Archive for the ‘Banks’ Category

Obama Says Solving Euro Crisis of ‘Huge Importance’ to U.S.

November 29, 2011

via Margaret Talev & Roger Runningen, Bloomberg Businessweek

President Barack Obama said resolving the European debt crisis is of “huge importance” to the U.S. and his administration is “ready to do our part” in stabilizing the global economy.

Obama said a “large part” of the annual U.S.-European Union summit was spent on the impact of the crisis in the euro- zone. He spoke at the White House after meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Van Rompuy said the U.S. and EU “both need to take strong action” to maintain the economic recovery. Barroso said he has “full confidence” that Europe will deal with the sovereign debt issue.

Iran’s nuclear program, strengthening exports and investments, Middle East peace prospects, terrorism and cyber crime also were on the agenda for annual meeting.

The summit comes as European finance chiefs are set to meet this week to discuss a rescue plan, and days ahead of a Dec. 2 report by the U.S. Labor Department on the nation’s unemployment rate for November. The rate for October was 9.0 percent.

About $4.6 trillion was wiped from the value of global equities this month on mounting concern that Europe’s debt crisis is spreading.

Wider Threat

Moody’s Investors Service said today the “rapid escalation” of the crisis threatens all of the region’s sovereign ratings, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said doubts about the survival of Europe’s monetary union has caused global growth to stall.

“The euro-area crisis represents the key risk to the world economy,” the Paris-based OECD said. Government bond yields for both Germany and France, Europe’s two largest economies, climbed last week as a German bond auction failed to get bids for 35 percent of the 10-year debt on offer.

News of a possible framework for a rescue plan helped push global stocks higher for the first time in 11 days. The MSCI All-Country World Index added 3 percent at 1:20 p.m. in New York, snapping its longest slump since 2008, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied 2.9 percent.

The euro strengthened 0.6 percent to $1.3322. The yield on the 10-year German bund advanced four basis points, with the similar-maturity Treasury yield increasing two points after jumping as much as 11 points.

Push to Act

Obama has been calling on European governments to act decisively on a plan to address the crisis. Leaders must summon the “political will” among the 17 nations that use the euro to take steps to ensure fiscal discipline while stabilizing markets, Obama said Nov. 4 in France as the leaders of the G-20 ended a summit.

Van Rompuy and Barroso are top leaders of European institutions having influence over a final resolution, though France and Germany, the largest European economies, are critical to any success.

Obama has spoken frequently with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and today’s White House meetings gave him a chance to further increase his lobbying. Neither head of state is attending today’s summit.

White House press secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t say whether Obama was making any new, explicit requests of the European leaders at the summit.

In a separate fact sheet, the U.S. and European leaders said they directed the Transatlantic Economic Council to create a Working Group on Jobs and Growth.

The panel, to be led by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, is ordered to “identify policies and measures” to boost U.S.-EU trade and investment to increase job creation, economic growth and international competitiveness.

The panel is to provide an interim report in June 2012 and a package of final conclusions and recommendations by the end of 2012.

 

 

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MetLife Provides $725 Million in Financing for Manhattan Office Buildings

November 1, 2011

Emily Philips via MetLife

NEW YORK, Oct 31, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — MetLife, Inc. MetLife announced today that it provided, through its real estate investments department, a $350 million, five year, fixed rate mortgage for the office condominium unit at the Bertelsmann Building, located at 1540 Broadway in Manhattan. MetLife, which provides loans on office, multi-family, industrial and retail properties, has a $40 billion* commercial mortgage portfolio.

"We are pleased to be providing financing for such a high quality asset as 1540 Broadway," said Robert Merck, senior managing director and head of real estate investments for MetLife. "We originate, underwrite and manage each investment with a long-term view, and we are well positioned to identify and complete attractive financing opportunities in top-tier markets such as New York."

