Archive for the ‘Bloomberg’ Category
The Fed allegedly released the data that was the center of a long FOIA lawsuit fight yesterday. I could easily make the argument that they did so in a fashion that was intended to frustrate a rational examination by handing everything over in PDFs without an index or in any sort of machine-digestible form. There were also quite a few things missing that I would have expected to see included.
What became immediately clear with the data release was why The Fed didn’t want this out.
What you’re getting here is my “first look” – a look that should be much more detailed but isn’t, simply because of the intentional attempt to keep people from easily analyzing the material. More analysis will come over time, and many are looking at the information and trying to import it into something that is easily manipulated and examined (such as Excel); for now, this will have to do.
There was an awful lot of hand-waving by various large banks, if you remember, that they didn’t “need” any of these programs. And yet we find a curious mixture of large banks that actually did use these programs, including JP Morgan’s over-representation in the ABCP program itself. For firms that claimed, in public, that they needed no help, this is rather curious is it not?
Then there’s Goldman Sachs, which claimed under oath to the FCIC that:
“we used it one night at the request of the Fed to make sure our systems were linked with their systems, and it was for a de minimis amount of money.” Peter J. Wallison, a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, then asked, “you never had to use it after that?”
“No, and as I said, we used it on the Fed’s request,” Cohn replied.
The data says otherwise – Goldman in fact hit the window five times, not once. Isn’t it a crime to make a false statement under oath?
Was the amount borrowed in this case large? No. But that wasn’t the question – it was very specific in that Goldman stated they only hit the window once – period. Again, the data says otherwise.
Dexia, a large conglomerate and foreign entity, hit the window several times. We’ve known that our Federal Reserve propped up foreign companies. Now we have the amounts of that “propping up”, and they’re popping – eye-popping, that is.
There are other deeply troubling facts in this release. Among them are the fact that The Fed apparently accepted more than $100 billion in defaulted bonds and stocks as “collateral.”
Common stocks? Yeah. Where’s that permitted in The Fed’s charter? Well, that’s open to some question. So is accepting defaulted debt. The black-letter of the law requires that all lending be “fully collateralized.” But it appears that the “fourth mandate” – the one The Fed arrogated to itself, that is, to make the stock market go up, despite having zero legal authority to do so - may have come directly and indirectly from this set of decisions.
The problem with this set of “decisions” is that we have zero transparency on the actual haircuts given, other than the generic data we got before. Knowing now that defaulted debt and common equities were part of the mix, it’s rather clear that The Fed was breaking the law which requires that sufficient overcollateralization exist for all loans made by The Fed such that every loan remains fully secured in every case.
That, in turn, means that The Fed was in fact taking market risk in its lending, and that is, as a matter of black-letter law, a prohibited act.
The Fed is prohibited by law from taking market risk because it is able to take actions, without any review and few legal constraints, that can cause the price of assets to rise or fall pretty much at will. It thus has the ability to do that which others cannot without going to prison – manipulate the markets. By doing so The Fed would be put in the position of not only choosing winners and losers, but conspiring with others to provide them with unearned gains not as a consequence of their decisions but rather as a consequence of inside dealing and privileged information. This is unlawful for private industry and individuals to engage in, but it is inherently part of monetary policy.
The Fed as a matter of charter has no mandate nor authority to intervene in the price of equities. Yet Bernanke has made clear that one goal of his policies over the last three years has been to make the price of stocks go up. Now we know where the motivation originally came from to do that – The Fed was, at the time, holding “collateral” that was subject to stock market risk.
These actions were an unprecedented usurpation of authority by what is supposed to be a strictly-limited monetary body. You can argue the purity of motive all you want, but the fact remains that there is nothing in The Fed’s charter that permits them to lend against anything other than fully-secured collateral.
At the time Section 13.3 read:
In unusual and exigent circumstances, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, by the affirmative vote of not less than five members, may authorize any Federal reserve bank, during such periods as the said board may determine, at rates established in accordance with the provisions of section 14, subdivision (d), of this Act, to discount for any individual, partnership, or corporation, notes, drafts, and bills of exchange when such notes, drafts, and bills of exchange are indorsed or otherwise secured to the satisfaction of the Federal Reserve bank: Provided, That before discounting any such note, draft, or bill of exchange for an individual, partnership, or corporation the Federal reserve bank shall obtain evidence that such individual, partnership, or corporation is unable to secure adequate credit accommodations from other banking institutions. All such discounts for individuals, partnerships, or corporations shall be subject to such limitations, restrictions, and regulations as the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System may prescribe.
