Agnes's Feed
Oct 11, 2012
via Breakingviews

U.S. banking overhaul gets a second wind

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The push to overhaul the U.S. banking sector is getting a second wind. Two years after the 848-page Dodd-Frank financial reform act thudded onto desks across Wall Street, regulators, politicians and even banking grandees are back out on the stump talking up ideas that were left on the cutting-room floor. Fresh on the heels of the hoopla to break up banks, the Federal Reserve’s top cop is advocating capping their size. It’s increasingly evident that too big to fail remains too big a concern.

Oct 10, 2012
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Wells Fargo in mortgage mire, just like the others

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Wells Fargo is stuck in the mortgage mire, just like other big U.S. lenders. Warren Buffett’s favorite bank trades at a premium to U.S. rivals like Bank of America and JPMorgan, partly thanks to a carefully cultivated “not Wall Street” image. But the West Coast bank had no trouble cooking up its own questionable home loans during the housing boom.

Oct 4, 2012
via Breakingviews

New U.S. stress test needed: higher interest rates

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By Agnes T. Crane and Richard Beales
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own. 

“Don’t fight the Fed,” the saying goes. The U.S. Federal Reserve is promising ultra-low interest rates into 2015. Yet the buildup of low-yielding debt on financial firms’ balance sheets means they may suffer badly if rates jump. The central bank aside, prudent bosses – and their watchdogs – need to ensure they are avoiding fights with history, too.

Oct 1, 2012

Center of gravitas shifts at the New York Times

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are her own)

By Agnes T. Crane

NEW YORK, Oct 1 (Reuters Breakingviews) – One of the 20th
century’s most influential American publishers, Arthur Ochs
Sulzberger, died on Saturday. He was 86. The grandson of Adolph
S. Ochs who bought the New York Times more than a century ago,
Sulzberger transformed what had been a struggling paper into a
media empire. Upheaval in the news business, however, has forced
his son Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. to dismantle it. The elder
Sulzberger’s gravitas will be missed as his heir struggles to
keep the paper a family affair.

Sep 21, 2012
via Breakingviews

Federal Reserve running out of taboos to break

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The U.S. central bank is running out of taboos to break. This week, Boston Federal Reserve President Eric Rosengren admitted that the latest quantitative easing broadside would debase the dollar. His counterpart in Minneapolis, Narayana Kocherlakota, traditionally on the hawkish side, said that an above-target inflation rate of 2.25 percent would be tolerable.

Sep 18, 2012

Inept Fannie/BofA deal highlights US mortgage mess

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are her own.)

By Agnes T. Crane

NEW YORK, Sept 18 (Reuters Breakingviews) – An inept $512
million mortgage deal between Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB: Quote, Profile, Research) and Bank of
America (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research) casts another revealing spotlight into what ails
mortgage finance in America. A new report shows that the
government-controlled agency paid too much to pull some loan
servicing business from Bank of America for doing a bad job.
This double incompetence doesn’t just reflect poorly on the two
firms. It’s a reminder that the backbone of the U.S. housing
finance is in dire need of repair.

Sep 13, 2012

American bank mergers will be a messy affair

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are her own.)(Deletes extraneous character in first
paragraph.)

By Agnes T. Crane

NEW YORK, Sept 13 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Mergers among
small and medium-sized American banks are a no-brainer in a
post-crisis world. There are still 7,000 of them battling
cheaply-financed too-big-to-fail behemoths and super-regional
juggernauts. So bulking up is something of an existential
necessity. But getting hitched is easier than it looks. Just ask
Akron, Ohio-based FirstMerit (FMER.O: Quote, Profile, Research), which on Thursday
unveiled a messy $1 bln-plus takeover of rival Citizens Republic
(CRBC.O: Quote, Profile, Research).

Jul 31, 2012
via Breakingviews

U.S. banks loath to kick even soft crisis drug

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

U.S. banks don’t even want to kick the softest of crisis drugs. Community bankers are pushing to extend a crisis program under which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp insures $1.5 trillion of deposits without limit. Yet the program helps concentrate risk, distorts funding costs and brings outsized benefits to the biggest banks.

Jul 25, 2012
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Sandy Weill U-turn fuels big bank breakup fire

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Sanford Weill is the last person you’d expect to champion the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. After all, Citigroup was not just his creation – the banking behemoth killed off the Depression-era legislation that kept investment and commercial banking separate. But on Wednesday he called for breaking up such conjoined firms, joining a long list of critics across the political spectrum who have become frustrated with financial reform. 

In his interview on CNBC, Weill complained that the combination of the Dodd-Frank Act’s tangle of regulation and populist outrage at big banks has hobbled the industry. His suggestion: hive off investment banking. This is rich coming from the man who hung a portrait with the words “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall” in his office. Nor did he shoulder any of the blame for creating a mega-bank that stumbled from crisis to crisis before sucking down a $45 billion taxpayer bailout. 

Jul 12, 2012
via Breakingviews

Wells Fargo’s mortgage strength is U.S. weakness

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By Agnes T. Crane
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.


Wells Fargo’s mortgage strength is America’s weakness. The bank accounts for a third of the country’s new home loans and is the largest servicer, too. That’s great for Wells’ bottom line. But such a dominant market share, if sustained, could be bad news for consumers and taxpayers. Rivals need to up their game.