Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 71,107
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 71,107
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“Repo has a flaw: It is vulnerable to panic, that is, ‘depositors’ may ‘withdraw’ their money at any time, forcing the system into massive deleveraging. We saw this over and over again with demand deposits in all of U.S. history prior to deposit insurance. This problem has not been addressed by the Dodd-Frank legislation. So, it could happen again.”
–Gary B. Gorton, Professor of Management and Finance, Yale School of Management (lifted from Repowatch)
October 23, 2013 "Information Clearing House - Subprime mortgages did not cause the financial crisis, nor did the housing bubble or Lehman Brothers. The financial crisis originated in a corner of the shadow banking system called the repo market. That’s where the bank run occurred that froze the secondary market, sent prices on mortgage-backed assets plunging, and pushed the financial system into a death spiral. In the Great Crash of 2008, repo was ground zero, the epicenter of the global catastrophe. As analyst David Weidner noted in the Wall Street Journal, “The repo market wasn’t just a part of the meltdown. It was the meltdown.”
Regrettably, the Federal Reserve’s nontraditional monetary policies (ZIRP and QE) have succeeded in restoring the repo market to it’s precrisis level of activity, but without implementing any of the changes that would have made the system safer. Repo is as vulnerable and crisis-prone today as it was when the French bank PNB Paribas stopped redemptions in its off-balance sheet operations in 2007 kicking off the tumultuous bank run that would eventually implode the entire system and push the economy into the deepest slump since the Great Depression. By failing to rein in repo, the Fed has ensured that financial crises will be a regular feature in the future occurring every 15 or 20 years as was the case before banks were more strictly regulated and government backstops were put in place. Repo returns us to Wild West “anything goes” banking.
Why would the Fed be so reckless and pave the way for another disaster? We’ll get to that in a minute, but first, let’s give a brief explanation of repo and how the system works.
Repo is short for repurchase agreement. The repo market is where primary dealers sell securities with an agreement for the seller to buy back the securities at a later date. This sounds more complicated than it is. What’s really going on is the seller (primary dealers) are getting short-term loans from money market funds, securities firms, banks etc in order to maintain a position in securities in which they’re suppose to make markets. So, repo is like a loan that’s secured with collateral. (ie–the securities) It is a “funding mechanism”.
What touched off the Crash of 2008, was the discovery that the collateral that was being used for repo funding was “toxic”, that is, the securities were not Triple A after all, but subprime mortgage-backed gunk that would only fetch pennies on the dollar. So, when PNB Paribas stopped redemptions in its off-balance sheet operations on August 9, 2007, the rout began. Cash-heavy investors (like money markets) turned off the lending spigot, which reduced trillions of dollars of MBS to junk-status, precipitated massive fire sales of distressed assets that were dumped on the market pushing prices further and further down wiping out trillions in equity and reducing the financial system to a smoldering pile of rubble. That’s why the Fed stepped in, backstopped the system with explicit guarantees for both regulated and unregulated financial institutions and set about to reflate financial asset prices to their precrisis highs.
Newly appointed Fed chairman Janet Yellen summarized what happened in the panic in a speech she gave earlier this year. She said:
“The trigger for the acute phase of the financial crisis was the rapid unwinding of large amounts of short-term wholesale funding that had been made available to highly leveraged and/or maturity-transforming financial firms.”
In other words, the crisis began in repo. Unfortunately, Wall Street has fended off all attempts to fix the system, because repo is a particularly lucrative area of activity. And we are talking serious money here, too. Tri-party repo alone–which is a small subset of the larger repo market–represents “about $1.6 trillion in outstanding repos daily.” That means that the prospect of a big dealer dumping his portfolio of securities on the market at a moment’s notice igniting another panic, is never far away.
