Financial Market Update-Friday, Sept. 26

Last night’s hubbub at the White House over the Wall Street bailout seems to have quieted down somewhat today, with various dissatisfied parties returning to negotiations, but still nothing has been settled. Leaders of both parties have announced that they will keep Congress in session until some kind of deal is worked out. The Dow Jones Industrial Average initially dropped this morning as investors drank their coffee and mused about a financial apocalypse, which not only led to lower stock prices, but also a lower trading volume. The index rallied in the afternoon, led by JP Morgan, up about 1 percent near the end of the trading day. Presumably, investors are thinking Apocalypse Not Now. Morgan Stanley CEO John “Mack the Knife” Mack sent a memo to employees today to assure them that the capital-infusion deal with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. is “moving ahead as anticipated,” Bloomberg reports. Morgan Stanley’s stock yo-yoed around some today, but ultimately was down $2.35 by mid-afternoon, or 8.67 percent. The subtext of Mack’s memo seemed to be, “We’re not next.” Then what about Fortis? The Dutch-Belgian banking and insurance giant named a new CEO today, Filip Dierckx–that’s not a typo–who was appointed to replace Herman Verwilst, who had been named interim CEO in this summer after the sudden departure of Jean-Paul Votron, notes the AP. Shares in the company recently fell about 21 percent over concerns about its solvency. (And who doesn’t have such concerns these days?) Fortis has been a major player in real estate worldwide in recent years, as well as an important member of the consortium that bought ABN-AMRO last year. Among other recent moves to combat rumors of insolvency, it plans to sell $14.6 billion in “non-core assets.” In the process of digesting WaMu, the Wall Street Journal has noted that JP Morgan Chase has used some “worrying assumptions about house prices and future losses on mortgages.” Namely, JP Morgan forecast a 58 percent peak-to-trough slump in California home prices if the coming (or is that current?) recession gets a lot worse. Likewise, house prices in Florida could crater 64 percent under such dire economic straits. By comparison, the nation as a whole would get off easy in terms of a bad-case-scenario housing price decline: “only” 37 percent, according to JP Morgan, which has also written down the value of WaMu’s assets by $30 billion. Bloomberg reports that Kathy Fuld, wife of Lehman CEO Dick Fuld, is selling a $20 million collection of abstract expressionist art at auction next month. Included are some Willem de Koonings, Barnett Newmans, Arshile Gorkys and Agnes Martins. Perhaps Kathy’s husband has told her, in view of Lehman’s bankruptcy, that she has to earn her own walking around money now. It also seems likely that the 5,000-seat theater at New York’s Madison Square Garden isn’t going to be named after WaMu much longer in the wake of its bankruptcy and absorption into JP Morgan. Perhaps Minute Maid, which took over naming duties at the former Enron Field, might be interested.