Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Whitney on the 300B TARP Funds

via FT

Whitney: TARP funds go down the downgrade drainPosted by Sam Jones on Jan 07 14:43.

La lutte continue.

Forget the short-lived buzz of $300bn in TARP stimulus, pain for the banks is far from over. Real deleveraging is only just beginning to gather speed; the world economy has yet to enter its worst months, and there are certainly more writedowns to come.

Oppenheimer’s Meredith Whitney is - when it comes to banks’ capital positions - the analyst to turn to. And fortunately, she has a note out today:We now believe that, at a minimum, capital ratios will be meaningfully lower in the fourth quarter versus post TARP pro forma levels. Aside from the greater than $40 billion in writedowns and provisions we expect for the group of bank stocks under our coverage, and earnings pressure related to chronic negative operating leverage, we also expect capital strains to become apparent from ratings change pressures. Accordingly, we maintain our cautious stance on our group.

The thrust of Whitney’s note is nothing new: she reiterates her “ring of fire” position, whereby ratings downgrades on securities owned by the banks punch huge holes in banks’ balance sheets thanks to onerous regulatory capital requirements. Lower rated securities require larger amounts of regulatory capital in reserve.

And for anyone sceptical as to the significance of that relationship…
The interesting part of the latest note comes in quantifying the scale of the rating agency downgrades so far - and more importantly, demonstrating that the worst of them have only just worked through:

Clearly, Q4 of 2008 was the worst period so far in terms of security downgrades by a country mile:

The effect of those Q4 downgrades, estimates Whitney, will be to more or less drain all TARP money pumped into the system so far. Expressed below as Opco analysts on upcoming writedowns for Wall Steet’s finest:

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Oppenheimer writedown estimates

Calculated Risk on FOMC Statement

Fed Fears Long Recession
by CalculatedRisk on 1/06/2009 02:17:00 PM

The Fed projects GDP to decline in 2009 "as a whole", and unemployment to "rise significantly into 2010". The Fed also expects disinflationary pressures to continue into 2010.

From the FOMC Minutes:

In the forecast prepared for the meeting, the staff revised down sharply its outlook for economic activity in 2009 but continued to project a moderate recovery in 2010. Real GDP appeared likely to decline substantially in the fourth quarter of 2008 as conditions in the labor market deteriorated more steeply than previously anticipated; the decline in industrial production intensified; consumer and business spending appeared to weaken; and financial conditions, on balance, continued to tighten. Rising unemployment, the declines in stock market wealth, low levels of consumer sentiment, weakened household balance sheets, and restrictive credit conditions were likely to continue to hinder household spending over the near term.

Homebuilding was expected to contract further. Business expenditures were also likely to be held back by a weaker sales outlook and tighter credit conditions. Oil prices, which dropped significantly during the intermeeting period, were assumed to rise over the next two years in line with the path indicated by futures market prices, but to remain below the levels of October 2008. All told, real GDP was expected to fall much more sharply in the first half of 2009 than previously anticipated, before slowly recovering over the remainder of the year as the stimulus from monetary and assumed fiscal policy actions gained traction and the turmoil in the financial system began to recede. Real GDP was projected to decline for 2009 as a whole and to rise at a pace slightly above the rate of potential growth in 2010. Amid the weaker outlook for economic activity over the next year, the unemployment rate was likely to rise significantly into 2010, to a level higher than projected at the time of the October 28-29 FOMC meeting. The disinflationary effects of increased slack in resource utilization, diminished pressures from energy and materials prices, declines in import prices, and further moderate reductions in inflation expectations caused the staff to reduce its forecast for both core and overall PCE inflation. Core inflation was projected to slow considerably in 2009 and then to edge down further in 2010.

emphasis added