8 mars 2011
China faces a 60 percent risk of a banking crisis by mid-2013 in the aftermath of record lending and surging property prices, according to a Fitch Ratings gauge. The assessment is from a macro-prudential monitor used by the ratings company, Richard Fox, a London-based senior director, said in a phone interview on March 4. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged more efforts to cool the property market on March 5, telling lawmakers that “exorbitant” increases in housing prices in some cities are a top public concern. His officials are aiming to limit the risks posed by a 48 percent increase in money supply over two years because of the stimulus program that propelled the nation through the global financial crisis. Fitch sees a risk of “holes in bank balance sheets” should a property bubble burst, Fox said. China’s risk of a systemic crisis is based on the nation’s MPI3 classification, the highest of three risk categories, in a Fitch monitor begun in 2005. The indicator signaled crises in Iceland and Ireland and has been tested back to the 1980s, Fox said. Sixty percent of emerging-market countries downgraded to MPI3 face banking crises within three years, he said. China entered that classification in June. The indicator’s failures have included not sounding an alarm about the banking system in Spain, he added.
Banking systems in emerging markets are vulnerable to systemic stress when credit growth exceeds 15 percent annually over two years with real property prices rising more than 5 percent, according to Fitch. Credit growth in China averaged 18.6 percent annually over 2008 and 2009 as house prices jumped, according to the ratings company. The fallout from China’s lending spree may be bad loans totaling $400 billion, according to Hong Kong-based advisory firm Asianomics Ltd. China’s government is concerned at the risks posed by lending to local-government financing vehicles for stimulus projects. In his March 5 speech to lawmakers, Wen pledged a “comprehensive audit” of local-government debt, while the Ministry of Finance said separately that “local governments face debt risks that can’t be overlooked.”
7 mars 2011
Wall Street Journal
The biggest banks are bigger than they were before the last crisis.
The 2010 Dodd-Frank law was sold as a way to prevent future bank bailouts. But so few people believe it that Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, has embarked on a campaign to convince the markets that next time really will be different. On Friday Ms. Bair sent a letter to Standard & Poor’s, the giant credit-ratings agency. S&P, like most of the financial community, suspects that Washington will open the checkbook again when Wall Street stumbles. Therefore the firm has given the largest financial institutions higher credit ratings to reflect this potential government support. Ms. Bair’s note assures S&P that she will put the wood to big banks and their creditors if they end up in the FDIC’s new resolution process for systemic firms. Therefore, she argues, the giant banks should no longer receive higher ratings, because Uncle Sam isn’t coming to their rescue. We guess the financial crisis really is over when a senior federal regulator feels confident urging downgrades of big banks. And on the merits, if Ms. Bair were the only Washingtonian with a say in this matter, investors might start to believe that the freedom to fail really has been restored.
But investors are still expressing a different belief. Recent data from the Federal Reserve and Ms. Bair’s FDIC confirm that the biggest banks still enjoy advantages over their smaller rivals, and by some measures these advantages have been growing since the July enactment of Dodd-Frank.
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4 mars 2011
Project Syndicate - Stephen Roach
In early March, China’s National People’s Congress will approve its 12th Five-Year Plan. This Plan is likely to go down in history as one of China’s boldest strategic initiatives.
In essence, it will change the character of China’s economic model – moving from the export- and investment-led structure of the past 30 years toward a pattern of growth that is driven increasingly by Chinese consumers. This shift will have profound implications for China, the rest of Asia, and the broader global economy. Like the Fifth Five-Year Plan, which set the stage for the “reforms and opening up” of the late 1970’s, and the Ninth Five-Year Plan, which triggered the marketization of state-owned enterprises in the mid-1990’s, the upcoming Plan will force China to rethink the core value propositions of its economy. Premier Wen Jiabao laid the groundwork four years ago, when he first articulated the paradox of the “Four ‘Uns’” – an economy whose strength on the surface masked a structure that was increasingly “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and ultimately unsustainable.”
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4 mars 2011
Project Syndicate – Kenneth Rogoff is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and was formerly chief economist at the IMF
Doctors have long known that it is not just how much you eat, but what you eat, that contributes to or diminishes your health. Likewise, economists have long noted that for countries gorging on capital inflows, there is a big difference between debt instruments and equity-like investments, including both stocks and foreign direct investment. So, with policymakers and pundits railing against sustained oversized trade imbalances, we need to recognize that the real problems are rooted in excessive concentrations of debt. If G-20 governments stood back and asked themselves how to channel a much larger share of the imbalances into equity-like instruments, the global financial system that emerged just might be a lot more robust than the crisis-prone system that we have now.
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4 mars 2011
Federal Reserve policy makers are signaling they favor an abrupt end to $600 billion in Treasury purchases in June, jettisoning their prior strategy of gradually pulling back on intervention in bond markets.
