"…the great banking crisis of 2008 is over" says Time CNN
Well, there you go. And all that fuss for naught. (bolding is mine)
Time CNN declares:
Investors find it disconcerting to see the stocks in the huge financial institutions that are at the foundation of the global capital system trading up and down 25% a day, and, in some cases trading in the pennies. Banks became the visible and ugly wound that reminded Wall St. each day that it had torn down what it spent decades building, which was a money-making machine driven by leverage and the cleverest synthetic financial instruments the world has ever seen.
Wells Fargo’s big profits, and what that means for the financial system
But, the great banking crisis of 2008 is over. It began last September 15 when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and bottomed when Citigroup (C) traded below $1 last month. Most analysts believe that mortgage-backed securities which included packages of subprime home loans failed when mortgage default rates went up and housing prices raced down. That is only partially true. Banks made a tremendous series of ill-advised loans to private equity firms, hedge funds, commercial real estate holders, and the average man with a credit card balance which he cannot pay. (See pictures of the top 10 scared traders.)
When people look back on the near-collapse of the banking system they may say that the Congress and Henry Paulson threw enough money into the path of the oncoming failure of the credit system to slow it down so that the government could properly go through the process of guaranteeing parts of the balance sheets of firms including Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC). The initial TARP may also have provided time for the new Administration to put together its widely hailed bank “stress test” program meant to determine which of the big financial institutions have dysentery and which do not. Finally, the hundreds of billions of dollars that went into the largest banks late last year allowed Secretary Geithner to produce his public/private partnership to buy toxic assets off of bank balance sheets.
All of those plans, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem, are unnecessary now. Wells Fargo (WFC) indicated that it made about $3 billion in the first quarter of the year and declared its buyout of the deeply troubled Wachovia to be a success. Wells Fargo (WFC) said that the low cost of money from the government combined with a surging demand for mortgages was all the medicine that it required.
Banks stocks reacted to the news, which took the markets completely by surprise, by driving up Wells Fargo’s stock by 32%. Bank of America (BAC) shares jumped 35%.
Oddly absent from the discussion of how well Wells Fargo did is why the government was in the midst of testing bank balance sheets at all. The experts at the Treasury had been thrown off the scent and consequently had missed the fact that there was not need to test what is already working well. The same holds true for the Geithner plan to take toxic assets off bank balance sheets. It is academic now. What banks are earning from the difference between the cost of capital and the income from lending is now great enough for the banking system to be self-sustaining again.
UPDATE: Via Paul Krugman, don’t look behind the curtain of Wells Fargo’s “profits,” unless you want to see what a finance wizard really looks like. –klh