Tag Archives: banking crisis

The Truth About Europe’s Banks … And Ours

23 Feb

From Phoenix Capital Research (via ZeroHedge):

Europe is Safe… Just Ask Spanish Depositors… Who Have Lost EVERYTHING

Anyone who wants to get an inside look at both the European banking system and the politicians in charge of fixing it need to only look at Spain’s Bankia.

Bankia was formed in December 2010 by merging seven totally bankrupt Spanish cajas (regional banks that were unregulated). The bank was heralded as a success story and an indication that European Governments could manage the risks in their banking systems.

Indeed, in 2011, Bankia even reported a profit of €41 million. And in April 2012, it was proposing paying a dividend. Then, in the span of two weeks, the bank revised its 2011 profit to a €3.3 billion LOSS, requested a formal bailout from Spain, and had to be nationalized.

What’s striking about this sequence of events is that throughout it, Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was claiming that Spain’s banks were in great shape. Indeed, on May 28 2012, (after Bankia had already requested a €19 billion bailout, the single largest bailout in Spanish history), Rajoy stated , “there will be no rescue of the Spanish banking sector.”

Bear in mind, Spain itself was just days away from requesting outside aid from the EU…

Fast forward to December 2012, and Bankia is again in the news, this time with Spain revealing that despite receiving the largest bailout in Spanish history, the bank still had a NEGATIVE value…

At this point the following is obvious:

  1. Europe’s banks are in far far worse shape than anyone publicly admits
  2. The political class in Europe has no idea how to solve this mess
  3. No one has quantified the bank’s actual losses or their capital needs
  4. Everyone is lying about just about everything related to Europe’s financial system

It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank.

So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever.

This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything.

And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.

Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We’re literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe’s banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I’m joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening…

A couple of things worth noting.

Our Aussie banking system is massively leveraged to our housing bubble, and only survived the GFC thanks to being backstopped by the government (using the “government guarantee” of access to taxpayers’ future earnings as collateral).

And in March last year, we saw in The Bank Deposits Guarantee Is No Guarantee At All that your savings are not as safe as you may believe:

There is a hidden flaw in the government’s Bank Deposits Guarantee scheme. One which renders the guarantee largely useless.

The Government Guarantee is just another con-fidence trick, to prevent another bank run … like the silent bank run we had during the GFC peak in late 2008.

Richard Gluyas at The Australian has the story of the Great Big Government Bank Deposits Guarantee … that isn’t (emphasis added):

… There is no doubt that the guarantee, reduced last month to a permanent cap of $250,000 per person per institution, has facilitated the stampede into term deposits.

Flows into products like mortgage funds, and even the booming annuities market, have suffered as a result.

But the question is whether the stampede would be slowed if bank customers read the fine print of the guarantee.

How many of them would know, for example, that the standing appropriation to meet any initial payout of deposits is limited to $20 billion per failed bank?

It might seem like a lot, but it pales when compared to about $200bn in eligible deposits for each major bank.

In the highly unlikely event of a major bank failure, any payments under the Financial Claims Scheme would be recovered through the liquidation of the bank.

An industry levy would be applied if there’s a shortfall from a realisation of assets.

But the fact remains that the initial payout is effectively capped by legislation at $20bn, albeit with provision for the government to go back to the parliament for more.

There is no mention of any of this in Swan’s press release.

After reading that document, you’d come away thinking that the government will cough up for pretty much all bank deposits of less than $250,000 in full.

The reality, though, is that the guarantee underwrites an initial payment, which then gives way to other measures.

The only winners in the banking game … are the bankers.

Everyone else is a loser.

Whether they real-eyes it or not.

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China Nearly Bankrupt, “Every Province In China Is Greece”, Says Chinese Economist

17 Nov

China is “on the brink of bankruptcy”.

Your humble blogger has been warning of this reality ever since beginning this blog in early 2010.

