Subscribe: RSS Feed | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Home | Contact Us

Posts Tagged ‘derivatives’

DANGER: Unknown Size, Location of Financial WMD

Posted by Larry Doyle on February 20th, 2014 6:31 AM |

If there are hackers in far off countries who can figure out how to penetrate the computer systems of our nation’s banks and retailers, how is it that a full 5 years after the greatest crisis since the Depression that our financial regulators are not able to properly monitor the financial weapons of mass destruction, aka derivatives contracts, running throughout our system?

I will tell you how. Because the ‘too big to fail’ banks have zero interest in making that happen. If anybody needed any further reason to break up our ‘too big to fail’  banking oligopoly, Bloomberg provides it in this recent editorial:

The recent turmoil in emerging markets raises an urgent question: If things get worse, if markets plunge or a government defaults, do regulators know which banks, hedge funds or other institutions are most at risk?  (more…)

Sense on Cents Financial Reform

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 21st, 2010 9:05 AM |

In the midst of all the legislative wrangling in Washington and the financial gyrations on Wall Street, what does it all mean for everyday American investors? I am not so sure it means all that much. How much are everyday Americans impacted by proprietary trading, derivatives, merged regulators? Very little actually. I am not writing this to discount the proposed financial regulatory reform coming out of Washington, but I remain underwhelmed that it will truly protect everyday investors from the ways of Wall Street.

To this end, I am happy to propose my own Sense on Cents Financial Reforms which I believe regulators should impose on financial intermediaries (brokers, bankers, money managers, et al). I am not only proposing these reforms here, but I am sharing them today with Washington based financial regulators. In deference to my readers, you’re getting the first look. Feel free to share your thoughts on my proposed reforms, and add others which you believe should be implemented. (more…)

Revisiting the Weakest Link

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 7th, 2009 12:44 PM |

Are all regions of the world improving? Will Asia lead the globe to greener pastures and brighter days? Well, if so, the trek through the fields will not be easy and we will encounter many storms along the way.

While Australia’s raising rates yesterday is an indication of an improving economy in that country, as one moves out of Asia into eastern Europe we encounter a decidedly different dynamic. Let’s revisit the ‘weakest link,’ that being Eastern Europe in general and the Baltic nation of Latvia specifically.

I initially addressed the economic weakness in this part of the world last February in writing, “The Weakest Link.” Today, we learn that Latvian Currency Scare Rattles Markets:

The Swedish krona and a range of eastern European currencies have tumbled as Latvia appears to edge closer to devaluing its currency.

In a re-run of the last major devaluation scare, Latvia failed to attract any bids for one of its treasury bill auctions earlier Wednesday. The country’s treasury received no bids for its offer to sell eight million lats ($16.7 million) of paper maturing in April 2010.

The poor auction results are the latest sign of economic stress in the Baltic nation, where the government is struggling to meet budget cuts required by the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and other bilateral lenders in return for aid.

The Swedish krona, linked to Latvia through Sweden’s large banking exposure to the country, tumbled as news of the failed auction emerged. The euro extended earlier gains to reach a peak at SEK10.3670 against the krona.

Meanwhile, Europe’s emerging market currencies, which often suffer from nerves over risk when Latvia’s problems intensify, also fell.

The euro soared to over HUF269 against the highly risk-sensitive Hungarian forint, from under HUF267 at the start of the day. The euro also swept to over PLN4.24 against the Polish zloty, from a low of PLN4.18.

The Turkish lira and, to a lesser degree, the Czech koruna, also weakened. The failed bond auction was “not good news,” said Nigel Rendell, a European emerging markets strategist at RBC Capital Markets in London.

“It has all the makings of the final chapter in the Latvian story,” he added. In credit markets, the cost of insuring Latvian sovereign debt against default continued to climb from recent levels, in a sign that investors are increasingly uncomfortable with the outlook for the country. Regional peers Lithuania and Estonia, which also peg their currencies to the euro, saw their swaps spreads widen.

Still, the debt and currency markets shouldn’t be overly troubled by Latvian devaluation risk, as the threat has been building for some time, and the global financial markets are now much more robust than they were several months ago.

