Citigroup Inc is looking at putting risky assets in a "bad bank" -- a step to reassure investors that the rest of its assets were safe, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
The "bad bank" might take on some of Citigroup's more than $1.23 trillion of off-balance sheet assets. Citigroup might bear the initial losses on the assets, and the government might cover losses beyond a particular threshold, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
U.S. financial markets are waiting for some sort of Citigroup announcement this weekend, and if nothing happens, the bank's stock is likely to plunge further on Monday, analysts said.
Let me emphasize that one more time so that it sinks in: Citigroup has more than $1.23 trillion of off-balance sheet assets. One and a quarter trillion (with a T!) in toxic derivatives as "assets" means this bank is effectively insolvent. It means our entire economy is effectively insolvent, because the second Citigroup goes under, those "assets" which are nothing more than fancy IOUs get called into question.
Citigroup is just one bank. It holds well over one trillion in IOUs. The IOUs are accepted as having worth because of the confidence that those IOUs will be paid, and every bank it sitting on a pile of them.
Globally those IOUs, these derivatives, are valued at over a quadrillion dollars...a thousand trillion. One million billion dollars.
If Citigroup goes under, then it will take this entire system down with it. More banks will fail. Their chunk of the derivative nightmare will fail too. If those IOUs are being defaulted on, then they become worthless. Only the agreed upon value of these derivatives gives them value. If the confidence that these IOUs have value evaporates, then the actual value of the derivatives evaporates as well.
One quadrillion dollars of theoretical global money vanishing.
Poof. And our global financial system poofs along with it. Yes, this is some scary stuff.
Citigroup is now on the clock. The stock will drop low enough to force another bailout worth tens of billions if not more. If Citigroup fails, it will take the global system with it.Deal or No Deal. No Deal here means the end of the game.
And so more billions will be thrown to the banks. And the underlying rot at the foundation, the toxic weight of tens upon hundreds of trillions in derivatives, will continue to crush the financial sector. More banks will fail. More will be spent to save them.
Eventually, another Lehman Brothers will happen. Obama can't stop it. His hands are tied. There's nothing he can do, and his choice of Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary strongly suggests he has chosen to continue the path of bailouts and more bailouts.
But Obama will have to end the bailouts eventually. He will be forced to do so when China and Saudi Arabia can no longer afford to front us the cash.
When that happens, all bets are off.
[UPDATE] The US government and Citigroup are frantically trying to seal the deal before the markets open tomorrow.
The U.S. government and Citigroup are working feverishly to hammer out a rescue plan for the beleaguered bank. If all goes according to plan, there will likely be an announcement of some type of plan in a couple of hours.They have no choice.
The exact nature of plan remains unclear, but the government is leaning towards some sort of cash infusion into Citigroup. The plan will probably be a multi-layered one, which means the government could backstop losses on Citigroup's troubled assets as well. In exchange, Citi may issue preferred stock to the government
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations say "everything is on the table", meaning that even the government plan of buying the troubled assets could be revived.
The problem with buying the assets from Citi is political: People close to the deal know that other firms will line up and ask the government to purchase their troubled assets as well. Brokerage stocks got crushed when Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson reversed his plan on the TARP to direct capital infusions to the banks and away from buying troubled assets.
The Bottom line: This is very fluid and the situation may change again. But as of now, the government is getting cold feet on plan to buy troubled assets, which leaves direct capital infusion on the table.
They will have no choice when the next major bank goes under.
And the next.
And the next.