What has happened to the Greek banks?

This week the Greek banking sector has returned to the newswires. You might think that after the storm and all the bailouts it might now be if not plain sailing at least calmer waters for it. Here is ForeignPolicy.com essentially singing along to “Happy days are here again”

The Greek banking sector has totally transformed as a result of the financial crisis. Legislation, restructuring and recapitalization have led to a sector that is now internationally recognized for its high capitalization levels and for substantial improvements in stability, governance and transparency. As Professor Nikolaos Karamouzis, Chairman of EFG Eurobank and Chairman of the Hellenic Bank Association, states, “we have been through four stress tests – no other system has been stressed as much.”

However even a view drizzled in honey could not avoid this issue.

“The question of non-performing loans in the Greek banking system is a crucial one”.
Panagiotis Roumeliotis, Chairman, Attica Bank…….About €30-35 billion is tied up in the large NPLs of some 100 companies, who are on the books of all the systemic banks.

The problem with taking sponsored content is that it steps into a universe far.far.away.

In a first for the country, Attica Bank recently securitized €1.3 billion of its bad loans. A move that could be copied by others and which its Chairman, Panagiotis Roumeliotis, says will make it “one of the healthiest banks in Greece.” Initiatives like this mean that the country’s targets for reducing NPLs are being met or exceeded.

Also I note a couple of numbers of which the first gives us perspective.

Another big challenge is recovery of deposits, which flew out of the country until restrictions were put in place in 2015. Since then, €8.5 billion has been repatriated.

Whilst that sounds a lot, compared to the decline it is not especially when we consider the time that had passed as the data here takes us to February 2017. Next comes some number crunching which is very useful for someone like me who argued all along for Greece to take the default and devalue route. Which just as a reminder was criticised by those in the establishment and their media supporters are likely to create a severe economic depression which their plan would avoid!

The 4 systemic banks have undergone 4 stress tests and 3 rounds of recapitalization since 2010, for close to €65 billion.

With all that money it is a good job they are so strong. Hold that thought please as we move to a universe beyond, far,far away.

Unlike the subprime banking crisis of other countries, the crisis in Greece wasn’t due to any particular problem in the sector. Rather, it was a consequence of the Greek sovereign debt crisis that created contagion. Coming out of that crisis, though, the sector has been transformed.

Someone seems to have forgotten all those non performing loans already.

Bringing this up to date

If we step forwards in time to the end of August suddenly we were no longer singing along to Sugar by Maroon 5. From Kathimeriini.

Greek banks Alpha and Eurobank posted weak second-quarter results on Thursday, with Alpha swinging to a loss and Eurobank barely profitable as both focus on shrinking their bad debt load.

So not exactly surging ahead and whilst the amount of support from the European Central Bank has reduced considerably we were reminded yesterday that the problem created in 2015 has not yet gone away.

On 9 October 2018 the Governing Council of the ECB did not object to an ELA-ceiling for Greek banks of €5.0 billion, up to and including Wednesday, 7 November 2018, following a request by the Bank of Greece.

The reduction of €0.2 billion in the ceiling reflects an improvement of the liquidity situation of Greek banks, taking into account flows stemming from private sector deposits and from the banks’ access to wholesale financial markets.

So that is good in terms of the reduction but as I pointed out above bad in that some is still required. After all Greece has now left its formal bailout albeit that the institutions still keep a very close watch on it. But even more significant was the next bit.

The ongoing improvement of the liquidity situation of Greek banks reflects the improved condition of the Greek financial system. The recent stock market developments in respect of the banking sector are not related to the soundness of Greek banks and are due to purely exogenous factors, such as rises in interest rates internationally and in Greece’s neighbouring countries in particular.”

We have learnt in the credit crunch era that the blame foreigners weapon is only deployed when things are pretty bad and a diversion is needed. Rather oddly the Financial Times seemed to be giving this some support.

The turbulent conditions have hit European banks across the continent, as declines in the value of banks’ holdings of Italian debt eat away at their capital base in a dangerous spiral known as the ‘doom loop’.

That applies to Italian banks yes and to some extent to others but I rather suspect we would know if Greek banks had been punting Italian bonds on any scale. Yesterday Kathimerini put the  state of play like this.

Greek banking stocks have lost more than 40 percent so far this year, and the selling pressure grew in recent days.

All rather different to the honey coated Foreign Policy article is it not? Also in the rush to blame others some genuine concerns are in danger of being overlooked.

. I disagree with the statement below Greek banks used 23% of their “real” Tier 1 capital reserves to support the reduction of NPEs. DTCs as a % of total regulatory capital are now ~75%. Banks “burned” EUR 6.6bn of “real” CET 1 capital to reduce their NPE’s by EUR 16.8bn. ( @mnicoletos on Twitter )

As you can see the argument here is that the Greek banks are finding that dealing with sour loans is beginning to burn through their capital. Using the numbers above suggests that each 1 Euro reduction in bad debts is costing around 40 cents. We do not know that will be the exact rate going forwards but if we take it as a broad brush suddenly the “high capitalization levels” look anything but and no doubt there are fears that the capital raising begging bowl will be doing the rounds again.

Piraeus Bank

This had tried to steal something of a march on the others but this from Reuters last week says it all.

Piraeus Bank  said plans to issue debt to bolster its capital were on track on Wednesday as Greece’s largest lender by assets faced a near 30 percent share price fall.

Quite why anyone would buy one if its bonds escapes me but that was and may even still be the plan.