“If they did devalue, there would be a selloff [in eastern European assets], but the impact would not be as severe as it would have been six to nine months ago,” said Mr. Rendell at RBC. “If we had big currency moves, I think people would buy them back,” he added.

Devaluation is also unlikely to catch the Swedish banks off guard. To brace for the potential onslaught of defaulting customers, both Swedbank AB and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB have set up Baltic units to deal with problem loans and seized collateral.

While officials may care to discount the impact of a full blown devaluation of the Latvian currency, the interconnectedness of the global markets has proven to be more of a risk propellant rather than a risk mitigant. How so? The use of derivatives across currency and credit markets has been shown to be as much speculative in nature as pure hedging. In fact, there certainly are market participants who will benefit by a Latvian devaluation.

Can that devaluation, if it does occur, be well contained?

I’ll be watching.


Related Sense on Cents Commentary

Let’s Cross the Pond and Revist the Weakest Link (May 23, 2009)

Financial Derivatives, Prescription Medication, and Designer Drugs

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 18th, 2009 8:38 AM |

Derivatives….where does one even start? Can you touch it? How do you know when you’ve seen one? What does it look like? Is it edible?

The fact is, we have derivatives throughout our economy. From consumer products, to medications, to new technologies, one could make the case that almost all new developments are derivatives in one way, shape or form.

Wall Street developed financial derivatives under the guise of mitigating risk. Regrettably, the guile and greed of those on Wall Street abused the development of derivatives and many of these financial instruments were not risk mitigants, but risk propellants. Let’s navigate the derivatives landscape and see why Wall Street will not cede this turf without a fight.

The base products on Wall Street include government securities, agency securities, mortgage-backed securities, corporate bonds, municipal securities, short term bonds, emerging market bonds, foreign currencies, convertible bonds, preferred stock, and common equities.  Each of these “cash” products is a large market in and of itself. That said, the “wizards on Wall Street” connected to each of these product lines have manufactured products “derived” from the cash flows of the underlying “cash” product. Welcome to the world of derivatives.

When properly used, derivatives – much like new, approved medications – can be amazingly helpful in augmenting returns and managing risk. However, not unlike “designer drugs,” the abuse of these financial instruments can be deadly. Wall Street has made enormous sums of money across the board on these “medications.”

Now we learn that under the Obama financial regulatory reforms, derivatives will be traded on an exchange and thus monitored much more closely. This is a good thing, right? Please focus very carefully on this point because this is where Wall Street has largely already won the derivatives battle.

“Standardized” derivatives will be traded on an exchange. “Customized” derivatives, much like prescription drugs or designer drugs, will not trade on an exchange. Why is this such an important point?

Products traded on an exchange have total transparency and limited profitability. Products traded away from an exchange have much wider bid-ask spreads, much greater profitability, much greater risks, and much greater likelihood for abuse. The Wall Street lobbying machine has already been fighting this battle in Washington and winning it.

Financial derivatives can be amazingly beneficial if properly used. That said, even legal and prescribed medications can be deadly when abused. The cops on the Wall Street beat will remain seriously challenged to monitor those “designing,” “marketing,” and “selling” the “customized derivatives.”


How Wall Street Bought Washington

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 9th, 2009 3:35 PM |

A great American and loyal reader (thanks FL) shared a report recently produced by not-for-profits Essential Information and The Consumer Education Foundation.  This report, Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America, has gotten little to no attention in the general media. What a shame.  I find of particular interest the fact that a number of the currently discussed regulatory changes are directly addressing the points highlighted in this report. I personally view these proposed regulatory changes as substantiating this report and adding credibility to its effort. For the naysayers in the audience, I would ask you to review the report and reconsider your assessment.

I was struck a month ago by the incriminating statements put forth by Senator Chuck Hagel and CIA head Leon Panetta, which I highlighted on February 16th in Legalized Bribery. Those statements bluntly indict our massive system of lobbying, political fundraising, and the quality of those running for elected office! In light of that article, I am more and more convinced that our elected officials have turned their offices into massive for profit machines at the expense of our public well being.

I commend the authors of this report, Roger Weissman and James Donahue, for taking the time and making the extensive effort to expose the truth. The full report, 231 pages in length, spares no detail. In studying it, I found the information and analysis riveting. Let me try to summarize it for you. (more…)

Recent Posts