Roundtable: Stress Test Winners and Losers

On the heels of much pre-announcement leaking from "sources familiar with the situation," the government released the official results from its bank stress tests.

After running its adverse scenarios, the government has effectively given nine banks a thumbs-up, and 10 banks a thumbs-down. The 10 that need to raise capital must raise a total of $74.6 billion, through some combination of selling assets, raising private capital, or begging the government for help. Take a look at the haves and have-nots:

Banks That Don't Need to Raise Capital

Banks That Need to Raise Capital

American Express (NYSE: AXP  )

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) -- $33.9 billion

Bank of New York Mellon

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) -- $13.7 billion

BB&T

GMAC -- $11.5 billion

Capital One

Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) -- $5.5 billion

Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  )

Regions Financial -- $2.5 billion

JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  )

Suntrust -- $2.2 billion

Met Life

KeyCorp-$1.8 billion

State Street

Morgan Stanley -- $1.8 billion

US Bancorp (NYSE: USB  )

Fifth Third -- $1.1 billion

 

PNC Financial -- $0.6 billion

A few of our writers and editors weighed in on the big post-stress test questions:

Who was the big winner, and who was the big loser?

Alex Dumortier, Fool writer: If this week's stock performance of the banks under scrutiny is anything to go by, there aren't any losers -- only winners. Of course, short-term price action doesn't necessarily reflect economic reality. Nevertheless, Citigroup is a big winner if the Financial Times' report that the troubled bank succeeded in convincing the government to lower its estimated capital shortfall from $30 billion-plus to just $5.5 billion is accurate. At the other end of the scale, Bank of America's $33.9 billion shortfall seems to have exceeded expectations.

My concern is that investors and authorities will be lulled into thinking the results of this test are somehow final and definitive. If conditions deteriorate beyond expectations, that illusion would be extremely pernicious, and we -- investors, consumers, business owners -- would all end up losers.

Morgan Housel, Fool writer: The biggest winner could be Bank of New York Mellon, which doesn't have to raise any capital. Its business model caters to trust and custodial services, rather than consumer-based lending, which has been so susceptible to blowups. While BNY Mellon certainly hasn't been immune, it's been unfairly lumped in with other banks far too often. Passing the stress test reiterates that it isn't part of many of the horror stories you read in the headlines, which I'm sure is a burden management is happy to get rid of.

The biggest loser? I doubt Bank of America is proud that it alone represents half the capital the entire industry is being forced to raise.

Matt Koppenheffer, Fool writer: For the big loser, I'm going to go right along with how the results actually shook out -- Bank of America. The loss projections show that the bank is still sitting on a considerable amount of lackluster loans, and given that its most recently reported shareholders' equity was $240 billion (a chunk of which is government-preferred shares), raising $34 billion isn't chump change. As for the winner, I'm not going to go with a single name -- I'm choosing all the banks that got a passing grade on the stress test. I'm not convinced that this is an "all clear" for these folks, but I think the market may take it that way.

Anand Chokkavelu, Fool editor: All those receiving stress-test participation ribbons are winners! The nine that aren't required to raise more capital got a great seal of approval from the government. The 10 that do have to raise capital may be able to use the recent bank-stock euphoria to raise private capital at reasonable prices. 

Will the TARP, PPIP, the other acronyms, and these capital raises be enough, or is nationalization coming? Is there now enough clarity around banks to consider them as investments, rather than speculation?

Dumortier: Nationalization has already occurred to some degree – Citigroup is the furthest along down that path. The stress test has shed some light on the relative health of the large banks by providing a single, consistent framework for evaluating potential losses. However, it doesn't by any means turn the page on the credit crisis. Although the market appears to be hanging its hopes on the recent spate of positive economic news, these so-called "green shoots" are pretty fragile, and they could easily be extinguished by an economic frost. It remains to be seen how loans/securities on bank balance sheets will perform over time.

Certain banks look like decent bets right now – but I'd recommend that investors restrict themselves to the highest-quality names.

Housel: I think investors should redefine "nationalization" before they question whether it's coming or not. Before the stress-test results, Citigroup had already agreed to become roughly 36% owned by the government; other banks might be telling similar stories if they convert preferred stock into common equity. When the government is the largest shareholder by far, I think it's a stretch to claim that nationalization has been averted.

Will the alphabet soup of bailouts be enough? Who knows? The forward-looking assumptions used for the stress test were created by people who didn't foresee this happening in the first place, which isn't reassuring.

