domenica 27 dicembre 2009

La crisi finanziaria e i derivati. La riforma sanitaria. Roubini e l'oro. Aggiornamento al 24 dicembre 2009

Continuano le polemiche sul ruolo ambiguo tenuto dalle banche di investimento negli anni immediatamente precedenti la crisi finanziaria: il New York Times dedica un lungo articolo ai CDO sintetici costruiti e venduti da Goldman Sachs:

Pension funds and insurance companies lost billions of dollars on securities that they believed were solid investments, according to former Goldman employees with direct knowledge of the deals who asked not to be identified because they have confidentiality agreements with the firm.

Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc., an investment company whose parent firm was overseen by Lewis A. Sachs, who this year became a special counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

How these disastrously performing securities were devised is now the subject of scrutiny by investigators in Congress, at the Securities and Exchange Commission and at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-regulatory organization, according to people briefed on the investigations.

Ai derivati e al loro ruolo nella recente crisi finanziaria è dedicato una bella intervista di Satyajit Das, autore dell'eccellente Traders, Guns and Money. Secondo Das

Relatively simple derivative products provide ample scope for risk transfer. Increasingly complex and opaque products are used to increase risk and leverage as well as circumvent investment restrictions, bank capital rules, securities and tax legislation.
Few, self interested industry participants are prepared to admit the unpalatable reality that much of what passes for financial innovation is specifically designed to conceal risk or leverage, obfuscate investors and reduce transparency. The process is entirely deliberate. Efficiency and transparency is not consistent with high profit margins on Wall Street and the City. Financial products need to be opaque and priced inefficiently to produce excessive profits.
To control this would require banning certain types of derivative and preventing them form being used other than for hedging, exactly the same as insurance.
Until regulators and legislators understand and are prepared to address these central issues, no meaningful reform in the control of derivative trading will be possible.

Mentre il New York Times si occupava di rendere il Natale un po' meno dolce per alcuni banchieri,
almeno dal punto di vista reputazionale, il Senato USA approvava la riforma sanitaria facendo un bel regalo al presidente Obama e riempiendo di gioia Paul Krugman:

Indulge me while I tell you a story — a near-future version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” It begins with sad news: young Timothy Cratchit, a k a Tiny Tim, is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket.

Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the Cratchits have health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn’t do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn’t have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach.

But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created a system of subsidies to help families pay for coverage. Even so, insurance doesn’t come cheap — but the Cratchits do have it, and they’re grateful. God bless us, everyone.

O.K., that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.

Nouriel Roubini avverte che l'oro potrebbe essere in una bolla:

But the recent price surge looks suspiciously like a bubble, with the increase only partly justified by economic fundamentals.

Gold prices rise sharply only in two situations: when inflation is high and rising, gold becomes a hedge against inflation; and when there is a risk of a near depression and investors fear for the security of their bank deposits, gold becomes a safe haven.

The last two years fit this pattern.

Come sempre Roubini ama parlare chiaro, e mi piace molto proprio per questo... ecco come finisce il suo articolo sull'oro:
The recent rise in gold prices is only partially justified by fundamentals. Nor is it clear why investors should stock up on gold if the global economy dips into recession again and concerns about a near depression and rampant deflation rise sharply. If you truly fear a global economic meltdown, you should stock up on guns, canned food, and other commodities that you can actually use in your log cabin.

Ecco l'aggiornamento al 24 dicembre.

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