Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kremlinologists--FDIC--what is the meaning of this?

Three tidbits--

1. Bernancke is scheduled for the entire hour of 60 minutes this Sunday.
2. Over 200 FDIC personnel have been sent to Puerto Rico for undisclosed reasons.
3. No banks were closed this Friday.

Speculation--point one has nothing to do with points two and three, but points two and three are related.

There are any number of messages the Fed Chairman could plan to deliver Sunday evening. One might be reassurances over the seizure of Citicorp or BofA, but that is only one, and coming on the heels of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting, not the most likely. It is possible, but not likely.

OTOH, the last week has seen positively bizarre announcements about Citicorp. An admission of hardly surprising contingency planning was immediately followed by a claim that the operating results of the bank were the best in several years (which did the stock so much good that Lewis of BofA made the same announcement about his bank later in the week). Somebody needs to tell those guys that their problems are in the operating results of the commercial banking operations, they lie in the areas of asset quality and capital markets trading activities.

As far as points 2 and 3 are concerned, the point towards the FDIC gearing up for an operation of a new order of magnitude. So far, the bank closures have been small--WAMU excepted, and that was orchestrated as a handoff to Chase. IndyMac is the biggest institution to date where the FDIC has actually taken control. My guess is that the feds are trying to get their ducks in a row for a larger resolution, though probably not the Citicorp size. There are a number of problem regionals--Ohio has a nice collection--and stepping up to one of those situations may very well be the next move.

Ah, for the days of decoding the meaning of who stood by whom on Lenin's Tomb reviewing the May Day Parades of days gone past.