More Wall Street Bloodletting

The knives are out on Wall Street,, the cyclical ritual has begun. First the story is that the firms are excising businesses and people who were there only by dint of being in the right place during the frenzied upswing, but truth be told, really aren’t up to the firm’s standards, or so goes the party line.

Then in the succeeding waves, the next target is the mid level people, who are comparatively costly but deemed to be replaceable. Then the firm starts cutting people it knows are valuable, but has decided that the overall headcount has to reach a talismanic number, no matter what it takes to reach it. Subsequent firings depend on politics and caprice. Did the boss see you at your desk early? That might win your points for dedication, might lose them because it is seen a sign of desperation, or might merely have the unfortunate effect of reminding him you exist when he needs to draw up a new hit list.

As in the past retrenchments, the point comes where being fired, while still a huge ego blow, is no longer a scarlet letter of career dishonor. Too many known-to-be-good colleagues have also been dumped. And even though the firms freely admit they cut too deeply the last time around and resolve not to do so again, they are unable to contain themselves.

This Bloomberg story reports that Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and Lehman are eliminating a total of 1,640 jobs. Small beer so far, unless you are one of the ones tagged to go. But we are still early in this process. Peak to trough, employment in the securities industry typically falls 20%.

Interestingly, the cuts at Morgan Stanley include asset management, which is not an area obviously affected by the credit contraction.

The story also give a tally of job losses at big financial players, which is useful, but that lumps in people like mortgage brokers at Wachovia with Masters of the Universe. I’d be very curious to see a breakout of cut from institutional versus retail businesses. From Bloomberg:

Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Credit Suisse Group are eliminating about 1,640 jobs as the worst U.S. housing market in 26 years slows economic growth and their profit outlook.

Morgan Stanley’s cuts will affect asset management, retail brokerage and support areas such as technology and administration, said a person familiar with the firm’s plans. The positions at Lehman are concentrated in structured finance, commercial real estate, securitization, trading of mortgages and collateralized debt obligations, a second person said….

Credit Suisse, the second-biggest Swiss bank, said today it’s cutting 500 investment banking jobs, mostly in equities and fixed-income units. The cuts are “due to market conditions and projected staffing levels required to meet client needs,” according to the statement e-mailed today by Bruce Corwin, a spokesman in New York.

Lehman, the largest underwriter of mortgage-backed bonds, has already cut 3,750 jobs at subsidiaries that make home loans and shut down one of them last year…

The new cuts at Morgan Stanley, which will take place over coming weeks, equate to about 2 percent of the 48,256 people that the firm employed at the end of November….Lehman’s cuts represent about 4 percent of the headcount in the fixed-income division…The Credit Suisse reductions will trim 2.5 percent of jobs from its investment banking division, which had 20,300 employees at the end of September, according to the company’s Web site….

The following is a table of jobs eliminated by the biggest banks and securities firms due to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.

Firm Number of Jobs Cut

Citigroup 4,200

Lehman Brothers 3,890

Bank of America 3,650

Washington Mutual 2,600

Morgan Stanley 1,900

HSBC 1,650

Bear Stearns 1,550

UBS 1,500

Merrill Lynch 1,000

National City 900

RBC 500

Wells Fargo 500

Wachovia 443

Deutsche Bank 370

Credit Suisse 820

JPMorgan Chase 100
Total 25,573

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One comment

  1. doc holiday

    OT, thought this might fit in:

    No Easy Cure For Market Or Economy

    Similarly, the Fed’s sudden reduction of the funds rate by 75 basis points only a week before a scheduled meeting indicates that they, too, are behind the curve. Even in normal times Fed rate cuts have invariably been late since it takes anywhere from 6-to-18 months to boost the real economy. In the post-war period the U.S. has endured ten recessions despite Fed efforts to avert them. Now with financial instruments far more complex than in the past, the Fed has even less control over the economy. As recently stated by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, “Too many bubbles have been going on for too long. The Fed is not really in control of the situation.”

    In our view the market has entered a major bear trend that has a long way to go. There is no way to discount the impact of future writeoffs, the resolution of the credit crisis or the length and depth of the recession. Furthermore, earnings estimates have only started to come down, and there are a lot more downward revisions in store. In the last two weeks alone Standard & Poor’s’ estimate of S&P 500 reported earnings for 2007 has dropped 3.8%, due entirely to a downward revision of the 4th quarter by 19%

    ** As we slide into the bear market don’t be fooled into thinking that a new bull market is starting with every rally.

    Japan up 500 and wallstreet will probably go parabolic again and again, but as this illusion at the wallstreet casino & circus disconnects from economic reality this will be a relative matter of entropy:

    Re: Time’s Arrow

    When professors first introduce entropy and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, we hear them refer to a term called Time’s Arrow. In the second law dS = dqrev/T, where S = entropy, q = heat, and T = temperature. Time’s Arrow attempts to talk informally about the asymmetry (or anisotropy) of the universe.

    For example, if a bottle of perfume were spilt, the molecules would generally diffuse throughout the entire room. However, we can never take a room with diffuse perfume molecules and expect that they would spontaneously congregate into the bottle of perfume. This is an example of a reaction that is asymmetric with respect to time.

    One of the most important things to remember about the change in entropy for an equation. If DS is positive for any process, then that process will spontaneously proceed towards the common sense direction1. In other words, if DS is positive, then a kettle will cool down.

    Maybe this is another example to ponder: A simple example is the distribution of a pie among three people. The most equitable distribution would assign one third to each person. However the assignment of, say, a half section to each of two individuals and none to the third is also Pareto optimal despite not being equitable, because none of the recipients is left worse off than before, and there are many other such distributions. An example of a Pareto inefficient distribution of the pie would be allocation of a quarter of the pie to each of the three, with the remainder discarded. The origin of the pie is conceived as immaterial in these examples. In such cases, in which a “windfall” that none of the potential distributees actually produced is to be allocated (e.g., land, inherited wealth, a portion of the broadcast spectrum, or some other resource), the criterion of Pareto efficiency does not determine a unique optimal allocation.

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