financial crisis has reached a new dimension this week: Lehman Brothers Holding
had to file a petition under chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code; the collapse
of the US
insurer AIG was only averted by the Fed agreeing an $85bn bailout and the US
government taking control of the company. The Bank of America has taken over Merrill
Lynch, and Lloyds TSB has bought the British mortgage lender HBOS in a
governmentbrokered deal; Morgan Stanley urgently started looking for a merger
partner with a strong capital base and is in talks with Wachovia and Chinaâ€™s CIC.
The central banks of the large industrialized countries are once again pumping
huge amounts of liquidity, mainly US dollars, into the money market, to ease
the enormous tension. According to news reports, in the last fortnight, US
investors have withdrawn the record sum of $89bn from money market funds.
Equity markets have plummeted to new record lows, and credit default swap
spreads for financials have exploded.
the end of the week, the US
government pulled the emergency brake: Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson
announced that Congress together with the Federal Reserve was working on a plan
to set up a special vehicle to buy up toxic assets (i.e. illiquid
mortgage-backed assets) from financial institutions. The aim is to unburden
bank balance sheets and reduce valuation uncertainty â€“ crucial to restoring
confidence in the financial sector. Details of the plan have still to be worked
out, but it is already clear that the US
government, which has already forked out billions for Fannie, Freddie, AIG and
Bear Stearns, will burden itself and tax payers with even more enormous risks.
Supposedly, this special vehicle is to be allotted $800bn. A further $400bn are
to be put into the governmentâ€™s deposit guarantee fund.
forex marketsâ€™ reaction to the unprecedented deepening of the crisis was
remarkably restrained. During the course of the week, EURUSD rose to 1.45 for a
short time. The dollar lost slightly more ground against the yen and the Swiss
franc: USD-JPY fell below 104 temporarily and USD-CHF below 1.10. Cable rose to
almost 1.83. However, on Friday, after the rescue plan had been announced, the
dollar recouped most of its losses. Towards the end of the week, the euro was
around 1.42, USD-JPY 107.50, USD-CHF about 1.12 and GBP-USD just under 1.80.
Compared to the previous week, the dollarâ€™s losses were small, especially bearing
in mind that in the last few weeks, a lot of confidence had been placed in the US
the most important argument in favour of the dollar at present is the fact that
has taken the initiative and is trying to find solutions to the problems. The
new plan is further proof of this. In comparison, European policy appears
passive. Although the problems in the financial sector are likely to get even
worse due to the economic downswing in Europe,
policymakers are offering little more than reassuring words.
taking action is in itself not necessarily laudable, particularly if there is
no alternative because of
the extent of the problems. It must also be borne in mind that the proposed
rescue measures are
basically just shifting the risks and burdens on to the (hopefully) broader
shoulders of the American tax payers. Moreover, it will be very difficult to
find a fair valuation for the toxic assets in bank balance sheets.
governmentâ€™s initiative has calmed things down a bit, the financial crisis will
to dominate events in the markets next week. Markets will be keenly awaiting
details of the plan, as well as the speeches of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson
and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in the Senate on Tuesday and Ben Bernankeâ€™s statement
before the Joint Economic Committee
of the Congress on Wednesday.
this environment, fundamental data are only likely to have a limited impact on
are some important indicators on the agenda, however, particularly in Europe:
towards the middle of the week, several national sentiment indicators in the
eurozone countries will be published, including the ifo business climate index
on Wednesday. We are expecting these to have deteriorated further on the whole.
Towards the end of the week, the preliminary September German consumer prices
will be released; the inflation rate will probably fall below 3%. Thus the
fundamental data are showing that the ECBâ€™s scope for cutting interest rates is
is not clear, however, what impact this will have on the dollar: it could
benefit from the â€śbonus for political initiativeâ€ť, and possibly from the signs
of economic weakness in the eurozone. The situation in the US
financial sector in particular continues to be extremely uncertain, however.
Rieke +49 69 718-4114
Grabbe / Klaus NĂ¤fken
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