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“A Funny Old World” – The EM Carry Trade Collapse ‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ From Citigroup | Zero Hedge

“A Funny Old World” – The EM Carry Trade Collapse ‘Deja Vu, All Over Again’ From Citigroup | Zero Hedge.

Spot the similarities.

From CitiFX Technicals: It’s a funny old World

  • 1989-1991: Housing and savings and loan crisis: Fed eases aggressively as economy enters deep recession
  • 1992-1994: Existing financial architecture in Europe (ERM) blows apart
  • 1995-1998: European convergence trade in both FX and Bond spreads keeps European currencies relatively stable vis a vis the USD with a good rally in 1998.By 1996 BUBA has lowered the discount rate to 2.5% while US rates remain well below the pre-crisis highs of 9.75% in 1989.
  • The carry trade and capital flow into emerging markets (Asia in particular) is center stage
  • March 1997: In a seemingly “innocuous” move the Fed “tinkers” by raising rates 25 basis points.
  • April 1997: Japan raises its consumption tax as USDJPY has rallied from a post Kobe Earthquake low of 79.7 to 127.50 . USDJPY collapse to 111 by June
  • June 1997-Jan 1998: Severe reaction in Asian currencies as “hot money flees”
  • August-October 1998: Russia defaults, Long term capital folds and the Fed eases aggressively as the Equity market drops 22% (S&P)

History may not repeat…..but it sure RHYMES

Your Front Row Seat To Argentina’s (Latest) Currency Collapse | Zero Hedge

Your Front Row Seat To Argentina’s (Latest) Currency Collapse | Zero Hedge.

UPDATE: The Argentine Trade Balance missed surplus expectations by the most in 3 years (and 2nd most on record).

As those who follow Zero Hedge on twitter know, we have recently shown a keen interest in the collapse of the Argentine currency reserves – most recently at $29.4 billion – which have been declining at a steady pace of $100 million per day over the past week, as the central bank desperately struggles to keep its currency stable. Actually, make that struggled. Here is what we said just yesterday:

The decline continues: ARGENTINA’S RESERVES FELL $80M TODAY TO $29.4B: CENTRAL BANK

— zerohedge (@zerohedge) January 22, 2014

As of today it is not just the collapse in the Latin American country’s reserves, but its entire currency, when this morning we woke to learn that the Argentina Peso (with the accurate identifier ARS), had its biggest one day collapse since the 2002 financial crisis, after the central bank stopped intervening in currency markets. The reason: precisely to offset the countdown we had started several days back, namely “an effort to preserve foreign exchange reserves that have fallen by almost a third over the last year” as FT reported.

As the chart below shows, the official exchange rate cratered by over 17% when the USDARS soared from 6.8 to somewhere north of 8.

But as most readers know, just like in Venezuela, where the official exchange rate is anywhere between 6.40 and 11, and the unofficial is 78.85, so in Argentina the real transactions occur on the black market, where they track the so-called Dolar Blue, which as of this writing just hit an all time high of 12.90 and rising fast.

What happens next? Nothing good. “The risk of capital flight is rising by the minute. This will be very hard to control,” wrote Dirk Willer, strategist at Citigroup, adding that liquidity had “largely disappeared” with a risk of Venezuela-style capital controls. Ah Venezuela – that socialist paradise with a soaring stock market… even if food or toilet paper are about to become a thing of the past.

Some other perspectives via the FT:

Siobhan Morden of Jeffries said: “This is not an administration that respects or understands market pressure. They have been in the early stages of currency crisis since December, and yet their main strategy has been to pay off arrears and try to attract foreign direct investment.”

Luis Secco, Buenos Aires economist, said “It is hard to figure out what is the logic behind the authourities decision to let the peso so abruptly, without any other accompanying macroeconomic policy. It’s possible that the authorities would rather see a strong rise in the dollar, than lose, again, a large quantity of reserves.”

It is a potentially dangerous situation…not least because it could give the impression that the authorities don’t have a very clear idea of how to manage the situation.”

Ricardo Delgado, Buenos Aires economist, said on Wednesday: “The government faces a dilemma. It wants to stop reserves from falling. But that means less imports and thus lower growth, as the economy is very dependent on imports. So the question is: do you want more growth, or higher foreign reserves.“

However, with the “currency run” having once again begun, absent a wholesale bailout and/or backstop by “solvent” central banks of Argentina, a country which has hardly been on good speaking terms with the western central banks, there is little that the nation can do.

So for all those morbidly curious individuals who are curious what the slow-motion train wrecked death of yet another currency will look like, below is a link to the DolarBlue website, aka the front row seats where the true level of the Argentina currency can be seen in real time. If and when this number takes off parabolically, that’s when the panic really begins – first in Argentina, then elsewhere.