The Bertelsmann Building is a 44-story, 907,000 square foot, Class A office building located in Times Square. The building is leased to several high quality tenants, including Viacom, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Duane Morris LLP, and Yahoo!. The borrower is a joint venture between affiliates of Edge Fund Advisors and HSBC Alternative Investments.

In addition to providing financing for 1540 Broadway, MetLife was the lead lender on a $725 million loan for Boston Properties’ 59-story, 1.6 million square foot, Class A office tower and retail property located at 601 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. MetLife provided $375 million of the total $725 million loan, joining with Prudential Mortgage Capital Co. and New York Life.

Through its real estate investments department, MetLife oversees a well diversified real estate portfolio of approximately $60 billion*, which is one of the largest in the U.S. and consists of real estate equities, commercial mortgages and agricultural mortgages. MetLife is a global leader in real estate investment and real estate asset management, with a vast network of regional offices that keep in close contact with major real estate markets. For more information, visit http://www.metlife.com/realestate .

MetLife, Inc. is a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers in over 50 countries. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit http://www.metlife.com .

This press release may contain or incorporate by reference information that includes or is based upon forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements give expectations or forecasts of future events. These statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. They use words such as "anticipate," "estimate," "expect," "project," "intend," "plan," "believe" and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with a discussion of future operating or financial performance. In particular, these include statements relating to future actions, prospective services or products, future performance or results of current and anticipated services or products, sales efforts, expenses, the outcome of contingencies such as legal proceedings, trends in operations and financial results.

Any or all forward-looking statements may turn out to be wrong. They can be affected by inaccurate assumptions or by known or unknown risks and uncertainties. Many such factors will be important in determining the actual future results of MetLife, Inc., its subsidiaries and affiliates. These statements are based on current expectations and the current economic environment. They involve a number of risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. Risks, uncertainties, and other factors that might cause such differences include the risks, uncertainties and other factors identified in MetLife, Inc.’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K (the "Annual Report") filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") and Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q filed by MetLife, Inc. with the SEC after the date of the Annual Report under the captions "Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" and "Risk Factors", MetLife, Inc.’s Current Report on Form 8-K dated March 1, 2011 and other filings MetLife, Inc. makes with the SEC. MetLife, Inc. does not undertake any obligation to publicly correct or update any forward-looking statement if we later become aware that such statement is not likely to be achieved. Please consult any further disclosures MetLife, Inc. makes on related subjects in reports to the SEC.

 

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FDIC Expects Fewer Bank Losses than Originally Estimated

October 20, 2011

Appraiser News Online

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation lowered its projections on estimated bank-failure losses in the coming years, the FDIC announced Oct. 11. Bank failures are now estimated to cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $19 billion through 2015 compared to the estimated $23 billion in losses in 2010 alone.

Acting FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said the fund is on track to recover and will meet the goals established by Congress, including a requirement that the fund reserve ratio reach 1.35 percent by Sept. 30, 2020.

The Deposit Insurance Fund’s balance has climbed for six consecutive quarters following seven previous quarterly declines, reaching a balance of $3.9 billion in the second quarter of 2011. That’s an increase of nearly $25 billion from its negative balance of $20.9 billion at the close of 2009.

Responding to the FDIC’s announcement, Jim Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, noted in American Banker Oct. 16 that the data “reaffirms the fact that the banking industry is rapidly returning to health and the losses once expected were overstated.” Chessen reported that the FDIC had set aside $17.7 billion for bank-failure losses in 2011, twice what is estimated to actually be needed for the year.

The American Bankers Association reported that banks pay $13.5 billion in annual premiums to the FDIC, which is well above the yearly costs the agency expected over the next few years and showed that the fund is rebuilding much faster than anticipated.

 

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The Newest Threat to Home Price

October 18, 2011

Janice Revell, Fortune Magazine

FORTUNE — The rancorous debate about how to address our escalating national debt has dominated the conversation in Washington lately. What isn’t getting much attention inside the Beltway — but should — is a looming event that could have major consequences not only for your home’s value but also for the overall economic recovery. Barring last-minute action by Congress, upscale housing is about to take another punch to the solar plexus — just as it’s struggling to stabilize.