Piraeus Bank’s restructuring plan, which it has submitted to supervisors at the European Central Bank, involves the issuance of debt, likely to be a Tier-2 bond, among other measures.

But if you are willing to take the red pill from The Matrix then maybe you might be a believer of this.

analysts said the 29.3 percent fall in its shares to 1.16 euros by 1020 GMT was the result of negative investor sentiment affecting the whole banking sector,

Comment

There is a fair bit to consider here but let us do some number crunching. We can start with this from Kathimerini referring to yesterday’s report from Moody’s.

The ratings agency said asset quality remains the main challenge for local lenders, with assets at end-June adding up to 291 billion euros and NPEs at 89 billion euros.

So should the Non Performing Exposures eat up capital at the rate described above that would be another 35 billion Euros or so.  That of course is a very broad brush but one might reasonably think that troubles in that area might be much more of a cause of this than blaming Italy and Turkey.

The banks index has followed up its 24 percent slump in September with a fresh 15 percent decline in the first seven sessions in October, sending the capitalization of the four systemic banks below 5 billion euros between them, from 8.7 billion at the start of the year. ( Kathimerini )

So 69 billion Euros has been poured into them according to Foreign Policy and of course rising for them to be valued at less than 5 billion Euros? As to what they were worth well here you are.

 

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The banking problems of India are mounting

We in the western world have got used to problems with our banking system but yesterday highlighted that we are far from alone. From the Reserve Bank of India.

The Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India are closely monitoring recent developments in financial markets and are ready to take appropriate actions, if necessary.

This morning we have seen the government also trying to calm matters.

MUMBAI: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday the government is ready to ensure credit is available to non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), just a day after the market regulator and the central bank sought to calm skittish investors.  ( Economic Times of India).

There are a variety of factors at play here but the common denominator is the shadow banking sector.

Yes Bank

Here there were signs of trouble on Friday as the central bank intervened. From Reuters.

 Indian private sector lender Yes Bank Ltd’s shares tumbled nearly a third on Friday, wiping as much as $3.1 billion off its market value, after the central bank reduced charismatic CEO Rana Kapoor’s term, creating uncertainty about its outlook.

Using the word “charismatic” to describe a banker is a warning sign in itself but events here were being driven by this.

Yes Bank’s bad loans spiked in October last year after a risk-based supervision exercise by the central bank forced the lender to account for 63.55 billion rupees ($881.1 million) more in the non-performing category. Kapoor had termed it a “temporary setback” and said remedial steps were underway.

Ah temporary we know what that means especially in banking circles! Yes Bank is the fifth biggest private-sector bank in India and seems to have fallen victim to the effort described below.

Indian banks have seen a surge in soured loans that hit a record $150 billion at the end of March and stricter rules enforced by the central bank are expected to have pushed the industry’s non-performing loans even higher.

So as we note that Yes Bank had been rather too enthusiastic in living up to its name we see that others were competing with it. Somewhat bizarrely it would appear that the RBI is dealing with the private banks because it feels it cannot do so with the state-owned ones.

Earlier this year, RBI chief Urjit Patel said the central bank had limited authority over state-run banks that account for the bulk of bad loans in the sector, and called for reforms to give the regulator more powers to police such lenders.

State Banks

At a time like this we have learned to be very wary of mergers where the reality is often very different from the claims. From News18.

The merger of Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank by the government poses short-term challenges like spurt in bad assets, but will be beneficial over a longer term, a report said today.

Slippages may increase in the short-term as recognition of non-performing assets is harmonised and accelerated, India Ratings said in a note.

By contrast The Times of India appears to have taken up cheerleading.

Made in Baroda, now poised to merge and take on the world

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd

This morning the focus is especially on IL&FS which as Bloomberg explains below has been struggling for a while now.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. an Indian conglomerate that has missed payment on more than five of its obligations since August, is seeking to raise more than 300 billion rupees ($4.2 billion) selling assets to cut debt, according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

This is a particular problem because as ever with banking issues the fear is of contagion.

Investors are concerned that defaults by IL&FS, which has total debt of $12.6 billion — 61 percent in the form of loans from financial institutions — could spread to other shadow banks in Asia’s third-largest economy. The firm, which helped fund India’s longest highway tunnel, hasn’t been able to pay more than 4.9 billion rupees ($68 million) of its obligations this year and has additional dues of about 2.2 billion rupees to be repaid by end of October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

If we move to the wider shadow banking sector or as India calls them non banking financial companies ( NBFCs) then according to the Economic Times of India we have seen some contagion hints.

The sell-off was sparked by news that a large fund manager sold short-term bonds issued by Indian NBFC Dewan Housing Finance Corp at a sharp discount, raising fears of wider liquidity problem among NBFCs.

DHFC was as high as 679 Rupees at the beginning of the month but in spite of a bounce back rally today it is now at 400.

Bad Debts at Indian banks

The Financial Stability Report of June 26th posted a warning shot.

The stress in the banking sector continues as gross non-performing advances (GNPA) ratio rises further……. SCBs’ GNPA ratio may rise from 11.6 per cent in March 2018 to 12.2 per cent by March 2019………… eleven public sector banks under prompt corrective action framework (PCA PSBs) may experience a worsening of their GNPA
ratio from 21.0 per cent in March 2018 to 22.3 per cent, with six PCA PSBs likely experiencing capital shortfall relative to the required minimum CRAR of
9 per cent.

Sorry for all the acronyms and SCB stands for Scheduled Commercial Banks.

As Reuters reported in May perhaps more of this will be needed.

