One of the reports making the rounds today is a previously little-known academic presentation by Princeton University economist Hyun Song Shin, given in November, titled "Global Banking Glut and Loan Risk Premium" whose conclusion as recently reported by the Washington Post is that "European banks have played a much bigger role in the U.S. economy than has been generally thought — and could do a lot more damage than expected as they pull back." Apparently the fact that in an age of peak globalization where every bank's assets are every other banks liabilities and so forth in what is an infinite daisy chain of counterparty exposure, something we have been warning about for years, it is news that the US is not immune to Europe's banks crashing and burning. The same Europe which as Bridgewater described yesterday as follows: "You've got insolvent banks supporting insolvent sovereigns and insolvent sovereigns supporting insolvent banks." In other words, trillions (about $3 trillion to be exact) in exposure to Europe hangs in the balance on the insolvency continent's perpetuation of a ponzi by a set of insolvent nations, backstopping their insolvent banks. If this is not enough reason to buy XLF nothing is. Yet while CNBC's surprise at this finding is to be expected, one person whom we did not expect to be caught offguard by this was one of the only economists out there worth listening to: Ken Rogoff. Here is what he said: "Shin’s paper has orders of magnitude that I didn’t know"...Rogoff said it’s hard to calculate the impact that the unfolding European banking crisis could have on the United States. “If we saw a meltdown, it’s hard to be too hyperbolic about how grave the effects would be” he said. Actually not that hard - complete collapse sounds about right. Which is why the central banks will never let Europe fail - first they will print, then they will print, and lastly they will print some more. But we all knew that. Although the take home is the finally the talking heads who claim that financial decoupling is here will shut up once and for all.
More from the WaPo's take on Shin's paper:
Shin says European banks grew not only by making direct loans to U.S. businesses but also by sucking up vast U.S. money-market deposits and purchasing U.S. mortgage securities. During the previous decade, “European banks may have played a pivotal role in influencing credit conditions in the United States,” and that helped fuel the U.S. housing and financial bubble, Shin argued in a recent paper.
But now it could hurt the U.S. recovery as European banks shrink and bolster their capital reserves. “The European crisis of 2011 and the associated deleveraging of the European global banks will have far reaching implications not only for the eurozone, but also for credit supply conditions in the United States and capital flows to the emerging economies,” Shin wrote in a paper presented at an International Monetary Fund conference in November and which has been widely read among economists.
The vast extent of those European bank obligations to U.S. institutions, or counter-parties, helps explain U.S. policymakers’ anxiety as they watch European leaders try to head off a crisis like the one that followed the Lehman Brothers failure in the United States in 2008.
At the end of the day we always go back to the fundamental question: how is counterparty exposure hedged and what happens to European-exposed assets if and when more and more banks implode? Because while assets get written down, the only way to do the same with liabilities is to file for bankruptcy. Of course, there is the equity raise route, which we wish the best of luck to all US (and European) banks that choose to pursue this particular strategy.
Full Shin report (pdf):