At issue are the limits for so-called conforming mortgage loans that can be bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration. These mortgages have the implied backing of the U.S. government, which lowers their interest rates and down payment requirements. Back in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Congress temporarily hiked the conforming loan limit from $417,000 to $729,750 in affluent areas to boost the flailing housing market.

On Oct. 1, those higher limits are slated to drop back down again in expensive markets nationwide — ranging anywhere from $483,000 in counties like Monterey, Calif., to $625,500 in cities like New York and Washington. As a result, about 1.4 million homes will be pushed out of eligibility for lower-rate conforming loans, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners looking to buy or refinance those properties will instead have to take out "jumbo" mortgages," which require a much larger down payment — generally 20% to 30%, compared with the typical 10% for conforming loans — and carry interest rates that are typically half to three-quarters of a percentage point higher.

The upshot? More downward pressure on prices in high-end markets. The new loan limits will affect approximately 8% of the total U.S. housing market, according to industry estimates, with particularly significant impact across the Northeast and California, as well as parts of Florida and Illinois. (You can find local market specifics at fhfa.gov.) But everyone should take heed: If expensive homes stop selling, then prices for the houses under them will feel the pressure too.

Indeed, while many experts support the idea of weaning the jumbo mortgage market off government financing, they worry about making the move while the housing sector is still trying to clear excess inventory. "Reducing the conforming loan limits will test whether private lenders are willing and able to step up, but doing so this year may be premature," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. "The cost to the housing market and economy of a misjudgment would be high."

There’s speculation that President Obama will propose a major housing-related stimulus in the coming weeks as part of a broader economic plan. Whether that involves extending the conforming loan limits is anyone’s guess at this point. But stay tuned: You’ll feel the impact of this high-end housing issue either way.

The Newest Threat to Home Price

October 18, 2011

Janice Revell, Fortune Magazine

FORTUNE — The rancorous debate about how to address our escalating national debt has dominated the conversation in Washington lately. What isn’t getting much attention inside the Beltway — but should — is a looming event that could have major consequences not only for your home’s value but also for the overall economic recovery. Barring last-minute action by Congress, upscale housing is about to take another punch to the solar plexus — just as it’s struggling to stabilize.

At issue are the limits for so-called conforming mortgage loans that can be bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration. These mortgages have the implied backing of the U.S. government, which lowers their interest rates and down payment requirements. Back in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Congress temporarily hiked the conforming loan limit from $417,000 to $729,750 in affluent areas to boost the flailing housing market.

On Oct. 1, those higher limits are slated to drop back down again in expensive markets nationwide — ranging anywhere from $483,000 in counties like Monterey, Calif., to $625,500 in cities like New York and Washington. As a result, about 1.4 million homes will be pushed out of eligibility for lower-rate conforming loans, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners looking to buy or refinance those properties will instead have to take out "jumbo" mortgages," which require a much larger down payment — generally 20% to 30%, compared with the typical 10% for conforming loans — and carry interest rates that are typically half to three-quarters of a percentage point higher.

The upshot? More downward pressure on prices in high-end markets. The new loan limits will affect approximately 8% of the total U.S. housing market, according to industry estimates, with particularly significant impact across the Northeast and California, as well as parts of Florida and Illinois. (You can find local market specifics at fhfa.gov.) But everyone should take heed: If expensive homes stop selling, then prices for the houses under them will feel the pressure too.

Indeed, while many experts support the idea of weaning the jumbo mortgage market off government financing, they worry about making the move while the housing sector is still trying to clear excess inventory. "Reducing the conforming loan limits will test whether private lenders are willing and able to step up, but doing so this year may be premature," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. "The cost to the housing market and economy of a misjudgment would be high."

