Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Economics 30/09/2009: Global Financial Stability Report

Update: There is an interesting note in one of today's stockbrokers' reports: "AIB is to review its selection process for a successor to Eugene Sheehy, according to reports this morning. The Government will not endorse an internal candidate based on renewed signals according to the article. Separately, Minister Brian Lenihan said it was "inevitable" that further public capital will be required by the country's banks after the NAMA transfers."

Two points:
  1. If Government is so aggressive in staking its control over AIB's selection of a CEO, why can't the same Government commit to firing the entire boards upon initiation of Nama? Governments change overnight, so why banks' boards are so different?
  2. I must confess, I like Minister Lenihan's belated (this blog and other analysts have said months ago that there will be second round demand for funding post-Nama due to RWA changes triggered by Nama, and then due to second wave of defaults within mortgage and corporate loans portfolia) recognition of a simple financial / accounting reality. Strangely enough, the brokers themselves never factored this eventuality in their projections of Nama effect on banks balance sheets.
Oh, another little point: Minister Lenihan was last night explaining on RTE that BofI and IAB both raised circa Euro1bn bonds each with the issues oversubscribed by a healthy margin and that these were 3-3.5 year bonds. we should be impressed, then? Au contraire: those foreign investors (in the case of BofI 92% of the bond issue gone to foreign institutionals and banks) are making a rational bet that Ireland will continue to guarantee depositors through 2014 if not even longer, and that the Exchequer will rather destroy the households than see banks go under. In other words, the markets priced Irish banks now as being effectively fully guaranteed by the state - bondholders, shareholders, unsecured debt holders, furniture and office suppliers, staff - you name a counterparty working with Irish banking sector... they are all now implicitly guaranteed by you, me, ordinary taxpayers in Tallaght and elsewhere across the nation. Some success, then.

News: IMF's Global Financial Stability Report Chapter 1 is out today. This is the main section of the report and it focuses on two themes:
  1. Continuation of the crisis in financial markets - the next wave of (shallower, but nonetheless present) risks to credit supply in globally over-stretched lending institutions; and
  2. Future exist strategies from the virtually self-sustaining cycle of new debt issuance by the sovereigns that goes on to mop up scarce liquidity in the private sector, thus triggering a new round of debt issuance by the sovereigns (irony has it, I wrote about the threat of this merry-go-round link between public finances and private credit supply back in my days at NCB - in August 2008).
The report is a good read, even though it is a voluminous exercise - check it out on IMF's main website (at this hour I am still working with press access copy).

Ireland-specific stuff:
Nice chart above - Ireland was pretty heavy into ECB cash window back in 2007, but by 2009 we became number one junkies of cheap funding. Like an addict hanging about the corner shop in hope of a fix, our banks are now borrowing a whooping 7% of their total loans volumes through ECB. This is a sign of balance sheet weakness, but it is also a sign that the banks are doing virtually nothing to aggressively repair their balance sheets themselves. Why? Because Nama looms as a large rescue exercise on the horizon.
But, denial of a problem is not a new trait. Per chart above, through 2006, Irish banks were third from the bottom in providing for bad loans despite a massive rate of expansion in lending and concentration of this lending in few high risk areas (buy-to-rent UK markets, speculative land markets in Ireland, UK and US and so on). Now, taking the path the Eurozone average has taken since then, adjusting for the decline in underlying property markets in Ireland relative to the Eurozone, and for the shortfall on provisions prior to 2007, just to match current risk-pricing in the Eurozone banks, Irish banks would have to hike their bad loans provisions to 3-3.75%. And this is before we factor in the extremely high degree of loans concentrations in property markets in Ireland. Again, why are we not seeing such dramatic increases? One word: Nama.
Lastly, table above shows the spreads on bonds in the US and Eurozone. Two note worthy features here:
  1. The rates of decline in all grades of bonds and across sovereign and corporate bonds shows that they are comparable to those experienced by Ireland. This debunks the myth that Irish bonds pricing improved on the back of something that Irish Government has done ('correcting' deficit or 'setting a right policy' for our economy). Instead, Irish bond prices moved in-line with global trends, being driven by improved appetite for risk in financial markets and not by our leaders' policies;
  2. Current spreads on Irish bonds over German bunds suggest market pricing of Irish sovereign bonds that is comparable to US and European corporates. In effect, Ireland Inc is not being afforded by the markets the same level of credibility as our major European counterparts. One wonders why...
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