And along with those warnings, has bashed the many “experts” like RBA Governor Glenn Stevens and former Treasury secretary Ken Henry who couldn’t see it … just as none of them could see the GFC coming either.

Here’s a mere handful of examples –

Feb 2010:

Rogoff Warns of China Crisis
Henry Sees Cyclical Angel Descending
Soros: ‘Very Cautious’ On China
Henry: GFC is ‘Over’

March 2010:

Overheating China Can’t Be Cooled
Stevens: ‘Risk Of Serious Contraction’ Passed
Official: China Bubble ‘Indisputable’
Premier Wen: ‘Latent Risk’ In China’s Banks
China: ‘Large Financial Crisis’ By 2012

China’s Banks In Trouble
China Warns Of Double Dip Recession
China Biggest Worry For Markets
China ‘Greatest Bubble In History’
Ten Ways To Spot A Bubble In China
Global Turmoil Looms: Keating
Australia’s ‘Goldilocks’ Economy

April 2010:

China Crisis ‘A Lot Worse Than People Expect’
China’s Debt Bubble: When Will The Ponzi Unravel?
China Losing Control Of Economy
China On ‘Treadmill To Hell’ Amid Bubble
Bubble Proof: Chinese Maids Buying Houses

May 2010:

Don’t Bet The House On China
China Brakes, Australia Breaks

August 2010:

Is China Bankrupt?

April 2011:

Costello: Wayne’s World A Parallel Reality

May 2011:

Bloomberg: ‘Downunder Hypocrites Bet All On China’s Boom’
Swan Hides Budget Risk
Barnaby: “God Help You When The Prices Go Down”

June 2011:

China’s Economy At Risk Of “Hard Landing”, 60% Chance of Banking Crisis By Mid-2013
McCrann: America Is Now Turning Darker, China Can Crash The Whole Economy
China Lending Tumbles, Signals Slowing Economy
Swan: Not Drowning, Waving

July 2011:

Here Comes Swan’s Black Swans: Chinese Bad Debt “Bigger Than Stated”
One Chart Debunks Treasury’s Growth Forecasts
Still Pointing To The IMF’s Opinion Now, Wayne?

August 2011:

How China Will Crash, Explained In 700 Words
Swan Tells Parliament 5 Lies In 2 Short Sentences

October 2011:

Australian Media 4 Months Late On China Bust Warning

November 2011:

Gillard Offers Borrowed Money To Bail Out Europe
Wayne’s Budget Is Already Shot To Hell

Now, confirmation of the truth about China’s Ponzi-finance bubble economy slips out from behind the regime’s Red Curtain.

All thanks to a lecture where the lecturer did not realise he was being recorded.

Larry Lang, chair professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. (Wu Lianyou/The Epoch Times)

From the Epoch Times (reproduced here in full):

China’s economy has a reputation for being strong and prosperous, but according to a well-known Chinese television personality the country’s Gross Domestic Product is going in reverse.

Larry Lang, chair professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a lecture that he didn’t think was being recorded that the Chinese regime is in a serious economic crisis—on the brink of bankruptcy. In his memorable formulation: every province in China is Greece.

The restrictions Lang placed on the Oct. 22 speech in Shenyang City, in northern China’s Liaoning Province, included no audio or video recording, and no media. He can be heard saying that people should not post his speech online, or “everyone will look bad,” in the audio that is now on Youtube.

In the unusual, closed-door lecture, Lang gave a frank analysis of the Chinese economy and the censorship that is placed on intellectuals and public figures. “What I’m about to say is all true. But under this system, we are not allowed to speak the truth,” he said.

Despite Lang’s polished appearance on his high-profile TV shows, he said: “Don’t think that we are living in a peaceful time now. Actually the media cannot report anything at all. Those of us who do TV shows are so miserable and frustrated, because we cannot do any programs. As long as something is related to the government, we cannot report about it.”

He said that the regime doesn’t listen to experts, and that Party officials are insufferably arrogant. “If you don’t agree with him, he thinks you are against him,” he said.