Of course, it’s not just Argentina – most of the world’s emerging market FX is getting hammered year-to-date…

JPMorgan Limits Access to Customer Funds After Target Data Breach – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel

JPMorgan Limits Access to Customer Funds After Target Data Breach – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel.

JPMorgan & Chase Co are limiting how much money their customers can spend on a daily basis because of the data breach at Target over the 2013 Back Friday shopping event.

Cash and debit card spending limits are being implemented on 2 million debit card holders because those customers are suspected of having shopped at Target during the time period in question.

JPM is considering issuing new debit cards to those customers who were directly affected by the data breach.

Chase customers will be limited to $100 daily withdrawal from ATMs.

Debit card users will see $200 – $500 daily limits as well as $500 daily purchase limit.

Customers are encouraged to come into their local branch to withdraw more cash if necessary; however that too is limited to $300 per day.

The new rules will take a few weeks for full implementation. With issuing new cards, JPM recommends that “about half of its 5,600 branches in 23 states can issue new cards on the spot for customers who want the limits lifted faster.”

Due to this new change, JPM “decided to open about a third of its branches on Sunday, when they were normally closed, to help affected customers.”

Because an estimated $40 million was allegedly stolen due to the data breach, JPM does not want to take chances with customers – thereby installing controls on customer funds.

Target Corporation has offered in-store shoppers a 10% discount over this past weekend for having their person information stolen.

Ken Perkins, founder of Retail Metrics commented : “Given how deep discounts have been across the retail landscape this holiday season, I don’t know if that moves the needle that much. Twenty percent might have drawn serious interest, but 10 percent? I don’t know.”

Other banks such as Bank of America (BoA) and Citigroup are taking precautions to monitor and control cash flow from customer accounts using the Target incident as justification.

Earlier this week, Target Corporation had a security breach during this year’s Black Friday in which “millions of customer credit and debit card records” were stolen.

Brian Krebs, computer security expert, stated: “I’ve heard from five different people at five different banks, and the banks are being tipped by the card companies. At least two major card issuers [banks] said hundreds of thousands of cards had been compromised, and there are dozens of card issuers, so that adds up to millions of cards.”

This problem “extends to nearly all Target locations nationwide, and involves the theft of data stored on the magnetic stripe of cards used at the stores.”

Krebs explains: “The type of data stolen — also known as track data — allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic stripe. If the thieves also were able to intercept PIN data for debit transactions, they would theoretically be able to reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from ATMs.”

Analysts have concluded that the breach occurred on Black Friday and continued into the middle of December affecting “an unknown number of Target customers who shopped at the company’s main street stores during that timeframe.”

Target collects data on customers, including:

• Name
• Address
• Date of birth
• Social security number
• Driver’s license number
• Credit card information
• Email address

By installing malware into the system, “or persuaded an unsuspecting employee to click on a malicious link that downloaded malware that gives cybercriminals a foothold into a company’s point-of-sale systems.”

Technology has afforded retailers the ability to track customers through mobile phones, work computers and even while in line at the register.

Holiday shopping is proving to be a massive data mining endeavor with signups for loyalty cards that collect data on customer behavior.

The private information available to retailers from customer loyalty cards can include:

• Zip codes
• Home/employment addresses
• Personal income
• Insurance expiration

Retailers claim that this information derived from monitoring the public can “determine exactly what kind of buyer [the customer] might be and how much [the customer is] willing to pay” for products.

Mailing lists can ensure that retailers can install cookies into customer’s computers to watch their movements online with provisions for ‘relevant pop-up ads” marketed to specified potential customers.

 

North America to Drown in Oil as Mexico Ends Monopoly – Bloomberg

North America to Drown in Oil as Mexico Ends Monopoly – Bloomberg.

The flood of North American crude oil is set to become a deluge as Mexicodismantles a 75-year-old barrier to foreign investment in its oil fields.

Plagued by almost a decade of slumping output that has degraded Mexico’s take from a $100-a-barrel oil market, President Enrique Pena Nieto is seeking an end to the state monopoly over one of the biggest crude resources in the Western Hemisphere. The doubling in Mexican oil output that Citigroup Inc. said may result from inviting international explorers to drill would be equivalent to adding anotherNigeria to world supply, or about 2.5 million barrels a day.

That boom would augment a supply surge from U.S. and Canadian wells that Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) predicts will vault North American production ahead of every OPEC member except Saudi Arabia within two years. With U.S. refineries already choking on more oil than they can process, producers from Exxon to ConocoPhillips are clamoring for repeal of the export restrictions that have outlawed most overseas sales of American crude for four decades.

