Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Time to Take Stock”

Yves here. I had come across the speech mentioned in this post, “The Race to Zero” by Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England and decided not to write it up because I had come across it a bit late. This post will probably persuade readers that that was a bad call.

By Sell on News, a macro equities analyst. Cross posted from MacroBusiness

Exactly how did we get into this mess with the capital markets? A situation where the global stock of derivatives is over $US600 trillion, which is about twice the capital stock of the world. A situation where high frequency trading is over two thirds of the transactions on the NYSE and about the same in the stock markets of the UK and Europe. Likewise they are over half the action in foreign exchange markets and they are rapidly becoming dominant in the futures market. Andrew Haldane from the Bank of England is arguing against allowing high frequency trading — algorithms chasing algorithms chasing algorithms — from being allowed to proliferate pointing at volatility as the problem:


“Is Standard and Poor’s Manipulating US Debt Rating to Escape Liability for the Mortgage Crisis?”

By Scarecrow and Jane Hamsher. Cross posted from FireDogLake

The Politico headline says it all: U.S. credit downgrade worries Obama, Congress more than default

It’s not the default that strikes the most fear in the White House and Congress these days. It’s the downgrade

As Robert Reich notes, Standard and Poors is the “biggest driver in the deficit battle.” Why would anyone care what the corrupt and disgraced organizations who quite nearly brought down the world economy think about anything at this point? And yet, that is where elite opinion is focused right now:

[W]hat really haunts the administration is the very real prospect, stoked two weeks ago by Standard & Poor’s, that Barack Obama could go down in history as the president who presided over his country’s loss of its gold-plated, triple-A bond rating.


Financial analysts say such a move would hit Americans with more than $100 billion a year in higher borrowing costs, but it’s not just that. It would be a psychic blow to a nation that already looks over its shoulder at rising economic powers like China and wonders, what’s gone wrong? And it would give the president’s Republican rivals a ready-made line of attack that he’s dragging the country in the wrong direction.

This rumbling has been coming from Capitol Hill for a while, which made us start asking questions about what was really going on with Standard and Poors. It felt like there’s a story-behind-the-story driving S&P’s actions in the debt ceiling debate, which appear inexplicable at face value and go way beyond what Moody’s or Fitch have done. And the more we looked at the timeline of events, the more we wondered how the intertwining dramas of a) S&P downgrade threats, b) the liability that the ratings agencies may have for their role in the 2008 financial meltdown, and c) the GOP’s attempts to insulate the ratings agencies from b) are all impacting each other.


Harald Hau: Eurozone Bailout – Tax Transfer to the Wealthy?

Yves here. In comments, a reader recently expressed skepticism that bank bailout represented a massive looting of the public purse. Since the bank PR efforts have been more successful than I realized, it’s important to keep shining a bright light on this issue.

This post by business school professor Harald Hau not only discusses how this transfer from the many to the few works in the Eurozone rescue context, but also illustrates that the banksters have improved their game. And his observation that this bailout favors bondholders, and those constitute the top 5% of the population, is a generous estimate. Remember that the prime objective of this exercise is to spare big Eurobanks any pain, which means the highly paid professionals and executives in their employ are the biggest beneficiaries.

By Harald Hau, Associate Professor of Finance, INSEAD. Cross posted from VoxEU

Last week, the European heads of government added €109 billion to the existing €110 billion rescue plan for Greece. As Europe’s financial sector would have otherwise taken a huge hit, this column address the question: How did the financial sector manage to negotiate such a gigantic wealth transfer from the Eurozone taxpayer and the IMF to the richest 5% of people in the world?


Pro-cyclical fiscal policy

Cross-posted from Credit Writedowns Looking up the term procyclical on the Internet, I see the Wikipedia entry defines it as: Procyclical is a term used in economics to describe how an economic quantity is related to economic fluctuations. It is the opposite of countercyclical… In business cycle theory and finance, any economic quantity that is […]


GDP numbers make double dip threat real

Cross-posted from Credit Writedowns I have stopped reporting the quarterly GDP numbers but this last reading bears mentioning. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported the following at 830AM ET: Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an […]


Third Way Document Proves Democratic Party Supports Institutionalized Looting by Banks

It is one thing to suspect that something is rotten in Denmark, quite another to have proof. Ever since Obama appointed his Rubinite economics team, it was blindingly obvious that he was aligning himself with Wall Street. The strength of the connection became even more evident in March 2009, when Team Obama embarked on its “stress test” charade and bank stock cheerleading. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff.

But now we see evidence in a new paper by the think tank Third Way of an even deeper commitment to pro-financier policies. The Democratic party has made clear that it supports institutionalized looting by banks, via the innocuous-seemeing device of rejecting the idea of writedowns on bonds they hold.


Team Obama Fiddles While Debt Ceiling Fires Burn

Some historical accounts of the Great Fire of Rome, which destroyed three of the city’s fourteen districts and damaged seven others, depict it as an urban redevelopment project gone bad. Emperor Nero allegedly torched the district where he wanted to build his Domus Aurea. Hence any lyre-playing was not a sign of imperial madness, but a badly-informed leader not knowing his plans had spun badly out of control.

President Obama’s plan at social and economic engineering, of rolling back core elements of the Great Deal out of a misguided effort to cut spending in a weak economy, is similarly blazing out of control. The debt ceiling crisis was meant to be a scare to provide an excuse for measures that are opposed by broad swathes of the public. Polls predictably show that voters want five contradictory things before noon: they are against cutting Social Security and care much more about more jobs than about less deficit, but yeah, they’d like that too if they can have it.

While members of the administration may dimly recognize what a firestorm they have unleashed, their crisis responses look to be no better than Nero’s.


ECRI expects ‘double dip scare’

Cross-posted from Credit Writedowns Below is a video of Lakshman Achuthan, co-founder and chief operations officer of the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI), talking about the economic outlook for the US. I profiled Achuthan’s views on a broad US slowdown when I wrote in May about why a global slowdown will hit by summer. Now […]


Orwell Watch: Banks Put a Happy Face on Demolishing Foreclosed Homes

n the through the looking glass world of reality according to banks, tearing down foreclosed houses is a good thing. Really.

The spin that Bank of America is using to justify the notion of bulldozing buildings is that the houses in question are worth bupkis, say $10,000 or less. There’s a wee omission in their discussion. Many if not most of the houses in question have fallen in value because the bank failed to maintain them on behalf of investors