“All bets are off” as the Bank of England holds a “secret” press conference

Today is the turn of the Bank of England to take centre stage. On a personal level it raises a wry smile as when I was a market maker in UK short sterling options (known as a local) on the LIFFE floor it was the most important day of the month and often make or break. At other times it has been a more implicit big deal. Actually there is no likely change to short-term interest-rates on the cards. Perusing my old stomping ground shows that in fact not much action is expected at all with a pretty flat curve out to March 2024 when maybe a rise to the giddy heights of 0.25% is expected. Personally I think there is a solid chance we will see negative interest-rates first but that is not how the market is set this morning. Also I note that volumes are not great suggesting they are not expecting much today either.

If course some may be “more equal than others” to use that famous phrase as the Monetary Policy Committee voted last night following one of the previous Governor’s ( Mark Carney) “improvements”. He was of the opinion that getting his Minutes and PR prepared was more important than the risk of the vote leaking. Whereas the reality is that central banks are in fact rather leaky vessels.

Nationwide

There will have been consternation at the Bank of England when this news arrived at its hallowed doors. From the BBC.

The UK’s biggest building society has tripled the minimum deposit it will ask for from first-time buyers. The Nationwide will lower its ceiling for mortgage lending to new customers in response to the coronavirus crisis.It said the change, from Thursday, was due to “these unprecedented times and an uncertain mortgage market”.

I do not know if the new Governor Andrew Bailey has the same sharp temper as his predecessor Mark Carney but if he does it would have been in display. After all policy is essentially to get the housing market going once we peer beneath the veneer. Nearly £118 billion of cheap funding ( at the Bank Rate of 0.1%) has been deployed via the Term Funding Scheme(s) to keep the housing market wheels oiled. Also the news looks timed to just precede the MPC meeting.

In terms of detail there it is aimed at first-time buyers which is only likely to anger the Governor more.

First-time buyers are likely to be the most significantly affected because they often have smaller amounts saved to get on the property ladder.

Nationwide has reduced the proportion of a home’s value that is willing to lend from 95% to 85%.

So for example, if a property costs £100,000, a new buyer would now need a £15,000 deposit rather than a £5,000 deposit.

If we look back in time this is a familiar feature of house price falls. As mortgage borrowing becomes more restrained that by its very nature tends to pull house prices lower. For larger falls then it usually requites surveyors to join the party by down valuing some properties which as they are pack animals can spread like wildfire. The quote below shows that the situation is complex.

Some lenders, such as HSBC, still have mortgages with a 90% loan-to-value ratio. However, there is more demand for that type of mortgage than many banks have the capacity to deal with at the moment, he said.

Policy

We have already seen an extraordinary set of moves here. We have a record low interest-rate of 0.1% which is quite something from a body which had previously assured us that the “lower-bound” was 0.5%. There is a link to today’s news from this because it was building societies like the Nationwide and their creaking IT systems which got the blame for this, although ironically I think they did us a favour.

Next comes a whole barrage of Quantitative Easing and Credit Easing policies. The headliner here is the purchases of UK bonds ( Gilts) which by my maths passed the £600 billion mark just before 2 pm yesterday as it progresses at a weekly rate of £13.5 billion. This means that they are implicitly financing the UK public-sector right now, something I pointed out when the Ways and Means issue arose. We see that as I note that the UK Debt Management Office has issued some £14.4 billion of new UK bonds or Gilts this week. Whilst the Bank of England did not buy any of these it did oil the wheels with its purchases which means that the net issuance figure is £900 million which is rather different to £14.4 billion. On that road we see how both the two-year yield ( -0.07%) and the five-year yield ( -0,02%) are negative as I type this. Even the fifty-year yield is a mere 0.38%.

There has also been some £15 billion of Corporate Bond buying so far. This policy has not gone well as so desperate are they to find bonds to buy that they have bought some of Apple’s bonds. Yes the company with the enormous cash pile. Also I sure the Danes are grateful we are supporting their shipping company Maersk as it appears to need it, but they are probably somewhat bemused.

As to credit easing I have already noted the Term Funding Scheme and there is also the Covid Financing Facility where it buys Commercial Paper. Some £16.3 billion has been bought so far. Those who like a hot sausage roll may be pleased Greggs have been supported to the tune of £30 million, although North London is likely to be split on tribal lines by the £175 million for Spurs.

Comment

These days central banks and governments are hand in glove. Operationally that is required because the QE and credit easing measures require the backing of the taxpayer via HM Treasury. More prosaically the Chancellor Rishi Sunak can borrow at ultra low levels due to Bank of England policies and will do doubt raise a glass of champagne to them. Amazingly some put on such powerful sunglasses that they call this independence. Perhaps they were the ones who disallowed Sheffield United’s goal last night.

However the ability to help the economy is more problematical and was once described as like “pushing on a string”. This is not helped by the issues with our official statistics as we not inflation has been under recorded as I explained yesterday as has unemployment ( it was 5% + not the 3.9% reported) and the monthly drop of 20.4% in GDP has a large error range too. Because of that I have some sympathy for the MPC but I have no sympathy for the “secret” press conference it is holding at 1 pm. Then its “friends” will be able to release the details at 2:30 pm with no official confirmation until tomorrow.

So there are two issues. That is a form of corruption and debases what is left of free markets even more. Next it is supposed to be a publicly accountable institution with transparent policy. Along the way it means that the chances of a more aggressive policy announcement have just risen or as the bookie says in the film Snatch.

All bets are off

My report card for the Bank of England in the Covid-19 crisis

The advent of the Corona Virus pandemic has seen the Bank of England expand its activity beyond what we already considered to be extraordinary levels. There has been very little criticism I think for two reasons. Many of the new moves are not understood especially by the mainstream media and also they like to copy and paste official communiques of which there have been plenty! So let us work our way through the new policies to see the state of play.

Financing the UK government’s borrowing

Last week we looked at two factors here. The first is the QE ( Quantitative Easing) purchases which are presently running at a weekly rate of £13.5 billion and have so far totalled £35 billion in this phase. This meant that last week the UK did this.

 if we allow for the Bank of England purchases we remain net buyers of the order of £1.3 billion.

So issued debt in gross terms but via the Bank of England bought more. That looks to be a similar situation for this week as it buys the same amount and the UK Debt Management Office plans to issue some £10 billion of UK Gilts in nominal terms. The amount raised will be more than that ( the surge in the Gilt market means the majority of Gilts trade over 100) but as you can see we look to be heading for a similar result.

So we can switch now to the result. On a basic level we see that the UK government can finance itself and at quite a rate as we are issuing debt at a rate of £12 billion or so a week. This is quite a rate! Also we are able to do so very cheaply as the fifty-year yield is 0.48% and the benchmark ten-year is 0.31% as I type this.

On a more minor level let me add in the Ways and Means account which some got so excited about at the end of last week. This is because it is likely to be smaller than the amounts above. I have just asked them for this week’s update.

Corporate Bonds

This is a much more awkward area for the Bank of England. That may be why in spite of Corporate Bond purchases being ongoing its data only goes up to April 1st! Actually the use of April Fools Day is appropriate in some ways and let me explain why. Regular readers will recall that last time the Bank of England struggled to find corporate bonds to buy and ended up buying the Danish shipping company Maersk. No doubt it and the Danish government were grateful.

