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Monday, March 17, 2008
comment on bears credit crunch disasterGolemXIV
March 16, 2008 11:42 AM
I love this phrase people keep using - crisis of liquidity. It isn't. It's actually a crisis of SOLVENCY. The banks and brokers are largely insolvent.
Don't take my word for it. Ask anyone who trades in this stuff day to day. Below is what they will tell you.
A liquidity crisis is when you have lots of money but unfortunately, in the short term, it's all tied up and you can't lay your hands on it just now. That's liquidity.
If that was the case the US the banks have had plenty of time to sell their assets and get their hands on the liquid money. Why haven't they? Answer - they can't sell these assets because everyone trading day to day knows they are not worth even a fraction of what the banks say they are worth. Even grade A corporate paper is trading at 60 - 70 points on the dollar. When the journalists say 'the banks won't lend to each other' that's at best a half truth. The whole truth is that none of the banks and brokers will accept as payment any of the 'assets' they all hold. What is this stuff they all have and none of them will accept? Debt backed paper. They stuff they have been creating and trading in for the last decade.
The brokers and banks are suffering 'a liquidity crisis' because no one will buy their assets. And worse, the banks are reluctant to even bring these paper assets to market. Why? Because if they did they would have to 'mark them to market' - ie let the market decide what they were really worth. They CANNOT mark to market. Because the whole deal is that their solvency depends on everyone believing the assets are worth what they claim they are worth.
Why are their assets not worth what they say they are?
Banks and brokers used to trade in money - dollars. For a decade they have been creating and trading in their own unofficial and unregulated paper money.
How can you trade mortgagees like money? Simple - a dollar says 'I promise to pay the bearer...' The 'I' in that case is the Federal Government. A mortgage says 'Joe Bloggs promises to pay the bearer', the value of his mortgage. Difference is Joe Bloggs might default and not pay, leaving you with a worthless bit of paper.
And that is the sub prime crisis. Who is holding all this worthless paper money ? The banks and brokers!
And it gets much, much worse. The banks and brokers took this dodgy money and leveraged or geared it. What does that mean?
Banks and brokers are only required to hold a fraction in 'assets' of the amount they lend out or spend. Which means that they can spend 30 to 40 times the value of the actual assets they have in the vault. And remember these assets aren't even worth the value printed on them.
What does this leveraging mean in ordinary terms?
Imagine the bank's vault-- inside are gleaming bars of gold. Their 'assets'. They say, 'there you are. we're solvent. Look at all those solid gold assets'. But what leveraging means is that over the years the banks and brokers have been adding tin to the gold. They won't bring this 'gold' to market to sell because if they did the buyer would scratch the surface and find the gold is wafer thin and underneath its worthless tin. A thin veneer of assets that really are worth their weight in gold wrapped over a brick of worthless promises to pay mortgages made by people who have no ability to ever pay.
It's a solvency crisis. The banks are sitting on mountains of worthless tin 'assets'. So this is why actions taken by the FED and the BoE have not worked. The FED can lend them as many billions of Fed backed bonds as they want. The point is the banks and brokers don't have any 'assets' in their vaults with which to pay back those loans.
In the end either the banks and brokers have to bring out the worthless 'assets' and dump them - revealing the fact they have no money - they're insolvent. OR the Fed, the BoE and the ECB will agree to buy this worthless s***, bailing them out so they can carry on being rich and we, the tax payers will have footed the entire cost of their greed.
Have a nice day.
sketched by dweller at 6:31 pm
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