Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Economics 22/09/2009: Two further Nama points

Updated below:

Global Finance Magazine on the concept of ‘long-term economic value’ of distressed assets (here) and on effectiveness of bad assets purchasing schemes:

“Meanwhile, the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) into law in the United States failed to alleviate strains in the financial markets...

The TARP empowers the US Treasury to buy troubled assets at heavily discounted prices, well below their long-term economic value. “No one yet knows what price will be paid for the toxic paper, or what the default rates will be on the underlying mortgages,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics. “

Over time, people will realize that all the underlying mortgages are not defaulting, and panicky market conditions should abate, according to Weinberg. “We have seen this game before,” he says. “In the 1980s highly indebted economies like Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and Argentina bought back their own debt from panicked small banks at 20 cents on the dollar.”

20 cents on the Dollar, folks? Nama is buying defaulting developers loans (not sovereign bonds) at 79 cents of the Euro!!! I’d rather have Brazil’s and Argentina’s bonds, thank you very much.

Another interesting bit:

Robert Boyer’s paper “Assessing the impact of fair value upon financial crises” published in the Socio-Economic Review, 2007 deals with the expected effects of LTEV application to accounting standards, but the implications of this are pretty much the same for pricing (as in Nama). Boyer concludes that LTEV “gives at each instant a seemingly relevant liquidation value, but obscures the value creation process by mixing present profit with unrealized capital gains and losses. This discrepancy increases with an increased degree of uncertainty, which is at odds with widely held beliefs about the efficiency of existing financial markets. Fair value introduces an accounting accelerator on top of the already present and typical financial accelerator. …If fair value accounting is applied to banks, an extra volatility may be created...” What is this about? Three things, as far as Nama is concerned:
  1. LTEV will simply translate future value (capital gains) on assets underlying Nama-purchased loans into monetisable value as if all future price appreciation expected under LTEV can be captured in full. This, of course is a matter of timing (knowing when to sell) and efficiency of sales (having zero cost of selling and no impact on selling price of the volumes of sales that Nama will have to undertake);
  2. LTEV neglects to price in the effect of large asset holdings off the market (Nama holding vast portfolio of property-backed loans off the property market), which is likely to depress property prices over the life-time of Nama itself. The end result here – a gross overestimate of future expected prices.
  3. As the two points above coincide in timing, they act to reinforce each other – an accounting accelerator occurs.
Who says you overpay only once?

Here is the rate at which the Government can currently borrow on a 6-months basis:
Let me explain:
  • we can borrow in the form of ordinary bonds at 0.481% for 6 months period. These are convertible at repo window of ECB at a discount of 12% on face value and 1% interest rate. Total cost of injecting €1 into bank balance sheet is, thus, 15.2 cents; or
  • we can issue Nama bonds at 1.5% with 5% in subordinated bonds, with banks taking these to the ECB repo window at 12% and 16% discounts respectively, borrowing at 1% against both. Total cost of injecting €1 into bank balance sheet is, thus, 16.4-18.1 cents depending on how ECB risk-weights subordinated bonds.
Cheap money in the Frank Fahey World of Stupid Economics?
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