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Former Lehman Trader On “China’s Lehman Moment”

Former Lehman Trader On “China’s Lehman Moment”

My name is Larry McDonald, that is the UK cover above. In the years before the failure of Lehman Brothers, I ran a successful distressed credit business at what was the 4th largest investment bank in the U.S. – becoming one of the most consistently profitable traders in the fixed income division. In late 2008, early 2009 – with Patrick Robinson, we penned “A Colossal Failure of Common Sense” – the Lehman Brothers inside story. At least once a month, I tell my wife while wearing a hopeful smile —“if we sell a million books — we´ll break even on our Lehman stock.” On September 15, 2008 – it all came crashing down in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Known as, “the week that changed the world,” a very painful experience indeed. I was down on the mat looking up at the referee as he delivered the count. It was one of those fateful moments most of us face. Staring into the abyss, drenched in blood-curdling uncertainty, there are times in life when we must get up. Even when it looks like all is lost in a valley of no hope.  Ultimately, the lucky ones learn there are valuable lessons in re-invention. The last 13 years have been a breath of fresh air.

Life’s Lessons

One of the important lessons in our book comes down to how to use leading credit risk indicators? In the 2007-2010 period, the global credit risk epicenter was obviously inside the US. In the 2011-2013 period, Europe´s banks were the focus during the Grexit panic. In recent years, Asia has become far more interesting, a new epicenter has been formed.

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Seven Possible Causes of the Next Financial Crisis

The great financial historian, Charles Kindleberger, pointed out in the 1970s that over several centuries, history showed there was a financial crisis about once every ten years. His observation still holds. In every decade since his classic Manias, Panics and Crashes of 1978, such crises have indeed continued to erupt in their turn, in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and again in 2020. What could cause the next crisis in this long, recurring series? I suggest seven possibilities:

1. What Nobody Sees Coming

A notable headline from 2017 was “Yellen: I Don’t See a Financial Crisis Coming in Our Lifetimes.” The then-head of the Federal Reserve was right that she didn’t see it coming; nonetheless, well within her and our lifetimes, a new financial crisis arrived in 2020, from unexpected causes.

It has been well said that “The riskiest stuff is what you don’t see coming.” Especially risky is what you don’t think is possible, but happens anyway.

About the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09, a former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve candidly observed: “Not only didn’t we see it coming,” but in the midst of it, “had trouble understanding what was happening.” Similarly, “Central banks and regulators failed to see the bust coming, just as they failed to anticipate its potential magnitude,” as another top central banking expert wrote.

The next financial crisis could be the same—we may take another blindside hit for a big financial sack.

In his memoir of the 2007-09 crisis, former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson wrote, “We had no choice but to fly by the seat of our pants, making it up as we went along.” If the next financial crisis is again triggered by what we don’t see coming, the government reactions will once again be flying by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go along.

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Whatever happened to that “imminent” banking crisis?

Whatever happened to that “imminent” banking crisis?

akrainer's Photo

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many of us in the hedge fund industry expected continuing fallouts from the unresolved imbalances that were papered over with monetary and fiscal stimuli by governments and central banks. These measures failed to address, let alone resolve the systemic causes of the crisis. One of their consequences was a further weakening of large western banks, particularly the European ones. A new banking crisis was widely anticipated. Last June, Alasdair Macleod wrote that the “Next significant event therefore will almost certainly be the failure of a G-SIB if not in America, then elsewhere.”  [G-SIB = global systemically important bank]. In my recollection, Deutsche Bank for one, has been on a death watch at least since 2016, but the list of banks that should have collapsed already is long and full of household names.

Indeed, things looked very bleak when the Coronavirus pandemic struck and they deteriorated sharply from there. Yet, the banking system is limping along and no crisis has yet materialized. How to explain this? Last September I gave an interview on Renegade Inc. and went out on a limb with a hypothesis that only dawned on me about that time. Namely, I grew up in former Yugoslavia in the socialist regime under a one party system (Communist party, of course). The world I grew up in was pretty much one chronic crisis of stagflation which ultimately led to hyperinflation. My ‘eureka!’ moment happened when I realized that in spite of that state of affairs, we never had a banking crisis! No major bank failed and we had no bank runs at any point.

