Now That The Largest Bank Failure In U.S. History Is Over, Is Wachovia Next?

The collapse of Washington Mutual and the FDIC-engineered fire sale to JPMorgan Chase has people worried — about Wachovia. Wachovia’s stock is down 45% for the week, and 27% today as bailout talks stalled in Washington and WaMu held a garage sale at the FDIC.

Dow Jones reports that those of you waiting to hear more about those option-ARM, “pick-a-payment” or “pay-option” loans are going to be happy:

Wachovia, like WaMu, has a troubled mortgage portfolio and faces its own uncertain future. Saddled with a mountain of troubled adjustable-rate mortgages inherited through its 2006 takeover of Golden West Financial Corp., Wachovia has seen its financial condition weaken and its stock price plunge. Former Chairman and Chief Executive G. Kennedy Thompson was ousted earlier this year.

Both WaMu and Wachovia have taken big lumps from writing a mountain of so-called option-ARM loans, or adjustable-rate mortgages that allow some homeowners to actually increase their loans’ balance by paying less than the full monthly interest they owe.

Option-ARM loans have quickly become notorious for showing high rates of delinquencies and foreclosures. Many option-ARM borrowers have increased their loan balances even as the value of their homes fell, leading many to stop making payments or walk away from properties altogether as their homes were worth less than what they owed on the mortgages.

Wachovia recently held more than $120 billion in such loans, a central driver that has led the firm to raise capital and slash its dividend.

Not too long ago the CEO of JPMorgan Chase had this to say about the coming wave of Option-ARM loans: “The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building.” He added that the losses on these mortgages, which were given to people with good or excellent credit, will be “terrible.”

Wachovia shares sink, down 45% for week [Chicago Tribune]
(Photo: epicharmus )