Well on today’s list are that well know UK technology company Apple as well as IBM. Whilst you could make a case for buying BMW via the Mini operations here will the Bank of England be racing the ECB to buy its bonds? Anyway the operation will provide us with plenty of amusement over time if history is any guide.

Covid Corporate Financing Facility

Let me open with the scale of the operation so far.

Total amount of CP purchased since 02 April
£3.626bn (data as at close 8 April 2020).

It seems worthy enough but as we look at the details I start to get troubled.

The facility is designed to support liquidity among larger firms, helping them to bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through the purchase of short-term debt in the form of commercial paper.

Term Funding Scheme

This has a new incarnation as after all we must keep supporting The Precious.

Following today’s special meeting of the MPC the Initial Borrowing Allowance for the TFSME will be increased from 5% to 10% of participants’ stock of real economy lending, based on the Base Stock of Applicable Loans.

I wonder how they would define fake economy lending? We may yet find out. Anyway as is typical the help for smaller businesses is not yet in play so this is something of a fail and may yet be a grand fail as there are signs that more than a few businesses have folded already.

One thing that finally swung my partners into throwing up their hands and decide retiring was preferable was the hoops we’d have had to jump through to raise money at short notice. ( @MattBrookes3)

There are other reports of problems in funding getting to smaller businesses.

Gary Crosbie wants to keep his staff on, but like other small firms, his profitable business now faces running out of cash owing to the coronavirus shutdown.

Mr Crosbie runs Inter-Refurb, which refurbishes pubs, hotels and restaurants.

He says he can demonstrate three years of profits, with £50,000 cash in the bank.

Yet because his bank decided it didn’t wish to support the construction industry, he failed the test that required banks only to lend according to their pre-shutdown criteria. He was rejected for a government-backed loan last week. ( Andy Verity of the BBC)

There is quite a contrast here between smaller businesses who need money now but are not getting it and The Precious who still have some £107 billion from the previous Term Funding Scheme in their coffers.

Mortgages

There are mortgage holidays in play so let us look as those as after all it is the area about which the Bank of England is most concerned if its track record is any guide.

Lenders have provided over 1.2 million mortgage payment holidays to households whose finances have been impacted by Covid-19, UK Finance has revealed today.

On 17 March, just under a month ago, mortgage lenders announced they would support customers facing financial difficulties due to the Covid-19 crisis. Three weeks later, by Wednesday 8 April, over 1.2 million mortgage borrowers had been offered a payment holiday by their lender.

The action taken by lenders means that one in nine mortgages in the UK are now subject to a payment holiday, helping households across the country through this difficult time. For the average mortgage holder, the payment holiday amounts to £260 per month of suspended interest payments, with many benefitting from the option of extending the scheme for up to three months. ( UK Finance)

However that starts to look like PR spinning when we note this.

And once credit card or mortgage payment holidays end (1 in 9 of us have the latter), we’ll have more debt to pay off – because what isn’t talked about enough is that interest charges will still being calculated – and then added to the amount owed. ( @GCGodfrey)

Here is a song for the banks from Hot Chocolate.

So you win again, you win again
Here I stand again, the loser.

US Dollar Liquidity Swaps

These are proving to be a success on two fronts. Firstly US Dollars are available and secondly the amounts required have been falling. At the peak some US $37.7 billion required but as of yesterday that had fallen to US $21.9 billion.

Comment

As you can see there are various layers here. If we start with what has become the modus operandi for QE which is facilitating and financing government spending then it is a success. The UK can borrow both in size and extremely cheaply right now. That is a good idea for the crisis but of course we know that such things have a habit of becoming permanent and then the issue changes.

Next we see that larger companies will be pleased with the Bank of England action including some foreign ones. This creates problems because whilst I do not want companies to fail because of cash flow issues created by the pandemic we arrive yet again at the Zombie businesses issue. One of the reasons we spent so much time in the credit crunch was that the march of the Zombies just carried on and on and on. In this category we can class the banks because in spite of the “resilient” rhetoric and all the support we see that we are invested in Royal Bank of Scotland at around a fiver compared to a share price of £1.10.

Smaller companies will be wondering when the help will start? Let me take you back to March 26th.

Hopefully my late father is no longer spinning quite so fast in his Memorial Vault ( these things have grand names).  That is assuming ashes can spin! We seem to be taking a familiar path where out of touch central bankers claim to be boosting business but we find that the cheap liquidity is indeed poured into the banks.

As to mortgage lending we see that the banks will be getting liquidity at 0.1%, but they are piling debt excuse me help on borrowers at a lot higher rate.

So it is a patchy report card where there are successes but they are not reaching the ordinary person or business. Reality contrasts starkly with the words of Governor Carney from the 11th of March.

I’ll just reiterate that, by providing much more flexibility, an ability to-, the banking system has been put in
a position today where they could make loans to the hardest hit businesses, in fact the entire corporate
sector, not just the hardest hit businesses and Small and Medium Sized enterprises, thirteen times of
what they lent last year in good times.

 

 

Mr Bean and two Barons are pressing for monetary financing in the UK

Today brings into focus several themes of my work. The first is the expansion of the role of central banks into ever more areas a subject I looked at only on Friday. I would say economic areas but in an outbreak of both hubris and ego central bankers such as Mark Carney and Christine Lagarde found it fashionable to intervene on the issue of climate change as well. Or if you prefer they again behaved like politicians rather than the technocrats they are supposed to be. Also we have learnt that big policy changes from them are regularly preceded by an official denial of any such intention. This is sometimes just pure PR but at other times deliberately misleads the unwary. The record on this front so far has been Governor Kuroda of the Bank of Japan who imposed negative interest-rates only 8 days after denying any such intention.

Thus my antennae were fully deployed when the new Governor of the Bank of England gave an interview to its house journal over the weekend.

Andrew Bailey

The Financial Times article went straight to an official denial.

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has rejected suggestions the central bank should use monetary financing to protect and boost the economy amid the corona virus crisis, saying it would “damage credibility on controlling inflation”.

There is a clear initial issue with the assumption that the Bank of England has credibility on the issue of inflation after letting it go to over 5% in late 2011 and encouraging it to go above target with the Bank Rate cut and Sledgehammer QE of August 2016. So let us remind ourselves that this is the FT and move on.

Let us move on to the exact words used.

“Using monetary financing would damage credibility on controlling inflation . . . It would also ultimately result in an unsustainable central bank balance sheet and is incompatible with the pursuit of an inflation target by an independent central bank,” said Mr Bailey.

As you can see we now also have a claim that the central bank is “independent” which has crumbled to dust in the credit crunch era. For example the permission and indeed underwriting of any QE bond purchases is required from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Also the importance of of inflation target was further downgraded in 2013 when the then Chancellor George Osborne introduced supporting the economic activities of the government as one  and indeed in my opinion the objective of central bank policy. So this is really rather awkward as the Bank of England is neither independent nor pursuing its inflation target.

How has this come about?

We see a classic case of the UK establishment in action.