“This is going to be a huge opportunity for any kind of player” in the energy sector, said Pablo Medina, a Latin American upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston. “All the companies are going to have to turn their heads and start analyzing Mexico.”

Unprecedented Output

An influx of Mexican oil would contribute to a glut that is expected to lower the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s crude that has averaged $108.62 a barrel this year, to as low as $88 a barrel in 2017, based on estimates from analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Five of the seven analysts who provided 2017 forecasts said prices would be lower than this year.

The revolution in shale drilling that boosted U.S. oil output to a 25-year high this month will allowNorth America to join the ranks of the world’s crude-exporting continents by 2040, Exxon said in its annual global energy forecast on Dec. 12. Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will be the sole crude import markets by that date, the Irving, Texas-based energy producer said.

Related: Oil Supply Surge Brings Calls to Ease U.S. Export Ban

Exxon’s forecast, compiled annually by a team of company economists, scientists and engineers, didn’t take into account any changes in Mexico, William Colton, the company’s vice president of strategic planning, said during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Dec. 12.

Opening Mexico’s oilfields to foreign investment would be “a win-win if ever there was one,” said Colton, who described the move as “very good for the people of Mexico and people everywhere in the world who use energy.”

$15 Billion Boost

Mexico Invites Foreigners to Boost Drilling

The bill ending the state monopoly was approved by the Mexican Congress Dec. 12. Before becoming law, the proposal must be ratified by state assemblies, most of which are controlled by proponents of the reform. Oil companies will be offered production-sharing contracts, or licenses where they get ownership of the pumped oil and authority to book crude reserves for accounting purposes. The contracts will be overseen by government regulators.

Though some foreign companies already operate in Mexico under service contracts with Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the reform could increase foreign investment by as much as $15 billion annually and boost potential economic growth by half a percentage point, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a Nov. 28 report.

Potential Delays

A doubling in production as suggested by Citigroup’s Ed Morse would put Mexican output at 5 million barrels a day, an unprecedented level for Pemex, the state oil company created during nationalization in 1938.

U.S. crude production will expand to 9.5 million barrels a day in 2016, the highest since the nation’s peak in 1970, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said today. That contrasts with last year’s EIA forecast that production would reach 7.5 million in 2019 before gradually declining to 6.1 million in 2040. U.S. output reached an all-time high 9.6 million in 1970.

A doubling of Mexico’s output maybe be slower to realize than the most bullish predictions as companies confront barriers in accessing capital and human resources needed for development, Riccardo Bertocco, a partner at Bain & Co. in Dallas.

An increase of 1 million barrels a day in output is the most realistic upper limit of what Mexico could achieve by 2025 based on the cost for new infrastructure, competition for new fields and opportunities all over the U.S., Bertocco said in a telephone interview Dec. 12.

“The opportunities are there, but they are still far from being materialized,” he said.

Regulator Inexperience

Drilling in Mexico will be held back by a lack of infrastructure, such as pipelines, in some of the potential shale developments. The government will need to decide on details for development such as tax rates, royalty structures and standards for booking reserves, Kurt Hallead, an analyst atRBC Capital Markets, wrote in a Dec. 12 note to clients.

It will take time to organize and conduct bidding rounds for licenses, and additional exploration, such as seismic tests, will need to be done, Hallead said.

“We are not expecting any significant impact from the reform to be felt in the next two years,” he wrote.

Foreign oil companies will face a backlash from Mexicans opposed to sharing the nation’s oil wealth, said Ricardo Monreal Avila of Movimiento Ciudadano Party, who sees the reform as violating Mexico’s constitution.

Local Opposition

“We are going to see serious problems in the operations of these reforms. Indigenous communities and places chosen by foreign companies for extraction will not allow them on their property. There are going to be serious operational problems.”

Brent crude futures, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, rose as much as 1.8 percent to $110.80 a barrel in London today, the biggest intraday gain in two weeks, after Libyan rebels refused to relinquish control over oil ports to the central government. Libya, home to Africa’s largest proven reserves, has seen output tumble to the lowest since 2011 amid civil strife.

The first assets that will attract foreign investment will be mature oil fields drilled decades ago and reservoirs that need injections of steam or carbon dioxide to coax more crude out of the ground, Medina said. Deep-water prospects, shale and other technically challenging endeavors will follow later, he said.

The level of investor interest will be partly determined by which assets Pemex chooses to keep and which it will put up for auction, Medina said.

