Baseball91's Weblog

October 16, 2011

Newly Engineered European Bailouts

Filed under: euro,European Union — baseball91 @ 6:23 AM

“We are in the middle of a crisis. It is not over. It is to be taken seriously, but it is centrally an American crisis.” – German Finance Ministry spokesman Torsten Albig on September 15, 2008.

Economic physics. Can you spell C R A S H? The Great Depression was all about a crash. Credit markets dried up after The Crash on Wall Street. Secular declines, market trends which head in the opposite direction, follow crashes in long time frames anywhere from five to twenty-five years. With all the earmarks of deflation now setting in, in Europe.

WHILE EUROPE SLEPT

“At this stage, we’re quite confident.” – A spokesman for the French Finance Ministry, who said that French banks and French government debt agency, Agence France-Tresor, are not in danger from the market turmoil in the U.S. on September 15, 2008

The system. European banks have become pretend banks, with no money. Across Europe, according to Autonomous Research, loans to banks exceed their deposits by 6 percent. Among French banks, loans exceed deposits by 19 percent. In Greece, they swamp deposits by 32 percent.

THREE YEARS AFTER

On Saturday, Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 called on European leaders to deliver a comprehensive plan to address the European continent’s deepening sovereign-debt crisis. On Wednesday, representatives of the European Union had told European banks that they need to raise more capital to protect themselves against losses on sovereign debt, or politicians will do it. The G20 meeting included non-European countries who have pushed Europe to speed up the plan taking shape among euro-zone countries to address the euro crisis, with the scramble to save the euro and prevent Greece’s debt woes from spreading. Ah, I think they have not been reading the papers about the monetary wars.

About the market dynamics which serve as the regulator out of control world of currency. The Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome on currency which came to all currency out of monetary wars. The current euro crisis was such an after-effect. After the dollar has eroded forty percent over the past decade, the recent rise of the dollar over the past sixty days has itself been a cause of worry in the United States? To whom? Do you need further proof that a weak currency is inflationary than a trip to the grocery store?

If you believed the experts – and I do not – the cause of the bubble which began hissing in 2008 was sub-prime loans, as the political spin doctors in Washington were able to point fingers at bankers rather than at this monetary policy set by the Federl Reserve Bank and the Treasury Department in the Monetary wars. In September 2001 one euro bought 0.92 US dollars. On November 19 WTI crude oil bottomed at $16.70, days after China entered the World Trade Organization. Was it Europe, China, the US, or was this just significant cyclical events, as US debt outstanding through 2009 would more than double, the euro would appreciate by 95% against the dollar, and crude oil would appreciate by 780%. And was the EU foolish for getting dragged into the financing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no tax increases in the US?

It was a world where governments levy taxes not to finance its operations, but to give value to its fiat money as sovereign credit instruments. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in June 2010 had said that budget consolidation is “priority No. 1” for most G-20 members, as Timothy Geithner at the conclusion of the June 2010 G20 meeting expressed concern over the confidence in the system.

The current [euros?] crisis marks the end of an era of credit expansion based on the dollar as the international reserve currency. We are now in a period of wealth destruction. The system is broken.” — George Soros

Can you spell C R A S H? That is what wealth destruction is all about. Less concerned about the loss of buying power for their own citizens, a lot of nations pursue a policy of a weak currencies, hoping that will help their exporters. Especially in monetary wars which have funded the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no rise in taxes leveled on an American public over the past ten years.

As the European debt crisis threatens to halt an anemic global economic recovery, and efforts to deliver a plan to address the crisis dominated discussion at the G20 Paris talks. here is recent discussion over direct exposure of the U.S. financial system to the countries under the most pressure in Europe, with little regard to the indirect exposure. Last week, officials at Morgan Stanley worked overtime trying to calm investors about the bank’s $39 billion in exposure to French banks at the end of last year, not counting hedges and collateral. The total amount of insurance written do not reflect other offsetting trades that bring down these banks’ actual exposure significantly. For investors, the challenges in trying to assess the true exposures are real. At the end of the week, Morgan Stanley appeared to have relieved some investor fears over its exposure to Europe. (Some analysts argue that the amount today is far lower than $39 billion.) Therefore investors have to trust that the institutions are being appropriately rigorous .