 When the Indian government announced a surprise $32 billion bailout plan for the nation’s state-controlled banks last October, credit rating firms and the nation’s central bank saw it as a huge step to getting the industry back to robust health – and lending more to businesses and consumers.

Yet the reality as you will have seen already has been one of disappointment.

House Prices

There has been some extraordinary action here in the credit crunch era. According to the RBI house price growth averaged around 15% between 2011 and 2017. Prices are around two and a half times what they were at the beginning of that period. So you might think that the banks are safe. But maybe the times they are a-changing as The Hindu reported in July.

Residential property prices have dropped by up to 15 per cent in Mumbai, NCR, Pune and Kolkata in the first half of 2018 despite government incentives and reduced prices as developers battle with unsold inventory that will take another three years to clear up, Knight Frank said today.

We will have to wait a while for the official data but should we see a dip we will find out which lenders were assuming it would only be up,up and away.

Comment

On the face of it the weekend brought some good economic news for India as Fitch Ratings forecast that GDP would rise at an annual rate of 7.8% next year. In what is a poor country in isolation that is very welcome. But the ratings agencies were also optimistic for the western world before our banks hit the “trouble,trouble,trouble” of Taylor Swift.

In terms of bad economic news then it can be encapsulated in the way that Brent Crude Oil has risen above US $80 per barrel this morning. As well as the inflationary impact India is an oil importer so the balance of payments will be hit again by this. No doubt this has been a factor in the weakening of the Rupee through 70 versus the US Dollar (72.6 as I type this) which adds to the inflation problem. Should the RBI respond to this with another interest-rate increase then we see that there is a chain of tightening going on inside India’s financial sector. Can it take the strain?

 

 

 

 

Both money supply growth and house prices look weak in Australia

The morning brought us news from what has been called a land down under. It has also been described as the South China Territories due to the symbiotic relationship between its commodity resources and its largest customer. So let us go straight to the Reserve Bank of Australia or RBA.

At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 1.50 per cent.

At a time of low and negative interest-rates that feels high for what is considered a first world country but in fact the RBA is at a record low. The only difference between it and the general pattern was that due to the commodity price boom that followed the initial impact of the credit crunch it raised interest-rates to 4.75%, but then rejoined the trend. That brought us to August 2016 since when it has indulged in what Sir Humphrey Appleby would call masterly inaction.

Mortgage Rates

However central bankers are not always masters of all they survey as there are market factors at play. Here is Your Mortage Dot Com of Australia from yesterday.

The race to raise interest rates is on as two more major lenders announced interest rate hikes of up to 40 basis points across mortgage products.

According to an Australian Financial Review report, Suncorp and Adelaide Bank have raised variable rates of investor and owner-occupied mortgage products to compensate for increasing capital costs.

Adelaide Bank is hiking rates for eight of its products covering principal and interest and interest-only owner-occupied and investor loans.

Starting 07 September, the rate for principal and interest mortgage products will increase by 12 basis points. On the other hand, interest-only mortgage products will bear 35-40 basis points higher interest rates.

 

This follows Westpac who announced this last week.

The bank announced that its variable standard home-loan rate for owner occupiers will increase 14 basis points to 5.38% after “a sustained increase in wholesale funding costs.”

A rate of 5.38% may make Aussie borrowers feel a bit cheated by the phrase zero interest-rate policy or ZIRP. However a fair bit of that is the familiar tendency for standard variable rate mortgages to be expensive or if you prefer a rip-off to catch those unable to remortgage. Your Mortgage suggests that the best mortgage rates are in fact 3.6% to 3.7%.

Returning to the mortgage rate increases I note that they are driven by bank funding costs.

This means the gap between the cash rate and the BBSW (bank bill swap rate) is likely to remain elevated.

That raises a wry smile as when this happened in my home country the Bank of England responded with the Funding for Lending Scheme to bring them down. So should this situation persist we will see if the RBA is a diligent student. Also I note that one of the banks is raising mortgage rates by more for those with interest-only mortgages.

Interest Only Mortgages

Back in February Michele Bullock of the RBA told us this.

Furthermore, the increasing popularity of interest-only loans over recent years meant that by early 2017, 40 per cent of the debt did not require principal repayments . A particularly large share of property investors has chosen interest-only loans because of the tax incentives, although some owner-occupiers have also not been paying down principal.

So Australia ignored the view that non-repayment mortgages were to be consigned to the past and in fact headed in the other direction until recently. Should this lead to trouble then there will be clear economic impacts as we note this.

As investors purchase more new dwellings than owner-occupiers, they might also exacerbate the housing construction cycle, making it prone to periods of oversupply and having a knock on effect to developers.

In central banking terms that “oversupply” of course is code for house price falls which is like kryptonite to them. Indeed the quote below is classic central banker speak.

 For example, since it is not their home, investors might be more inclined to sell investment properties in an environment of falling house prices in order to minimise capital losses. This might exacerbate the fall in prices, impacting the housing wealth of all home owners.

What does the RBA think about the housing market?

Let us break down the references in this morning’s statement.

Conditions in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets have continued to ease and nationwide measures of rent inflation remain low. Housing credit growth has declined to an annual rate of 5½ per cent. This is largely due to reduced demand by investors as the dynamics of the housing market have changed. Lending standards are also tighter than they were a few years ago, partly reflecting APRA’s earlier supervisory measures to help contain the build-up of risk in household balance sheets. There is competition for borrowers of high credit quality.

Sadly we only have official data for the first quarter of the year but it makes me wonder why Sydney and Melbourne were picked out.