Why do banks borrow in the unregulated, shadow system instead of conducting their business in the light of day where regulators can check the quality of the underlying collateral, oversee the various transactions on public trading platforms, and make sure that capital requirements are maintained? It’s because the banks want to deploy all their capital, leverage up to their eyeballs and play fast-and-loose with the rules. Here’s what the New York Fed has to say on the topic:
“One clear motivation for intermediation outside of the traditional banking system is for private actors to evade regulation and taxes. The academic literature documents that motivation explains part of the growth and collapse of shadow banking over the past decade…
Regulation typically forces private actors to do something which they would otherwise not do: pay taxes to the official sector, disclose additional information to investors, or hold more capital against financial exposures. Financial activity which has been re-structured to avoid taxes, disclosure, and/or capital requirements, is referred to as arbitrage activity.” (“Shadow Bank Monitoring“, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, September, 2013)
In other words, the banks are conducting their operations in the shadows because it’s cheaper. That’s what this is all about. Here’s more from the same report:
“While the fundamental reason for commercial bank runs is the sequential servicing constraint, for shadow banks the effective constraint is the presence of fire sale externalities. In a run, shadow banking entities have to sell assets at a discount, which depresses market pricing. This provides incentives to withdraw funding—before other shadow banking depositors arrive.”
...The point is, had the system been adequately regulated with the appropriate safeguards in place, there would have been no fire sales, no panic, and no crisis. Regulators would have made sure that the underlying collateral was legit, that is, they would have made sure that the subprime borrowers were creditworthy and able to repay their loans. They would have made sure that repo borrowers (the banks) had sufficient capital to meet redemptions if problems arose. And regulators would have limited excessive leveraging of the securitized assets. Regulation works. It provides safety, stability, and security as opposed to panic, bankruptcy and severe recession which is the scenario that Wall Street’s profiteers seem to prefer....
MORE MISERY AHEAD--PREDICTIONS AT LINK
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Posted by Demeter | Wed Mar 5, 2014, 07:01 AM (0 replies)
The year 2014 could be shaping up as the year that the chickens come home to roost.
Americans, even well-informed ones, don’t know all of the mistakes made by neoconized and corrupted Washington in the past two decades. However, enough is known to see that the US has lost economic and political power, and that the loss is irreversible.
The economic cost of this lost will be born by what remains of the middle class and the increasingly poverty-stricken lower class. The one percent will have offshore gold holdings and large sums of money in foreign currencies and other foreign assets to see them through.
In the political arena, the collapse of the Soviet Union presented Washington with the grand opportunity to reallocate the Pentagon budget to other uses. Part of the reduction could have been returned to taxpayers for their own use. Another part could have been used to improve worn out infrastructure. And another part could have been used to repair and improve the social safety net, thus insuring domestic tranquility. A final, but perhaps most important part, could have been used to begin repaying the Treasury IOUs in the Social Security Trust Fund from which Washington has borrowed and spent $2 trillion, leaving non-marketable IOUs in the place of the Social Security payroll tax revenues that Washington raided in order to fund its wars and current operations.
Instead, influenced by neoconservative warmongers who advocated America using its “sole superpower” status to establish hegemony over the world, Washington let hubris and arrogance run away with it. The consequence was that Washington destroyed its soft power with lies and war crimes, only to find that its military power was insufficient to support its occupation of Iraq, its conquest of Afghanistan, and its financial imperialism.
Now seen universally as a lawless warmonger and a nuisance, Washington’s soft power has been squandered. With its influence on the wane, Washington has become more of a bully. In response, the rest of the world is isolating Washington....
THIS IS THE REAL STATE OF THE UNION....READ IT CAREFULLY, AND WEEP
Posted by Demeter | Wed Mar 5, 2014, 06:51 AM (1 replies)
Bosses hate a salt—a pro-union worker who’s taken a job with the intent to organize.
A few unions are recruiting salts these days, usually young people who apply for low-wage jobs in retail, hospitality, or logistics. But unions are reluctant to talk about salting, not wanting to alert management to look out for suspicious characters. In this article every worker will use a pseudonym and their situations will be disguised.
Former salt Kendra Baker says salting offers something the labor movement badly needs: a “space for young people to develop skills as workplace organizers.” The 2011 uprising in Wisconsin and the Occupy movement created “a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm about the labor movement,” she said.
Now coordinating a salting program, she stresses that salting ensures a union drive will have “a workplace-organizing component, to maintain a level of militancy on the shop floor and make sure the campaign is putting the workers first. Workers should be taking a lead on the messaging and on the goals and planning the actions.”
Posted by Demeter | Mon Mar 3, 2014, 03:55 AM (2 replies)
The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars.
