The Inevitable Financial Crisis

Link: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/10/the-inevitable-financial-crisis.html

Excerpt:

For months, I have been confident that Europe would suffer a financial crisis and a depression, as in a real economy catastrophe accompanied by a market crash. It might not be as severe and lasting as 1929, but the breadth would mean there would not be 1987 quick bounceback nor a 2008 derivatives crisis concentrated at the heart of the banking system. Even though that looked like financial near-death experience, the same factors that made it more acute in many respects also made it easier for the officialdom to identify and shore up the key institutions that took hits below the water line.

….

That view was based simply on the level of damage Europe seemed determined to suffer via the effect of sanctions blowback on supplies of Russian gas. There are additional de facto and self restrictions on Russian commodities via sanctions on Russian banks and warniness about dealing with Russian ships and counterparties. For instance, Russian fertilizer is not sanctioned; indeed, the US made a point of clearing its throat a couple of months back to say so. Yet that does not solve the problem African (and likely other) buyers suffer They had accounts with now-sanctioned Russian banks and have been unable to come up with good replacement arrangements.

Another major stressor is the dollar’s moon shot. It increased the cost of oil in local currency terms, making inflation even worse. It also will produce pressure, and potentially defaults, in any foreign dollar debtor because he local currency cost of interest payments will rise. Given the generally high state of nervousness in financial markets, anyone who had been expected to roll maturing debt will be in a world of hurt (Satyajit Das in a recent post pointed out that investors typically don’t expect emerging market borrowers to repay).

….

Yet another big concern is hidden leverage, particularly from derivatives. A sudden rise in short term interest rates and increased volatility can blow up derivative counterparties. It’s already happening with European utility companies, many of whom are so badly impaired as to need bailouts.

And the failure of regulators to get tough with banks in the post-crisis period is coming home to roost. Nick Corbishley wrote about how Credit Suisse went from being a supposedly savvy risk manage to more wobbly than Deutsche Bank due to getting itself overly-enmeshed in the Archegos “family office” meltdown and then the Greensill “supply chain finance” scam. Archegos demonstrated a lack of regulatory interest in “total return swaps” which in simple terms allow speculators to create highly leveraged equity exposures. Highly leveraged equity exposures was what gave the world the 1929 crash. The very existence of this product shows the degree to which the officialdom has unlearned big and costly lessons.

Author(s): Yves Smith

Publication Date: 3 Oct 2022

Publication Site: naked capitalism

A Resilient Future

Link: https://theactuarymagazine.org/a-resilient-future/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

If we consider how risk events unfold in reality, they usually occur through a sequence of interacting factors (see Figure 1). For example: A control does not quite work as intended because the usual supervisor is not available, and coincidentally a staff member has unintended access to a system from which they are able to extract personal information. On any other day, those conditions might have been different and resulted in another outcome. The reality, therefore, is that risks emerge as a result of a complex series of interactions among a large number of factors, and small changes in conditions can lead to significantly different risk outcomes.

Risk events also often involve active participants who learn and adapt their behaviors accordingly. Cyber is a good example—the attacker generally is trying to outthink their adversary and stay one step ahead. All of this means that past performance is not necessarily a reliable predictor of the future. There are too many things that can be subtly different, leading to hugely different outcomes.

Author(s): Neil Cantle

Publication Date: May 2022

Publication Site: SOA

Warning: Tossing Russian Banks From the International System Could Backfire

Link: https://www.ai-cio.com/news/warning-tossing-russian-banks-from-the-international-system-could-backfire/

Excerpt:

The decision to boot Russian lenders from the global bank messaging system as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine is a very bad idea that could boomerang and hurt the West, Credit Suisse admonishes.

“Exclusions from SWIFT will lead to missed payments and giant overdrafts similar to the missed payments and giant overdrafts that we saw in March 2020,” wrote Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, in a research note.

….

“Exclusions from SWIFT will lead to missed payments everywhere,” Pozsar wrote. Two years ago, “the virus froze the flow of goods and services that led to missed payments.” Aside from the financial panic at the outset of the pandemic, the world ran into a similar problem in 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed, he said. 

 Pozsar wrote: “Banks’ inability to make payments due to their exclusion from SWIFT is the same as Lehman’s inability to make payments due to its clearing bank’s unwillingness to send payments on its behalf. History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Author(s): Larry Light

Publication Date: 28 Feb 2022

Publication Site: ai-CIO

Financial Stability Report

Link:https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/financial-stability-report-20211108.pdf

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Our view of the current level of vulnerabilities is as follows:

Asset valuations. Prices of risky assets generally increased since the previous report, and,
in some markets, prices are high compared with expected cash flows. House prices have
increased rapidly since May, continuing to outstrip increases in rent. Nevertheless, despite
rising housing valuations, little evidence exists of deteriorating credit standards or highly
leveraged investment activity in the housing market. Asset prices remain vulnerable to
significant declines should investor risk sentiment deteriorate, progress on containing the
virus disappoint, or the economic recovery stall.

Borrowing by businesses and households. Key measures of vulnerability from business
debt, including debt-to-GDP, gross leverage, and interest coverage ratios, have largely
returned to pre-pandemic levels. Business balance sheets have benefited from continued
earnings growth, low interest rates, and government support. However, the rise of the
Delta variant appears to have slowed improvements in the outlook for small businesses.
Key measures of household vulnerability have also largely returned to pre-pandemic
levels. Household balance sheets have benefited from, among other factors, extensions
in borrower relief programs, federal stimulus, and high aggregate personal savings rates.
Nonetheless, the expiration of government support programs and uncertainty over the
course of the pandemic may still pose significant risks to households.

Leverage in the financial sector. Bank profits have been strong this year, and capital
ratios remained well in excess of regulatory requirements. Some challenging conditions
remain due to compressed net interest margins and loans in the sectors most affected
by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leverage at broker-dealers was low. Leverage continued
to be high by historical standards at life insurance companies, and hedge fund leverage
remained somewhat above its historical average. Issuance of collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) and asset-backed securities (ABS) has been robust.

Funding risk. Domestic banks relied only modestly on short-term wholesale funding and
continued to maintain sizable holdings of high-quality liquid assets (HQLA). By contrast,
structural vulnerabilities persist in some types of MMFs and other cash-management
vehicles as well as in bond and bank loan mutual funds. There are also funding-risk vulnerabilities in the growing stablecoin sector.

Publication Date: November 2021

Publication Site: Federal Reserve