How Bruce Berkowitz Accidentally Helped Ambac (MBI, AIG, ABK)

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If you look through activist investor hedge fund filings, one of the top fund managers and funds to watch is Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital Management, L.L.C.  It is of little surprise that his new financial guaranty holding via MBIA Inc. (NYSE: MBI) and an increased AIG holding in American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) are both trading higher.  In an odd twist of fate, this actually has shares of Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABK) up the most.

MBIA Inc. (NYSE: MBI) is up 7.3% at $6.90 in the after-hours session after a 2.6% drop to $6.43 today. American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) shares are up 1.6% at $36.15 after a 0.9% drop to $35.57 today.

The tie for Ambac Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABK) is a strange one.  It is a little pig when compared to its rival MBIA, but nonetheless traders are using the “if he likes MBIA, then he likes the others in the sector whether he knows it or not” mentality.  Ambac shares closed down 2.3% at $0.65 in the regular trading session, but traders have this stock up a sharp 10.3% to $0.72 today.  Since the 4:00 PM closing bell, Ambac has traded 225,643 shares.

If you asked Berkowitz what he thinks of Ambac versus MBIA, it is probably a safe bet he’d tell you the two are not even in the same league any longer.  Ambac is so troubled that it is under NYSE delisting risk and has warned on its own of a far worse fate on its finances.  It is even a brand we think will disappear in 2011.

Traders will often make references among stock peers and competitors for cause and effect, and they often trade off that regardless of how valid the real ties are at the time.  If this isn’t a case of that in the extreme, then nothing else is.