Let's Walk The Path Of A Potential Pan-European Bank Run, Then Construct Trades To Profit From Such
Although lengthy, this is a very important post that leads directly into the second of our trade setups based off of BoomBustBlog's fundamental and forensic European bank research (the first was Deutsche Bank, which paid off quite well). Please read through it in its entirety. The next post on this topic will be the actual trade setup itself.
CNBC reports: Italian Banks Slump After Bond Purchase Report
Italian bank shares were sharply lower in Wednesday morning trade after Reuters reported German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the euro zone's rescue fund should only purchase bonds on the secondary market in exceptional circumstances. Euro zone leaders agreed on a second bailout package for Greece last Thursday and said the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout mechanism could buy bonds on the secondary market if the European Central bank recommended it do so.
"Even in the future, such purchases should only take place under very strict conditions when the European Central Bank deems there are exceptional circumstances on the financial markets and dangers for financial stability," Reuters quoted Schaueble as saying in a letter it obtained on Wednesday dated July 26. At 9:15 London time, shares in Intesa Sanpaolo were down 6 percent, while shares in Ubi Banca and Unicredit were trading just over 5 percent lower. Banco Popolare shares were off 5 percent.
This comes a week after releasing the very informative subscritpion document Italy Exposure Producing Bank Risk and a series of blog posts leading astute followers to the inevitable conclusion...
- The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs!
- The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank” Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style!
- Multiple Botched and Mismanaged Stress Test Have Created The Makings Of A Pan-European Bank Run
- Eighteen Percent of the EU is Literally Junk, Carried As Risk Free Assets at Par Using 30x+ Leverage: Bank Collapse is Inevitable!!!
Many are missing the contagion link between these countries and the banks that are domiciled within them. I have put out significant research in an attempt to map the path of said contagion:
- The Inevitability of Another Bank Crisis
- Sovereign Contagion Model - Pro & Institutional
- Sovereign Contagion Model - Retail
The question at hand is, "Can the EFSF outgun the global bond market in the pricing of insolvent nation, publicly traded debt?" I believe the answer is a resounding "NO!". Prices can probably be manipulated in the short term, but medium to longer term the global bond markes (particularly the 17 markets potentially covered by the EFSF) are simply too deep, too wide, too big to be centrally planned! We have seen an attempt at centrally planning large markets in the '90s when Soros broke the British Central Bank, as excerpted from The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank” Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style!"
The portion about intervening in the secondary public markets brings one to mind of how the UK came to be outside of the EMU, and that is due to their hubristic mindset that they were bigger than the world's largest, deepest and most liquid markets as well in their attempt to manipulate the price of the pound upon (attempted) entry into the EMU. Speculators world wide, exemplified in the media by George Soros, apparently taught them otherwise. He became known as "the Man Who Broke the Bank of England" after he made a reported $1 billion during the 1992 Black Wednesday UK currency crises. Soros correctly speculated that the British government would have to devalue the pound sterling, as per Wikipedia:
Black Wednesday refers to the events of 16 September 1992 when the British Conservative government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) after they were unable to keep sterling above its agreed lower limit. George Soros, the most high profile of the currency market investors, made over US$1 billion profit by short selling sterling.
So, continuing with the thesis of EU officials attempting to ice skate uphill and consequently fostering a pan-European bank run in the process, I am posting the a followup discussion I had with Eurocalypse (click here for his background), the European CDS trader who is assisting in BoomBustBlog trade setups. This is a follow-up to the release of the subscription document Italy Exposure Producing Bank Risk.
I would like to comment on this as I ran an ALM [asset/liabiility management] department so I'm supposed to know what this is about!! I am not to say there is no "RUN ON THE BANK RISK", there ABSOLUTELY is, but this is not a feature of your featured bank only.
And I absolutely agree. Then again, two wrongs don't make a right, either. The ALM mismatch wasn't a unique feature to Bear Stearns either, but that didn't save them in the end, nor did it save Lehman. I would like to make it clear that the borrow short/invest long problem is truly not unique to our subject bank, but certainly adds to a plethora of issues weaken its position should things pop off. As a matter of fact, the prevalance of ALM mismatches will be the cause of serial bank run, if one were to occur. As a refresher, let's excerpt The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs!