“Many of the risks in these institutions are maddeningly hard to plumb, and open to a range of interpretations as banks reduce their exposure to a possible loss by the amount of collateral they have collected from a trading partner. Is the collateral that has been supplied to secure derivatives contracts solid? Is the bank valuing it properly? Can it be located quickly?” asks Gretchen Morgenson. How about in a deflating European economy, when there is no money being loaned?

Monetary war. After the Bank of England announced, in a desperate effort to stave off a new credit crisis and a UK recession, it would pump more money into the economy, the cost of borrowing sterling for three months in the London interbank market fell Friday, its first drop since June 8. Meanwhile, the cost of borrowing dollars and euros for three months in the London interbank market rose last Monday. Ten days ago the Bank of England had announced a fresh round of quantitative easing to stimulate economic growth, meaning it will print an extra GBP75 billion of cash to buy bonds. Data from the British Bankers' Association showed the three-month sterling LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) falling to 0.95875% from 0.96000%. The spread between the three-month dollar LIBOR and the three-month overnight index swap rate–a barometer of banks' willingness to lend–widened to 30.4 basis points from 30.2 basis points Thursday. The euro rate rose to 1.50375% from 1.49563% Thursday, while the three-month dollar rate rose to 0.39111% from 0.38778%.

European banks now have become pretend banks, with no money. Across Europe, according to Autonomous Research, loans to banks exceed their deposits by 6 percent. Among French banks, loans exceed deposits by 19 percent. In Greece, they swamp deposits by 32 percent, writes Gretchen Morgenson.

This is why, writes Gretchen Morgenson, it is becoming such a problem for European banks that so many short-term lenders are declining to renew when loans come due. Money market funds, traditionally big investors in short-term paper issued by European banks, have been reducing exposures. A recent Fitch Ratings report shows that for the two months ended July 31, the 10 largest United States prime money market funds pared their holdings in European banks by 20.4 percent, in dollar terms. In the same period, the funds cut their exposure to Italian and Spanish banks by 97 percent.

But these money funds, with total assets of $658 billion, held $309 billion in debt obligations issued by European banks. That’s equivalent to 47 percent of these funds’ total assets. “We’re seeing a lot of the same things in the markets that we saw in the Lehman era,” Carl B. Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y., told Gretchen Morgenson.

“The economic performance of euro zone countries is diverging at a fast clip,” writes Fred Norris of the New York Times, “when financing became hard to get for many exporters, and customers slashed orders.” The divergence is caused by the battle of deflation with inflation, in the long recognized monetary wars. The trend in countries like Germany is continuing for countries whose economies are in decent shape, though the recovery in trade in other European nations appears to be over. “The issue now is a simple one – the buyers cannot afford what they used to buy, writes Fred Norris. “Imports have returned to pre-crisis levels in Italy and France, as well as much more dramatically in Ireland, Portugal and Spain”— the largest nations forced to seek bailouts.

Pretend banks in a pretend world of union. These European nations have no more unity, never had union, like so many couples living together in sin. And when the going gets tough, a lot more people getting going or just tossed out.

Carl B. Weinberg outlined to Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times what he sees as the major risks which fall into two categories. “Outside the U.S., we never really resumed credit growth since 2009,” he said. “Another hit now would bring credit down and impose a huge squeeze on small businesses throughout Europe and over here also.” Of the two areas of major risk, explained to Gretchen Morgenson, one is the potential for losses incurred by financial institutions that wrote credit insurance on European government debt and the European banks which own so much of that paper. The other major concern is the likely economic hit as banks in the euro zone curb lending significantly. A crucial mechanism linking financial players in the United States to the problems in Europe involves credit derivatives contracts. Carl B. Weinberg expects credit around the world to become even scarcer.