Although monetary financing has been associated with disastrous economic consequences in Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Weimar Germany in the 1920s, such is the depth of the Covid-19 crisis that it has been recommended by some of the UK’s most distinguished UK economic policymakers.

Okay who then?

Figures such as Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority during the financial crisis, and Charlie Bean, currently on the policymaking committee of the Office for Budget Responsibility, have said that judicious BoE financing need not lead to the hyperinflation, immiseration and the destruction of society seen elsewhere.

If we stay with the issue I am not entirely clear that following any example set by Venezuela, Weimar or Zimbabwe in this area is one to follow! A while ago some of you posted some 1 trillion notes from Zimbabwe on here. Next comes the word “judicious” that I rather suspect will be finding its way into my financial lexicon for these times and out of the Oxford English Dictionary.

As to these being “distinguished UK economic policymakers” here is Sir Charles Bean from September 2010.

 “It’s very much swings and roundabouts. At the current juncture, savers might be suffering as a result of bank rate being at low levels, but there will be times in the future — as there have been times in the past — when they will be doing very well.

I am sure plenty of savers are shouting we are still waiting Charlie right now. Indeed Mr.Bean’s inability to look ahead accurately continued.

The Deputy Governor said the Bank’s 0.5  per cent base rate was part of an “aggressive policy” to deal with a “once-in-a-century” financial crisis.

Just as a reminder Bank Rate is now 0.1% so savers are continuing to have to do this.

Savers shouldn’t necessarily expect to be able to live just off their income in times when interest rates are low. It may make sense for them to eat into their capital a bit.”

By contrast Sir Charles Bean has done really rather well. According to the 2012 annual accounts of the Bank of England he had accumulating a pension worth over £3,5 million which was growing at an annual rate of over £400,000 a year. Subsequently he was in charge of the review of UK economic statistics which seems to have gone to ground. Also he was appointed to the Office for Budget Responsibility due to his expertise in forecasting the future.

As to Baron Turner of Ecchinswell he was head of the FSA in the UK when we saw the banking collapse and taxpayer bailouts. I still recall a comment on here that described him as having had a “talentless ascent”

Bond Markets

Let me shift now to a technical issue where the characters above seem to be swimming at the deep end with skills only suitable for the shallow end. The emphasis is mine.

Unlike its previous quantitative easing programmes, notably in the financial crisis, the BoE said the latest QE was necessary to improve the functioning of the government bond market rather than to lower interest rates.

I am calling that out because we have two clear examples of large purchases of government bonds and in both cases the bond market has frozen up. There were days even before this pandemic crisis that Japanese Government Bonds barely traded at all and Greece after all the official purchases saw liquidity end.

 

Comment

Let me first open with what the Bank of England is doing which is buying some £13.5 billion of UK Gilts a week and last week its purchases went was far as 2071. This means that even the fifty-year UK Gilt yield is a mere 0.6% and the Bank of England is implicitly if not explicitly financing UK government spending. An example of this was that we issued some £3 billion of a 2028 Gilt last week and on the same day the Bank of England bought £1.4 billion of the 2029 Gilt which looked to all the world like a spread trade.

Next is the issue of monetary financing and inflation. We have been presented with a list of what are considered to be the great and the good but if we add in Baron King of Lothbury their track record in this area is poor. Indeed Baron King voted for more QE in the summer of 2012 just as the economy was picking up. At this point we need to remember that these people from the Bank of England have been in authority when there have been all sorts of attacks on the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation but somehow seem to have overlooked that their own pensions benefit from it.

In my opinion we will see a complex picture for inflation looking ahead. Some areas will and indeed are seeing disinflation highlighted by the oil price. But others will see price rises due to shortages and also via not being able to buy what they want and having to buy something which is either more expensive or not as good.

Let me finish off on the subject of monetary financing. The simple truth is that we have an implicit form of it right now. Why is the currency not collapsing? Because nearly everyone else is at it too! Although of course in the world of the FT the Pound is collapsing.

and a sharp slide in sterling’s value

Actually it did fall allowing the FT to get short of it one more time at a market bottom. Against the Euro it was pushed towards 0.95 as we discussed but now has rallied a bit to below 0.88.

Podcast

A blog from my late father about the banks

The opening today is brought to you by my late father. You see he was a plastering sub-contractor who was a mild man but could be brought to ire by the subject of how he had been treated by the banks. He used to regale me with stories about how to keep the relationships going he would be forced to take loans he didn’t really want in the good times and then would find they would not only refuse loans in the bad but ask for one’s already given back. He only survived the 1980-82 recession because of an overdraft for company cars he was able to use for other purposes which they tried but were unable to end. So my eyes lit up on reading this from the BBC.

Banks have been criticised by firms and MPs for insisting on personal guarantees to issue government-backed emergency loans to business owners.

The requirement loads most of the risk that the loan goes bad on the business owner, rather than the banks.

It means that the banks can go after the personal property of the owner of a firm if their business goes under and they cannot afford to pay off the debt.

Whilst borrowers should have responsibility for the loans these particular ones are backed by the government.

According to UK Finance, formerly the British Bankers Association, the scheme should offer loans of up to £5m, where the government promises to cover 80% of losses if the money is not repaid. But, it notes: “Lenders may require security for the facility.”

In recent times there has been a requirement for banks to “Know Your Customer” or KYC for short. If they have done so then they would be able to sift something of the wheat from the chaff so to speak and would know which businesses are likely to continue and sadly which are not. With 80% of losses indemnified by the taxpayer they should be able to lend quickly, cheaply and with little or no security.

For those saying they need to be secure, well yes but in other areas they seem to fall over their own feet.

ABN AMRO Bank N.V. said Thursday that it will incur a significant “incidental” loss on one of its U.S. clients amid the new coronavirus scenario.

The bank said it is booking a $250 million pretax loss, which would translate into a net loss of around $200 million.

Well we now know why ABN Amro is leaving the gold business although we do not know how much of this was in the gold market. Oh and the excuse is a bit weak for a clearer of positions.

ABN AMRO blamed the loss on “unprecedented volumes and volatility in the financial markets following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.”

Returning to the issue of lending of to smaller businesses here were the words of Mark Carney back as recently as the 11th of this month when he was still Bank of England Governor.

I’ll just reiterate that, by providing much more flexibility, an ability to-, the banking system has been put in
a position today where they could make loans to the hardest hit businesses, in fact the entire corporate
sector, not just the hardest hit businesses and Small and Medium Sized enterprises, thirteen times of
what they lent last year in good times.

That boasting was repeated by the present Governor Andrew Bailey. Indeed he went further on the subject of small business lending.

there’s a very clear message to the banks-, and, by the way, which I think has been reflected in things that a number of the banks have already said.

Apparently not clear enough. But there was more as back then he was still head of the FCA.

One of the FCA’s core principles for business is treating customers fairly. The system is now, as we’ve said many times this morning, in a much more resilient state. We expect them to treat customers fairly. That’s what must happen. They know that. They’re in a position to do it. There should be no excuses now, and both we, the Bank of England, and the FCA, will be watching this very
carefully.

Well I have consistently warned you about the use of the word “resilient”. What it seems to mean in practice is that they need forever more subsidies and help.