The subject of our most recent expose on the European banking system has a plethora of problems, including but not limited to excessive PIIGS exposure, NPA growth up the yin-yang, Texas ratios and Eyles test numbers that’ll make you shiver and razor thin provisions. Focusing on the most pertinent and contagious of the issues at hand leads us back to the initial premise of a European bank run. I laid the foundation for said topic discussion last Thursday in "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style" and the fear du jour is a European version of the Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns style bank run. The aforelinked at explanatory piece is a must read precursor to this illustration of what can only be described as the anatomy of a European bank run - before the fact. Remember how the pieces of the puzzle were perfectly laid together for a Bear Stearns collapse in January of 2008, two months before the bank's actual collapse? Reference "Is this the Breaking of the Bear?" in which Bear Stearns collapse was illustrated in explicit, graphic detail. Lehman Brothers wasn't impossible to see either (Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise? Thursday, February 21st, 2008 | Web chatter on Lehman Brothers Sunday, March 16th, 2008).
I would also like to make it clear that it is my opinion that the EU leaders who insist on issuing "alleged" bank stress tests that assume its constituency are moronic simply add fuel to the bank run fire. The refusal to test for the concern that the entire bond market has simply feeds uncertainty in lieu of alleviating it, reference Multiple Botched and Mismanaged Stress Test Have Created The Makings Of A Pan-European Bank Run.
The "alleged" stress tests did not test for sovereign default and its effect on HTM inventory, which is already priced into the system and which is the primary worry of the markets. Thus, the stress test results are largely irrelevant.
It's as if I have AIDS and I go to the doctor and pass a test for measles... Does that make my multiple partners (counterparties , lenders and customers) more or less comfortable with my condition?
We have run our own numbers and produced alternative, more realistic scenarios including exposure, haircut assumptions and writedowns for individual countries. Specifically, we have applied writedowns on both banking and trading books with the results available in the subscription document The Inevitability of Another Bank Crisis? and well as European Bank's Greece exposure. In essence, after Lehman Brothers collapse, sovereign states appear to deem themselves obligated to bail out their respective insolvent banking systems, thus real stress tests should test both the banks' distressed portfolio carried at unrealistic marks and leverage and the sovereign's ability to aid said banks. Of course, this will be very unpopular from a political perspective because you will get a lot of nasty answers to the questions asked.
Below is a chart excerpted from our most recent work showing the asset/liability funding mismatch of a bank detailed within the report. The actual name of the bank is not at issue here. What is at issue is what situation this bank has found itself in and why it is in said situation after both Lehman and Bear Stearns collapsed from the EXACT SAME PROBLEM!
Note: These charts are derived from the subscriber download posted yesterday, Exposure Producing Bank Risk (788.3 kB 2011-07-21 11:00:20).
Overnight and on demand funding is at a 72% deficit to liquid assets that can be used to fund said liabilities. This means anything or anyone who can spook these funding sources can literally collapse this bank overnight. In the case of Bear Stearns, it was over the weekend.
Now, back to the Eurocalypse discussion...
If you look at how they constructed this table, their (huge) deposit base under the heading classified as "Dette Envers la Clientèle" shows they are indeed funding long term assets with their retail deposits. There is regulatory ground for it and practical experience. I cant remember the exact rules, but by experience (ie. everytime, as long as there is no run) the retail deposits are stable, and typically in an ALM.
And therein lies the rub. Liquidity is always available, until it is needed. Ask Bear and Lehman, and Merrill, and Goldman, and Morgan Stanley, and... Well, you get the picture. I explained how this happened not once, but several times in the US just 3 years ago in "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style":
The modern central banking system has proven resilient enough to fortify banks against depositor runs, as was recently exemplified in the recent depositor runs on UK, Irish, Portuguese and Greek banks – most of which received relatively little fanfare. Where the risk truly lies in today’s fiat/fractional reserve banking system is the run on counterparties. Today’s global fractional reserve bank get’s more financing from institutional counterparties than any other source save its short term depositors. In cases of the perception of extreme risk, these counterparties are prone to pull funding or request overcollateralization for said funding. This is what precipitated the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the pulling of liquidity by skittish counterparties, and the excessive capital/collateralization calls by other counterparties. Keep in mind that as some counterparties and/or depositors pull liquidity, covenants are tripped that often demand additional capital/collateral/ liquidity be put up by the remaining counterparties, thus daisy-chaining into a modern day run on the bank!
