And so it begins. I’m talking about earnings estimate revisions for banks. And yes, they are headed lower. First up is Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS). Credit Suisse analyst Howard Chen was expecting a profit of $0.80 a share. Now he says a $0.40 loss is more likely.
Oppenheimer’s Chris Kotowski dropped his expected $0.20 per share loss to $0.94 per share.
Ironically, part of the reason for the downward revisions is Morgan Stanley’s credit quality. But even this is misleading. Accounting rule changes earlier this year allowed falling prices for a company’s debt to be treated as a profit on the assumption that the company could show a paper profit by buying back debt at a price lower than what it was sold for.
Make sense. If you sell a bond at $1 and can buy it back for $0,50, you’ve essentially made $0.50. But of course, no banks actually did this. They didn’t have the cash on hand to buy back debt, because one of the reasons a company’s debt falls in value is because investors realize the company has assets that are worth less. In the case of the banks, these impaired assets are often non-performing loans or mortgage related securities.
As these assets fall in value, the banks have to hold more loss reserves. That, of course precludes them from buying back their own debt.
*****It should be obvious that accounting rules allowing banks to treat falling prices for its own debt as profits is a complete sham. The measure is a bookkeeping trick designed to let the banks appear healthier while they get their act together. It’s just buying time.
Will it be enough time? I don’t see how that’s possible, and I’ve outlined my reasoning over the last few days. Basically, unemployment is still rising (the unemployment rate hit 9.5% today) and the improvement in the housing market appears to be temporary based on foreclosure sales and government mortgage assistance. Some see "green shoots" here. I don’t.
*****There’s at least one IPO market getting ready to heat up. No, it’s not the U.S. It’s China. As many as 100 Chinese companies may be getting ready to list their shares in Hong Kong. And many will come calling for inclusion on U.S. indices as well.
The first company that will float their shares to the public will be a holding company that’s constructing high-speed railroads between Shanghai and Beijing. The $5 billion China expects to raise will go to expand other railways.
Bloomberg reports that since China announced its $585 billion stimulus plan, it’s more than doubled its spending on railroads.
This is more evidence that China is one of the few countries in the world that can actually grow its economy without taking on massive debt. I view this as very bullish and it’s why I’ve been recommending Chinese stocks frequently in my SmallCapInvestor PRO advisory service. To discover what we’re buying to take advantage of China’s stimulus spending, click HERE.
*****Here’s TradeMaster Daily Stock Alerts’ Jason Cimpl with his weekly video chart analysis.
*****Finally, I want to wish everyone a great 4th of July holiday. And if you’re driving, do it safely. Let’s get everyone home safe. I’ll talk to you on Monday.