Chicontepec Price

The Chicontepec field northeast of Mexico City may be among the richest prizes Pemex surrenders after its problems overcoming low pressure and disconnected crude deposits that have limited output, Medina said. Production that has averaged about 60,000 barrels a day may be increased to more than 100,000 by an international producer experienced in handling such fields, he said.

Chicontepec is just one of the over-budget, long-delayed projects for which Pemex will be eager to find partners, said Jose Antonio Prado, a former general counsel of Mexico’s energy ministry and Pemex official.

“The Mexican state will be able to incorporate private participants in projects that are already in force as well as new opportunities,” said Prado, now a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight LLP in Mexico City.

Deep Water

The reforms are especially important to open up exploration in Mexico’s deep-water fields, where additional capital, as well as better technology and expertise are needed, Carlos Solé, a Houston-based partner at Baker Botts LLP, said in a telephone interview. Pemex estimated the country’s deep-water Gulf of Mexico prospects may hold the equivalent of 26.6 billion barrels of crude.

Onshore, the potential is even greater with more than 60 billion untapped barrels, according to a Pemex presentation last month.

Some of the potential shale production sits across the border from Texas’s prolific Eagle Ford formation. The most resource-rich area studied so far is around the city of Tampico, a coastal city about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of the bottom tip of the Texas border.

“I can’t tell you the amount of banks and investment funds coming from the U.S. and Europe that have been talking to us and are trying to have an expectation of what’s going to happen with the energy reform,” Prado said. “All those guys are going to be in Mexico next year in various forms trying to seek new opportunities.”

 

Define “Market” Irony: When JPMorgan’s Chief Currency Dealer Is Head Of An FX Manipulation “Cartel” | Zero Hedge

Define “Market” Irony: When JPMorgan’s Chief Currency Dealer Is Head Of An FX Manipulation “Cartel” | Zero Hedge.

Now that everyone is habituated to banks manipulating every single product and asset class, and for those who aren’t, see this explanatory infographic

Foreign Exchanges

Regulators are looking into whether currency traders have conspired through instant messages to manipulate foreign exchange rates. The currency rates are used to calculate the value of stock and bond indexes.

Energy Trading

Banks have been accused of manipulating energy markets in California and other states.

Libor

Since early 2008 banks have been caught up in investigations and litigation over alleged manipulations of Libor.

Mortgages

Banks have been accused of improper foreclosure practices, selling bonds backed by shoddy mortgages, and misleading investors about the quality of the loans.

…revelations that this market and that or the other are controlled by a select group of criminal bankers just don’t generate the kind of visceral loathing as 2012’s Libor fraud bombshell.

As much was revealed when the second round of exposes hit in the middle of 2013, mostly focusing on manipulation in the forex market, and the general population largely yawned, whether due to the knowledge that every market is now explicitly broken (explaining the abysmal trading volumes and retail participation in recent years) or because nobody ever gets their due punishment and this kind of activity so not even a perp-walk spectacle can be enjoyed, this is accepted as ordinary-course action.

Nonetheless, we are glad that the actions of the FX cartel continue to get regular exposure in the broader media, in this case Bloomberg who, among other things, reminds us that it was none other than JPM’s Dick Usher who was the moderator of the appropriately titled secret chat room titled “The Cartel” which we noted previously.  It is this alleged criminal who “worked at RBS and represented the Edinburgh-based bank when he accepted a 2004 award from the publication FX Week. When he quit RBS in 2010, the chat room died, the people said. He revived the group with the same participants when he joined JPMorgan the same year as chief currency dealer in London.”

Yes, the chief currency dealer of JP Morgan, starting in 2010 until a few months ago when he quietly disappeared, was one of the biggest (allegedly) FX manipulators in the world. Define irony…

What are some of the other recent revelations?

Here is a reminder of the prehistory from Bloomberg. First came the chat rooms:

At the center of the inquiries are instant-message groups with names such as “The Cartel,” “The Bandits’ Club,” “One Team, One Dream” and “The Mafia,” in which dealers exchanged information on client orders and agreed how to trade at the fix, according to the people with knowledge of the investigations who asked not to be identified because the matter is pending. Some traders took part in multiple chat rooms, one of them said.

The allegations of collusion undermine one of society’s fundamental principles — how money is valued. The possibility that a handful of traders clustered in a closed electronic network could skew the worth of global currencies for their own gain without detection points to a lack of oversight by employers and regulators. Since funds buy and sell billions of dollars of currency each month at the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters rates, which are determined by calculating the median of all trades during a 60-second period, that means less money in the pension and savings accounts of investors around the world.

