Tag Archives: ECB

Another Stress Test – Another Media Circus

Hmm…must be that time of year, or something..  Anyway – European bankers are gearing up for another stress test. Yes, their third. But, hey! This time they promise to get it right.  The ECB has even hired the best external stress tester in the business to do the job.  US-based financial consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, a company who has a proven track record for coming up with the right numbers. However, not always the most accurate ones.

“This is the last opportunity to reestablish confidence in the European banking system.”

Jörg Asmussen

SLOVAKIA-ECB-DRAGHI

Stress testing of European banks is actually one of the most entertaining parts of the financial crisis. It’s almost hilariously funny to watch the troubled bankers desperately trying to cork a swiss cheese with a soft gun – the holes just multiply and keeps getting bigger.

sterss 1For every “the worst is over” statement, the laughter grows… We’ve gone from booing to cheering…

And the preparations for stress test #3 are also promising.

strress 4

Last week the ECB announced that it had hired the US-based consultancy firm, Oliver Wyman, to conduct the test.   These guys are no strangers to the European stress testing.

  • In 2006, it famously said the Anglo-Irish Bank was the best bank in the world. Three years later, the bank had to be nationalised and almost bankrupted the Irish state, which then needed a euro zone bailout.
  • In 2012, during the Spanish bank bailout, Oliver Wyman provided the euro zone decision-makers with the numbers they expected and which were politically acceptable – around €60 billion instead of a much larger gap that the banks actually had.
  • Also 2012, Oliver Wyman did consultancy work in the Portuguese bailout, according to the central bank of Portugal.

The EU observer writes:

“The worry in euro zone central banks, according to one insider, is that if banks are reviewed too thoroughly and their problems exposed, they will stop lending and revive the financial crisis.”

stress 2Thanks for carving it out, but I think we kinda guessed that already.

But there’s another factor in play this time.

You see, the ECB is planning to step up to the role as EU’s chief supervisor next year and I believe they want to know what they’re supposed to supervise.

stress 5The ECB plans to put 130 major European banks to the test before it assumes regulatory supervision of the institutions in the fall of 2014.

“This test is not a threat,” says Jörg Asmussen, former state secretary in the German Finance Ministry, now  a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB).

“But after two failed stress tests, this is the last opportunity to reestablish confidence in the European banking system.”

stress 3I’m sorry, but I think that ship sailed the moment you signed the deal with  Oliver Wyman, Mr. Asmussen.

Additionally, many substantial estimates have already been made over the potential magnitude of the gaps the test will uncover.

stress 7SPIEGEL Online reports that Deutsche Bank estimates that Europe’s banks will need €16 billion in additional capital. Depending on which criteria the ECB applies in its tests, the gap could be much bigger.

The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, has just estimated that the seven largest German banks alone need an additional €43 billion in capital to satisfy the new international capital requirements.

stress 8I don’t think any stress test dares to go higher than that!

A comparison with the United States gives indications on how bad shape the Europeans really are in.

US financial groups are reporting record profits, while banks in the euro zone have lost more than €80 billion ($108 billion) in the last two years. In the United States, 10 times as many ailing banks were closed and balance sheets were more consistently relieved of bad debt than in the euro zone.

stress 6

The European leaders seem to have  failed to adequately address their banking crisis.

But they won’t give up!

So, what can we expect in the next 8 to 10 months?

stress 10My guess is – for what it’s worth – is that we will see a slow, dramatic build-up. with ECB’ers and politicians lining up to give their pledges about the truth and nothing but the truth, followed by a series of suspicious leaks, causing some market turmoil and a little bit of liquidity squeeze, and by this time next year the ECB will take on the European banking supervision with a huge off-balance sheet and the uncertainty of the euro zone bank sector will be unchanged.

stress 11

And finally we start all over again with stress test #4.

We can party for ever!

 

Full history of European bank stress testing:

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Neutral Stupidity

The EU lawmakers are about to finalize rules for a single supervisory mechanism (SSM) coordinated by the ECB. The European Commission is expected to table legislation for a resolution mechanism to wind up ailing banks within the coming months. European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi said on Monday in the European Parliament that a euro zone banking union will need a common resolution fund, and that it has to be “fiscally neutral over the medium term.” How can another European bank bailout fund be fiscally neutral?