“I don’t see a lot of gain to reverting to a tapering approach,” Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told reporters yesterday. “I don’t think that is necessary,” Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said last month. Central bankers, who next meet March 15, are about half way through their second round of bond purchases. To bring the program to a full stop in June, they must be confident that the economy is strong enough to endure higher long-term interest rates and rising expectations of an exit from the most expansive monetary policy in Fed history, said Dan Greenhaus at Miller Tabak & Co. LLC in New York. “If this is a self-sustaining recovery that can withstand higher interest rates, then why not get the hell out?” said Greenhaus, Miller Tabak’s chief economic strategist. “Still, I am nervous about their ability to withdraw from this policy without broader disruptions.” The Fed announced in November that it would buy $600 billion of Treasuries through June in a bid to boost the recovery and reduce an unemployment rate lingering near a 26- year high. The program, known as QE2 for the second round of so- called quantitative easing, followed $1.7 trillion of asset purchases that ended in March 2010.
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4 mars 2011
After a two-decade bear market, now is the time to buy and hold Japanese stocks, Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, said.
Faber, who is credited with predicting the 1987 stock market crash and said two years ago that shares would decline just as they began the biggest rally in more than 50 years, said the Japanese government will be forced to print money to monetize the country’s public debt, the developed world’s biggest. That will cause the yen to weaken, helping boost earnings for the nation’s exporters and buoying stock prices. Faber joins other bullish investors on Japan, such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and David Herro of Oakmark International Fund, in countering skepticism about Japan earned through four recessions and dismal stock returns after the 1990 crash of the bubble economy. The Nikkei 225 (NKY) Stock Average has fallen about 73 percent since it peaked in December 1989. “If I had to make a bet for the next ten years in terms of equity markets, I would seriously consider a very strong weighting here in Japan,” Faber said yesterday at the CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ annual conference in Tokyo. “Once the debt market starts to go down, the yen will begin to weaken and that will lift equity prices. I would buy equities at the present time.”
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3 mars 2011
Reuters – BAAR, SWITZERLAND (Reuters) – On Christmas Eve 2008, in the depths of the global financial crisis, Katanga Mining accepted a lifeline it could not refuse.
The Toronto-listed company had lost 97 percent of its market value over the previous six months and was running out of cash. Needing to finance its mining projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo — a country which has some of the world’s richest reserves of copper and cobalt — Katanga’s executives had sounded the alarm and made a string of calls for help. Global credit was drying up, the copper market had fallen 70 percent in just five months, and Congo — still struggling to recover from a civil war that killed some five million people – was the last place an investor wanted to be. One company, though, was interested. Executives in the wealthy Swiss village of Baar, working in the wood-panelled conference rooms in Glencore International’s white metallic headquarters, did their sums and were prepared to make a deal. Their terms were simple. They wanted control. For about $500 million in a convertible loan and rights issue, Katanga agreed to issue more than a billion new shares and hand what would become a stake of 74 percent to Glencore, the world’s biggest commodities trading group. Today, with copper prices regularly setting records above $10,000 a tone, Katanga’s stock market value is nearly $3.2 billion. Deals like Katanga have helped turn Glencore into Switzerland’s top-grossing company and earned it comparisons with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.
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1 mars 2011
John P. Hussman, Ph.D.
Last week, the S&P 500 pulled back by less than 2% – certainly not sufficient to clear the overvalued, overbought, overbullish, rising-yields syndrome that we observe in the market, but enough to bring our estimate of S&P 500 10-year total returns from an expected 3.06% to an expected 3.25%.
From the standpoint of prospective investment returns, it is important to recognize that the main effect of quantitative easing has been to suppress the expected return on virtually all classes of investment to unusually weak levels. It’s widely believed that somehow, QE2 has created all sorts of liquidity that is "sloshing" around the economy and "trying to find a home" in stocks, commodities, and other investments. But this is not how equilibrium works.
Here’s how equilibrium does work. Every security that is issued has to be held by someone, in precisely the form in which it was created, until that security is retired. Period. That means that if the Fed creates $2.4 trillion in currency and bank reserves, somebody has to hold that money, in that form, until those liabilities are retired. The money ultimately can’t go anywhere. If someone tries to get rid of their cash in order to buy stock, somebody else has to give up the stock and hold the cash. In the end, every share of stock that has been issued has to be held by somebody. Every money market security that has been issued has to be held by somebody. Every dollar bill that has been created has to be held by somebody. None of these instruments somehow "find a home" by going somewhere else or becoming something else. They are home.
Let me be clear – the additional monetary base created by the Fed certainly is "liquidity" from the standpoint of the banking system, and does amount to funding the U.S. deficit by printing money, until and unless the transactions are reversed. As I’ve noted previously, at what is approaching 16 cents of base money per dollar of GDP, there will also be significant inflationary risk in the event of even modest upward pressure on short term interest rates. The point, however, is that it is incoherent to say that this "cash on the sidelines" will somehow find a home in some other financial market, or anywhere else in a manner that makes it vanish from "the sidelines" – until it is explicitly retired by the Fed.
So what is the effect of creating an extra $600 billion dollars of monetary base by having the Fed purchase $600 billion dollars of Treasury debt?
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