Common stocks and defaulted bonds are not, by any reasonable definition, secured collateral.
I’ll likely have more on this as I explore further, but this much is clear: The Fed radically stretched the law in terms of what it is permitted to do, and there’s a pretty clear argument that some of these programs, particularly those where collateral included equities and defaulted bonds, exceeded that lawful authority.
In addition a response to an FOIA request is supposed to include everything that is responsive. How this could be considered sufficient is beyond me – as just one example there’s no specific identification of what the collateral was or how it was valued for these various loans, leading one to believe that either (1) The Fed intentionally did not disclose everything called for by the Court or (2) they literally did not know what stocks made up “Common Stocks” and what bonds made up “Defaulted Bonds.”
If the believe the latter I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn at a very-attractive price.
Chalk up another victory for Bloomberg in its ongoing legal battles with the Fed over Freedom of Information.
Please consider Federal Reserve Must Disclose Bank Bailout Records.
The Federal Reserve Board must disclose documents identifying financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest U.S. government bailout ever, a federal appeals court said.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched primarily after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The ruling upholds a decision of a lower-court judge, who in August ordered that the information be released.
The Fed had argued that disclosure of the documents threatens to stigmatize borrowers and cause them “severe and irreparable competitive injury,” discouraging banks in distress from seeking help. A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected that argument in a unanimous decision.
The U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, “sets forth no basis for the exemption the Board asks us to read into it,” U.S. Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote in the opinion. “If the Board believes such an exemption would better serve the national interest, it should ask Congress to amend the statute.”
In its opinion today, the appeals court said that the exception applies only if the agency can satisfy a three-part test. The information must be a trade secret or commercial or financial in character; must be obtained from a person; and must be privileged or confidential, according to the opinion.
The court said that the information sought by Bloomberg was not “obtained from” the borrowing banks. It rejected an alternative argument the individual Federal Reserve Banks are “persons,” for purposes of the law because they would not suffer the kind of harm required under the “privileged and confidential” requirement of the exemption.
In a related case, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York previously sided with the Fed and refused to order the agency to release Fed documents that Fox News Network sought. The appeals court today returned that case to Hellerstein and told him to order the Fed to conduct further searches for documents and determine whether the documents should be disclosed.
“We are pleased that this information is finally, and rightfully, going to be made available to the American public,” said Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President of Fox Business Network, in a statement.
Balance Sheet Debt
The Fed’s balance sheet debt doubled after lending standards were relaxed following Lehman’s failure on Sept. 15, 2008. That year, the Fed began extending credit directly to companies that weren’t banks for the first time since the 1930s. Total central bank lending exceeded $2 trillion for the first time on Nov. 6, 2008, reaching $2.14 trillion on Sept. 23, 2009.
“It’s gratifying that the court recognizes the considerable interest in knowing what is being done with our tax dollars,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Virginia.
“We’ve learned some powerful lessons in the last 18 months that citizens need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the financial world. This decision will make it easier to do that.”
The case is Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 09-04083, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (New York).
This is a victory for common sense over secrecy. The Fed does not want an audit nor will it honor reasonable requests for information. The irony is Bernanke promised more transparency. Bernanke’s actions prove what a lair he is. Expect more delays as the Fed will fight this.
Submitted by James Bianco of Bianco Research
• The Wall Street Journal – Fed Proposes Tool to Drain Extra Cash
The Federal Reserve on Monday proposed selling interest-bearing term deposits to banks, a move the U.S. central bank would make when it decides to drain some of the liquidity it pumped into the economy during the financial crisis. The new facility is intended to help ensure that the Fed can implement an exit strategy before a banking system awash with Fed money triggers inflation. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has described term deposits as “roughly analogous to the certificates of deposit that banks offer to their customers.” Under the plan, the Fed would issue the term deposits to banks, potentially at several maturities up to one year. That would encourage banks to park reserves at the Fed rather than lending them out, taking money out of the lending stream.The central bank said the proposal “has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term.” “The Federal Reserve has addressed the financial market turmoil of the past two years in part by greatly expanding its balance sheet and by supplying an unprecedented volume of reserves to the banking system,” it said. “Term deposits could be part of the Federal Reserve’s tool kit to drain reserves, if necessary, and thus support the implementation of monetary policy.” Michael Feroli, an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase, said “it’s another step forward in the exit-strategy infrastructure, but it’s been well flagged in advance, so it’s not a surprise.” When Fed officials decide to tighten credit, they would likely use the term-deposits program ahead of — or in conjunction with — adjusting their traditional policy lever, the target for the federal funds interest rate at which banks lend to each other overnight. The Fed also said Monday that its balance sheet rose slightly to $2.2 trillion in the week ending Dec. 23. The Fed’s total portfolio of loans and securities has more than doubled since the beginning of the financial crisis. As part of its efforts to fight the downturn, the central bank is buying $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, a program it says will end in March. The Fed now holds $910.43 billion in mortgage-backed securities, it said Monday.
