Financial Collapse: Banks Going Quietly Into the Night?
In a somewhat solemn moment, Cramer brings up a problem lurking in the market: stocks dropping without a sound. There's plenty of noise about certain companies because someone said this or that, but what of the ones that sink quietly? Lately, there are more of these companies going quietly into the night: banks, brokers, homebuilders -- the trifecta (or "Achilles' heel" per Cramer's label) of the down market. These companies are failing not because of things said, but because of things not said -- none of the right people are saying the right things.
Not all doom and gloom, Cramer offers hope that today's explosive rally continues through tomorrow. But despite the sudden recovery, Cramer fears an imminent financial collapse -- and not a small one, but one on the scale of big money: Citigroup, BoA (with its dubious acquisition of the troubled Countrywide), WaMu or Wachovia (given its lack of CEO and sharp decline).
Yet there's no news from these companies, only silence. Silence from Lehman (besides the unavoidable finger-pointing). Silence from Merrill. Silence from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin giants. The only sign something's amiss are unclear balance sheets. Most frightening is the silence from those in the government who could take action but haven't. Even a whisper of a plan would bring reassurance to this tense situation. Instead, Cramer says, a pin drop would be clearer in the current environment. He also says he's done "ranting and raving," referring to the infamous Stop Trading segment that became an instant YouTube classic.
The Fed has basically done all it can -- the rate cut cycle is over. Though stocks were up today, we need official plans of preparation for a financial apocalypse. The banks won't be able to get by on their own, to raise the necessary capital. Not after Lehman and Merrill. "You can only be so stupid," says Cramer. If silence means there is no plan, that's trouble for everyone -- Katrina proved that.
Mutual funds, outside investors and, yes, Cramer himself have egg on their faces (Cramer's is sunny-side-up, at least) after unwise decisions to invest in these banks. The government should round up potential buyers now, to wait in the wings before things fall apart. In the financial meltdown of 1990, there was at least a list of ready buyers around the globe. That type of readiness would be an enormous comfort now.
Cramer presents some numbers to back up his language: in the beginning of August, he started a "Stress Index" of 12 stocks -- builders, brokers and banks -- to measure how bad the housing situation was then, and follow how bad it would get. At that already gloomy time, the index started at 100. Today, little more than a month on, the Mad Money Stress Index is at 20 -- an 80% freefall.
He does like that there still are a few like JPMorgan ready to buy and he also appreciates Treasury Secretary Paulson's affirmation of the importance of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. But despite those reassurances and today's rally, Cramer is not sanguine about lasting improvement -- unless the government's silence abates. The fact that nothing's been said leads Cramer to believe there are no plans or buyers. Instead of harping on more tax cuts (which have been ineffective as a long-term solution), he insists this is the critical economic issue the presidential candidates should be addressing.
Cramer's bottom line: we need a government plan -- a call to action, a break in silence, even a whisper -- to reassure the market, the banks and the consumers that there is some protection from a possible financial collapse.
For Cramer, we need to hear -- and from someone with authority -- these words: "We have large bank buyers that want in and we have plans for them to be able to contain the losses of the crushed banks they buy."
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