On top of that, we’re giving them four-year certainty on a considerable amount of funding at the cost of
bank rate. On top of that, they have liquidity buffers themselves, but, also, liquidity from the Bank of
England. So, they are in that position to support the economy. ( Governor Carney )

Since then they can fund even more cheaply as the Bank Rate is now 0.1%.

Meanwhile I have been contacted by Digibits an excavator company via social media.

Funding For Lending Scheme was crazy. We looked at this to finance a new CNC machine tool in 2013. There were all sorts of complicated (and illogical) strings attached and, at the end of the day, the APR was punitive.

I asked what rate the APR was ( for those unaware it is the annual interest-rate)?

can’t find record of that, but it was 6% flat in Oct 2013. Plus you had to ‘guarantee’ job creation – a typical top-down metric that makes no sense in SME world. IIRC 20% grant contribution per job up to maximum of £15k – but if this didn’t work out you’d risk paying that back.

As you can see that was very different to the treatment of the banks and the company was worried about the Red Tape.

The grant element (which theoretically softened the blow of the high rate) was geared toward creating jobs, but that is a very difficult agreement (with teeth) to hold over the head of an SME and that contribution could have been clawed back.

Quantitative Easing

There is a lot going on here so let me start with the tactical issues. Firstly the Bank of England has cut back on its daily QE buying from the £10.2 billion peak seen on both Friday and Monday. It is now doing three maturity tranches ( short-dated, mediums and longs) in a day and each are for £1 billion.

Yet some still want more as I see Faisal Islam of the BBC reporting.

Ex top Treasury official @rjdhughes

floated idea in this v interesting report of central bank – (ie Bank of England) temporarily funding Government by buying bonds directly, using massive increase in Government overdraft at BoE – “ways & means account”

Some of you may fear the worst from the use of “top” and all of you should fear the word “temporarily” as it means any time from now to infinity these days.

This could be justified on separate grounds of market functioning/ liquidity of key markets, in this case, for gilts/ Government bonds. There have been signs of a lack of demand at recent auctions…

Faisal seems unaware that the lack of demand is caused by the very thing his top official is calling for which is central bank buying! Even worse he seems to be using the Japanese model where the bond market has been freezing up for some time.

“more formal monetary support of the fiscal response will be required..prudent course of action is yield curve control, where Bank can create fiscal space for Chancellor although if tested this regime may mutate into monetary financing”

Those who have followed my updates on the Bank of Japan will be aware of this.

Comment

Hopefully my late father is no longer spinning quite so fast in his Memorial Vault ( these things have grand names).  That is assuming ashes can spin! We seem to be taking a familiar path where out of touch central bankers claim to be boosting business but we find that the cheap liquidity is indeed poured into the banks. But it seems to get lost as the promises of more business lending now morph into us seeing more and cheaper mortgage lending later. That boosts the banks and house prices in what so far has appeared to be a never ending cycle. Meanwhile the Funding for Lending Scheme started in the summer of 2012 so I think we should have seen the boost to lending to smaller businesses by now don’t you?

Meanwhile I see everywhere that not only is QE looking permanent my theme of “To Infinity! And Beyond” has been very prescient. No doubt we get more stories of “Top Men” ( or women) recommending ever more. Indeed it is not clear to me that a record in HM Treasury and the position below qualifies.

he joined the International Monetary Fund in 2008 where he headed the Fiscal Affairs Department’s Public Finance Division and worked on fiscal reform in a range of crisis-hit advanced, emerging, and developing countries.

 

 

Unsecured credit and mortgage lending market will be the winners after the Bank of England move

Today has arrived with an event we have been expecting but the timing was a few days early. Those walking past the Bank of England building in Threadneedle Street early this morning may have got a warning from the opening of Stingray being played on the wi-fi stream.

Stand by for action!

Anything can happen in the next 30 minutes

Before the equity and Gilt markets opened it announced this.

At its special meeting ending on 10 March 2020, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to reduce Bank Rate by 50 basis points to 0.25%. …..The reduction in Bank Rate will help to support business and consumer confidence at a difficult time, to bolster the cash flows of businesses and households, and to reduce the cost, and to improve the availability, of finance.

So we see that yesterday morning’s equity market falls put the Bank of England into a state of panic. We also see why the UK Pound £ was weak on the foreign exchanges late yesterday as the news seems to have leaked giving some an early wire. The “improvement” announced by Governor Carney of voting the night before should be scrapped. But as we look at the statement the “help to” suggests a lack of conviction and was followed by this.

When interest rates are low, it is likely to be difficult for some banks and building societies to reduce deposit rates much further, which in turn could limit their ability to cut their lending rates.  In order to mitigate these pressures and maximise the effectiveness of monetary policy, the TFSME will, over the next 12 months, offer four-year funding of at least 5% of participants’ stock of real economy lending at interest rates at, or very close to, Bank Rate. Additional funding will be available for banks that increase lending, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Experience from the Term Funding Scheme launched in 2016 suggests that the TFSME could provide in excess of £100 billion in term funding.

Okay the first sentence covers a lot of ground. Firstly it implicitly agrees with our theme that banks struggle to reduce interest-rates for ordinary depositors as we approach 0%, we have seen this in places with negative interest-rates. That also means that there is an opportunity to give the banks known under the code phrase “The Precious! The Precious!” at the Bank of England yet another subsidy estimated at the order of £100 billion.

Term Funding Scheme

We have had one of these before as it was initially introduced the last time the Bank of England panicked back in August 2016. It too like its predecessor the Funding for Lending Scheme was badged as being for small and medium-sized businesses but the change of name to the acronym TFSME gives us the clearest clue as to its success. after all successes like Coca-Cola keep the same name whereas leaky nuclear reprocessing plants like Windscale get called Sellafield.

So let me go through the scheme firstly with the Bank of England rhetoric and secondly with what happened last time.

help reinforce the transmission of the reduction in Bank Rate to the real economy to ensure that businesses and households benefit from the MPC’s actions;

Mortgage rates fell to record lows providing yet another boost to house prices, building companies and estate agents.

provide participants with a cost-effective source of funding to support additional lending to the real economy, providing insurance against adverse conditions in bank funding markets;

Unsecured lending went through the roof going on a surge that has continued as can you think of anything else in the economy growing at 6% per annum? You do not need to take my word for it as the Bank of England cake trolley will not be going near whoever wrote this in the latest Money and Credit report.

The annual growth rate of consumer credit (credit used by consumers to buy goods and services) remained at 6.1% in January. The growth rate has been around this level since May 2019, having fallen steadily from a peak of 10.9% in late 2016.

Let me now give you the numbers for business borrowing. Now the FLS and the first TFS are now flowing anymore but the numbers are in fact better than hat we sometimes saw when they were.

Within this, the growth rate of borrowing from large businesses and SMEs fell to 0.9% and 0.5% respectively.

Oh and in line with the dictum that old soldiers never die they just fade away if you look at the Bank of England balance sheet the Term Funding Scheme still amounts to £107 billion.

Numbers bingo!

We can see this from two perspectives as a rather furious soon to be Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey was given this to announce.