In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support.
Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent.
“People are really drawn to the Koch model,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund investor and Republican fund-raiser, who attended the Kochs’ annual donor conference near Palm Springs, Calif., in January. “It’s adaptive, data-driven, and they are the most propitious capital allocators in political activism.”
NOT GOOD NEWS...MORE AT LINK
Posted by Demeter | Mon Mar 3, 2014, 03:53 AM (1 replies)
In many countries, polling day ends with disputes about ballot-box fraud, corruption, and flawed registers. Recent cases such as Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia illustrate these controversies, undermining legitimacy and stability. There are disputes even in long-established democracies such as the US and Britain. But which claims are accurate? And which are false complaints from sore losers?
To address this issue, new evidence gathered by the Electoral Integrity Project compares the risks of flawed and failed elections, and how far countries around the world meet international standards. The EIP is an independent research project based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, under the direction of Professor Pippa Norris.
This annual report evaluates all national parliamentary and presidential contests occurring in 66 countries worldwide holding 73 election from 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2013 (excluding smaller states with a population below 100,000), from Albania to Zimbabwe. Data is derived from a global survey of 855 election experts. The report includes 73 national parliamentary and presidential contests held worldwide in 66 countries. All continents and regions are represented. Immediately after each contest, the survey asks domestic and international experts to monitor the quality based on 49 indicators. These responses are then clustered into eleven stages occurring during the electoral cycle and summed to construct an overall 100-point expert Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index and ranking...
... historical experience of democracy did not determine current levels of integrity; as shown in figure 3, the quality of elections was strong in several third wave democracies and emerging economies, including the Republic of Korea, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Argentina, and Mongolia. These countries are highly rated by experts although they only established multiparty systems and competitive democratic elections during the late-1980s and early-1990s.
By contrast, the United States ranked 26th out of 73 elections under comparison worldwide, the lowest score among Western nations, falling into the Moderate Integrity category.
Posted by Demeter | Mon Mar 3, 2014, 03:50 AM (0 replies)
I can feel sure that your post is much more fact than most are willing to admit. It will take time for the skeptics to come around, but rest assured, the 1% always overplays their hand, and those who don't see it now will have their noses and much more rubbed into it.
What too many on DU fail to realize is that there's been massive suppression and manipulation of the "permissible" news ever since the printing press began, and even earlier, when copyists were told what to copy and what to burn. The Internet, by giving everyone freedom of the press, has enabled a great uncovering of many deeply buried truths, as well as the propagation of many scabrous falsehoods.
By labelling sites "suspicious, bogus, alarmist, etc" some seek to continue the suppression of both acquisition of truth and critical thinking. The bogus will sort itself out, if it's given an airing. There's no need to suppress it.
Posted by Demeter | Sat Mar 1, 2014, 06:35 AM (1 replies)
What could be more appropriate than thinking about money in the economy group?
King James Bible; 1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
But usually not before they have pierced a whole lot of other people, first. The previous line is even more telling:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6: 9
Other useful biblical sayings:
Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live.
And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
It is a constant irony to me, at least, that the religions so obsessed with the evil of money should have followers legendary in their quest for wealth, earned or not. Perhaps the one follows the other?
It is a greater irony that when history is revised, most often it is the bankers who start the wars, not the average king or peasant.
Posted by Demeter | Fri Feb 28, 2014, 06:44 PM (100 replies)
... the former National Security Agency official and whistle-blower William E. Binney and I will debate Stewart A. Baker, a former general counsel for the NSA, P.J. Crowley, a former State Department spokesman, and the media pundit Jeffrey Toobin. The debate, at Oxford University, will center on whether Edward Snowden’s leaks helped or harmed the public good. The proposition asks: “Is Edward Snowden a Hero?” But, on a deeper level, the debate will revolve around our nation’s loss of liberty.
