Commentaries

Now raising intellectual capital

from Rolfe Winkler:

Defining the “extended period”

Another tidbit from Rosenberg, who offers guidance on what the Fed means when it says it will keep rates low for an "extended period"...

FED CAN'T RAISE RATES UNTIL AFTER 2011

The reason — there is a wave of mortgage refinancings coming in the housing market for one, and not only that, but in the commercial space, there are $2.7 trillion of debt coming due through 2011 and another $1.5 trillion of leveraged loans....In other words, the default rate is going to rise even further and the Fed tightening policy would only aggravate that situation. In other words, the Fed is simply immobile for at least the next two years.

I've argued in this space many times that the Fed is trapped. Our monetary system, which is fueled by credit expansion, simply doesn't work in reverse. To avoid deflation, credit must always be expanding in the aggregate. If the private sector won't borrow, the public sector must....and vice versa. If they de-lever in tandem, we get deflation.

We're told to be panicked by the prospect of deflation and yet the solution we've been given -- unprecedented public credit expansion + inflation of new asset bubble -- leaves us worse off than when we started.

Automatic debt-to-equity swap?

That’s what Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo seems to be advocating in his speech, which you can find here.

Here’s the graph, emphasis mine:

We must also adopt new regulatory mechanisms to counteract the systemic and too-big-to-fail problems that became so embedded in our financial system. One possible approach is a special charge–possibly a special capital requirement–that would be calibrated to the systemic importance of a firm. Needless to say, developing a metric for such a requirement is a new, and not altogether straightforward, exercise. Another proposal, which strikes me as having particular promise, is that large financial institutions be required to have specified forms of “contingent capital.” One form of this proposal would have firms regularly issue special debt instruments that would convert to equity during times of financial stress. If well devised, such instruments would not only provide an increased capital buffer at the moment when it is most needed. They would also inject an additional element of market discipline into large financial firms, since the price of those instruments would reflect market perceptions of the stability of the firm.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Fed: Stop the presses

On Thursday, the Bank of England said that it would run its printing press a bit faster while the European Central Bank hinted that theirs might slow down sooner than expected.

In the United States, the Federal Reserve's printing press is running low on ink, and Ben Bernanke has his own choice to make: Buy a new cartridge or shut the thing down. He should shut it down.

Goldman’s trading secret

LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs last week reported record net revenues from trading and principal investments ($10.8 billion) during the three months ending June, with the major contribution coming from the fixed income, currencies and commodities segment ($6.8 billion).

Most commentators ascribe the firm’s stunning performance, and strong results reported by some of its peers to luck (a rising market lifts all boats); brilliance (trading strategies that are just smarter than everyone else); being one of the last men standing (benefiting from the lessening of competition in many of the markets in which Goldman operates); or some combination of all three.

Fed’s TALF not stimulating much of anything in CMBS

The numbers are out and they’re not looking too good for the commercial real estate market. Investors only applied for $669 million of loans using old, or legacy, CMBS, as collateral, Reuters is reporting. No one requested loans from the New York Fed using new CMBS, but that’s hardly a surprise since the market has been frozen since last year.

The Fed is hoping to jump start the $700 billion market for CMBS because without it the commercial real estate market is in big trouble. With banks and insurance companies no longer in the commercial real estate lending business, the securitization market is shaping up to be the last great hope for developers and property owners who need to refinance maturing debt.

Is the ECB too cautious or too reckless?

The European Central Bank has long been criticised for being too cautious in its response to the financial crisis. Didn’t the inflation hawks of Frankfurt raise rates in July last year just as the credit crunch was about to reach its climax? Despite their massive injections of liquidity into the money markets, Jean-Claude Trichet and his colleagues were pilloried as timorous clones of the Bundesbank for cutting rates too slowly and refusing to follow the Fed and the Bank of England into Quantitative Easing by buying government and corporate debt.

But after last week’s helicopter dump of a record 442 billion euros in liquidity in one-year lending on demand to banks at its 1.0 percent refi rate against a broad range of collateral, the bank suddenly stands accused by some critics of being more reckless than the Anglo-Saxon central banks.

Just in case you were wondering, no exit yet

Earlier today the Fed announced that it would extend a number of programs slated to expire this year until February 1, 2010, making it clear for any of the doubters out there that the Fed is not ready to pull the plug on its patchwork of support for financial markets.  It probably would have made a bigger exclamation point if the Fed Board had made the announcement yesterday when the FOMC stood pat on its policy, but no matter.

I had argued earlier this week, that now would be a good time for the Fed to go for the low hanging fruit when it came to an exit strategy and commit to winding down, among its lending facilities, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility when it was due to expire this year. After all it would show that it was committed to the temporary nature of these programs and give those worrying about too much stimulus something to chew on.

ECB outshines the Fed with its record funding

Though the Federal Reserve continues to capture the undivided attention of global markets, the real fireworks Wednesday were found across the Atlantic.

Where the Fed did essentially nothing, the European Central Bank pumped in a record Euro442 billion ($612.8 billion) through it’s first ever offering of 1-year funding at the low, low cost of 1%.

First exit for the Fed

Call it a battle for beginnings and endings, and the Federal Reserve is smack in the middle.

As Fed policymakers convene for a two-day meeting starting on Tuesday, the lines are growing more defined between those who want the Fed to do more to stimulate a still fragile economy, and those who are calling for a defined exit strategy to prevent the global economy from going into an inflation-inducing overdrive.

Who is the Fed accountable to?

It’s pretty clear the Federal Reserve is going to emerge as the big winner in the Obama administration’s proposed overhaul of the financial regulatory system. But any grant of new powers to the Fed must come with legislation requiring greater accountabilty from the nation’s central banker.

Now this is not meant to knock the job the Fed has done in the current financial crisis.  In many respects, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should be applauded for showing a willingness to improvise and come up  with creative solutions for trying to limit the damage to the banking system and the economy. But throughout the crisis, Benanke &  Co. have shown an utter disdain for transparency and full disclosure.

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