The Treasury secretary “has disappeared,” Cramer said, just when the markets – and the country – need leadership.
The Dow dropped to a 10-year low Friday on fears that Washington might nationalize ailing banks, such as Citigroup and Bank of America. It wasn’t until White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs tamped down that speculation during his daily briefing that stocks ticked back up. But Cramer said it was Geithner’s responsibility to calm Wall Street, and he was nowhere to be found.
“How can I make an investment decision on the financials with the Treasury secretary who’s vanished,” Cramer said, “and who is making [former Treasury secretary] Hank Paulson seem very hands-on.”
Geithner should announce that banks' common stock would probably end up worthless, but preferred shares and banks’ debt would be preserved, Cramer said. The government should also say that it will provide more capital to banks in return for a promissory of sorts, a promise that these banks will pay the money back, and then let them work their problems out in the private sector.
If that happened, Cramer said, “We would have one of the largest rallies you’ve ever seen.”
Cramer cautioned against using the term “nationalization” at all, saying that wasn’t actually what would happen if the government intervened to save the banks. The country right now needs clarity about what’s going on, because nationalization could bring the Dow down to 3,000 or 4,000. Warren Buffett himself couldn’t handle that situation, and neither could the life and property insurers. The potential for those policies, and annuities, to pay out would be in question.
“When we stick with a term like nationalization, which sounds like we destroy all the securities of the banks,” Cramer said, “I worry about my job.”
Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove agreed with Cramer, that nationalization most likely wouldn’t happen. He went on to say that Bank of America was “one of the best banks you’ve ever seen on the New York Stock Exchange in the whole history of the New York Stock Exchange,” calling the stock a buy. But he thought Citigroup was a “dicey shot at the present time” because of its equity situation.
Cramer, however, disagreed on that point. He thinks the common stock of both these banks is a “reckless recommendation.” Investors instead should go with preferred stock, if they want to buy the banks at all.
“The common stock is not a good bet,” Cramer said, except for maybe Wells Fargo.
Cramer reiterated his call that investors who need a significant amount of cash over the next five years should pull that money out of the market.
“It’s just too dangerous,” he said.
Cramer's charitable trust owns Wells Fargo.
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