Tag Archives: derivatives

Will “Goldman Penis Envy” Crash the Economy Again? by Matt Taibbi and Eric Salzman

There’s more to running a successful investment bank than borrowing a lot of money and putting it to speculative use. From Matt Tiabbi and Eric Salzman at taibbi.substack.com:

Nearly fifteen years ago, on December 10, 2006, the CEO of Senderra, a subprime mortgage lender owned by Goldman, Sachs, sent grim news to its parent company. “Credit quality has risen to become the major crisis in the non-prime industry,” Senderra CEO Brad Bradley wrote, adding that “we are seeing unprecedented defaults and fraud in the market.”

Within four days, senior executives at Goldman decided to “get closer to home” by unloading risky mortgage instruments. They didn’t alert regulators, of course, but did save their own hides, with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein soon after ordering subordinates to sell off the ugly “cats and dogs” in their mortgage portfolio.

Around the same time that Goldman was having its come-to-Jesus moment, the heads of rival Lehman Brothers were going the other way. In one meeting, the bank’s head of fixed income, Mike Gelband, pounded a table, telling the firm’s infamous Vaderqsque CEO Richard “Dick” Fuld and hatchetman-president Joe Gregory there was a $15-18 trillion time bomb of lethal leverage hanging over the markets. Once it blew, it would be the “grandaddy of credit crunches,” and Lehman would be toast.

Fuld and Gregory scoffed. They didn’t understand mortgage deals well and thought Gelband lacked nerve. “Be creative,” they told him, adding, “What are you afraid of?”

“We called it ‘Goldman Penis Envy,’” says Lawrence McDonald, former Lehman trader and author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. In telling the Gelband story, he explains that Fuld and Gregory were so desperate to beat out Goldman and become the richest men on Wall Street, they chased every bad deal at the peak of the speculative bubble.

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The $2.3 Quadrillion Global Timebomb, by Egon von Greyerz

It’s a question of when, not if, the timebomb explodes. From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:

Credit Suisse is hours from collapse and the consequences could be a systemic failure of the financial system.

Disappointingly, my dream last night stopped there. So unfortunately I didn’t experience what actually happened.

As I warned in last week’s article on Archegos and Credit Suisse, investment banks have created a timebomb with the $1.5 quadrillion derivatives monster.

A few years ago, the BIS (Bank of International Settlement) in Basel reduced the $1.5 quadrillion to $600 trillion with a pen stroke. But the real gross figure was still $1.5q at the time. According to my sources, the real figure today is probably over $2 quadrillion.

A major part of the outstanding derivatives are OTC (over the counter) and hidden in off balance sheet special purpose vehicles.

LEVERAGED ASSETS JUST GO UP IN SMOKE

The $30 billion in Archegos derivatives that went up in smoke over a weekend is just the tip of the iceberg. The hedge fund Archegos lost everything and the normal uber-leveraged players Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Nomura etc lost at least $30 billion.

These investment banks are making casino bets that they can’t afford to lose. What their boards and top management don’t realise or understand is that the traders, supported by easily manipulated risk managers, are betting the bank on a daily basis.

Most of these ludicrously high bets are in the derivatives market. The management doesn’t understand how they work or what the risks are and the account managers and traders can bet billions on a daily basis with no skin in the game but massive potential upside if nothing goes wrong.

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Here’s Why the Fed Hasn’t Yet Invoked Its 13(3) Emergency Powers to Stem a Stock Market Crash, by Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Whatever happened to the Fed put? From Pam Martens and Russ Martens at wallstreetonparade.com:

Stock Price Chart of Citigroup Versus Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley Since February 14, 2020

Stock Price Chart of Citigroup Versus Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley Since February 14, 2020

The U.S. stock market set new records yesterday – all of them bad. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst point loss in history, closing down 2,997 points at 20,188.52, which effectively erases all of its gains in the last three years. On January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump was sworn in as President, the Dow closed at 19,827. It’s now grown by just 1.8 percent in total over that span of time.

The Dow also had its second worst percentage loss in history yesterday, losing 12.93 percent. That loss is only exceeded by Black Monday, October 19, 1987, when the Dow lost 22.6 percent. It barely beats out October 28, 1929 when the Dow lost 12.8 percent and ushered in what would become the worst stock market crash in history. From late 1929 to 1933 the stock market would go on to lose 90 percent of its value and not reset the highs it had made in 1929 until 25 years later.