Lang’s assessment that the regime is bankrupt was based on five conjectures.

Firstly, that the regime’s debt sits at about 36 trillion yuan (US$5.68 trillion). This calculation is arrived at by adding up Chinese local government debt (between 16 trillion and 19.5 trillion yuan, or US$2.5 trillion and US$3 trillion), and the debt owed by state-owned enterprises (another 16 trillion, he said). But with interest of two trillion per year, he thinks things will unravel quickly.

Secondly, that the regime’s officially published inflation rate of 6.2 percent is fabricated. The real inflation rate is 16 percent, according to Lang.

Thirdly, that there is serious excess capacity in the economy, and that private consumption is only 30 percent of economic activity. Lang said that beginning this July, the Purchasing Managers Index, a measure of the manufacturing industry, plunged to a new low of 50.7. This is an indication, in his view, that China’s economy is in recession.

Fourthly, that the regime’s officially published GDP of 9 percent is also fabricated. According to Lang’s data, China’s GDP has decreased 10 percent. He said that the bloated figures come from the dramatic increase in infrastructure construction, including real estate development, railways, and highways each year (accounting for up to 70 percent of GDP in 2010).

Fifthly, that taxes are too high. Last year, the taxes on Chinese businesses (including direct and indirect taxes) were at 70 percent of earnings. The individual tax rate sits at 81.6 percent, Lang said.

Once the “economic tsunami” starts, the regime will lose credibility and China will become the poorest country in the world, Lang said.

Several commentators have expressed broad agreement with Lang’s analysis.

Professor Frank Xie at the University of South Carolina, Aiken, said that the idea of China going bankrupt isn’t far fetched. Major construction projects have helped inflate the GDP, he says. “On the surface, it is a big number, but inflation is even higher. So in reality, China’s economy is in recession.”

Further, Xie said that official figures shouldn’t be relied on. The regime’s vice premier, Li Keqiang for example, admitted to a U.S. diplomat that he doesn’t believe the statistics produced by lower-level officials, and when he was the governor of Liaoning Province “had to personally see the hard data.”

Cheng Xiaonong, an economist and former aide to ousted Party leader Zhao Ziyang, said that high praise of the “China model” is often made on the basis of the high-visibility construction projects, a big GDP, and much money in foreign reserves. “They pay little attention to things such as whether people’s basic rights are guaranteed, or their living standard has improved or not,” he said.

Behind the fiat control of the economy, which can have the appearance of being efficient, there is enormous waste and corruption, Cheng said. It means that little spending is done on education, welfare, the health system, etc.

Cheng says that for the last decade the Chinese regime has accumulated its wealth primarily by promoting real estate development, buying urban and suburban residential properties at low prices (or simply taking them), and selling them to developers at high prices.

According to Cheng, the goals of regime officials (to enrich themselves and increase their power) are in direct conflict with those of the people–so social injustice expands, and economic propaganda meant to portray the situation as otherwise prevails.

Few scholars inside the country dare to speak as Lang has, Cheng said. And that’s probably because he has a professorship in Hong Kong.

For those with ears to hear – especially regular readers who know that the same topics have been covered here with regard to our own government, and their constantly fiddled economic figures – the bolded words above will ring with a profound sense of deja vu.

Now Wayne … about our economy and sovereign balance sheet. The ones that you keep telling us are “the envy of the world”.

And about those “truly extraordinary” growth forecasts, based on former Treasury secretary Ken Henry’s much-touted belief in 40 years of China-fuelled “prosperity”.

And about that promised budget surplus of $3.5 billion (for one year only) in 2012-13.

Wayne?

Wayne??

WAYNE?!?!

[ … crickets … ]

Fitch Ratings: Australian Banks Most Vulnerable To Europe’s Debt Crisis

26 Jun

From the Australian:

Australian and South Korean banks are the most exposed in Asia to Europe’s debt crisis given their large dependence on offshore wholesale funding markets, a senior official at Fitch Ratings said today.