As for investing in these banks, you'll still get a firm "no" out of me. Raising capital is designed to help them through the 100-year storm, but that storm will still make their lives miserable for years to come. 

Koppenheffer: I'm removing "nationalization" from my vocabulary. If there's one thing the regulators made perfectly clear in these stress tests, it's their disinterest in taking over the big banks. At this point, I'd see President Obama resigning to pursue a pro basketball career before he seriously considered nationalization. As for investing in the banks, I think there are definitely some names on the stress test list worth digging into. Citigroup and Bank of America, however, still fall on the more speculative end of the spectrum for me.

Chokkavelu: Similar thoughts from me. We are getting de facto nationalization when the government is a bank's largest shareholder. That being said, I'm starting to come around to the point of view that the government will not officially nationalize any of the banks beyond the usual FDIC procedures. If that's the case, then investors who are both confident in management and confident in their ability to assess the quality of a bank's balance sheet should start making a wish list. If bank stocks fall back to tastier levels, it may be go time.

More good stuff:

This roundtable article was compiled by Anand Chokkavelu. Anand owns long-held shares of Citigroup. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (39)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 12:24 PM, PricePro12 wrote:

    .You got that right . Stress Test Scam is an UNDERSTATEMENT.

    When the former Managing Director of Citigroup LAUGHS at the Stress Test results and says they PROVE NOTHING and only draw attention AWAY from the REAL accounting problems and asset liabilities, do the math.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 12:26 PM, FinancialFellow wrote:

    Glad to hear that at least some major banks don't need to raise any more capital for the time being. That said, I have some questions about the stress test logic used in determining the amounts. How is Citi able to convince the government to lower its number from $30 Billion to $5 Billion. To me that means that either 1) The stress test has flaws or 2) The government is being overly flexible with the banks.

    Over the long haul I believe banking will continue to be a good place to invest and a successful business. It just needs a few more controls put in place. Recently, companies have sprung up that enable individuals the ability to reap profits the same way banks have: http://financialfellow.com/2009/04/22/peer-to-peer-lending-o...

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 4:01 PM, SideShowMel0329 wrote:

    The winner has to be Citigroup, going from what we thought was the worst bank on the list to one that's beat out both BAC and WFC...

    But I agree with most CAPs members when they say the Stress Test shouldn't be given too much weight in your buying opinions.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 6:36 PM, IIcx wrote:

    tragic but true -- it's all about a bunch of "old farts" and their notion of ...

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  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 6:37 PM, IIcx wrote:
  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 7:21 PM, WishToRetire wrote:

    So they've got abough capital (or can raise it). What about the elephant on the table that's not being talked about for some reason, which is the 3.5 Trillion in bad mortgages? The toxic assets, as they are called.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 7:23 PM, robertf36009 wrote:

    Some of those on the list rejected TARP funding and have been rewarded by their shares rebounding markedly. I have had Metropolitan (MET) from it's IPO as a core asset. While it got creamed with the rest of the sector it has been steller of late Along with the Principle group (PFG). Unfortunately I opened positions in BofA (BAC) and Citti (C) on the way down at $18 hedged at $8. Those may take years to recover. Live and learn. While the stress test was bogus it did serve to point out which of the endangered banks may be worth a look. Fool on.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2009, at 7:33 PM, automaticaev wrote:

    this "crisis" has made city very very well known and a very high volume stock. That is where you want to be right now.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2009, at 2:21 AM, Paqofu wrote:

    And what about the other elephant in the room, the trillions of derivative contracts with counter-parties all over the world.

    I would not trade any of the big bank stocks for any length of time. They are day-trading fodder for now.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2009, at 2:01 PM, boverby711 wrote:

    I'm rather disappointed in our Fool Staff that seems to be taking the bait that is the stress test results. And what Kool Aid has Koppenheffer been drinking to think that this administration has no interest in taking over any of the banking industry. They've already bought into the Auto and Insurance industries and begun replacing CEOs "they" deem are ineffective. I don't want my government telling me who needs more capital or who should be running companies.

    Some areas of this website really disappoint me.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2009, at 12:08 PM, PricePro12 wrote:

    You want to know how to use the stock market like a pro?

    Spotting Common Breakout Patterns

    By John C. Lee

    At Greenfaucet.com

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2009, at 7:50 PM, kyddfool wrote:

    Watch out boys........the "stress test" is a sham and the banks are extremely unhealthy. Nothing has changed except for the worse and hang on - you're going to see. And in the not distant future.

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