The government officials who, along with their courtiers in the press, castigate Snowden insist that congressional and judicial oversight, the right to privacy, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the right to express dissent remain inviolate. They use the old words and the old phrases, old laws and old constitutional guarantees to give our corporate totalitarianism a democratic veneer. They insist that the system works. They tell us we are still protected by the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Yet the promise of that sentence in the Bill of Rights is pitted against the fact that every telephone call we make, every email or text we send or receive, every website we visit and many of our travels are tracked, recorded and stored in government computers. The Fourth Amendment was written in 1789 in direct response to the arbitrary and unchecked search powers that the British had exercised through general warrants called writs of assistance, which played a significant part in fomenting the American Revolution. A technical system of surveillance designed to monitor those considered to be a danger to the state has, in the words of Binney, been “turned against you.”
We live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel called “the dual state.” Totalitarian states are always dual states. In the dual state civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. The political sphere becomes a vacuum “as far as the law is concerned,” Fraenkel wrote. There is no legal check on power. Official bodies operate with impunity outside the law. In the dual state the government can convict citizens on secret evidence in secret courts. It can strip citizens of due process and detain, torture or assassinate them, serving as judge, jury and executioner. It rules according to its own arbitrary whims and prerogatives. The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. Fraenkel called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.”
MORE DEPRESSING REVELATIONS AT LINK
Posted by Demeter | Tue Feb 25, 2014, 08:34 PM (1 replies)
People could decide for themselves if a regime was worthy, or if a people were legitimately in need.
Then the Banksters and Gangsters and Political Tools would be out of luck, and have no toehold.
And the money would have no strings--except they better spend it right, or no one will donate to them again!
Posted by Demeter | Mon Feb 24, 2014, 09:23 AM (0 replies)
“The repo market wasn’t just a part of the meltdown. It was the meltdown.”
– David Weidner, Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2013.
Ask your average guy-on-the-street ‘what caused the financial crisis’, and you’ll either get a blank stare followed by a shrug of the shoulders or a brusque, three-word answer: “The housing bubble”. Even people who follow the news closely are usually sketchy on the details. They might add something about subprime mortgages or Lehman Brothers, but not much more than that. Very few people seem to know that the crisis began in a shadowy part of the financial system called repo, which is short for repurchase agreement. In 2008, repo was ground zero, the epicenter of the meltdown. That’s where the bank run took place that froze the credit markets and sent the financial system into freefall. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to fix the problems in repo, which means that we’re just as vulnerable today as we were five years ago when Lehman imploded and all hell broke loose. Repo is a critical part of today’s financial architecture. It allows the banks to fund their long-term securities cheaply while giving lenders, like money markets, a place where they can park their money overnight and get a small return. The entire repo market is roughly $4.5 trillion, although the more volatile tri-party repo market is around $1.6 trillion. (Note: That’s $1.6 trillion that’s rolled over every day.)
Repo works a lot like a pawn shop. You bring your rusty bike and your imitation Van Gogh “Starry Night” to Rosie’s E-Z-Pawn, and the guy with the gold earring behind the counter gives you 15 bucks in return. That’s how repo works too, the only difference is that repo is a loan. The banks post collateral –mostly pools of mortgages (MBS) or US Treasuries– and get overnight loans from a cash-heavy lenders, like money markets, insurance companies or pension funds. Borrowers repay the loan with interest added to the original sum. The problem that arose in 2008, and that will likely crop up in the future, was that the value of the underlying collateral (subprime MBS) was steadily downgraded forcing the banks to take steep haircuts. (which means they couldn’t borrow as much on their collateral) The bigger the haircuts, the less money the banks had to fund their securities which forced them to sell assets to make up the difference. When banks and other financial institutions deleverage quickly, asset prices plunge and capital is wiped out forcing the Fed to step in and backstop the system to prevent a full-blown meltdown. And that’s exactly what the Fed did in 2008. It slashed rates to zero, set up myriad lending facilities and provided unlimited backing for both regulated and unregulated financial institutions. It was the biggest financial rescue operation of all time and it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 to 13 trillion dollars in loans and other guarantees. Under the provisions of the Dodd Frank financial reforms, the Fed is forbidden from carrying out a similar bailout in the future, although you can bet-your-bippy that Yellen and Co. will bend the rules if there’s another catastrophe.
