Sometimes, a bailout is not enough.
When Dubai World black swanned global investors last month with what amounts to be a reported $80 Billion in debt liabilities, it sent shivers down the spine of many a financial manager and stock trader. For those who were paying attention, Dubai’s troubled assets were no surprise, it was simply a matter of time. Oft repeated by contrarian analysts and investors like Dr. Doom Marc Faber, Gerald Celente, Jim Rogers, and Karl Denninger, the mathematical certainty of the economic crisis would play out - eventually.
It was a year ago that the entire global financial system, spear headed by the USA, faced the real possibility of total meltdown, that is if you trust the motivational fear tactics employed former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
This week, the American public received word that the banks once deemed too-big-to-fail will be paying back their TARP funds, ostensibly because they are now cured of the financial contagion that threatened sudden death, economic collapse and the implemntation of martial law.
In addition to Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase, we have commercial real estate powerhouse and partially owned subsidiary of Warren Buffet Enterprises, Wells Fargo, which announced it will sell $10.4 billion in stock and exit the TARP bailout. According to a company statement, the bank plans to pay back $25 billion in taxpayer funds. CEO John Stumpf, presumably also doing gods work, says “we’re ready to fully repay TARP in a way that serves the interests of the U.S. taxpayer, as well as our customers, team members and investors.” Management did not comment on whether the share sales totaling around $14.8 billion, when you count additional plans to raise capital, will devalue, by way of dilution, the amount of market capitalization held by shareholders.
Citibank, who also committed to repaying $20 billion in TARP funds yesterday saw a stream of positive news throughout the media when they announced their intentions. Just 24 hours later, Bloomberg reports that Citigroup’s Exit From the Bailout is Clouded by Citi Holdings Assets. It seems that CEO Vikram Pandit failed to mention that his company is “emerging from a U.S. bailout with higher capital levels and loan-loss reserves than any peer.” That amount to somehwere in the area of $617 billion.
Dubai showed how investors and traders are ready to run at the first sign of trouble. As has been the case for the last nine months, however, the Dubai crisis was quickly subdued by stories of bailouts from their sister city, Abu Dhabi. And indeed, Dubai has been rescued with what amounts to be a $10 billion bailout that should help the former real estate Mecca of the Middle East make at least a few payments to keep it a float for a little bit longer. Regional investment firms will receive some of their funds, but as for non-Middle Eastern investors, the verdict is still out, though, as Abu Dhabi’s rulers said, “they will not necessarily just bail out everyone across the board. They will be selective.”
This seems to be the norm these days, so it’s no surprise. Certain entities, for whatever reasons, are bailed out, while others suffer the collapse of their wealth for trusting in the belief that asset prices always go up forever.
As Real Estate Collapse (Wave One) in the US proved, no asset will appreciate all the time. Like Dubai, the underlying assets in America, Europe, and even China have been slowly simmering for the last year or so. And once the public gets a taste of the toxicity, there will be no stopping the panic as everyone in just about every asset class decides to run for the exit.
When the panic does start, it may be an event perceived to be too-small-to-matter, like a Dubai that exposes several larger global players, which leads to a domino effect that will echo through the entire financial markets. It may start with debt defaults in an Euro Zone country like Greece or Hungary, or maybe with commercial real estate or Wave Two of the Mortgage Meltdown in the US. It could be a geo-political event with Iran and Israel, or a terrorist attack on a Saudi Arabian pipeline.
Right now, the world is on edge. The citizens of the US, as well as the global public don’t really know who to trust to tell them the truth. They are on alert, consciously or subconsciously, and if they perceive even a small threat, the fight-or-flight system will be activated.
Some say that a year ago we faced economic disaster on a massive scale. In one year, governments around the world have printed money, and done little else, except to provide daily lip service and commentary. The contagion has been lying dormant and will become an epidemic.
No bailout will stop it.
Disclosure: Disclosure: Short BAC