A good day for it…

I’m trying to wrap my head around the whole Bear Stearns thing. While I’m doing that – and trying not to see it as a precursor to a financial apocalypse – happy St. Patrick’s Day!

JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to buy Bear Stearns Cos. for about $240 million, less than a 10th of its value last week, after a run on the company ended 85 years of independence for Wall Street’s fifth-largest securities firm. *

Value of the office building BS owns?

The 1.2 million-square-foot, 45-story structure built in 2001 is worth about $1.2 billion, based on the average $1,000 per- square-foot that comparable office space in the city is currently fetching.

Um. Wow. So the rest of Bear Stearns assets are worth in the neighborhood of -$960,000,000?

Update – Nouriel Roubini:

The response of the Fed to this run has been radical and in the form of the extension of the lender of last resort support to non bank financial institutions. Specifically, the new $200 bn term facility allows primary dealers – many of which are non banks – to swap their toxic mortgage backed securities for US Treasuries; second, the Fed provided emergency support to Bear Stearns and following the purchase of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan, is now providing a $30 bn plus support to JPMorgan to help the rescue of Bear Stearns; finally, now the Fed is allowing primary dealers to access the Fed discount window at the same terms as banks.

This is the most radical change and expansions of Fed powers and functions since the Great Depression: essentially the Fed now can lend unlimited amounts to non bank highly leveraged institutions that it does not regulate. The Fed is treating this run on the shadow financial system as a liquidity run but the Fed has no idea of whether such institutions are insolvent. As JPMorgan paid only about $200 million for Bear Stearns – and only after the Fed promised a $30 billlion loan – this was a clear case where this non bank financial institution was insolvent. *