Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My number umpteenth effort to explain to XXX the very bad of current bank regulations.

A “risky asset” yields more, let us say 15%.
A “safe asset” yields less, let us say 5%.

And those yields would be deemed by the market as equal risk adjusted yields.

And market participants would buy those assets according to their needs and risk appetites.

But then came the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision with its risk weighted capital requirements for banks, more risk more equity – less risk less equity, and that completely distorted the allocation of bank credit.

Because now banks could leverage their equity more with safe assets and thereby obtain higher risk adjusted returns on safe assets than with risky assets.

As a result the overall market demand for safe assets increased, and that of risky assets decreased. That “risky asset” yielding 15% before, might now have to yield 16% or more. That “safe asset” yielding 5% before, might now just yield 4% or less.

Is this good? Of course not! Regulators, probably without even understanding what they were doing, altered the free market’s risk assessments; causing dangerous overpopulation of safe havens; and, for the real economy, equally dangerous under-exploration of the risky bays where SMEs and entrepreneurs usually reside. 

The net result of it is:

Crises, like that of 2007-08, resulting from excessive exposures to what was perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, like AAA rated securities and loans to sovereigns (Greece)

Stagnation, resulting from all the stimulus, like that of QEs, not flowing freely to where they are most needed, but only populating more and more the remaining safe havens.

In other words this damn piece of regulation has our banks no longer financing the riskier future but only refinancing the safer past; and so we are doomed to doom and gloom, and to run out of safe havens.

Of course, having set the risk weight for loans to sovereigns at 0% and to We the People, the regulators also introduced, through the backdoor in 1988, a powerful pro-statism tool.

The distortions are not even acknowledged by the regulators, much less discussed.

God help needing pensioners and job seeking youth! God help us all!

PS. If you have understood this and want more details on the greatest regulatory faux pas in history you might want to read the following more extensive aide memoire.

PS. Here are some of my past explanations for dummies.

PS. Today 50% of my constituency, my grandchildren, gets to be 5 years old.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Was it an accident or is it a statist setup?

In 1988, suddenly, without asking anybody, least us citizens, bank regulators, for the purpose of setting the capital requirements for banks, decreed the risk weight of the sovereign, the government, to be Zero Percent, while the risk weight for We the People was set at 100%.

Not having to hold capital against sovereign debt permits banks to lend to government at lower rates; which translates into a regulatory subsidy of government debt.

Then in response to the 2007-08 crisis, itself a result from distorting bank regulations, central banks launched quantitative easing, which basically meant injecting liquidity into the economy by purchasing government debt; and for example the Fed has ended up with about of US$ 4.5 trillion in government paper.

Much of the liquidity injected went to prop up real estate, bonds and shares, but a lot of it spilled over into more demand for government paper.

Naturally, interest rates for public debt fell, and many, like pension funds, in order to adjust for their liabilities, had to purchase even more public debt.

And while regulatory subsidies of public debt are kept in place, this vicious circle will continue.

And to top it up, too many “experts” now advance the argument that government should take advantage of these low interest rates, to launch infrastructure projects.

Let me be very clear about it, the fact that government might (artificially) even be paying a negative rate on its borrowings, does not mean it should borrow, because it is still very capable of investing those funds in projects yielding even more (real) negative rates.

I do not know how we got to this point, whether by accident or whether a set up by runaway statists. You tell me!

PS. When utilities were being privatized in South America, I often heard accusations in terms of “savage neo-liberalism”. Since these utilities were not adjudicated to whoever offered to serve us citizens the best and the cheapest, but to whoever offered to pay the government the most, a tax advance that left us with a huge bill to pay at private investment rates of return, to me those privatizations were much more an expression of sadist statism.

The solutions I offer are ignored. Might it be because these provide too little business to expertize and redistribution profiteers?

Before the 2007-08 crisis there was some economic growth resulting from a big expansion of credit, which was fed by some very low capital requirements to banks and that allowed these to, in some cases, leverage their equity over 50 to 1.