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What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

  • The Ten-year U.S. Treasury note yields 1.61%.
  • 10-year high-quality corporate bonds yield 2.09%.
  • The rate on a 30-year mortgage is 3.05%.

Despite recent increases, interest rates are hovering near historic lows.  We do not use the word “historic” lightly. By “historic,” we refer to the lowest levels since the nation’s birth in 1776.

The graph below, courtesy of the Visual Capitalist, highlights our point.

interest, What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

Despite 300-year lows in interest rates, investors are becoming anxious because they are rising. Recent history shows they should worry. A review of the past 40 years reveals sudden spikes in interest rates and financial problems go hand in hand.

The question for all investors is how big a spike before the proverbial hits the fan again?

Debt-Driven Economy

Over the past 40 years, debt has increasingly driven economic growth.

That statement on its own tells us nothing about the health of the economy. To better quantify the benefits or consequences of debt, we need to understand how it was used.

When debt is used productively, the interest and principal are covered with higher profits and sustained economic activity. Even better, income beyond the cost of the debt makes the nation more prosperous.

Conversely, unproductive debt may provide a one-time spark of economic activity, but it yields little to no residual income to service it going forward. Ultimately it creates an economic headwind as servicing the debt in the future replaces productive investment and or consumption.

The graph below shows the steadily rising ratio of total outstanding debt to GDP. If debt, in aggregate, were productive, the ratio would be declining regardless of the amount of debt.

interest, What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

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The Coming Financial Crisis of 2021

Economist Steve Keen predicts that even if the covid-19 health crisis subsides next year, a brewing financial crisis on par with the 2008 Great Recession is in the making.

He sees the pandemic as having delivered an “unprecedented shock” to the global economy, and the response from authorities as nothing less than a “catastrophe”.

With tens of millions of households having lost their income this year, personal savings becoming exhausted, government support programs on their way to drying up, and lots more company layoffs/bankruptcies/closures ahead — Steve expects a punishing recession to arrive in full force in 2021.

And on a larger scale, he sees modern neoclassical economics — which ignores the importance of natural resources and the health of our ecosystems — as completely unsuited for the reality in which we live today. He warns that if we don’t adapt a more informed approach to managing the global economy, we will only continue to make the mess we’re in worse:

The anatomy of a financial crisis

In this blog, we present the anatomy of a financial crisis. A characteristic feature of a banking crisis is that it tends to follow, more-or-less, the same path regardless of the ‘shock’ or ‘trigger’ that initiates it.

The next phase of the crisis is likely to be a global financial crisis, as we have been anticipating for quite some time (see, e.g., Q-Review 4/2017). However, few understand what a financial crisis is, though it is probably among the most feared economic phenomena of mankind.

So, let’s dive in.

The initiation

If a banking system is sound and robust, it can usually withstand financial and economic shocks.

But a banking system may be fragile. Usually this is due to high leverage levels, where banks have either lent aggressively or carry risky financial investments on their balance sheets—usually both. Banks can also have a weak financial position, with chronically low profitability and insufficient reserves. As we have explained earlier, this is exactly the state the European banking sector finds itself in.

The onset of a financial crisis requires a trigger. The most common is a recession or the expectation of recession among consumers and investors.

Recession leads to diminished income and defaults by both corporations and households. This increases the share of non-performing loans in bank loan portfolios, reducing the value of loan collateral and increasing bank risks and capital needs. As write-downs and losses increase, mistrust among other banks and depositors and investors does as well. The bank’s share price will usually start to reflect this.