I'm sure many of you may be asking yourselves, "Well, how likely is this counterparty run to happen today? You know, with the full, unbridled printing press power of the ECB, and all..." Well, don't bet the farm on overconfidence. The risk of a capital haircut for European banks with exposure to sovereign debt of fiscally challenged nations is inevitable. A more important concern appears to be the threat of short-term liquidity and funding difficulties for European banks stemming from said haircuts. This is the one thing that holds the entire European banking sector hostage, yet it is also the one thing that the Europeans refuse to stress test for (twice), thus removing any remaining shred of credibility from European bank stress tests. As I have stated many time before, Multiple Botched and Mismanaged Stress Test Have Created The Makings Of A Pan-European Bank Run!
The biggest European banks receive an average of US$64bn funding through the U.S. money market, money market that is quite gun shy of bank collapse, and for good reason. Signs of excess stress perceived in the US combined with the conservative nature of US money market funds (post-Lehman debacle) may very well lead to a US led run on these banks. If the panic doesn’t stem from the US, it could come (or arguably is coming), from the other side of the pond. The Telegraph reports: UK banks abandon eurozone over Greek default fears
UK banks have pulled billions of pounds of funding from the euro zone as fears grow about the impact of a “Lehman-style” event connected to a Greek default.
Senior sources have revealed that leading banks, including Barclays and Standard Chartered, have radically reduced the amount of unsecured lending they are prepared to make available to euro zone banks, raising the prospect of a new credit crunch for the European banking system.
Standard Chartered is understood to have withdrawn tens of billions of pounds from the euro zone inter-bank lending market in recent months and cut its overall exposure by two-thirds in the past few weeks as it has become increasingly worried about the finances of other European banks.
Barclays has also cut its exposure in recent months as senior managers have become increasingly concerned about developments among banks with large exposures to the troubled European countries Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal.
... One source said it was “inevitable” that British banks would look to minimise their potential losses in the event the euro zone crisis were to get worse. “Everyone wants to ensure that they are not badly affected by the crisis,” said one bank executive.
Moves by stronger banks to cut back their lending to weaker banks is reminiscent of the build-up to the financial crisis in 2008, when the refusal of banks to lend to one another led to a seizing-up of the markets that eventually led to the collapse of several major banks and taxpayer bail-outs of many more.
Make no mistake - modern day bank runs are now caused by institutions!
And back to the Eurocalypse discussion:
We would make some stress scenarios. suppose deposits for example drop by 30% and look if there is a problem for short term funding,
basically they this would amount to -180bn, they need to be able to sell 180bn assets. There are 180bn of short term assets (less than 1 month)
they can sell, plus they probably can some of their trading book.
And this appears to be a weakness of modeling real life events. You see, by modeling just the effects of a 30% drop in deposits, you are ignoring the real world effect of counterparties pulling liquidity in tandem in an effort to minimize exposure -as detailed in the excerpt above. You are also negating the fact that much of the so called "trading book" is being carried on the books at prices that are significantly above what can be fetche in the market, which I illustriously detailed in the blog post Is Another Banking Crisis Inevitable? and whose empirical evidence was laid bare in the accompanying subscription document The Inevitability of Another Bank Crisis. I also went over this in detail at the large European bank, ING, as the keynote speaker at their CRE valuation conference in Amsterdam...
It looks like the subject bank is using 170bn of its deposits to fund its trading activities (this is the gap between asset and liabilities for undetermined maturities) and the rest of it to fund longer term assets (loans bonds etc...)