• Bloomberg.com – Fed Proposes Term-Deposit Program to Drain Reserves
The Federal Reserve today proposed a program to sell term deposits to banks to help mop up some of the $1 trillion in excess reserves in the U.S. banking system. The plan, subject to a 30-day comment period, “has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term,” the central bank said in a statement released in Washington. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is preparing tools and strategies to shrink or neutralize the inflationary impact from the biggest monetary expansion in U.S. history. Central bankers are also conducting tests of reverse repurchase agreements and discussing the possibility of asset sales. Term deposits may help the central bank “assert operational control over the federal funds rate” once officials decide to lift the overnight bank lending rate from the current range of zero to 0.25 percent, said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey. Excess cash “would be locked up” rather than put downward pressure on the federal funds rate, he said.The Fed won’t begin raising interest rates until the third quarter of 2010, according to the median estimate of 62 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News in the first week of December.
• The Financial Times – Fed to offer term deposits to banks
The US Federal Reserve plans to offer term deposits to banks as part of its “exit strategy” from the exceptionally loose monetary policy used to fight the recession. In a consultation paper released on Monday the Fed said it planned to change its rules so that it could pay interest on money locked up at the central bank for a defined period. The Fed added that the well-flagged rule change – designed to allow it more influence over the $1,100bn in excess reserves held by banks – was part of “prudent planning. . . and has no implications for monetary policy decisions in the near term”. It is one of a number of measures that has been outlined over the past few months by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, as an option to drain liquidity from the financial system in a manner that protects the economic recovery while heading off the threat of inflation.
• The Federal Reserve – Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for public comment.
The Board is requesting public comment on proposed amendments to Regulation D, Reserve Requirements of Depository Institutions, to authorize the establishment of term deposits. Term deposits are intended to facilitate the conduct of monetary policy by providing a tool for managing the aggregate quantity of reserve balances. Institutions eligible to receive earnings on their balances in accounts at Federal Reserve Banks (”eligible institutions”) could hold term deposits and receive earnings at a rate that would not exceed the general level of short-term interest rates. Term deposits would be separate and distinct from those maintained in an institution’s master account at a Reserve Bank (”master account”) as well as from those maintained in an excess balance account. Term deposits would not satisfy required reserve balances or contractual clearing balances and would not be available to clear payments or to cover daylight or overnight overdrafts. The proposal also would make minor amendments to the posting rules for intraday debits and credits to master accounts as set forth in the Board’s Policy on Payment System Risk to address transactions associated with term deposits.
We believe the proposal of this new tool signals the Federal Reserve is still flailing around trying to look busy so everyone is assured they have a plan. The fact is they have no plan and are still throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks. From the November 4 FOMC minutes:
Participants expressed a range of views about how the Committee might use its various tools in combination to foster most effectively its dual objectives of maximum employment and price stability. As part of the Committee’s strategy for eventual exit from the period of extraordinary policy accommodation, several participants thought that asset sales could be a useful tool to reduce the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and lower the level of reserve balances, either prior to or concurrently with increasing the policy rate. In their view, such sales would help reinforce the effectiveness of paying interest on excess reserves as an instrument for firming policy at the appropriate time and would help quicken the restoration of a balance sheet composition in which Treasury securities were the predominant asset. Other participants had reservations about asset sales–especially in advance of a decision to raise policy interest rates–and noted that such sales might elicit sharp increases in longer-term interest rates that could undermine attainment of the Committee’s goals. Furthermore, they believed that other reserve management tools such as reverse RPs and term deposits would likely be sufficient to implement an appropriate exit strategy and that assets could be allowed to run off over time, reflecting prepayments and the maturation of issues. Participants agreed to continue to evaluate various potential policy-implementation tools and the possible combinations and sequences in which they might be used. They also agreed that it would be important to develop communication approaches for clearly explaining to the public the use of these tools and the Committee’s exit strategy more broadly.