A ‘bank run’

If suspicion spreads, banks will be apprehensive about counterparty risk and will be unwilling to lend to one another even on an overnight basis.  If allowed to continue, this will have a calamitous impact on liquidity in money markets.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The COVID Bait & Switch

QUESTION: Do you really think that the Democratic leadership is trying to hurt people?

FD

ANSWER: It is not just the Democrats. We are looking at politicians around the world. It makes no sense with such a low death rate that is equivalent to the flu and all the forecasts of Neil Ferguson have proven false that they would continue these lockdowns. It makes no sense. They are either deliberately hurting people or they have been bribed by the consortium to further the Great Reset.  I am open to any other explanation. Even moderate Democrats are not comfortable with what is taking place. This is a deliberate agenda to destroy the economy to rebuild it GREEN. The serious mistake here is that they think they can recreate the economy in their vision. They do not even know how it works.

Let us not forget that the entire justification for these lockdowns was the forecast of Ferguson who claimed 3 million Americans would be killed. The justification for masks, social distancing, and lockdowns was to save lives because the curve had to be flattened because there would be a shortage of bed space in hospitals. That NEVER took place. So why do we still have lockdowns?

This has been a bait & switch. You have an elite group cheering the destruction as an opportunity to rebuild the world economy the way they think it should run. They are threatening fund managers to divest from China in hopes of bringing them to their knees to accept their agenda. That is NOT going to succeed. We are staring in the eyes of absolute ruthless tyranny and the markets are starting to perform in anticipation of a major financial crisis.

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Turkey’s 2nd Financial & Currency Crisis in 2 Years Blossoms. Heavily Invested European Banks Look for Exit. But Not the Most Exposed Bank

Turkey’s 2nd Financial & Currency Crisis in 2 Years Blossoms. Heavily Invested European Banks Look for Exit. But Not the Most Exposed Bank

Big Gamble that was hot for years has gone sour after Turkish lira’s plunge and surge of defaults on bank debts denominated in foreign currency.

As the Turkish lira logged fresh record lows against both the dollar and the euro on Friday, and is now down 19% this year against the dollar, attention is turning once again to the potential risks facing lenders. They include a handful of very big Eurozone banks that are heavily exposed to Turkey’s economy via large amounts in loans — much of it in euros — through banks they acquired in Turkey. And the strains are beginning to replay those of the last currency/financial crisis in 2018.

When the Money Runs Out…

Subordinate bonds of Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS, which is majority owned by Spanish lender BBVA, together with two other local banks — Turkiye Is Bankasi AS and Akbank TAS — are trading at distressed levels (yields of over 10 percentage points above U.S. Treasuries), even though the banks are still profitable and said to be highly capitalized. This is an indication of the amount of confidence investors have in the ability of these companies to repay their obligations.

Three weeks ago, when the lira was trading within a tight band against the dollar — the result of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) pegging the lira to the dollar by burning through billions of dollars of already depleted foreign-exchange reserves and dollars borrowed from Turkish banks — no corporate bonds in Turkey were trading at these levels. Now that the CBRT has stopped propping up the lira, which has since fallen 7% against the dollar, the average risk premium demanded by investors to hold dollar-denominated notes of Turkish businesses has soared.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Paper Assets And Promises Often End In Default

Paper Assets And Promises Often End In Default

During times of financial disruptions defaults rise in importance and move front and center. The term financial crisis is applied broadly to a variety of situations in which some financial assets suddenly lose a large part of their nominal value, a default falls into this area. In the last decade, debt has soared across the globe. With this in mind, you never want to be caught on the wrong side of a debt default. That is the place where you don’t get paid or are paid with a less valuable currency that has seen its value eroded by inflation. A debt default can take many forms but what they have in common is they all can be considered as reneging on financial obligations. Generally, we make a distinction between public and private debt but even that may become blurred when a government in need of funds has to seize or take over assets or institutions.

