“A relatively low-profile entity in Austria – Pfandbriefbank Oesterreich AG (Pfandbriefbank) – is becoming the next critical chapter in the Austrian banking system story.” – Daiwa
When it comes to the sweeping of (trillions of) toxic assets until such time as the ECB starts purchasing not only government bonds but equities, bank loans and really anything else that in a normal world would have some “mark to market” value, Europe had a ready answer: bad banks. A tradition which started with Switzerland and the semi-bailout of UBS during the great financial crisis, “bad banks” have been proposed every time there are a few hundred billion in bad assets that need to be swept away or otherwise removed from the the public eye.
With oil prices plunging to 5-year lows, perhaps it is time to consider the cheapness of betting on the other oil black swan…
Via BofA’s Jake Greenberg,
In my base case, I remain structurally bearish oil. The world is making huge productivity and efficiency gains (lighter vehicles, new technology, etc.), and we are starting to see real substitution (e.g. to LNG and CNG). On the supply side, oil is not resource constrained (i.e. at the right price, you get more shale coming to market + Libya + KRG + North Sea’s Buzzard + Arctic, etc) and OPEC is a dysfunctional oligopoly. Francisco Blanch thinks we could see Brent drop below $60/bbl in the next six months.
Interestingly, lower oil prices may not incentive increased demand as both China and India are taking advantage of the drop to raise taxes on fuel consumption. Lower crude prices are not being passed on to the end consumers in the markets that matter most for demand growth. See the WSJ here: India raises taxes on fuels. And the Australian here: China lifts fuel tax
Oil’s black swan…
That said, if oil prices go “too low”, there are some very powerful State actors who could become incentivized to precipitate a geopolitical crisis in order to get oil prices back up. E.g. a Saudi Arabian spring, or an attack on a major pipeline? The ISIS-sponsored attack in November in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Al Ahsa region did not get a lot of air time, but this is definitely an article worth reading…again from the WSJ: ISIS urging attacks on Saudi
Nassim Taleb sits down for a quite extensive interview based around his new book Anti-Fragile. Whether the Black Swan best-seller is philosopher or trader is up to you but the discussion is worth the time as Taleb wonders rigorously from the basic tenets of capitalism – “being more about disincentives that incentives” as failure (he believes) is critical to its success (and is clearly not allowed in our current environment) – to his intellectual influences (and total disdain for the likes of Krugman, Stiglitz, and Friedman – who all espouse grandiose and verbose work with no accountability whatsoever). His fears of large centralized states (such as the US is becoming and Europe is become) being prone to fail along with his libertarianism make for good viewing. However, his fundamental premise that TBTF banks should be nationalized and the critical importance of ‘skin in the game’ for a functioning financial system are all so crucial for the current ‘do no harm’ regime in which we live. Grab a beer (or glass of wine, it is Taleb) and watch…
Via Redmond Weissenberger of the Ludwig von Mises Institute Of Canada,
A must see interview with Nassim Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a former trader and hedge fund manager, a best-selling author, and a ground-breaking theorist on risk and resilience.
Taleb drew wide attention after the 2007 publication of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, which warned that our institutions and risk models aren’t designed to account for rare and catastrophic events. Among other things, the book cautioned that oversized and unaccountable banks using flawed investment models could bring on a financial crisis. He also warned that the government-sanctioned housing finance agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were sitting on a “barrel of dynamite.”
One year after The Black Swan was published, a global banking crisis was brought on by the very factors he identified.