There’s speculation that President Obama will propose a major housing-related stimulus in the coming weeks as part of a broader economic plan. Whether that involves extending the conforming loan limits is anyone’s guess at this point. But stay tuned: You’ll feel the impact of this high-end housing issue either way.

Wells Fargo Makes Billions

October 18, 2011

Wells Fargo, More than $1 Billion Per Day; State Examiner Guides Could Be Useful; MERS Training; Conference Talk

Rob Chrisman, Mortgage News Daily

"Buy real estate – they’re not making any more of it." Most of the time that is true, but here is a somewhat interesting 50 seconds of the entire side of a cliff disappearing – England has a new beach.

For a mortgage bank, what is your warehouse cost of funds versus the average mortgage rate for your originations? If your mortgages are at 4%, and your warehouse is at 3%, you’re earning a 1% spread. For Wells Fargo, its net interest margin, the difference between what it pays to borrow and what it earns on loans and securities, was 3.84% last quarter. But no matter, as…

Stocks dropped yesterday after Citigroup and Wells Fargo said quarterly revenue "dropped amid economic weakness and market turmoil linked to Europe." (Wells’ stock dropped over 7% in one day, while Citi was "only" down about 1%.) Looking at mortgage banking, Wells Fargo saw $89 billion in new residential loans go through its system during the third quarter of 2011. Not accounting for weekends, that is about $1 billion per day per my HP-12C. It did not help, however, that Wells increased its mortgage repurchase provision by 61%. Citi reported a 50% jump in residential mortgage originations in the third quarter but also with a large write down related to mortgage servicing rights. Wells took it on the chin with a 6% slump in revenue from a year earlier although third-quarter profit rose 22% percent to $4.06 billion. Citigroup’s net income jumped 74% to $3.77 billion.

Bank of America reported $6.2 billion of net income for the third quarter, up from a $7.3 billion loss one year ago. The worst performer in the DOW 30 stock index this year, the bank extended $33 billion in mortgages during the quarter, with more than half being refinances. And Goldman Sachs (see questionable letter at bottom of commentary) reported a loss for the 3rd quarter, which is only the second reported loss since 1999! The numbers are worse than expected, and Goldman’s share prices are down as a result.

Here’s a note I received yesterday, if anyone has thoughts: "With the coming demise of Bank of America correspondent, we are at a loss for a source which will purchase our few remaining test cases as we move toward getting our DE approval. Any suggestions?"

"Information is power," as they say.  With LQI, and NMLS, a vendor or investor that controls that loan’s data occupies a very important place. I received a note asking, "I have a friend who is fond of the no cash out, no closing cost refinance. He applied, locked, and funded when rates were at 4.375% covering his costs. Now he’s already begun refinancing with another broker for a slightly lower rate, his point being that is a no cost loan. And by doing back-to-back refi’s, there is no harm to the borrower. He can’t be the only one out there like that. When do you think investors will get to the level where they’re checking prepayment speeds on individual borrowers, or originators, using NMLS numbers? Are they already doing that?" First off, and this is common knowledge, investors have had early pay-off penalties in place for several years. Borrowers are required to make X number of payments, X depending on the investor, since each investor assumes that it will have the loan on their books for a certain period of time. In my opinion, if investors or vendors are not looking at property, borrower, or loan agent level refinance & delinquency information yet, it is just a short period of time.
For regulators out there, and those who are subject to regulators, "The Multistate Mortgage Committee (MMC) of the CSBS/AARMR has recently issued two separate guides intended for use by state examiners. While the MMC’s focus is on national lenders with operations in 10 or more states, the guides may prove useful tools for all mortgage companies now that everyone is subject to examination. The first item is a 263 page Mortgage Examination Manual which provides guidance about the process and objectives of the examinations as well as information that may be useful to examinees in preparation for examinations. The second item, released on October 7, 2011 is a 42 page guide for examiners to use when reviewing compliance by non-depository mortgage companies with the FRB’s final loan originator compensation rule. The guide does provide mortgage company management some insights about the "map" the state examiners may be using to determine compliance. Copies of both the Mortgage Examination Manual and the LO Comp Rule Compliance Guides are available as links on the home page of the IMMAAG website: http://immaag.com/.

