Tag Archives: London

“Major Banks Could Fall Within Weeks”

I guess there was a 50/50 chance: The EU would have to pull out the big bazookas in order to stem the panic in the financial markets, or they could continue the strategy they’ve seemed to be following for quite some time now; keep on treading the water and hope for the problems to go away. Unfortunately they have chosen the last alternative.

“If anyone thinks things are getting better then they simply don’t understand how severe the problems are. I think a major bank could fail within weeks.”

Bank Executive, London

 

And the first one may very well be the German bank giant, Commerzbank, according to SPIEGEL ONLINE.  Senior analysts and traders warned of impending bank failures as a summit intended to solve the European crisis failed to deliver a solution that eased concerns over bank funding, The Telegraph writes.

The European Central Bank confirms it has held meetings about providing emergency funding to the region’s struggling banks, but British financial experts, however, says a “collateral crunch” is looming, British news paper The Telegraph writes on its web site.

“If anyone thinks things are getting better then they simply don’t understand how severe the problems are. I think a major bank could fail within weeks,” says one London-based executive at a major global bank.

Many banks, including some French, Italian and Spanish lenders, have already run out of many of the acceptable forms of collateral such as US Treasuries and other liquid securities used to finance short-term loans and have been forced to resort to lending out their gold reserves to maintain access to dollar funding.

“The system is creaking. There is a large amount of stress,” says Anthony Peters, a strategist at Swissinvest, pointing to soaring interbank lending rates.

The German paper, Der Spiegel, reports that Berlin is considering a full nationalization of the nation’s second largest bank if necessary.

“According to government sources, if Commerzbank doesn’t manage to raise sufficient capital on its own by next summer, Berlin will reactivate the Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization (Soffin) and purchase additional shares in the bank. The sources say that they assume the government would acquire a majority of the bank’s shares in a capital increase,” SPIEGEL ONLINE writes.

Adding:

“But things haven’t reached that stage yet — and they won’t necessarily have to, either. Commerzbank management is working round the clock to solve the problem without government aid. It’s a difficult job that will mainly have to be tackled by the new Chief financial Officer, Stephan Engels, who was appointed by the supervisory board last Friday.”

If Commerzbank fails to meet the challenge, though, Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing’s days at the head of the commercial lending giant may very well be numbered.

“I’m not going there again,” he recently said, in reference to a government bailout of €16.2 billion ($21.7 billion) that the bank received in 2009. His statement was not well received in Berlin.

Well, let’s do a poll,,,,

CreditSights’ weekly funding report says the ECB had effectively become the central clearer for the region’s banks as lenders are increasingly distrustful about funding one another.

Bank deposits with the ECB now stand at their highest level since June 2010 at €905bn (£772bn) as lenders withdraw deposits held with their peers and put them into the central bank.

At the same time, banks in major euro zone countries such as France and Italy have become increasingly reliant on central bank funding.

This follows the trend seen in smaller countries like Ireland where lenders have effectively becomes taxpayer-funded “zombie” banks.

Alastair Ryan, a banks analyst at UBS, said there would be “no Lehman moment” – or single catastrophic event – for the European banking system, but added that without a full backstop of bank liabilities by governments the system would “struggle to finance itself in the next year in a durable way”.

In other words: We may not have a “Lehman collapse” (times ten) in Europe, but rather an “AIG scandal” of unprecedented proportions.

“The system at the moment hasn’t got funding of a duration that allows it to function, so it’s failing,” Alastair Ryan concludes.

Ladies and Gentlemen; take your (short) positions!

And just for the fun of it – here’s a shrt summary of this “make-or-break” summit in Brussels:

What the EU leaders agreed on

A new EU20, EU26 or EU-something-in-between treaty on financial discipline.

A more market-friendly bail-out fund.

Funneling more EU money back to the EU via the IMF.

Eurobonds, maybe, in the long-term.

More summits,

What the EU leaders did not agree on

No new EU treaty.

No big bazooka.

No ECB money-printing.

Remaining questions

Will the ECB buy more bad debt?

What bits of the new treaty will apply to whom?

What will the EU institutions do?

How will the EU bail-out fund make its decisions?

Will there be EU-wide taxes?

***

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Greece: Bloodbath & Beyond

This may very well be another case of wishful thinking. On the other hand – if these experts are right – there may be a light in the end of the tunnel for the people of Greece after all. This analysis is provided by three high-profiled London-professors and syndicated by http://www.eurointelligence.com. They conclude that a new government in Greece may be able to do what Papandreou never managed – create confidence in the nations economic recovery.

