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Geithner Warned S&P Chairman US Would Retaliate For Downgrade | Zero Hedge

Geithner Warned S&P Chairman US Would Retaliate For Downgrade | Zero Hedge.

Who can forget Tim Geithner’s historic interview from April 2011, in which he said:

Peter Barnes “Is there a risk that the United States could lose its AAA credit rating? Yes or no?”

Geithner’s response: “No risk of that.”

“No risk?” Barnes asked.

No risk,” Geithner said.

Considering that the US was downgraded by S&P just 4 months later, one person who certainly will never forget his idiotic preannouncement, is the former Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. And being the sore loser that everyone suspected he was (although one hopes his recent well-paid move to Warburg Pincus will help soothe his sensitivity) it will come as no surprise that Geithner told the Chairman of embattled rating agency Standard & Poor’s, that its downgrade of the US from AAA to AA+ “would be met by a response.

From Bloomberg:

S&P filed a declaration of McGraw yesterday in federal court in Santa Ana, California, as part of a request to force the U.S. to hand over potential evidence the company says will support its claim that the government filed a fraud lawsuit against it last year in retaliation for its downgrade of the U.S. debt two years earlier.

In his court statement, McGraw said Geithner called him on Aug. 8, 2011, after S&P was the only credit ratings company to downgrade the U.S. debt. Geithner, McGraw said, told him that S&P would be held accountable for the downgrade. Government officials have said the downgrade was based on an error by S&P.

“S&P’s conduct would be looked at very carefully,” Geithner told McGraw according to the filing. “Such behavior would not occur, he said, without a response from the government.”

The Justice Department last year accused S&P of lying about its ratings being free of conflicts of interest and may seek as much as $5 billion in civil penalties. The government alleged in its Feb. 4, 2013, complaint that S&P knowingly downplayed the risk on securities before the credit crisis to win business from investment banks seeking the highest possible ratings to help sell the instruments.

None of this somces as a surprise, and it has been well-known for a long time that the only reason the US Department of Injustice targeted only S&P and not Moody’s or Fitch for their crisis era ratings of mortgages is precisely due to Geithner’s vendetta with S&P. Of course, this kind of selective punishment simply means that nobody else will dare to touch the US rating ever again, or speak badly against the sovereign in a public medium for fears of retaliation.

Naturally, while this means that the credibility of the rating agencies is now non-existent even among the head in the sand groupthink, what is worse is observing the US’ slide into the kind of totalitarian, 1st Amendment quashing tactics that worked out so well for all previous fascist regimes.

Fitch says China credit bubble unprecedented in modern world history – Telegraph

Fitch says China credit bubble unprecedented in modern world history – Telegraph.

China’s shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned.

China's shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned.

Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a “hidden second balance sheet” for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses. Photo: Alamy
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

By , International Business Editor

4:12PM BST 16 Jun 2013

Comments307 Comments

The agency said the scale of credit was so extreme that the country would find it very hard to grow its way out of the excesses as in past episodes, implying tougher times ahead.

“The credit-driven growth model is clearly falling apart. This could feed into a massive over-capacity problem, and potentially into a Japanese-style deflation,” said Charlene Chu, the agency’s senior director in Beijing.

“There is no transparency in the shadow banking system, and systemic risk is rising. We have no idea who the borrowers are, who the lenders are, and what the quality of assets is, and this undermines signalling,” she told The Daily Telegraph.

While the non-performing loan rate of the banks may look benign at just 1pc, this has become irrelevant as trusts, wealth-management funds, offshore vehicles and other forms of irregular lending make up over half of all new credit. “It means nothing if you can off-load any bad asset you want. A lot of the banking exposure to property is not booked as property,” she said.

Concerns are rising after a string of upsets in Quingdao, Ordos, Jilin and elsewhere, in so-called trust products, a $1.4 trillion (£0.9 trillion) segment of the shadow banking system.

Bank Everbright defaulted on an interbank loan 10 days ago amid wild spikes in short-term “Shibor” borrowing rates, a sign that liquidity has suddenly dried up. “Typically stress starts in the periphery and moves to the core, and that is what we are already seeing with defaults in trust products,” she said.

Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a “hidden second balance sheet” for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses.

This niche is the epicentre of risk. Half the loans must be rolled over every three months, and another 25pc in less than six months. This has echoes of Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers and others that came to grief in the West on short-term liabilities when the wholesale capital markets froze.

Mrs Chu said the banks had been forced to park over $3 trillion in reserves at the central bank, giving them a “massive savings account that can be drawn down” in a crisis, but this may not be enough to avert trouble given the sheer scale of the lending boom.

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire US commercial banking system in five years,” she said.

The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.

The agency downgraded China’s long-term currency rating to AA- debt in April but still thinks the government can handle any banking crisis, however bad. “The Chinese state has a lot of firepower. It is very able and very willing to support the banking sector. The real question is what this means for growth, and therefore for social and political risk,” said Mrs Chu.

“There is no way they can grow out of their asset problems as they did in the past. We think this will be very different from the banking crisis in the late 1990s. With credit at 200pc of GDP, the numerator is growing twice as fast as the denominator. You can’t grow out of that.”