One focus of the investigation is the relationship of three senior dealers who participated in “The Cartel” — JPMorgan’s Richard Usher, Citigroup’s Rohan Ramchandani and Matt Gardiner, who worked at Barclays and UBS — according to the people with knowledge of the probe. Their banks controlled more than 40 percent of the world’s currency trading last year, according to a May survey by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc.

Entry into the chat room was coveted by nonmembers interviewed by Bloomberg News, who said they saw it as a golden ticket because of the influence it exerted.

And after that came unprecedented hubris and a sense of invincibility:

The men communicated via Instant Bloomberg, a messaging system available on terminals that Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, leases to financial firms, people with knowledge of the conversations said.

The traders used jargon, cracked jokes and exchanged information in the chat rooms as if they didn’t imagine anyone outside their circle would read what they wrote, according to two people who have seen transcripts of the discussions.

Since nobody investigated, next naturally, come the profits and the crimes:

Unlike sales of stocks and bonds, which are regulated by government agencies, spot foreign exchange — the buying and selling for immediate delivery as opposed to some future date — isn’t considered an investment product and isn’t subject to specific rules.

While firms are required by the Dodd-Frank Act in the U.S. to report trading in foreign-exchange swaps and forwards, spot dealing is exempt. The U.S. Treasury exempted foreign-exchange swaps and forwards from Dodd-Frank’s requirement to back up trades with a clearinghouse. In the European Union, banks will have to report foreign-exchange derivatives transactions under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation.

A lack of regulation has left the foreign-exchange market vulnerable to abuse, said Rosa Abrantes-Metz, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business in Manhattan.

If nobody is monitoring these benchmarks, and since the gains from moving the benchmark are possibly very large, it is very tempting to engage in such a behavior,” said Abrantes-Metz, whose 2008 paper “Libor Manipulation” helped spark a global probe of interbank borrowing rates. “Even a little bit of difference in price can add up to big profits.

… along with a lot of banging the close:

Dealers can buy or sell the bulk of their client orders during the 60-second window to exert the most pressure on the published rate, a practice known as banging the close. Because the benchmark is based on the median value of transactions during the period, breaking up orders into a number of smaller trades could have a greater impact than executing one big deal.

… and much golf and “envelopes stuffed with cash

On one excursion to a private golf club in the so-called stockbroker belt beyond London’s M25 motorway, a dozen currency dealers from the biggest banks and several day traders, who bet on currency moves for their personal accounts, drained beers in a bar after a warm September day on the fairway. One of the day traders handed a white envelope stuffed with cash to a bank dealer in recognition of the information he had received, according to a person who witnessed the exchange.

Such transactions were common and also took place in tavern parking lots in Essex, the person said.

Personal relationships often determine how well currency traders treat their customers, said a hedge-fund manager who asked not to be identified. That’s because there’s no exchange where trades take place and no legal requirement that traders ensure customers receive the best deals available, he said.

In short – so simple the underwear gnomes could do it:

  1. Create a cartel
  2. Corner and manipulate the market
  3. Profit.

And that’s why they (and especially Jamie Dimon) are richer than you.

 

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge.

Of the 25 companies with the largest corporate profits in the world; banking, energy and technology firms are absolutely raking it in. Despite stagnating incomes, these companies made $567,856,000,000 in 2012 alone… here’s the subsidies, tax breaks, and offshoring that helped them do it

 

Green Giants

Source: AccountingSchoolGuide.com

 

Wholesale Inventories Spike Most In 2 Years As “Hollow Growth” Continues | Zero Hedge

Wholesale Inventories Spike Most In 2 Years As “Hollow Growth” Continues | Zero Hedge.

We can only imagine the upward revisions to GDP that will occur due to the largest mal-investment-driven wholesale inventory build in over 2 years. The 1.4% MoM gain is over 4x the expectation and biggest beat since Q4 2011, when – just as now – a mid-year plunge was met by a rabid over-stocking only to see the crumble back into mid 2012. As we noted previously, 56% of economic “growth” this year was inventory accumulation (cough auto channel stuffing cough) and this print merely confirms “hollow growth” continues.

 

 

 

As we noted previously,

So how does inventory hoarding – that most hollow of “growth” components as it relies on future purchases by a consumer who has increasingly less purchasing power – look like historically? The chart below shows the quarterly change in the revised GDP series broken down by Inventory (yellow) and all other non-Inventory components comprising GDP (blue).

But where the scramble to accumulate inventory in hopes that it will be sold, profitably, sooner or later to buyers either domestic or foreign, is seen most vividly, is in the data from the past 4 quarters, or the trailing year starting in Q3 2012 and ending with the just released revised Q3 2013 number. The result is that of the $534 billion rise in nominal GDP in the past year, a whopping 56% of this is due to nothing else but inventory hoarding.

