Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Bernanke Bonds, Paulson Puts & Cox Calls

Marx made a wry observation in the opening lines to one of his historical tomes, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living.”

So it is with us. We are experiencing a crisis that is the result of a decades long deconstruction of the United States economic, political and cultural infrastructure. It began with the dismantling of our manufacturing base. It continued with the transformation of our capital markets. The purpose of the stock markets was to facilitate capital formation for the creation of businesses and industries. Today the markets function principally for speculative investment and the enrichment purposes of monied interests. Our deconstruction accelerated with extreme political Rovian partisanship and the fear mongering and self serving righteous divisiveness incessantly screamed by the howling yodelers of Talk Radio. Finally our enlightened republic is threatened with extinction by the intentional dismantling of our public education system and the virulent attack on secular learning and civic participation.

During times like these weird things begin to happen. We need to be prepared for anything and everything. That said it is heartening to see the Fed, Treasury and SEC act with such dispatch to address the US role in the global banking crisis. An economic meltdown serves no one. The long term impact of these swift concerted actions will be profound. Undoubtedly these actions will add to the national debt. Some think it unfair to assign this burden onto the backs of future generations. Indeed this country started a revolution on the idea that taxation without representation is an intolerable injustice that cannot stand. Years from now the yet to be born will curse the long dead for their poor stewardship of our national wealth and resources and how it contributed to an extreme and unfair taxation they are forced to pay. That is of course if America does make good on its debt. Alexander Hamilton may be stirring in his grave. So this is a time out from the heat of a global market implosion. What is happening?

PROHIBITION ON SHORT SELLING: Shorting can now be considered a criminal enterprise. At present it only applies to large financial services firms. Lots of firms are clamoring to get on the you can’t short my stock list.

The new national slogan from the SEC should be “GO LONG ON AMERICA!”

REPO MAN:Global Repo Desk was created to facilitate liquidity amongst the global central banking system. London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and the other G8 central bankers are all counter parties to Bernanke’s $180 B liquidity infusion. Paulson’s putting on his old Goldman Sach’s trading cap and promises to trade us out of this bad position.

The Feds new slogan, “NO CENTRAL BANKER LEFT BEHIND!”

GOOD BANK / BAD BANK:Bernanke is using his infinite balance sheet to segregate all the bad debt from the good stuff. Its kind of like what ENRON did as it packaged all its poor debt obligations and parked them in offshore SIVs. Maybe it will work this time because unlike ENRON the Fed can print money. Lots of it.

New Slogan “BERNANKE AND PAULSON, SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM.”

CORPORATE BAILOUTS: The US taxpayer is now the owner of the worlds largest insurance company. It’s $80 B capital infusion in AIG will keep this company solvent for the time being and keep the credit rating agencies from lowering AIG’s credit condition to junk. Cox has requested a copy of Lloyds of London Names List.

New Slogan: “PRAY FOR NO MORE HURRICANES, WE CAN”T AFFORD TO PAY OFF THE CLAIMS”

SHOTGUN WEDDINGS: First it was Bear Stearns and JP. Now its Merrill and B of A. Who’s next?

New Slogan: “WE DO MORE MARRIAGES THEN ELVIS AT A LAS VEGAS DRIVE THROUGH”

INFINITE BALANCE SHEET: That is what they keep saying. The Fed can do these financial gymnastics do to its access to an infinite balance sheet that can finally match infinite assets to cover infinite liabilities. Sounds like a tall order to me but i must admit it sounds pretty good from where I’m sitting today. Don’t know how it will go down with the future generations. From Bernanke’s lips to Gods ear.

New Slogan: “INFINITY, ITS MORE THEN ENOUGH TO GET IT DONE”

Bailout politics will sure to become a bloodsport. Every once in awhile you see the commentators on CNBC smugly ask about a threat to free markets and contemplating about the evolving form of capitalism. I can also hear Palin’s squeaking voice proclaiming she’s ready and offer some sage advise concerning our current plight. Palin would say that if she were so blessed to take the oath of office with her fellow Maverick John McCain, she would immediately put AIG up for sale on e-bay and return the proceeds of the sale to the American taxpayers.

Music: Temptations, Ball of Confusion

Risk: economy, market, future generations

Advertisements

September 19, 2008 Posted by | banking, Bernanke, Bush, Cox, credit crisis, Paulson, pop, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bazooka Shot Heard Round the World

Hank Paulson finally got off his best shot.

But will it stick?

He’s been hunkering down in some fox hole all summer as the economic storm was raging through the global banking and capital markets system. Keeping his head low and his powder dry. Every once and awhile he would lift his head to survey the wreckage in the credit markets. He would enjoy the Beijing Olympics and offer prayers to the Gods of Commerce in the hope that his tax rebate program would provide the stimulus to kick start an economy droning to a halt.