While the direct exposure is low, if the Greek debt crisis implodes and spurs a major dislocation in global credit markets, Australia and South Korea’s banks and economies would suffer the most, said Andrew Colquhoun, head of Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings.

“Among the countries in Asia I would regard as relatively more exposed are both Korea and Australia, who have an issue of short-term and long-term external debt of the banking system,” he told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of a conference in Sydney.

“If the banks found it more difficult to refinance that debt, then there could be repercussions for the economies,” he said, adding “quite a lot” of risk still remains in the process to firm up a second bailout package for Greece.

Australia’s four biggest banks have in recent years leaned heavily on foreign currency borrowing and were among the biggest issuers of debt in the world using their respective governments’ funding guarantees during the financial crisis.

Learn all about just how vulnerable our banking system really is, in these recent posts –

“Our Banking System Operates With Zero Reserves”

Fresh Evidence Our Banks In ‘Race To The Bottom’ Means You Can Kiss Your Super Goodbye”

“Fitch’s: Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Negative, Threat To Banks”

“By Hook Or By Crook – Moody’s Says Our Banks Are Too Big Too Fail”

“Tick Tick Tick – Aussie Banks’ $15 Trillion Time Bomb”

Tick Tick Tick – Aussie Banks’ $15 Trillion Time Bomb

6 May

*This post follows up on my August 2010 post, “Aussie Banks’ $14.2Trillion Time Bomb”. Please read the article for detailed background to this update.

How safe are Australia’s banks?

Previously we saw that our “safe as houses” banks have a massive disconnect between their On-Balance Sheet Assets, and their Off-Balance Sheet “Business” (specifically, OTC derivatives).  Last time we checked, they held $2.62 Trillion in Assets, and a new record $14.2 Trillion in Off-Balance Sheet “Business”.

The disconnect has widened even further.

First, let’s take a look at a chart of their “Assets”.

In the chart below, the yellow line represents the total value of Personal Loans. The green line represents Commercial Loans.  The red line represents Residential Loans.  And the blue line represents the grand Total of Bank Assets (click to enlarge):

$1.77 Trillion of Total "Assets" = Loans

The total value of Bank Assets has barely moved – $2.66 Trillion. It has still to regain the peak of $2.67 Trillion in Dec 2008.

It’s worth noting that $1.77 Trillion (66%) of the banks’ $2.66 Trillion in “Assets”, is the value of Loans – personal, commercial, and residential.  That’s right.  Your debt to the bank is considered their “Asset”.  Slavery is still a thriving business in the 21st Century.  It’s how bank(ster)ing works.

What about their Off-Balance Sheet “Business”?

It has blown out by another $1.3 Trillion at its recent peak ($15.5 Trillion), and as at December 2010 sits at just under $15 Trillion.

To give an idea of the vast disconnect between our banks’ “Assets” (66% of which are loans), and their exposure to OTC derivatives, the following chart shows their total Assets – blue line from the above chart – versus a red line of total Off-Balance Sheet “business” (click to enlarge):

$2.66 Trillion in "Assets" versus $15 Trillion in Off-Balance Sheet "Business"

What are derivatives?

Derivatives are the exotic financial instruments at the very heart of the GFC.

Back in 2003, the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, famously called derivatives “a mega-catastrophic risk”, “financial weapons of mass destruction”, and a “time bomb”.

Take note of the sharp dip in the near-parabolic rise in the red line on the chart. This coincides precisely with the late 2008 / early 2009 impact of the GFC on our banking system.

Our banks reduced a little of their exposure to OTC derivatives at that time (down $1.4 Trillion from Sep ’08 to Jun ’09) but quickly resumed their old ways.

At least, until September last year.  Again we see a sharp dip forming through the December quarter of 2010.

A final thought to consider.

If our banks were really so safe, why did two of our Big 4 (Westpac and NAB) both quietly borrow billions of dollars directly from the US Federal Reserve during the GFC?  And never advised shareholders, the prudential regulatory authority (APRA), the RBA, or the public?

