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The Head Of “The Central Bank Of The World” Warns That Another Great Financial Crisis May Be Coming

July 13th, 2014
By Michael Snyder

Most people have never heard of Jaime Caruana even though he is the head of an immensely powerful organization.  He has been serving as the General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements since 2009, and he will continue in that role until 2017.  The Bank for International Settlements is a rather boring name, and very few people realize that it is at the very core of our centrally-planned global financial system.  So when Jaime Caruana speaks, people should listen.  And the fact that he recently warned that the global financial system is currently “more fragile” in many ways than it was just prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers should set off all sorts of alarm bells.  Speaking of the financial markets, Caruana ominously declared that “it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally” and he noted that “markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent”.  In other words, he is saying what I have been saying for so long.  The behavior of the financial markets has become completely divorced from economic reality, and at some point there is going to be a massive correction.

So why would the head of ‘the central bank of the world’ choose this moment to issue such a chilling warning?

Does he know something that the rest of us do not?

According to a recent article in the Telegraph by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Caruana is extremely concerned about rising debt levels and the current level of euphoria in the financial markets…

The world economy is just as vulnerable to a financial crisis as it was in 2007, with the added danger that debt ratios are now far higher and emerging markets have been drawn into the fire as well, the Bank for International Settlements has warned.

Jaime Caruana, head of the Swiss-based financial watchdog, said investors were ignoring the risk of monetary tightening in their voracious hunt for yield.

“Markets seem to be considering only a very narrow spectrum of potential outcomes. They have become convinced that monetary conditions will remain easy for a very long time, and may be taking more assurance than central banks wish to give,” he told The Telegraph.

Mr Caruana said the international system is in many ways more fragile than it was in the build-up to the Lehman crisis. Debt ratios in the developed economies have risen by 20 percentage points to 275pc of GDP since then.

And you know what?

Caruana is certainly correct to be warning us about these things.

As I have written about previously, the total amount of government debt in the world has grown by about 40 percent since the last recession, and the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since that time.

The U.S. national debt has grown from about 10 trillion dollars to more than 17.5 trillion dollars, and even the Bank for International Settlements admits that the global derivatives bubble has grown to at least 710 trillion dollars.

The massive financial imbalances that we were facing during the last crisis have not been fixed.  Instead, they have gotten much, much worse.

But should we trust the Bank for International Settlements?

Of course not.

This is a very secretive organization that very few people know about but that possesses absolutely enormous power.  The following is a brief overview of the Bank for International Settlements from one of my previous articles entitled “Who Controls The Money? An Unelected, Unaccountable Central Bank Of The World Secretly Does“…

An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe.  It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks.  It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City.  It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws.  Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.”  The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system.  Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does.  Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”.  During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on.  The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.

The role that the Bank for International Settlements is playing today was envisioned by the global elite long ago.  In another previous article, I quoted from a book that Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley wrote in 1975 entitled “Tragedy & Hope” in which he discussed how the BIS was to one day become “the apex” of the global financial system…

[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.

And it is interesting to note that Professor Quigley was not against the system that the elite were setting up.  He was just an academic that was trying to accurately convey what he had learned about how the global system works.

Sadly, the system that Quigley wrote about all the way back in 1975 has fully blossomed today.

Every two months, the central bankers of the world travel to Switzerland for “Global Economy Meetings” in Basel.  Most people have never heard of them, but these Global Economy Meetings were actually discussed in the Wall Street Journal

Every two months, more than a dozen bankers meet here on Sunday evenings to talk and dine on the 18th floor of a cylindrical building looking out on the Rhine.

The dinner discussions on money and economics are more than academic. At the table are the chiefs of the world’s biggest central banks, representing countries that annually produce more than $51 trillion of gross domestic product, three-quarters of the world’s economic output.

So how do you feel about the fact that the central bankers of the world regularly gather to plot their next moves for the global economy?

Should an unelected group of central bankers that has no accountability to any national government really have so much power?

Source

It’s Not a “Fiscal Cliff” … It’s the Descent Into Lawlessness

http://griid.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/obama_loves_banksters.jpg?w=563&h=421

by George Washington
12/24/2012

The “fiscal cliff” is a myth.

Instead, what we are facing is a descent into lawlessness.

