Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.
- Record unemployment, low inflation underline Europe's pain (Reuters)
- The ponzi gets bigger and bigger: Spanish banks up sovereign bond holdings by more than 10% (FT)
- California Lawmakers Turn Down Moratorium on Fracking (BBG)
- China’s Growing Ranks of Elderly Beset by Depression, Study Says (BBG)
- Tokyo Prepares for a Once-in-200-Year Flood to Top Sandy (BBG)
- Morgan Stanley Cutting Correlation Unit Added $50 Billion (BBG)
- IMF warns over yen weakness (FT)
- Rising radioactive spills leave Fukushima fishermen floundering (Reuters)
- India records slowest growth in a decade (FT)
Argentina's president Kirchner, a keen observer of recent events in Cyprus, has figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone, namely attempt to put an end to tax evasion, and fund the capex of the recently nationalized state oil company YPF (now that its former owner, Spainish Repsol, is less than keen to keep investing in its former Argentine subsidiary). To do that she will present the local tax-evading population (pretty much anyone with any disposable income and savings) with a simple choice: buy a 4% bond to fund YPF "growth" or go to prison.
The streets of Buenos Aires are full of revolting Argentinians this evening as they protest President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's (CFdK) plans to 'increase' state control of the court system. CFdK's proposal looks to limit the judicial system's ability to bring actions against the state, as Bloomberg reports, leaving citizens and companies unprotected against state actions affecting their finance or assets (i.e. mass nationalization or confiscation). As the images below show, the people are angry, exclaiming "No to impunity." CFdK's actions follow previous attempts to take action against companies have failed or taken too long; but acting behind a facade of "increasing democracy and transparency," it appears her intent is clear as the bankrupt nation struggles on. "The reform will do great damage," warned one business leader, adding that limiting these injunctions, "undermines individual's rights and freedom."
I Illustrate How The Irish Banking Cancer Spreads To The UK Taxpayer And Metastasizes Through US Markets!Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 04/12/2013 11:45 -0400
And you thought this would stay in Ireland and Cyprus right? Keep hope alive. RBS bailout per UK taxpayer = £1,414 or €1,654 or $2,177. but they didn't tell you everything, did they?
It is hard to make sense of the markets these days. For instance, gold showed no support while the geopolitical situation in Asia deteriorated, Japan embarked in the mother of all monetization programs, and a member nation of what is supposed to be a monetary union was imposed controls on the movement of capital. Or take the case of the Euro, which jumped from $1.2750 to $1.2950 on the day of one of the most confusing and embarrassing press conferences the president of its central bank ever gave. However, in a faraway land, where there is no shadow banking, leverage or even capital markets, economic fundamentals still hold, which can help us, inhabitants of the developed world, visualize a dynamics lost in the shelves of our collective memory. The land we are referring to is Argentina, but not Argentina of 2001. Today, we want to write about Argentina of 2013, and no, we will not discuss their legal battles with Mr. Singer.
Witches Brew: Part 4 - Reality Bites
- The Specter of Things to Come
The road to ruin is on plain display and the playbook is easily seen at this juncture. Let’s take a look at how that playbook will unfold. Contrary to popular outrage of the SOLUTION being IMPOSED it is the correct one once the insured depositors where PROTECTED. In this edition the elites suffered FIRST followed by the private sector depositors who foolishly believed false BALANCE sheets which were POLITICALLY CORRECT but PRACTICALLY incorrect fictions approved by fiduciarily (regulations and regulators allowed ONGOING insolvent operations rather than protect the public by ending and prohibiting them) challenged governments (work for the banks and crony capitalists not for the public at large).
"This is the nationalization of the elite," is how one ex-Kremlin-ite described Putin's new policy. "For [years], the elite saw Russia as a hunting ground - they would keep their money and live somewhere else," but no more, as the FT reports, Putin has moved to inject some moral fibre into the country’s top-level bureaucrats and state employees by giving them a three-month deadline to close their foreign bank accounts and divest themselves of offshore assets – or face the sack. "There is a sort of algorithm [in Russia] for civil servants. You stash a lot of money abroad, send your family to live there, and then when you retire, you join them. This new legislation will put a question mark next to the career plan of a generation of top-level people." Putin's new decree makes it clear, "There are no untouchables and there cannot be any."
