    I liked the coincidence that the former CEO of BS, who left in 2006, walked away with just about the same amount of compensation ($230 million) that the company was bought for within the past few days. (This is a meaningless coincidence, of course, but it does highlight how much people at the top are getting paid for totally fucking up. I’d have been capable of driving BS into near-bankruptcy for 1% of that amount of money, myself.)

  72. 72
    Randolph Fritz says:

    “Could someone please point me to the bailout here, because I’m not seeing it.”

    The people being bailed out are the holders of shares in the bankrupt hedge funds and derivatives managed by Bear Stearns. The Fed is insuring Morgan–basically paying Morgan to clean up the mess; Morgan otherwise would not take on so much bad paper, or such a thankless task. Now, under the usual doctrine that risk is part of the game, this is an unreasonable thing to do, but in fact there’s a real risk that the major players will simply take their marbles and go home, making it impossible to fund even good investments. It’s scary out there. Ross, yeah, what can I say? At that, Krugman is fairly level-headed.

  73. 73
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    That’s right. In fact what we’ve—we were very pleasantly surprised to see that it was a very well run, tight operation with good risk controls and a risk discipline that was very similar to our own.

    And so “no one could have anticipated” that smoking hole where Bear Stearns’ market cap used to be? This bodes well for the future.

  74. 74
    4tehlulz says:

    That’s right. In fact what we’ve—we were very pleasantly surprised to see that it was a very well run, tight operation with good risk controls and a risk discipline that was very similar to our own.

    HA HA OH WOW We are so fucked.

  75. 75
    Randolph Fritz says:

    …but Brad Delong (Brad Delong!) thinks the Fed is just covering the ass of Bear Stearns execs. BTW, Delong is doing an excellent play-by-play of the broader crisis. (& there would be a link but the blogging swr. is eating it.)

  76. 76
    rawshark says:

    If the Fed doesn’t provide the backstop, Morgan almost certainly walks away from the table, and does nothing

    And this is bad why?

  77. 77
    Evinfuilt says:

    And this is bad why?

    think of all those poor unemployed execs who will no longer be able to get their “invisible-hand” jobs.

  78. 78

    […] I was pointed to this Paul Krugman article, which is a sequel to this piece. The Bear Stearns buyout is what touched it off. To which, someone wrote: “Ahh, GOP capitalism—where profits are privatized and losses are socialized. […]

  79. 79
    Delia says:

    And Georgie still can’t bring himself to say the R word while meanwhile the rest of us edge ever closer to the D word.

    Yes, Georgie, you’ve got your legacy and it’s on its way.

    DEPRESSION

  80. 80
    Perry Como says:

    So, in case anyone was wondering how the fucknut wingosphere was going to spin this, apparently the collapse of major financial institutions is due to minorities, poor people and the Clenis. I shit you not.

  81. 81
    Perry Como says:

    Another thing, it’s too bad we didn’t privatize social security and dump it all into the stock market. I’m sure that would have let us avoid any of these problems.

  82. 82
    Tax Analyst says:

    Punchy Says:

    By making it possible for the investment firms to borrow money from the central bank as long as they put up collateral,

    Why would they bother? What happens to them if they default? They’ll just get bailed out again. They have ZERO incentive to actually pay their loans back, do they?

    Punchy, I could be wrong, but I believe the “collateral” these Investment firms are putting up is the bad paper they hold on all those Sub-prime mortgage bond doo-hickey’s they loaded their cash into. The FED’s gonna hold that shit like it’s really worth something and give these jokers cash back to play some more games with. Then when those worthless sub-prime’s prove to be, well, worthless, the FED can print some more money up and we’ll all live happily ever after munching on $50 bags of Cheetos.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I was pointed to this Paul Krugman article, which is a sequel to this piece. The Bear Stearns buyout is what touched it off. To which, someone wrote: “Ahh, GOP capitalism—where profits are privatized and losses are socialized. […]

Comments are closed.