Wikipedia notes:

In many situations, austerity programs are imposed on countries that were previously under dictatorial regimes, leading to criticism that populations are forced to repay the debts of their oppressors.

Indeed, the IMF has already performed a complete audit of the whole US financial system, something which they have only previously done to broke third world nations.

Economist Marc Faber calls the U.S. a “failed state“.   Indeed, we no longer have a free market economy … we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, oligarchy or banana republic style corruption.

Let’s look at some specific examples of our descent into lawlessness.

Lawless Looting and Redistribution of Wealth

The central banks’ central bank – the Bank for International Settlements- warned in 2008 that bailouts of the big banks would create sovereign debt crises … which could bankrupt nations.

That is exactly what has happened.

The big banks went bust, and so did the debtors.  But the government chose to save the big banks instead of the little guy, thus allowing the banks to continue to try to wring every penny of debt out of debtors.

Treasury Secretary Paulson shoved bailouts down Congress’ throat by threatening martial law if the bailouts weren’t passed. And the bailouts are now perpetual.

Moreover:

The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

  • A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
  • Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”

And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”.

***

In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG.

Moreover, a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this). And so did a huge portion of the money from quantitative easing.  Indeed, the Fed bailed out Gaddafi’s Bank of Libya), hedge fund billionaires, and big companies, but turned its back on the little guy.

A study of 124 banking crises by the International Monetary Fund found that propping up banks which are only pretending to be solvent often leads to austerity:

Existing empirical research has shown that providing assistance to banks and their borrowers can be counterproductive, resulting in increased losses to banks, which often abuse forbearance to take unproductive risks at government expense. The typical result of forbearance is a deeper hole in the net worth of banks, crippling tax burdens to finance bank bailouts, and even more severe credit supply contraction and economic decline than would have occurred in the absence of forbearance.

Cross-country analysis to date also shows that accommodative policy measures (such as substantial liquidity support, explicit government guarantee on financial institutions’ liabilities and forbearance from prudential regulations) tend to be fiscally costly and that these particular policies do not necessarily accelerate the speed of economic recovery.

***

All too often, central banks privilege stability over cost in the heat of the containment phase: if so, they may too liberally extend loans to an illiquid bank which is almost certain to prove insolvent anyway. Also, closure of a nonviable bank is often delayed for too long, even when there are clear signs of insolvency (Lindgren, 2003). Since bank closures face many obstacles, there is a tendency to rely instead on blanket government guarantees which, if the government’s fiscal and political position makes them credible, can work albeit at the cost of placing the burden on the budget, typically squeezing future provision of needed public services.

In other words, the “stimulus” to the banks blows up the budget, “squeezing” public services through austerity.

Numerous top economists say that the bank bailouts are the largest robbery and redistribution of wealth in history.

Why was this illegal?   Well, the top white collar fraud expert in the country says that the Bush and Obama administrations broke the law by failing to break up insolvent banks … instead of propping them up by bailing them out.

And the Special Inspector General of the Tarp bailout program said that the Treasury Secretary lied to Congress regarding some fundamental aspects of Tarp – like pretending that the banks were healthy, when they were totally insolvent.  The Secretary also falsely told Congress that the bailouts would be used to dispose of toxic assets … but then used the money for something else entirely.  Making false statements to a federal official is illegal, pursuant to 18 United States Code Section 1001.

So breaking the rules to bail out the big, insolvent banks, is destroying our prosperity.

Lawless Justice System

A strong rule of law is essential for a prosperous and stable economy, yet the government made it official policy not to prosecute fraud, even though criminal fraud is the main business model adopted by the giant banks.

The perpetrators of the biggest financial crime in world history, the largest insider trading scandal of all time, illegal raiding of customer accounts and blatant financing of drug cartels and terrorists have all gotten away scot-free without any jail time.

There are two systems of justice in America … one for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

While Iceland prosecuted its top criminal bankers, and thus quickly got through its financial problems and now has a vibrant economy, the American government has done everything it can to cover up fraud, and has been actively encouraging criminal fraud and attacking those trying to blow the whistle.

The rule of law is now as weak in the U.S. and UK as many countries which we would consider “rogue nations”.    See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

This is a sudden change.  As famed Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto notes:

In a few short decades the West undercut 150 years of legal reforms that made the global economy possible.