Fixing repo is not a left-right issue. Among the people who follow these things, there is general agreement about what needs to be done to make the system safer. Even New York Fed President William C. Dudley –who’s no “liberal” by any stretch–admits that the system is broken. In October, 2013, at a bank conference Dudley opined, “Current reforms do not address the risk that a dealer’s loss of access to tri-party repo funding could precipitate destabilizing asset fire sales, whether by the dealer itself, or by the dealer’s creditors following a default.” In other words, the chances of another 5-alarm fire sometime in the future are pretty darn good. Dudley’s description of what happened during the acute phase of the crisis is also worth reviewing. He said:
“Higher margins on repo and increased collateral calls due to credit ratings downgrades reduced the quantity of assets that could be financed in repo markets and elsewhere, prompting further asset sales. As wholesale investors started to exit, this set in motion a bad dynamic—a fire sale of assets that cut into earnings and capital. This just increased the incentives of investors to run and for banks to hoard liquidity against the risk that they could themselves face a run. This downward spiral of fire sales and funding runs was a key feature of the financial crisis …”
And, that, dear reader, is a first-rate account of what happened in 2008 when panic gripped the markets and the dominoes started to tumble. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke’s version of events is also worth a look if only because he describes the crash in terms of what it really was, a modern day bank run. Here’s what he said:
“What was different about this crisis was that the institutional structure was different. It wasn’t banks and depositors. It was broker-dealers and repo markets. It was money market funds and commercial paper.”
While most analysts agree about the origins of the crisis and the type of changes that are needed to avoid a repeat, the banks have blocked all attempts at reforming the system. But, why? It’s because the reforms would cost the banks more money, and they don’t want that. They’d rather put the entire system at risk, then cough up a little more dough to make repo safer. Here’s how the New York Fed summed it up in a paper titled “Shadow Bank Monitoring”:
“One clear motivation for intermediation outside of the traditional banking system is for private actors to evade regulation and taxes. … Regulation typically forces private actors to do something which they would otherwise not do: pay taxes to the official sector, disclose additional information to investors, or hold more capital against financial exposures. Financial activity which has been re-structured to avoid taxes, disclosure, and/or capital requirements, is referred to as arbitrage activity.” (“Shadow Bank Monitoring”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York Staff Reports, September, 2013)
That says it all, doesn’t it? They don’t want to pay taxes, they don’t want to hold capital against their collateral, and they want to continue to run their businesses in the shadows so nosy shareholders and regulators can’t see what the heck they’re up to. So, what else is new? The banks are running a crooked, black box operation, and they aim to keep it that way come hell or high water. The banks can’t be reasoned with, that’s obvious from the position they’ve taken. They’ve put profits above everything, even the viability of the system. How can you reason with people like that? Just get a load of what the New York Fed said on the matter:
“Intermediaries create liquidity in the shadow banking system by levering up the collateral value of their assets. However, the liquidity creation comes at the cost of financial fragility as fluctuations in uncertainty cause a flight to quality from shadow liabilities to safe assets. The collapse of shadow banking liquidity has real effects via the pricing of credit and generates prolonged slumps after adverse shocks.”
This sounds more complicated than it is. What the Fed is saying is: “Hey, guys, you’re creating all this fake money (credit) by loading up on leverage (borrowing), and that’s pushing us closer to another crisis. Once the money markets figure out that all those nifty subprime CDOs you’ve been trading for overnight loans aren’t worth Jack-crap, then they’re going to cut you off at the knees and move into risk-free assets like US Treasuries. So why don’t you wise-the-hell-up, and start playing by the rules like everyone else so we don’t have to deal with another big, freaking meltdown. Okay?”
(Of course, I’m paraphrasing here.)
The only way to fix repo is by backstopping collateral with more capital, forcing all trading onto central clearing platforms (where regulators can see what’s going on), and regulating shadow banks like traditional, commercial banks. The editors at Bloomberg said it best nearly a year ago. They said: ” If an entity engages in banking activity… it must register as a bank, with all the backstops and capital requirements that entails.”
If we’re not going to nationalize the banks and turn them into public utilities, which is what we should have done in 2009 when we had the chance, then we need to put safeguards in place to keep them from crashing the system every few years. Regulate, Regulate, Regulate. That’s the ticket. Stricter regulations could have prevented the last crisis, and stricter regulations can prevent the next one. It’s just a matter of finding the political will to get the job done.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Demeter | Mon Feb 24, 2014, 07:48 AM (0 replies)