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Financial N-option will settle Trump’s oil war, by Pepe Escobar

If you want to take down the west, take down the derivatives market. At some number bigger than $1 quadrillion (one thousand trillions), it’s a sitting duck. From Pepe Escobar at thesaker.is:

On foreign soil, as a guest nation, US has assassinated a diplomatic envoy whose mission the US had requested

The bombshell facts were delivered by caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, during an extraordinary, historic parliamentary session in Baghdad on Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani had flown into Baghdad on a normal carrier flight, carrying a diplomatic passport. He had been sent by Tehran to deliver, in person, a reply to a message from Riyadh on de-escalation across the Middle East. Those negotiations had been requested by the Trump administration.

So Baghdad was officially mediating between Tehran and Riyadh, at the behest of Trump. And Soleimani was a messenger. Adil Abdul-Mahdi was supposed to meet Soleimani at 8:30 am, Baghdad time, last Friday. But a few hours before the appointed time, Soleimani died as the object of a targeted assassination at Baghdad airport.

Let that sink in – for the annals of 21st century diplomacy. Once again: it does not matter whether the assassination order was issued by President Trump, the US Deep State or the usual suspects – or  when. After all, the Pentagon had Soleimani on its sights for a long time, but always refused to go for the final hit, fearing devastating consequences.

Now, the fact is that the United States government – on foreign soil, as a guest nation – has assassinated a diplomatic envoy who was on an official mission that had been requested by the United States government itself.

Baghdad will formally denounce this behavior to the United Nations. However, it would be idle to expect UN outrage about the US killing of a diplomatic envoy. International law was dead even before 2003’s Shock and Awe.

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A Bank With 49 Trillion Dollars In Exposure To Derivatives Is Melting Down Right In Front Of Our Eyes, by Michael Snyder

Deutsche Bank’s derivatives have been worrisome since at least the last financial crisis, and may be the cause of the next one. From Michael Snyder at theeconomiccollapseblog.com:

Could it be possible that we are on the verge of the next “Lehman Brothers moment”?  Deutsche Bank is the most important bank in all of Europe, it has 49 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives, and most of the largest “too big to fail banks” in the United States have very deep financial connections to the bank.  In other words, the global financial system simply cannot afford for Deutsche Bank to fail, and right now it is literally melting down right in front of our eyes.  For years I have been warning that this day would come, and even though it has been hit by scandal after scandal, somehow Deutsche Bank was able to survive until now.  But after what we have witnessed in recent days, many now believe that the end is near for Deutsche Bank.  On July 7th, they really shook up investors all over the globe when they laid off 18,000 employees and announced that they would be completely exiting their global equities trading business

It takes a lot to rattle Wall Street.

But Deutsche Bank managed to. The beleaguered German giant announced on July 7 that it is laying off 18,000 employees—roughly one-fifth of its global workforce—and pursuing a vast restructuring plan that most notably includes shutting down its global equities trading business.

Though Deutsche’s Bloody Sunday seemed to come out of the blue, it’s actually the culmination of a years-long—some would say decades-long—descent into unprofitability and scandal for the bank, which in the early 1990s set out to make itself into a universal banking powerhouse to rival the behemoths of Wall Street.

These moves may delay Deutsche Bank’s inexorable march into oblivion, but not by much.

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Iran goes for “maximum counter-pressure”, by Pepe Escobar

The second order effect of shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would be to collapse huge derivatives market. From Pepe Escobar at strategic-culture.org:

Sooner or later the US “maximum pressure” on Iran would inevitably be met by “maximum counter-pressure”. Sparks are ominously bound to fly.

For the past few days, intelligence circles across Eurasia had been prodding Tehran to consider a quite straightforward scenario. There would be no need to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if Quds Force commander, General Qasem Soleimani, the ultimate Pentagon bête noire, explained in detail, on global media, that Washington simply does not have the military capacity to keep the Strait open.

As I previously reported, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz

would destroy the American economy by detonating the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.

Soleimani should also state bluntly that Iran may in fact shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the nation is prevented from exporting essential two million barrels of oil a day, mostly to Asia. Exports, which before illegal US sanctions and de facto blockade would normally reach 2.5 million barrels a day, now may be down to only 400,000.

