Our troubled economy

As the markets shake out, things may not be nearly as bad as they seemed

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2008 - 12:47 AM

After Wall Street's wild ride this week, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your investments are probably right about where they were a week ago.

After all the gyrations, the Standard & Poor's 500 index finished up 0.3 percent for the week. And while financials quaked, small-caps ruled: The Russell 2000 index of small-capitalization companies rose 4.6 percent. The Bloomberg-Star Tribune 100 index of Minnesota's largest publicly held companies was up 2 percent for the week and 9 percent so far in the third quarter.

The biggest winner: TCF Financial Corp. Shares of the regional consumer bank jumped nearly 30 percent this week and are up 96 percent since their July low.

"TCF was heavily shorted, and because it had many home-equity loans it got killed in the selloff of bank stocks," said veteran regional bank analyst Ben Crabtree of Steifel Nicholaus. "TCF is not out of line with other banks I follow. I've got stocks up by 100 percent this month."

U.S. Bancorp is up 36 percent since July 1, and 20 percent so far this year. USB has minimal exposure to the subprime mortgage virus that has brought down so many money center banks and investment houses from New York to London.

"This is Wall Street vs. Main Street, and Main Street is winning," said Keith Tufte, a veteran equity analyst and portfolio manager who now runs Longview Capital Management in Eden Prairie.

"The investment banking industry is going out of business or tying up with commercial banks who have stable deposit bases."

Amid the panic, Wells Fargo, USB and TCF are hitting year-to-date highs, Tufte said.

Other winners include Golden Valley floor-cleaning equipment maker Tennant Co., up 28.5 percent this quarter; Buffalo Wild Wings (73 percent); the Travelers Companies (17 percent) and Piper Jaffray (48 percent).

A calamitous market week on Wall Street was salvaged after the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve pledged hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to clean the subprime sludge off the balance sheets of huge financial institutions.

Mike Oxley, the retired Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and one of the architects of the Sarbanes-Oxley boardroom-reform legislation of 2002, blamed federal regulators and the Federal Reserve for failing to use their authority to halt the dangerous lending practices that fed the boom.

"You can't have a buyer-beware ... unfettered market," Oxley said this week. "There was no accountability."

Murray Frank, a University of Minnesota business professor, said only time will tell whether the federal intervention will inspire confidence in credit markets and among investors beyond the reassurance of the past couple of days.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • nstanthony@startribune.com

  • about this series

  • The Star Tribune's coverage of the housing crisis, the credit crunch and their effect on Minnesotans.
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