An even bigger question – why did the RBA borrow $53 billion from the Federal Reserve without informing anyone?

National Australia Bank Ltd, Westpac Banking Corp Ltd and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) were all recipients of emergency funds from the US Federal Reserve during the global financial crisis, according to media reports.

Data released by the Fed shows the RBA borrowed $US53 billion in 10 separate transactions during the financial crisis, which compares to the European Central Bank’s 271 transactions, according to a report in The Australian Financial Review.

NAB borrowed $US4.5 billion, and a New York-based entity owned by Westpac borrowed $US1 billion, according to The Age.

All is clearly not as safe as we are told in our “safe-as-houses” banking system.

UPDATE:

Still have confidence in our banks – especially the two that had to borrow from the US Federal Reserve?

Westpac, Australia’s second-largest bank, suffered a catastrophic IT meltdown yesterday when its entire banking system collapsed after an air-conditioning failure.

The bank’s ATM and eftpos facilities were useless for about six hours and its internet banking website was offline for 10 hours.

Customers reacted with fury over the system collapse, which came days after Westpac reported a record $3.96 billion net profit, up 38 per cent for the first half of the year…

Many Westpac customers flocked to Twitter to vent their anger, but the bank’s outage pales in comparison to the National Australia Bank‘s recent IT problems.

In late November, software issues at NAB lasted for more than a week and brought other financial institutions to their knees. The incident forced chief executive Cameron Clyne to issue an unprecedented public apology in major newspapers.

Three weeks ago, workers could not access their pay when a 24-hour IT failure affected employers who used NAB for their payroll processing.

The Commonwealth Bank has also had its share of IT glitches, from its internet banking going offline to ATMs discharging incorrect amounts of cash.

Aussie Banks’ $14.2Trillion “Time Bomb”

16 Aug

With all the recent turmoil in Europe, and grave questions being asked over the solvency of the European banking system, perhaps it’s time to again ask the question – How safe are our Aussie banks?

Back on March 4th (“Aussie Banks Not So Safe“), we saw that Aussie banks were holding $13 Trillion .. yes, TRILLION .. in Off-Balance Sheet “business”.  By comparison, they were holding only $2.59 Trillion in on-balance sheet assets.

The latest RBA statistics show an interesting change.

Our banks’ Off-Balance Sheet “business” has blown out by a whopping $1.2 Trillion.  It now stands at $14.2 Trillion (RBA spreadsheet here).  That growth alone – in just months – is equivalent to the entire Australian economy.

By comparison, their on-balance sheet assets have only grown by $26.6 Billion, to  $2.62 Trillion (RBA spreadsheet here).

The chart below shows our banks’ assets in blue, with Off-Balance sheet business added on top in burgundy (click to enlarge):

$14.2T in derivatives vs $2.6T in assets = MEGA-RISK

The vast bulk ($13.1 Trillion) of that $14.2 Trillion in “Off-Balance Sheet” business, is in the form of OTC derivatives.  Specifically, it is in the form of Interest Rate and Foreign Exchange “swaps” and “forwards”.

What are derivatives?

Derivatives are the exotic financial instruments at the very heart of the GFC.

Back in 2003, the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, famously called derivatives “a mega-catastrophic risk”, “financial weapons of mass destruction“, and a “time bomb”.

Our “safe as houses” Aussie banks are buried up to their eyeballs in the things.

UPDATE:

Alarmingly, it seems Australians are increasingly inclined to trust their savings with the banks.

From today’s The Australian:

Banks sit on record holdings as wary consumers save

The war for deposits has prompted Australians to save more than ever, driving the money on call at banks to record levels.

Australian households have lodged $461.8 billion with banks in June, up 8.4 per cent on the same time last year. It’s a trend underscoring the risk aversion that still exists among investors.

The major banks are the biggest beneficiaries of consumers’ flight to cash.

