May 4, 2009

Remember when your teachers would mark on the curve because they were afraid of how it would look to have the entire class fail? I suspect this is like that:

The results of the bank stress tests to be released by the Obama administration this week are expected to include more detailed information about individual banks — assessing specific parts of their loan portfolios — than many analysts have been expecting.

Using these results, the administration seems prepared to argue that, while a few banks may need additional money, the broad financial system is healthier than many investors fear.

At the core of the test will be a judgment about whether each of the country’s 19 biggest banks has enough money to withstand a deep recession and, if not, how much more capital it needs to be able to lend at a healthy pace, according to regulators. Unless regulators change course this week, the tests are also likely to forecast potential losses in individual slices of the credit markets, like residential mortgages, credit card loans and commercial loans, for each bank over the next two years.

The administration is expected to make the case that the needs of the troubled banks can be met with the bailout funds that Congress has already approved. That would be a departure from what administration officials were saying as recently as March and evidently reflects the recent improvement in banks’ conditions.

“None of these banks are insolvent,” said a senior government official, who did not want to be identified before the public release of the test results.

[...] On Thursday afternoon, regulators expect to publish an analysis of the banks’ assets, akin to a sprawling research report written by a Wall Street analyst but one that comes with the government’s imprimatur. In effect, Treasury Department and Federal Reserve regulators will be handing over information to investors so that they can decide which banks they want to invest in — and which will ultimately need more bailout money.

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