Accounting rule makers even disagree about the right way to approach the manner in which an institution offsets its winning and losing derivatives trades to come up with a so-called net exposure. Standard setters in the United States allow an institution to survey all the contracts it has with a trading partner and compute exposure as the difference between winning trades and losing ones. The Bank for International Settlement, Gretchen Morgenson point out, has a different standard for European banks.

“Stock investors have a bad habit of dismissing problems in the credit markets until it is too late. Make no mistake: the troubles of Europe and its debt-weakened banks will imperil the United States.” For many, it is no longer a question of whether but WHEN Greece will default on its government debt. “Back in the summer of 2007, the stock market was roaring, despite obvious problems in the mortgage market,” writes Gretchen Morgenson.

When credit is the air that business breathes. All over the world. In China, Cheng Siwei, head of Beijing's International Finance Forum and a former deputy speaker of the People's Congress, said interest rate rises and credit curbs to cool overheating were inflicting real pain on thousands of companies used by local party bosses to fund the construction boom. "The tightening policy is creating a lot of difficulties for local governments trying to repay debt, and is causing defaults," he told a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Dalian. "Our version of subprime in the US is lending to local authorities and the government is taking this very seriously."

If he had been correct about the United States in 2008, when Willem H. Buiter then of the European Institute, Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science said that there “was little doubt, in my view, that the Federal authorities will choose the inflation and currency depreciation route over the default route,” his theory would seem to apply to the Eurpean Union. “Together will the foreseeable increase in actual government liabilities because of vastly increased future Federal deficits, this implies the need for a future private to public sector resource transfer that is most unlikely to be politically feasible without recourse to inflation. The only alternative is default on the debt.” He now works for Citibank.

And about those credit derivative that got AIG into the bailout. Still they are sold, unregulated, without requirements for companies to post reserves like the state regulated insurance industry. And speculators can really play games in such markets, with so little supervision. When the next bubble pops, the credit derivative folks with their Ponzi scheme will be the only people left with money.

Of course those European regulators did not address their own problems. In the words of Gretchen Morgenson, ""ONE troubling aspect of the euro zone crisis is just how large the European banks’ sovereign debt holdings are. "At many institutions, the positions dwarf what American institutions held in mortgage-related securities, for example, when compared to book values. Why? Regulators encouraged European banks to hold huge amounts of European government debt by letting them account for these investments as if they posed zero risk. — and that meant the banks didn’t need to set aside a single euro in capital against those holdings. Now, according to an analysis by Autonomous Research, 43 large European banks hold debt in troubled sovereigns that is equal to 63 percent of those institutions’ book values. Adding to the peril is that these banks are funded primarily by short-term investors, like buyers of commercial paper, rather than by depositors, as is more often the case with American banks. This was the same problem faced by Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, which collapsed after short-term lenders fled in panic."

Economic union was not true union. And in the age of the divorce, in the sign of the times, the custody battle was foreseeable in this failed relationship issue, involving credit cards.

“The average life span of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years … and once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent … overspends … with costly wars. Wealth inequity and social tensions increase. And society enters a secular decline.” –Marc Faber

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1 Comment »

  1. It is now December 2014 and France’s creditworthiness has “continually worsened during the six years since the global financial crisis. The question is whether the rising risk trend will continue into 2015 and will that begin to affect its borrowing costs, which have recently hit record lows. The fall in French creditworthiness since 2008 is well-documented. Languishing 23rd in ECR’s global rankings of 186 countries worldwide, on a total risk score of 69.9 points from a maximum 100, as of late November, France is now 11.5 points and 12 places lower than Germany and its debt can be insured accordingly based on a larger CDS risk-premium spread,” per a piece from
    http://www.euromoney.com/Article/3404654/Heightened-French-risk-still-imperilling-the-eurozone.html?copyrightInfo=true

    Comment by baseball91 — December 16, 2014 @ 11:19 PM | Reply


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