sabato 10 aprile 2010

Limitare la leva finanziaria delle banche a 15? Le banche centrali e le bolle secondo Dudley e Smithers.

In un'intervista di 45 minuti il presidente della Federal Reserve Bank di Kansas City M. Hoenig, il membro più anziano del Federal Open Market Committee incaricato di fissare i tassi della Fed, fa delle dichiarazioni piuttosto nette sulla necessità di una profonda riforma finanziaria:

(...Hoenig has) emerged as one of the few influential voices calling for a fundamental redesign of a broken U.S. financial system:
  • Lambasted the tilted playing field that benefits Wall Street banks over Main Street banks;
  • Called the idea that the U.S. needs megabanks to compete globally a "fantasy";
  • Said Congress should mandate simple, easily understood and enforceable rules -- rather than guidelines -- so regulators can restrain financial firms and rein in the financial system;
  • Prodded the Senate to get tougher on permanently ending Too Big To Fail by enacting laws that would take away much of the discretion currently held by policymakers (who bailed out financial firms when confronted with these decisions in late 2008);
  • And criticized the Federal Reserve's ongoing policy to keep the main interest rate near zero because it "guarantee[s] a spread to Wall Street", enabling unearned profits and "encourag[ing] speculation."

Tra le altre cose Hoenig è a favore di una reintroduzione di almeno una parte del  Glass-Steagall Act e di limitare la leva finanziaria delle banche, per esempio fissando un leverage ratio massimo intorno a 15:

The U.S. should revive parts of Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that long prohibited banks from underwriting securities and engaging in other Wall Street-like activities, to break up megabanks, Hoenig told HuffPost. The law was repealed during the Clinton administration. The Obama administration has shown no desire to bring it back.
"At the moment I would be inclined to break them up along those lines of activities, and then let the market define what the right size is, and it will be, I suspect, smaller, much smaller, given our recent experience," he said.
"When Glass-Steagall was set aside and Gramm-Leach-Bliley [the law that repealed it] was introduced, I gave a speech which raised the concern that we would encounter mega-institutions," Hoenig said. "People would say... 'They're not too big to fail', but when the crisis came they would be too big to fail, and that's what we've gotten.
'So I am partially in favor of re-establishing elements of Glass-Steagall that separates the very important commercial banking that is so critical to our economy and our payment system from what I call high-risk activities in investment banks and hedge funds.
"I have nothing, nothing at all against high-risk activities in hedge funds and so forth, but they should not be part of our commercial banking payment system."

 (...) "What is your total assets and what is your equity capital, and what's that ratio, and what's the maximum we should allow it to be? Should it be 12 or 14 or in some instances 15? We can have that debate either through the legislative process or though the regulatory process with comments and then come to a rule that is binding and cannot be exempted under any circumstance.

"I think that would do a lot to become counter-cyclical. In other words, when the boom time comes, people and banks tend to say: 'Let's lend more against our capital base, and things are good, we always get paid back.' And it becomes pro-cyclical. [But] when you have a clear rule that says if you want to lend more once you're at this maximum, you have to raise proportionally more capital, then it comes counter-cyclical and much healthier for the economy.

"The max should be -- and this is based on my experience, I haven't done the studies, so I have to put that caveat in there -- if a bank has a 12-to-1 leverage ratio, total assets to equity, that's a fairly good operating level if you look across the country. So I would be inclined to put 15-to-1 as the max, so that in a growth environment you could get to 15, but not beyond that. That becomes a constraint, and I think it would work over time. You would get some blame during the boom that you're inhibiting growth, but that means you'd have to bring capital to the table and that would be strong.
"So I would start with 15. Let the debate go on -- if that's not the right number -- but that's where I would start."

Curiosamente 15 è esattamente il valore approvato dalla Camera dei rappresentanti come ha ricordato  Krugman due giorni fa nel suo editoriale sul Times. Potete ascoltare l'intera intervista a Hoenig qui sotto

Intanto Ben Bernanke incita il governo ad una riforma finanziaria che tenga conto dell'invecchiamento della popolazione USA: 

“The arithmetic is, unfortunately, quite clear,” Mr. Bernanke said. “To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above. These choices are difficult, and it always seems easier to put them off — until the day they cannot be put off any more.”
He said a “sharp near-term reduction in our fiscal deficit is probably neither practical nor advisable,” but that a long-term plan for fiscal sustainability could help to lower interest rates and borrowing costs, and even stimulate economic growth. 

Un altro membro del F.O.M.C., William C. Dudley, presidente della Federal Reserve Bank of New York,
ha inoltre dichiarato che tra i compiti delle banche centrali vi è la prevenzione delle bolle nei mercati finanziari. 

(...Dudley) called on policy makers to more aggressively speak out against prevailing wisdom when asset prices fluctuated wildly. “The costs of waiting to respond to an asset bubble until after it has burst can be very high,” Mr. Dudley said in prepared remarks to the Economic Club of New York. “A proactive approach is appropriate.”
In recent months, the Fed has faced intense criticism for failing to prevent the recent bubble in home prices that brought the economy to its knees. 

Questa è pure la tesi dell'eccellente saggio di Andrew Smithers:
Wall Street Revalued: Imperfect Markets and Inept Central Bankers che sto leggendo in questi giorni. Sul ruolo troppo passivo avuto dalla Fed negli anni che hanno preceduto la crisi finanziaria e in cui si gonfiò la bolla immobiliare vi segnalo un interessante post di Brad De Long di qualche giorno fa.

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