Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. US Housing Market Real Estate Crash The Next Shoe To Drop – Part II - Chris_Vermeulen
2.The Coronavirus Greatest Economic Depression in History? - Nadeem_Walayat
3.US Real Estate Housing Market Crash Is The Next Shoe To Drop - Chris_Vermeulen
4.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications and AI Mega-trend Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
5. Are Coronavirus Death Statistics Exaggerated? Worse than Seasonal Flu or Not?- Nadeem_Walayat
6.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications, Global Recession and AI Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
7.US Fourth Turning Accelerating Towards Debt Climax - James_Quinn
8.Dow Stock Market Trend Analysis and Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Britain's FAKE Coronavirus Death Statistics Exposed - Nadeem_Walayat
10.Commodity Markets Crash Catastrophe Charts - Rambus_Chartology
Last 7 days
Has the Fed Let the Inflation Genie Out of the Bottle? - 10th Aug 20
The Strange Food Trend That’s Making Investors Rich - 10th Aug 20
Supply & Demand For Money – The End of Inflation? - 10th Aug 20
Revisiting Our Silver and Gold Predictions – Get Ready For Higher Prices - 10th Aug 20
Storm Clouds Are Gathering for a Major Stock and Commodity Markets Downturn - 10th Aug 20
A 90-Year-Old Stock Market Investment Insight That's Relevant in 2020 - 10th Aug 20
Debt and Dollar Collapse Leading to Potential Stock Market Melt-Up, - 10th Aug 20
Coronavirus: UK Parents Demand ALL Schools OPEN September, 7 Million Children Abandoned by Teachers - 9th Aug 20
Computer GPU Fans Not Spinning Quick FIX - Sticky Fans Solution - 9th Aug 20
Find the Best Speech Converter for You - 9th Aug 20
Silver Bull Market Update - 7th Aug 20
This Inflation-Adjusted Silver Chart Tells An Interesting Story - 7th Aug 20
The Great American Housing Boom Has Begun - 7th Aug 20
NATURAL GAS BEGINS UPSIDE BREAKOUT MOVE - 7th Aug 20
Know About Lotteries With The Best Odds Of Winning - 7th Aug 20
Could Gold Price Reach $7,000 by 2030? - 6th Aug 20
Bananas for All! Keep Dancing… FOMC - 6th Aug 20
How to Do Bets During This Time - 6th Aug 20
How to develop your stock trading strategy - 6th Aug 20
Stock Investors What to do if Trump Bans TikTok - 5th Aug 20
Gold Trifecta of Key Signals for Gold Mining Stocks - 5th Aug 20
ARE YOU LOVING YOUR SERVITUDE? - 5th Aug 20
Stock Market Uptrend Continues? - 4th Aug 20
The Dimensions of Covid-19: The Hong Kong Flu Redux - 4th Aug 20
High Yield Junk Bonds Are Hot Again -- Despite Warning Signs - 4th Aug 20
Gold Stocks Autumn Rally - 4th Aug 20
“Government Sachs” Is Worried About the Federal Reserve Note - 4th Aug 20
Gold Miners Still Pushing That Cart of Rocks Up Hill - 4th Aug 20
UK Government to Cancel Christmas - Crazy Covid Eid 2020! - 4th Aug 20
Covid-19 Exposes NHS Institutional Racism Against Black and Asian Staff and Patients - 4th Aug 20
How Sony Is Fueling the Computer Vision Boom - 3rd Aug 20
Computer Gaming System Rig Top Tips For 6 Years Future Proofing Build Spec - 3rd Aug 20
Cornwwall Bude Caravan Park Holidays 2020 - Look Inside Holiday Resort Caravan - 3rd Aug 20
UK Caravan Park Holidays 2020 Review - Hoseasons Cayton Bay North East England - 3rd Aug 20
Best Travel Bags for 2020 Summer Holidays , Back Sling packs, water proof, money belt and tactical - 3rd Aug 20
Precious Metals Warn Of Increased Volatility Ahead - 2nd Aug 20
The Key USDX Sign for Gold and Silver - 2nd Aug 20
Corona Crisis Will Have Lasting Impact on Gold Market - 2nd Aug 20
Gold & Silver: Two Pictures - 1st Aug 20
The Bullish Case for Stocks Isn't Over Yet - 1st Aug 20
Is Gold Price Action Warning Of Imminent Monetary Collapse - Part 2? - 1st Aug 20
Will America Accept the World's Worst Pandemic Response Government - 1st Aug 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More – Part II - 1st Aug 20
Trump White House Accelerating Toward a US Dollar Crisis - 31st Jul 20
Why US Commercial Real Estate is Set to Get Slammed - 31st Jul 20
Gold Price Blows Through Upside Resistance - The Chase Is On - 31st Jul 20
Is Crude Oil Price Setting Up for a Waterfall Decline? - 31st Jul 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More - 30th Jul 20
Why Big Money Is Already Pouring Into Edge Computing Tech Stocks - 30th Jul 20
Economic and Geopolitical Worries Fuel Gold’s Rally - 30th Jul 20
How to Finance an Investment Property - 30th Jul 20
I Hate Banks - Including Goldman Sachs - 29th Jul 20
NASDAQ Stock Market Double Top & Price Channels Suggest Pending Price Correction - 29th Jul 20
Silver Price Surge Leaves Naysayers in the Dust - 29th Jul 20
UK Supermarket Covid-19 Shop - Few Masks, Lack of Social Distancing (Tesco) - 29th Jul 20
Budgie Clipped Wings, How Long Before it Can Fly Again? - 29th Jul 20
How To Take Advantage Of Tesla's 400% Stock Surge - 29th Jul 20
Gold Makes Record High and Targets $6,000 in New Bull Cycle - 28th Jul 20
Gold Strong Signal For A Secular Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Anatomy of a Gold and Silver Precious Metals Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Shopify Is Seizing an $80 Billion Pot of Gold - 28th Jul 20
Stock Market Minor Correction Underway - 28th Jul 20
Why College Is Never Coming Back - 27th Jul 20
Stocks Disconnect from Economy, Gold Responds - 27th Jul 20
Silver Begins Big Upside Rally Attempt - 27th Jul 20
The Gold and Silver Markets Have Changed… What About You? - 27th Jul 20
Google, Apple And Amazon Are Leading A $30 Trillion Assault On Wall Street - 27th Jul 20
This Stock Market Indicator Reaches "Lowest Level in Nearly 20 Years" - 26th Jul 20
New Wave of Economic Stimulus Lifts Gold Price - 26th Jul 20
Stock Market Slow Grind Higher Above the Early June Stock Highs - 26th Jul 20
How High Will Silver Go? - 25th Jul 20
If You Own Gold, Look Out Below - 25th Jul 20
Crude Oil and Energy Sets Up Near Major Resistance – Breakdown Pending - 25th Jul 20
FREE Access to Premium Market Forecasts by Elliott Wave International - 25th Jul 20
The Promise of Silver as August Approaches: Accumulation and Conversation - 25th Jul 20
The Silver Bull Gateway is at Hand - 24th Jul 20
The Prospects of S&P 500 Above the Early June Highs - 24th Jul 20
How Silver Could Surpass Its All-Time High - 24th Jul 20