Moreover, U.S. government personnel are on the take.  They have become so corrupt that regulators are literally sleeping with industry prostitutes … while they pimp out the American people.

The corruption of government officials is staggering, and the system of government-sponsored rating agencies had at its core a model of bribery.

We’ve gone from a nation of laws to a nation of powerful men making one-sided laws to protect their own interestsin secret. Government folks are using laws to crush dissent. It’s gotten so bad that even U.S. Supreme Court justices are saying that we are descending into tyranny.

It’s not a “fiscal cliff” … it’s an attempt to rape America … just like Greece and Ireland have been plundered.

Economics professor Randall Wray writes:

Thieves … took over the whole economy and the political system lock, stock, and barrel. They didn’t just blow up finance, they oversaw the swiftest transfer of wealth to the very top the world has ever seen. They screwed workers out of their jobs, they screwed homeowners out of their houses, they screwed retirees out of their pensions, and they screwed municipalities out of their revenues and assets.

Financiers are forcing schools, parks, pools, fire departments, senior citizen centers, and libraries to shut down. They are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in firesales at prices rigged by twenty-something traders at the biggest and most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

Economics professor Michael Hudson agrees … saying that the banks are trying to roll back all modern laws and make us all serfs.

Professor Hudson explained in 2008:

You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite.

Indeed:

Foreign Policy magazine ran an article entitled “The Next Big Thing: Neomedievalism“, arguing that the power of nations is declining, and being replaced by corporations, wealthy individuals, the sovereign wealth funds of monarchs, and city-regions.

Indeed, this isn’t the “Great Recession”, it’s the Great Bank Robbery. The big banks have pillaged and looted the rest of the world.

A lawless justice system is ruining the economy.

Lawless Central Bank

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office calls the Fed corrupt and riddled with conflicts of interest.   Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz agrees, saying that the World Bank would view any country which had a banking structure like the Fed as being corrupt and untrustworthy. The former vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said said he worried that the failure of the government to provide more information about its rescue spending could signal corruption. “Nontransparency in government programs is always associated with corruption in other countries, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be here,” he said.

Moreover, the Fed has broken the law by withholding information from Congress, letting unemployment rise in order to keep inflation low, and otherwise exceeding its authority under the Federal Reserve Act.

Acting in a lawless and unaccountable fashion is hurting the economy.

Lawless Attack on Democracy

The ability of the people to participate in their government’s decision-making is vital for a nation’s prosperity. But we no longer have democracy or a republican form of government in America.

The big banks own Washington D.C. politicians, lock stock and barrel.  See this, this, this and thisTwo leading IMF officials, the former Vice President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, and the the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Moody’s chief economist and many others have all said that the United States is controlled by an “oligarchy” or “oligopoly”, and the big banks and giant financial institutions are key players in that oligarchy.

Laws are being passed in secret, and not even Congress knows what’s going on.

In other words, not only the justice system, but the entire system of American representation has been corrupted, thus harming the economy.

Lawless Infringement of Freedom

Personal freedom and liberty – and freedom from the arbitrary exercise of government power – are strongly correlated with a healthy economy, but America is descending into tyranny.

Authoritarian actions by the government interfere with the free market, and thus harm prosperity.

U.S. News and World Report notes:

The Fraser Institute’s latest Economic Freedom of the World Annual Report is out, and the news is not good for the United States. Ranked among the five freest countries in the world from 1975 through 2002, the United States has since dropped to 18th place.

The Cato institute notes:

The United States has plummeted to 18th place in the ranked list, trailing such countries as Estonia, Taiwan, and Qatar.

***

Actually, the decline began under President George W. Bush. For 20 years the U.S. had consistently ranked as one of the world’s three freest economies, along with Hong Kong and Singapore. By the end of the Bush presidency, we were barely in the top ten.

And, as with so many disastrous legacies of the Bush era, Barack Obama took a bad thing and made it worse.

But the American government has shredded the constitution, by subjecting us to indefinite detention, taking away our due process rights, deploying drones above our heads, spying on all Americans, and otherwise acting in attacking our freedoms.

Indeed, rights won in 1215 – in the Magna Carta – are being repealed.

