U.S. bank exposure to the European debt crisis is estimated at $640 billion, nearly 5% of total U.S. banking assets, according to recent research papers written for Congress. Need we say more than that? Yet, U.S. banks increased sales of insurance against credit losses to holders of Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish and Italian debt in the first half of 2011, boosting the risk of payouts in the event of defaults.
Guarantees provided by U.S. lenders on government, bank and corporate debt in those countries rose by $80.7 billion to $518 billion, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Almost all of those are credit-default swaps, accounting for two-thirds of the total related to the five nations, BIS data show.
The payout risks are higher than what JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), the leading CDS underwriters in the U.S., report. The banks say their net positions are smaller because they purchase swaps to offset ones they’re selling to other companies. With banks on both sides of the Atlantic using derivatives to hedge, potential losses aren’t being reduced, said Frederick Cannon, director of research at New York-based investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.
Similar hedging strategies almost failed in 2008 when American International Group Inc. couldn’t pay insurance on mortgage debt. While banks that sold protection on European sovereign debt have so far bet the right way, a plan announced by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to hold a referendum on the latest bailout package sent markets reeling and cast doubt on the ability of his country to avert default. In addition, the real axis of financial power, the emergence of a new “political-economic lobby” was hatched in a chance meeting at the Frankfurt Opera House on 19 October, where all of its members attended a ceremony to mark the end of Jean-Claude Trichet’s tenure as President of the ECB. This group, consisting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy – increasingly dubbed ‘Merkozy’ in the European press – but also Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, ECB President Mario Draghi, and Olli Rehn, the EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs have emerged as a new power bloc.
Their discussions concerning redrawing the European Union have already leaked in the press and have sent quivers through the international financial markets. In order to “ditch” the bad assets, those 29 banks with the greatest exposure would need to take severe “haircuts, and they are NOT as hedged with swaps as they are pretending they are at the moment.
The CDS holdings of U.S. banks are almost three times as much as their $181 billion in direct lending to the five countries at the end of June, according to the most recent data available from BIS. Adding CDS raises the total risk to $767 billion, a 20 percent increase over six months, the data show. BIS doesn’t report which firms sold how much, or to whom. A credit-default swap is a contract that requires one party to pay another for the face value of a bond if the issuer defaults.
Five banks — JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (C) — write 97 percent of all credit-default swaps in the U.S., according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The five firms had total net exposure of $45 billion to the debt of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, according to disclosures the companies made at the end of the third quarter (don’t laugh here). So if you believe the BIS here, these same banks have at risk $767 billion, but only a net exposure of $45 billion. What’s that smell?
Last Friday at the meeting of the G20 in Cannes, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) revealed a list of 29 global systemically important financial institutions (known as the G-Sifis). These institutions are deemed to be so important to the interconnected global financial system that the unexpected and disorderly failure of any one of them could seriously threaten the world’s financial markets. Of the batch, seven US banks made the list: Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK), Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), JP Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), State Street Corp. (NYSE: STT), and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC). Now things start to get interesting.
These 29 banks have been awarded an implicit guarantee that they are, indeed, ‘too big to fail.’ That’s the good news. The not-so-good news — at least from the institutional point of view — is that capital requirements for the banks will increase and each bank must create a plan by the end of 2012 describing how they would wind themselves down if necessary. Read more: 29 Global Banks ‘Too Big To Fail’, But Not Too Big to Tell the Truth (BAC, BK, C, GS, JPM, STT, WFC, MS) – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/2011/11/08/29-global-banks-%e2%80%98too-big-to-fail%e2%80%99-but-not-too-big-to-tell-the-truth-bac-bk-c-gs-jpm-stt-wfc-ms/#ixzz1dNbkihCX
It doesn’t take genius to figure out the gig is up. The real question now is how hard does the EU fall down and who does it knock down with it? Does it deliver the knock-out blow to the US economy? The short answer is probably not, but it absolutely assures a period of hyperinflation that the government will not be able to deny as it is now denying related to the current impacts already being felt. Just two words for you, food and fuel, enough said, huh?
Given this current situation, bank transfer day isn’t all a lefty progressive thing, is it? Remember, when banks need money, they always take ours, isn’t that right Jon?