Can Someone Explain the Bank Bail-Out?

Guido has flu and so does baby Ms Fawkes, who made her unhappiness abundantly clear between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. this morning. So perhaps it is the grogginess that is hindering Guido’s ability to comprehend Gordon’s financial genius. The £600 billion bank bail out plan to restore liquidity to the credit markets includes the following elements:
  • H.M. Treasury has guaranteed British inter-bank lending (charging a hefty penalty risk premium adding to the cost of inter-bank lending).
  • The Treasury has demanded preference shares from the banks with, from memory, a 12% interest charge to be paid by the banks.
  • The Treasury has also encouraged the FSA to double the requirement for banks to hold government gilts in their reserves, yielding somewhat less than a paltry 4%.
  • The Treasury is demanding that banks lend at mortgage rates closer to base rates.
Is Guido missing something? How can the banks make a profit and recapitalise if the government has both hiked their cost of capital and reduced the returns on their reserves, as well as exhorting them to reduce their margins on mortgage lending? How does this plan add up?

House Prices Fell 16% Y-o-Y, Car Sales Down 36.8% November

The pound is at a record low against the euro this morning (1.15). Today we’ll probably see the Bank of England cut base rates to 2%. Alistair Darling says we’ll be out of recession by the second half of next year – which seems to Guido very, very unlikely. The government says it will be underwriting the entire mortgage business, not just through quasi-nationalisation of banks, but by guaranteeing defaulting borrowers for 2 years. This is not a recipe for sound money. At this rate we will soon have to rename the currency the Great British Krona…

The Run on the Pound

Yesterday sterling had the biggest drop it has had since it was forced out of the ERM on White Wednesday in 1992. The pound was down 4% at $1.48 and it fell 2.9% against the euro and tumbled 4.8% versus the yen. It just goes to show how bad Britain’s situation is that this isn’t even front page news on every paper.

UPDATE : This just in from a co-conspirator:

Hello Guido,
I’ve been perusing the great work of fiction that is Gordy’s oops, the Chancellor’s growth forecasts, and on page 1 of Annex A: The Economy we have this bullet-pointed gem:

‘UK GDP growth of 3/4 % for 2008 with the economy contracting in the second half of the year’

Now, when the chancellor stood up at the dispatch box, three quarters of 2008 GDP growth were known:

Q1 0.3%
Q2 0%
Q3 -0.5%

In order to hit the forecast 0.75%, the economy has to grow at feisty 1% in the fourth quarter. Has the Chancellor been outside recently?

Is it any wonder that foreign investors have lost confidence in Britain, Gordon has missed his GDP growth forecasts every year since 2006. The Chancellor makes fantasy forecasts that no one believes, least of all HM Treasury, does he really expect GDP to surge this quarter?

UPDATE II : Some querying via email of how the GDP quarterly statistics are precisely computed by someone who seems to know what they are talking about; “There are lies, damned lies and statistics”.

+++ Pound Crashes Below $1.50 +++

And dropping… think this constitutes, as predicted by Osborne, a run on the pound.

Bad News, Good News

With a load of economic data out this morning the pound is off 1% against the euro, the Purchasing Managers Index is down sharply, mortgage lending is down 70% year on year, credit card borrowing is up, PWC have research out saying Briton’s are now personally £1.5 trillion in debt – yet Gordon wants them to spend, spend, spend more.

It is not all bad news though, Guido is short the FTSE….

+++ Taxpayer Loses £2 Billion in RBS First Day of Ownership +++

Taxpayer paid 65.5p, currently trading 55p. Loss of £2 billion on the first day the taxpayer became the majority shareholder. It is only money…

+++ MFI & Woolies Bust +++

Bankruptcy was not entirely unexpected in the case of these two ailing retailers. Despite Mandelson pleading with Woolies’ bankers into the early hours of this morning they pulled the plug regardless. Tuppence off prices won’t make much difference for them.

Keen readers will notice the change to the portfolio on the right hand side for the first time in a month. Guido has just shorted FTSE futures and Dow futures. Combination of bad local news and a sense that there is a mood of bailout fatigue in the U.S. There is usually a “Santa Claus rally” in the markets at year end. Not sure Santa is going to come this year…

People Will Bail Out of Bail Out States

Jack Thurston, a former special adviser to Gordon’s enforcer Nick Brown, and one of early New Labour’s more cerebral types, writes in this morning’s Wall Street Journal of the perils ofA Permanent Bailout. Even a perennial optimist like Guido wonders if we are finally seeing the the delayed end of the twentieth century era of Anglo-American global dominance as predicted by the CIA. The economies of the U.K. and the U.S.A. are being burdened with government debts of epic proportions, our children (and their children as well) will be indentured tax slaves.

