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Posts Tagged ‘financial crisis’

Global bankers meet in Basel for reform

Posted by Admin on September 13, 2010

By Brooke Masters and Patrick Jenkins, FT.com
September 10, 2010 — Updated 0113 GMT (0913 HKT)
Death of the Feds
(FT) — Banking supervisors and central bankers from 27 countries will gather in Basel, Switzerland, this weekend to adopt what is set to be the most important regulatory reform package since the financial crisis, even as German, US and other officials continue to jockey over some provisions.
The officials overseeing the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the global rule-making body, are expected to set minimum requirements for the amount of top quality capital banks must hold against future losses and announce a timetable for reaching the standards. The figures are set to determine the shape, stability and profitability of global banking for years to come.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, and Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, are among those meeting on Sunday to thrash out the final details of the banking reform package known as Basel III.
A large group of countries has coalesced round a plan to require banks to hold core tier one capital – essentially equity and retained profits – equal to 5 per cent of their risk-weighted assets, compared with the current requirement of 2 per cent. In a new measure, banks would also have to hold a buffer of additional capital equal to 2-3 per cent of assets, meaning banks that fall below a core tier one ratio of at least 7-8 per cent or face restrictions on their ability to pay dividends and bonuses.
However, some countries have so far refused to sign up and are still pushing for totals as low as 4 per cent or as high as 10 per cent, including the buffer, people familiar with the talks said. Germany has been particularly vocal in its concerns about setting the ratio too high. “It’s not finished,” said one regulator.
The exact numbers could also shift as part of the negotiations over the timetable. US officials would like the minimums in place in 2012 with the buffers a few years later, while a German central banker said this week he expected the minimums and buffers to phase in over five to 10 years starting in 2013. Some participants believe a longer timetable may be the price of tougher numbers.
Analysts believe the outcome may also turn on the issue of so-called contingent convertible capital, nicknamed “cocos”. These instruments, essentially bonds that only convert into equity under a stressed scenario, do not count towards the core tier one minimum, but the French have been arguing that they should be usable to meet the buffer capital requirements. This apparently technical issue could radically change the effect of the regime. If the buffer can be funded with cheaper cocos, the result would be far less severe.
One person close to the process said the Basel group was unlikely to allow exceptions for smaller banks, as some in Germany had hoped. The group will insist the “entire world” be subjected to “a totally level playing field with absolutely no exceptions”, the person said.
Sunday’s meeting may well have to defer decisions on the size of two other planned parts of the package: surcharges for extra-large banks and a second buffer designed to counter the economic cycle.
The influence of the committee’s decisions could be profound. If it sets requirements too low, another banking crisis could result; too high and the world economy could struggle with a lack of credit.
James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, said the Basel reforms were “the single most important reforms that will be made coming out of this financial crisis”.
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Financial Crisis: The Next Big Bank Bailout is on the Way

Posted by Admin on March 24, 2010

Financial Crisis: The Next Big Bank Bailout is on the Way

by Mike Whitney

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Global Research, March 17, 2010

Information Clearing House – 2010-03-16

Housing is on the rocks and prices are headed lower. That’s not the consensus view, but it’s a reasonably safe assumption. Master illusionist Ben Bernanke managed to engineer a modest 7-month uptick in sales, but the fairydust will wear off later this month when the Fed stops purchasing mortgage-backed securities and long-term interest rates begin to creep higher. The objective of Bernanke’s $1.25 trillion program, which is called quantitative easing, was to transfer the banks “unsellable” MBS onto the Fed’s balance sheet. Having achieved that goal, Bernanke will now have to unload those same toxic assets onto Freddie and Fannie. (as soon as the public is no longer paying attention)

Bernanke’s cash giveaway has helped to buoy stock prices and stabilize housing, but market fundamentals are still weak. There’s just too much inventory and too few buyers. Now that the Fed is withdrawing its support, matters will only get worse.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the folks at Bloomberg from cheerleading the nascent housing turnaround. Here’s a clip from Monday’s column:

“The U.S. housing market is poised to withstand the removal of government and Federal Reserve stimulus programs and rebound later in the year, contributing to annual economic growth for the first time since 2006. Increases in jobs, credit and affordable homes will help offset the end of the Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities this month and the expiration of a federal homebuyer tax credit in April. Sales will rise about 6 percent this year, and housing will account for 0.25 percentage point of the 3.6 percent growth, according to forecasts by Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital in New York…“The underlying trend is turning positive,” said Bruce Kasman, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.”