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Financial Weapons Of Mass Destruction: The Top 25 U.S. Banks Have 222 Trillion Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives, by Michael Snyder

It is, as SLL has pointed out, somewhat misleading to list a financial institution’s gross exposure to derivatives without netting out offsetting positions (a long and a short of the same instrument). However, if case of systemic failure, if counterparties are unable to meet their commitments, net exposures can quickly become gross exposures. So read about banks’ gross exposures with a grain of salt, but realize the numbers are not completely irrelevant, especially in a financial crisis. From Michael Snyder at theeconomicollapseblog.com:

The recklessness of the “too big to fail” banks almost doomed them the last time around, but apparently they still haven’t learned from their past mistakes.  Today, the top 25 U.S. banks have 222 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.  In other words, the exposure that these banks have to derivatives contracts is approximately equivalent to the gross domestic product of the United States times twelve.  As long as stock prices continue to rise and the U.S. economy stays fairly stable, these extremely risky financial weapons of mass destruction will probably not take down our entire financial system.  But someday another major crisis will inevitably happen, and when that day arrives the devastation that these financial instruments will cause will be absolutely unprecedented.

During the great financial crisis of 2008, derivatives played a starring role, and U.S. taxpayers were forced to step in and bail out companies such as AIG that were on the verge of collapse because the risks that they took were just too great.

But now it is happening again, and nobody is really talking very much about it.  In a desperate search for higher profits, all of the “too big to fail” banks are gambling like crazy, and at some point a lot of these bets are going to go really bad.  The following numbers regarding exposure to derivatives contracts come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2), and as you can see the level of recklessness that we are currently witnessing is more than just a little bit alarming…

Citigroup

Total Assets: $1,792,077,000,000 (slightly less than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $47,092,584,000,000 (more than 47 trillion dollars)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,490,972,000,000 (just under 2.5 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $46,992,293,000,000 (nearly 47 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $860,185,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,227,878,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,189,266,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $33,132,582,000,000 (more than 33 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $814,949,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $28,569,553,000,000 (more than 28 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,930,115,000,000 (more than 1.9 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $7,098,952,000,000 (more than 7 trillion dollars)

Collectively, the top 25 banks have a total of 222 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

To continue reading: Financial Weapons Of Mass Destruction: The Top 25 U.S. Banks Have 222 Trillion Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

$500 Trillion in Derivatives “Remain an Important Asset Class”: Hilariously, the New York Fed, by Wolf Richter

The “good” news  is that the world doesn’t have quite as many financial derivatives as it did in 2013. The bad news is what it has is still seven times global GDP. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Oh, and the unintended consequences of trying to regulate a monster.

Economists at the New York Fed included this gem in their report on a two-day conference on “Derivatives and Regulatory Changes” since the Financial Crisis:

Though the notional amount [of derivatives] outstanding has declined in recent years, at more than $500 trillion outstanding, OTC derivatives remain an important asset class.

An important asset class. A hilarious understatement. Let’s see… the “notional amount” of $500 trillion is 25 times the GDP of the US and about 7 times global GDP. Derivatives are not just an “important asset class,” like bonds; they’re the largest “financial weapons of mass destruction,” as Warren Buffett called them in 2003.

Derivatives are used for hedging economic risks. And they’re used as “speculative directional exposures” – very risky one-sided bets. It’s all tied together in an immense and opaque market interwoven with the banks. The New York Fed:

The 2007-09 financial crisis highlighted weaknesses in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets and the increased risk of contagion due to the interconnectedness of market participants in these markets.

This chart from the New York Fed shows how derivatives ballooned 150% – or by $360 trillion – in less than four years before the Financial Crisis. They ticked down during the Financial Crisis, then rose again during the Fed’s QE to peak at $700 trillion. After the end of QE, they declined, but recently ticked up again to $500 trillion. I added in red the Warren Buffett moment:

The vast majority of the derivatives are interest rate and credit contracts (dark blue). Banks specialize in that. For example, according to the OCC’s Q4 2016 Report on Derivatives, JPMorgan Chase holds $47.5 trillion of derivatives at notional value and Citibank $43.9 trillion. The top 25 US banks hold $164.7 trillion, or 8.5 times US GDP. So even a minor squiggle could trigger some serious heartburn.

To continue reading: $500 Trillion in Derivatives “Remain an Important Asset Class”: Hilariously, the New York Fed

Donald Trump Has a Goldman Sachs Problem: Derivatives, by Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Because SLL remembers the last financial crisis, SLL harps on debt and derivatives, which tend to be ignored until they can be no longer. That the world’s toxic combination of debt and derivatives will eventually blow up in a crisis worse than the last crisis is a lead-pipe cinch. From PamMartens and Russ Martens at wallstreetonparade.com:

n the midst of being skewered across media outlets yesterday for his chaotic rollout of an Executive Order that appeared to target Muslims, including those legally living in the U.S. as businessmen, doctors, university faculty and students — who were initially denied reentry after travel abroad — President Donald Trump tried desperately to change the subject. Following a plunge of over 200 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday, Trump pivoted to something he thought would please his financial backers on Wall Street. He called the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 by the Obama administration a “disaster” and promised to “do a big number” on it soon. The Dow closed down 122 points — now wary of Trump’s fire-ready-aim leadership on complex matters.

