Fool Blog: Financials Drop a Bomb

As the Fool editor in charge of banks and whatnot, I've been stressed these last few days. And you know what that means: It's time to rant!

You may not be an idiot ...
Armchair investors will call anyone who has recommended financials in the last few years an idiot. Meanwhile, they'll praise companies like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) , and people like hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, who correctly timed the subprime collapse. Don't believe the hype on one right or wrong call. Most of it is just temporary beauty.

... Or a genius
Quick non-financial thought: The same thing goes for energy investors who've made a recent killing. Over the last few years, anyone investing in commodity or oil companies like Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP  ) or ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) looks like a regular Einstein. (I wonder what his portfolio looked like?) Learn from the Internet and housing bubbles. Every bubble has some underlying fundamentals, but prices during bubbles greatly outstrip those fundamentals. This time's no different.

Double Mac attack
Only the government would sponsor entities named Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM  ) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE  ) . They sound like people your grandpa dated or played football with in high school. But seriously, before we put them in the same "gross irresponsibility" category as Bear Stearns and IndyMac, remember that Fannie and Freddie were basically just doing their jobs ... ensuring liquidity in the housing market. Still, there are some agency issues with a public company that gets government backup.

Beware the banks
Even with the discount prices and through-the-roof dividend yields (Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) and SunTrust (NYSE: STI  ) , for example, are both in the double digits), Fools shouldn't jump into just any bank stock. At the very least, crack open their latest filings and see what kind of loans they still have on their books. Beware of big numbers after line items like ARMs, subprime loans, and construction loans. They lead to writedowns -- and portfolio beatdowns.

Don't fear the reaper, fear the fortress
It's hard enough to understand a regular old bank. Investment banks throw on a whole heapin' helpin' of fancy instruments and obfuscation. Good luck valuing them. Take the obfuscation up 10 notches, and you've got hedge funds. Do yourself a favor, and don't even think about investing in a public hedge fund like Blackstone or Fortress.

And ... breathe out
Your turn to vent. Join my purging by adding a comment below.

Further Foolishness:

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares in any of the stocks mentioned. Check out his CAPS blog for more nuggets. Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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