September 15, 2008 – 7:58 am

This post contributed by Edward Harrison of Credit Writedowns

In case you missed it, the financial system in the US is near collapse. This weekend was unbelievable. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The world’s largest insurer AIG is looking for the Fed to help it avoid collapse and Merrill Lynch was forced to close a deal with Bank of America to save it’s own hide.

Just another day at the office? Hardly. Dow Futures are down 350 points and the FTSE in London is already off nearly 5%. So get ready, this is going to be a very, very difficult day in the markets. Here’s the news of importance:

It all started on Monday last week. In the aftermath of the Fannie and Freddie bailout, market nerves were not calmed. Washington Mutual fired its CEO and announced it had an ominous agreement with the OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision).

Meanwhile Lehman Brothers released an early third quarter earnings report that was widely panned by analysts.

Then, it became obvious that some major losses in the Credit Default Swaps (CDS) market were in the offing due to the takeover of the GSE’s by the government. That was going to hit companies like AIG, which had a huge exposure to the CDS market.

The result was a meltdown in shares of WaMu, Lehman and AIG on Friday.

The Fed called an emergency meeting to deal with Lehman. No agreement was found and Lehman declared bankruptcy early this morning. They have assets of $500 billion

AIG dealt with three buyout shops to shore up its capital base but rejected an offer and went hat in hand to the Fed instead. They have assets of $1 trillion.

WaMu has not seemed to do anything. But rumors are swirling and they will come under great pressure this morning. Oh, and they have assets of $300 billion.

Merrill Lynch was the coup of the day. They struck a deal with Bank of America at a significant premium to both book value and the prevailing market price of their shares. Given what we are likely to see today, Merrill Lynch and its shareholders have to be very very happy. They can say, “thank you very much, John Thain.” Oh, and they have a assets of $1 trillion.

So, we’re talking about combined assets of $2.8 trillion here.

So, the day begins with one company gone (Lehman). Two companies under heavy selling pressure (AIG and WaMu) and one company loving life (Merrill Lynch). Who else should we watch?

All the regional financials, the home builders, and the Commercial Real Estate REITs are all going to be under heavy selling pressure.

Brace yourself!

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