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Motivations Abound For Federal Reserve’s Delayed Release Of Bank Stress Test Results

 May 04, 2009 07:41 AM

By Mike Caggeso
Associate Editor
Money Morning

The results of the bank stress tests are in, but instead of releasing them today (Monday), the U.S. Federal Reserve is holding them close to its chest until after the markets close Thursday.

The amount of information awaiting disclosure seems to have grown, as have the reasons to postpone the potentially damaging data.

Not only will the government unveil which banks require more capital, it will also disclose potential loss estimates for certain loan categories and the banks' ability to "absorb those losses" assuming economic conditions worsen through 2010, a government official told The Wall Street Journal.

[Related -Bank Stocks: The Misbegottenness of the Volcker Rule Truly Knows No Bounds]

Negative results could deal a huge blow to both the banks and government, as a sub-par grade may be viewed as an indictment not only of the failed management of the banks, but the government's decision to loan them billions of taxpayer money. The banks also are concerned that anything but a tactful release of the results will cause internal and investor panic.

Government and banking industry officials told Bloomberg that both sides needed the extra time to debate preliminary results, as well as plans regarding how banks can recover capital.

On April 24, the government showed the tests' preliminary results to the 19 U.S. firms it reviewed – from behemoth banks like Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (C) to the smaller GMAC LLC (GMA) and MetLife Inc. (MET). The banks involved in the stress tests hold more than half the loans in the U.S. banking system and two-thirds of the assets. 

[Related -JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM): Capital Concerns Should Ease In 2014]

"Everybody understands they've got a tiger by the tail here," Mark Tenhundfeld, a senior vice president at the American Bankers' Association in Washington, told Bloomberg. "If they don't let him go gently, there will be a lot of mauling going on."

Already, reports have leaked that two specific banks need more capital, and reaction hasn't been pleasant.

After showing Bank of America and Citigroup test results, the government told the banks to raise more capital despite receiving a combined total of $95 billion in bailout loans.

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