The capital city residential property price indexes fell in Sydney (-1.2%), Melbourne (-0.6%), Perth (-0.9%), Brisbane (-0.6%) and Darwin (-1.1%) and rose in Hobart (+4.3%), Adelaide (+0.5%) and Canberra (+0.9%).

You could pick out Sydney on its own as it saw an annual fall, albeit one of only 0.5%. Perhaps the wealth effects are already on the RBA’s mind.

The total value of residential dwellings in Australia was $6,913,636.6m at the end of the March quarter 2018, falling $22,498.3m over the quarter. ( usual disclaimer about using marginal prices for a total value)

As to housing credit growth if 5 1/2% is low then there has plainly been a bit of a party. One way of measuring this was looked at by Business Insider back in January.

The ABS and RBA now estimate total Household Debt to Disposable Income at 199.7%, up 3% on previous estimates,

The confirmation that there has been something of a party in mortgage lending, with all the familiar consequences, comes from the section explaining the punch bowl has been taken away! Lastly telling us there is competition for higher credit quality mortgages tells us that there is not anymore for lower quality credit.

Comment

If we look for unofficial data, yesterday brought us some house price news from Business Insider.

Australian home prices fell for an eleventh consecutive month in August, led by declines in a majority of capital cities.

According to CoreLogic’s Hedonic Home Value Index, Australia’s median home price fell 0.3%, adding to a 0.6% drop recorded previously in July.

That took the decline over the past three months to 1.1%, leaving the decline over the past year at 2%.

That is not actually a lot especially if we factor in the price rises which shows how sensitive this subject is especially to central bankers. If we look at the median values we perhaps see why the RBA singled out Sydney ( $855,000) and Melbourne ($703,000) or maybe they were influenced by dinner parties with their contacts.

This trend towards weaker premium housing market conditions is largely attributable to larger falls across Sydney and Melbourne’s most expensive quarter of properties where values are down 8.1% and 5.2% over the past twelve months.

Another issue to throw into the equation is the money supply because for four years broad money growth averaged over 6% and was fairly regularly over 7%. That ended last December when it fell to 4.6% and for the last two months it has been 1.9%. So there has been a clear credit crunch down under which of course is related to the housing market changes. This is further reinforced by the narrower measure M1 which has stagnated so far in 2018.

Much more of that and the RBA could either cut interest-rates further or introduce some credit easing of the Funding for Lending Scheme style. Would that mean one more rally for the housing market against the consensus? Well it did in the UK as we move into watch this space territory.

Also this slow down in broad money growth we have been observing is getting ever more wide-spread,

 

 

UK money supply data continues to suggest weak economic growth

This morning brings us the data which will tell us if the UK has joined the trend in July for monetary conditions to weaken. It comes after a day where monetary policy tightened from another source. The comments from the European Union Commissioner Michel Barnier saw the UK Pound £ rally by 1% against most currencies and by 1.5% versus the Japanese Yen. This was equivalent to a 0.25% Bank Rate rise or what it took the unreliable boyfriend some four years to muster up the courage to do. This reminds us that in terms of monetary policy it is exchange-rate moves that are often the bazooka these days with interest-rate moves being more of a pea shooter.

The banks

The official story has been one of supposedly tighter lending standards in this area. This comes on two fronts because if we look back there were the promises made by politicians and banks that the mistakes which helped create the credit crunch would not happen again. There have also been several moves by the Bank of England to tighten standards the latest of which was in June last year. From Mortgage Strategy.

The Bank of England has tightened mortgage affordability rules to prevent loosening underwriting standards, which it warns will cause some lenders to raise interest cover ratios……….the new rule says lenders should instead consider how borrowers would handle a 3 per cent increase in firms’ standard variable rates.

Yet on Monday the Financial Times reported this.

Britain’s banks and building societies are loosening lending standards and cutting fees to maintain growth, as competition and a weakening housing market squeeze profit margins. The number of mortgage deals where banks are willing to lend at least 90 per cent of the property value has increased by a fifth to 1,123 in the past six months alone, according to comparison website Moneyfacts.

We have noted such trends along the way and I note that below longer mortgage terms merit a mention.

Earlier this month, HSBC’s M&S Bank increased the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) on three of its mortgage products to 95 per cent, and extended the term it is willing to lend for to 35 years. In July, CYBG introduced a new 95 per cent LTV mortgage that also had a higher limit on how much it would lend relative to borrowers’ income.

Some are moving into more specialist or niche areas.

Andy Golding, chief executive of OneSavings, which sells mortgages under the Kent Reliance brand, said particularly aggressive risk-taking was happening in some more specialist markets such as “second-charge” mortgages, a second mortgage on the same property.

Intriguingly in something of a complete regulatory misfire new rules seem to have encouraged this.

New rules that force banks to separate retail and investment banking operations have also had an effect — analysts at UBS estimated that the changes left HSBC’s domestic business with around £60bn that could not be used by the rest of the group, encouraging it to expand its mortgage business and putting more pressure on competitors.

As to what I have already referred to as Mark Carney’s peashooter it is to some extent being bypassed.

Competition has forced companies to keep mortgage rates near historic lows even as their funding costs have risen. Competition has been encouraged by the growth of independent mortgage brokers, which has made it easier for borrowers to access a wider range of options.

UK Wealth

Perhaps the banks have drawn encouragement from reports like this which emerged from the Office for National Statistics yesterday. Apparently we are in the money.