Then disaster struck, as a consequence of excessive exposures to what had very little capital requirements, like loans to sovereigns (Greece), investments in AAA rated securities and the financing of houses. 

In panic, floods of money, for instance by means of QEs, were poured over the economies, with little results to show for it, and now, the most important world economies, are stuck. Any additional stimuli, be it by means of public borrowing for infrastructure projects, QEs or low or negative interest rates will only complicate matters much more... like for pension plans.

The truth is that trying to get strong and sustainable economic growth, while keeping in place credit risk-adverse capital requirements for banks that exclude SMEs and entrepreneurs from fair access to bank credit, is just impossible.

What to do?

1. Very carefully remove the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks that distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. In order to make sure banks have sufficient capital while adapting, and that credit is not constrained, central banks could offer to purchase some of their bad portfolios, with the understanding that no dividends would be paid until these portfolios had been repurchased by the banks. (See what Chile did)

2. Create new demand (and lessen inequalities), by means of 100% tax-funded Universal Basic Income schemes. One of these could, if funded with carbon taxes, also help with environmental sustainability.

I have been arguing against the risk weighted capital requirements for banks for soon two decades, and I have explained many of its mistakes over and over again. I have yet not been able to obtain one single answer from those responsible, like from the Basel Committee or the Financial Stability Board. Could it be because they have no answers? 

Or could it be that my counter proposals are too straightforward, to simple, and would therefore erode the earnings potential of bank regulators (and consultants), of climate change and inequality fighters, and of the general expertize and redistribution profiteers?

Or is it that I just don’t know what I am talking about? It could be, though I think I can prove I do know by means of somecertifiable early opinions on these issues.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

With interest rates and bank credit officially manipulated, what market-fundamentalism does statism's nobelist Stiglitz refer to?

We have many central banks purchasing public debt in outrageous amounts, and thereby manipulating and distorting all interest rates yield curves in favor of their governments.

And the regulators, with their risk-weighted capital requirements, allow banks to leverage much differently their equity, depending on the ex ante perceived or decreed risk; something which distorts entirely the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

And since the risk weight of the Sovereign has been decreed 0%, while that of We the People has been set at 100%, most of that regulatory manipulation is in favor of the government.

And then time after time we hear experts, like Nobel Prize winner Professor Joseph Stiglitz, attributing most of our current problems to neo-liberalism and market fundamentalism; and often suggesting that the solution lies in increased government spending. What free markets are they referring to? In Stiglitz case, could it be he is only a statist nobelist creatively adapting the facts to his storyline?

PS. I have not read Stiglitz’ “The Euro” yet but, from what I hear he does not link Euro’s troubles in any way to loony bank regulations.  The Euro did indeed present challenges but, when in Venezuela I wrote my “Burning the bridges in Europe”, I had no idea it would also have to face such statist and distorting regulations.

PS. When utilities were being privatized in South America, I often heard accusations in terms of savage neo-liberalism. Since these utilities were not adjudicated to whoever offered to serve us citizens the best and the cheapest, but to whoever offered to pay the government the most, a tax advance that left us with a huge bill to pay at private investment rates of return, to me those privatizations were more an expression sadist statism.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Friends, if you ever get a chance to talk with a bank regulator ask him this, and then you’ll know they don’t know

Sir, by using risk weighted capital requirements you allow banks to leverage assets differently, something which influences differently the banks' risk-adjusted returns on equity. Don’t you think this could dangerously distort the so vital efficient allocation of bank credit to the real economy?

Sir, we see you have set a risk weight of only 20% for private assets rated AAA to AA; and one of 150% for those rated below BB-. Do you really believe that what is rated below BB- is more dangerous for the bank system than what is rated AAA to AA?

And when you then see him evading the issue by answering something else, then you have the right to know, as I do, that he and his colleagues have no idea about what they are doing… and are running scared people will find out.

PS. If you want further details on the bank regulatory monstrosity you can go HERE