” If political forces miss this opportunity, they should be held individually and collectively accountable by the Greek population for the collapse of their financial sector, the destruction of productive forces, and the wealth reduction and re-distribution (from the poor to the rich) that inflation and a return to the Drachma would entail.” 

Michael G Jacobides/Richard Portes/Dimitri Vayanos  

“Time is running out fast for Greece. This is the last opportunity to use the crisis as an occasion to change the structure of the Greek economy and allow Greece to enter the growth path of which it is capable. A cross-party government should not have a narrow mandate on securing the restructuring deal; rather, it should seek consensus to engage in far-reaching reforms that no party alone would dare to initiate,” the three professors writes.

Well, the quote above is quite obvious…

However, the rest of the article, including arguments, suggestions and  proposals, are interesting.

Anyone involved in the current  “Greek Tragedy” should read this piece:

The dramatic political developments in Athens have focused international attention on Greece. Papandreou’s ill-fated initiative to hold a referendum was partly an effort to increase popular support for the bailout and reform package. A new interim government with a strong mandate to engage in far-reaching reforms could achieve exactly that.

That the biggest bailout plan in history has become unpopular among its supposed beneficiaries may seem paradoxical. But this is not only the result of a populist stance from the opposition and of lopsided coverage by the media.

It is also because the plan’s implementation, as run by the government and monitored by the Troika (IMF, EC, ECB), has focused disproportionately on fiscal targets, as opposed to structural reforms.

Over the last eighteen months, fiscal discipline has been limited to reducing capital and discretionary expenditure,  cutting public-sector wages uniformly with no relationship to productivity, and raising tax rates to unsustainable levels.

We have not seen real progress on tackling tax evasion or on a far-reaching rationalization of the public administration.

While there have been some steps in the right direction, effecting real change has been slow.  But deep institutional change is necessary for popular acceptance and hence success of debt relief, to avoid an eventual default and disastrous exit from the euro.

Greece must not waste this opportunity. Structural reforms, including the aggressive pursuit of tax offenders, would reduce the need for unpopular austerity measures.

More important, they would restore faith in the government by reducing the feeling of inequity and cutting waste, corruption and rents held by interest groups, whether in the private or public sector.

Creditors and the IMF should consider whether the proposed debt relief is sufficient for sustainability and growth.

The focus in Greece, however, should now change from fiscal targets and debt restructuring to operational restructuring.

Politically difficult but often economically evident decisions need to be made.

The debt overhang in Greece is the symptom and indeed consequence of the underlying inefficiencies of Greek public administration and of the current economic model. Without addressing the causes, any debt reprieve will surely be temporary.

Three weeks ago, we hosted a meeting at London Business School where former ministers and current MPs of both major parties met with senior policy makers, bankers, regulators and academics from Greece and abroad.

It is sobering to note that this was the first event of its kind, whether inside or outside Greece. Very positively, despite the range and diversity of the participants, a remarkable consensus emerged on the way forward.  

We are thus convinced that a set of bold structural reforms can be supported by many parties, if only they take the courageous step of severing their own ties to practices which led to the onset of the problem.

Our report, informed by the meeting, focuses on four key areas: tax evasion, public administration, privatizations, and the financial sector.

Reform in the public administration is essential for the better functioning of the state and hence for the success of all other reforms.

The main directions of reform are to make the public administration more independent from the politicians, while also introducing greater accountability and incentives.

In the area of tax collection, for example, lack of accountability and incentives have generated a highly inefficient and corrupt system, which strongly resists change.