The Federal Reserve first hinted at term deposits almost two months ago, although exactly what they were talking about was left vague until now.
Remember that the Federal Reserve has to withdraw over a trillion dollars of excess liquidity. The easiest way to do this is to sell hundreds of billions of MBS, Treasuries and agencies. As the bold highlighted passage above implies, they are scared to death of doing this, so they propose complicated schemes to withdraw liquidity like reverse repos and now term deposits.
We have argued that these schemes will not work. They cannot be done in the sizes necessary or enough to even matter. The Federal Reserve could possibly drain tens of billions of dollars via these schemes, but collectively that will amount to a rounding error when the goal is to withdraw over a trillion in excess reserves.
The Federal Reserve does not want to admit defeat, so they continue pursuing these strategies that will not make a difference. We believe they also do it to “look busy” as they are taking measurements and notes as to how to withdraw all the liquidity they have pumped in. They think this will give the market comfort that someone is on the case and that inflation expectations will not get out of control. The market is not buying this. Inflation expectations, s measured by TIPS inflation breakeven rates, are going vertical.
As to term deposits, the Federal Reserve is proposing an illiquid short term instrument for banks to invest in. Banks would buy these instruments and “lock up” the excess reserves they now have. This would have the same effect as draining excess reverses. The maturities of these instruments would be as long as one year.
It is unclear if there will be a secondary market for these instruments, and if so, how liquid it will be.
Without a secondary market, buyers of these instruments face huge reinvestment risk. The future course of short term interest rates is arguably to the most uncertain it has been in decades. Will the Federal Reserve stay near zero until 2012 or will they be forced to raise rates in the first half of 2010? Given all this uncertainty, who wants to lock up money in something that cannot be sold before maturity? This is especially true given the Federal Reserve’s statement that the “maximum-allowable rate for each auction of term deposits would be no higher than the general level of short- term interest rates.”
The general level of short-term interest rates is set on known instruments that have generations of history and active secondary markets. If the Federal Reserve wants to introduce a new, and wholly unknown instrument with an uncertain secondary market and offer no interest rate premium, then we cannot see how this will work beyond a token amount after some arm twisting to get them sold. The Federal Reserve will have to offer a premium for uncertainty and illiquidy to make this fly in any major way, something they said they will not do.
Complicated Is Simple
The Federal Reserve owns 80% of AIG. With each passing day it looks like the Federal Reserve is adopting AIG Financial Product’s business practices. That is, when faced with a financial problem, they create complicated tools (like CDS). When critics says these new products will not work, tell them they do not know what they are talking about and create even more complicated tools to dazzle everyone. Once the tools are so complicated that no one understands them, you will be hailed as an expert with no peer. You might even be named TIME’s Person of the Year.
For some reason Zero Hedge is prone to take a great deal of heat (both directly radiated and reflected) whenever we opine on the (rather obvious to us) prospect that interest rates might actually (quelle surprise) rise in this environment. Today, rather than engage in “we told you so” gloating, or endure the repetitive pleadings of commentators that this or that Treasury auction was really a success if you just look a little deeper at the figures, we’ll just quote Bloomberg quoting other fixed income observers on today’s auction of two years, in an article “ambiguously” titled “U.S. 2-Year Yields Highest Since October After $44 Billion Sale.”
Treasury two-year note yields reached the highest levels since October as an investor class that includes foreign central banks bought the least of the debt in five months at today’s record-tying $44 billion auction.
Indirect bidders purchased 34.8 percent of the notes, the lowest amount since July, and below the average for the past 10 sales of 45 percent. Treasuries of all maturities have fallen 3.6 percent this year, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. That would be the worst performance since at least 1978, when Merrill began collecting the data.
We aren’t really sure how this will be spun into a “good thing,”™ but we are sure that someone will find a way. Back to you, CNBC.
