Timothy Adams and Arrigo Sadun on the need for a new international body to “oversee the proper functioning of the global economy and the stability of the international financial system.” But must we refer to it as Gleco? (Financial Times)What Warren Buffett owns. (24/7 Wall Street)”Who accepts any blame for creating our excessively crisis-prone system?” Simon Johnson asks for a new way to play the blame game. (Baseline Scenario)Goldman Sachs’ dominance in trading on the NYSE (Zero Hedge)The case for pay walls. Eric Pfanner on the Financial Times’ experience (New York Times) And what newspapers can learn from rock festivals (Guardian)Meet the first hurricane of the season: Bill. (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs had a blowout second quarter, exceeding high expectations on its strong trading gains.At a time when much of the financial industry is still struggling with the legacies of debt and leverage, the success of Goldman is riveting. Yet as Matthew Goldstein has written, exactly how Goldman makes its huge gains remains largely a mystery. Maybe, just maybe, some light will be shed when the firm holds a conference call on the results at 11 a.m. today. Reuters columnists will be live blogging the call here.Member of the public can listen in by 1-888-281-7154 (sorry, I earlier gave the replay number).And the fascination with Goldman is also about the role the firm plays in the mind of the public — as emblematic of all that is successful, powerful and suspicious about Wall Street. Indeed as Felix Salmon noted the other day, thanks to Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article, “It’s pretty much impossible now to talk or even think about Goldman without a squid springing to mind.” Think squid.
The Federal Reserve is entering a period of transition as a two-day meeting concludes today. Many questions remain on whether a recovery can take hold and on whether the central bank should start withdrawing from the extraordinary measures it took during the financial crisis. This may also be the beginning of the end of the Bernanke era at the Fed: President Obama must decide by next year whether to renominate the Fed chairman, whose term expires at the end of January.
Today’s statement from the Fed’s policy group, the Federal Open Market Commitee, may show changes in the Fed’s view of the economy and may also give hints of an exit strategy. Starting at 2 p.m. on this blog, Reuters columnists will discuss the Fed, the economy and the Fed statement, due out at 2:15 p.m. Please join us.
No doubt tired of being a human pinata for lawmakers and others angry over the implosion of the financial system, Edward Liddy has announced that he will step down as both chief executive and chairman of American International Group once the board finds a replacement. (Or that should be replacements, as he has recommended splitting the jobs of C.E.O. and chairman.) The tenure of Liddy, who took charge after the September government bailout, will be seen as a curious one. He needed to lead the company away from the brink while defending it from fierce criticism — of the bonuses and the fancy events for independent agents — that at times bordered on the irrational. Until recently, a mob mentality had seized the nation, kicking a company that was down. And that is the one surprising thing about Liddy’s tenure. For someone who led a large consumer company, Allstate, and who was on the board of a financial firm, Goldman Sachs, that has for the most part managed to avoid crowds of angry demonstrators, Liddy seemed strangely tone deaf to the public mood. His counterarguments and appeals after each fresh disclosure often came across as the weary grumblings of an old man who didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. To a deeply suspicious public, making a case that rebuilding A.I.G. was in the national interest was always going to be a difficult one. And Liddy was not a persuasive personality. In many other respects, he may well have been the right choice to lead A.I.G., but this job also called for someone with a better command of crisis spin control.
The U.S. government’s “stress tests” on the banks were always going to be an exercise in showmanship. The intensity of the effort was impressive, with more than 150 officials digging into the 19 largest bank holding companies for two months. Regulators, to be sure, regularly consider various future scenarios in determining whether an institution has enough capital. But the review that was announced with much fanfare on February 10 turned what is ordinarily a behind-the-scenes affair into something like an awards show. There would be winners and losers, yet it would be an orderly presentation. When many details leaked out early, the gloomiest whispers about the banking sector were hushed, and the stock market cheered.
The market may also applaud the official results, which were better than some forecasts. Just 10 of the 19 will need to raise a total of $74.6 billion in new capital, and several of the banks immediately announced their plans to raise the capital. Others will try to announce their plans in the next few days, certainly well before the June 8 deadline. Bravo. Now that the prizes have been handed out, should we have any greater confidence in the banking system?