Hyperbole? The government bond markets will enslave the citizens and subjects who pay the taxes that service their demands as surely as feudal barons demanded their lands were ploughed for their table by serfs. It is stunning that Brown’s policies have cost HM Treasury, in real terms, more than it took to defeat the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht. The debt obligations of the state will be £2 trillion within a few years, Gordon ignores the unfunded pensions of his bloated public sector bureaucracy and admits to “only” £1 trillion. The long term consequences of a debt burden as great as this are that Britain will have a permanently low growth economy. If, as is most likely, predominantly foreign investors hold government bonds, higher taxes will reduce the available capital which can be put to productive use in the domestic economy because the interest paid is exported. That is if they are not too worried about Britain going bust to invest at all. The chart above (click to enlarge) shows the cost of insuring in the credit default swap market against the U.K. government going bust is nearly triple the German rate. British Gilts are becoming the junk bonds of the G7.

Do people want to live in a country designed by Gordon Brown, as cheered on this morning by Polly Toynbee, Will Hutton and Roy Hattersley? Is there a prospect on the horizon of a radical government which can arrest the inevitable decline? Is there a Thatcher-like political leader who can turn around the super-taxer-tanker of state? Guido suspects a lot of internationally mobile people will be weighing up the prospects and possibly heading for the exits soon.

UPDATE : From The Times this morning; “In recent years, thousands of educated Australians have come to the UK. Immigration has been the start of a career, not a gap year, it adds. So there should be some alarm at the fact that they are heading back home in ever larger numbers: 2,700 a month compared to 1,750 a month in 2005. This is largely a vote of no confidence in the old country.”

Australia runs a budget surplus, has paid down the national debt in the good years and welcomes skilled migrants. Form an orderly queue.

City Starts to See Capital Flight, Lehmans Regulatory Mess Forces More Selling, Italy Could Bring Down the Euro

The return of socialism to British shores and the expropriation under terror laws of Icelandic assets has unnerved some foreign investors. The problem with the government doing things out of expediency in pursuit of headlines is that the actions are remembered long after the headlines have faded. “If it can happen to Iceland it can happen to us” some of the huge sovereign wealth funds will be thinking. Trust is key to successful markets, would you risk trusting this government?

Elsewhere fund managers are seeking a quick resolution of Lehmans bankruptcy issues, billions remain frozen in accounts resulting in margin calls on fund managers unable to retrieve securities from the Lehmans administrator – making them forced sellers and an extra downward pressure on London’s markets. The FSA or the Bank of England needs to untangle this mess urgently. Unfortunately it is unclear who has responsibility under Gordon’s regulatory regime.

City law firms are dusting off old legal tomes from the seventies on sovereign defaults – when countries go into bankruptcy – Iceland is on the edge. What will surprise many is that Italy is the second candidate for bankruptcy. How will the Euro survive a member country’s financial collapse? Italy has cooked the books since before even joining the euro. Bond markets know it, the wide spread between Italian government bonds and German government bonds shows that many believe that European unity will not include the Bundesbank standing behind Italian Buoni del. Tesoro Pluriennali. If Italy fails what happens to the European project?

Markets Give Gordon Thumbs Down

So how many shares opened up this morning? None.

Hat-tip : Alphaville

Lehman Derivatives Defusing Safely

The unwinding of Lehman’s credit default swaps appears to be going well. Market nervousness about systemic risk was said to be at the heart of banks hoarding cash, no financial detonations have been reported. Market authorities reckon the net losses could be as low as $6 billion. Hardly anything…

Good Morning Shareholders

How is that Lloyds, a seemingly well run and conservatively managed bank, has in the space of few weeks gone from being solid and unexposed to the U.S. mortgage market to being nationalised by the government? One wonders if the chairman now regrets meeting Jonah Brown at that party…

Trevor Kavanagh this morning points out that the collapse of Britain’s banks was not inevitable, “it hasn’t happened in Canada, Australia or Sweden”. So much for Britain being uniquely placed to weather the financial storm. Gordon designed the regulatory system, Gordon allowed the property bubble to inflate. Gordon’s bubble has now popped.

Gordon is spinning that he is leading the world, either he is delusional or deliberately lying, in Europe they are calling the EU-wide rescue plan the “Sarkozy solution”. If any country can honestly claim leadership, it is actually Sweden, the EU plan being based on a nineties solution to a Swedish banking crisis. Gordon, for some reason, needs us to believe he is saving the world.

Hutton & Polly v Mises & Milton

Listening to Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee you would think they were actually monetary economists when in reality they are just soundbite savvy talking heads spouting the latest fashions of the metropolitan media elite. Both property millionaires in their own right, three-houses-Polly and Hutton have substantial family stakes in the property market. If they had such great economic foresight would they have got so badly caught out? Rumours circulate as to the viability of Mrs Hutton’s extensive property portfolio.

Toynbee has now realised that Gordon is staying and that her flirtation with David Miliband was just a passing fancy. Her tune has changed, now saying (once again) that Brown is the man for our times when only weeks ago she was telling the cabinet they were spineless not to get rid of him. Laughable.