Relationship Of Tangibles To Intangibles (click to enlarge)

An area of great concern should be the growth in non-recourse loans, this includes unsecured personal loans. The fact these are particularly dangerous has not discouraged many investors from becoming seduced into thinking the yield justified rolling the dice and putting at least some money at risk. The chart to the right shows how intangible assets have grown, be cautious if you are owed money, that falls into the area of an intangible asset. The problem is that lenders will find little help in recovering their money from an expensive legal system that has become overwhelmed by the complexity of modern life.

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Europe’s Bailouts Risk a Full-Blown Financial Crisis

EUROPE’S BAILOUTS RISK A FULL-BLOWN FINANCIAL CRISIS

The measures implemented by governments in the eurozone have one common denominator: a massive increase in debt from governments and the private sector.

Loans lead the stimulus packages from Germany to Spain. The objective is to give firms and families some leverage to pass the bad months of COVID lockdowns and allow the economy to recover strongly in the third and fourth quarters. This bet on a speedy recovery may put the troubled European banking sector in a difficult situation.

Banks in Europe are in much better shape than they were in 2008, but that does not mean they are strong and ready to take billions of higher-risk loans. European banks have reduced their nonperforming loans, but the figure is still large at 3.3 percent of total assets according to the European Central Bank. Financial entities also face the next two years with poor net income margins due to negative rates and a very weak return on equity.

The two most important measures that governments have used in this crisis are large loans to businesses partially guaranteed by the member states and significant jobless subsidy schemes to reduce the burden of unemployment.

Almost 40 million workers in the large European nations are under a subsidized jobless scheme according to Eurostat and Bankia Research. Loans that add up to 6 percent of the eurozone’s GDP have been granted to allow businesses to navigate the crisis. So, what happens if the recovery is weak and uneven and the third and fourth quarter growth figures disappoint, as I believe will happen? First, the rise in nonperforming loans may elevate the total figure to 6 percent of total assets in the banking sector, or €1.2 trillion. Second, up to 20 percent of the subsidized unemployed workers will probably join full unemployment, which may increase the risk in mortgage and personal loans significantly.

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Underneath the Surface Trouble Is Brewing Once Again

Underneath the Surface Trouble Is Brewing Once Again

Larry McDonald, publisher of the investment research service The Bear Traps Report, warns that this crisis is far from over. He spots growing tensions in the credit markets and thinks that large public borrowers like Italy and New York State are in need of massive bailouts.


Stocks have staged an impressive comeback. Since the lows of March, the S&P 500 has gained almost 30%. Despite that, Larry McDonald would not be surprised if new turmoil soon arose.

“In March 2008 for instance, after the failure of Bear Stearns, the Fed acted aggressively and we had a big relief rally. But then came Lehman,” says the renowned investment strategist.

Mr. McDonald knows what he’s talking about. As a former vice-president of distressed debt trading at Lehman Brothers he witnessed the meltdown of the global financial system first hand. Today, he runs the The Bear Traps Report, an independent investment research service for institutional investors.

In this in-depth interview with The Market/NZZ, Mr. McDonald warns of rising defaults in the credit markets and points out that large public borrowers such as Italy and New York State are going to need bailouts of historic proportions. However, he spots opportunities in the metals and mining sector.

Mr. McDonald, despite a grim economic picture, investors are getting confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. What’s your take on the financial markets?

Equity markets have priced in a lot of love from the Federal Reserve. The Fed has done a lot to ease financial conditions, and the amount of liquidity is amazing. Since late February, they’ve done more in terms of balance sheet expansion than nearly two years of action in 2008 to 2010. They’ve clearly pumped up asset prices.

