Fed Orders Banks Mum on Stress Tests: Report

The U.S. Federal Reserve has told Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Citigroup Inc. (C) and other major banks not to talk about the results — or even the process — tied to ongoing “stress tests” at U.S. banks, Bloomberg News reported Friday morning. Federal examiners have been busy crunching numbers at key U.S. banks to determine the ability of each to withstand a lengthy U.S. recession, the results of which are anxiously being awaited by investors. Bloomberg’s coverage cites numerous analysts as agreeing with the move, including FBR Capital Markets analyst Paul Miller. “If you allow banks to talk about it, people are just going to assume that the ones that don’t comment about it failed,” he told the news service. But others are concerned about an apparent lack of transparency in conducting and managing the results of the tests; a claim that dogged much of the Henry Paulson-led Treasury. Current Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner has said the results of the stress tests will determine government strategy in clearing off distressed assets from banks’ balance sheets; firms deemed to need more capital would have six months to raise it privately, or find the government stepping in via TARP funds to make up the difference. Analyst Dick Bove from Rochdale Securities called the tests “a lose, lose, lose proposition” in a research note earlier this week, suggesting that “no good can come from it.” And he argued that stress-testing is already being done at banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., using well-known standards for assessing a bank’s health (or lack thereof). See a summary of Bove’s position over at the NY Times. The UK-based daily Telegraph, oddly enough, suggested Thursday that all 19 major U.S. banks have passed the “stress tests,” but said that some banks are in weaker capital positions than others according to the results. The paper did not cite where it had obtained the information from. Write to Paul Jackson at paul.jackson@housingwire.com. Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments.

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