Tag Archives: ratings agencies

Fisked By Fisk: “Bankers Are The Dictators Of The West”

9 Apr

A few months ago, Robert Fisk of The Independent UK took the gloves off (my emphasis added):

Writing from the very region that produces more clichés per square foot than any other “story” – the Middle East – I should perhaps pause before I say I have never read so much garbage, so much utter drivel, as I have about the world financial crisis.

But I will not hold my fire. It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard “experts” who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster.

Let’s kick off with the “Arab Spring” – in itself a grotesque verbal distortion of the great Arab/Muslim awakening which is shaking the Middle East – and the trashy parallels with the social protests in Western capitals. We’ve been deluged with reports of how the poor or the disadvantaged in the West have “taken a leaf” out of the “Arab spring” book, how demonstrators in America, Canada, Britain, Spain and Greece have been “inspired” by the huge demonstrations that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and – up to a point – Libya. But this is nonsense.

The real comparison, needless to say, has been dodged by Western reporters, so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore protests against “democratic” Western governments, so desperate to disparage these demonstrations, to suggest that they are merely picking up on the latest fad in the Arab world. The truth is somewhat different. What drove the Arabs in their tens of thousands and then their millions on to the streets of Middle East capitals was a demand for dignity and a refusal to accept that the local family-ruled dictators actually owned their countries. The Mubaraks and the Ben Alis and the Gaddafis and the kings and emirs of the Gulf (and Jordan) and the Assads all believed that they had property rights to their entire nations. Egypt belonged to Mubarak Inc, Tunisia to Ben Ali Inc (and the Traboulsi family), Libya to Gaddafi Inc. And so on. The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to prove that their countries belonged to their own people.

And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against “governments”. What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people’s power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of “experts” from America’s top universities and “think tanks”, who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters.

The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own national property owners. Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland became the Mubaraks and Ben Alis of the US and the UK, each gobbling up the people’s wealth in bogus rewards and bonuses for their vicious bosses on a scale infinitely more rapacious than their greedy Arab dictator-brothers could imagine.

I didn’t need Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job on BBC2 this week – though it helped – to teach me that the ratings agencies and the US banks are interchangeable, that their personnel move seamlessly between agency, bank and US government. The ratings lads (almost always lads, of course) who AAA-rated sub-prime loans and derivatives in America are now – via their poisonous influence on the markets – clawing down the people of Europe by threatening to lower or withdraw the very same ratings from European nations which they lavished upon criminals before the financial crash in the US. I believe that understatement tends to win arguments. But, forgive me, who are these creatures whose ratings agencies now put more fear into the French than Rommel did in 1940?

Why don’t my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East, eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud lobbyists to explain to viewers why American “peacemaking” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are “moderates”, the bad guys “terrorists”.

The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall Street protesters do the same, they become “anarchists”, the social “terrorists” of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments – have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can’t touch them.

The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, solemnly informed his people this week that they were not responsible for the crisis in which they found themselves. They already knew that, of course. What he did not tell them was who was to blame. Isn’t it time he and his fellow EU prime ministers did tell us? And our reporters, too?

Fisk is right.

If you have any doubts about that, take the time to review this blog’s many articles showing how banksters rule Australia too.

Here’s just a small selection out of many, many examples:

The World’s Most Immoral Institution Tells You How

Ticking Time Bomb Hidden In The Carbon Tax

By Saul’s Own Words They Stand Condemned

Funding For Policy Scandal – Australia Is A Kleptocracy

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Labor’s Inbred, Debt-Fed Chickens Coming Home To Roost

3 Apr

As long predicted by your humble blogger, Labor’s economic chickens are coming home to roost.

It looks like the first chicken entering the coop as our long economic night begins to fall, is the sovereign AAA credit rating.

All the other inbred, debt-fed chickens mentioned here over the past two years, will be following close behind.

Houses and Holes at MacroBusiness has the story (my emphasis added, in quoted story):

From S&P and Fitch via the AFR this morning comes the hard, cold truth about the trap in which the Australian economy is caught:

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan has been put on notice by ratings agencies to deliver a tough budget next month to protect Australia’s coveted AAA credit standing.

Australia is one of only 14 countries in the world with a top ranking from each of the three major agencies but analysts at Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings are concerned about the banking system’s reliance on overseas funding.

