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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Three Wise Men

three wise men pandit dimon lewisBy Markos N. Kaminis - Economy & Markets:

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Three Wise Men brought gifts of profitability, financial independence and share rise to the market last week. The CEOs of Citigroup, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase injected the stock market with greatly needed confidence as a result of their long overdue news.

The initial spark that gave life to trading was the conspicuous leak of an internal memo at Citigroup (NYSE: C). Vikram Pandit, the CEO of the troubled bank, authored a note to employees pleasantly sharing news of the company’s "best quarter since Q3 2007." We should make note here that the aforementioned quarter was the bank's last profitable period. Likewise, Vik was relieved to share that the company was also profitable through the first two months of 2009. If ever there were a reason for hope, tangible good news from the financial sector would be it.

Now, shareholders have heard uplifting speeches before, and from reputable sources like Warren Buffet and Barack Obama. Warren has since slipped from his ranking as the richest man in the world, posting his worst year on record in 2008. Barack was only just recently pinned with the dubious label "bear market president," meaning the market declined 20% within the few months he’s led the poor nation. However, the great discovery arriving from six feet under, where the beaten down financial sector resides, was much more meaningful to investors. You see Warren spoke of history and trends, and the wisdom of long-term investing. A lot of good that does us in the short-term though! Barack speaks of hope and hard times, which investors find difficult to back with their dollars.

Citigroup actually has a bead on things... They've got their feet in the water, or rather their heads barely above it. Either way, believe it or not, investors believed Pandit, and sent both Citigroup shares and those of the broader market to a gap higher open on Tuesday. Well, the interest in Citi shares that ensued got other bankers previewing their own books. Before we knew it, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) had followed suit and declared its own profitability.

Like men lost at sea on a raft, the desperate sailors began offering up any piece of meat they could find to the sharks that had been encircling them. Both the banks also declared they would not need any more government aid, as if that were a proclamation of excellence. Still, it made all the difference to investors. Before the week started, Citi traded below a dollar and BofA touched $3. At Friday's close, Citigroup hit $1.78 and BofA recovered to $5.76, which was fine indeed.

Not to be left out of the party, J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon gave a speech worthy of Morgan himself. Dimon addressed a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event intended to boost confidence. For this reason, we wonder if the three bankers might have devised the grand scheme in advance.

All this excitement might not matter for long though. You see, every good story has a villain, and this one has Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China. On Friday, addressing media following the conclusion of the National People's Congress, the Prime Minister said he was concerned about the credibility of the United States and the security of his nation's holdings in U.S. issued treasury instruments. Just like that it seemed the only news that could uplift investors finally met the only news that could stop that rise. However, stocks boldly recovered after a midday drift, and investors seem determined to push them even higher. What the future holds is less than clear. Still, with St. Patrick's Day falling this week, at least we'll have the luck of the Irish going for us.

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Please see our disclosures at the Wall Street Greek website and author bio pages found there. (Article interests: AMEX: DIA, AMEX: SPY, Nasdaq: QQQQ, NYSE: NYX, AMEX: DOG, AMEX: SDS, AMEX: QLD, AMEX: XLF, AMEX: IWM, AMEX: TWM, AMEX: IWD, AMEX: SDK).

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