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Monday September 29, 2008 - 14:38:01 GMT
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Forex Blog - Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008?

Capital markets are in lock down…very little trading is happening in any financial instrument or currency.  Banks have reduced trading to non-leveraged real money accounts, corporates and prime broker accounts.  There is no lending between banks.  Commercial paper market is still broken.  Municipal bond market is broken – no ability to issue.  Companies are hoarding cash fearing loss of credit from the banking system as one institution after another falls to the wayside.  And banks are hoarding cash poured in by central banks through the back door before it flies out the front door to companies desperate to fund month-end and quarter-end liabilities.  The Paulson plan is supposedly a done deal and just needs the stamp of approval from Congress which the leadership on the Hill asserts is in place (I think it is less certain in the House – look for vote around noon to 1PM EST) and yet capital markets are cratering. 


Banks are running out of funds, despite what we hear from the FDIC and the banks themselves.  This is a run by institutions on the global banking system and the Paulson plan is not working – there is less confidence in the global banking system now than on Friday – spreads tell us that.


I think global banking authorities are going to have to agree to a bank holiday – shut them down to at least halt the run on banks – of 3 or 4 days (FDR closed banks in March of 1933, his first day in office of his first term as president to end a depositor run on banks).   All of these weekend forced marriages between major financial institutions are having the opposite affect on markets – they simply expose everyone to growing problems, not growing solutions.  And with each day the $700bln looks disproportionate to the scale of the problem. 


Enter Europe.  The banks across the pond it turns out may have more leverage and bad assets than the banks in the good ol’ USA.  And the response from European authorities is reminiscent of the case-by-case approach of the US authorities that emerged in March with the near failure of Bear Stearns.  With one exception…every institution is too big to fail…at least so far and in the wake of the Lehman mess I suspect that will hold up ahead unless governments run out of capital to keep banks solvent (short of monetizing – debt issuance issue to pay for all this will hit European governments ahead too and talk about crowding out ahead).   So Europe still is lacking a comprehensive approach to the problem (I would argue so is the US which the EESA represents and US Tsy and Fed have moved from carnival whack a mole to the industrial strength version). 


In other words the problem is outstripping the ability of officials to respond to it…and this is an asymptotic path.  It is not unreasonable to ask whether firms that have not tapped revolvers with their banks will be able to meet payrolls and payables this week – month-end and quarter-end.  And there is also the risk that the runs banks are displaying with each other and their corporate customers are displaying will reach the retail accounts…it did reach WAMU retail accounts and IndyMac before that.


Again the future should include a global bank holiday with regulators going into financial institutions and identifying good banks and bad banks.  And bad banks go to the FDIC or European equivalent for workout (private capital is still willing to pay for deposits) and good banks open with the seal of approval of regulators with access to all the mark-to-make-believe assets.


Coordinated rate cuts ahead are not likely to be helpful.  They should be saved for real economy weakness which should be coming to an economy near you shortly.


David Gilmore 



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