- Son of Nigerian banker apparently tries to blow up Delta’s EHAM -> KDTW. (419 BLAM?) [reuters]
- Supposed Delta bomber apparently has al Qaeda ties. (Explains why he was going to Detroit) [reuters]
- …and has been known by U.S. officials as a terrorist associate for two years. (Explains why he was going to Detroit) [AP]
- As they hit 5%, and when they think no one is listening, Freddie whispers that 30-year rates could climb to 6% in 2010. (Rahm: “No big thing. Just sayin’ is all.”) [reuters]
- Vice President of Finance for Koss apparently embezzled $20 million. (Multi-million dollar clothes and jewelery shopping spree may explain WI retail numbers) [reuters]
- Obama tells Americans to count their blessings. (Actually, we saw that movie already, back when it was called Jimmy Carter) [marketwatch]
- Whole Foods Chairman/CEO to become Whole Foods CEO. (Impartiality partially restored?) [ap/nyt]
- Berkshire employee count 8.6% lighter since last year. (Read: “Buffett downgrades United States”) [bloomberg]
Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) — Citigroup Inc.,
the last of the four largest U.S. banks to seek funds to exit a
taxpayer bailout, raised $17 billion by selling stock for a price so
low that the U.S. delayed plans to shrink its one-third stake in the
Citigroup sold 5.4 billion shares at
$3.15 apiece, less than the $3.25 the government paid when it acquired
its stake in September. The New York-based bank said the Treasury won’t
sell any of its shares for at least 90 days.
Investors demanded a bigger discount from Citigroup than Bank of America Corp. or Wells Fargo & Co.,
which together raised more than $31 billion this month to exit the
Troubled Asset Relief Program. Wells Fargo, which trumped Citigroup’s
bid to buy Wachovia Corp. last year, leapfrogged its rival by
completing a $12.25 billion share sale Dec. 15. JPMorgan Chase &
Co. repaid $25 billion in June.
“The market cast its vote and they’re low down on the ballot,” said Douglas Ciocca,
a managing director at Renaissance Financial Corp. in Leawood, Kansas.
“Citigroup needs to show steps to reinstall the quality of the brand.”
the sale, Citigroup’s common shares outstanding increased to 28.3
billion. That’s up from 22.9 billion as of Sept. 30 and 5 billion at
the end of 2007.
“More shares outstanding means less value per share,” said Edward Najarian,
an analyst at International Strategy and Investment Group in New York,
who has a “hold” rating on the shares. “The whole structure of their
deal to pay back TARP wasn’t very good for common shareholders and that
is being reflected in the pricing.”
one of the most important points are being missed. Most of these banks
swore that they didn’t need TARP. Despite this, in order to return it,
they must go back out to the capital markets. Why do you have to hit
the market to return a loan that you said you didn’t need, unless you
needed it? This obvious lie has went unchallenged.
worse. Citi is diluting the hell out of it shareholders, as well as all
of the other TARP banks that are selling shares. Some may even be
taking on debt. They are doing this primarily to gain the freedom to
declare bonuses at higher rates despite uncertain credit condition
surrounding the toxic assets that caused the problem in the first
place. Why in the world would any lender or shareholder agree to
dilution and/or higher debt service “primarily” to pay higher bonuses
to employees in the highest compensated (as a percent of net revenue)
industry in the world???
Imagine if you ran this business, you
have rocky times during a recession with revenues in nearly all aspects
of your business down save the blatant risk taking of trading, and you
go to your bank and say I need a big loan so I can pay myself a $20
million bonus increase.
Do you think Citibank would give you this
loan? They expect it from their shareholders. The same goes for
Goldman, JPM, BAC, etc.
Also from Bloomberg: Weak Banks Should Face Curbs on Bonuses, Dividends, Basel Regulator Says
Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) — Global regulators urged national
authorities to limit bonus and dividend payments by banks with
weakened capital safety nets as part of proposals to reduce
risks to the financial system.
Banks should increase the quality of the capital they hold
to cope with losses, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
said in a report on bank capital and liquidity published today.
Banks with depleted capital buffers shouldn’t use predictions of
recovery to justify generous dividends to investors and
employees, the committee said.
Global regulators have been wrestling with plans to
increase supervision of banks following the worst economic
crisis since World War II. The Group of 20 Nations agreed in
April that banks should be required to hold more and better
quality capital to reduce risks to the financial system.
“It’s not acceptable for banks which have depleted their
capital buffers to try and use the distribution of capital as a
way to signal their financial strength,” the committee’s
statement said. “The proposed framework will reduce the
discretion of banks which have depleted their capital buffers to
further reduce them through generous distributions of
It’s amazing that this even needs to be said.