The UK’s net worth rose by £492 billion from 2016 to £10.2 trillion in 2017 (Figure 1), which is an average of £155,000 per person in the UK.

The banks will no doubt have noted this approvingly.

Land was by far the largest contributor to the increase in net value, rising by £450 billion since 2016.

Good job they have managed to keep that sort of thing out of the inflation data! The apocryphal civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby would have an extra large glass of sherry for a job well done. Meanwhile first-time buyers face higher prices which in other spheres would be recorded as inflation.

The banks will be quite happy to cheer along with this as it provides backing for their mortgage loans.

In 2017, the UK’s net worth was estimated at £10.2 trillion; an average of £155,000 per person…….Land accounts for 51% of the UK’s net worth in 2016, higher than any other measured G7 country.

So a bit over £5 billion. Whilst this may make the banks happy there are more than a few problems with this. I have already pointed out that at least some of this is inflation rather than wealth gains. This is something that reflects my work about inflation measurement where I argue that it is to easy to book asset price rises as wealth gains when inflation has also come to the party. Next there is the issue of using marginal house prices for an average concept like wealth as if we tried to sell UK land lock stock and barrel the price would plainly be a fair bit lower. Also there are the problems with house price indices giving different answers which means that really such numbers should be taken with not just a pinch of salt but the whole cellar.

Today’s data

If we start with broad money growth then the outright fall seen in June was not repeated but annual growth remained at 3.4%. So we have not repeated the falls seen elsewhere in the world but the annual rate of growth is not inspiring. If we move to lending the picture looks better as it has been picking up with annual growth going 2.7%,3.1% and then 3.3% in the last 3 months.

We see from the mortgage data why the banks are trying to boost lending as otherwise it looks like it would be slip-sliding away.

Households borrowed an extra £3.2 billion secured against their homes in July. Net lending has been relatively stable over the past year or so, but this was the lowest monthly secured net lending since April 2017………The number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell a little in July, to 65,000, close to their average over the past six months.

Unsecured Credit

This has been a bugbear for a while and let me illustrate today by comparing the official presentation of such things with reality.

In July, the annual growth rate of consumer credit slowed a little to 8.5%. Within this, the annual growth rate of credit card lending was 8.9%, whilst the growth rate of other loans and advances was 8.2% – the lowest since March 2015.

The copy and paste crew have as presumably intended been reporting the number as if it is low. Indeed this sort of thing was encouraged by the Bank of England as this from LiveSquawk back in May shows.

Bank Of England’s Ramsden Says Weak Consumer Credit Data

It was growing at an annual rate of 8.8% at the time. So is 8.5% “very weak” Sir Dave?

If we return to reality we see that 8.5% compares with wages growth of 2.4% inflation on the highest measure is at 3.3% ( although care is needed here as Sir Dave is of course against RPI and its derivatives albeit that it is apparently good enough for his pension) and economic growth at 1.3% over the past year. So we see that in reality unsecured or consumer credit remains on quite a surge in spite of July seeing slower growth of £800 million. Putting it another way the growth remains extraordinarily high when we consider the way that one of the factors that has been driving it ( car sales) has fallen this year.

Comment

The good news is that the UK credit impulse did not weaken further in July and broad money lending improved a bit. The not so good news is that it was already weak meaning that the 0.5% GDP growth for the third quarter forecast by the NIESR looks like the peak of what it might be and we would be unlikely to maintain that in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the banks are feeling the weaker credit impulse and are responding via lower credit standards for mortgages.

Meanwhile unsecured credit is out of kilter with pretty much everything and must be posing its own risks as this has been sustained for several years now in spite of the official denials. If the banks have lowered credit standards for mortgages are you thinking what I am thinking? The reality is that it now amounts to £213.5 billion.

Also we should not forget business lending and regular readers will recall that the Funding for Lending Scheme from back in 2012 was supposed to boost lending to small businesses. How is that going?

The twelve-month growth rate of lending to SMEs was -0.2% in July; this growth rate has been at or below zero for the past four months.

For newer readers wondering about the past 6 years Bob Seeger and his Silver Bullet Band will help you out.

Cause you’re still the same
You’re still the same
Moving game to game
Some things never change
You’re still the same

 

The ongoing saga that is Deutsche Bank rumbles on

As the credit crunch unfolded the story so often found its way to the banking sector and the banks. But as we approach a decade from the collapse of Lehman Brothers I doubt anyone realised the story would still so often be about them. A headliner in this particular category has been my former employer Deutsche Bank. It has turned out to be like the Black Knight in the Monty Python sketch where all troubles are “tis but a scratch” and returns to the fray. If we look back it was not explicitly bailed out by Germany although of course there were a range of measures which implicitly helped it. For example the government programme to help interbank lending and the interest-rate cuts and liquidity supply programmes of the European Central Bank ( ECB). Come to think of it we would not have expected the ECB to still be pursuing monetary easing a decade later either. Both sagas are entertwined and indeed incestuous.

As in so many cases Deutsche Bank was able to avail itself of the US bank support structure as Wall Street Parade points out.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Deutsche Bank received cumulative loans totaling $77 billion under the Federal Reserve’s Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) and $277 billion in cumulative loans under the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) for a total of $354 billion.

That now seems even more significant as we have had several periods where European and Japanese banks have been singing along with Aloe Blacc.

I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar that’s what I need (Hey Hey),
Well I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar that’s what I need (Hey Hey),
Said I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar that’s what I need,
And if I share with you my story, Will you share your dollar with me?