Just for the record; there has been no “increases in jobs”. It’s baloney. Unemployment is flat at 9.7 percent with underemployment checking-in at 16.8 percent. There’s no chance of housing rebound until payrolls increase. Jobless people don’t buy houses.

Also, while it is true that the federal homebuyer tax credit did cause a spike in home purchases; it’s impact has been short-lived and sales are returning to normal. It’s generally believed that “cash for clunker-type” programs merely move demand forward and have no meaningful long-term effect.

So, it’s likely that housing prices–particularly on the higher end–will continue to fall until they return to their historic trend. (probably 10 to 15% lower) That means more trouble for the banks which are already using all kinds of accounting flim-flam (“mark-to-fiction”) to conceal the wretched condition of their balance sheets. Despite the surge in stock prices, the banks are drowning in the losses from their non performing loans and toxic assets. And, guess what; they still face another $1 trillion in Option ARMs and Alt-As that will reset by 2012. it’s all bad.

The Fed has signaled that it’s done all it can to help the banks. Now it’s Treasury’s turn. Bernanke will keep the Fed funds rate at zero for the foreseeable future, but he is not going to expand the Fed’s balance sheet anymore. Geithner understands this and is working frantically to put together the next bailout that will reduce mortgage-principal for underwater homeowners. But it’s a thorny problem because many of the borrowers have second liens which could amount to as much as $477 billion. That means that if the Treasury’s mortgage-principal reduction plan is enacted; it could wipe out the banks. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Financial Times which explains it all:

“A group of investors in mortgage-backed bonds dubbed the Mortgage Investors Coalition (MIC) recently submitted to Congress a plan to overhaul the refinancing of underwater borrowers by writing down the principal balances of both first and second mortgages. The confederation of insurers, asset managers and hedge funds hope to break a logjam between Washington DC and the four megabanks with the most exposure to writedowns on second lien mortgages, including home equity lines of credit.

The private sector initiative coincides with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank’s open letter dated 4 March to the CEOs of the banks in question – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo – urging them to start forgiving principal on the second lien loans they hold.

But the banks are unlikely to take action until they get new accounting guidance from regulators that would ease the impact of such significant principal reductions on their capitalization ratios.”

(Ed.–“Accounting guidance”? Either the banks are holding out for a bigger bailout or they’re looking for looser accounting standards to conceal their losses from their shareholders. Either way, it’s clear that they’re trying to hammer out the best deal possible for themselves regardless of the cost to the taxpayer.)

Financial Times again: “The four banks in question collectively own more than USD 400bn of the USD 1trn in second lien mortgages outstanding. BofA holds USD 149bn, Citi holds USD 54bn, JP Morgan holds USD 101bn and Wells Fargo holds USD 115bn, according to fourth quarter 2009 10Q filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

As proposed, the MIC’s plan entails haircuts to the first and second lien loans to reduce underwater borrowers’ loan to value ratios to 96.5% of current real estate market prices, according to two sources close.

For the program to work, HAMP would place principal balance forgiveness first in the modification waterfall. The associated second lien would take a principal balance reduction but remain intact through the process – ultimately to be re-subordinated to the first lien, the sources close said.

A systemic program to modify second lien mortgages called 2MP does exist but Treasury has stalled on implementation because the banks that hold them can’t afford it, six buyside investors said. The sources all said implementation of the program, called 2MP, would result in “catastrophic” losses for the nation’s four largest banks, which collectively hold more than USD 400bn of the USD 1trn in second lien mortgages outstanding.” (“Mortgage investors push for banks to write down second liens”, Allison Pyburn, Financial Times)

Hold on a minute! Didn’t Geithner just run bank “stress tests” last year to prove that the banks could withstand losses on second liens?

Yes, he did. And the banks passed with flying colors. So, why are the banks whining now about the potential for “catastrophic” losses if the plan goes forward? Either they were lying then or they’re lying now; which is it?

Of course they were lying. Just like that sniveling sycophant Geithner is lying.

According to the Times the banks hold $400 billion in second lien mortgages. But –as Mike Konczal points out–the stress tests projected maximum losses at just “$68 billion. In other words, Geithner rigged the tests so the banks would pass. Now the banks want it both ways: They want people to think that they are solvent enough to pass a basic stress test, but they want to be given another huge chunk of public money to cover their second liens. They want it all, and Geithner’s trying to give it to them. Wanker.

