Credit squeeze

By James Park

With the demise of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the subsequent septic shock that stemmed the flow of liquidity in the financial system, the Federal Reserve responded with an unprecedented infusion of liquidity that has continued into this year.

However, this heightened rate of infusion is scheduled to finish in July. With the looming end of the second dose of quantitative easing (QE2) the media has latched onto the analogy of Bill Gross, Pimco’s co-chief investment officer, of QE2 and subsequent liquidity pumping efforts as a Ponzi scheme. The recent exit of Pimco (one of the world’s biggest bond fund managers) from US Treasuries underscores Mr Gross’s huckster metaphor.

While there is an element of warranted alarm, seeing the crisis through the clinical prism of blood composition and stem cells may provide a more balanced view. 

An open letter from Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University to Lord Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority

Dear Adair,

I listened to your terrific talk at the Soros conference. I could focus on the eloquence, fantastic delivery and numerous deep insights, but let me make a couple of comments that may be of actual value at the margin.  Take them from where they emanate – real friendship and respect.

It seems that you are questioning yourself. On the one hand, you are saying it’s critical to consider radical solutions. On the other hand, you are saying, “Too radical, too fast, is too dangerous. If we move to real safely, we may need to take decades.” 

By Michael Pomerleano and Andrew Sheng

As the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission begins looking at the causes of the recent financial crisis, we need to consider that crisis is a failure of governance. Lucian Bebchuk from Harvard Law School has written extensively on the failure of private sector governance: boards that failed to make informed judgments or control the risks incurred by their institutions, self-serving management that lost control over reckless risk taking and compensation systems that invited speculation by traders. Although Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has openly expressed her discontent with the governance of the banks and the FDIC is considering tying premiums to compensation, we are likely to witness the largest bonus season the industry has ever seen. 

By Moritz Schularick and Alan M. Taylor

Are credit bubbles dangerous? Long-run historical data reveal that important changes have taken place in the financial system over the past decades, setting in train an unprecedented expansion in the role of credit in the macroeconomy. It is mishap of history that just at the time when credit mattered more than ever before, the reigning doctrine had sentenced it to playing no constructive role in central bank policies. Over the past 140 years, episodes of financial instability were often the result of “credit booms gone wrong”. 

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. 

Pinn illustration

If we are to understand where we are, we must understand where we have
been. This is particularly true if we are to escape from the huge
fiscal deficits being run by many governments. These deficits are not
the result of government stupidity; they are mainly a consequence of –
and response to – private behaviour. We must not ignore this connection. 

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? 

 

Pinn illustration

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. 

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?” 

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.