 “The European Resolution Fund should be backed by a public backstop mechanism to ensure that it would be fiscally neutral over the medium term.”

Mario Draghi

gal_5113

Yup..neutral, but only over the medium term. Sooner or later the taxpayers will have to pay for this bailout, too…

Speaking with MEPs on the monetary affairs committee, Draghi said that the resolution fund should be financed via levies to safeguard against having to “recourse to taxpayer money,” the EUobserver.com reports.

Levies, hu?

ESMHere are some related words:

Also, the European Resolution Fund “should be backed by a public backstop mechanism,”  Mr. Draghi added, to ensure that it would be “fiscally neutral over the medium term.”

I’m sorry, but this sounds like pure nonsense to me.

There’s nothing new here – just another way to ensure that the bailout mechanisms already set up by the EU  leaders – the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) – will still be in place when the European banking union becomes a reality.

But the need for a pan-European resolution fund is widely accepted among most EU lawmakers. However, some countries fear it could lead to their taxpayers financing bank rescues in other countries.

Well, I think they’re on to something….

Meanwhile, Draghi continues to kick the can, downplaying the recent diplomatic row over the exchange rate policy of the euro, dismissing it as “excessive” talks of a currency war involving the euro zone, Japan and the US.

He also said that the ECB did not regard the euro zone exchange rate as “a policy target, but it is important for growth and price stability.”

Important, but not a target….

And, according to the bank’s economic forecasts, the euro zone economy will fall by 0.3 percent in 2013, although Draghi indicated that he expected “a gradual recovery later this year.”

Heard that one, too…..quite a few times over the last five years.

bailout_packages

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El-Erian On Markets Balance Solvency, Growth and Liquidity

Another week has passed by and more ugly signs of how deep our economic troubles are have emerged. The only thing that keeps our financial house of cards from collapsing is the endless stream of money coming from the central banks – primary the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB). But doubts about the final outcome still persist.

“The health of the global economy, and that of markets, depends on the success of a series of medium-term handoffs between the public and private sectors – in growth, balance sheets and credit flows. This week’s data highlighted their complexity.”

Mohamed El-Erian 

In spite of the massive injection of money into the financial system by the central banks, key economic indicators continue to disappoint.  And by now, the central banks have painted themselves into a corner where there’s little else to do. The global economy is practically in state of stagnation – the next stage is depression…

Mohamad El-Erian at PIMCO is one of the top leaders who have managed to keep his cool and not lose his head throughout this whole mess so far.

He openly admits he does not have all the answers, but as usually he points to some key factors that we all should be aware of.

Here’s his latest commentary, as published by CNBC today:

“The health of the global economy, and that of markets, depends on the success of a series of medium-term handoffs between the public and private sectors – in growth, balance sheets and credit flows. This week’s data highlighted their complexity. Fortunately for investors, the valuation impact is being compensated by central banks‘ wide open liquidity spigots,” El-Erian writes.

And continues:

To counter disorderly private sector de-levering and avoid an economic depression, governments and central banks around the world have aggressively ballooned their balance sheets.

This has helped heal some private balance sheets but job creation has remained very anemic, income inequality has increased, and growth has been too weak to allow for the de-levering of the public sector (including fiscal deficits and central balance sheets which now vary in size from 20% of GDP in the US to 30% in Europe).

In the US, Friday’s disappointing GDP print for the fourth quarter was a reminder of the challenge, especially in view of a less-than-reassuring composition.

Consumer growth was limited to just 2% notwithstanding yet another decline in the savings rate to 3.7%, a level last seen at the end of 2007. Export growth also decelerated. Indeed, were it not for a surge in inventory, the economy would have probably succumbed to the drag from government components.

The extent of the growth challenge in Europe was highlighted by Friday’s higher than expected increase in Spanish unemployment (to an agonizing 22.9%).

Meanwhile several of the region’s governments, ECB, IMF and private creditors continued to squabble about how to allocate the inevitable losses on Greek debt.

In Portugal, another highly vulnerable economy, market measures of default risk reached record highs this week.

The longer such solvency and growth indicators continue to flash red in Europe, the more likely that capital will continue to flee; and the harder it will be to overcome the region’s debt crisis.

Dr. Mohamed El-Erian is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, the bond investment house.

Read the full post at CNBC.

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