And don’t believe the gibberish from Treasury that “they have no plan for mortgage principal reductions”. According to the Times:

“Treasury continues to tell investors that any day now they will be out with a final program and they will be signed up”….“The party line continues to be they are a week away, two weeks away,” the hedge fund source said. ”

So, it’s not a question of “if” there will be another bank bailout, but “how big” that bailout will be. The banks clearly expect the taxpayer to foot the entire bill regardless of who was responsible for the losses.

So, let’s summarize:

1–Bank bailout #1–$700 billion TARP which allowed the banks to continue operations after the repo and secondary markets froze-over from the putrid loans the banks were peddling.

2–Bank bailout #2–$1.25 trillion Quantitative Easing program which transferred banks toxic assets onto Fed’s balance sheet (soon to be dumped on Fannie and Freddie) while rewarding the perpetrators of the biggest financial crackup in history.

3–Bank bailout #3–$1 trillion to cover all mortgage cramdowns, second liens, as well as any future liabilities including gym fees, energy drinks, double-tall nonfat mocha’s, parking meters etc. ad infinitum.

And as far as the banks taking “haircuts”? Forget about it! Banks don’t take “haircuts”. It looks bad on their quarterly reports and cuts into their bonuses. Taxpayers take haircuts, not banksters. Besides, that’s what Geithner gets paid for–to make sure bigshot tycoons don’t have to pay for their mistakes or bother with the niggling details of fleecing the little people.

The next big bailout is on the way. Prepare to get reamed! Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Mike Whitney

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Debt Dynamite Dominoes: The Coming Financial Catastrophe

Posted by Admin on March 4, 2010

Debt Dynamite Dominoes: The Coming Financial Catastrophe
Assessing the Illusion of Recovery
Global Research, February 22, 2010
– 2010-02-21

Understanding the Nature of the Global Economic Crisis

The people have been lulled into a false sense of safety under the ruse of a perceived “economic recovery.” Unfortunately, what the majority of people think does not make it so, especially when the people making the key decisions think and act to the contrary. The sovereign debt crises that have been unfolding in the past couple years and more recently in Greece, are canaries in the coal mine for the rest of Western “civilization.” The crisis threatens to spread to Spain, Portugal and Ireland; like dominoes, one country after another will collapse into a debt and currency crisis, all the way to America.

In October 2008, the mainstream media and politicians of the Western world were warning of an impending depression if actions were not taken to quickly prevent this. The problem was that this crisis had been a long-time coming, and what’s worse, is that the actions governments took did not address any of the core, systemic issues and problems with the global economy; they merely set out to save the banking industry from collapse. To do this, governments around the world implemented massive “stimulus” and “bailout” packages, plunging their countries deeper into debt to save the banks from themselves, while charging it to people of the world.

Then an uproar of stock market speculation followed, as money was pumped into the stocks, but not the real economy. This recovery has been nothing but a complete and utter illusion, and within the next two years, the illusion will likely come to a complete collapse.

The governments gave the banks a blank check, charged it to the public, and now it’s time to pay; through drastic tax increases, social spending cuts, privatization of state industries and services, dismantling of any protective tariffs and trade regulations, and raising interest rates. The effect that this will have is to rapidly accelerate, both in the speed and volume, the unemployment rate, globally. The stock market would crash to record lows, where governments would be forced to freeze them altogether.

When the crisis is over, the middle classes of the western world will have been liquidated of their economic, political and social status. The global economy will have gone through the greatest consolidation of industry and banking in world history leading to a system in which only a few corporations and banks control the global economy and its resources; governments will have lost that right. The people of the western world will be treated by the financial oligarchs as they have treated the ‘global South’ and in particular, Africa; they will remove our social structures and foundations so that we become entirely subservient to their dominance over the economic and political structures of our society.

This is where we stand today, and is the road on which we travel.

The western world has been plundered into poverty, a process long underway, but with the unfolding of the crisis, will be rapidly accelerated. As our societies collapse in on themselves, the governments will protect the banks and multinationals. When the people go out into the streets, as they invariably do and will, the government will not come to their aid, but will come with police and military forces to crush the protests and oppress the people. The social foundations will collapse with the economy, and the state will clamp down to prevent the people from constructing a new one.

The road to recovery is far from here. When the crisis has come to an end, the world we know will have changed dramatically. No one ever grows up in the world they were born into; everything is always changing. Now is no exception. The only difference is, that we are about to go through the most rapid changes the world has seen thus far.