Economic historian Niall Ferguson notes, draconian national security laws are one of the main things undermining the rule of law:

We must pose the familiar question about how far our civil liberties have been eroded by the national security state – a process that in fact dates back almost a hundred years to the outbreak of the First World War and the passage of the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act. Recent debates about the protracted detention of terrorist suspects are in no way new. Somehow it’s always a choice between habeas corpus and hundreds of corpses.

Of course, many of this decades’ national security measures have not been taken to keep us safe in the “post-9/11 world” … indeed, many of them started before 9/11.

And America has been in a continuous declared state of national emergency since 9/11, and we are in a literally never-ending state of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

In fact, government has blown terrorism fears way out of proportion for political purposes, and “national security” powers have been used in many ways to exempt big Wall Street players from the rule of law rather than to do anything to protect us.

So lawlessness infringement of our liberty is destroying our prosperity.

Lawless Initiation and Prosecution of War

It is well-documented that war destroys the economy.

Top U.S. government employees lied us into war, and used illegal torture, assassinations and other crimes of war in prosecuting the wars they unnecessarily started. They were – at a minimum – criminally negligent for failing to stop 9/11 (and see this).

In the name of fighting our enemies – the U.S. has directly been supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups for the last decade. See this, this, this, this and this.

Our use of torture has also created many more terrorists than it has prevented.

Security experts – including both conservatives and liberals – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Indefinite detention, drone-strikes on innocent civilians, occupation of foreign countries, and most of America’s other tactics in the “war on terror” increase terrorism.

Terrorism feeds the cycle of war … and is thus harming our economy. (and because terrorism spooks people, they spend less, which further harms the economy).

So lawlessness in starting and prosecuting war is destroying our prosperity.

Postscript:  We’re not facing a “fiscal cliff”.  We’re facing a descent into lawlessness.  Stopping the fraudulent schemes, endless bailouts and imperial adventures is the place to start.

Source

Connect The Dots: Bailouts, Bankruptcy And Gold

Simon Black, Sovereign Man

June 29, 2012
Tel Aviv, Israel

This week may very well go down as ‘connect the dots’ week. Things have been moving so quickly, so let’s step back briefly and review the big picture from the week’s events:

1) After weeks… months… even years of posturing and denial, Spain and Cyprus became the fourth and fifth countries to formally request aid from Europe’s bailout funds on Monday.

In doing so, these governments have officially confessed to their own insolvency and the insolvency of their respective banking systems.

Meanwhile, Slovenia’s prime minister said that his country may soon ask for a bailout. (Humorously, Slovenia’s Finance Minister denied any such plans.)

Spain’s 10-year bond yield jumped to over 7% again in response, and many Spanish banks were downgraded to junk status by Moodys.

2) Over in the US, the city of Stockton, California filed for bankruptcy this week… the largest so far, but certainly a mere drop in the proverbial bucket.

3) JP Morgan, considered to be among the few ‘good’ banks remaining in the US, conceded that the $2 billion loss they announced several weeks ago might actually be more like $9 billion.

4) The Federal Reserve reported yesterday that foreigners are reducing their holdings of US Treasuries.

5) Countries from Ukraine to Kazakhstan to Turkey announced that they have purchased gold in recent months to bolster their growing reserves.

6) Chile has joined a growing list of countries that has agreed to bypass the US dollar and settle all of its trade with China in renminbi.

7) China has further announced plans to create a special zone in Shenzhen, one of its wealthiest cities, to allow full exchange and convertibility of the renminbi.

8) World banking regulators from the Bank of International Settlements to the FDIC are proposing that gold bullion be treated as a risk-free cash equivalent by commercial banks.

So… what we can see from this week’s events is:

- European governments are insolvent
– European banks are insolvent
– US governments are heading in that direction
– Even the best US banks are not as strong as believed
– Foreigners are abandoning the US dollar and seeking alternatives
– Gold is money

These events are all connected, and the trend is becoming so clear that even the most casual observers are starting to wake up.

When you connect the dots, the next steps lead to what may soon be regarded as an obvious conclusion: the system, as it exists right now, is crumbling.

No amount of self-delusion can make this go away.

Rational thinking and measured action, on the other hand, can make the consequences go away… turning people from victims into spectators of the greatest bubble burst in modern times.

