Credit Default Swaps
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
Or Maybe the Biggest of All Time ...
Earlier today, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), one of the few transnational financial "supervisors" which is about as relevant in the grand scheme of things as the BIS, whose Basel III capitalization requirements will never be adopted for the simple reason that banks can not afford, now or ever, to delever and dispose of assets to the degree required for them to regain "stability" (nearly $4 trillion in Europe alone as we explained months ago), issued a report on Shadow Banking. The report is about 3 years late (Zero Hedge has been following this topic since 2010), and is largely meaningless, coming to the same conclusion as all other historical regulatory observations into shadow banking have done in the recent past, namely that it is too big, too unwieldy, and too risky, but that little if anything can be done about it. Specifically, the FSB finds that the size of the US shadow banking system is estimated to amount to $23 trillion (higher than our internal estimate of about $15 trillion due to the inclusion of various equity-linked products such as ETFs, which hardly fit the narrow definition of a "bank" with its three compulsory transformation vectors), is the largest in the world, followed by the Euro area with a $22 trillion shadow bank system (or 111% of total Euro GDP in 2011, down from 128% at its peak in 2007), and the UK in third, with $9 trillion. Combined total shadow banking, not to be confused with derivatives, which at least from a theoretical level can be said to offset each other (good luck with that when there is even one counterparty failure), is now $67 trillion, $6 trillion higher than previously thought, and virtually the same as global GDP of $70 trillion at the end of 2011.
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
Could Cost Billions to Replace
Mitt Romney has a credibility problem. He changes his beliefs like laundry (abortion, medical insurance, whether Bin Laden was worth killing, attacking Iran), refuses to disclose his tax returns, and won't explain how he could possibly pay for the tax cuts he proposes. But there is another scandal in Romney's campaign -- namely Glenn Hubbard, Romney's chief economic advisor, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush, and is now Dean of Columbia Business School. I interviewed Hubbard for my documentary film Inside Job, and analyzed his record again for my book Predator Nation. The film interview became famous because Hubbard blew his cool after I interrogated him about his conflicts of interest: "This isn't a deposition, sir. I was polite enough to give you time, foolishly I now see, but you have three more minutes. Give it your best shot." But the really important thing about Hubbard isn't his personality; it's that as an economist and an advisor, he is a total, unmitigated disaster.
If you often wonder why ‘free market capitalism’ feels like it is failing despite universal assurances from economists and political pundits that it is working as intended, your intuition is correct. Free market capitalism has become a thing of the past. In truth free market capitalism has been replaced by something that is truly anti-free market and anti-capitalistic. The diversion operates in plain sight. Beginning sometime around 1970 the U.S. and most of the ‘free world’ have diverged from traditional “free market capitalism” to something different. Today the U.S. and much of the world’s economies are operating under what I call Monetary Fascism: a system where financial interests control the State for the advancement of the financial class. This is markedly different from traditional Fascism: a system where State and industry work together for the advancement of the State. Monetary Fascism was created and propagated through the Chicago School of Economics. Milton Friedman’s collective works constitute the foundation of Monetary Fascism. Today the financial and banking class enforces this ideology through the media and government with the same ruthlessness of the Church during the Dark Ages: to question is to be a heretic. When asked in an interview what humanities’ future looked like, Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, said “Imagine a boot smashing a human face forever.”
Before the campaign contributors lavished billions of dollars on their favorite candidate; and long after they toast their winner or drink to forget their loser, Wall Street was already primed to continue its reign over the economy. For, after three debates (well, four), when it comes to banking, finance, and the ongoing subsidization of Wall Street, both presidential candidates and their parties’ attitudes toward the banking sector is similar – i.e. it must be preserved – as is – at all costs, rhetoric to the contrary, aside. Obama hasn’t brought ‘sweeping reform’ upon the Establishment Banks, nor does Romney need to exude deregulatory babble, because nothing structurally substantive has been done to harness the biggest banks of the financial sector, enabled, as they are, by entities from the SEC to the Fed to the Treasury Department to the White House.