June data published yesterday by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority shows there is $1.266 trillion in deposits at all of the banks in Australia.

The amount is almost the size of the Australian economy, and a 3 per cent increase compared with June last year.

Most of the savings come from households…

Few Australians know that we had the beginnings of a bank run in late 2008.  At the height of fear in the GFC, Australians quietly withdrew $5.5 Billion in savings to stash away under the mattress.  A year later, only $1.5 Billion had been redeposited.

From The Australian:

The private banks keep reserves of cash distributed in 60 storerooms across the country with an average of about $35 million in each. They get topped up by the Reserve Bank before Christmas, when demand for cash typically rises by about 6 per cent, and at Easter, when there is a smaller increase.

But in early October, the Reserve Bank started getting calls from the cash centres for more, especially in denominations of $50 and $100.

The Reserve Bank has its own cash stash. It is coy about exactly how much it holds, but it is understood to be in the region of $4 billion to $5bn.

As the Armaguard vans worked overtime ferrying bundles of $10,000 out to the cash centres, the Reserve Bank’s strategic reserve holdings of $50 and $100 notes started to run low and the call went out to the printer for more. The Reserve Bank ordered another $4.6bn in $100s and another $6bn in $50s. It was the first time it was forced to do this since the Y2K computer bug scare in 1999.

Households pulled about $5.5bn out of their banks in the 10 weeks between US financial house Lehman Brothers going broke – the onset of the global financial crisis – and the beginning of December. That is roughly 80 tonnes of cash salted away in people’s homes. Mattress Bank is doing well, was the view at the Reserve. A year later, only $1.5bn had been put back.

Could it be that Aussies are now feeling a little safer about the GFC, and are starting to put their money back in our banks … at the very time the banks are loading up even more rapidly than ever on derivatives – those “financial weapons of mass destruction”?

UPDATE 2:

16 August 2010

Greg Hoffman of The Intelligent Investor explains the significance of Aussie banks’ derivatives exposure.

From the The Age:

Bank headlines you won’t want to see

‘Australian banks in half trillion dollar derivatives scare” is a headline no-one wants to read. And while it’s unlikely to ever appear, it is possible. So forewarned might be forearmed.

In Monday’s column I showed how Australia’s banks have far more in loans outstanding than they have in deposits.

Now it’s time to explore how that situation came to be and how the banks deal with the risks it presents.

The RBA’s figures show that as at March 2009 ”around 20 per cent of banks’ total liabilities were denominated in foreign currencies.”

This percentage has remained relatively stable over time, but the raw numbers involved ballooned through the credit boom, to the point where the banks’ net foreign currency exposure is more than $300 billion.

If the banks simply borrowed these foreign funds without doing anything else, then they’d have direct exposure to the notoriously fickle Australian dollar exchange rate. Their profits would be violently thrown around (soaring when the currency rises and plunging when the Australian dollar dives).

Yet the banks have produced a string of comparatively smooth profits, at least until the past couple of years. The RBA explains; ”Despite this apparent on-balance sheet currency mismatch, the long-standing practice of swapping the associated foreign currency risk back into local currency terms ensures that fluctuations in the Australian dollar have little effect on domestic banks’ balance sheets.”

Derivative trick

The trick involves the banks entering into hundreds of billions* of dollars worth of derivative contracts known as ”swaps”. These contracts represent an agreement to exchange interest rate and/or currency exposures for a set period of time.

* [Ed:  Mr Hoffman badly underestimates here.  The latest RBA spreadsheet B04hist.xls shows not mere “hundreds of billions”, but rather $6.7 Trillion in Interest Rate swaps, and $1.57 Trillion in Foreign Exchange swaps.  So that’s $8.3 Trillion of the total $14.2 Trillion in off-balance sheet business]

Using such contracts, Australia’s banks can arrange a schedule of payments with another party that match off against their foreign currency-denominated debt. In this way, the banks know their exposure from day one.

