The Sunny Side of Lehman's Earnings

Sep.19.07 | About: Lehman Brothers (LEH)

The Lehman (LEH) earnings look weirdly different now, in the aftermath of the 50bp rate cut, than they did yesterday morning, when most of the market was expecting just 25bp. Back then, John Carney was doing his best Old Curmudgeon act, scornfully saying that he really couldn't believe a word that Lehman was saying. Antony Currie was pointing out that the earnings embraced so warmly by Wall Street were basically predicated on the fact that Lehman paid far too much tax earlier this year and therefore needed to pay less in the second half. And Mike Mayo of Deutsche Bank summed it all up by saying that it "could have been worse".

Now, however, things are looking sunnier, and Lehman CFO Chris O'Meara's credit-market optimism seems less desperate than it did. "The worst of this credit correction is behind us," he said on the conference call, and there's at least some chance that he might be right. Certainly the stock market liked what it heard, with Lehman's shares closing up 10% on the day – a big move even by the volatile standards of recent weeks.

O'Meara was upbeat too on the investment-banking front, where healthy profits helped to offset losses on the credit side of the business, and where total deal volume in 2007 is apparently on track to beat 2006's record by more than 15%.

So right now, in the euphoric wake of Bernanke's put, I can't quite get the idea out of my head that the worst might really be over. I'm sure that I'll be back to normal tomorrow, though.