After Citi, is Bank of America next?



NEW YORK (Reuters) - A government rescue plan has eased investors' concerns about Citigroup Inc, but mines lurking in the balance sheets of rivals including Bank of America Corp could still tempt short-sellers.

Bank of America, the No. 3 U.S. bank by assets, has loaded up on mortgages as the world's largest economy wrestles with the worst housing market since the Great Depression.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank further heightened its exposure to home loans by acquiring Countrywide Financial Corp, the largest U.S. independent mortgage lender and agreeing to buy Merrill Lynch & Co, which owns the world's largest retail brokerage.

If losses on mortgages and other debt securities mount significantly, the bank may see the ratio of equity to risk-weighted assets, known as Tier-1 capital, dwindle to alarmingly low levels.

"I would expect there are more banks who are in dire straits and more who can expect to be helped," said Michael Farr, president of investment management company Farr, Miller & Washington in Washington, D.C. "The share price makes it look like Bank of America might be next in line," he said.

Before Monday's stock market rally, Bank of America shares had lost 52 percent in November alone, making them the second biggest decliner for the month in the KBW Banks index after Citigroup.

Analysts at independent research company CreditSights forecast that in a scenario where the commercial and residential real estate markets really tank beyond banks' expectations, Bank of America would have a Tier-1 capital ratio of 7.15 percent.

The minimum that regulators seek to consider a bank "well capitalized" is 6 percent, but any ratio near or below 7 percent tends to spook investors.

Bank of America declined comment.

CreditSights also expressed concern about Wells Fargo & Co, which it said would have a Tier-1 capital ratio of 6.98 percent under its worst case scenario. Wells Fargo recently agreed to buy Wachovia Corp.

Under the same assumptions, and before the government's latest investment, Citigroup would have a Tier-1 capital ratio of 8.64 percent.

Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, declined to comment.

To be sure, by some measures Citigroup looks worse than Bank of America and Wells Fargo, most notably the ratio of tangible assets to tangible equity, a metric on which some investors have focused.

Citigroup's tangible assets are about 42 times shareholder equity minus intangible assets, compared with 11 times for Bank of America.

The U.S. banking system is broadly undercapitalized, perhaps to the tune of more than $1 trillion, and the only investor that can bail it out is the U.S. government, analysts said.

"The banks already have an enormous hole to plug, and the recession will make that hole larger," noted Daniel Alpert, investment banker at Westwood Capital in New York, estimating banks may need to write down $1 trillion more in bad debt, in addition to the roughly $750 billion announced so far.

TOXIC MORTGAGES

Bank of America, through its acquisition of Countrywide, has more than $250 billion in residential mortgages and while it has stopped offering some of the most toxic types of mortgages, chargeoffs in the portfolio are increasing.

Wells Fargo inherited a portfolio of more than $260 billion in consumer loans when it acquired Wachovia, and JPMorgan Chase & Co acquired exposure to some of the most risky classes of mortgages, in addition to its own large consumer loan portfolio, when it bought Washington Mutual Inc.

Still, there are big differences. Critically for Citigroup, investors lost confidence in the company and its management after it failed to buy Wachovia Corp, thereby losing an important potential source of deposit-based funding, analysts said.

"The difference between Citi and the other three is that Citi clearly had more suspect management," said Mal Polley, chief investment officer at Stewart Capital Advisors in Pittsburgh. "They had not done enough to take the fat out of the system and right the ship," he added.

But management at Bank of America and Wells Fargo, and even JPMorgan, widely regarded as the bank that has best survived the credit crisis to date, will need to allay investors' concerns about their capital position as financial conditions worsen.

And if their losses are big enough, or investors fear they will be big enough, Bank of America and Wells Fargo could turn to the same place Citigroup did: the U.S. government.

"I definitely think other companies will need this help," said Paul Miller, analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co in New York.

Copyright 2008 Reuters. click for restrictions

Critical race theory: The education trap

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The fall semester isn't far away. If you aren't prepared for that, someone else is. Predatory behavior. The most important takeaway from this piece is, whatever is happening on campuses right now is what is going to play out through the rest of society in about 30 years. We're seeing it right now with Critical Race Theory.

It started on the campus. It started in the classroom. And our children are set to be the next victims in the cultural warfare for a nightmare that seems like it will never end.

Colleges are manipulating the system.

It's a little ironic that colleges are overflowing with Marxist professors who preach the Gospel of Karl Marx in their classrooms, because academia in America is the perfect example of capitalist achievement. If anything, colleges are manipulating the system in a way that should make Marxists furious. And they hurt the people that Marxism is supposed to rescue.