Yes, MERS does things that don’t make the headlines, like give training. This next one is November 8th, and for $75 you’ll hear all about, "New compliance requirements, Reconciliations and quality assurance topics, The Corporate Resolution Management System, and Upcoming system releases." (The $75 includes Danish!) Don’t be the last to register: http://www.mersinc.org/events/details.aspx?eid=287.

Last week I received this interesting note. "I was at the MBA conference, and I loved it b/c it was fascinating to see the different perspectives you get from Mortgage Bankers versus those you get from the Realtors or Mortgage Brokers (the people who frequent the conferences I usually attend). I very much enjoyed the panel discussions because the information was not stale to me. Here is my biggest take-away: The current crop of seasoned managers and owners has been out of the trenches too long to see what is really going on in today’s lending environment. And this results in two big flaws in judgment/assessment. 1. They are too "accepting" of new regulatory constraints. Too many seem to embrace or grudgingly accept the new rules either already here or coming our way, no matter how destructive or irrational. HVCC guidelines, comp rules, and disclosure requirements are often ridiculous, costly and harmful for the consumer because they cause us to lose locks and/or preclude us from crediting fees.  But, unless one is "in the trenches," this is often not fully absorbed.  Everyone should be "fighting mad". And (2) loan officers and most industry professionals "of yore" are simply too "dumb" (for lack of a better word) to close loans in today’s environment. We let all of our less than brilliant people go years ago, and we now only hire college grads with 3.5 GPAs or better. We test them before we hire them too.  And we are rolling.  A company can market and originate all it wants, but more business is worthless if nobody is capable of closing the many the tough deals that surface today. The ONLY firm I saw at the conference that was aware of the above facts was Academy Mortgage.  Others are so far behind the curve it was shocking." So wrote Jay Voorhees with JVM Lending in California.

The markets out there are nervous. Aren’t "markets" always nervous? Analysts note that transitions to foreclosure have started to increase, which will probably prompt some action from the government. And while they are at it, the government will probably soon announce their long-awaited updates to HARP, which will spook the herd on its impact on prepayments. Agency mortgages are doing pretty well, but no so for non-agency production, which saw an index (PrimeX – more on this tomorrow) take a tumble. And over in the commercial sector, the CMBS market showed some life with synthetic prices moved modestly higher.

For economic news, yesterday the Federal Reserve Empire State Manufacturing general business conditions index remained negative and was nearly unchanged. We also learned that Industrial Production rose by 0.2% in September and Capacity Utilization rose to 77.4%, but neither moved rates. Generally news like this pales in comparison to what is happening in Europe, and a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned not to expect all issues to be resolved by the Oct. 23 meeting, calling it an "impossible dream." Bonds "caught some wind," the 10-yr yield dropped to 2.16%, and many investors had price improvements.

This morning rates have improved again, and the 10-yr is down to 2.09% ahead of the PPI number at 8:30AM EST. Agency mortgage securities are along for the ride to some extent, with early MBS prices better by .125-.250 depending on coupon.

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Lawsuit Claims Banks Bilked Veterans During Refinancing Transactions

October 18, 2011

Evan Nemeroff, National Mortgage News

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by two mortgage brokers has been unsealed in Federal District Court in Atlanta claiming that 13 banks and mortgage companies have cheated veterans out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the lawsuit, lenders allegedly hid illegal fees in veterans’ home mortgage refinancing transactions related to the Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans program. This program was created to allow veterans to take advantage of low interest rates and protect them from paying excessive fees and charges in the refinancing transaction.

The lawsuit claims that the lenders repeatedly violated the rules of the IRRRL program by charging veterans unallowable fees and then deliberately concealing this information from the VA to obtain taxpayer-backed guarantees for the loans. The lenders also allegedly falsely certified to the VA, in writing, that they were not charging unallowable fees.