The release of the countercyclical capital buffer will support up to £190 billion of bank lending to businesses. That is equivalent to 13 times banks’ net lending to businesses in 2019.

Once I had stopped laughing at the ridiculousness of this number I had two main thoughts. Firstly I guess he had to announce something as he had been robbed of rewarding the government with an interest-rate cut later this month. But next remember how we keep being told how we have more secure and indeed “resilient” banks? That seems to have morphed into this.

To support further the ability of banks to supply the credit needed to bridge a potentially challenging period, the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) has reduced the UK countercyclical capital buffer rate to 0% of banks’ exposures to UK borrowers with immediate effect.  The rate had been 1% and had been due to reach 2% by December 2020.

So yet another disaster for Forward Guidance! It actively misleads…

Comment

After all the Forward Guidance from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney about higher interest-rates he is going to leave them lower ( 0.25%) than when he started ( 0.5%). That about sums up his term in office as those like the Financial Times who called him a “rock star” Governor hope we have shirt memories. Also I have had many debates on social media with supporters of the claims that the Bank of England is politically independent. After an interest-rate cut to record lows on UK Budget Day I suspect they will be very quiet today. After all even Yes Prime Minister did not go quite that far! Indeed the Governor confirmed it in his press conference.

“We have coordinated our moves with the Chancellor in the Budget”

Actually there was also a Dr.Who style vibe going on as we had two Governors at one press conference.

More fundamentally there is the issue that interest-rate cuts at these levels may even make things worse. I am afraid our central planners have little nous and imagination and go for grand public gestures rather than real action. After all if you are short on staff because they are quarantined due to the Corona Virus what use is 0.5% off your borrowing costs? The latter of course assumes the banks pass it on.

As to ammunition left well the present Governor has established the lower bound for them at 0.1% ( hoping we will forget he previously claimed it was 0.5% before cutting below it). Will that survive him? It is hard to say because the real issue here is not you or I ot even business it is “The Precious” who they fear cannot take lower rates. That is the real reason for all the Term Funding Schemes and the like. However Monday did bring a curiosity as the Bank of England bought a Gilt with a yield of -0.025% so maybe it is considering plunging below zero.

Meanwhile there was something else curious today and the PR office of the Bank of England in an unusual turn may be grateful to me for pointing it out, But this was the sort of thing that used to make it cut interest-rates.

Gross domestic product (GDP) showed no growth in January 2020……The economy continued to show no growth overall in the latest three months.

No-one but the most credulous ( Professors of economics and those hoping to or previously having worked at the Bank of England) will believe that was the cause but it is a curious turn of events.

Meanwhile let us look at the term of Mark Carney via some music. Remember when he mentioned Jake Bugg? Well he would hope we would think of today’s move as this.

But that’s what happens
When it’s you who’s standing in the path of a lightning bolt

Whereas most will be humming The Smiths.

Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again?

Will the new Bank of England Governor cut interest-rates like in Yes Prime Minister?

Today has brought something I have long warned about into focus. This is the so-called improvement made by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney where it votes on a Wednesday evening but does not announce the results until midday on a Thursday. With it being a leaky vessel there was an enhanced risk of an early wire for some.

The City watchdog is to investigate a jump in the pound which took place shortly before the Bank of England’s interest rate announcement on Thursday.

The rise has raised questions over whether the decision to hold the Bank’s base rate at 0.75% had been leaked.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said: “We are aware of the incident and are looking into it.”

In December, the Bank referred to the FCA a leak of an audio feed of sensitive information to traders.

The value of sterling increased about 15 seconds before midday on Thursday, when the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) made its announcement.

It rose from $1.3023 to $1.3089 against the dollar, and saw a similar increase against the euro.

( BBC )

Actually the Pound had been rallying from much earlier in the morning but perhaps the FCA was not up then. As to the enquiry we know from the TV series Yes Minister how they work.

That’s what leak enquiries are for.
Setting up.
They don’t actually conduct them.

In fact it gets better.

Members may be appointed, but they’ll never meet, and certainly never report.
How many leak enquiries can you recall that named the culprit? – In round figures.
– If you want it in round figures none.

For those of you who have never watched this series it described the UK system of government with both uncanny accuracy and humour. This week alone we saw the Chancellor call for expenditure cuts of 5% exactly as predicted. They will be promised and claimed but somehow wont actually happen if the series continues to be so prescient.

Press Conference

This was a classic Unreliable Boyfriend style performance proving that the Governor has not lost his touch. After hinting and not delivering an interest-rate cut he then in yet another innovation the Monetary Policy Report ( just like in Canada ) cut the expected economic growth rate.

Taken together, potential supply growth is projected to remain subdued, and weaker than expected a year ago.
The MPC judges that potential supply growth will remain subdued over the forecast period, at around 1% on average.
It initially falls a little from its current rate of around 1%, before rising to around 1½% in 2023 Q1.

The problem here was exposed by a good question from the economics editor of the Financial Times Chris Giles who asked why this had fallen so much in Governor Carney’s period of office? You always have an indicator of a hot potato when the question is quickly passed to a Deputy Governor. As ever the absent-minded professor Ben Broadbent waffled inconsequentially as he waited for the audience to lose the will to live. But there are clear underling issues here. The recent one is the fall in the speed limit form 1.5%  to 1% as implied here but as Chris highlighted it had already nearly halved. What Chris did not highlight but I will is the impact on this of the woeful “output gap” style thinking which I will illustrate by reminding you that the Governor originally highlighted an unemployment rate of 7% and now in the MPR we are told this.

The MPC judges that the long-term equilibrium unemployment rate has remained at around 4¼%

That is a Boeing 737 Max style error.

Today’s Data

It is hard not to recall Governor Carney tell us “this is not a debt-fuelled recovery” as you read the numbers below.

The extra amount borrowed by consumers in order to buy goods and services increased to £1.2 billion in December, in line with the £1.1 billion average seen since July 2018. Within this, net borrowing on credit cards recovered from a very weak November to £0.4 billion. Net borrowing for other loans and advances remained the same as in November, at £0.8 billion.

As you can see we are little the wiser as to why credit card spending fell in the way in did in the previous release ( November data). It may just be one of those things because the surrounding months were relatively strong a bit like we often see with the UK pharmaceutical sector which does not run in even months.

A consequence of this is below.

The annual growth rate of consumer credit rose to 6.1% in December, having ticked down to 5.9% in November. The growth rate for consumer credit has been close to this level since May 2019. Prior to this it had fallen steadily from an average of 10.3% in 2017.

So after rocketing it is merely rising very strongly! From. of course, a higher base. Can anybody think of anything else in the UK economy rising at this sort of rate? It is six times the rate at which the Bank of England now thinks the economy can grow at and around double wages growth.

Actually household consumption full stop picked up.

Net mortgage borrowing by households was £4.6 billion in December, above the £4.2 billion average seen over the past six months. Despite these stronger flows, the annual growth rate for mortgage borrowing remained at 3.4%. Mortgage approvals for house purchase (an indicator for future lending) also picked up in December, to 67,200, above the 65,900 average of the past six months. Approvals for remortgage rose slightly on the month to 49,700.