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THE WOLF STREET REPORT: Nothing’s Fixed – What’s Behind the Corporate Debt Bailout

THE WOLF STREET REPORT: Nothing’s Fixed – What’s Behind the Corporate Debt Bailout

Over the past two years, nobody knew what would trigger the next financial crisis, but just about everyone knew it would involve the record pile of corporate debt. And so it happened. Now the Fed fixed it…

Recession Begins: Q1 GDP Plunges 4.8%, Biggest Drop Since The Financial Crisis

Recession Begins: Q1 GDP Plunges 4.8%, Biggest Drop Since The Financial Crisis

With news that the Gilead Remdesivir trial had reportedly met its primary endpoint hitting “coincidentally” just seconds before the Q1 GDP print, and with newswires initially reporting the GDP erroneously as a positive 4.8% print, it was clear that the real number would be a disaster, and sure enough moments later newswires reversed and reported that Q1 GDP was in fact, a worse than expected negative 4.8%, the biggest drop since March of 2009, and officially marking the start of the US recession.

Perhaps in response to demands from the White House, the BEA was quick to note that “the decline in first quarter GDP was, in part, due to the response to the spread of COVID-19, as governments issued “stay-at-home” orders in March. This led to rapid changes in demand, as businesses and schools switched to remote work or canceled operations, and consumers canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending. The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the GDP estimate for the first quarter of 2020 because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified.”

Developing

Let the Institutional Innovation Begin! (Part I)

Let the Institutional Innovation Begin! (Part I)

In corvid-19, neoliberal capitalism has met a formidable foe. The pandemic has shown just how fragile and dysfunctional the market/state order — as a production apparatus, ideology, and culture — truly is. Countless market sectors are now more or less collapsing with a highly uncertain future ahead. With a few notable exceptions, government responses to the virus range from ineffectual to self-serving to clownish.

While politicians clearly hope that massive government bailouts will restore the economy, it’s important to recognize that this is not just a financial crisis; it’s a social and political crisis as well. Many legacy market systems – generously subsidized and propped up by state power – are not really trusted or loved by people. Do Americans really want to give $17 billion to scandal-ridden Boeing while letting the post office go bankrupt? It is too early to declare that the old forms will never return, and we do need to remember that the authoritarian option is dangerously close. But it is clear that the future will have a very different pattern. 

To me, one thing is obvious: searching for the rudiments of a New Order should be our top priority once emergency needs are taken care of. We need to identify and cultivate new patterns of peer provisioning and place-based governance, especially at the local and regional levels. We need new types of infrastructures and new narratives that understand the practical need for open-source civic and economic engagement.

This is not only necessary to help us deal with climate change and inequality; it is a preemptive necessity for fortifying democracy itself. Reactionary forces are already poised to try to restore a pre-pandemic “normal.” “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting,” writes filmmaker Julio Vincent Gambuto in a wonderful essay on Medium

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Peter Schiff: This Is a Financial Crisis

Peter Schiff: This Is a Financial Crisis

A lot of people in the mainstream still insist this isn’t a financial crisis like we saw in 2008. They say this is just a self-inflicted shutdown of the economy. Since we decided to shut it down, we can decide to start it back up again. Peter Schiff begs to differ. In his podcast, he explains that this is absolutely a financial crisis and it’s going to be worse than 2008.

Stocks fell yesterday (April 15) on dour economic news and the financials led the plunge. In fact, even during the stock market rally on Monday, the financials lagged. Peter called them the Achilles Heel in that Monday surge.

This is significant because the financial sector is the key to the US economy.

They shouldn’t be, but they are, because we have a bubble economy. We have an economy based on credit, based on debt. So, not people spending the money they earned, but spending the money they didn’t earn but they borrowed.”

This becomes clear when you look at the consumer debt numbers. Americans were already leveraged up to their eyeballs before coronavirus spurred a government lockdown of the economy.

What is at the heart of the bubble, other than the Federal Reserve which is pumping all the blood through the body of the economy, but it’s pumping it through the heart of the banking sector. So, when you’re seeing this cardiac arrest in the banking sector, this is a sign that there’s trouble brewing here when the banks are having so much trouble.”

Why are banks in trouble? Because people are defaulting on their loans. In fact, there was already trouble in the subprime markets before COVID-19. Both subprime credit card and auto loan defaults were rising. That will only increase with millions of people suddenly unemployed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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