Lehman

Guest Post: 5 Years Of Financial Non-Reform

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.

Guest Post: Did Capitalism Fail?

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.

What A Difference A Decade Makes

Even as the popular press if focused on the 5 year anniversary of Lehman, we decided to go back double that period, and take a look at what happened to the developed world economy in the past decade, starting with 2003. What we found was interesting.

Frontrunning: September 13

  • U.S., Russia to push for new Syria peace talks (Reuters)
  • Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile (WSJ)
  • Obama to nominate Summers as Fed chief: Nikkei (Reuters)
  • Boehner Wants Joint Talks on Debt, Budget (WSJ)
  • House Republicans go for broke in fiscal battles (Reuters)
  • Pimco, BlackRock Together Received More Than a Quarter of Verizon's $49 Billion Bond Deal (WSJ)
  • Insane financial system lives post-Lehman (Gillian Tett)
  • JPM to add $2.5 billion to its litigation reserves in the second half of the year (WSJ)
  • Goldman’s Zurich offices visited over working-hours complaint (FT)

Five Years Later: 18 Dollars Of Debt For Every Dollar Of GDP; Total G7 Debt/GDP: 440%

With everyone focused on the 5th anniversary of the Lehman failure, we are taking a quick look at how the world's developed (G7) nations have fared since 2008, and just what the cost to restore "stability" has been. In a nutshell: the G7 have added around $18tn of consolidated debt to a record $140 trillion, relative to only $1tn of nominal GDP activity and nearly $5tn of G7 central bank balance sheet expansion (Fed+BoJ+BoE+ECB). In other words, over the past five years in the developed world, it took $18 dollars of debt (of which 28% was provided by central banks) to generate $1 of growth. For all talk of "deleveraging" G7 consolidated debt has been at a record high 440% for the past four years. So in the G7, which is a good proxy for the developed world, debt continues to increase whilst nominal growth remains extremely low thus ensuring that the deleveraging process has yet to start. As Deutsche Bank states, "at best we’re stabilising the ratio at or around record highs."

The "Real" America: Near Record 20% Struggle To Afford Food, Highest Since Crisis Began

With US equity markets on a 7-day roll and excited TV anchors proclaiming the worst over and new all-time highs must signal recovery as they 'celebrate' five years on from Lehman, the following two charts of the state of real America should open a few eyes to just how blinded American has become to the truth (unless you live it). A stunning 20.0% of Americans were found to have struggled to afford food in the last year - surging in recent months to its highest since the peak of the crisis in 2008 - as American's ability to consistently afford food has not recovered to pre-recession levels. Furthermore, Americans access to basic needs (13 factors including housing, healthcare, and food) hovers near record lows - dramatically lower than pre-recession levels. The Gallup polls point to a very different image of American than Dow 15,000 - and is set to get worse as the food stamp program is set to be cut in November.

GoldCore's picture

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.

Frontrunning: September 12

  • Syrian Rebels Hurt by Delay (WSJ), U.S. seeks quick proof Syria ready to abandon chemical weapons (Reuters)
  • Lavrov Brings Acerbic Pragmatism to Syria Meet With Kerry (BBG)
  • Five years after Lehman, risk moves into the shadows (Reuters)
  • U.S. shares raw intelligence data with Israel, leaked document shows  (LA Times)
  • Japan to raise sales tax, launch $50 bln stimulus (AFP) - so 1) lower debt by sales tax, then 2) raise debt through stimulus.
  • Blackstone’s Hilton Files for $1.25 Billion U.S. Initial Offer (BBG)
  • Second Life Bankers Thrive in Dubai as Boutiques Boost Fees (BBG)
  • Brussels probes multinationals’ tax deals (FT)
  • Wall Street's Top Cop: SEC Tries to Rebuild Its Reputation (WSJ) ... and fails
  • Tablet sales set to overtake PCs (FT)
  • The end of angst? Prosperous Germans in no mood for change (Reuters)

Has The Selling Of VIX Come To An End?

VIX futures positioning hit another all-time record short just two weeks ago after collapsing to 12-month high levels as "Taper" concerns increased. From the start of July to the 3rd week of August VIX futures were sold in epic proportions providing the fuel to lift a plateaued stock market from taper-anxiety to new all-time highs (as nothing changed). Over 100 million contracts were sold in the 7-week period - a totally unprecedented amount of complacency. However, in the past 3 weeks, there has been an inflection; is this the end of selling, or are we about to pull VIX even lower with a concerted reflexive selling of even more shorts? As SocGen warns, this historic level of non-commercial short positions (read speculative) implies any market correction - or VIX-related spike - would increase short-covering and exaggerate the fall dramatically. With today's exuberant spurt lower in VIX, vol has caught back with stocks once again.

 

5 Years From Lehman: How The Treasury Thinks It Saved The World

Compare and contrast... "The Treasury's perspective of all the wonderful multiple-mnemonic-based bailouts that 'rescued' us from a fate worse than death and any and all counterfactual worlds" versus the $8 Trillion in additional debt - monetized in large by the Fed - that drove 'recovery' in US (and global) equity prices back to where we started.

China: No Leverage, No Growth

When it comes to the very simplest axiom on modern Keynesian economics, it seems one can't repeat it enough times: have leverage, have growth... don't have leverage, don't have growth.  That is the reason why in early summer, China tried to conduct a mini-taper of its own to streamling its monetary pipeline which had been so filled with bad and non-performing credit, that the PBOC effectively pulled the switch on new liquidity for over a month.  What happened almost immediately after, when rates on ultra short term funding soared to 20%+, nearly destroyed the domestic banking system and resulted in a major slowdown in the Chinese economy. "Luckily" for China, its close encounter with the taper was brief, if quite painful, and following a period of shock, the Chinese central bank had no choice but to resume injecting banks with their daily dose of monetary morphine all over again. This in turn, has brought us to square one: nothing in the local banking system has been fixed, and what's worse, while China has bought itself a few months respite, the dominant old problem of a collapsing credit impulse, as decribed before, in the country with the largest corporate credit bubble in the world, is about to come back with a bang in a few short months. In short: China just did what the US has boldly done so many times before - kicked the can.