Wells sheds light on mortgage fiasco
Unless judges and pols want to sink the economy, the foreclosure mess won't shut down the banks. Wells Fargo, for one, is doing much better.
By Jim Cramer, TheStreet
Don't waste another moment thinking about this foreclosure mess until you listen to the Wells Fargo (WFC) conference call -- a turgid affair but one that will make you realize that there is no way this process is going to be shut down unless the judges and politicians really do want to bankrupt the banks and kill the U.S. economy. Given how costly it was to save the banking system, even anti-bank President Barack Obama is not in favor of putting it on its heels again.
Maybe because there are so many business outlets writing and commenting on issues, or maybe because of the unchecked nature of the Web, it has become almost common and accepted wisdom that many things were done wrong on the paperwork of loans themselves.
I think that's wrong. If you listen to Wells Fargo -- and I have never thought they were liars -- the process has pretty much been the same all along, and there are no title-chain complications WHATSOEVER. It remains a good, profitable, growing business for WFC.
Now, of course, Wells is a "good" actor in the system. Many others were "bad" actors, including many fly-by-night outfits that got involved when the nation was buying and selling 7 million homes a year. The spawn of the bad-actor originators that were packaged -- the non-whole-loan mortgages, meaning the ones not owned by the banks -- are problematic in many ways.
BUT NOT TO WELLS, and not to most major banks, the exception being the convoluted Bank of America (BAC). Convoluted because it was an amalgam of really bad loans made by Countrywide -- worse than Wachovia's "Pick-a-Pay" loans -- and perhaps decent loans by Bank of America itself.
But let's stick with Wells, because Wells turned the group around.
I think that Wells may allow us to develop a new worldview of the banks as companies that are beginning to make a lot of money lending, and lending more than they were, while they clean up the balance sheets.
What does that mean in English? I think that at last the number bumps you see this morning are real. You want to be in the stocks of companies where the estimates are rising, and this was the first quarter when they did it in any uniform fashion for many banks -- and Wells Fargo is probably the best of the large ones.
Despite the propaganda, we do not care at this stage of the cycle how the estimates go higher. We only need to think that when this bank was at $25 a year ago, it was losing money hand over fist and it needed capital. Now it is the exact opposite -- and it is still at $25.
Go through this quarter: no change-of-title worries, lots of new business, lots of cost synergies, far fewer bad loans and a workout of Wachovia's worst loans that has shown the loss estimates to be way too high.
Now, all of this is what the company says. Many people think the company is not honest. They don't come out and say it, but that's the tone of the comments. If you don't think Wells is honest, then what it says doesn't matter.
I think it does.
Random musings: I am not viewing Citigroup (C) through the same prism as the rest of the banks going forward. It is an international story that will show great growth in a couple of quarters, and this mortgage business will have far less impact on Citi than on B of A or Wells or any of the other majors.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Bank of America.
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