We appreciate that, at the time, the concept of "stress tests" sounded clever. Of course, as a bit of political theater and slogan propaganda, it couldn't have hurt to have the general population picturing bloated bankers bobbing up and down on a slowly inclining treadmill with between twenty and thirty highly-adhesive electrodes plastered over every inch of chest-hair covered skin available. Wires tangling like angel-hair pasta, intertwining with thick, translucent-blue respiration tubes finally terminating in a gag-like, white, hard-plastic mouthpiece plug, stuffing the greedy mouth that would otherwise be consuming twice its weight in WTI crude daily and spewing forth financial virus laden droplets of saliva and greed.
Unfortunately, the reality of the stress tests is more suggestive of a lazy ride on a parental push-bar fitted Schwinn Roadster 9-inch Trike. So what does it mean, exactly, when it looks like Wells Fargo might have trouble even with that?
Something was curiously absent from Wells Fargo's triumphant first-quarter earnings material: Any statement that the bank would try and quickly pay back government capital.
That may be because it needs every penny of the $25 billion the government invested in the bank last year as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
In other words, the bank doesn't have much room for maneuver. And the government may decide that Wells Fargo needs more capital if its stress tests predict elevated losses at the bank. A look at its balance sheet suggests such an outcome is not unthinkable.
Wells Fargo Buffers in Silence [The Wall Street Journal]