 

The problem with inventory hoarding, however, is that at some point it will have to be “unhoarded.” Which is why expect many downward revisions to future GDP as this inventory overhang has to be destocked.

 

Too Big To Fail Banks Are Taking Over As Number Of U.S. Banks Falls To All-Time Record Low

Too Big To Fail Banks Are Taking Over As Number Of U.S. Banks Falls To All-Time Record Low.

The too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before.  So if having banks that were too big to fail was a “problem” back in 2008, what is it today?  As you will read about below, the total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever.  In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States.  Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year.  That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985.  Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.  In fact, the six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  If even one of those banks collapses, it would be absolutely crippling to the U.S. economy.  If several of them were to collapse at the same time, it could potentially plunge us into an economic depression unlike anything that this nation has ever seen before.

Incredibly, there were actually more banks in existence back during the days of the Great Depression than there is today.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government has been keeping track of the number of banks since 1934 and this year is the very first time that the number has fallen below 7,000…

The number of federally insured institutions nationwide shrank to 6,891 in the third quarter after this summer falling below 7,000 for the first time since federal regulators began keeping track in 1934, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

And the number of active bank branches all across America is falling too.  In fact, according to the FDIC the total number of bank branches in the United States fell by 3.2 percent between the end of 2009 and June 30th of this year.

Unfortunately, the closing of bank branches appears to be accelerating.  The number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 390 during the third quarter of 2013 alone, and it is being projected that the number of bank branches in the U.S. could fall by as much as 40 percent over the next decade.

Can you guess where most of the bank branches are being closed?

If you guessed “poor neighborhoods” you would be correct.

According to Bloomberg, an astounding 93 percent of all bank branch closings since late 2008 have been in neighborhoods where incomes are below the national median household income…

Banks have shut 1,826 branches since late 2008, and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to census and federal banking data compiled by Bloomberg.

It turns out that opening up checking accounts and running ATM machines for poor people just isn’t that profitable.  The executives at these big banks are very open about the fact that they “love affluent customers“, and there is never a shortage of bank branches in wealthy neighborhoods.  But in many poor neighborhoods it is a very different story

About 10 million U.S. households lack bank accounts, according to a study released in September by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. An additional 24 million are “underbanked,” using check-cashing services and other storefront businesses for financial transactions. The Bronx in New York City is the nation’s second most underbanked large county—behind Hidalgo County in Texas—with 48 percent of households either not having an account or relying on alternative financial providers, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, an advocacy organization for lower-​income Americans.

And if you are waiting for a whole bunch of new banks to start up to serve these poor neighborhoods, you can just forget about it.  Because of a whole host of new rules and regulations that have been put on the backs of small banks over the past several years, it has become nearly impossible to start up a new bank in the United States.  In fact, only one new bank has been started in the United States in the last three years.

So the number of banks is going to continue to decline.  1,400 smaller banks have quietly disappeared from the U.S. banking industry over the past five years alone.  We are witnessing a consolidation of the banking industry in America that is absolutely unprecedented.

Just consider the following statistics.  These numbers come from a recent CNN article

-The assets of the six largest banks in the United States have grown by 37 percent over the past five years.

-The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets.  The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

-Approximately 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared over the past five years.

-JPMorgan Chase is roughly the size of the entire British economy.

-The four largest banks have more than a million employeescombined.

-The five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

-Bank of America accounts for about a third of all business loans all by itself.

-Wells Fargo accounts for about one quarter of all mortgage loans all by itself.

-About 12 percent of all cash in the United States is held in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase.

As you can see, without those banks we do not have a financial system.

Our entire economy is based on debt, and if those banks were to disappear the flow of credit would dry up almost completely.  Without those banks, we would rapidly enter an economic depression unlike anything that the United States has seen before.

It is kind of like a patient that has such an advanced case of cancer that if you try to kill the cancer you will inevitably also kill the patient.  That is essentially what our relationship with these big banks is like at this point.

Unfortunately, since the last financial crisis the too big to fail banks have become even more reckless.  Right now, four of the too big to fail banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 TRILLION dollars.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for the entire year of 2012 was just 15.7 trillion dollars and the U.S. national debt is just 17 trillion dollars.

So when you are talking about four banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives you are talking about an amount of money that is almost incomprehensible.