This is in addition to the gains at the time which were liquidity and US $354 billion is quite a lot of it even in these inflated times and a type of bailout from a below market interest-rate.

On the other side of the ledger Deutsche Bank has provided support to various taxpayers around the world via the fines it has paid as a type of compensation for its many miss-selling scandals. The initial claims that these were a few rotten apples turned out to be an organisation that was rotten to the core. According to FN London it has paid around US $8 billion in fines and agreed to compensate US consumers with US $4.1 billion. So has in a sense made some recompense for the liquidity received in the US although some of the Li(e)bor fines were received by the UK.

Share Price

This is a signal of trouble again as we see that this week it has spent some time below 10 Euros again.This is significant on several levels. It was considered a sign of trouble in the autumn of 2016 when Deutsche Bank was hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It also pales considerably when we look back as I note this from back in February 2009 from The Guardian.

Deutsche cut the dividend from €4.50

Back at the peak the share price was more like 94 Euros according to my monthly chart. From a shareholder point of view there has also been the pain of various rights issues to bolster the financial position. These tell their own story as the sale of 359.8 million shares raised 8.5 billion Euros  in 2014 whereas three years later the sale of 687.5 million was required to raise 8 billion Euros. The price was in the former 22.5 Euros and in the latter 11.65 Euros.

Putting it another way shareholders stumped up 16.5 billion Euros in these two issues more than doubling the number of shares to 2.066.8 million for the company to now be valued at around 21 billion Euros at the current share price. As ever a marginal price may not be a good guide but in this instance I suspect the total price would be less and not more as after all if you wanted to buy the bank it should be relatively easy.

To my mind this is made an even bigger factor by the way that the current situation is so bank friendly. Monetary policy in the Euro area remains very expansionary and we have just seen a phase described as a Euroboom. If we return to Germany’s home base we see an economy that since 2014 has grown by around 2% per annum and according to the German Bundesbank house price index (127 cities) prices rose by 9% in 2016 and 9.1% in 2017, meaning the asset base of the mortgage book has strengthened considerably. Yet in spite of all this good news the share price not only fails to recover it has headed back to the doldrums.

Fixing a hole?

The Financial Times reported this on Tuesday.

To many observers in Frankfurt a tie-up between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank is not seen as a question of if, but when.  The prevailing view among the banking cognoscenti in Germany’s financial capital is that the country’s two largest listed lenders are very likely to merge eventually.

Eventually?

There are two scenarios that could accelerate the potential merger. One is that Deutsche realises that it is unable to turn itself round under its own steam; the other is that a foreign peer tables a bid for Commerzbank, forcing Deutsche’s chief executive Christian Sewing to make a counter offer.

Forcing? I did enjoy the reference to Deutsche turning itself around under its own steam! How’s that going after a decade? As to the second sentence below it is hard not to laugh.

Assuming a 35 per cent premium on Commerzbank’s current market capitalisation, Deutsche would have to pay €14bn for its smaller rival. “There are different ways to structure this deal but it surely would not be in cash,” said a Frankfurt-based investment banker.

If Deutsche had access to €14 billion in cash it wouldn’t need to buy Commerbank.

Comment

There is quite a bit to consider here as we see that in spite of an economic environment that is very bank friendly Deutsche Bank never seems to actually recover. More money has been taken from shareholders who must be worried about the next downturn especially as the issue below has continued to fester. From Reuters in June 2016.

“Among the G-SIBs, Deutsche Bank appears to be the most important net contributor to systemic risks, followed by HSBC  and Credit Suisse ,” the fund said…….“The relative importance of Deutsche Bank underscores the importance of risk management, intense supervision of G-SIBs and the close monitoring of their cross-border exposures,” the IMF said, adding it was also important to quickly put in place measures for winding down troubled banks.

This is a reminder of the worries about its derivatives book and its global links. It was hard not to think of that yesterday as rumours spread about Germany offering financial aid to Turkey.

As to the proposed merger with Commerzbank has everybody suddenly forgotten the problems of Too Big To Fail or TBTF banks?

With €1900bn in total assets, a merged Deutsche-Commerzbank would be the third-largest European bank after HSBC and BNP Paribas.  ( FT)

Oh and as to the question posed by etfmaven in the comments the experience in the credit crunch era is a pretty resounding no.

Do two lousy banks make one good one?

Shareholders of Commerzbank may also acquire a liking for the Pet Shop Boys.

What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?
What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

 

The economic consequences of a falling Turkish Lira

Over the past few days we have seen the expected height of summer lull punctured by events in Turkey. This morning there has been a signal that this has become a wider crisis as our measure of this the Japanese Yen has rallied to 110.2 versus the US Dollar. It has pushed the Euro down 1.2 to 125.3 Yen as well. That sets the tone for equity markets as well via its inverse relationship with the Nikkei 225 equity index which was done 414 points at 21884. Another more domestic sign is the search for scapegoats or as they are called these days financial terrorists.

*TURKEY STARTS PROBE ON 346 SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS ON LIRA: AA ( @Sunchartist )

The most amusing response to this I have seen is that they should start with @realdonaldtrump.

What has happened?

Essentially the dam broke on the exchange rate on Friday. In the early hours it was trading at 5.6 versus the US Dollar then as Paul Simon would put it the Lira began “slip sliding away” . Then the man who may well now be financial terrorist number one put the boot in showing that he will to coin a phrase kick a man when he is down.

I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!