Source

Banker to the Bankers Knows the Numbers Are Lying

By Jonathan Weil
 Jun 28, 2012 5:30 PM CT

The Bank for International Settlements, which acts as a bank for the world’s central banks, should know fudged numbers when it sees them. What may come as a surprise is how openly it has been discussing the problem of bogus balance sheets at large financial companies.

“The financial sector needs to recognize losses and recapitalize,” the Basel, Switzerland-based institution said in its latest annual report, released this week. “As we have urged in previous reports, banks must adjust balance sheets to accurately reflect the value of assets.” The implication is that many banks are showing inaccurate numbers now.

Unfortunately the BIS’s suggested approach is almost all carrot and no stick. “The challenge is to provide incentives for banks and other credit suppliers to recognize losses fully and write down debt,” the report said. “Supporting this process may well call for the use of public sector balance sheets.”

So there you have it. More than four years after the financial crisis began, it’s so widely accepted that many of the world’s banks are burying losses and overstating their asset values, even the Bank for International Settlements is saying so — in writing. (The BIS’s board includes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank.) It fully expects taxpayers to pick up the tab should the need arise, too.

No Change

In this respect, little has changed since the near-meltdown of 2008, especially in Europe. Spain has requested 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to rescue its ailing banks. Italy, perhaps the next in line for a European Union bailout, is weighing plans to boost capital at some of the country’s lenders through sales of their bonds to the government.

Those bank rescues almost certainly won’t be the last. All but four of the 28 companies in the Euro Stoxx Banks Index (SX7E) trade for less than half of their common shareholder equity, which tells you investors don’t believe the companies’ asset values. While it may be true that the accounting standards are weak, the bigger problem is they are often not followed or enforced.

Government bailouts might be easier for the world’s taxpayers to swallow if banks were required to be truthful about their finances, as part of their standard operating procedure. Nowhere in its report did the BIS discuss the role of law enforcement, although the last time I checked it’s against the law in most developed countries to knowingly publish false financial statements. There have been few fraud prosecutions against executives from large financial institutions in recent years, in the U.S. or elsewhere, much to citizens’ outrage.

In the BIS’s eyes, it seems that it’s enough to merely encourage or incentivize banks to come clean about their losses, by dangling the prospect of additional taxpayer support before them. For example, on the subject of how to deal with overvalued mortgage loans: “One frequently used option is to set up an asset management company to buy up loans at attractive prices, i.e., slightly above current market valuations,” the BIS report said. “Alternatively, authorities can subsidize lenders or guarantee the restructured debt when lenders renegotiate loans.”

The BIS report got this much right: The lack of transparency and credibility in banks’ balance sheets fuels a vicious cycle. When investors can’t trust the books, lenders can’t raise capital and may have to fall back on their home countries’ governments for help. This further pressures sovereign finances, which in turn weakens the banks even more. The contagion spreads across borders. There is no clear end in sight.

Propping Up

To date, the task of propping up the economies in Europe and the U.S. has fallen largely to central banks. As the BIS wrote, easy-money policies also can make balance-sheet repairs harder to accomplish.

“Prolonged unusually accommodative monetary conditions mask underlying balance sheet problems and reduce incentives to address them head-on,” the report said. “Similarly, large- scale asset purchases and unconditional liquidity support together with very low interest rates can undermine the perceived need to deal with banks’ impaired assets.”

At some point, the cycle will break, only nobody knows when. This you can count on: It will take more than subtle inducements to make banks fess up to all their losses. Prosecutors must have a role. There’s nothing like the threat of a courtroom trial to focus a bank executive’s mind. The risk just has to be real.

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Weil in New York at jweil6@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net

Source

The Blame Game: If The Banks Didn’t Cause The Financial Crisis, What Did?

image

For a few years now, the banking industry has shouldered much of the blame for the massive financial crisis that is threatening the health of the global economy, while many others have been quick to point out the glaring lack of financial regulation. But, interestingly, there is now a growing awareness of what is known as the “shadow banking system” and findings have shown that they may have been the ones who caused the crisis after all.

HONG KONG – With world leaders meeting at the end of this week at the G-20 summit in Cannes, France, the next economic minefield that they will face is already coming into view. It is likely to take the form of an opaque global credit glut, turbocharged by the fragile mixture of too-big-to-fail global banking with a huge and largely unwatched and unregulated shadow banking sector.

