Category Archives: banking

World’s Most Wanted Bank Whistleblower Was Just Arrested, for the Worst Possible Reason, by Don Quijones

Will Spain turn over a whistleblower to Switzerland in exchange for two Catalonian separatists held by the Swiss? It would be a sordid deal. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

For a prisoner exchange between Switzerland and Spain? 

Hervé Falciani, the French-Italian former HSBC employee who blew the whistle on HSBC and 130,000 global tax evaders in 2008, has been arrested in Madrid on Tuesday in response to an arrest warrant issued by Switzerland for breaking the country’s bank secrecy laws.

He lives in France, which rarely extradites its own citizens. But when Spanish authorities learned that he was in town to speak at a conference ominously titled, “When Telling the Truth is Heroic,” they made their move. If he is extradited to Switzerland he could face up to five years in prison.

Falciani worked as a computer technician for HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary. One day in 2008, he left the office with five computer disks containing what would eventually become one of the largest leaks of banking data in history.

According to Swiss authorities, Falciani stole and then attempted to sell a trove of confidential data. Falciani says he was a whistleblower who wanted to expose a “broken” banking system, “which encouraged tax evasion.”

When much of the stolen data was leaked to the press in 2015, it revealed, among other sordid things, that HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary routinely allowed clients to withdraw “bricks of cash,” often in foreign currencies of little use in Switzerland. It also colluded with clients to conceal undeclared “black” accounts from their domestic tax authorities and provided services to international criminals, corrupt businessmen, shady dictators and murky arms dealers.

As Falciani would soon find out, snitching on one of the world’s biggest banks and 130,000 of its richest clients does not make you a popular person in a country famed for its banking secrecy. In 2014 he was indicted in absentia by the Swiss federal government for violating the country’s bank secrecy laws and for industrial espionage. A year later he was sentenced by Switzerland’s federal court to five years in prison – the “longest sentence ever demanded by the confederation’s public ministry in a case of banking data theft.”

To continue reading: World’s Most Wanted Bank Whistleblower Was Just Arrested, for the Worst Possible Reason

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The Real Reason Why Stock Markets Will Continue To Crumble This Year, by Brandon Smith

Central banks, according to Brandon Smith, will continue to pull the plug on equity markets. From Smith at alt-market.com:

Public sentiment on the economy is generally influenced by to two false indicators — the national unemployment rate and stock markets. This is not to say the average person tracks either of these numbers very vigorously; they don’t. What they do is hear these numbers on the morning news, the radio news on their way to work (if they are employed) or they hear them on the evening news just before bed. If the jobless rate is low and the Dow is high, then all is right with the world, at least financially.

When it comes to the economy, most people are lost.

The average American, in particular, is not as oblivious to the world of political and social discourse as they are on economics. Whether on the left or the right of the political spectrum, most citizens know that lines are being drawn and ideological battles are accelerating into realms of the extreme.  Conservatives and the liberty activists that stand at the front line of the culture war understand quite well the threat of globalism and the “philosopher king” elitism of international financiers. They know that these criminals must eventually be dealt with if freedom and stability are to return to the world.

There is a rather common disinformation tactic used to manipulate people within conservative circles that has made a resurgence lately in the wake of the Trump election win. It is the idea that Americans within the “working class” aren’t interested in “high-minded” debates over philosophical conflicts, such as the conflicts between individualism versus collectivism and globalism. There is also the notion that “real” Americans could not care less about the elitist culprits behind the political theater of the false left/right paradigm.

This attitude is presented as a superior one. That is to say, disinformation agents play to people’s egos, suggesting that the working class should be focused on putting food on the table and money in their wallets and that the rest of this “intellectual nonsense” should be ignored as frivolous.

 

To continue reading: The Real Reason Why Stock Markets Will Continue To Crumble This Year

Morgan Stanley: “Soaring Libor Is The Story Of The Year, Not The Fed”, by Tyler Durden

Market interest rates lead, not follow, central banks. Right now, rising Libor rates are a concern. They could be signalling increased demand among banks for short-term funding, a shortage of dollars to lend, concerns about bank counterparty creditworthiness, or some combination of the above. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

We’ve been saying it for over a month: the most important, if widely underappreciated, factor for risk assets has been the surge in Libor and the blow out in the Libor-OIS spread, or short-term funding costs, which impacts everything from bank lending costs to the marginal cost of trillions in floating rate debt.

