Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bank regulators’ statist 0% risk weight of sovereign, turn governments into credit spoiled filthy-rich brats that will end up defaulting

If banks need to hold much less capital when lending to the sovereign than when lending to anyone else; and thereby makes it easier for the sovereign to offer banks an attractive risk adjusted return, banks will lend and governments will borrow, way too much. It is doomed to end badly.

That is what the 0% risk weight of sovereign when setting the capital requirements does. It is a shameless and dangerous regulatory subsidy of government debt which statist regulators justify based on “sovereigns can always print money”, which as we all know is precisely one of the major risks with sovereigns.

And too many experts, most, are not even aware of that regulatory subsidy, and often refer to government debt setting the risk-free rate, as if nothing had happened.

For instance, way to often we read a reputable financial commentator opining that the sovereign should take advantage of the very low rates in order to take on some needed infrastructure projects that will also provide jobs while they last. No consideration at all is given to the fact that government debt, if it does not help generate the economic growth required for its repayment is a de facto tax on future generations. Those who seem to be most in need of tax-cuts are the unborn. Why not think of them too President Trump?

What would happen if we want to retire our deposits in a bank that is overextended in loans to an overextended sovereign? Have the sovereign print money? Like any Venezuelan central bank?

This 0% risk weighting started in 1988 with the Basel Accord. During the almost 600 years of previous banking there was nothing of that sort of distortion. Imagine what financier Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, burned in 1307 by Phillip IV, would have to say about that 0% risk-weight. 

But what to we do now? If we imposed on banks the same capital requirements for lending to the sovereign than when lending to the citizen, which is how it should be in order for banks to allocate credit efficiently, that would create so large new capital requirements it could bring the whole ordinary bank credit function to a halt.

Let us suppose we want banks to hold 10% in capital against all assets. One alternative would be to lower the current capital requirement for banks to each banks’ current average capital, and let it thereafter build up little by little… with no dividends for quite sometime.

Another, more effective, one I would prefer thinking of my grandchildren, is a haircut on all bank depositors, by forcing them receive some negotiable non redeemable bank shares in lieu of money.   (As a payment for the basic minimum deposit guaranty?) Perhaps those shares could even turn out to be a good investment for pension funds.

What Kurowski? Have you gone mad? No friends, just tell me how we otherwise stop governments, egged on by so many redistribution profiteers, from taking on subsidized debt?


PS. The other sector that is being subsidized by low risk weights is that of residential mortgages. That will likewise signify we end up with plenty of houses for our children to live in the basements, but too few jobs for them to be able to buy their own upstairs.

PS. In 1988 when statist regulators assigned it a 0% risk weight, the US debt was $2.6 trillion. At end of 2017 it was US$20.2 trillion, and still 0% risk weighted. If it keeps on being 0% risk weighted, it is doomed to become 100% risky, just like what happened to Greece

PS. What to do? The regulators painted us all into a corner. The 0% risk weight of sovereigns will continue to dangerously doom the public debt safe-havens to become overpopulated by banks holding especially little capital. But any increase of that weight, will scare the shit out of markets.

PS. The only way to solve the 0% sovereign risk weight conundrum that I see, is to increase the leverage ratio applicable to all assets, until that level where the risk weighted capital requirement totally loses its significance.

PS. The same central bank technocrats who target a 2% inflation rate, which means that in 10 years our money will be worth about 22% less, are the ones who assign sovereigns a 0% risk weight. Why do we allow them to treat us with such statist contempt?