Infamous for little boys plugging holes with their fingers and grown-ups plugging their mouth with their foot (D-Boom), it seems Holland, Berlin's most important ally in the goal of greater fiscal discipline in Europe, has fallen into an economic crisis itself. As Spiegel reports, the once exemplary economy is suffering from huge debts and a burst real estate bubble, which has stalled growth and endangered jobs. The statistics make for some worrisome reading: no nation in the euro zone is as deeply in debt as the Netherlands, where banks have a total of about €650 billion in mortgage loans on their books; consumer debt amounts to about 250% of available income - by comparison, in 2011 even the Spaniards only reached a debt ratio of 125%; unemployment is on the rise; consumption is down; and growth has come to a standstill. The nationalization on SNS in February brought this reality home and as Spiegel reports, "there is no end to the crisis in sight."
After one of the most fabulous verbal faux pas in recent history was committed yesterday, in which the truth briefly escaped the lips of the new Eurogroup head who still has to learn from his masterful "when it becomes serious you have to lie" predecessor and ever since both he and all of uber-incompetent Europe have been desperate to put the genie back into the bottle to no avail, everyone has been caught in a great debate: to template, or not to template? Below is a summary of Wall Street's thinking on this key for so many European (and soon global) depositors.
First it was gas prices, then it was food prices, and now it is the turn of basic utilities to see costs surge by double digits. Dow Jones reports that "Japanese utilities, forced to idle their nuclear power plants over the past two years and facing higher fuel costs due to a weak yen, are now looking to push through double-digit rate hikes for their commercial customers." This means less disposable income, less corporate profits, less monetary velocity, less growth and ultimately less "inflation" in other things such as the much desired stock market, which was supposed to be the wealth effect offset to all staples price increases. At least on paper. Of course we explained on various occasions, most recently here, why in Japan a US-style of wealth effect price substitution would never work. Surely nobody could possibly see this coming - "The action comes at a bad time for some Japanese companies that were hoping the fall in the yen and much-trumpeted efforts by the government to turn round the economy would help improve their prospects." Ah hope - the only strategy left.
The eye of the hurricane over Southeast Europe may soon be shifting, exposing Greece to the same 150 mph gale turmoil everyone has grown to love and expect over the past three years as soon as this month, when a new proposal by Greece is due on how to cut a massive 150,000 public sector jobs: a move which will result in an immediate surge in public unrest, and an exponential jump in strike activity. As Bloomberg reports, "Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing. Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid installment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement."
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Saturday that "Japan needs to face up to reality, and take real steps to correct its mistakes... so as to prevent a further escalation," with regard the demand that Japan reverse its nationalization of the small islet chain of the Senkakus. In some of the strongest rhetoric yet, The Japan Times reports that the Chinese minister said Japan's 'single-handed' actions so far have "caused great damage to China-Japan relations and undermined stability in the region," and urged Tokyo to "make concrete efforts" to prevent fraught bilateral ties from spiraling out of control. As the reigns of control in China continue to be handed over (with Yang expected to become state Councillor for foreign affairs), we suspect the situation is far from resolved - especially with Shinzo Abe fighting a war on another front (that China is likely not pleased with either).
This in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.
It's no shock that the Spanish housing market is horrible but hope has been, following the government's nationalization of various banks and creation of the 'bad bank' to soak up all the toxic crap those banks had on their books, that a recovery could blossom. It appears not - not at all. Not only are bad loans rising at record rates with house prices remaining down over 40% but now Reyal Urbis has filed for insolvency making it the nation's second largest bankruptcy as dozens of smaller firms have failed. What makes this so important is the fact that the banks were unwilling to refinance the debt - seemingly comfortable with liquidation - summed up perfectly: "Many loans were refinanced one or two years ago, in the hope that things would get better, but it has not been the case and there is now more realism about the situation. Why would you extend a new loan today?" A good question, one that Tepper's Appaloosa will be pondering as its EUR450mm loan looks in trouble.