For newer readers this continues a trend started by the Funding for Lending Scheme which began in the summer of 2012. It took a year to turn net mortgage lending positive but over time this example of credit easing has had the effect you see above. Of course in true Yes Minister style it was badged as a policy to boost small business lending, how is that going?

Within this, the growth rate of borrowing from large businesses and SMEs fell to 4.4% and 0.8% respectively.

Actually and you have to dig into the detail to find this for some reason, smaller business borrowed an extra 0 in December which followed an extra 0 in November.

Comment

The last 24 hours have been an example of the UK deep-state in action. For example the ground was set for the new Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey to reward the government with an interest-rate cut in return for his appointment just like in Yes Prime Minister. Meanwhile as head of the FCA he can make sure that the leak enquiry into the current Governor does not impact in his own term in a sort of insider regulation response to possible insider trading.

Meanwhile the new Governor has already lived down to his reputation for competence.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said most High Street banks had set “very similar prices”, after it demanded changes to the system.

Several big brands including Santander, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC are set to bring in a 39.9% rate this year.

The FCA has sent a letter to banks, asking them to explain what influenced their decision.

The City regulator has also asked how the banks will deal with any customers who could be worse off following the changes.

Yep the reforms of the FCA have more than doubled overdraft rates for some. Today’s Bank of England release has picked up a bit of this as its quoted rate is now 20.69% adding to something that I have reported throughout the life of this blog. Official interest-rates may fall but some real world ones have risen.

So as we consider Bank of England Governors let me leave you with one of the finest from the Who.

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!
We don’t get fooled again

 

 

 

Andrew Bailey’s appointment as Governor shows yet again how accurate Yes Prime Minister was

The pace of events has picked up again as whilst there is much to consider about the likely UK public finances something else has caught the eye.

Today, 20 December 2019, the Chancellor has announced that Andrew Bailey will become the new Governor of the Bank of England from 16 March 2020. Her Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment.

In order to provide for a smooth transition, the current Governor, Mark Carney, has agreed to now complete his term on 15 March 2020.

Making the announcement the Chancellor said: “When we launched this process, we said we were looking for a leader of international standing with expertise across monetary, economic and regulatory matters. In Andrew Bailey that is who we have appointed.

Andrew was the stand-out candidate in a competitive field. He is the right person to lead the Bank as we forge a new future outside the EU and level-up opportunity across the country.

It is hard not to have a wry smile at Governor Carney getting yet another extension! I think we have predicted that before. As to Andrew Bailey I guess that the delay means he will be busy in his present role as head of the Financial Conduct Authority covering up yesterday’s scandal at the Bank of England before he can move over. A new definition of moral hazard straight out of the Yes Prime Minister play book. There is the issue of the scandals he has overlooked or been tardy dealing with in his time at the FCA but there is something even more bizarre which was in the Evening Standard in 2016 and thank you to Kellie Dawson for this.

I was interested in the story of Andrew Bailey, new Bank of England chief battling a bear. Turns out his WIFE battled the bear while he was on the phone. Rolls knowing eyes at all women everywhere.

Economic Growth

There was also some good news for the UK economy this morning.

UK gross domestic product (GDP) in volume terms was estimated to have increased by 0.4% in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019, revised upwards by 0.1 percentage points from the first quarterly estimate…..When compared with the same quarter a year ago, UK GDP increased by 1.1% to Quarter 3 2019; revised upwards by 0.1 percentage points from the previous estimate.

So still an anaemic rate of annual growth but at these levels every little helps. One of the ironies in the Brexit situation is that annual growth is very similar as the Euro area is at 1.2%. As to the UK detail there is this.

Services output increased by a revised 0.5% in Quarter 3 2019, following the weakest quarterly figure in three years in the previous quarter. Manufacturing grew by 0.1% in Quarter 3 2019, as did production output. Construction output experienced a pickup following a weak Quarter 2 (Apr to June), increasing by 1.2%

So the “march of the makers” has in fact turned out to be the opposite of the “rebalancing” promised by the former Bank of England Governor Baron King of Lothbury. As I regularly point out services are becoming an ever larger component of UK GDP.

Also for once there was good news from the trade position.

The current account deficit narrowed to 2.8% of GDP in Quarter 3 2019, its lowest share of GDP since early 2012,

That is obviously welcome but there is a fly in this particular ointment as they seem to be splashing around between trade and investment.

The latest figures mean that net trade is now estimated to have added 1.2 percentage points to GDP growth over this period compared with the almost flat contribution in the previous estimate.

Gross capital formation is now estimated to have subtracted 1.2 percentage points from GDP growth since Quarter 1 2018 compared with the negative contribution of 0.5 percentage points previously recorded.

Also UK business investment over the past year has been revised up from -0.6% to 0.5% which is quite a change and deserves an explanation.

Public Finances

There were some announcements about future government spending in the Queen’s Speech yesterday. From the BBC.

Schools in England are promised more funding, rising by £7.1bn by 2022-23, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank says will reverse the budget cuts of the austerity years.

Also there was this about the NHS.

The five-year plan, which sees the budget grow by 3.4% a year to 2023, was unveiled last year and was included in the Tory election manifesto.

The proposal to help on business rates was more minor than badged so we are seeing something of a mild fiscal expansion that the Bank of England thinks will add 0.4% to GDP. So can we afford it?

Debt (public sector net debt excluding public sector banks, PSND ex) at the end of November 2019 was £1,808.8 billion (or 80.6% of gross domestic product (GDP)), an increase of £39.4 billion (or a decrease of 0.8 percentage points) on November 2018.

As you can see whilst the debt is rising in relative terms it is falling and if we take out the effect of Bank of England policy it looks better.

Debt at the end of November 2019 excluding the Bank of England (mainly quantitative easing) was £1,626.6 billion (or 72.5% of GDP); this is an increase of £46.9 billion (or a decrease of 0.2 percentage points) on November 2018.

I am not sure why they call in QE when it is mostly the Term Funding Scheme but as regular readers will be aware there seems to be a lack of understanding of this area amongst our official statisticians.

It also remains cheap for the UK to borrow with the benchmark ten-year Gilt yield at 0.82% and more relevantly the 50-year yield being 1.2%. We have seen lower levels but as I have seen yields as high as 15% we remain in a cheaper phase.

Current Fiscal Stimulus

The UK has been seeing a minor fiscal stimulus which has been confirmed again by this morning’s data.

Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019) was £50.9 billion, £5.1 billion more than in the same period last year; this is the highest April-to-November borrowing for two years (since 2017), though April-to-November 2018 remains the lowest in such a period for 12 years (since 2007).

If we go the breakdown we see this.

In the latest financial year-to-date, central government receipts grew by 2.1% on the same period last year to £485.7 billion, including £356.5 billion in tax revenue.

Over the same period, central government spent £514.6 billion, an increase of 2.8%.

With the rate of inflation declining we are now seeing increases in public spending in real terms and they may well build up as we have not yet seen the full budget plans of the new government.

Care is needed however as the numbers have developed a habit of getting better over time.

PSNB ex in the financial year ending March 2019 has been revised down by £3.3 billion compared with figures presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019) as a result of new data.

Comment

We are at times living an episode of Yes Prime Minister as proved by the appointment of the new Governor.

