By Peter Thal Larsen
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)
Almost exactly a decade ago, Ben Bernanke visited Tokyo as a member of the Federal Reserve Board – he was not yet the powerful Fed chairman – and gave some shocking advice to his Japanese counterparts. Surveying the country’s abysmal record of deflation, Bernanke recommended that the Bank of Japan set an explicit inflation target and embark on a massive program of buying government debt to help achieve that goal.
The Bank of Japan unleashed its full firepower this week, pushing the yen to 3-1/2 year lows of 97 per dollar. Year-to-date, the currency is down 11 percent to the dollar. But those hoping for a return to the carry trade boom of yesteryear may wait in vain.
The Cypriot crisis, stemming essentially from a banking malaise, reminds us that Europe's banking woes are far from over. In fact, Stephen Jen and Alexandra Dreisin at SLJ Macro Partners posit in a note on Monday that five years into the crisis, European banks have barely carried out any deleveraging. A look at their loan-to-deposit ratios (a measure of a bank's liquidity, calculated by dividing total outstanding loans by total deposits) remain at an elevated 1.15. That's 60 percent higher than U.S. banks which went into the crisis with a similar LTD ratio but which have since slashed it to 0.7.
Despite the early-year rally in equity markets, some hedge funds seem to have had a disappointing start... yet again.