It was time to finish with Paul Simon and replace him with “trouble,trouble,trouble” by Taylor Swift as the already weak Turkish Lira plunged into the high sixes versus the US Dollar. As ever there is doubt as to the exact bottom but it closed just below 6.5 so in a broad sweep we are looking at a 16% fall on the day. Last night in the thin Pacific markets it quickly went above 7 and if my chart if any guide ( 7.2 was reported at the time) the drop went to 7.13. So another sign of a currency crisis is ticked off as we note the doubt over various levels but if course the trend was very clear.

The official response

There were various speeches whilst mostly seemed to be calling for divine intervention. This seemed to remind people even more of a company which of course famously claimed to be doing God’s work.

The particular target of 7.1 had seemed so far away when it was pointed out but suddenly it was near on Friday and exceeded overnight. As ever when there are challenges to the “precious” there is an immediate response from the authorities.

To support effective functioning of financial markets and flexibility of the banks in their liquidity management;

  • Turkish lira reserve requirement ratios have been reduced by 250 basis points for all maturity brackets.
  • Reserve requirement ratios for non-core FX liabilities have been reduced by 400 basis points.
  • The maximum average maintenance facility for FX liabilities has been raised to 8 percent.
  • In addition to US dollars, euro can be used for the maintenance against Turkish lira reserves under the reserve options mechanism.

That was from the central bank or CBRT which estimated the benefit as being this.

With this revision, approximately 10 billion TL, 6 billion US dollars, and 3 billion US dollars equivalent of gold liquidity will be provided to the financial system.

I guess it felt it had to start with the Turkish Lira element but these days that is the smaller part. This also adds to the action last Monday which added some 2.2 billion US Dollars of liquidity. So more today and an explicit mention of a Turkish Lira element.

There was also a press release on financial markets which did at one point more explicitly touch on the foreign exchange market.

3) Collateral FX deposit limits for Turkish lira transactions of banks have been raised to 20 billion euros from 7,2 billion euros.

This did help for a while as the Turkish Lira went back to Friday’s close but it has not lasted as it is 6.83 versus the US Dollar as I type this.

Why does this matter?

Turkey

The ordinary person is already being hit by the past currency falls and now will see inflation head even higher than the 15.85% reported in July.  There was some extra on the way as the producer price index rose to 25% but of course that is behind the times now. The author Louis Fishman who writes about Turkey crunched some numbers.

For many of middle class, a good wage for last 3-4 years has been around 6000-7000 Turkish Lira a month. It has unfortunately decreased in the dollar rate but was still sustainable. This is no longer true. Someone who made 6500 TL in January 2015 made 2,826$ a month. Now: 1,014$.

For a while there will be two situations as foreign goods get much more expensive and domestic ones may not. But as we have noted with the inflation data over time domestic prices rise too.

We have note before the foreign currency borrowing in Turkey which will be feeling like a noose around the neck of some companies right now. From the 13th of July/

Since 2003 $95bn has been invested into the country’s energy sector, of which $51bn remains to be paid. This figure represents 15% of the $340bn owed by non-financial companies in overseas liabilities, according to data from the nation’s central bank. ( Power Technology)

So there will be increasing foreign currency stresses as well as bank stresses in the system right now. The financial chain will be under a lot of strain as we wait to see what turns out to be the weakest link. So far today bank share prices have fallen by around 10% and of course that is in Turkish Lira.

Internationally

As ever we start with the banks where in terms of scale the situation is led by the Spanish and then the French banks with BBVA and BNP being singled out. Italy is under pressure too via Unicredit but this is more that it had troubles in the first place rather than being at the top of the list. There is some UK risk but so far the accident prone RBS does not seem to have been especially involved in this particular accident.

Wider still we have seen currency moves with the US Dollar higher but the peak so far seems to be the South African Rand which has fallen over 3% at one point today adding to past falls. Of course again there is a chain here around various financial markets as we wait to see if anything breaks.

Comment

These situations require some perspective as it is easy to get too caught up in the melee. So let us go back to the 8th of June 2015 where we looked at this.

Turkey’s lira weakened to an all-time low……..The currency tumbled as much as 5.2 percent…….The lira dropped the most since October 2008 on a closing basis to 2.8096 per dollar……..The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index sank 8.2 percent at the open of trading.

Familiar themes although of course the levels were very different. Were there signs of “trouble,trouble,trouble”?

So we have an economy which has chosen economic growth as its policy aim and it has ignored inflation and trade issues.

Since then Turkey has seen sustained inflation and trade problems leading us to the source of where we are now. I see more than a few blaming the tightening of US monetary policy and what is called QT as drivers here but I think they are tactical additions on a strategic trend which is better illustrated by this from the 13th of July.

Turkey’s annual current account deficit in 2017 was around $47.3 billion, compared to the previous year’s figure of $33.1 billion.

As ever if you get ahead of the rush you can feel good as these from the 3rd of May highlight from Lionel Barber.

Good market spot: Turks are buying gold to hedge against booming inflation and a falling currency

Which got this reply from Henry Pryor.

Anecdotally central London agents tell me they are seeing an increase in Turkish buyers this year…

Or if you do not want to bother with the analysis just take note of the establishment view.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim from October 2013.

Turkey’s economic achievements are an inspiration for many other developing countries

 

Will we always be second fiddle to the banks?

The situation regarding the banks is one that has dominated the credit crunch era as we started with some spectacular failures combined with spectacular bailouts. Yet even a decade or so later we are still in a spider’s web that if we look at say Deutsche Bank or many of the Italian banks still looks like a trap. Economic life has been twisted to suit the banks such that these days a new Coolio would be likely to replace gangsta with bankster.