The authorities have been trying to manage a soft-landing, deploying loan curbs and a high reserve ratio requirement (RRR) for banks to halt property speculation. The home price to income ratio has reached 16 to 18 in many cities, shutting workers out of the market. Shadow banking has plugged the gap for much of the last two years.

However, a new problem has emerged as the economic efficiency of credit collapses. The extra GDP growth generated by each extra yuan of loans has dropped from 0.85 to 0.15 over the last four years, a sign of exhaustion.

Wei Yao from Societe Generale says the debt service ratio of Chinese companies has reached 30pc of GDP – the typical threshold for financial crises — and many will not be able to pay interest or repay principal. She warned that the country could be on the verge of a “Minsky Moment”, when the debt pyramid collapses under its own weight. “The debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity,” she said.

The latest twist is sudden stress in the overnight lending markets. “We believe the series of policy tightening measures in the past three months have reached critical mass, such that deleveraging in the banking sector is happening. Liquidity tightening can be very damaging to a highly leveraged economy,” said Zhiwei Zhang from Nomura.

“There is room to cut interest rates and the reserve ratio in the second half,” wrote a front-page editorial today in China Securities Journal on Friday. The article is the first sign that the authorities are preparing to change tack, shifting to a looser stance after a drizzle of bad data over recent weeks.

The journal said total credit in China’s financial system may be as high as 221pc of GDP, jumping almost eightfold over the last decade, and warned that companies will have to fork out $1 trillion in interest payments alone this year. “Chinese corporate debt burdens are much higher than those of other economies. Much of the liquidity is being used to repay debt and not to finance output,” it said.

It also flagged worries over an exodus of hot money once the US Federal Reserve starts tightening. “China will face large-scale capital outflows if there is an exit from quantitative easing and the dollar strengthens,” it wrote.

The journal said foreign withdrawals from Chinese equity funds were the highest since early 2008 in the week up to June 5, and withdrawals from Hong Kong funds were the most in a decade.

 

Fitch’s “Reserve Currency” Loophole: 80-90% Debt/GDP Rule Does Not Apply To You | Zero Hedge

Fitch’s “Reserve Currency” Loophole: 80-90% Debt/GDP Rule Does Not Apply To You | Zero Hedge. (source)

It would appear that French-owned Fitch, following its rating-watch-negative shift on the US credit rating last week, has got a tap on the shoulder from the powers that be. As Hollande complains about Obama’s espionage, Fitch has released a statement explaining how the USA can do whatever it wants and not be downgraded. With only the Chinese ratings agency “able” to openly comment on the creditworthiness of the USA, it is no surprise that Fitch gave itself an “out” on the basis of the USDollar’s exorbitant previlege.

Via Fitch,

Fitch Ratings says in a new report that even for a sovereign with the strongest credit fundamentals, there will be a gross general government debt (GGGD)/GDP level above which Fitch believes its rating is no longer compatible with ‘AAA’.

This is usually 80%-90%, but can be higher for sovereigns with exceptional financing flexibility, such as benchmark borrowers with reserve currency status. As we have highlighted before, for France, Germany and the UK, this threshold is currently 90%-100%, and for the US, it is currently 110%, provided debt is then placed on a firm downward path over the medium term.

Our 80%-90% threshold recognises that sovereigns with (otherwise) ‘AAA’ characteristics have high financing flexibility and debt tolerance. Nevertheless, such a high level of debt tends to persist and potentially limits the capacity to respond to future shocks. It can also have a negative impact on growth.

Fitch gives a ‘AAA’ rated sovereign some leeway in allowing a temporary rise in its GGGD/GDP ratio before a downgrade. This stickiness also works in the other direction. The ratio needs to be steadily declining before restoring ‘AAA’ status, if warranted by other credit factors. Debt dynamics would need to be resilient to shocks to ensure that the 80%-90% level is not breached again. This would imply a fall in the debt ratio (not just a projected fall) of around 10pp of GDP or more from the downgrade level and would likely take several years.

A larger fall in the debt ratio would likely be required to restore the ‘AAA’ if the associated shock that precipitated the sharp increase in the debt ratio and downgrade revealed or triggered other negative credit developments such as weakening in the fiscal policy framework or credibility, a worsening in the structure of government debt, deterioration in economic growth prospects or a weakening in political stability or governance.

The 2013 median GGGD/GDP ratio for ‘AAA’ rated sovereigns is 47%, compared with 42% for all Fitch-rated sovereigns. But other credit strengths are sufficient to outweigh the potential drag on the rating from public debt. They typically have debt denominated in their own currency and can issue at long maturity while low interest rates hold down service costs.

The trajectory of GGGD/GDP may, at a particular time, be the key driver of rating actions for ‘AAA’ or ‘AA+’ rated sovereigns. However, ratings reflect the strengths and weaknesses of many factors, not just public debt. Thus rating actions can bite at various GGGD/GDP ratios.

So there it is folks… because of the dollar’s exorbitant privelege position of world reserve currency, Reinhart and Rogoff’s 90% barrier is irrelevant… It seems that Fitch is measuring pure default risk and not a “default and recovery” measure…

Simply put, there ain’t no stopping US now…

 

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Fitch downgrades U.K. credit rating to AA+ – Business – CBC News

Fitch downgrades U.K. credit rating to AA+ – Business – CBC News.

 

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