The AAA rating is pinned on the strength of the government’s fiscal position and if it doesn’t have that, we have less cause to see it as a AAA-rated sovereign, given how weak the banking system is in terms of its external liquidity,” said S&P credit analyst Kyran Curry.

“To be consistent with maintaining a AAA rating . . the government would really need to stabilise its fiscal position as soon as possible.”

Mr Curry said the external liquidity of Australia’s banking system was“quite weak” and the industry was overleveraged.

Exactly what your humble blogger has been arguing, ever since launching this blog over 2 years ago. Our real economic weakness, is the fundamentally immoral, fraudulent, parasitical, house-of-cards banking system, whose continued existence and blood-sucking profits has been guaranteed by the government (meaning, by you, the taxpayer). Just like it has in the rest of the now-slowly-collapsing Western world.

“If there is stress in the banking system like in Europe, [its] liabilities could migrate on to the government’s balance sheet,” he said.

Fitch Hong Kong-based director Art Woo said banking sector liabilities were always a “potential concern”.

…“The reality is that, if they don’t bring the budget back into surplus, we have to judge why,” Mr Woo said. “Is it because they haven’t put the right measures in place or because you get a cyclical downturn and the revenues don’t come through?”

…“This budget is very important to us,” Mr Curry said. “We will be looking more broadly for the government to demonstrate that it can remain committed to stabilising its debt dynamics over the medium term. This government needs to have a strong balance sheet to offset some of the weaknesses that we see for the sovereign,” he said.

“The main issue is the importance of maintaining a strong balance sheet and running surpluses over the cycle to give the government the sort of flexibility it had pre-2009 to respond should the external environment weaken and present a problem for the banking system, which is highly leveraged.”

…“It’s important that the government stabilises its fiscal position as soon as conditions allow,” Mr Curry said. “We are not necessarily looking for a return of the balance to surplus this year but we would be looking for a continued path to stabilise its fiscal position.”

Through galactic incompetence, pathological self-interest, rampant self-deception, and mindless obeisance to the “bozos” (h/t Alan Kohler) in the Treasury department, the Labor government has now firmly wedged itself.

And the nation.

If Labor does actually (ie, not just on paper, in the budget ‘forecast’) cut government spending by the enormous amount necessary to achieve a budget outcome (not ‘forecast’) that would keep the ratings agencies happy, Australia is absolutely assured of a recession. Why? Because the private sector economy is too weak already to cope with a huge cut in government spending. Meaning … unemployment up => government revenues (income tax) down => government expenses (unemployment benefits) up => government budget deficit worse => credit rating cut more, PLUS mortgage arrears up => defaults up => bank “asset” values down => bank wholesale funding costs up => mortgage interest rates up => more arrears & defaults => bank/s collapse => government bailout/s => sovereign credit rating cut more => economic death spiral, a la Ireland.

If Labor does not actually cut government spending by the enormous amount necessary to achieve a budget outcome (not ‘forecast’) that would keep the ratings agencies happy, Australia is also absolutely assured of a recession. Why? Because as seen above, the ratings agencies will slash the sovereign credit rating. Meaning … bank wholesale funding costs up => mortgage interest rates up => mortgage arrears up => defaults up => bank “asset” values down => bank wholesale funding costs up => mortgage interest rates up => more arrears & defaults => bank/s collapse => government bailout/s => sovereign credit rating cut more => economic death spiral, a la Ireland.

It is all over bar the loud squawking and fighting for an elevated perch and shitting ourselves everywhere, folks.

We are stuffed.

Now, more than ever, it is just a matter of time.

Barnaby was right:

“If you do not manage debt, debt manages you” – Feb 2010

What a terrible shame for each and every one of us, that all the “experts” in politics, Treasury, the RBA, the Canberra Press Gallery, and the leftarded twittering armchair commentariat, poured torrents of rabid scorn and ridicule on the unpolished, plain speaking, “little old bush accountant” from St George way back in late 2009 and early 2010.

If only we had all listened to Barnaby then – when the total Gross Debt was $117 billion, versus $237.5 billion today – then perhaps, just perhaps, we would have had a slim chance of getting out of the enormous hole that Kevin and Julia and Wayne and Lindsay and the Treasury department #JAFA’s have collectively dug for us.

