JPMorgan Chase's rapid $2 billion trading loss reportedly involved credit default swaps -- the same investments that played such a large role in the financial crisis. Here's why credit default swaps still pose such a threat to the U.S. economy.
This week, the government took a big first step toward shutting down the Can't Lose Room in the Wall Street Casino. It's now one comment period away from enacting the Volcker Rule, which limits the kinds of risky investments banks can make with money insured by the U.S. taxpayer.
Bank earnings are looking pretty good. Barclays announced that it made over $18 billion in 2009. Goldman Sachs had record profits. JP Morgan results were better than expected. Barclays' numbers were driven by assets it bought from Lehman Bros. and sharp improvements at its investment bank. But results from its retail bank operation were weak. So were numbers from its commercial loans. The bank still faces write-offs of leveraged assets on its books. In short, Barclays faces the same problems as most large American financial firms, which could make for a rocky 2010.