  • We propose to abolish the current tax collection offices – which would result in minimal loss of tax revenue – and move tax assessment and collection to a new independent authority.
  • This authority should have an arm’s-length relationship with the Ministry of Finance, and its staff should be hired on limited-term contracts and be evaluated based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).Independent Authorities with  tight governance and accountability could be useful in other areas as well.
  • We propose three additional such authorities:  one charged with the overall monitoring of structural reforms, one on healthcare procurement (a big expenditure item, where waste is rife), and one on corruption reduction. These authorities may help jump-start the change effort throughout the Greek government and its associated institutions.
  • All authorities should be staffed by competent technocrats and be accountable to the Parliament as opposed to the government.
  • An additional measure, which would bring technocratic skills, continuity and accountability, would be to reinstate Permanent Undersecretary of State, appointed for periods longer than a parliamentary term, accountable to Parliament.
  • We argue that the privatization process has been hastily designed: targets are unrealistic and the mandate does not, as it should, include the increase in value of the assets for ultimate disposal. The resources of the Privatization Fund must increase, and its mandate should be the increase of long-term value of formerly state-owned assets.
  • We propose that the programme’s focus shift from immediate sales to a scheme supported by a moderate amount of debt financing using the assets as collateral. This would provide an incentive to the government to increase the value of assets to be sold, while also avoiding fire-sales.
  • We further point to the risk of increased political interference in banks as an unwanted side-effect of their recapitalization process. Such interference has been common in the past, and has harmed the corporate governance and efficiency of the affected banks, as well as their sound supervision.
  • We suggest ways to promote good corporate governance during the recapitalization process, and we emphasize the need to  strengthen financial supervision.

Time is running out fast for Greece. This is the last opportunity to use the crisis as an occasion to change the structure of the Greek economy and allow Greece to enter the growth path of which it is capable.

A cross-party government should not have a narrow mandate on securing the restructuring deal; rather, it should seek consensus to engage in far-reaching reforms that no party alone would dare to initiate.

Anything short of this will quickly lead to Greece being marginalized and expelled from the euro zone.

A caretaker government with a weak mandate, focusing on elections, will send the ultimate wrong message and risks losing the waning creditor and EU partner support.

It is thus critical to launch a concentrated effort now, and not just a caretaker government.

If political forces miss this opportunity, they should be held individually and collectively accountable by the Greek population for the collapse of their financial sector, the destruction of productive forces, and the wealth reduction and re-distribution (from the poor to the rich) that inflation and a return to the Drachma would entail.

Download: Greece Looking Ahead White Paper

Michael G Jacobides, holds the Sir Donald Gordon Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Richard Portes  is Professor of Economics at the London Business.

Dimitri Vayanos is Professor of Finance at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

 

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Options: Highest Put/Call Ratio Since Lehman

The cost of three-month put options to sell the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is almost twice the price of calls to buy, the highest ratio since July 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Investors are paying a high price to hedge against a drop in the US stock market.

“We are buying puts and protection across the board. There are many open fronts, too many question marks.”

Sergi Martin Amoros


The end of the Federal Reserve’s Treasury repurchase program is prompting options traders to pay the most in four years for protection against stock declines, a signal that proved bullish in the past, Bloomberg reports.

The cost of three-month put options to sell the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is almost twice the price of calls to buy, the highest ratio since July 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The last 17 times that so-called skew rose as high, the benchmark gauge for American equities climbed a median 3.9 percent over three months, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Traders are loading up on insurance in the options market on speculation policy makers will halt their program of quantitative easing in June.

“A Major Trend”

Similar purchases preceded gains in the past because they meant professional investors who use the contracts as hedges are buying stocks, said Pam Finelli, head of European equity derivatives research at Deutsche Bank AG.

Risk management and portfolio protection is a huge theme in the market and it’s not unusual to see people expanding their equity allocation, but doing so with a hedge in place,” Finelli says in an interview from London.

“The equity market goes up but the puts stay bid because there’s an underlying hedge that’s being put on at the same time. This has been a major trend.”

Sergi Martin Amoros, chief executive officer at Credit Andorra Asset Management in Andorra, added to equities following the March 11 earthquake in Japan, he said in a telephone interview on April 21.

He’s also buying protection on the firm’s 4 billion euros ($5.8 billion) in investments.

“Question Marks”

“We made the most of the March sell-off to add to positions as equities had weakened,” he said.

“There were good prices and we took the opportunity. We are buying puts and protection across the board. There are many open fronts, too many question marks.”

The S&P 500 fell 0.2 percent to 1,334.60 as of 9:42 a.m. in New York. It climbed 6.3 percent this year through April 21 as the US unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March as companies created more jobs than forecast, the Labor Department said earlier this month.

The economy probably expanded at a 1.9 percent annual pace in the first quarter and will grow at an average rate of 3.1 percent though 2013, according to the average of estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Source: Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Jeff Kearns and Whitney Kisling report the conversation between Howard Present, president and chief executive officer of F-Squared Investments Inc., and Carol Massar, Matt Miller and Adam Johnson on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart.”

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