The US Federal Reserve’s recent surprise announcement that it would maintain the current pace of its monetary stimulus reflects the ongoing debate about the desirability of cooperation among central banks. Discussion of central-bank cooperation has often centered on a single historical case, in which cooperation initially seemed promising, but turned out to be catastrophic. We are thus left with a paradox: While crises increase demand for central-bank cooperation to deliver the global public good of financial stability, they also dramatically increase the costs of cooperation, especially the fiscal costs associated with stability-enhancing interventions. As a result, in the wake of a crisis, the world often becomes disenchanted with the role of central banks – and central-bank cooperation is, yet again, associated with disaster.
Back in April, in a desperate scramble to raise liquidity courtesy of a hail mary Goldman syndicated term loan, we penned "Confused By What Is Going On At JCP? Here's The Pro Forma Cap Table And The Cliff Notes", where in addition to the obvious - that this is merely buying a few months for the melting icecube company which with every passing day is closer to a Chapter 11 (or 7) bankruptcy filing - we also laid out that what Goldman was doing was merely positioning itself to be at the top of the company's capital structure with a super secured and overcollateralized credit facility, through what is effectively a pre-petition DIP... As it turns out we only had to wait for five months before the same Goldman that raised the company's emergency liquidity term loan turned around and launched a vicious attack on the same company that paid it millions in dollars in underwriting fees. Specifically, what Goldman just did is write a report (perhaps one of the best bearish cross-asset investment theses we have seen to come out of the firm in a long time) in which it laid out, in a lucid and compelling manner, why JCP is doomed. The report is titled appropriately enough: "Initiate on JCP with Underperform: Looking for cash in the name"... and not finding it.
A corporate culture that allows wasteful spending engenders fraud, corruption and systematically destroys shareholder value.
While the commemoration of the 5 year anniversary of the start of the Great Financial Crisis is slowing but surely fading, another just as important anniversary is revealed when one goes back not 5 but 15 years into the past, specifically to September 23, 1998. On that day, the policy that came to define the New Normal more than any other, namely the bailout of those deemed Too Big To Fail, a/k/a throwing good (private or taxpayer) money after bad was enshrined by Wall Street as the official canon when faced with a situation where capitalism, namely failure, is seen as Too Dangerous To Succeed. This was first known as the Greenspan Put, subsequently the Bernanke Put, and its current iteration is best known as the Global Central Banker All-In Systemic Put. We sow the seeds of bailing out insolvent financial corporations to this day, when instead of making them smaller and breaking them up, they are rewarded by becoming even bigger, even more systemics, and even Too Bigger To Fail, and their employees are paid ever greater record bonuses.
Gold and silver futures surged 2.1% and 3.6% respectively and the dollar fell on the open in Asia prior to determined selling which again capped precious metal prices. Analysts and media attributed the price gains on the withdrawal of Larry Summers from the race to be the new Fed Chairman, leaving Janet Yellen as the new frontrunner.
Mere months after the subprime mortgage market brought down Lehman Brothers in 2008, Richard S. Fuld Jr., the bank’s former chairman and CEO, referred to himself as "the most hated man in America.". As IBT's Lisa Mahapatra notes, Fuld wasn’t wrong. He’d played fast and loose with a lot of people’s money, lost it all and was the perfect scapegoat for all of America to pin its economic troubles on. Back in 2007, when the subprime mortgage market first began to stumble, in an email to the bank’s then chief strategy officer David Goldfarb, Fuld wrote, "I agree we need some help - but the Bros always wins!" His words, Mahapatra adds, were the opposite of prophetic. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, it took Fuld’s career down with it. And he wasn’t the only one - former Chief Operating Officer Joseph M. Gregory and former Chief Financial Officer Erin Callan haven’t worked in finance for years now...
Anniversaries and celebrations of past historic events are part and parcel of our everyday lives. We celebrate to remember and to grow up, to change and to learn from what happened.
Significant monetary stimulus, the end of fiscal austerity, a booming housing market, a cheap dollar, record corporate cash balances... BofAML warns - if the US economy does not significantly accelerate in coming quarters, it never will. Crucially, they note, asset prices will not do as well in the next 5 years, no matter what the “nouveau bulls” say. Central banks will be less generous, corporations less selfish. And when excess liquidity is removed it will get "CRASHy" as we discussed previously. In the meantime, five years after Lehman, Wall Street has soared, but Main Street has soured.
Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the largest global financial crisis since the Great Depression, outsize banking sectors have left economies shattered in Ireland, Iceland, and Cyprus. Banks in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere are not lending enough. China’s credit binge is turning into a bust. In short, the world’s financial system remains dangerous and dysfunctional. Worse, despite years of debate, no consensus about the nature of the financial system’s problems – much less how to fix them – has emerged. And that appears to reflect the banks’ political power. Unfortunately, despite the enormous harm from the financial crisis, little has changed in the politics of banking. Too many politicians and regulators put their own interests and those of “their” banks ahead of their duty to protect taxpayers and citizens. We must demand better.
Until six days before Lehman Brothers collapsed five years ago, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s maintained the firm’s investment-grade rating of “A.” Moody’s waited even longer, downgrading Lehman one business day before it collapsed. How could reputable ratings agencies – and investment banks – misjudge things so badly? Regulators, bankers, and ratings agencies bear much of the blame for the crisis. But the near-meltdown was not so much a failure of capitalism as it was a failure of contemporary economic models’ understanding of the role and functioning of financial markets – and, more broadly, instability – in capitalist economies. Yet the mainstream of the economics profession insists that such mechanistic models retain validity.
The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the risk of other large important banks failing in the coming months and the still significant systemic, macroeconomic, monetary and geopolitical risk of today shows the vital importance of real diversification and an allocation to physical gold.
Starting with the day Lehman Brothers collapsed, Bloomberg Businessweek examines the financial crisis as it affected the lives of the people who created it, tried to stave it off, protested it, profited from it, and lost everything to it.
Gold prices fell sharply again just prior to European markets opening, in aggressive selling which saw gold quickly fall from $1,355/oz to $1,343/oz at 0754 GMT. Support at $1,360/oz was breached overnight and gold should now test support at $1,320/oz.
Since 2003, we have consistently said that silver was likely to surpass its real high in the coming years. The gold silver ratio is likely to trend lower and revert to its long term average and its geological ratio of 15 to 1 as a huge amount of silver has been used in industrial applications in recent years.
What perhaps Minsky couldn’t conceive of was the point at which debt, deficits and interest rates would go to such extremes that the creation of credit itself, which was and remains the heart of capitalism, would be threatened. No longer might the seventh inning stretch lead to a Coke, some “Cracker Jacks” and the resumption of the old ballgame. Instead, zero-bound interest rates and debt/GDP ratios in a majority of capitalistic economies would begin to threaten, not heal, the nature of finance and investment in the real economy. Investors, leery of not only overleveraged investment banks such as Lehman Brothers, but overextended countries such as Greece, Cyprus and a host of Euroland lookalikes would derisk as opposed to rerisk as per the Minsky model. As well, with interest rates close to the zero bound, investors in intermediate and long term bonds would become dependent on Big Bank to do their bidding. When that QE buying power became jeopardized via tapering and the eventual ninth inning conclusion of asset purchases, then the process of maturity extension and the terming out of historically modeled corporate lending was prematurely threatened.