Assessing the Illusion of Recovery

In August of 2009, I wrote an article, Entering the Greatest Depression in History, in which I analyzed how there is a deep systemic crisis in the Capitalist system in which we have gone through merely one burst bubble thus far, the housing bubble, but there remains a great many others.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Europe Faces Financial “Tsunami”

Posted by Admin on February 9, 2010

Europe Faces Financial “Tsunami” and Will Become Ungovernable

February 6, 2010 (LPAC)—City of London mouthpiece Ambrose Evans-Pritchard quoted one Julian Callow from Barclay’s Capital as calling for the European Union to invoke treaty powers under Article 122, which has already been done in Greece, to “halt the contagion…. If not contained, this could result in a ‘Lehman-style tsunami’ spreading across much of the EU.” The bankers’ dictatorship being imposed on Greece, Portugal, and Spain threatens to make those countries ungovernable.

In Greece, a two-day strike by tax and customs officers, and ongoing farmers road blockades, threaten to create a fuel shortage. Public workers union leader Argyris Sakellaropoulos said, “We have already made sacrifices, and will accept no more cuts.” Next Wednesday, Feb. 10, the public sector unions will stage a one-day strike. The nation’s largest trade union federation, GSEE, has called for a general strike on Feb. 24.

Now the people are preparing for action in Spain and Portugal.

In reaction to budget cuts, an increase in the retirement age, and wage freezes announced by the Spanish government, the unions yesterday threatened massive protests, according to the EU Observer.

Portugal appears to be ready to explode. After the opposition introduced a bill in the Portuguese Parliament to increase funding in the regions—something the government said it will block—rumors flew around that Prime Minister Jose Socrates announced he would resign, sending credit default swaps on Portuguese debt swaps surging 28% to 222. Portugal’s debt is expected to go from 76% to 85% of GDP by the end of the year. Socrates’ center left government is a minority government. While defending the government’s austerity policies, Portuguese Finance Minister Teixeira dos Santos declared that Greece and Portugal are victims of the “animal spirits” of the financial markets. The government expects pay off some of the debt by selling national assets and will push through privatizations that they expect to yield EU960 million.

Business Week reports that the moves have drawn sharp criticism from the public sector trade unions, which are traditionally the country’s most vocal and militant protesters. The United Front of civil service unions described the cuts as “scandalous,” and warned that strikes were likely. The country still has an active Communist Party and the Left Bloc, who are opposing the cuts in Parliament. The latter received 10% of the vote in the last election, and has 16 members in Parliament.

Portugal is a country of 10 million, with 10% unemployment.

http://www.larouchepac.com/node/13429

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The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs

Posted by Admin on February 8, 2010

The Battle of the Titans: JP Morgan Versus Goldman Sachs
Or Why the Market Was Down for 7 Days in a Row
Global Research, January 29, 2010
Web of Debt – 2010-01-28

We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Geithner/Summers/Rubin). Left strewn on the battleground could be your pension fund and 401K.

The late Libertarian economist Murray Rothbard wrote that U.S. politics since 1900, when William Jennings Bryan narrowly lost the presidency, has been a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties would sometimes change hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players. No popular third party candidate had a real chance at winning, because the bankers had the exclusive power to create the national money supply and therefore held the winning cards.

In 2000, the Rockefellers and the Morgans joined forces, when JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan merged to become JPMorgan Chase Co. Today the battling banking titans are JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that gained notoriety for its speculative practices in the 1920s. In 1928, it launched the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a closed-end fund similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fund failed in the stock market crash of 1929, marring the firm’s reputation for years afterwards. Former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers all came from Goldman, and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rose through the ranks of government as a Summers/Rubin protégé. One commentator called the U.S. Treasury “Goldman Sachs South.”

Goldman’s superpower status comes from something more than just access to the money spigots of the banking system. It actually has the ability to manipulate markets. Formerly just an investment bank, in 2008 Goldman magically transformed into a bank holding company. That gave it access to the Federal Reserve’s lending window; but at the same time it remained an investment bank, aggressively speculating in the markets.  The upshot was that it can now borrow massive amounts of money at virtually 0% interest, and it can use this money not only to speculate for its own account but to bend markets to its will.