Guest Post: On Currency Swaps And Why Gartman May Be Wrong In Focusing On The Adjusted Monetary BaseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/14/2012 13:53 -0400
Last week Dennis Gartman, in his homonymous letter said that he was concerned about the fact that the adjusted monetary base has been falling, rather than rising, taking away the bullish case for gold on the topic of “money printing”. One must therefore remind those with this concern that the credit expansion caused by the backstop of the Fed alone is enough to inflate asset prices. This is consistent with the case we made in our last letter, that a commodity based standard is not as relevant as having a 100% reserve requirement. By the same token, if the reserve requirement is below 100%, it is not that relevant to see the expansion of the monetary base! The “printing of money” will eventually come, when EU corporations begin to default and the Fed has to “ensure there is enough US dollar liquidity”. It happened in 1931-33, in spite of the fact that the adjusted monetary base had been contracting since 1929: The US dollar was devalued from approx. $20.65/oz to approx. $34.70oz and gold was confiscated.
We have not been aggressive anti-CDS fanatics in the past - since the ignorance of mainstream media types satisfies that need - as the reality in the credit market is less extreme than many would love it to be. However, the latest move by Markit and its self-aggrandizing dealer owner/clients, to bring names into the high-yield credit index that do not even have CDS trading on them, is simply remarkable. While they will defend the move on the basis that it will force dealers to provide single-name CDS liquidity in three of the high-yield credit markets most-indebted companies (CIT, Charter Comms, and Calpine), the fact is that they are using the liquidity/fungibility of the index to enable risk to be unwound on what is likely bloated balance sheets containing too much of this crap. By imagining (or fixing LIBOR-style) where the CDS would trade, based on where the firms' bonds trade, we worry that the hitherto somewhat liquid source of 'fast' macro-hedging or positioning has become even more manipulable than before - and in the event of a default (or stress/illiquidity event), we can only imagine the law-suits. As the FT notes - all this does is provide more 'arbitrage' opportunities as opposed to real hedging; simply amazing that as with equities - it is now the synthetic indices that run the entire market.
Quantitative easing hasn’t been about jobs. If this was about jobs or stimulating demand, Bernanke would have aimed the helicopter drops at the wider public, as many economists have suggested. This policy of dropping cash directly to the banks is bailing out a dangerous and morally-hazardous financial sector and too-big-to-fail megabanks that remain dangerously overleveraged and under-capitalised, needing endless new liquidity just to keep past debts serviceable. There has been plenty of cash helicopter-dropped onto Wall Street, but nobody on Wall Street has gone to jail for causing the 2008 crisis. Criminal banksters get the huge liquidity injections they want, and the rest get less than crumbs.
We have critically examined the question of whether the stock market 'discounts' anything on several previous occasions. The question was for instance raised in the context of what happened in the second half of 2007. Surely by October 2007 it must have been crystal clear even to people with the intellectual capacity of a lamp post and the attention span of a fly that something was greatly amiss in the mortgage credit market. Then, just as now, both the ECB and the Fed had begun to take emergency measures to keep the banking system from keeling over in August. This brings to mind the 'potent directors fallacy' which is the belief held by investors that someone – either the monetary authority, the treasury department, or a consortium of bankers, or nowadays e.g. the government of China – will come to their rescue when the market begins to fall. 'They' won't allow the market to decline!' 'They' won't allow a recession to occur!' 'They can't let the market go down in an election year!' All of these are often heard phrases. This brings us to today's markets. Nowadays, traders are not only not attempting to 'discount' anything, they are investing with their eyes firmly fixed on the rear-view mirror – they effectively trade on yesterday's news.
Chautauqua Notes | Ethical Challenges of Finally Fixing the Financial Crisis: Fair Deals vs. New DealsSubmitted by rcwhalen on 08/09/2012 07:48 -0400
From the perspective of ethics, the fiscal profligacy of the US government and related behavior in the private sector is the cause of the financial crisis
Nobel Prize Winning Economist: Core Problem Is Too Much Centralization ... In Both Government AND the Private SectorSubmitted by George Washington on 08/07/2012 23:47 -0400
We've Gone Way Too Far ... It's Time to Decentralize
As I’ve outlined in earlier articles, Spain will be the straw that breaks the EU’s back. The country’s private Debt to GDP is above 300%. Spanish banks are loaded with toxic debts courtesy of a housing bubble that makes the US’s look like a small bump in comparison. And the Spanish government is bankrupt as well.