Merrill Lynch's (MER) Bad Medicine

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A lot of people on Wall St. were worried about the future of Merrill Lynch (MER) and were glad when Bank of America (BAC) bought it. Now, Bank of America may be unhappy.

Merrill lost $5.2 billion in the third quarter. The brokerage firm said that it had a loss from continuing operations for the third quarter of 2008 of $5.1 billion, or $5.56 per diluted share, compared with a net loss from continuing operations of $2.4 billion, or $2.99 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2007.

Among the bad news was that Merrill had net write-downs of $3.8 billion principally from severe market dislocations in September, including real estate-related asset write-downs and losses related to certain government sponsored entities and major U.S. broker-dealers, as well as the default of a U.S. broker-dealer.

In addition, the firm had net losses of $2.6 billion resulting primarily from completed and planned asset sales across residential and commercial mortgage exposures.

"We continue to reduce exposures and de-leverage the balance sheet prior to the closing of the Bank of America deal," said John A. Thain, chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch. Thain better hope BAC sees it that way.

Douglas A. McIntyre