November wraps up the financial year at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos Inc.

Although the New Year always comes early for these few, this time around should make for a particularly pleasant fresh start. The early-reporting banks could be in a position to pounce on opportunities.

The four banks close their books for their financial years on or around 30 November each year. Other Wall Street firms operate on calendar years.

Lehman is scheduled to report its fourth quarter earnings on 13 December, and Goldman on 18 December. Morgan plans to report during the same week as Goldman, and Bear has yet to confirm its schedule.

One thing they’ll be happy to do is get the latest write-downs of subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) behind them.

Hedge fund group Citadel Solutions called some kind of a bottom with its purchase this week of a $3 billion (Rs11,910 crore) portfolio of asset-backed securities from E*Trade Financial Corp. for just more than 25 cents on the dollar.

If that’s indicative of real market values, it suggests that prices for some securities are lower than most on Wall Street have yet accepted.

The banks closing their books may have to take this into account. But their traders might also spot bargains as others —Merrill Lynch and Citigroup Inc., say—tidy up their balance sheets for their year-ends. The early birds can also get a jump-start on new investment banking business.

November’s usually strong volume of US mergers and acquisitions was down 71%, compared with last year, according to Dealogic Holdings Plc. The four early reporters will be open for business, and they’ll face less than the usual competition for deals until January.

Of course, there could be more balance sheet and economic headwinds coming. But closing the books on their 2007s and looking ahead for a change will come as a relief for the four Wall Street firms, and perhaps also as an opportunity.