Yesterday, Citi’s Matt King confirmed as much in a lengthy note explaining why the blowing out Libor, and Libor-OIS spread, are sending increasingly ominous signals:

LIBOR is still the reference point for the majority of leveraged loans, interest-rate swaps and some mortgages. In addition to that direct effect, higher money market rates and weakness in risk assets are the two conditions most likely to contribute towards mutual fund outflows. If those in turn created a further sell-off in markets, the negative impact on the economy through wealth effects could be greater even than the direct effect from interest rates.

Now, another bank has joined the growing chorus of warnings over the soaring Libor and Libor-OIS.

Jonathan Garner, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Strategist for Asia and Emerging Markets , told Bloomberg that the rising Libor rates is a bigger concern right now than a more hawkish Federal Reserve, and in fact, is “the story of the year.”

As we have documented nearly daily, most recently yesterday, Libor has been rising since Feb. 7 for 31 consecutive sessions, reaching 2.2711% this morning, the highest since 2008. Meanwhile, its gap over risk-free rates, known as the Libor-OIS spread, has more than doubled since the end of January to 55.6 basis points, a level unseen since 2009.

“That’s a key reason why markets have struggled. The acceleration in the private borrowing market is the story of the year, not the Fed,” Garner told BloombergQuint in an interview.

To continue reading: Morgan Stanley: “Soaring Libor Is The Story Of The Year, Not The Fed”

The Fed Has Its Finger On The Button Of A Nuclear Debt Bomb, by Brandon Smith

Lower the price of something and people want more of it. The price of debt—interest rates—has been historically low for a long time, which has promoted debt saturation in every sector of the economy. Rising rates will wreak havoc. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

I hear a lot of talk lately in the alternative media (and even the mainstream media) of the potential for World War III. The general assumption when one hears that term is that “nuclear conflict” is imminent. But a world war does not necessarily have to be fought with nukes. For example, we are perhaps already witnessing the first shots fired in a global economic war as the Trump administration gets ready to implement far-reaching trade tariffs. This action might provide cover (or justification) for destructive attacks on the U.S. fiscal system by China, Japan, Russia, the EU, OPEC nations, etc. The ultimate attack being a dumping of their U.S. debt holdings and the death of the dollar’s world reserve status.

Of course, an economic “world war” between nations would in itself be a smokescreen for and an even more insidious internal war being waged against the global economy by central banks.

There is a longstanding misconception that central banks always manipulate economic conditions to make them appear “healthy” and that the main concern of central bankers is to “defend the golden goose.” This is false. According to the evidence at hand as well as open admissions by central bankers, these private institutions have throughout history also deliberately created financial crises and collapses.

The question I always get from people new to the field of alternative economics is — “Why would central bankers crash a system they benefit from?” This question is drawn from a flawed understanding of the situation.

First, there is the assumption that economic systems are static rather than fluid. In reality, vast sums of wealth can be transferred into and out of any notion on a whim and at the speed of light. The collapse of one economy or multiple economies does not necessarily include the destruction of banker wealth. Even if wealth was their top goal (which it is not), global banks and central banks do not see any particular economy as a “cash cow” or a “golden goose.” From their behavior and tactics in the past, it is more likely that they see national economies as mere storage containers.

Banks can pour their wealth, which they create from thin air, into one or more of these many available containers. They can circulate that wealth within the container for a time and then pour all their wealth out at a moment’s notice. One container is no more valuable to them than any other container, and sometimes sacrificing a container can be beneficial.

To continue reading: The Fed Has Its Finger On The Button Of A Nuclear Debt Bomb

Despite Years of ECB’s QE (Ending Soon), Italy’s “Doom Loop” Still Threatens Eurozone Financial System, by Don Quijones

Italian banks own large amounts of Italian government debt, which is supposedly riskless…until it isn’t. Southern European banks are still strong contenders to kick off the next financial crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The dreaded “Doom Loop” — when shaky banks hold too much shaky government debt, raising the fear of contagion across the financial system if one of them stumbles — is still very much alive in Italy despite Mario Draghi’s best efforts to transfer ownership of Italian debt from banks to the ECB, according to Eric Dor, the director of Economic Studies at IESEG School of Management, who has collated the full extent of individual bank exposures to Italian sovereign debt.