Any gains or losses that arise on the loan due to currency movements are offset by an opposite result on the swap contract. That’s how a financial hedge is supposed to function and these contracts have worked nicely for our banks over the years.

Yet one of the expensive lessons taught so savagely by the crisis to financial institutions around the world is that arrangements that have worked smoothly in the past may not always do so in the future.

That lesson brought the business models of lenders dependent on securitisation to a screaming halt in 2007, when previously deep and liquid markets simply seized up. And at some point in the future, it might just pay Australian bank shareholders to have spent a few minutes today considering the risks they’re exposed to as a result of our banks’ reliance on offshore borrowings.

What’s the risk?

I suspect that few people fully understand how dependent our banks are on foreign debt and the mechanism by which they mitigate their exposure (through a series of swap contracts designed to insulate against currency and interest rate movements). And that brings us to the key issue.

Should future convulsions in the global financial markets send any of the institutions on the other side of these contracts to the wall, our banks would become more exposed to the harsh winds of the international financial markets.

This is the nature of ”counterparty risk”, a concept former customers of HIH Insurance came face to face with when that institution couldn’t make good on its financial contracts.

And if the past few years are any indication, the Australian dollar tends to fall in times of uncertainty. So the very conditions which might bring about the failure of the banks’ counterparties would be highly likely to coincide with a plunging Australian dollar: thus blowing out the repayments of foreign currency-denominated debts in local terms.

This is the nightmare scenario…

Indeed.

At the height of the GFC, the Aussie Dollar plummeted from a high of 98c (vs the USD) to just 60c.  In fact, the RBA had to step in on multiple occasions and buy the Aussie Dollar on the open markets, just to defend its exchange rate value at the 60c level.

Given Mr Hoffman has so woefully underestimated our banks’ massive exposure to Interest Rate and Foreign Exchange derivatives, perhaps he should have opened his article as follows:

“Australian banks in 8 trillion dollar derivatives scare” is a headline no-one wants to read.

China ‘Greatest Bubble In History’

18 Mar

From BusinessWeek:

China is in the midst of “the greatest bubble in history,” said James Rickards, former general counsel of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management LP.

The Chinese central bank’s balance sheet resembles that of a hedge fund buying dollars and short-selling the yuan, said Rickards, now the senior managing director for market intelligence at McLean, Virginia-based consulting firm Omnis Inc.

“As I see it, it is the greatest bubble in history with the most massive misallocation of wealth,” Rickards said at the Asset Allocation Summit Asia 2010 organized by Terrapinn Pte in Hong Kong yesterday. China “is a bubble waiting to burst.”

Rickards joins hedge fund manager Jim Chanos, Gloom, Boom & Doom publisher Marc Faber and Harvard University professor Kenneth Rogoff in warning of a potential crash in China’s economy.

And yet, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, and their many cheerleaders in the Australian media still believe that we are all set for another China-fueled mining boom, this time to 2050.

They failed to predict the GFC (see the many links in this blog for background).  That epic failure has cost Australians literally hundreds of billions of dollars in lost retirement savings and investments in 2007-2009.

So why should we trust their judgement now?

China Biggest Worry For Markets

17 Mar

Fromt the Wall Street Journal:

Nervousness is growing in the financial markets about China, which might seem odd when there are so many other places to worry about.

There’s still Greece, for example, which is likely to be the focus of this week’s meetings of European finance ministers. There’s Germany, and its trade surplus. And there’s the U.S., the U.K. and all the other places with triple-A-rated debt that may not be rated triple-A for much longer.

So why the focus on China, where shares closed Monday at their lowest in five weeks, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite ending below 3000 at its weakest since Feb. 9? Well, as one bank put it on Monday: “Are we facing a ‘growth miracle’ or will China be the next bubble to burst?

Even the markets are more cautious on China than Australia’s financial powers, the RBA and the Treasury department. They still believe we are headed for 40 years of “unprecedented prosperity” on the back of a new China-fueled mining boom.

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