Doesn’t it surprise you? – Not with Sir Desmond Glazebrook as chairman.

 

– How on earth did he become chairman? He never has any original ideas, never takes a stand on principle.

 

As he doesn’t understand anything, he agrees with everybody and so people think he’s sound.

 

Is that why I’ve been invited to consult him about this governorship?

Sir Desmond would be called a “safe pair of hands” too and no doubt would also have run into all sorts of issues if he had been in charge of the FCA just like Andrew Bailey has. Favouring banks, looking the other way from scandals and that is before we get to the treatment of whistle blowers. I do not recall him ever saying much about monetary policy.

Also the timing has taken yesterday’s scandal at the Bank of England off the front pages again like something straight out of Yes Prime Minister. We will never know whether this announcement was driven by that. However should it continue to be so accurate we can expect this next.

If I can’t announce the appointment of Mr Clean as Governor –
Why not announce a cut in interest rates?
Oh, don’t be silly, I What? Announce a cut in interest rates The Bank couldn’t allow a political cut – particularly with Jameson.
It would with Desmond Glazebrook.
Now, if you appoint him Governor, he’ll cut Bartlett’s interest rates in the morning – you can announce both in your speech.
– How do you know?
He’s just told me.

Of the next Bank of England Governor, Bank Rate cuts and Metro Bank

It is time for us to peer again through the clouds and remind ourselves of the mindset of a central banker. In this instance it is the current favourite to be the next Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey who has been working hard to establish his credentials for the role.

A whistleblower has heavily criticised the head of the Financial Conduct Authority for failing to investigate her complaints against Lloyds Banking Group, despite his assurances about the seriousness of the case. Sally Masterton wrote last June to FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey — the bookies’ favourite in the race to succeed Mark Carney as Bank of England governor — to protest about her treatment by Lloyds. ( Financial Times)

Indeed if the writing below is accurate he seemed keen to keep the matter quiet.

Mr Bailey took a personal interest in Ms Masterton’s case, encouraging Lloyds to settle with her financially. But he did not act on the serious criticisms she made about the conduct of the bank and its senior managers towards her, according to emails seen by the Financial Times. These concerned alleged breaches of the FCA’s rules.

This all seems to be something that Mr Hollinrake,  the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking, either does not understand or is willfully misrepresenting.

“Anyone under consideration for the role of Bank of England governor must be able to demonstrate a willingness to tackle wrongdoing in the banking sector without fear or favour,” added Mr Hollinrake.

After all Mr.Bailey does not seem that keen on whistleblowers.

Last year the regulator was attacked for its decision to only impose a fine on Barclays chief executive Jes Staley after he employed private investigators to try to unmask a whistleblower. The FCA was also criticised last year for revealing the identity of a whistleblower to Royal Bank of Scotland.

In case you are thinking this is something new here is Sir Frank from Yes Prime Minster in the early 1980s.

We believe that it is about time the Bank of England had a Governor who is known to be both intelligent and competent. Although an innovation, it should certainly be tried.

The Treasury has endured these City scandals long enough.

Plus ca change c’est la meme chose.

Central Banker Thinking

A research paper on the Bank Underground site is rather more revealing than it intends so let us start with the subject matter.

As the UK economy went into recession in 2008, the Monetary Policy Committee responded with a 400 basis point reduction in Bank Rate between October 2008 and March 2009.

If this worked then we would not have needed the subsequent QE ( Quantitative Easing) and credit easing, nor would we have remained at the consequent Bank Rate of 0.5% for so long. But according to this research it was something of a triumph.

Although UK unemployment rose by around 3pp in the year following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the extraordinary monetary stimulus carried out by the MPC surely protected the aggregate economy from a fate far worse………But even for the least affected regions, I estimate that employment growth was around 1.4pp higher than it otherwise would have been solely through this channel  ( pp = percentage points).

There is a catch here as there is an obvious moral hazard in an institution being both judge and jury on its own policy. But having noted that there is something revealing in the the area that leads to this result. It is of course the housing market and combines the banks too!

Although this easing lessened the impact of the recession across the whole economy, its cash-flow effect would have initially benefited some households more than others.

So we have a confession about exacerbating inequality which I guess they hope we will not spot and it leads to this.

Those holding large debt contracts with repayments closely linked to policy rates immediately received substantial boosts to their disposable income. Cheaper mortgage repayments meant more pounds in peoples’ pockets, and this supported both spending and employment in 2009.

As far as I can see there is no mention of the impact of cheaper borrowing for businesses and I would remind newer readers that at the time this was often badged as boosting inflation as well. It is easy to forget that the Bank of England went into something of a panic as the Retail Price Index went negative and feared the CPI would do the same. The irony here is that the RPI was driven into negative territory by the large falls in mortgage rates as it has them in it ( currently at a 2.4% weighting but logically it would have been higher then).

Here is the more detailed prescription of what happened.

Some mortgagors received a cash-flow boost as their monthly mortgage repayments fell in lock-step with policy rates as the nights closed in at the end of 2008 . Many chose to go out and spend part of this windfall, on goods made (and services provided) both at the national and local levels. And, as people finally got round to fixing their cars, made more trips to their nearby corner shop and splurged on meals out, we might expect this spending on locally-provided services to have supported local employment in the face of the Great Recession.

This can be broken down at the individual level.

Those who went into the autumn of 2008 with a mortgage linked to Bank Rate (on a so-called variable-rate mortgage) received an average favourable cash-flow shock equivalent to around 5% of their annual pre-tax income the following year:

Also on a more collective level.

My results suggest that a 1 percentage point accommodative monetary policy change led to around a 3.5pp increase in annual employment growth of businesses that relied on local custom between 2009 and 2010. These businesses made up around a fifth of overall employment.

 

Comment

There is a lot to get though here so let us crack on.This is a sensible reflection by the author Fergus Cumming.

This point estimate should be treated with caution and monetary policy operates through a number of channels that work over different horizons.

But this is not.

There are also good reasons to think that the cash-flow effects I find would likely have been approximately symmetric if interest rates had instead increased.

Can you imagine the impact of a 4% Bank Rate rise at that time? Personally I would rather not.

Next we can see that 2008 came as a genuine shock or if you prefer the forerunners to Forward Guidance had a nightmare.

Survey evidence shows that only 10% of households in August 2008 expected policy rates to fall substantially in the coming months.

However you try to spin it there is a problem for future monetary policy easing from this channel.

After a sustained period of mortgage rates close to zero, more than 90% of new mortgages are now fixed-rate contracts and so the average time-to-refinance on the stock of mortgages is increasing over time. Although the effects I estimate are likely to be approximately symmetric, the evolution of the composition of mortgages means that the direct pass-through of changes in Bank Rate to household finances is likely to be slower in the future.

No wonder they are so keen to discuss anything other than monetary policy these days.

Metro Bank

My subject of Wednesday has been in the news today. It has raised an extra £375 million of capital which is welcome but more worryingly it has received the equivalent of the board of directors expressing confidence in their manager after a bad run of results. From the Bank of England website.