I'm not so shocked at the numbers, but its true European banks, and French banks in particular make money taking this liquidity risk. Basel III is designed to reduce this gap, at least up to 1 year through the DSCR ratio (implemented in 2018, they can still change their mind about it, because this is a big game changer for the industry forcing banks to have much more stable funding, which is difficult for non-retail banks and force them to reduce their assets or change them to "liquid" govt bonds, or secure more funding, but as all banks need to do the same, long term funding cost is going up, and it can't be known if there is sufficient demand for it... We're probably speaking trillions of euros.
This gap risk IS managed, even though the assumptions may prove one day too optimistic...
I prefer the term "unrealistic" as exemplified above...
Actually ALM managers have bad incentives to take risks, as traders... One way to do it, is assume deposits are stable. in practice, with the Fractional Reserve System, and Monetary aggregates growing together with (eligible or not) Total Oustanding Debt, Deposits have grown in rapidly in most financial institutions, boosting confidence among bankers to buy assets (they may think they're good because they get more deposits, but thats just a consequence of the monetary system !)
On that note, reference Fractional Reserve is Not the Problem...
By the way, the term "stable" refers to assigning a maturity to retail deposits. you have a client, he's not going to withdraw his money tomorrow. Maybe 10% tomorrow, and then 10% the 1st year, 10% of what is left the 2nd year etc.... basically every bank uses its own assumptions, but I would guess in the typical French bank, the average duration of a retail deposit would range between 4 to 10 years.
Using these assumptions, the ALM managers "hedges" accordingly the interest risk and liquidity risk. "Fair value hedge accounting" permits to receive fixed on swaps or buy bonds against those deposits without suffering the adverse Mark to Market of the hedge. which does make economic sense as long as the deposits stays indeed for (4 to 10) years on average.
Herein lies the rub. I went to pains to describe how patently unrealisiic the logic above is in a panic. Correlation comes close to 100% as depositors move in unison, motivated by the same impetus, and that is "to get the fuck out of dodge". In "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style", as referenced:
This phenomena essentially discredits the thinking at large and currently in practice that “since individual expenditure needs are largely uncorrelated, by the law of large numbers” banks should expect few withdrawals on any one day. The fact of the matter is that in times of severe distress, particularly stemming from solvency issues (read directly as the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis, and Greece, et. al. in particular), the exact opposite is the case. Individual depositor and counterparty actions are actually HIGHLY correlated and tend to move in tandem, particularly when that move is out of the target fiat bank. They tend to take heed to the saying “He who panics first, panics best!"
Asset/liability mismatch can, at the margin nearly assure a Lehman-style fiasco in the case of an impetus that sparks herding mentality, whether it be among depositors/savers or institutional counterparties.
Back to Eurocaplyse:
French banks are among the ones most guity of playing this game, and they are among the ones pushing for accounting rules which are being revised, to still allow for this accounting procedure (typically American accountants were traditionally against this).
All in All, according to their "model" the subsctiption docs subject bank probably thinks they are fine, and in a liquidity crisis, they could stand up for several months, which is the time for a miracle, or rather the govt. and CBs to intervene. Of note 2010 and 2009 numbers for their gap look similar which is a clue for me that these are the numbers they are targetting.
That doesnt prevent systemic risk of course, and something worse than the worst scenario (and we know it can happen, of course), and given the subject bank owns subsidiaries in suspect PIIGS states, if there is a panic in any one of them, they could be identified as a risky bank (or on the contrary being seen by those PIIGS banking customers [as compared to from 100% local banks] as a "safer" bank and actually benefit from it ?)
Regarding the ALM gap, i think it would be very instructive to make comparisons within banks. it could be more telling than just marvelling at the subject bank's numbers. I would like to see whether the subject bank is more or less aggressive in its ALM exposure than other European banks or not.
We have done this, although the opaque reporting makes it labor intensive. Next up, we will be coming out with plenty of charts and trade setups for the subject bank.
Disclosure: Eurocalypse has no positions in the stocks referenced above, doesnt trade CDS, and doesnt intend to take positions in those financial instruments"
"Eurocalypse actually owns a small quantity of Italian (inflation-linked) bonds at its own risk. Please do your own due diligence and trade at your own risk