But Goldman Sachs has been caught in this blatant market manipulation so often that the JPMorgan faction of the banking empire has finally had enough. The voters too have evidently had enough, as demonstrated in the recent upset in Massachusetts that threw the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s Democratic seat to a Republican. That pivotal loss gave Paul Volcker, chairman of President Obama’s newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board, an opportunity to step up to the plate with some proposals for serious banking reform. Unlike the string of Treasury Secretaries who came to the government through the revolving door of Goldman Sachs, former Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker came up through Chase Manhattan Bank, where he was vice president before joining the Treasury. On January 27, market commentator Bob Chapmanwrote in his weekly investment newsletter The International Forecaster:

“A split has occurred between the paper forces of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Mr. Volcker represents Morgan interests. Both sides are Illuminists, but the Morgan side is tired of Goldman’s greed and arrogance. . . . Not that JP Morgan Chase was blameless, they did their looting and damage to the system as well, but not in the high handed arrogant way the others did. The recall of Volcker is an attempt to reverse the damage as much as possible. That means the influence of Geithner, Summers, Rubin, et al will be put on the back shelf at least for now, as will be the Goldman influence. It will be slowly and subtly phased out. . . . Washington needs a new face on Wall Street, not that of a criminal syndicate.”

Goldman’s crimes, says Chapman, were that it “got caught stealing. First in naked shorts, then front-running the market, both of which they are still doing, as the SEC looks the other way, and then selling MBS-CDOs to their best clients and simultaneously shorting them.”

Volcker’s proposal would rein in these abuses, either by ending the risky “proprietary trading” (trading for their own accounts) engaged in by the too-big-to-fail banks, or by forcing them to downsize by selling off those portions of their businesses engaging in it. Until recently, President Obama has declined to support Volcker’s plan, but on January 21 he finally endorsed it.

The immediate reaction of the market was to drop – and drop, day after day. At least, that appeared to be the reaction of “the market.” Financial analyst Max Keiser suggests a more sinister possibility. Goldman, which has the power to manipulate markets with its high-speed program trades, may be engaging in a Mexican standoff. The veiled threat is, “Back off on the banking reforms, or stand by and watch us continue to crash your markets.” The same manipulations were evident in the bank bailout forced on Congress by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in September 2008.

In Keiser’s January 23 broadcast with co-host Stacy Herbert, he explains how Goldman’s manipulations are done. Keiser is a fast talker, so this transcription is not verbatim, but it is close. He says:

“High frequency trading accounts for 70% of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Ordinarily, a buyer and a seller show up on the floor, and a specialist determines the price of a trade that would satisfy buyer and seller, and that’s the market price. If there are too many sellers and not enough buyers, the specialist lowers the price. High frequency trading as conducted by Goldman means that before the specialist buys and sells and makes that market, Goldman will electronically flood the specialist with thousands and thousands of trades to totally disrupt that process and essentially commandeer that process, for the benefit of siphoning off nickels and dimes for themselves. Not only are they siphoning cash from the New York Stock Exchange but they are also manipulating prices. What I see as a possibility is that next week, if the bankers on Wall Street decide they don’t want to be reformed in any way, they simply set the high frequency trading algorithm to sell, creating a huge negative bias for the direction of stocks. And they’ll basically crash the market, and it will be a standoff.  The market was down three days in a row, which it hasn’t been since last summer. It’s a game of chicken, till Obama says, ‘Okay, maybe we need to rethink this.’”

But the President hasn’t knuckled under yet. In his State of the Union address on January 27, he did not dwell long on the issue of bank reform, but he held to his position. He said:

“We can’t allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy. The House has already passed financial reform with many of these changes. And the lobbyists are already trying to kill it. Well, we cannot let them win this fight. And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real reform, I will send it back.”

What this “real reform” would look like was left to conjecture, but Bob Chapman fills in some blanks and suggests what might be needed for an effective overhaul:

“The attempt will be to bring the financial system back to brass tacks. . . . That would include little or no MBS and CDOs, the regulation of derivatives and hedge funds and the end of massive market manipulation, both by Treasury, Fed and Wall Street players. Congress has to end the ‘President’s Working Group on Financial Markets,’ or at least limit its use to real emergencies. . . . The Glass-Steagall Act should be reintroduced into the system and lobbying and campaign contributions should end. . . . No more politics in lending and banks should be limited to a lending ratio of 10 to 1. . . . It is bad enough they have the leverage that they have. State banks such as North Dakota’s are a better idea.”

On January 28, the predictable reaction of “the market” was to fall for the seventh straight day. The battle of the Titans was on.

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her eleven books include Forbidden MedicineNature’s Pharmacy (co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker), and The Key to Ultimate Health (co-authored with Dr. Richard Hansen). Her websites are www.webofdebt.comwww.ellenbrown.com, and www.public-banking.com.

Ellen Brown is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Ellen Brown

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