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Short on Specifics, Markets Give Mixed Reviews to Obama Bank Plan


After selling off sharply Tuesday, financial markets stabilized Wednesday as analysts and investors give mixed reviews to the bank rescue plan unveiled by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Geithner's plan is aimed at unthawing frozen credit markets and removing bad debts from the the banking system. The initial market response was negative as U.S. stock prices plummeted with the Standard and Poors Index closing five percent lower. There was a recovery of sorts on Wednesday but sentiment is still far from positive.

Gunnar Miller, a trader at Allianz Global investors in London, says market participants wanted clarity from the Treasury but didn't get it.

"I think policy makers right now are loathe to being too specific and the market wants specificity. And they're simply not going to be able to get it," he said.

The chief executives of the U.S. banks that have received taxpayer money as part of the government's earlier efforts to cleanup bank balance sheets did not participate in preparing the Obama administration's plan. On Wednesday they were before a congressional committee answering questions from lawmakers who were furious about their spending practices and end of year bonuses.

Jamie Dimond, the head of JP Morgan Chase, said he is supportive of the Geithner plan.

"I do think if all these things [in the plan] are done well and properly, it will have a very big beneficial effect on this country," he said.

But others are not convinced.Investor Jim Rogers, a former partner of hedge fund operator George Soros, blasts the Geithner plan as merely propping up banks whose risky loans made them nearly insolvent. Rogers told Bloomberg Television that both the Geithner plan and the fiscal stimulus are flawed and emulate the excessive spending that prolonged Japan's financial crisis in the 1990s.

"The Japanese did nothing but spend money and at the same time they refused to clean out their banking system. America is making exactly the same mistake. And the politicians are making it worse, not better," he said.

The Geithner plan suggests that more government money will be made available to banks that pass a medical like stress test measuring their intentions to resume normal lending to businesses and consumers.

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