To be sure, that is not what many see. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and others have blamed the financial crisis of 2008 on a global savings glut, which fuelled flows of money from high-savings emerging-market economies – especially in Asia – that run chronic balance-of-payments surpluses. According to this school of thought, excessive savings pushed long-term interest rates down to rock-bottom levels, leading to asset bubbles in the United States and elsewhere.

But Claudio Borio and Piti Disayat, economists at the Bank for International Settlements, have argued convincingly that the savings-glut theory fails to explain the unsustainable credit creation in the run-up to the 2008 crisis. They have shown that the major capital inflows were not from emerging markets, but from Europe, where there was no net balance-of-payments surplus.

The alternative theory – of a global credit glut – gained more ground with the release last week of the Financial Stability Board’s report on shadow banking. The FSB report contains startling revelations about the scale of global shadow banking, which it defines as “credit intermediation involving entities and activities outside the regular banking system.”

The report, which was requested by G-20 leaders at their summit in Seoul last November, found that between 2002 and 2007, the shadow banking system increased by $33 trillion, more than doubling in asset size from $7 trillion to $60 trillion. This is 8.5 times higher than the total US current-account deficit of $3.9 trillion during the same period.

The shadow banking system is estimated at roughly 25-30% of the global financial system ($250 trillion, excluding derivatives) and at half of total global banking assets. This represents a huge regulatory “black hole” at the center of the global financial system, hitherto not closely monitored for monetary and financial stability purposes. Its importance was exposed only by analysis of the key roles played by structured investment vehicles (SIVs) and money-market funds (MMFs) in the 2008 meltdown.

The shadow banking system is complex, because it comprises a mix of institutions and vehicles. Investment funds other than MMFs account for 29% of total, and SIVs make up 9%, but the shadow system also includes public financial institutions (such as the government-backed mortgage lender Fannie Mae in the US). They are some of the largest counterparties with the regular banking system, and their combined credit creation and proprietary trading and hedging may account for much of the global liquidity flows that make monetary and financial stability so difficult to ensure.

The trouble is that, by 2010, the shadow banking system was about the same size as it was just before the 2007 market crash, whereas the regulated global banking system was 18% larger than in 2007. That is why the FSB report pinpoints the shadow banking system, together with the large global banks, as sources of systemic risk. But the global problem is likely to be much larger than the sum of its parts. Specifically, global credit creation by the regular and shadow banking systems is likely to be significantly larger than the sum of the credit creation currently measured by national statistics.

Related: Fiscal Fallacies – The Root of All Sovereign Debt Crises: Amar Bhidé & Edmund Phelps

There are several reasons for this. First, credit that can be, and is, created offshore and through off-balance-sheet SIVs is not captured by national balance-of-payments statistics. In other words, while a “savings” glut may contribute to low interest rates and fuel excess credit creation, it is not the main cause.

Second, the volatile “carry trade” is notoriously difficult to measure, because most of it is conducted through derivatives in options, forwards, and swaps, which are treated as off-balance sheet – that is, as net numbers that are below the line in accounting terms. Thus, in gross terms, the leverage effects are larger than currently reported.

Third, the interaction between the shadow banking system and the global banks is highly concentrated, because the global banks act as prime brokers, particularly for derivative trades. Data from the US Comptroller of Currency suggest that the top five US banks account for 96% of the total over-the-counter (OTC) derivative trades in the US.

Indeed, the nightmare scenario haunting the world is the collapse of another shadow banking entity, causing global trade to freeze, as happened in 2008. The Basel III agreement on capital adequacy and other recent reforms still have not ring-fenced trade financing from these potential shocks.

We urgently need to monitor and understand the role of shadow banking and the too-big-to-fail banks in creating the global credit glut. Obtaining a full picture of global monetary and credit numbers and their determinants is a vital first step.

So far, the G-20’s call to “think globally” has turned into “act locally.”  We hope that the G-20 leaders will think systemically at Cannes, and act nationally and cooperatively to defuse the global credit glut minefield.

By Andrew Sheng

Copyright: Project-Syndicate, 2011

Andrew Sheng is President of the Fung Global Institute, a new Hong Kong-based think tank that seeks to understand global issues from Asian perspectives. He was Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and is an adviser to China’s Banking Regulatory Commission.

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