Polly’s advice and economic genius is as suspect and as reliable as her loyalty to whichever politician she is championing this month. At the beginning of the year she was still loyal to Gordon and chiding Cameron for his new year message which she claimed

smacks of callow point-scoring, with his five repetitions of “Labour’s hopeless” – and it will look even thinner in retrospect in a year’s time if Brown has steered through economic rapids without most voters feeling any adverse effect.

She was confidently predicting

A minor slowdown with neither inflation* nor unemployment rising will see Brown’s old “no boom or bust” boasts triumph this time next year.

Guido suggests we leave Polly and Will to their studio soundbites and ignore their siren voices – they have been advocating their brand of redistributive social democracy as the solution to everything for decades. If policy makers are looking for guidance on avoiding a depression (alas a recession is upon us already) they should dust off the works of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman – Mises wrote the seminalThe Theory of Money and Credit. If this book had been read by more central bankers outside the Bundesbank we would not be in this mess. Guido once listened to an LSE lecture by a Bundesbank board member speaking in reverential tones about Mises’ thinking. He is the high priest of monetary theory.

If history is not to repeat itself then reading Friedman’sThe Great Contraction, 1929-1933should be a priority. If you think this is irrelevant to the state we are in you should note that the current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, pays tribute to this work and is quoted in the introduction to the current edition. Whereas Mises is heavy going, Friedman and Schwartz are essential reading.

Guido can summarise the primary policy response to the situation we are in succintly : cut interest rates, to lessen the pain of the inevitable reckoning.

Judgement Day : Lehman’s CDS Auction Today

If you think it is bad now, imagine what it will be like if the reckoning for Lehman’s Credit Default Swaps goes bad today. Many market players think this is the reason banks are hoarding cash, because no one really knows if these derivatives will settle without serious mishap.

Lehman’s bonds are trading at 13c on the dollar – and there is $128 billion in bonds outstanding. The banking system is looking at booking a $100 billion hit today. There are an estimated 350 counterparties and nearly 2000 related securities.

Guido thinks that Greenspan could have been right on this, the risk has been distributed, it will hurt, hopefully only just wounds rather than causing major fatalities. If it goes smoothly we could be looking at a monster relief rally… but it is still a bear market…

+++ NO BUYERS FOR BANK STOCKS +++

HBOS DOWN 25% BARCLAYS DOWN 15%
RBS NO QUOTE LLOYDS TSB DOWN 13%

+++ FTSE CRASHES 10% ON OPEN +++ +++ 4000 LEVEL SMASHED +++

Dow Breaks 9000, General Motors Downgraded

Back in 1955, Charlie Wilson, then chairman of General Motors famously said “What is good for General Motors is good for America”.

53 years later and the stock is at a 58 year low after GM was downgraded. Mattel, the toy car maker, now has twice the capitalisation of General Motors. Not good for America… or the UK, FTSE 4000 could be smashed tomorrow…

Peston Leaker Hunt

Ben Brogan has it seems just got off the phone with McPoison (old habits die hard) and is relaying the spin that George Osborne is the source of the Peston leak. A desperate Downing street line, what would be the motive? Cui bono?

Brown benefits as you can tell from the huge smile on his face. Cracking jokes about bankrupt banks, he hasn’t been this happy since the day he seized the premiership. He is boasting to Nick Robinson today that the plan is “leading the world” – he told Robbo “I now have to restore confidence in the banks.” Gordon is ecstatic posing as the financial saviour of British banking. The banks didn’t want to do a deal on the terms Gordon wants them to – leaking collapsed their shares and forced their hand.

Any leak hunt should perhaps start by asking questions of McBride and Geoffrey Spence, the City banker turned Treasury insider on the Council of Economic Advisers…

Flash Mob Rumour

Don’t know much about this, but keep getting tipped off from different directions. Doesn’t sound like the usual rent-a-crowd of Trots. A disorganised flash mob, no speeches, just show up on the steps of the Bank of England…


UPDATE 17.50 :
From the comments, going around the City:

To all staff in the London Office

We have been informed by the City of London Police that a protest against financial institutions in the City will be taking place from about 3.00 pm till 6.00pm tomorrow. The protest by the ‘Socialist Workers Party’ will originate in the area of Bank Junction and the Royal Exchange. Exact numbers of demonstrators are not known but the Police will be in attendance as normal.

We will be increasing building security arrangements as a precaution. Your safety is our priority and the advice we have received is for staff to use caution and remain vigilant when travelling through the City.

Thank you for your co-operation.

So it will be a load of Trots and possibly Guido with a “No Bolshevism for Bankers” placard. Wonder if Heffer fancies a spot of lunch at Coq d’Argent and joining the demo afterwards?

Exclusive : Michael Howard Complains to FSA Over Pesto-Wire

City outrage over Peston’s reporting has been voiced by Michael Howard. He has written to the FSA to ask for an investigation into the leaking of intensely market sensitive information to Pesto-Wire. Good.

click to enlarge

UPDATE : During this afternoon’s debate Howard challenged Darling over the Government’s conduct.
[…] Read the rest

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