MacroScope

Financial headcounts stabilize in 2009

After financial firms slashed hundreds of thousands of jobs in 2007 and 2008, the bloodletting slowed in 2009 as major banks rebounded from the financial crisis. Even though firms like Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co reported billions of dollars in profit, they still did not announce major hiring initiatives.

Recession layoffs Headcount (end 2008) Headcount (end 2009) Bank of America 45,000 240,202 283,717* Citigroup 75,000 323,000 265,000 Goldman Sachs 4,800 34,500 32,500 J.P. Morgan 23,700 224,961 222,316 Morgan Stanley 8,680 45,295 61,388* UBS 19,700 77,783 65,233 Credit Suisse 7,320 47,800 47,600 Barclays 9,050 152,800 144,200 Deutsche Bank 1,380 80,456 77,053 Santander 2,600 170,961 169,460

* Includes additional employees from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney merger and Bank of America’s merger with Merrill Lynch, both of which were completed in 2009 (Steve Eder and Steve Slater)

Insider recalls the day that Lehman died

Joseph Tibman was a senior banker at Lehman Brothers for 20 years and is now the author of “The Murder of Lehman Brothers, An Insider’s Look on the Global Meltdown”. Tibman writes under a pseudonym to preserve his ability to work in finance. The views expressed are his own.

September 12, 2008 was a Friday like no other.

Just one day earlier, I was somewhat concerned about the hammered Lehman Brothers share price and the persistent rumors about my firm, but I had been here before. Well not exactly here. But I was sure Lehman would survive as an independent firm.

Had I overdosed on the Lehman-distributed talking? Soon after I arrived at my office in the Lehman headquarters at 745 Seventh Avenue on the north end of Time Square, it was clear my world, and that of all those around me, was spinning off its axis. The word was out. The Federal Reserve Bank and U.S. Treasury were in the building. So were Bank of America and Barclays Capital. Or were they?

Buy now, pay later? It’s later.

Buy now, pay later was the mantra of U.S. consumers during a debt-fueled binge earlier this decade.

Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch economists think getting U.S. household debt-to-income back to the long-term trend will require eliminating $1.75 trillion in debt, assuming no change in disposable income. That will probably take years.

And that’s their more conservative forecast, just taking the ratio from its current level of 131 percent down to 115 percent. To get back to the average seen in the 1990s, $4.35 trillion in debt would have to be eliminated. 

Mr. Green Shoots in an orange jumpsuit?

Economist James Hamilton was pretty offended by the rough treatment of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke last week at the hands of some U.S. politicians. But when he put up a defense of the Fed chief on his blog, he got an earful from readers who were critical of the U.S. central bank and suspicious over its role in the financial crisis and last year’s bank bailouts.

Some members of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee quizzing Bernanke last week voiced outrage over the Fed’s role in Bank of America’s takeover of Merrill Lynch. They claim the Fed covered up pressure on BofA to swallow massive Merrill losses in order to protect the wider economy.

Hamilton said they were trying to turn Bernanke into a scapegoat.

“These interrogations reveal more about those doing the grilling than they reveal about Bernanke,” Hamilton, an economics professor at the University of California, San Diego, wrote on his blog. “I see this as pure political theater, and I don’t like it.”

Hey Europe, stop acting so happy

Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg’s views are well-known for bearing no resemblance to his firm’s trademark bull, so when he says European clients seem too upbeat, what he really means is they weren’t thoroughly depressed. The New York-based economist just got back from a marketing trip across the Atlantic and didn’t find much common ground.

In particular, he said European clients seemed more concerned about inflation than the deflation that he sees coming, and they may have unrealistically high expectations for President Barack Obama.

“Unbelievably … portfolio managers seem to think they are taking a bigger risk with their careers by missing the rallies than by missing the sell-offs,” he wrote in a note to clients. “I can tell you that this is not a condition from a sentiment standpoint that terminates bear markets.”

from Global Investing:

End of carry trade unwind?

Merrill Lynch's monthly poll of fund managers around the world has a bit of a surprise in the small print. More investors now reckon the Japanese yen is overvalued than see it as undervalued. This is the first time this has been the case since Merrill began asking the question, said by staff to be about eight years ago.

It clearly reflects a 13 percent dive in dollar/yen this year and a 24 percent plunge in euro/yen. But does the new view of value suggest that the unwinding of the carry trade is over? Another question from the Merrill poll shows hedge fund deleveraging levelling off.