Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama Woos Investors

The eagerly awaited new plan from the US to save the economy and find a way to clear some of the bad assets off the balance sheets of their biggest banks is unveiled today. Wall Street initially reacted positively with the S&P up 7%. This plan is getting a better initial reaction than past plans. The idea is to get private investors in on the game and begin the task of setting prices on these toxic assets. Several of the organizations that would be asked to participate are showing early receptivity as seen by the comments from representatives of Blackrock out of NY, and PIMCO. The plan comes at a tumultuous time when not only is the fundamentals of the economy in dire jeopardy but public sentiment is boiling over regarding the AIG executive bonus fiasco. Now the very same people who the American taxpayer is so livid over for their pocketing of bailout funds are to be wooed into this latest concocted solution with the lure of double digit profits. Is it any wonder why Wall Street is reacting so well to this plan. The new plan looks to line the coffers of the very same people that got us into this tsunami in the first place.

Besides how positive can we be at this point when we see the mishandling in the past. The earlier plan called the Super SIV failed to garner private investment interest back in October of 2007. Then the TARP plan that came out late 2008 also failed. Now as we leave the gate on this one reactions seem to be more upbeat. They have finally made an attractive offer to investors as they court insurance companies, as well as hedge and pension funds. Of course the verdict is not out yet since we are just getting rolling. With so much at stake and so many snags abound it makes one wary of any new grand solutions. Mind you this is all supposed to unclog the economy and get things moving again. Even if it does that we have a lot more hurdles to overcome. In his typical fashion Obama tempered enthusiasm although he assured us we are "moving in the right direction." Wall Street certainly thought so with three firms that stand to benefit from the plan all rising, Blackrock Inc up 18%, Blackstone up 24%, and Fortress Investment Group up 37%.

Lets hope we are because in the wake of public sentiment over AIG and the clamoring in Congress things will have to look really promising if they are going to dole out anymore money if this plan expands. The price tag not unlike the Iraq War seems to keep going up like the debt itself. The other variable is what is the plan to coax the toxic assets from the banks at a severe loss. There are no guarantees the banks will give up their assets. Richard King of Invesco said banks may not "sell securities at below current marks."

It becomes a fools game when the US Government continues to have to go to same people that got us into trouble and ask then to help us. Maybe this is the way the game has to be played but it sure hurts and I have half a mind to think there was a better way. We've handed and continue to hand over the store to the honchos who've raided our cookie jar. What is going to stop them from doing it all over again? The firms that are excited about the plan stand to make some money, the banks can fight another day, and the taxpayers continue to hold on to a shred of hope as the rug keeps getting pulled out from under them. One view that fell from the pack today that I thought was interesting was from Kenneth Windheim of Strategic Fixed Income who said it would be cheaper to nationalize the banks, bring in new management, and sell off the assets. That may be a simplified way of looking at it, and I know Nationalizing banks is a big scary step but in the predicament we are in it sounds like it m ay end up happening anyway even after all of this tinkering.

Link to Reuters Article

Link to Bloomberg Article

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