The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

U.S. mouth writing checks its body won’t cash

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

A look at credit insurance prices for U.S. banks shows that market thinks the government's mouth is writing checks its body can't or won't cash.

Despite a blistering rally in bank shares and Herculean efforts by the U.S. to build confidence in its financial sector, the price of insuring some leading banks' debt against default has increased markedly in recent weeks.

That tells us that bond investors have serious doubts about the popular perception that the United States won't allow systemically important institutions to fail, or in saving them in some form won't make bond holders take substantial losses.

Since the KBW index of bank shares began a 65 percent rally on March 6 the cost of insuring Citigroup for five years via a credit default swap has risen to an annual payment of 627 basis points from 470, meaning it costs 6.27 cents to insure every dollar. Wells Fargo 5-year CDS stand at 292.5 basis points, as against 240 on March 3 and 120 at the end of December, while Bank of America's ended last week at 355, exactly where it was on March 6 but 50 above its March 3 level.

from The Great Debate:

Bankers can’t kick the sporting habit

Alex Smith-- Alexander Smith is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

People are up in arms about bankers receiving bonuses when the banks they worked for have gone down the pan. But isn't it just as shocking that so many state-backed financial firms still subsidize the eye-popping wages of sporting superstars through rich sponsorship deals?

It's the same story on both sides of the Atlantic. Citigroup, which received $45 billion from the U.S. government, is sticking with a $400 million marketing deal from 2006 which includes the naming rights for the new home of the New York Mets baseball team, which will be called Citi Field.

from The Great Debate:

First 100 Days: Fix the banks

morici-- Peter Morici is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The views expressed are his own. --

For every new president, campaign promises and inaugural idealism must give way to the hard choices that measure the mettle of their leadership.

from The Great Debate:

Nationalization: Terrible but inevitable

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Nationalization of weak banks in Britain and the United States may be preferable to current plans for insurance and soft "bad banks" schemes which risk being swamped by future losses as assets, especially real estate, continue to crater.

An insurance program, getting banks to identify their riskiest assets to the government which will insure them for a fee, is one of the main planks of a UK plan to bail out banks unveiled this week.

from Ask...:

Money, money everywhere …except in your pocket?

There's lots of money sloshing around the financial system these days. The Federal Reserve has established a target range of 0-0.25 percent for its key rate, bringing it closer to unconventional action to lift the economy out of a year-long recession.

From Washington, the first package aimed at rescuing the credit crisis-hit banking sector amounted to $700 billion. Treasury can use only half of that amount and it has already pledged all but $15 billion of it. The Senate has refused to pass a $14 billion rescue package for Detroit's three major car companies last week, leaving it in the hands of the Bush administration to work out a deal.

from The Great Debate:

Banking spins destruction myth: Hoocoodanode?

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Just as every society has a creation myth, banking is now busily writing a destruction myth that seeks to explain and soothe in a world torn to its foundations.

The myth, as expounded by regulators, bankers and their various service providers, is that we were hit by a perfect storm, a 1,000-year flood so unpredictable that we can't possibly be held accountable for it. An act of god, rather than the folly of man.

from The Great Debate:

Credit cards unkindest cut for U.S. consumers

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Government intervention or not, banks will be cutting up America's credit cards at an unprecedented rate, with grave implications for the economy and company profits.

The U.S. Federal Reserve last week added more nutrition to its alphabet soup of rescue programs when it unveiled the Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), under which, among other things, it will lend up to $200 billion to investors in securities backed by credit-card, auto and student loans.

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