Posted below are the figures for the four banks that I am talking about.  I have written about this in the past, but in this article I have included the very latest updated numbers from the U.S. government.  I think that you will agree that these numbers are absolutely staggering…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,947,794,000,000 (nearly 1.95 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $71,289,673,000,000 (more than 71 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,319,359,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $60,398,289,000,000 (more than 60 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,429,737,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $42,670,269,000,000 (more than 42 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $113,064,000,000 (just a shade over 113 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $43,135,021,000,000 (more than 43 trillion dollars)

Please don’t just gloss over those huge numbers.

Let them sink in for a moment.

Goldman Sachs has total assets worth approximately 113 billion dollars (billion with a little “b”), but they have more than 43 TRILLON dollars of total exposure to derivatives.

That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

Most Americans do not understand that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  The big banks are being incredibly reckless with our money, and if they fail it will bring down the entire economy.

The biggest chunk of these derivatives contracts that Wall Street banks are gambling on is made up of interest rate derivatives.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global financial system has a total of 441 TRILLION dollars worth of exposure to interest rate derivatives.

When that Ponzi scheme finally comes crumbling down, there won’t be enough money on the entire planet to fix it.

We had our warning back in 2008.

The too big to fail banks were in the headlines every single day and our politicians promised to fix the problem.

But instead of fixing it, the too big to fail banks are now 37 percent larger and our economy is more dependent on them than ever before.

And in their endless greed for even larger paychecks, they have become insanely reckless with all of our money.

Mark my words – there is going to be a derivatives crisis.

When it happens, we are going to see some of these too big to fail banks actually fail.

At that point, there will be absolutely no hope for the U.S. economy.

We willingly allowed the too big to fail banks to become the core of our economic system, and now we are all going to pay the price.

 

Boom-era credit deals poised for comeback – FT.com

Boom-era credit deals poised for comeback – FT.com

 

Last month Citigroup placed an unusual job advertisement. The bank was seeking an analyst able to crunch the numbers on an obscure financial security: synthetic collateralised debt obligations.

Four weeks later, job applicants would find the position filled. Such has been the clamour among investors for the higher yields from higher-risk products that big banks including Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are turning again to the more esoteric parts of the financial markets. Hence the need to hire.

Synthetic CDOs are a type of structured credit product blamed by critics for exacerbating the global financial crisis. Wall Street manufactured billions of dollars of these securities at the peak of the credit boom. They have all but disappeared since.

The road to recovery, though, has been a bumpy one for synthetic products. The stigma of buying into such boom-era assets remains strong for investors, particularly when leverage – or borrowing – is used in an effort to enhance returns.

“Investors have learnt the use of leverage can create losses when they are not expected,” says Ashish Shah, head of global credit at AllianceBernstein. “Investors have to be conservative when applying leverage to less liquid assets.”

That has prompted some banks to tweak the structure of new synthetic deals. Citi has begun marketing an unusual $100m senior slice of a four-year synthetic CDO to investors.

Since their creation in the early 2000s, synthetic CDOs have allowed investors to make amplified, or leveraged, bets on portfolios of credit ranging from subprime mortgage bonds to corporate loans. The products buy derivatives known as credit default swaps and divide them into “tranches” with varying risk and seniority.

Finding investors to buy the most senior pieces of such deals has tended to be difficult because the top slices generate the lowest yields. So banks invented a so-called “leveraged super senior” tranche, which allowed investors to pay only a fraction of the senior tranche’s total value and, by doing so, juice their returns.

But leveraged super seniors caused massive losses during the crisis as declines in the market value of the products triggered contract clauses that required investors to stump up billions of dollars of collateral or walk away.

To assuage investors’ concerns about possible losses, Citi has changed the structure of its proposed senior synthetic CDO deal, which is tied to a pool of investment-grade corporate credits.

Instead of asking investors to put up more collateral as the market value of the underlying portfolio falls, investors will have to pay up only if actual losses on the portfolio exceed 15 per cent. “It’s very easy to call it a leveraged super senior but what it really is, is a vanilla super senior plus financing,” said an executive at a rival bank.

While synthetic CDOs with a “full capital structure” – including junior, “mezzanine” and senior tranches – have yet to return to the market, banks have been selling “bespoke” or “single-tranche” CDOs in recent years. Citi, in particular, has been offering customised single-tranche deals notable for attractive-looking yields.

Such unrated deals are typically tied to corporate credit, rather than mortgages. Average trades have two-year terms instead of the 10-year deals that were common before the crisis. The bank is believed to have sold as much as $1bn of these bespoke single-tranche CDOs so far this year.

“They [Citi] have been reasonably active in junior parts of the capital structure,” says one bank executive. Selling off the bank’s senior credit risk to new investors is “the best way for them to risk manage” overall credit exposure.