Keep spending most our lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise
Keep spending most our lives, living in the gangsta’s paradise

Power and the money, money and the power
Minute after minute, hour after hour

Although upon reflection with all the financial crime that the banks have intermediated perhaps he was right all along with Gangsta. This morning has brought more news on this front as we note this from Sky News about HSBC.

HSBC has agreed to pay $765m (£588m) to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to settle a probe into the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

It is the latest bank to settle claims of mis-selling toxic debt before the financial crisis.

HSBC has paid a lot less than the  Royal Bank of Scotlandwhich agreed to pay $4.9bn in May and Barclays’ $2bn settlement with the DoJ in March.

This is just one example of the many criminal episodes emanating from the banks and if we stay with HSBC there was also this reported by The New Yorker.

 In 2012, a U.S. Senate investigation concluded that H.S.B.C. had worked with rogue regimes, terrorist financiers, and narco-traffickers. The bank eventually acknowledged having laundered more than eight hundred million dollars in drug proceeds for Mexican and Colombian cartels. Carl Levin, of Michigan, who chaired the Senate investigation, said that H.S.B.C. had a “pervasively polluted” culture that placed profit ahead of due diligence. In December, 2012, H.S.B.C. avoided criminal charges by agreeing to pay a $1.9-billion penalty.

The tale of what happened next is also familiar.

The company’s C.E.O., Stuart Gulliver, said that he was “profoundly sorry” for the bank’s transgressions. No executives faced penalties.

Yet in spite of all the evidence of tax evasion and money laundering in the banking sector the establishment bring forwards people like Kenneth Rogoff to try to deflect the blame elsewhere. First blame cash.

Of course, as I note in my recent book on past, present, and future currencies, governments that issue large-denomination bills also risk aiding tax evasion and crime. ( The Guardian )

Then should anything look like being some sort of competition raise fears about it too.

But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity.

Does he mean like the banks do?

Competition seems to get blocked

This morning has seen this reported by the Financial Times.

Britain’s peer-to-peer lending industry fears being stripped of one of its key advantages after the UK regulator proposed to block the access of many retail investors, alarming some senior executives in the nascent sector. “This is a moment,” said Rhydian Lewis, chief executive of RateSetter, one of the UK’s biggest peer-to-peer lending platforms. “They are looking to restrict this new industry and it is wrong. This is how things get stymied.”

Still in some ways it is a relief to see the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA actually have some powers as after all it was only last week they were telling us they were short of them.

Given the serious concerns that were identified in the independent review it was only right that we launched a comprehensive and forensic investigation to see if there was any action that could be taken against senior management or RBS. It is important to recognise that the business of GRG was largely unregulated and the FCA’s powers to take action in such circumstances, even where the mistreatment of customers has been identified and accepted, are very limited.

It is important to recall that this was a very serious business involving miss selling and then quite a cover up which the ordinary person would regard as at the upper end of serious crime. Businesses were heavily affected and some were forced into bankruptcy. Yet apparently there were no powers to do anything about what is one of the largest financial scandals of this era in the UK. It is hard not to mull on the fact that a few years ago the FCA was able to ban someone for life from working in the City of London because of evading rail fares.

However if you are a competitor to the banking sector you find that inquiries and regulation do apply to you. However what was the selling of derivative style products to small businesses somehow escapes the net.

It is not the banks fault

A very familiar theme has been played out since the Bank of England announced a rise in UK interest-rates at midday on Thursday. The reality is that many mortgage rate rises were announced immediately but as social media was quick to point out there was something of a shortage of increases in savings rates. Here is one way this was reported by the BBC over the weekend.

Millions of people could get a better return on savings by switching deals rather than waiting for banks to increase rates, experts say.

A huge number of savers leave money languishing in old accounts with poor rates of interest, often with the same provider as their current account.

The City regulator says they are missing out on up to £480m in interest.

So it’s our own fault and we need to sharpen up! As us amateurs limber up the professionals seem to be playing a sort of get out of jail free card that in spite of being well-thumbed still works.

Following the previous Bank rate rise in March, interest paid on half of all savings accounts failed to rise at all. Of those that did, the average rise did not match the Bank of England’s increase.Since Thursday’s rise there has been very little movement in rates,………..

Oh and March seems to be the new November at least at the BBC.

We also got a hint as to why the environment might be getting tougher for peer-to-peer lenders.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney suggests new entrants are increasing competition, creating better deals.

Comment

There is quite a bit to consider here as we look around UK banking. Looking at RBS there is the problem that the UK is invested at much higher levels. The 251 pence of this morning is around half the level that the UK government paid back in the day. Perhaps that explains at least some of the lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting it for past misdemeanours. Especially as the sale of 7.7% of its shares back in June illustrated a wish to get it off the books of the UK public-sector which still holds around 62%.

I note over the weekend the social media output of HSBC finds itself under fire reminding us of an ongoing issue..

Planning your next trip? Get cash before you go, to make the most of your holiday time.

The response is from Paul Lewis who presents Radio 4’s MoneyBox.

Dreadful advice. (a) HSBC rates not great (b) using a HSBC card abroad is subject to a hefty surcharge but using a Halifax Clarity card is not. This is why never go to a bank for advice it’ll only give you sales.

The old sales/advice issue rears its ugly head again as we note that the advice will of course be rather good for the profits of HSBC.

Moving onto the FCA and the Bank of England it is hard to see a clearer case of regulatory capture or as Juvenal put it so aptly back in the day.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Or who regulates the regulators?