Wall Street Finally Starting to Feel Subprime, Alt-A Pinch

Looks like the financial fallout from the recent credit crunch in subprime — and, to a lesser extent, in Alt-A — is finally starting to hit the bottom lines of some Wall Street firms. I’d been surprised in the recent past by the resilience of many firms, including Bear Stearns, but it’s starting to look like ongoing mortgage woes are finally coming home to roost. Bear Stearns has received the most press in the financial media in the past few days, given that it reported a 10 percent drop in earnings. Bloomberg reports:

Fixed-income revenue, which typically accounts for half the firm’s total, fell 21 percent as delinquencies on subprime home loans surged. … “The numbers were disappointing,” said Bill Fitzpatrick, who helps oversee more than $1 billion at Racine, Wisconsin-based Johnson Asset Management, which holds Bear Stearns shares. “Bear Stearns remains a fixed-income franchise. If there will be more issues in the subprime market, Bear will take more of a hit than competitors.”

But Bear Stears isn’t the only firm feeling at least some heat due to the decline in the mortgage markets. Both Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers were hit too, although their investment-banking and equity-trading businesses were able to offset softness in the fixed-income markets. And there may be more of this to come, as per an Associated Press story:

…Goldman mustered only a 1 percent increase [in profit]. Top executives at both investment houses indicated that subprime woes aren’t spilling into other areas of the mortgage industry but that the worst may still lay ahead. “The subprime business continues to be weak; we haven’t seen the bottom of the market,â€? Goldman Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said. “There will be more pain.â€?

I’ll go a little bit further than Viniar: I don’t think subprime is the only business that will be a “pain” to the brokerage sector over the next two quarters.

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