Last week we wrote an article that to many was anathema: namely an explanation why everyone is deluding themselves in their expectation that the PBOC would ease, soft, hard, or just right landing notwithstanding. The reason? The threat that food inflation is about to read its ugly head which is “Why The Fate Of The Global Equity Rally May Rest In The Hands Of Soybeans.” This was merely a continuation of our observations from a month ago that as a result of the Black Swan being “deep fried” in 2012, that the threat of food inflation will keep key BRIC central banks in check for a long time. As of today the threat has become fact, because as China Daily reports “China will release corn and rice from state reserves to help tame inflation and reduce imports as the worst US drought in half a century pushes corn prices to global records, creating fears of a world food crisis…The release may prompt Chinese importers to cancel shipments in the near term and take some pressure off international corn prices, which set a new all-time high on Friday as the US government slashed its estimate of the size of the crop in the world’s top grain exporter.” Sure, as every other short-termist measure the world over, it may help with prices in the short-term, but will merely expose China, and thus everyone, to the threat of a much greater price spike in the future. Because just as the strategic petroleum reserve release did nothing to help gas prices, nor the short selling ban in the US and Europe did anything to help the underlying broken financial system, so this will merely force the local population to scramble and ration whatever food they can get asap, now that the government has admitted there is, indeed, a food inflationary problem.
Bottom line – rationing is in full force, and given the continually declining state of the US corn crop, more will be needed,” said Christopher Narayanan, head of agricultural commodities research at Societe Generale.
There’s nothing controversial about the claim— reported on by Slate, Bloomberg and Harvard Magazine — that in the last 20 years Wall Street has moved away from an investment-led model, to a gambling-led model.
As Nassim Taleb described in The Black Swanthese kinds of trades — betting large amounts for small frequent profits — is extremely fragile because eventually (and probably sooner in the real world than in a model) losses will happen (and of course if you are betting big, losses will be big). If you are running your business on the basis of leverage, this is especially dangerous, because facing a margin call or a downgrade you may be left in a fire sale to raise collateral.
While he does have some new philosophy (at X% off MSRP of course, coming to a Kindle near you) to preach, Nassim Taleb’s re-emergence from the darkness of the media spotlight starts with a bang: “I realized that something wrong is going on, and only one candidate ‘Ron Paul’ seems to have grasped the issues and is offering the right remedies“. He was given quite a lengthy period to proselytize as he outlines the Big Four problems he sees with the USA (and for that matter the world): Deficits (metastatic governments), The Fed, Militarism, and non-Bailouts (what is fragile should break early). As Ron Paul notes, “It’s an illusion that the USD can bailout the world”, Taleb makes many interesting, though a little murmur-some for our liking, points like “you don’t gamble with hyperinflation” and his comparison between the US and the Soviet Union will surely raise some headlines as he rants of the growing divide between public and private employees standards of living, our “need to do something drastic about it” and on Obama/Government and deficit reduction that “the whole thing is rotten“.
For the American economy – and for many other developed economies – the elephant in the room is the amount of money paid to bankers over the last five years. In the United States, the sum stands at an astounding $2.2 trillion.
Extrapolating over the coming decade, the numbers would approach $5 trillion, an amount vastly larger than what both President Barack Obama’s administration and his Republican opponents seem willing to cut from further government deficits.
That $5 trillion dollars is not money invested in building roads, schools, and other long-term projects, but is directly transferred from the American economy to the personal accounts of bank executives and employees.
Such transfers represent as cunning a tax on everyone else as one can imagine. It feels quite iniquitous that bankers, having helped cause today’s financial and economic troubles, are the only class that is not suffering from them – and in many cases are actually benefiting.
When asked about the gold market Rick Rule had this to say, “There’s a sense that in addition to the fact that there’s this general and broad debasement of currencies and incipient inflation in the developed countries, that there is also the possibility or perhaps even the probability of some type of black swan event which will provide major upside impetus to gold.”
With silver at multi-decade highs and gold approaching $1,400, King World News interviewed one of the most street-smart professionals in the resource sector Rick Rule of Global Resource, now part of the $8 billion Sprott Asset Management. When asked about silver specifically Rick remarked, “Everywhere you look, in particular physical coin sales are booming. And with increasing amounts of silver already owned by the silver etf’s and things like the Sprott Physical Silver Trust, coming by silver strip to fabricate coins is going to become increasingly difficult.”
Full article here: King World News