The doom loop is a particular problem in the Eurozone since a member state doesn’t control its own currency, and cannot print itself out of trouble, which leaves it exposed to credit risk.

The Bank of Italy, on behalf of the ECB, has bought up more than €350 billion of multiyear Treasury bonds (BTPs) in recent years. The scale of its holdings overtook those of Italian banks, which have been shedding BTPs since mid-2016, making the central bank the second-largest holder of Italian bonds after insurance companies, pension funds and other financials.

But Italian banks are still big owners of Italian debt. According to a study by the Bank for International Settlements, government debt represents nearly 20% of banks’ assets — one of the highest levels in the world. In total there are ten banks with Italian sovereign debt holdings that represent over 100% of their tier 1 capital (or CET1), according to Dor’s research. They include Italy’s two largest lenders, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, whose exposure to Italian government bonds represent the equivalent of 145% of their tier 1 capital. Also listed are Italy’s third largest bank, Banco BPM (327%), MPS (206%), BPER Banca (176%) and Banca Carige (151%).

$21 Trillion And Rising: How Central Banks Are LBOing The World In One Stunning Chart, by Tyler Durden

Six central banks balance sheets sum to more than 40 percent of global GDP. The world has gone far beyond the point where an additional currency unit of debt pays for itself with more than one currency unit of additional GDP. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Back in late 2016, we showed the unprecedented domination of capital markets by central banks using a chart from Citi, which had put together a fascinating slideshow asking simply “Where is the utility in marginal QE” and specifically pointing out that the longer unconventional monetary policy such as QE continues, the bigger its marginal cost, until eventually QE becomes a detriment.

A broad criticism of monetary policy, the presentation carried an amusing footnote: “This presentation does not change any of Citi’s existing, published views on the actual future path of monetary policy. It is merely intended as a contribution to the ongoing debate about the efficacy of available policy tools” –  after all, the last thing the market wanted is the realization that even banks no longer have faith in the central planners.

Incidentally, Citi’s broad critique of global QE took place when central banks owned just over $18 trillion in assets.

Fast forward to today when in its latest update of central bank holdings, Citi shows that as of this moment not only has the total increased by another $3 trillion to a grand total of $21 trillion and rising, but that the big six central banks now own over 40% of global GDP, more than double the 17% they held before the financial crisis less than a decade ago.

Which is remarkable in a world where there is still some confusion about what is behind the “global coordinated recovery”, and where there are deluded people who claim that central banks are now out of the picture.

To continue reading: $21 Trillion And Rising: How Central Banks Are LBOing The World In One Stunning Chart

Fed’s QE Unwind Marches Forward Relentlessly, by Wolf Richter

The Fed is doing exactly what it said it would. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

During the sell-off, it ignored the whiners on Wall Street.

The fifth month of the QE-Unwind came to a completion with the release this afternoon of the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ending February 28. The QE-Unwind is progressing like clockwork. Even during the sell-off in early February, the QE-Unwind never missed a beat.

During QE, the Fed acquired Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. During the QE-Unwind, the Fed is shedding those securities. According to its plan, announced last September, the Fed would reduce its holdings of Treasuries and MBS by no more than:

  • $10 billion a month in Q3 2017.
  • $20 billion a month in Q1 2018
  • $30 billion a month in Q2 2018
  • $40 billion a month in Q3 2018
  • $50 billion a month in Q4 2018 and continue at this pace.

This would shrink the balance of Treasuries and MBS by up to $420 billion in 2018, by up to an additional $600 billion in 2019 and every year going forward until the Fed decides that the balance sheet has been “normalized” enough — or until something big breaks.

For February, the plan called for shedding up to $20 billion in securities: $12 billion in Treasuries and $8 billion in MBS.

The easy part first: Treasury Securities

On its January 31 balance sheet, the Fed had $2,436 billion of Treasuries; on today’s balance sheet, $2,424 billion: a $12 billion drop for February. On target! In total, since the beginning of the QE Unwind, the balance of Treasuries has dropped by $42 billion, to hit the lowest level since August 6, 2014:

In the chart above, the stair-step down movement is a result of the mechanics with which the Fed sheds securities. It does not sell Treauries but allows them to “roll off” when they mature: mid-month and at the end of the month. On February 15, $16.6 billion in Treasuries on the Fed’s balance sheet matured; on February 28, $32.1 billion matured.

To continue reading: Fed’s QE Unwind Marches Forward Relentlessly