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from Breakingviews:

Banks swap rewards for risk on public deals

By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Investment bankers are wising up about reputational risk. Deutsche Bank and UBS are now loath to offer long-dated swaps to municipalities. New capital rules making it less attractive to enter into long-dated interest rate swaps partly explain why. But the legal tussles and bad publicity from dealing with public sector clients are a bigger factor.

Arranging swaps – simple derivatives that exchange the costs of fixed and floating interest rates – is less profitable than it used to be. Basel III requirements are hiking capital charges on long-dated derivatives. And new rules requiring swaps to be centrally cleared will probably hit margins.

But UBS’ decision to all but abandon long-dated swaps transactions for municipalities - and Deutsche’s call to limit the duration of its deals to three years - say more about the perils of dealing with public sector clients. Even if the bank has done a good job, the normal rules of caveat emptor don’t apply.

from Global Investing:

No more “emerging markets” please

The crisis currently roiling the developing world has revived a debate in some circles about the very validity of the "emerging markets" concept. Used since the early 1980s as a convenient moniker grouping countries that were thought to be less developed -- financially or infrastructure-wise or due to the size or liquidity of their financial markets -- the widely varying performances of different countries during the turmoil has served to underscore the differences rather than similarities between them.  An analyst who traveled recently between several Latin American countries summed it up by writing that he had passed through three international airports during his trip but had not had a stamp in his passport that said "emerging market".

Like this analyst, many reckon the day has come when fund managers, index providers and investors must stop and consider  if it makes sense to bucket wildly disparate countries together.  After all what does Venezuela, with its anti-market policies and 50 percent annual inflation, have in common with Chile, a free market economy with a high degree of transparency  and investor-friendliness?

from Breakingviews:

Deutsche is wasting its Libor crisis

By Dominic Elliott and Olaf Storbeck

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Deutsche Bank is wasting a crisis. In September 2012, newly appointed co-Chief Executives Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain said the German lender would be at the forefront of cultural change in the banking industry. That goal keeps moving away from them.

from Alison Frankel:

New ruling puts Fannie, Freddie in line for windfall MBS recovery

Has there ever been a more lopsided multibillion-dollar case than the Federal Housing Finance Agency's fraud litigation against the banks that sold mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? I don't think U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of Manhattan, who is overseeing securities fraud suits against 11 banks that haven't already settled with the conservator for Fannie and Freddie, has sided with the banks on any major issue, from the timeliness of FHFA's suits to how deeply the defendants can probe Fannie and Freddie's knowledge of MBS underwriting standards in the late stages of the housing bubble. But even in that context, Judge Cote's summary judgment ruling Monday - gutting the banks' defenses against FHFA's state-law securities claims - is a doozy.

In effect, Cote's decision will permit FHFA to recover more from MBS issuers than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have made if their MBS investments had paid as promised. Of course, FHFA and its lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman still have to show that the banks knew or had reason to know that their offering documents misrepresented the mortgage-backed securities they were peddling to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But if FHFA meets that burden, the banks can't ward off claims under the state securities laws of Virginia and the District of Columbia by blaming Fannie and Freddie's MBS losses on broad declines in the economy and the housing market.

from Breakingviews:

Deutsche ditch divines commoditized commodities

By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Deutsche Bank’s decision to ditch commodities portends just how commoditized the business may be. The German lender is quitting energy, agriculture, base metals and dry bulk trading. That should free up capital without hurting results. And while it ought to ease the pain from a deep swoon in commodities, profits remain elusive for almost all banks involved.

from Global Investing:

Value or growth? The dichotomy of emerging market shares

Investors in emerging markets are facing a tough choice. Should one buy cheap shares in the hope that poor corporate governance and profitability will improve some day? Or is it better to close one's eyes and buy into expensively valued companies that sell mobile telephones, holidays and handbags -- all the things high-spending emerging market consumers hanker after?

At the moment, investors are plumping for the latter, growth-at-any price investment strategy. Result: a lopsided emerging equity index in which consumer discretionary shares are up more than 5 percent this year, energy shares have lost 7 percent while MSCI's benchmark emerging equity index is down 3 percent.

from Breakingviews:

Deutsche’s fixed-income pain could exceed rivals’

By Dominic Elliott

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Deutsche Bank’s third-quarter hit in fixed-income trading could presage a painful loss in market share. The German bank suffered a 48 percent fall in third-quarter debt sales and trading revenue - as bad as any peer. And things could get tougher still.

from Global Investing:

A boost for cheap emerging equities. So will they bite?

Emerging stocks have rallied 3 percent today after the Fed's startling decision to leave its $85 billion-a month money-printing in place, and some markets such as Turkey are up more than 7 percent. With the first Fed hike now expected to come in 2015 and tapering starting only from December, emerging markets have effectively received a three month breather. So will the buyers return?

A lot of folks have been banging the drum about how cheap emerging markets are these days. But imminent Fed tapering has been scaring away any who might have been tempted. Plus there is the economic growth slowdown that could knock profit margins at emerging market companies. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch which runs a closely watched monthly survey of fund managers shows just in the following graphic how unloved the sector is relative to history:

from Global Investing:

Russia — the one-eyed emerging market among the blind

It's difficult to find many investors who are enthusiastic about Russia these days. Yet it may be one of the few emerging markets  that is relatively safe from the effects of "sudden stops" in foreign investment flows.

Russia's few fans always point to its cheap valuations --and these days Russian shares, on a price-book basis, are trading an astonishing 52 percent below their own 10-year history, Deutsche Bank data shows.  Deutsche is sticking to its underweight recommendation on Russia but notes that Russia has:

from Global Investing:

BRIC shares? At the right price

Is the price right? Many reckon that the sell off in emerging markets and growing disenchantment with the developing world's growth story is lending fresh validity to the value-based investing model.

That's especially so for the four BRIC economies, where shares have underperformed for years thanks either to an over-reliance on commodities, excessive valuations conferred by a perception of fast growth or simply dodgy corporate governance. Now with MSCI's emerging equity index down 30 percent from 2007 peaks, prices are looking so beaten down that some players, even highly unlikely ones, are finding value.

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