Colleges are an enterprise. They are Big Business. It means nothing to them to send thousands of students into debt—not if it means the campus will get a new fountain or another office for the Diversity and Inclusion department.

They'll never admit it, but a big part of their problem is that they have put so much into the myth of progress. They can't even admit that it's a myth. Because it's useful to them.

Roger Scruton once said:

Hence the invocations of "progress", of "growth", of constant "advance" towards the goal which, however, must remain always somewhere in the future.

In reality, they don't give a damn about actual progress.

That's how they have turned academia into instruments of social engineering. They use college to change society.

Their purpose is no longer educational. It's social. They're using the classrooms to cause social change.

This post is part of a series on critical race theory. Read the full series here.

On Monday's radio program, Glenn Beck and Stu Burguiere were joined by Pat Gray to discuss "woke" Olympic athletes.

In this clip, the guys discussed how "bravely" some athletes are for threatening to protest the national anthem, for twerking on stage, and for showing off how woke they are.

Glenn reminded America of actual bravery at the Olympics when Jesse Owens won the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. "He [Owens] was oppressed," Glenn said.

Watch the clip to hear Glenn tell the full story. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Political commentator Bill O'Reilly joined the Glenn Beck radio program on Friday made an important prediction about President Joe Biden's chance of reelection in 2024.

O'Reilly told Glenn that former President Donald Trump was brought down because of COVID. "if COVID had not appeared, O'Reilly stated, "he [Trump] would have won reelection."

O'Reilly went on to predict that like Trump, President Joe Biden would lose reelection because of COVID. People saw a president who could not put out an intelligent fact-based message about COVID and people will remember that," he explained.

O'Reilly later added that "Trump and Biden are one-termers because of COVID."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Critical race theory: Marxism is a religion

Uttam Sheth/Flickr

Marx didn't actually tell his followers that the system needed to be destroyed. And it's not what Marx actually believed. Very few Marxists actually understand what Marx laid out.

Marxism isn't a list of demands and instructions. It's Marx's attempt to tell the future. Some of it he got right, most he got wrong. For example, he predicted the rise of automation.

Believe it or not, Marx was not an anti-capitalist. If anything, he revered it.

In a letter to Engels, he complained that too many people misunderstood his message, that his plan is to merge with capitalism. To make it new. He wanted to reify his brand of socialism, reify is a Marxist term, actually. It basically means to make an abstract idea concrete.

Marx didn't hate capitalism. He actually thought it was necessary. And he knew communism would never happen without the aid of capitalism.

Marx didn't hate capitalism. He actually thought it was necessary.

From there, he takes these ideas to some weird conclusions. Horrible conclusions. The main one being revolution.

What does the first phase of the Marxist revolution look like? How will we know if it has started? How can we tell if it's already begun? Marx's idea of the "dictatorship of the proletariat," where the working class would rise up in revolution and earn their freedom.

But what did Marx mean by freedom? Like so much of Marxism, it involves giving up your individuality, in service to the collective: "Only in community with others does each individual have the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible."

That's from his book The German Ideology, which he co-wrote with Friedrich Engels, the guy who paid all of his bills: "Free competition, which is based on the idea of individual freedom, simply amounts to the relation of capital to itself as another capital."

His idea here is that capital ruins any idea of freedom or individuality. And competition is what he uses as proof. In other words, Marx's definition of freedom has nothing to do with actual freedom, freedom as we know it.

He wrote, in Capital: "It is not individuals who are set free by free competition; it is, rather, capital which is set free."

He's saying that Capital manipulates our individual freedom and forces us to exploit ourselves. For someone who didn't believe in God, he sure had some fanciful ideas about the forces that control the universe.

For someone who didn't believe in God, he sure had some fanciful ideas about the forces that control the universe.

Marxists have always argued that capitalism is a religion. That our debt to capital is no different than our debt to God. Critical Theorist Walter Benjamin wrote an entire book called Capitalism as Religion, and wrote that capitalism is "the first case of a cult that creates guilt, not atonement."

There were many strains of socialism before Marx. There were entire movements, named after socialist and anarchist philosophers. But Marx was the one who figured it out, with the help of a rotating cast of people paying for his sloth, of course.

Marx's influence on socialism was so profound that socialism was practically re-named in honor of Marx. Marx has been deified.

He created a utopian society. Very hypothetical. It requires a working class that is devoted to daily readings of The Communist Manifesto.

This assumes that people who work all day — at a real job, where they can't just sit on the couch all day as Marx did — even have the energy to read dense theory when they get home.

Marx made a religion.

This post is part of a series on critical race theory. Read the full series here.