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Get Rich Investing in Stocks by Riding the Electron Wave

SEC Market Regulation and FAS 157 Contributions Towards Financial Markets Chaos

Stock-Markets / Market Regulation Mar 02, 2009 - 03:51 PM GMT

By: Frank_Holmes

Stock-Markets

Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleGood Intentions, Unintended Consequences - Not long ago, financial regulators told Congress that the year-old accounting rule known as FAS 157 had little to do with last year's string of high-profile bank failures. This blanket exoneration, however, is not supported by the evidence.

While I don't think FAS 157 is the only reason for the problems encountered by banks, brokerages and other financial firms, it seems that this rule and other regulatory actions may have played an unintended yet significant role by exaggerating the risks associated with the banks' heavily leveraged balance sheets.


It's important that these potential cause-and-effect relationships be explored because the Obama administration and Congress have made it clear that enacting more market regulations will be one of their top priorities. But this is a delicate time in our financial markets—the layering of complex new rules over complex old rules without fully understanding how they will fit together could cause more harm than good.

FAS 157 changed how companies establish the value of securities when there is little or no active trading in those securities. As a result of this rule change, many financial companies have written off untold billions of dollars worth of securities on their balance sheets, even if these securities continued to produce income.

The above chart tracks the relationship between quarterly operating EPS for the S&P 500 (solid line) and the net EPS, which includes writedowns and other special one-time items. As you can see, for most of the past 20 years, the two lines have moved together. But look at the far right side—the operating profits were down, but net earnings were down much more.

I believe a strong case could be made that the sharp falloff in net earnings is largely due to FAS 157-related writedowns by financial companies, which were the largest sector of the S&P 500.