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

20 May

Australia’s Big Four banks have all just received a credit rating downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the long-term debt ratings of Australia’s big four banks to Aa2 from Aa1, citing their relatively high reliance on overseas funds rather than local deposits.

For a closer analysis of what this really means for Australia’s economic future, we turn to a man far more knowledgeable on this topic than I.

From the must-read MacroBusiness.com.au (emphasis added):

Moody’s analysis of the Australian banks’ vulnerability is pointed. In fact, it’s right on the money as it were, capturing both the past vulnerability and potential future problems, as well as solutions.

To put it bluntly, Moody’s is onto us.

For well over a decade, Australia’s banks have funded huge swathes of the current account deficit. As well, over the past two commodities booms, much of the export income has been leveraged up and blown on housing and fancy living. Moody’s is effectively calling the risks of this model to account. And they’re still not finished:

At Aa2, the major banks’ ratings continue to incorporate 2 notches of uplift from systemic support. Moody’s views bank supervisors and the government in Australia to be supportive by global comparison and the banks to have high systemic importance, as implicitly recognized by the government’s “Four Pillars” policy (which restricts M&A among the banks).

Moody’s also notes that creditor-unfriendly initiatives — such as bail-in legislation — are not on the policy agenda in Australia.

Heavens to Betsy.  It’s finally out in the open. The big four are too big to fail and Moody’s rates the Australian government’s implicit guarantee of the banks’ wholesale debt (as well as the explicit deposit guarantee) as worth two ratings notches. Moreover, by phrasing it this way, Moody’s has essentially put the Australian government on notice that if it dares back away from that guarantee then it can count on the result. The further implication is that the Budget had better remain shipshape to provide the guarantee.

Moody’s is rightly concerned about our banks’ heavy reliance on borrowing from off-shore, in order to lend into our housing bubble.

But as we have recently seen (“Tick Tick Tick – Aussie Banks’ $15 Trillion Time Bomb“), our banking system is vulnerable to a much greater danger than reliance on wholesale funding.

Derivatives.

The exotic financial instruments at the very heart of the GFC, that the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, famously called “a mega-catastrophic risk”, “financial weapons of mass destruction”, and a “time bomb”.

To give you an idea of the vast disconnect between our banks’ $2.66 Trillion in On-Balance Sheet “Assets” (66% of which are loans), and their $15 Trillion in Off-Balance Sheet exposure to OTC derivatives, take a look at the following chart.

It shows our banks’ combined total Assets – blue line – 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"

Never mind the risk of wholesale funding liabilities.  What happens when our banks’ $15 Trillion worth of Off-Balance Sheet “financial weapons of mass destruction” blow up – just as they did in the USA?  That’s more than 10x the entire value of this country’s annual GDP!

Now you know the answer.

The takeout from the Moody’s downgrade is very simple.

Moody’s has effectively just warned the Australian government that it MUST continue to guarantee the liabilities of our entire banking system. Or else the Big Four banks’ credit ratings will be downgraded even further.

Meaning much higher interest rates.  And, the real risk of off-shore funding drying up completely.

Australian taxpayers are now firmly on the hook … to bail out the crooks.

Because – just like in America – they are now considered Too Big To Fail.

For a sneak preview of our future, here’s how Australia will look when the SHTF.

US, UK To Lose AAA Credit Ratings

16 Mar

From Bloomberg:

The U.S. and the U.K. have moved “substantially” closer to losing their AAA credit ratings as the cost of servicing their debt rose, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

“Those economies have been caught in a crisis while they are highly leveraged,” (Moody’s managing director sovereign risk in London, Pierre) Cailleteau said, referring to the level of private and public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product.

Visit the website of Australian Professor Steve Keen, to learn why unprecedented private debt is huge threat to the Australian economy. Even greater than the Rudd government’s ever-growing public debt.

* On April 15th through 23rd, I will be joining Professor Keen in his 230km “Keenwalk” from Parliament House to Mount Kosciuszko, in protest against Australia’s property mania that has been driven directly by insane – and in my personal opinion, immoral – Federal Government and RBA policies, that have enticed hundreds of thousands of financially vulnerable Australians to take on large mortgage debts.

Please consider joining us, for the whole trek or even just for an afternoon section of the walk.

If you’d care to assist a genuinely worthy cause, then please consider sponsoring Professor Keen, or indeed myself. Funds raised will support the wonderful charity Swags For Homeless.

Thanks!

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