The legitimate fear across Wall Street right now is that Trump’s zero-vetting approach to rule-by-Executive-Order could leave Wall Street in the same chaotic state as the airports experienced from his ham-fisted approach to immigration.

But it’s not just Trump that Wall Street needs to fear: it’s Goldman Sachs as well. Trump has stuffed his administration with so many Goldman Sachs progeny that his administration is now regularly referred to as Government Sachs.

Goldman Sachs has a unique vested interest in repealing chunks of Dodd-Frank while making sure that the Glass-Steagall Act is not reinstated. That’s because when it comes to derivatives, Goldman Sachs is keeping a lot of secrets.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is the regulator of national banks. Each quarter it publishes a report on the derivative holdings of the biggest Wall Street banks and their holding companies. Its most recent report shows that as of September 30, 2016 Goldman Sachs Bank USA (a taxpayer-backstopped, FDIC insured bank where it holds its derivatives) had “credit exposure to risk-based capital” of 433 percent. That figure was more than double that of JPMorgan Chase (216 percent) and six times that of Bank of America (68 percent).

To continue reading: Donald Trump Has a Goldman Sachs Problem: Derivatives

Now it Begins to Unravel, by Wolf Richter

If you borrow $10 dollars to generate $8 dollars worth of GDP, you’re going backwards and the game will eventually end.  From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

The Credit Bubble Peak was Marked by “Totally Crazy Lending.”

Debt is good. More debt is better. Funding consumer spending with debt is even better – that’s what economists have been preaching – because the consumed goods and services are gone after having been added to GDP, while the debt, which GDP ignores, remains until it is paid off with future earnings, or until it blows up.

Corporations too have gone on a borrowing binge. Unlike consumers, they have no intention of paying off their debts. They issue new debt and use the proceeds to pay off maturing debts. Funding share-buybacks and dividends with debt is ideal. It’s called “unlocking value.”

Debt must always grow. For that purpose, the Fed has manipulated interest rates to rock bottom. Actually paying off and reducing debt has the dreadful moniker, bandied about during the Financial Crisis, “deleveraging.” It’s synonymous with “The End of the World.”

At the institutional level, “debt” is replaced with more politically correct “leverage.” More leverage is better. Particularly if you can borrow short-term at near zero cost and bet the proceeds on risky illiquid long-term assets, such as real estate, or on securities that become illiquid without notice.

Derivatives are part of this institutional equation. The notional value of derivatives in the US banking system is $190 trillion, according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Four banks hold over 90% of them: JP Morgan ($53 trillion), Citibank ($52 trillion), Goldman ($44 trillion), and Bank of America ($26 trillion).

Over 75% of those derivative contracts are interest rate products, such as swaps. With them, heavily leveraged institutional investors that borrow short-term to invest in illiquid long-term assets hedge against interest rate movements. But Treasury yields and mortgage rates have moved violently in recent weeks, and someone is out some big money.

These credit bubbles always unravel to the greatest surprise of those institutions and their economists. When they unravel, the above “End-of-the-World” scenario of orderly deleveraging turns into forced deleveraging, which can get messy. Assets that had previously been taken for granted are either repriced or just evaporate. But they’d been pledged as collateral. Suddenly, the collateral no longer exists….

On the way up, lots of money can be made on this debt, in myriad ways, including in interest and fees extracted from consumers directly, and in fees extracted by Wall Street, for example in repackaging risky consumer or corporate debt into highly rated asset-backed securities that are then spread to institutional investors who use proceeds from leverage to acquire them. But no problem; it’s just OPM (other people’s money).

Then there’s the peak. It’s marked by “totally crazy lending.” We’ve seen that peak. One sign: white-hot online peer-to-peer lenders, or rather “platforms” for risky consumer loans. They’re Silicon Valley inventions that were going to revolutionize lending and put banks out of business. They proudly operate with disregard for risks. They borrow from individual and institutional investors and extend unsecured personal loans to consumers. They also repackage consumer loans into bonds and sell them to over-eager institutional investors.

To continue reading: Now it Begins to Unravel