The Prudential Regulation Authority welcomes the steps taken today by Metro Bank. Metro Bank is profitable and continues to have adequate capital and liquidity to serve its current customer base. It has raised additional capital in order to fund future growth.

They need to follow the advice of Tears for Fears.

Change
You can change
Change
You can change

 

 

 

 

How many more promises about Royal Bank of Scotland will be broken?

This morning has seen an event that has become a regular event in the credit crunch era. In fact it has become so regular that I note analysts are calling it a “surprise”! That is the annual event where the figures of Royal Bank of Scotland are produced and they are again bad. We are seven years or so into the credit crunch but the promised recovery here appears to be like the “train in the distance” sung about by Paul Simon. Let us take a look at today’s problems for it. From Reuters.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) said it would take a surprise 2.5 billion pound ($3.58 billion) hit to its fourth-quarter profits after setting aside more cash to cover litigation costs, compensation for mis-selling loan insurance and an impairment charge at its private bank.

You might reasonably think that this is bad enough and I did warn about the surprise bit. But wait like the doppelgänger of the gift which keeps on giving there is sadly more to come.

RBS said in a statement that it would also make a 4.2 billion pound payment into its pension scheme due to changes in its accounting policy, while it will set aside an extra 2.2 billion dollars for mortgage-related litigation in the United States.

So the clear winners here appear to be the lawyers who lose about as often as top bankers. I am reminded of my article on pensions on Monday as we see “accounting policy” lead to a substantial change in another situation which is a shambles. Also if we look at the BBC we see that there is more.

In addition, it will write down £498m from its private bank Coutts.

We also got a statement that could have been produced in any of the years since the UK taxpayer bailed the bank out.

“I am determined to put the issues of the past behind us and make sure RBS is a stronger, safer bank,” chief executive Ross McEwan said.

“We will now continue to move further and faster in 2016 to clean up the bank and improve our core businesses.”

It is rather like the time in each ECB meeting when President Draghi talks about the need for structural reforms because if you turn up next time and there it is again. The 2016 in the statement could be replaced with 2015,14,13,12, and so on. Or to put it another way in the words of Talking Heads.

Same as it ever was

Same as it ever was

Surprise!Surprise!

If we consider this in terms of that ITV television program let us consider this from Mindful Money on September 11th last year.

we expect to spend much of the next 18 months simply marvelling at the sheet size of the RBS’ capital surplus and wondering why it is just sitting there gathering dust,’ he said.

They must be greater value now at 254 pence than the 330 pence of back then so you can buy and marvel at the capital surplus or perhaps not. The poor UK taxpayer is in at around £5 so they are far away from the profits which were originally promised.

A journey back in time

If we jump into the TARDIS of Dr.Who then we see this from Chancellor Alistair Darling in the Guardian on the 13th of October 2008.

There is every reason to be confident that, as we go through this, the British taxpayer will get his money back.

If we look at the review of 2012 by The International Financing Review then things were apparently on track.

In some ways, however, RBS is well ahead of the pack…….RBS was forced to concentrate on what it was good at and should come out of its current (second) restructuring as one of the more efficient banks in the industry.

My old employer Union Bank of Switzerland had a go too back then.

However, with 2013 expected to be the last year of significant restructuring for RBS, it is likely to be one of the first European banks to have dealt with legacy issues

If we advance to the figures released in January of 2014 we see that BlueBullet on Twitter had a wry take on events.

Dear Dragons Den, I have 80% share. Losses this year are £8 billion. I am paying out £0.5 billion in bonuses. Would you like to invest? #RBS

Andrew Bailey

Whilst you may not have heard the name you are virtually certain to have seen it as Andrew was Chief Cashier of the Bank of England and so his signature was on banknotes issued then. He is and will soon be was a 30 year insider at the Bank of England and is currently performing the roles shown below.

Deputy Governor, Prudential Regulation at the Bank of England and Chief Executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA),

He is now about to be head of the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA although the date on which he will assume the role is unspecified. This role has in football terms had an “interim manager” who unlike Rafa Benitez did not want a permanent role. Actually since the sacking of Martin Wheatley there was a shortage of people willing to take on the role. Presumably they were concerned about the contradiction between the fact that Mr.Wheatley got the order of the boot and how the Chancellor described him.

Britain needs a tough, strong financial conduct regulator. Martin Wheatley has done a brilliant job of launching the FCA in tough circumstances.

So brilliant he got removed! Now we have got ourselves an insider and I have to confess I am troubled by this development. The Bank of England has had a troubled record itself with the Li(e)bor and foreign exchange scandals where it seems to have done much more covering up than exposing. Also Andrew Bailey put senior bankers above the law of the land back in 2012. Here is a letter from a Mrs. N. Turner quoted on the blog of the journalist Ian Fraser on the subject of prosecuting banks and their directors.

would be a very destabilising issue. It’s another version of too important to fail. Because of the confidence issue with banks, a major criminal indictment, which we haven’t seen and I’m not saying we are going to see… this is not an ordinary criminal indictment.

Her concern was that banks and bankers were being put above the law. I expressed my concerns on this issue on the Investment Perspectives show on Share Radio yesterday.

https://audioboom.com/boos/4106053-is-andrew-bailey-the-right-man-for-the-fca-shaun-richards-gives-his-thoughts

Also there has been another development at the FCA as the Financial Times informs us.

Today (26 January), the FCA separately announced the appointments of Baroness Sally Hogg, chairman of the audit committee at John Lewis Partnership, and Ruth Kelly, former global head of client strategy at HSBC Global Asset Management, as non-executive board members from 1 April.

Why is this an issue well even cuddly old John Lewis has a dark side from its sale of its store card business in 2003 and yes it was sold to HSBC and Ian Fraser has summed it up on Twitter thus.

well the £1bn of allegedly illegal store-card charges were gouged from, inter alia, customers of JLP store cards.

If you have seen the name Hogg before well her husband claimed moat cleaning in his parliamentary expenses and her daughter is now Chief Operating Officer of the Bank of England as well as of course the many roles the Baroness has. That family is pretty much what some would call “the great and the good” for which you can find many definitions in my financial lexicon for these times.

Lets us move on with the thought that if you were allegedly picking people to cover something up then those with a past history which involves themselves would be at the top of your list…

Comment

If you would like to take The Matrix style red pill then the Financial Times offers to help you.

Andrew Bailey’s appointment as head of the FCA given the thumbs up by the City:

For those who took the blue pill that is a potential sign of what Taylor Swift called “trouble,trouble,trouble”. We find that RBS is singing along with Talking Heads and should be filed along with the other basket cases such as Deutsche Bank and Italy’s Monte Paschi.

We’re on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Takin’ that ride to nowhere
We’ll take that ride

Policy could not be more bank friendly and yet they are still in quicksand. A sign of this is that if today’s title seems familiar then you are right as I have plagiarised myself and used one from the 2014 results of RBS.

Mark Carney

He came under fire at the Treasury select Committee for being an “unreliable boyfriend” if I may put it like that on the subject of what term he will serve. Graeme Wearden of the Guardian regularly quotes my research and output and I guess I have been something of an influence. I am glad to see that the message is spreading!

If Mark Carney does 8 years at the he’d finish in summer 2021, when the top job at the IMF becomes free…