Banks

Windfall taxes are a ghastly idea. They are a sop to prejudice, a burden on risk-taking and a form of arbitrary confiscation. No sensible person should support them. So why do I now find the idea of a windfall tax on banks so appealing? Well, this time, it really does look different. Read more

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“A crisis is a strange way to celebrate an anniversary.” This is the wry judgment of Erik Berglöf, chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.* Yet a crisis is what we see in countries that began the march from communism two decades ago. So, has capitalism failed, as communism did? In a word, “no”. Some transition countries are in crisis; transition is not. The same judgment applies elsewhere: capitalist countries are in crisis; capitalism itself is not. But reform is necessary. The great virtue of liberal democracies and market economies is their ability to reform and adapt. They have shown these qualities before. They must do so once again. Read more

This post, in the Financial Times’ Economists’ Forum, argues that narrow banking is not the answer to systemic fragility. Read more

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How did the world economy fall into such a deep hole? It is recovering, but painfully, and after a deep recession, despite unprecedented monetary and fiscal easing. Moreover, how likely is it that a balanced world economy will emerge from this force-feeding? The very fact that such drastic action has been necessary is terrifying. The fact that there is little room for a policy encore is yet more terrifying. Most terrifying of all is that this is not the first time in recent decades the world economy has had to be guided through a post-bubble collapse. Read more

About a month ago, I visited the aero engine factory of Rolls-Royce, in Derby. I was hugely impressed. Making jet engines able to work at extreme temperatures is an extraordinary achievement. Why does the financial industry not work this way? How might we bring the performance of finance close to that of other sophisticated businesses? Read more

From the FT:
King calls for the breakup of banks
Chris Giles
Darling responds to King’s bank speech Chris Giles FT video

Elsewhere:
Mervyn King’s speech in full
Bank of England
Volcker fails to sell a bank strategy NY Times
The consensus on big banks begins to move The Baseline Scenario
Mervyn King calls for banks to split as public finances take record hit The Times

 

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A year ago, at the height of the financial panic, the world yearned for a profitable and confident financial sector. It now has what it wants, but hates it. As joblessness soars and the hopes of hundreds of millions of people are blighted, the financial sector’s survivors are thriving. Even bonuses are back. Policymakers have made a Faustian bargain. Success feels like failure. Read more

From the FT:

Goodbye, Macroeconomics – Eli Noam Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

I was in Chicago last week to participate in the 12th Annual International Banking Conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the World Bank. The answer to the question posed — have the rules of the global financial game really changed? — is a resounding no.

This was my first week back in the US after being away for three years, and the conference gave me an opportunity to gauge the state of the debate there. Compared to my two years at the Bank of International Settlements in Basel and my year at the Bank of Israel, the openness of the debate and the quality of the discussions in Chicago were refreshing. However, in the US — the epicentre of the crisis and the country that is supposed to lead the world toward reform and out of the crisis — I expected a far more forceful articulation of remedial measures. Read more

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The FT has a new series on the future of investment. But what, I wonder, is the future of finance itself? Who is confident that the financial system now emerging from the crisis is safer, or better at servicing the public’s needs, than the one that went into it? The answer has to be: few people. The question is how to remedy this dire situation. Read more

Richard Robb of Columbia University writes in the Financial Times about the importance of Lehman’s collapse.  Read more

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“If the price of oil stabilises, I believe we can weather the financial crisis at limited cost in terms of real activity.” Thus did Olivier Blanchard, newly appointed head of the International Monetary Fund’s research department, describe the prospects ahead on September 2 2008. He was swiftly proved wrong. Read more

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Our unprecedented, decisive and concerted policy action has helped to arrest the decline and boost global demand.” Thus did the finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of 20 leading high-income and emerging economies pat themselves on the back over the weekend. They were right. The response to the crisis was both essential and successful. But it is still too early to declare victory. Read more

By Marc Flandreau

Our research shows investment banks are no longer selective when they underwrite emerging market debts. This is because responsibility for certification has been outsourced to rating agencies, leading to the emergence of a market for securities than is riskier than previous counterparts.

The debate on the responsibility of rating agencies for failing to see the making of the sub-prime crisis and even contributing to it through their behaviour neglects one important aspect of the matter which I came across with colleagues. Read more

by Kenneth Rogoff

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When in doubt, bail it out,” is the policy mantra 11 months after the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. With the global economy tentatively emerging from recession, and investors salivating over the remaining banks’ apparent return to profitability, some are beginning to ask: “Did we really need to suffer so much?” Read more

From the FT:

Data raise hopes for eurozone recovery France and Germany return to growth Read more

By Ronald McKinnon

The global credit crunch which began in 2007 but became acute in 2008, originated from the collapse in the bubble in US house prices and, to a lesser extent, in European ones.

Unsurprisingly, the declining home values made people feel poorer, so consumption spending fell. This fall in aggregate demand in the US and Europe reduced demand for imports and caused a parallel slump in the rest of the world, including in emerging markets. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

Josef Ackermann, Deutsche Bank chief executive and chairman of the Institute of International Finance, wrote last month in the FT: “There is a danger that changes in the regulatory environment will, by accident or design, lead to a refragmentation of markets…Consequently, we should not seek answers in the perceived safety of nation-based structures, but rather establish effective processes for cross-border crisis management”.

According to Mr Ackermann, the inability to reach binding cross-border standards and insolvency systems is likely to lead domestic regulators to abandon trust in home/host regulatory arrangements, and encourage financial institutions to contract to their home turf.  Should we support to Mr Ackermann’s recommendations? No. Read more

By Greg Fisher

The UK government’s policies towards the banks are inadequate. This is not surprising because the British government and both main political parties lack firm ideological foundations. Neoliberalism has failed.  However, the circumstances the banks find themselves in are best understood through the lens of game theory; their situation is analogous to the prisoners’ dilemma. Government policy ought to be guided accordingly, with a firmer hand on bank lending. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

Martin’s article “The cautious approach to fixing banks will not work” stimulated me to raise a fundamental issue that is preoccupying me as the crisis unfolds and to which I don’t have an answer. Read more