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The Second Shoe Is About to Drop on the Banks

By Jeff Clark
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"I live in luxury and I haven't made a mortgage payment in almost two years," Don bragged. He sipped his chardonnay, leaned against the country club's bar, and shared with me the story of his real estate prowess...
"I paid $3.4 million for the house in 2006, and it was worth every penny at the time. It's 6,700 square feet with a pool and a one- acre lot. I'm on the hill overlooking the fourth fairway, and I can see all the way to [the next city] from my bedroom window," Don continued.
"Wachovia Bank loaned me $3 million, and the developer took a second for $400,000. I don't have any skin in the game – so to speak. I made my mortgage payments for a while, but when prices started to fall, it just didn't make sense anymore. I mean, why should I pay anything when I'm the only one with nothing to lose?"
"But," I asked, "hasn't the bank tried to foreclose or force a sale of the house out from under you?"
"Ha!" He crowed, and his tone emphasized the naiveté of my question. "Why would they do that? The house is worth less than $2 million right now. So if the bank forecloses, it'll have to recognize a $1 million loss. And if it writes my loan down by that much, how many other loans do you suppose it'll have to write down? It can't force a short sale [where the bank sells the house for less than the loan amount] on me either because it'll have to take care of the second note holder by offering him something just to get out of the way. So Wachovia is screwed. It's cheaper for them to let me keep living there for free. And the best thing is, I can more than afford to pay off the entire loan right now." Don let out a sinister kind of chuckle, like a man who just squashed a bug and got some warped sense of delight from doing it.
"Wow," I responded. "There used to be a time when being a deadbeat was frowned upon. But you seem to wear it as a badge of honor."
"Listen," Don turned aggressively and pointed his index finger at me. "You think I'm the only one doing this? You think I'm the only one taking advantage of the situation? I'll bet half the people in this room are doing the exact same thing." He waved his arm across the bar. "And the other half are thinking about doing it."
"Besides," Don continued, "banks have been screwing people like us for so long it's about time they got a taste of their own medicine."
His words hit me like a Louisville Slugger across the forehead.
We no longer live in a time where men are bound by honor to repay their debts. As sad as it is, people feel justified welching on their agreements.
And the banks have played a big role in this transition. They charged 29% interest on credit cards while paying 0% interest on savings. They knowingly lent money to people who could not afford to pay it back. They used taxpayer-funded bailouts to pay million-dollar bonuses to their corporate elite. And they shipped all of their service-center jobs overseas.
Let's face it: The banks most of us do business with today aren't like the Building and Loan George Bailey operated in It's a Wonderful Life. Our banks are faceless, nameless, brown bag institutions whose only concern for the customer is to make sure he pays the $10 monthly account service fee.
It is that business practice that has fostered the resentment of people like Don and made him feel justified breaking his agreement. Like it or not, agree with it or not, Don's opinion is gaining popularity.
And as that sentiment grows, it is likely to provide the weight that pulls the second shoe down onto the industry.
Best regards and good trading,
Jeff Clark

In The Daily Crux
Market Notes
Big Oil surges... BP, Chevron, Total, global energy fund IXC hit new highs.
So does Big Aluminum... Aluminum Corporation of China ("Chinalco") and Alcoa reach highs.
Timberland rally continues... Rayonier, Plum Creek make fresh highs.
Earnings today... KB home, Infosys, Supervalu.
Market Watch
Symbol Price
S&P 500 1221.53 +1.3% +10.1%
Oil 37.77 +1.5% -2.8%
Gold 135.20 -0.1% +13.4%
Silver 27.93 +0.4% +47.9%
US-Dollar 80.67 -0.8% +8.1%
Euro 1.32 +0.6% -12.1%
Volatility 19.39 -9.2% -8.2%
Gold Stocks 564.53 +1.3% +10.6%
10-Year Yield 3.00 +1.4% -9.6%

World ETFs
Symbol Price
USA 122.56 +1.3% +10.2%
Canada 30.44 +1.3% +13.8%
Russia 21.63 +2.3% +16.7%
India 37.73 +1.9% +20.0%
Israel 16.47 +0.9% +9.7%
Japan 10.58 +1.0% +7.4%
Singapore 13.88 +1.0% +19.2%
Taiwan 14.72 +1.6% +17.8%
S. Korea 56.56 +1.7% +22.8%
S. Africa 70.85 +3.9% +22.9%
China 45.06 +1.4% +0.1%
Lat.America 52.82 +1.4% +6.7%

Sector ETFs
Symbol Price
Oil Service 136.18 +1.5% +14.8%
Big Pharma 64.13 +0.6% -3.3%
Internet 72.13 +0.7% +22.3%
Semis 16.03 +2.1% +28.9%
Utilities 31.21 +0.3% +1.6%
Defense 18.51 +1.3% +10.1%
Nanotech 9.99 +1.3% +0.0%
Alt. Energy 9.95 +1.4% -4.4%
Water 18.31 +1.1% +12.2%
Insurance 16.07 +1.2% +18.3%
Biotech 20.58 +1.1% +27.1%
Retail 19.65 +0.1% +28.4%
Software 24.59 +0.9% +24.1%
Big Tech 53.73 +1.0% +21.9%
Construction 12.99 +2.1% +13.3%
Media 13.57 +1.1% +25.0%
Consumer Svcs 67.26 +0.8% +23.3%
Financials 54.87 +2.4% +5.2%
Health Care 64.22 +0.7% +1.3%
Industrials 63.25 +1.6% +19.7%
Basic Mat 73.57 +1.6% +21.6%
Real Estate 55.24 +1.4% +23.8%
Transportation 91.17 +1.4% +25.6%
Telecom 22.48 +1.1% +17.1%

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