It is unclear whether Citi will be able to find buyers for its proposed deal, which it has been marketing to potential investors including big pension funds and endowments for a month in Europe and the US, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Some big institutional investors have criticised the product for yielding only 3.5 per cent – or about one percentage point more than regular investment-grade bonds. They reckon the deal should yield about 5 per cent.

Investors have learnt the use of leverage can create losses when they are not expected– Ashish Shah, AllianceBernstein

That could prove a stumbling block. A previous attempt to resuscitate a pre-crisis-like, “full capital structure” CDO by JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley failed after the two banks were unable to line up investors to take on the most senior part of the deal.

Still, people familiar with the deal say Citi could prepare the ground for a wider revival in demand for structured credit in the new year, once investors have a clearer view of interest rates and when the Federal Reserve starts to pare back its $85bn-a-month bond-buying programme.

Bankers are hopeful that, once the dust settles from the Fed “taper”, investors will feel more comfortable buying investment-grade credit at higher interest rates and, moreover, leveraging the returns against a low risk of high-quality companies going bust. Citi, for its part, believes a super senior revival will be the story of 2014.

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  1. ReportJP Stanley | December 4 11:14am | Permalink

    As a bank diluting away 90% of its shareholder value by its previous encounter with structured products, Citi is uniquely qualified to pioneer the area. I wonder if “Citigroup” will be pronounced with a sizzle soon enough.

  2. ReportSapien | December 4 10:52am | Permalink

    Sensationalism.

 

Fake Conflict: Fed Criticizes Big Banks

Fake Conflict: Fed Criticizes Big Banks.

Fake Conflict: Fed Criticizes Big Banks

by John Rubino on November 8, 2013 

Yesterday, Federal Reserve official William Dudley had some harsh words for Wall Street banks, sort of calling them criminals, among other things:

New York Fed Chief Levels Explosive Charge Against Big Banks

The head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday that some of America’s largest financial institutions appear to lack respect for the law, a potentially explosive charge against an industry already roiling from numerous government investigations into alleged wrongdoing.William Dudley, one of the nation’s top banking regulators whose organization helps oversee Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, made the commentduring a speech focused on the problems posed by banks perceived to be “too big to fail,” and possible solutions to correct them.

But in an abrupt turn, Dudley suggested that regulators may be stymied by “cultural” issues that have negatively affected the nation’s biggest banks.

“Collectively, these enhancements to our current regime may not solve another important problem evident within some large financial institutions — the apparent lack of respect for law, regulation and the public trust,” he said.

“There is evidence of deep-seated cultural and ethical failures at many large financial institutions,” he continued. “Whether this is due to size and complexity, bad incentives, or some other issues is difficult to judge, but it is another critical problem that needs to be addressed.”

Dudley’s comments come as the world’s biggest banks collectively face tens of billions of dollars in potential fines and government-driven settlements arising from alleged lawbreaking in markets ranging from home mortgages to interest rates and currencies.

This sounds serious, until you find out a couple of things:

1) The Federal Reserve is not part of the government. It is owned by the big banks it “regulates.” This sweetheart deal dates back to the formation of the Fed in 1913, when a secretive group of bankers and their pet politicians set themselves up with, get this, a monopoly on issuing new currency. The Fed finances itself by printing dollars, using them to buy bonds from banks (at a nice profit for the banks) and then collecting the interest the bonds generate. This is as close as it gets to a financial perpetual motion machine. And it has worked brilliantly, to the point that most people actually think the Fed is a branch of the government and Fed officials work for taxpayers rather than the banks that own them.

2) William Dudley, the “regulator” who is criticizing the banks, was Goldman Sachs’ chief economist from 1986 to 2007. By working for the Fed, he is still effectively an employee of the Fed’s owners, which is to say he never actually left his job at Goldman; he just moved to a new division.

So why bite the hand that feeds him? He wouldn’t unless he’s part of a cleverly-staged bit of theater tying nicely into the investigations now underway of big banks’ manipulation of the mortgage, energy, interest rate, foreign exchange – ok, of all the markets. The fact that the fines being levied sound huge but are mere fractions of what the banks make from these activities and that none of the bankers themselves are being convicted, let alone imprisoned, impoverished or even named, implies that the banks recognize that their behavior has become blatant enough to make the government look bad. So they’ve devised a PR strategy to make the regulators seem awake and the banks contrite. Having Dudley publicly criticize them is just another piece of that charm offensive.

Definitive proof that this is true will come in a few years when the Justice Department investigators and Fed officials who are now hassling the banks are rewarded by those same banks with corner offices at JP Morgan Chase or Citigroup – with pay packages orders of magnitude higher than what they get now for their “public service.”

 

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