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from Global Investing:

Anticipating the fallout from South Africa’s ratings reviews

South Africa is due ratings reviews this Friday. Chances are that the Standard & Poor's agency will cut its BBB rating by one, or possibly even two notches.  Another agency Fitch has a stable outlook on the rating but could still choose to downgrade the rating rather than the outlook. What will be the damage?

There is undoubtedly a link between ratings and bond prices.  So a one-notch ratings downgrade tends to lead to roughly a 20 percent increase in bond yield spreads and credit default swaps (instruments that are used to hedge against default), according to calculations by JPMorgan. But in South Africa the lower credit rating may already be already reflected in asset prices -- Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Philippines, Uruguay, Indonesia, and Romania carry lower sovereign credit ratings but boast lower CDS and dollar bond yield premia over Treasuries.  Russia and Turkey have lower average ratings than South Africa but their debt and CDS spreads  are roughly on the same level.

So a ratings cut is unlikely to trigger huge outflows from South African debt markets, says JPMorgan, which runs the most widely used emerging bond indices. In Brazil for instance, a well-anticipated  downgrade back in March did not lead to significant cash outflows from its markets, JPM points out:

The current relationships between spreads and ratings do not necessarily imply another step wider in South Africa’s spreads until it is firmly sub-investment grade (not J.P. Morgan’s base case).

from Breakingviews:

BofA loss provides valuable mega-bank perspective

By Antony Currie

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

Anemic results underscore how little fun it is to run a mega-bank these days. A $276 million loss from Bank of America announced on Wednesday, however, at least provides some valuable perspective.

from Breakingviews:

JPMorgan’s clean sheet already looks off-white

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

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

JPMorgan’s clean sheet already looks off-white. For the first time in years, its quarterly earnings weren’t cluttered with special items like whale-trade losses or legal costs. The U.S. mega-bank’s $5.3 billion profit in the three months to March fell short of expectations anyway.

from Breakingviews:

Jamie Dimon hits final stage of grief: acceptance

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

In coping with the tragedy of the financial crisis, no Wall Street executive has exhibited the five stages of grief like Jamie Dimon. The JPMorgan chief executive has passed through phases of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. His latest annual letter to shareholders finally shows a desire to accept what’s happened and move on.

from Breakingviews:

Blythe Masters could chair Glencore

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

Blythe Masters’ exit from JPMorgan with the sale of its physical commodities business could solve Glencore’s longstanding search for a chairman. The brains behind the credit default swap has the expertise to join the trading house’s board, whose all-male roll makes it an anachronism in the FTSE-100. But there is one big obstacle to her leading this or any board – she has never run a company before.

from Breakingviews:

Dimon deputy epitomizes succession of all sorts

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

Jamie Dimon’s loss of a top deputy on Tuesday epitomizes succession issues of all sorts. Key lieutenant Mike Cavanagh has given up a shot at following his mentor atop JPMorgan for one helping run private equity firm Carlyle Group. The move shakes up leadership plans for both companies and also underscores a bigger shift in finance.

from Breakingviews:

JPMorgan commodities sale shows trading’s opacity

By Kevin Allison and Antony Currie

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

JPMorgan’s $3.5 billion sale of its physical commodities business is a perfect example of just how opaque trading is. The bank is selling what is probably a low-return business with regulatory headaches to Mercuria, a privately held firm that does not have to make its financials public. The dearth of details does make it hard to judge, but applying some statistics from both the industry and some rivals suggests Mercuria may be paying top whack.

from Breakingviews:

Chris Christie grapples with his inner Jamie Dimon

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

Jamie Dimon’s tale of woe is proving an uncanny inspiration to the governor of the U.S. state of New Jersey. Chris Christie, who is also considered an early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, followed his own “tempest in a teapot” moment with a mea culpa on Thursday for his team’s behavior over a traffic scandal. Christie even has an Ina Drew to blame. Like Dimon, the Garden State’s chief executive needs to own up to a culture he engendered.

from Global Investing:

Market cap of EM debt indices still rising

It wasn't a good year for emerging market bonds, with all three main debt benchmarks posting negative returns for the first time since 2008. But the benchmark indices run by JPMorgan nevertheless saw a modest increase in market capitalisation, and assets of the funds that benchmark to these indices also rose.

JPMorgan says its index family -- comprising EMBI Global dollar bond indices, the CEMBI group listing corporate debt and the GBI-EM index of local currency emerging bonds -- ended 2013 with a combined market cap of $2.8 trillion, a 2 percent increase from end-2012. Take a look at the following graphic which shows the rise in the market cap since 2001:

from Alison Frankel:

FHLB demands DOJ draft complaint: ‘What is JPMorgan trying to hide?’

If JPMorgan Chase and the Justice Department thought that all the zeroes at the end of the bank's multibillion-dollar settlement for mortgage securitization failures would foreclose questions about the bank's actual wrongdoing, clearly they thought wrong. Days after the much-leaked-about $13 billion deal was finally announced, New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson looked at the admissions accompanying the settlement and wondered why it had taken the federal government so long to hold the bank accountable for conduct that's been in the public domain for years. Morgenson's column echoed posts at Bloomberg and Slate that also scoffed at JPMorgan "admissions." On Monday, even a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission piled on. Dan Gallagher, a Republican, criticized the settlement as a penalty on the bank's current shareholders that's not justified by JPMorgan's admitted conduct. "It is not rational," Gallagher told an audience in Frankfurt at an event organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.

At the heart of all of this criticism is a nagging suspicion that we don't really know what the Justice Department had - or didn't have - on JPMorgan, that the $13 billion settlement was not pegged to the bank's actual misconduct but to the public relations benefits to both sides from a supposedly record-setting deal. Attorney General Eric Holder has called the size of the settlement a proportionate response to JPMorgan's wrongdoing, but it's tough to take that assertion on faith when the statement of facts that accompanied the settlement revealed so little about the government's evidence.

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