We all want the financial sector to be healthy again, but as Forbes accurately pointed out last week, FAS 157 takes away the time these institutions need to heal. A lack of healing time in the 1930s, when rules similar to FAS 157 were in place, deepened and prolonged the Great Depression.

Concerning the current financial meltdown, Wall Street, Main Street and government agencies were all excessively leveraged, and a rule change for short-selling that eliminated the uptick rule set off a feeding frenzy by predatory short sellers. Banks and brokerages sought to raise capital to rebuild their balance sheets, but short-selling mercilessly drove down the value of their shares and impaired their ability to raise enough new money.

Lacking capital, the banks had to cut back on new loans, which hurt manufacturers and others that need access to short-term working capital to run their businesses. Products didn't get made, workers didn't get paid and before long the economy ground to a halt.

The banks also made margin calls against existing loans, including those to highly leveraged hedge funds. To get their hands on cash, the hedge funds sold liquid assets, among them natural resources and emerging markets equities that had been performing so well.

The chart above plots the performance of the S&P 500 Financial Index alongside the VIX, which measures market volatility, for 2007 and 2008. The general trends are clear to see: the financials declined more than 60 percent over the period, while market volatility dramatically increased.

Key events during the two years are marked with red circles.

Event 1In July 2007, the SEC removed the uptick rule that required any short sale of a stock be done following an uptick in the price of that stock. The S&P financials essentially traded sideways prior to the removal of the uptick requirement, but they fell more than 12 percent in the first month after the rule change and at the same time the VIX nearly doubled.

Event 2Volatility leaped in mid-November 2007, at the same time that FAS 157 was implemented. The S&P financials continued trending down. Citigroup CEO Charles Prince retired under pressure and Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal was ousted around this time.

Event 3In mid-March 2008, Bear Stearns collapsed under the weight of its exposure to mortgage-related derivatives, creating another volatility spike.

Event 4In mid-July, the SEC restricted short sales of the 19 largest financial companies. This included shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which had huge exposure to mortgage securities. The beleaguered S&P financials bounced up on the news, while volatility declined.

Event 5In mid-September, just a few days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the SEC temporarily banned short selling of about 1,000 financial stocks. Many of these companies had reported many billions of dollars in FAS 157-related write-offs. Initially, the S&P financials popped up but the longer-term downward trend quickly resumed. Volatility shot up to record levels.

That these market events occurred in tandem with significant regulatory actions was likely not a coincidence.

I have no doubt that the elimination of the uptick rule and the implementation of FAS 157 were intended to benefit investors, just as Sarbanes-Oxley was when it was enacted several years ago. And under different circumstances, the impact of these rules may have been less onerous on the financial companies. But with so much balance-sheet leverage for these companies, it turned out to be a recipe for disaster.

It reminds me of 1986, when markets were hammered by the combination of the Reagan administration's tax reforms, a rapid falloff in oil prices and the high degree of leverage being carried by savings-and-loans. Any one of these challenges would not have been a big problem—putting them all together led to the failure of hundreds of financial institutions and destabilization of the nation's banking system.

Like in 1986, the fundamental problem in 2008 was dangerous levels of debt carried by Wall Street banks and brokerages (along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and Main Street homeowners.

There may have been a way to address the current overleveraging in an orderly fashion if the rules were different, but as the chart above supports, a case could be made that the convergence of FAS 157, highly leveraged balance sheets and the loss of the uptick rule were the trigger that set off the financial meltdown.

By Frank Holmes, CEO , U.S. Global Investors

Frank Holmes is CEO and chief investment officer at U.S. Global Investors , a Texas-based investment adviser that specializes in natural resources, emerging markets and global infrastructure. The company's 13 mutual funds include the Global Resources Fund (PSPFX) , Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) and Global MegaTrends Fund (MEGAX) .

More timely commentary from Frank Holmes is available in his investment blog, “Frank Talk”: www.usfunds.com/franktalk .

Please consider carefully the fund's investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. Gold funds may be susceptible to adverse economic, political or regulatory developments due to concentrating in a single theme. The price of gold is subject to substantial price fluctuations over short periods of time and may be affected by unpredicted international monetary and political policies. We suggest investing no more than 5% to 10% of your portfolio in gold or gold stocks. The following securities mentioned in the article were held by one or more of U.S. Global Investors family of funds as of 12-31-07 : streetTRACKS Gold Trust.

Frank Holmes Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules