Category Archives: Risk and risk management

Swiss National Bank Shock: Biggest US Retail Currency Broker’s Equity Wiped Out; Others Suffer Major Losses

Even though traders say they like volatility, their attitude is straight out of Goldilocks: : not only is too little too bad, but so is too much. The recent oil price plunge has sent rattles across financial markets around the world, with more knock-on effects expect as shale gas players start to show signs of stress.

And today’s big event was so unforeseen as to verge on being in black swan terrain. The Swiss National Bank, which had a program in place to keep the euro from falling below 1.20 to the Swiss franc.

The Swiss National Bank abruptly terminated the cap today. The currency move was brutal.

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Yanis Varoufakis: How the United States Rolls (Post-Global Minotaur) – by Slavov Žižek

By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Originally published at his website. In this article, aptly subtitled It’s lonely being the global policeman, Slavoj evokes a parallelism between the age of extremes that began as the British Empire was losing its grip with the present moment in history. Now that the […]

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Treasury Liquidity Freakout: Searching for a Market-Maker

As someone old enough to have done finance in the Paleolithic pre-personal computer era (yes, I did financial analysis using a calculator and green accountant’s ledger paper as a newbie associate at Goldman), investor expectations that market liquidity should ever and always be there seem bizarre, as well as ahistorical. Yet over the past month or two, there has been an unseemly amount of hand-wringing about liquidity in the bond market, both corporate bonds, and today, in a Financial Times story we’ll use as a point of departure, Treasuries.

These concerns appear to be prompted by worries about what happens if (as in when) bond investors get freaked out by the Fed finally signaling it is really, no really, now serious about tightening and many rush for the exits at once. The taper tantrum of summer 2013 was a not-pretty early warning and the central bank quickly lost nerve. The worry is that there might be other complicating events, like geopolitical concerns, that will impede the Fed’s efforts at soothing rattled nerves, or worse, that the bond market will gap down before the Fed can intercede (as if investors have a right to orderly price moves!).

Let’s provide some context to make sense of these pleas for ever-on liquidity.

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Too Big to Be Saved: Systemic Risk Alive and Well in Europe

With the recent Global Crisis, the interest in systemic risk and the interconnection between financial institutions has increased. This column investigates the case of European financial firms, where several factors can jeopardise a firm’s financial health. Using data since 2000 to evaluate the firms’ systemic risk, the authors find that for certain countries, the cost to rescue the riskiest domestic banks is too high. They might be considered too big to be saved.

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Who Wins in the Financial Casino?

I received a message last week from a savvy reader, a former McKinsey partner who has also done among other things significant pro-bono work with housing not-for-profits (as in he has more interest and experience in social justice issues than most people with his background). His query:

We both know that financialization has, among so many other things, turned large swaths of the capital markets into a casino

Here’s my thought/question: is there a house?

The common wisdom is that the ‘house wins’ in casinos.

So, who or what was really the ‘house’?

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Ilargi: Subprime is Back With a Vengeance

Yves here. While it remains an open question as to whether frenzied efforts to push investors even further out on the risk limb will come to fruition, the fact that so many measures are underway looks like an officially-endorsed rerun of early 2007. If the Fed indeed raises rates in the not-insanely-distant future, getting into subprime and other speculative credits is a quick path to losses. But even if the Fed and other central banks remain super-dovish, risky borrowers can and will go tits up independent of interest rates. Credit risk is not the same as interest rate risk, but the inability to get any return for the latter is producing an extreme underpricing of the former.

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US Corporate Executives to Workers: Drop Dead

The Washington Post has a story that blandly supports the continued strip mining of the American economy. Of course, in Versailles that the nation’s capitol has become, this lobbyist-and-big-ticket-political-donor supporting point of view no doubt seems entirely logical. The guts of the article: Three years ago, Harvard Business School asked thousands of its graduates, many […]

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Investment Bombshell: CalPERS Exiting Hedge Funds

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the US, is widely seen as an industry leader and its practices are emulated by other public pension funds. CalPERS has just announced that it is withdrawing from hedge fund investing entirely.

Ironically, the very first post on this website, on December 19, 2006, Fools and Their Money (Hedge Fund Edition), chided CalPERS for its continued loyalty to hedge funds.

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Philip Pilkington: The Efficient Markets Hypothesis Has Been Proved Wrong But Economists Do Not Want to Listen

Yves here. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis, along with the Capital Assets Pricing Model, is one of the cornerstones of financial economics. Pity both are wrong.

Actually, it’s worse than a pity, since financial economics informs not only how professional investors construct their investment portfolios, but similarly is the foundation for orthodox thinking among retail investors. And the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and the Capital Assets Pricing Model both understate market risk, so following their dictates leads investors to take on more risk than they intended to.

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Huarong’s Shadow Bank Bailout: This Changes Everything

Two days ago, we learned that the Chinese government was behind the bailout earlier this year of a trust product—a type of financial product that the central government has heretofore emphatically distanced itself from. Huarong Asset Management, using a 3 billion RMB loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the trust product seller, was the mystery lender behind the January bailout of the Credit Equals Gold trust product, the Financial Times reported on August 31. ICBC and Huarong Asset Management are both state-owned entities.

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New Zealand Companies Office’s $612Mn Money-Laundering Snooze

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recently (21st August) published one of their periodic investigations, concerning a rather large moneylaundering scheme: Call it the Laundromat. It’s a complex system for laundering more than $20 billion in Russian money stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity. It was designed to not only […]

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