In the lawsuit, the brokers are claiming that the lenders have been fraudulently reporting on HUD-1 statement forms undisclosed attorneys fees and other unallowable fees on the line for the actual cost of title examination and title search. The lawsuit says that lenders are reportedly charging $525 to $1,200 for title examination and title search fees, when the total cost should only amount to $125 to $200.

Lenders are permitted to charge veterans for recording fees and taxes, fees for a credit report and other “reasonable and customary amounts,” according to VA rules, but cannot charge attorneys’ fees or settlement closing fees in refinancing transactions involving VA loans.

“The false statements and fraudulent conduct are blatant,” said Marlan Wilbanks, co-lead counsel in this whistleblower case. “The banks simply reduced the charges for unallowable fees to zero, and then added those fees in the spaces where allowable fees were to be shown. Veterans don’t know what the usual and customary charges for those allowable fees are, and the VA understandably relied upon the banks to comply with VA regulations, rather than digging into every loan transaction. The banks took advantage of that reliance to cheat veterans and taxpayers.”

Since 2001, the VA has guaranteed over 1.1 million IRRRL loans. According to the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the nationwide default rate for IRRRLs is 18% or more, with approximately more than 100,000 loans going into default every year. Nearly half of the VA loans that default result in foreclosure proceedings, costing the VA about $22,000 for each loan and also massive damages for American taxpayers and veterans.

Under the False Claims Act, the lenders would be liable for all damages resulting from those fraudulently induced guarantees of IRRRL loans, as well as penalties of up to $11,000 for each violation of the act.

The defendants in this case include Wells Fargo, Countrywide Home Loans, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Mortgage Investors Corp., PNC Bank, First Tennessee Bank National Association, Irwin Mortgage Corp., SunTrust Mortgage, New Freedom Mortgage Corp., GMAC Mortgage and Citimortgage,

“This is a massive fraud on the American taxpayers and American veterans,” said James Butler Jr., co-lead counsel of the Atlanta law firm Butler, Wooten and Fryhofer. “Knowing they weren’t allowed to charge the fees, the banks and mortgage companies inflated allowable charges to hide these illegal without telling the veterans who were the borrowers or the VA they were doing so.”

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Fed gives OK for large banks to boost dividends, restart stock buybacks

March 18, 2011

Housingwire.com

Some of the largest banks in the country may boost dividends and restart stock repurchase plans now that the Federal Reserve has completed its comprehensive capital analysis and review.

About two years ago, the central bank advised financial institutions "that safety and soundness considerations required that dividends be substantially reduced or eliminated."

On Friday, the Fed plans to discuss its review with banks that requested a capital action, and all 19 firms that were subject to the stress tests will get "more detailed assessments of their capital planning processes next month."

The mandates to boost capital levels included in Basel 3 and the new requirements in the sweeping Dodd-Frank financial reforms have "substantially clarified the regulatory environment in which these firms will be operating," the Fed said.

From the end of 2008 through 2010, common equity increased by more than $300 billion at the 19 largest U.S. bank holding companies, the Fed said. Allowing these banks to return capital to shareholders improves the entire sector and helps promote the firms long-term access to capital, according to the central bank. The Fed has advised firms to keep dividends to 30% or less of earnings in 2011.

Washington thinktank MF Global anticipates some large firms to act immediately on the Fed decision.

"We would expect most of those banks to make announcements in the coming hours and days," analysts at the Washington-based commodities and derivatives brokerage said.

Under the Fed’s stress tests, banks had to show the ability to maintain at least a 5% Tier 1 common ratio. The most-recent test wasn’t "as standardized" as the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program undertook in early 2009, and doesn’t appear to be as transparent.

"We hear many initial complaints about the black box nature of this stress test," MF Global said. "It is true that the Federal Reserve has provided less detail than in the 2009 test. Yet the Fed did disclose the key economic assumptions. So we believe there is more here than the first impression indicates."

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