When pressed to comment on the deteriorating balance sheets and financial conditions of his GSE problem children Fannie and Freddie, Paulson with all the sternness of a father committed to the practice of tough love would say, “I have a bazooka in my bag of tricks and if I have too I’ll use it.” Well Paulson fired his bazooka this weekend and it blew Fannie and Freddie into the protective conservancy of the Federal Government. Tough love indeed.

Though the action will wipe out current equity holders of the GSE’s the overall equity markets are responding favorably. This is probably a good time to sell.

Sovereign Wealth Funds, Central Bankers and large institutional holders of debt securities and bonds welcome the action and are signaling that with the Fed’s interventionist policy protecting any downside risk will once again begin to invest in US banks to shore up solvency and maintain liquidity in credit markets.

Investment bankers are lining up lunches with bank CEO’s and private equity firms to stoke the M&A fires and perform a vital national service of rationalizing the US banking system.

Lastly the nationalization of Fannie and Freddie will create lots of grain for the political gristmill for the presidential election.

TBTF, socialism, activist Feds, Wall Street vs. Main Street, big business vs. the little guy are all of the political platitudes and cliches that will be bandied about. Senator Jim Bunning from Tennessee called Bernanke a socialist after the bailout of Bear Stearns. Bunning will be calling the Treasury Department the Polit Bureau West after this move.

This is state capitalism. The United States is moving ever so closer to the economic model of China.

Song: The International

Risk: credit markets, liquidity, housing market, recession

September 8, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, Paulson, soundtrack, Treasury | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Risk Funding and the Beijing Boogie

Our heads continue to spin as events unfold in the global credit crisis. Investment and central bankers are doing a two step tango to temper reeling capital markets, restive politicians and the growing concern and confusion of citizens.

The corporate emissaries of Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS and Citibank goes hat in hand to the Sovereign Wealth Funds of Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and The Peoples Republic of China. They dive head first into these giant liquidity pools to refresh their credit worthiness in the hope that by pouring many billions of dollars of equity capital into their porous balance sheets corporate solvency and national prosperity will be assured.

Remember how Lou Dobbs howled when the Emirates tried to buy the service contract for American shipping ports. I don’t believe I’ve heard a negative word from any of the isolationists about the same interests cornering the American banking market. I’m scratching my head.

The bluest of blue, blue chip private equity firm Carlyle gets a margin call from its broker while Fed Chairman Bernanke arranges a shotgun wedding between Bear Stearns and JP Morgan offering JP a sweet dowry of loan guarantees to take the plunge. I thought the world was ending.

By yesterday things were looking up a bit. Charlie Schumer gave Bernanke high marks for tempering his comments during his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee for his discretion on failing to betray confidences culled from secret discussions and brokered deals going on in the world’s central banks boardrooms. It was our Head of the Fed’s high point of the day and only chance to smile in an otherwise trying day as he squirmed a bit when asked about recession, moral hazards, sub prime mortgage bailouts and other central banking boog -a-lous.

I thought I even saw him shudder a few times as he considered his lonely position as the lender of last resort and grew a bit miffed as he pondered what an activist Fed entailed and how the US is slowly adopting the model of Chinese State Capitalism brought to our shores in the belly of a Trojan horse ordered by Walmart. Why its getting so crazy it almost fills you with nostalgia for the relative stability of the good old Long Term Capital Management days.

Ironically this is all transpiring while the major global banking institutions are preparing to implement the capital accords of the Basel II agreements prior to looming deadlines that never seem to arrive. Basel 2 has been in the works for the better part of this decade and if this current crisis can teach us anything it’s the need to take the funding of risk seriously.

Risk funding is an amorphous and complicated subject. It requires the honesty of objective assessment; unclouded by perceptions and methodologies that are prejudiced by pedestrian transactional, political and cultural interests.

The duality of risk- half opportunity half threat -always dances in a real time dialectic. It’s choreographed by algorithmic tempos noted in the scale of C++. It needn’t be so alien to our business practices nor anathema to unregulated egos of America’s uber free marketers who extol Milton Friedman during times of plenty but are the first ones at the federal trough when the markets are mean. Brother can you spare a dime to fund my misplaced risk, after all I’m too much of a fat cat to fail.

A great example of the failure to fund risk is The Peoples Republic of China. The PRC had a great opportunity to not repeat the historical mistakes the western capitalist economies made during their phase of rapid industrialization. But China seems to be following the same path as the west. They have not made an accurate accounting of the social and environment risks associated with its industrialization and the bill will soon arrive in the form of environmental remediation, health care for its citizen’s and dealing with political and social unrest.

I wonder if this was on Paulson’s Beijing agenda today. This along with scoring some great box seats for him and President Bush for this summers Olympic Games and secure a pledge to up their purchase of govies at the next US treasury auction.

Music: Yo Yo Ma “Brazilian Tango”

April 4, 2008 Posted by | China, hedge funds, Paulson, risk management, sovereign wealth funds | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment