Busted: Bankers and The Global Economy

January 23, 2009

U.S. Employment and Recovery Dilemna

The U.S. government is in denial of classic facts the majority of the time. Even though Barack Obama has been reasonably honest concerning the immediate future, the figures he used before the inauguration to promote his plans to Congress are hopelessly underestimated and fail to add up on a mathematical level. In the meantime, Americans have the magic and charisma of a new president to chart the uncertain tragic waters of what will ultimately be a recovery given enough time. However the bad news and underlying economic factors coming out of 2008 do not speak of a speedy recovery on any level. When Barack Obama suggests that the American population in general will sacrifice, he isn’t kidding. Even the most optimistic reports paint “a bleak economic landscape ahead” with real unemployment approaching 18% with a sudden increase expected (see recent Digital Economy articles for more details).

Bankers have seen the massive destruction of their net worth and the ability to conduct business. As a result, so have we all. What was your hard-earned 401K last year? What was your net worth two years ago? The Bush administration had only seen to slowly respond to the crisis in addition to adding sweet Federal Reserve liquidity to keep failing institutions and most of the relevant power structure in place solvent. They used laissez-faire economics as an excuse to do little or nothing until their hand was forced by extreme circumstances and the national plight of total economic failure. Henry Paulson admitted his team’s inability to find and deal with the real scope of the national banking toxic-debt, instead choosing the easy course of simply recaptalizing bank with nationalized capital from taxpayers. As a confessed seasoned professional insider, Paulson was unable to determine or realize the full extent of the national collateral damage or he simply isn’t saying, which may be closer to the truth.

America has this plight to look forward to in 2009 barring other unforeseen issues:
* A huge rush of residential housing mortgage failures due to ‘housing resets’, the blight of unemployment and the inability for Americans to qualify for loans because of tightening banking rules which were conveniently ignored previously.
* A tsunami of commercial mortgage foreclosures.
* Billions in credit card defaults that threaten to further decimate the banking system coupled with banking cutbacks in anticipation of the same.
* As unemployment skyrockets, a tsunami of auto repossessions and loan defaults.
* Economic decimation through toxic banking instruments and complex debt instruments combined with $500 trillion in unmanageable credit default swaps.

25% real unemployment is realistic by the summer of 2009, near the estimated high of depression unemployment charted in the 1930s.  Unhappily, the resulting fallout will simply get worse and the economy spirals downward as more unpredicted events occur. Some areas in close relation to the Big Three automakers could see unemployment much higher than that. This commentary just touches the beginning as municipalities and states sink into further debt this year. The nation that used to live on credit will truly be living on credit in order to sustain America on any level. The profitaking of the last decade coupled with predatory banking designs has truly taken its toll. The U.S. economy didn’t have enough energy to maintain a stagflation last year. Deflation will be the ultimate result as the nation pulls into recovery years down the road. These are likely the unpleasant facts unless central bankers have a better idea. That is unlikely unless they start thinking outside the box they have built. ~ E. Manning

credit-default-swap

September 17, 2008

Bailout Fever Strikes U.S. Again

The world of insurance will never be the same. AIG, a major insurance corporation and the world’s largest insurer has averted the worst financial collapse in history by accepting an $85 billion Federal Reserve loan and giving the government a majority stake in the company. The U.S. Treasury was fearful of a “disorderly failure” that would lead to larger national failures.

American International Group was a wild card with failure creating an enormous and unknown measure of system risk to the entire economy. The federal government gets 79.9 percent take of the firm and senior managers give up their jobs.

panic on the street

panic on the street

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve loan with a 2-year term will allow AIG (in theory) to divest itself of assets in a timely manner without creating an immediate crisis. Stockholders have been effectively squeezed out and are subject to losing any dividends.

AIG was huge in the credit default market, insuring contract guarantees that companies would not fail in large financial deals. A default contract buys protection against the threat of default by a company, municipality or a package of debt backed by mortgages. A buyer pays the seller a premium over a set term. The seller pays out if the default occurs. Defaults on mortgages and securitized bonds brought AIG to the verge of oblivion.

The complexity and global reach is huge, likely affecting every fund on the market in one fell swoop. Even with the loan in place to protect AIG for the short-term, Wall Street is reeling from the effects. A future bankruptcy would also play havoc on business contracts. There are reports that people are hording cash. Derivatives have been a highly profitable on Wall Street until now. The financial world is changing quickly as repercussions from the subprime mortgage crisis ripple across the globe.

~ E. Manning

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