Neil Irwin has worked out that the Federal Reserve earned $45 billion in 2009, thanks to the steep yield curve that it engineered and its move into higher-risk, higher return securities. This is good news: all that money is being dividended back to the public fisc, keeping the deficit that little bit lower.
Of course it would be great if the big banks, currently making outsize profits thanks to the Fed’s zero interest-rate policy, had to pay back some of the enormous fiscal cost of the financial crisis they were largely responsible for causing.
The departure of Terri Dial from Citibank only serves to underline how dysfunctional Citigroup remains, long after Vikram Pandit was meant to have created small-enough-to-manage Citicorp within the larger behemoth. Tellingly, Dial is being replaced by Manuel Medina-Mora, a manager who has succeeded within Citigroup largely by having enough power from day one to do what he wanted, rather than having to navigate Citi’s labyrinthine bureaucracy. Medina-Mora, for instance, flat-out refused to rebrand Banamex as Citibank, and so Banamex it remains to this day.
Gillian Tett has an interesting column today on the degree to which “social cohesion” determines whether or not a country in fiscal difficulties will end up defaulting on its debts. The Japanese, she says, are used to the idea of sharing the pain, and would probably not tear themselves apart should the country have to make painful fiscal cuts in order to remain current on its obligations. (Besides, given that 95% of Japanese government bonds are held domestically, a default would probably cause even more pain among the population as a whole.)