The bank and financial engineering bloodbath got a whole lot worse this morning after a Wall Street plunge and the likes of Allco triggered a major sell-off in morning trade. Here’s a snapshot of the state of play at midday:

NAB: down 5.48% to $26.90 in morning trade as peak to trough fall cracks 40%. Valued at $73.3 billion in November, now just $43.9 billion.

CBA: down 3.8% to $39.03 – a loss of 37.2% from last November’s record high of $62.16. Our biggest bank has dropped from a market cap of $81.8 billion to $51.36 billion in 4 months.

Westpac: down 3.62% to $21.33 – a loss of 31.9% from the peak of $31.32 as $19 billion in market value has evaporated and Gail Kelly is now running a bank worth only $40 billion.

ANZ: down 5.38% to $20.05 – the $61 billion market cap last November has dropped by 36.8% to $38.5 billion.

Let’s be honest about what is happening here. This morning’s $8 billion loss of value in our Big Four banks has lifted the total fall from the November peaks to $102 billion. Our once all-powerful $275 Big Four are now just worth $173 billion – roughly equivalent to what BHP is offering Rio Tinto shareholders.

For the first time in many years, our listed resources stocks are about to replace the financials as the largest portion of our stockmarket. And that’s despite about 80% of our resource stocks being foreign owned and not available for local investors.

Those financial engineers which haven’t yet collapsed have been hit even harder than the banks. Babcock & Brown is off 9.5% this morning to $14.03 – a whopping 59.6% plunge from last year’s record high of $34.78.

Macquarie Group lost another 3.36% this morning and is now down 54% from last year’s record high of $98.64.

The bottom line here is that Australia’s $610 billion foreign needs to be refinanced locally because global credit markets are freezing up. But the local non-bank finance market is collapsing and our big bank cartel simply can’t cope with the demand.

Bad debts are going to soar thanks to the world’s greatest ever fire sale as the system forces some global de-leveraging.

This scary article by Gerard Minack in The Eureka Report on Wednesday predicted a severe housing correction in Australia and also exposed how Reserve Bank has run down foreign reserves from $65 billion to $25 billion in the last quarter.

Our central bank just doesn’t have the capacity to keep injecting much needed liquidity into the banking system and our private banks have stopped funding the record current account deficit.

At the end of the day, our banks need more capital. Dividends must cut be or dividend reinvestment plans introduced. The saving grace will be our huge pool of superannuation – which has fallen below $1 trillion by the way – and the Future Fund.

I’d be happy with the Future Fund taking a $1 billion placement in each of the Big Four bank tomorrow to help them take over all that maturing foreign debt that can’t be refinanced. The Reserve Bank should be cutting not lifting interest rates.

Oh, and all those Greenies who read Crikey should be happy. Gunns hasn’t got a snow flakes chance in hell of funding its pulp mill in the current environment.

Peter Fray

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