Posts Tagged ‘bank of england’

April 21st, 2008

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UK Banks still in distress

Following on from their generous bail out of Northern Rock, the UK Government, otherwise know as the taxpayer, has opened its arms to any old piece of paper banks have sitting around on their balance sheet.

Or to be more accurate, the Bank of England will accept mortgage backed securities in return for government bonds. Nice trade if you cant get it. The amounts mentioned are 50 to 200bln pounds (where the hell is my pound key?) but basically it’s a free for all.

Now we can expect to see banks reaching for the refinancing button in order to take advantage of this. RBS has already put its hand up for 10 to 12bln of fresh capital plus a 6bln write down.

Ok so its just more mess. The markets may rally on this hoping it can help clear the looming crisis in the mortgage market but the numbers are really starting to mount up and this is just very bad news indeed.

The key issue here is the capital adequacy of the banking system. It’s proven to be the achilles heel which is why the authorities have had no option but to underwrite the system.

Given this exposure of the fragility of the banking system it is time to ask questions about capital adequacy and the way banks are regulated and allowed to operate.

March 28th, 2008

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It’s All About Money, Cash Money, Cash Money, Who’s Making all the Money

This is in response to Dave’s post on a new wave of financial regulation. It’s a great 5 minute potted history of money to a stunning tune from Prince Charles and the City Beat Band. They rock!

Watch it here

February 25th, 2008

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Paper $ or Solid Gold?

Tough choice eh…..well not for jewelry lovers. The gold bugs have been enjoying the ride up in the price of gold as well as making fun of Gordon Brown who unloaded a huge brick of the UK gold reserves back in 2001 much to the chagrin of UK taxpayers.

But with the $ swift decline into obscurity the fans of something more solid than the US Treasurer’s signature on a piece of paper are clamoring fro the return of the Gold Standard as a way of preserving the value of paper and controlling the impulse of bankers to keep printing the stuff.

Well yes that does seem to be a problem. I’ve touched on this before when looking at how the Bank of England experienced several runs just after it was formed. Why? Because they printed way more paper than they had in reserves of gold. So gold or no gold, there is nothing to stop authorities or private banks printing paper or more accurately filling up spreadsheets with lots of numbers.

I’m ambivalent on this gold business. Storage issues, never mind the horrendous process of digging the stuff out of the ground, present problems as do the ability to carry it safely but really its a confidence thing.

Readers of this blog should hopefully know by now that money is an artificial construct. We can make it anyway we like. It’s created into existence in some form in order that we can exchange goods, services and labour in an efficient manner.

It is subject to the laws of supply and demand like any other product or service.

William Rees-Mogg makes some interesting points about it here but the reality is still the same gold or no gold. We must control the supply of money. 1:1 exchange for gold is a way to do that but its so last century. Surely we can come up with a smarter way of doing it.

My favoured approach is for a central monetary authority to issue interest free new money into the system directly. that supply of money (the only supply) could be controlled on an annual basis responding to set limits, constraints and changes in demand, population etc.

Goodbye interest, goodbye inflation and goodbye financial markets as we know them.

Gold bugs or not, we have to do something about the current system before it blows up and makes the 1930s depression look like an afternoon tea party.

February 19th, 2008

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Nationalisation of Northern Rock signals the End of Banking as we know it

It’s astonishing but not entirely unexpected. The British taxpayer is the proud owner of the Northern Rock and 100bln worth of loans. It’s a sad reflection on the state of the UK banking system that they can’t find a buyer for this.

But this simply hastens the decline of the banking system as we know it. In 10-20 years time we will look back on this and see how important this moment was. What the banking system or indeed money looks like remains to be seen but our trust in current arrangements must be questioned.

More importantly for football fans is the Northern Rock’s sponsorship of Newcastle. Surely the taxpayer won’t be happy about this. Supposedly the sponsorship is safe but they said that about Northern Rock.

December 6th, 2007

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Fed to freeze mortgage rates……another fiddle

So the Fed joins the Bank of England in changing the rules. The word is that certain sub prime mortgages will have their rates frozen for 5 years. This will ease the pain of borrowers who in some cases face rises of up to 30% on their mortgage bill.

Did i mention that mortgage means “deathgrip”?

Anyway this just shows that for all the hi’ fallutin’ nonsense about free markets we actually live in a system that is far from free. Bush doesn’t really want to hand the next election to the Democrats though he’s done his best to do so in recent years.

But what we are seeing now, as we saw post 1930, is that the financial system can be changed if required and that the fundamental right to create money resides with the people via their representatives. If i owned shares in a bank i would be worried.

Come to think of it if i had money in a bank i’d be worred but humping around gold coins is so 13th century.

I can’t quite work out if this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. I fear its the latter.

November 18th, 2007

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Dark clouds gather over corpse of Northern Rock

Believe it or not Northern Rock is still up for sale. It’s hard to imagine it has any value in it though like Barings there is a chance of life after death. The real concern though is the financial responsibility assumed by the taxpayer. As previously reported the taxpayer has underwritten Northern Rock and by inference the entire banking system.

This week concerns have arisen that the taxpayer could actually be seriously under water from this guarantee. Cracks are appearing in the government establishment with the Bank of England under fire from the Treasury and the knives are being sharpened as the blame game starts.

The UK financial system is clearly still in trouble.

About

"I’m a Londoner who moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2002. After studying economics and finance at Manchester University and a couple of years of backpacking, I ended up working in the financial markets in London. I traded the global financial markets on behalf of investment banks for 11 years. Since moving to NZ, I have been an angel investor, budget advisor, director, trustee, mentor and business consultant. I'm currently a Councillor at Christchurch City Council and a Trustee of the Volunteer Army Foundation and the Christchurch Arts Festival Trust. I write about the intersection of economic, social and environmental issues."

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